The miracle of flight in china

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The man from Aegidienberg, Franz Oster, was a pioneer in flight and foreign countries.
Chinese Kulis wanted to free him from captivity. Relatives in Aegidienberg.

It started in Aegidienberg because there is where the first aviator of Tsingtau was born. Franz Oster comes from a family born to be pioneers. His nephew, Henry J. Oster, was Senator from 1940 to 1962 in the United States of America. Another cousin drove the first bus on the newly established busline from Bad Honnef to Aegidienberg.. The life of the brave man, who later was known as the Aviator of Tsingtau started perfectly normal and simple.

Franz Oster was born in 1869 in Aegidienberg. His apprenticeship as metalworker and locksmith was completed with Masterlocksmith Ludwig. He wanted to be an engineer. But the sea was calling to him. So he joined the Navy and became a ships engineer. During the old "Kaiserreich" (the Kaisers empire) it was the imperial Marine which went to sea. The ship that Franz Oster was on was called 'PRINZESS WILHELM' under the personal commando of Price Heinrich of Prussia. This later determined the destiny and life of Franz Oster in the Far East, a life as many faceted and colorful as possible.


The Prinzess Wilhelm was commandeered to China. Prinz Heinrich of Prussia was at the helm of the commando and during the much longer voyage at that time, learned to know his people quite well. So he became well acquainted with Franz Oster, who during his military service in East Asia kept in close contact with the Prussian Prince. He kept him well informed about his work after leaving the military, like working for an English machine- and weapons manufacturing plant in Hongkong and Shanghai. At that time, the self confident Franz Oster was just 26 years young. He was enterprising, had a zest for life and was always ready to adapt foreign circumstances in far away countries. Very quickly he familiarized himself with the life and conditions of the China at the time and decided that East Asia, far from home, was the place for him to stay. Prinz Heinrich told his friend, Franz Oster, he recommended for him to settle in Tsingtau as an important outpost for Germany.


So in the year 1898, Franz Oster moved as one of the first Germans into the former German owned regions, the Port City of Tsingtau. This was a city with a future, secured since 1891, and could be called a developing city. And that was exactly what Franz Oster needed for the realization of his professional and private dreams. No wonder that the far away Tsingtau became his second home, a home for many years to come. Favorable for the enterprises of the Aegidienberger Franz Oster was the special relationship of a political nature between China and the German Reich, because on March 6, 1898 the Bay of Kiautschou was leased by Germany for 99 years. Following the murder of German missionaries, this Bay was being occupied by the Eastasia squadron in 1897.


Not through pressure, but through business and personal diplomacy did Franz Oster get along famously with his foreign friends and acquaintances. What later became a machine factory, started out as a modest wooden shack at the harbor. His closest friends and co-workers were two hardworking sailors, with whom he shared his workplace and also his leisure time because this modest shack was their living and sleeping quarters as well. But tough and hard working, Oster soon managed to expand his business since he quickly developed a reputation for reliable work when German ships came to him for repairs. Despite some competition, he managed within a few short years, to turn the wooden shack and then the repair shop into a factory and even a shipyard to become the biggest factory around where several hundred workers earned a living. The shipyard mainly manufactured ships for coastal waters but they also repaired large ocean liners that more and more arrived in the Harbor of Tsingtau.


That was not enough for the engineer Franz Oster. He had his eye on the "RUMPLERTAUBE', (Taube=pigeon), a special kind of bird, specially made for a man with Fantasy and lust for adventure. Director Rumpler from Berlin built it, the Rumplertaube, one of the most popular precursor in the aviation industry of the twentieth century. Franz Oster met the Berliner Edmund Rumpler during a visit to Berlin in 1911. He had heard and read about the construction and finally the building of airplanes since 1908. He also heard about Edmund Rumpler, who could now personally introduce him to his heavenly creation. A Berlin Journalist noticed the two well known people and took the opportunity to report in the "Berliner Illustrierten" in May 1911 about the meeting of Rumpler and Oster and took a picture of the event, taken at the airport Johannistal. Here, Franz Oster learned to fly under the tutelage of the experienced pioneer of the aviation, the designer of the "Rumplertaube" which later during the war became world renowned, Director Edmung Rumpler. It of course had to follow that Franz Oster bought himself a Rumplertaube and went flying. He was "the sensation" because who had ever seen anything like it? Certainly nobody in Ceylon. That’s where Oster let himself talked into giving a performance in flying to the jubilation of over 100,000 spectators from different nations. Franz Oster was the hero of the sunny day when he took his airplane steep up into the sky and flew daring loops. The first show flight earned him deafening applause. Encouraged by the applause, Oster went up again and even the third time around it looked easy as childs play.


