The Red Baron..Manfred Von Richtofen
One of my favorite of all WW1 personalities.. THE RED BARON.. An appropriate first blog entry.
This Story came from Flight Magazine...Which is filled with fascinating stories of WW1 aviation.
Flight April 25, 1918
CAPTAIN BARON VON RICHTHOFEN KILLED.
WHEN the official German communique
of April 21st, .announcing that " Cavalry Captain Baron Von Richthofen,
at the head of his trusty n t h Pursuit Flight, has gained his 79th and 80th victories in the air," was being published,
this famous fighting pilot was lying dead in the Somme valley, which he described in his book as his happy hunting-ground.
He had been brought down in the British lines, and was buried with military honors on April 22nd in a village near where he fell, his coffin being borne to the grave by six officers of the R.A.F., and there was a firing party of Australians. According to the Times correspondent, Capt. Richthofen was flying a Fokker triplane, No. 2,009, with Le Rhone engines, made in Frankfurt in March, 1918.
The official German account of the end of Captain Von Richthofen, as received in Holland, says: "Captain Baron
Manfred Von Richthofen failed to return from a flying raid-on the Somme on April 21st. According to the unanimous declarations of those accompanying him, and the observations of various spectators on the ground, Captain Von Richthofen pursued an enemy battle plane to the ground. He was at a low altitude, when apparently a defect in the motor forced him to land behind the enemy lines. As the landing was effected, without mishap, there was hope that Captain Von Richthofen was captured unhurt. Reuter's report of April 23rd, however, no longer leaves any doubt that Captain Von Richthofen met his death. Since Captain Von Richthofen was the pursuer, he cannot well have been hit by his opponent in the air; he appears rather to have fallen a victim to a chance hit from the ground."
" A very interesting document, which may throw some .light upon the cause which led to the death of Baron Von Richthofen has come into our hands," says Reuter's correspondent with the British Army. " It is a request from
' Group-Commander of Aviation No. 12,' who would correspond to a British corps wing commander, to the ' First
Pursuit Squadron,' until Sunday last commanded by Richthofen, and runs as follows:— "'Airman reports that it is not possible to fly over the Ancre in a westerly direction on account of strong enemy opposition. I request that this aerial barrage may be forced back in order that a reconnaissance up to the line Marieux-
Puchevillers may be carried out.' " A more convincing testimonial to our activity in the air
could scarcely be conceived."The Captain's name first appeared in German communiques . on February 19th, 1917, when, as lieutenant, he was said to ; have won his 20th and 21st aerial victories. By April 9th he was credited with 40 ; on September 4th with 61, and on March 27th of this year with 70. It was claimed that on April 28th, 1917, he shot down five enemy machines. He was appointed commander of the n t h squadron after he had brought down his 16th machine in the beginning of 1917, and two days later he was decorated with the Order Pour le Merite. On the occasion of his 50th victory he received a letter of congratulation from the Kaiser, and during the last month he was given the Order of the Red Eagle with crown and swords. Captain Richthofen had his first experience of aerial
fighting in Captain Boelke's squadron. It may be recalled that when Captain Boelke was killed in October, 1916, !he
was officially-credited with 38 victories, while Immelmann had only 15 to his credit when he fell in June, 1916.
A propos the death of the German crack airman. Baron Von Richthofen, who, as recorded in our last issue, was
reported to have been flying a Fokker triplane when he met his death, some additional information is now to hand relating how this German " Ace " came to be flying a machine that had been condemned by the German authorities. It is said that the Fokker firm produced a second type of machine, differing no doubt considerably from the type of which we commence a description elsewhere in this issue. This design is said to have been " turned down " by the German experts, but Baron Von Richthofen, who had tried one of these machines, liked it, and in spite of the official veto on it took a fancy to the machine. The Fokker firm thereupon promptly made the Baron a present of the machine, and he is said to have frequently used it. At the moment there is no indication that it was any defect in the Fokker triplane which caused the airman to lose his life, although it is conceivable that those who were responsible for condemning the machine will see in the termination of Richthofen's last flight a justification of their judgment.