And then it happened! To the horror of the spectators, he crashed. Suddenly changing winds made him lose the control over his plane. He was recovered badly injured. He spent months unable to move which was a heavy burden for somebody like him. He only started to recover after his wife brought him back to Tsingtau and barely up and about, began to fly again. But in Tsingtau, the winds were much stronger than in Germany and that was too much for the Rumplertaube. Not discouraged, Franz Oster thought of something new and he continued to improve on "his machine" until on one early morning he succeeded as the first German, no the first aviator to circle in the air of the Far East. What a triumph!!!! Now he was the first aviator of Tsingtau. He caused a lot of excitement because it was a big sensation to hear the low growl of an approaching airplane on the horizon, flown by a person. At that time, it was close to a miracle.


Once he recognized "his miracle" the entrepreneur Franz Oster used his airplane also for his business. Because it was clear to him that he had to incorporate the building of airplanes into his factory and shipyard. Unfortunately, he did not reach his plan for a serial production of planes. World war I destroyed all his brilliantly calculated plans just as he was on a business trip in Tokyo in the company of some Japanese Generals and Officers.


Suddenly, Franz Oster was called to the telephone. A friend was on the other end. His warning forced Franz Oster to immediate action because his friend informed him of the outbreak of war. This changed everything at once and Franz Oster had to escape. He put the phone back on the cradle and without saying Goodbye he escaped with only the clothes on his back, leaving behind all his belongings. He realized what would happen to him and immediately recognized the situation he was in. Careful not to be seen, he made his way through the North of Japan until he finally found a neutral ship on the coast to take him to Tsingtau.


He was 45 years old at the time when he reported spontaneously to the Military Command in Tsingtau to volunteer his services as a flyer, the only flyer, in the defense of Tsingtau against the Japanese. But the destruction of the little German army against a more than twenty fold overpowering enemy was sealed from the beginning. Not quite 3800 men defended themselves against not less than 6300 enemies and about forty English and Japanese units. The takeover of Tsingtau seemed to be a matter of days in the beginning but the little German troupe fought very hard but had to finally give up due to a total lack of everything that was necessary to live and fight with.

" When in 1914, right after the beginning of the war, the German Reichsregierung declined the ultimatum of the Japanese to hand over Tsingtau, the fate of the German outpost was sealed. At sea, blocked off by the enemy fleet, at home, locked in by a vastly more numerous opponent, the resistance was doomed to failure. During these times of desperate defense against the tough Japanese attacks, here appears the heroic fight of the first aviator of Tsingtau, the German engineer Franz Oster, who was overshadowed and almost forgotten by the more lucky Guenther Plueschow." This was written in an article of the SUEDWESTDEUTSCHE RUNDFUNKZEITUNG (Southwest German Newspaper) between September 22 and 28, 1935. It referred to a radio program featuring Franz Oster, written by writer Karl Rummel and aired by the same on September 26, 1935.


The defense of Tsingtau by the little German army was carried out mainly by the untiring flights of Osters until his machine was hit by enemy fire on a reconnaissance flight and crashed. Franz Oster , badly injured, survived this crash also on October 14, 1914. When the Japanese took over the town of Tsingtau on November 7, 1914, Franz Oster was known as the most prominent prisoner. He was, also badly injured, carried away by Chinese coolies under the Command of the Japanese. Later on, he almost" regained his freedom because among the Chinese coolies were some former workers from his factory and they were eager to help him. But for the time being, this was not possible, because Franz Oster, due to his special knowledge of the country was considered a spy and for a long time had to be in solitary confinement in a Japanese internment camp in Naraschino. A time full of torment, until he was finally taken with the others to the prison camp. His Chinese coolies, in the meantime, had devised a surefire and cunning plan for his escape. But Franz Oster feared that after his escape there would be fearsome reprisals for his fellow prisoners and declined to escape. It took five years of waiting for his friends and all of Tsingtau to wait for freedom..


After the unfortunate way the war ended, there was a sharp decline in the way of life for the Germans since they had lost their fortunes, their basic existence destroyed. They had to start all over again under much less favorable circumstances than when they first entered these shores.

Being 50 years old now, Franz Oster and his family hat nothing left and were penniless. He started work as a Civil engineer and soon worked his way up to Harbor commissioner of Tsingtau since people remembered him as an excellent expert in shipbuilding. He finally helped to open the overseas market for German products and, together with his German friends, to expand. In return, he helped his German friends with his contacts to also build up a new existence.

His friends and business partners would regularly meet in his hospitable house in Tsingtau, a place where international people got together, graced by the diplomatic skills of Frau Oster, who was born in Salesia. It was she, who voluntarily kept up the graves of the German soldiers in Tsingtau since she and her husband were the oldest German settlers in Tsingtau. Franz Oster died during the summer of 1933 and was buried in the German cemetery in Tsingtau.


Relatives of Franz Oster are still living today in the vicinity of Bad-Honnef-Aegidienberg, near the Capital of Bonn and also in the United States. The material from archives and the photos out of family albums was kindly supplied to us by a great nephew of Franz Oster by the name of Josef Wirz , Siefenhovener Strasse 9, Bad Honnef-Aegidienberg.



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