Following are a few aviation stories from the Great War.
British DH-9 Bomber
A Great Story by an Associated Press Reporter At A British Airfield.
THE THRILLING STORY OF AN AIR RAID…THE STRAIN IS NERVE RACKING.
Pottsville Republican April 22 1918
With the British Armies in France.
Correspondent of the Associated Press.
In the early part of the night before the mist set in our night flying squadrons dropped five tons of bombs on two hostile aerodromes..The Official Communiqué.
A most prosaic statement and one from which the average reader would fail to get much thrill. “Our night flying squadron dropped five tons of bombs>” A mere commonplace: an incident in the daily routine. So far as color goes it might have read:”Our motor transport brought up five tons of biscuits.”
And yet behind that brief announcement, shorn of all heroics and behind every similar announcement lies a wealth of supreme daring and dangers seen and unseen of hair breadth escapes and nerve racking episodes.
The correspondents of the Associated Press witnessed the start and the return of the airmen who dropped five tons of bombs, and the story of this very ordinary night may serve to give the reader some idea of the daily life of the airman who, as it were, continually battles on the edge of a precipice while the many hands of war reach out to drag him down.
We arrived at a great British Aerodrome just as the evening shades were falling and mechanics were making their final inspection of the huge bombing machines which shortly were to wheel their way across the fighting line with their freight of explosives. Some day fliers were returning from their trips, winging there way straight and true towards the aerodrome from all directions like mighty homing pigeons. A few pilots were circling in picturesque curves above the grounds and occasionally swooping down in lighting charges towards stationary targets while their machine guns spat a steady stream of livid fire to the accompaniment of that wicked staccato chatter which spells one of the greatest terrors of the front.
The night flyers were to go out as soon as darkness had settled and we found them in all the mess hall over their early dinners. Twelve machines were to engage in the raid in hand which meant that 24 of these clean cut boys would soon be risking their lives over the inhospitable zone where the Germans watch and wait for the appearance of enemy aircraft.
The Type DH-9 Flown By The British In This Story
We joined them at mess and listened to their conversation. It gave one a sensation of witnessing a drama which could have no basis in fact to look into their youthful faces with the realization that within a short space they might all be called upon to pay the great price in defense of King and Country.
They were not discussing the raid. In fact they seemed to be avoiding it. Their talk was largely of in consequence chaff, and it seemed at moments that there was just a suspicion of “nerves”
In their outburst of laughter. From time to time some one of them, would fall into silence and thoughtfulness only to be recalled from his reverie by the quip of a comrade. They watched one another like brothers, and wondered if there were not some methods in this bandiage of jests, but we asked no questions.
A table just back of the correspondents was filled with a jolly party. A newcomer came in and took his seat, a big broad shouldered chap with a clear eyes and engaging smile. He was the pilot of one of the raiding machines. He was pounced upon immediately.
“Your family is very wealthy. We hear Yank”
“Wealthy I should say it was. “Boomed a great voice I don’t work because I have to. I’m doing this because I like it.”
The speaker was a Boston Boy who had been flying with the British since 1916. A few minutes later he crossed and touched the correspondent on the shoulder.
“Come over to our table and we will fill y0u up on local color and champagne,” he invested.
There was local color and champagne too, for somebody had just received a promotion and was celebrating very mildly with a quart of wine. We chatted for a few minutes and then Massachusetts man told a little of how he had deserted exhibition flying in America to join the British forces.
“This bombing business isn’t war” he volunteered. “I am a chauffeur; my car is my plane, and my passengers are bombs. I take my passengers over the line and discharge them, safe and sound and then come home.” His eyes sparkled as he said it, brave fellow.
A siren began its uncanny wailing somewhere outside and a silence fell over the hall. It was the “Call to Arms” One by one 24 men separated themselves from their comrades and stole quietly from the room. They said nothing; nothing was said to them; but scores of friendly anxious eyes looked s”Bonne Chance”. We followed shortly for we came to see the get away and the return.
It was dark. A pale crescent moon struggled bravely but ineffectively to clear away the gloom below. Strange shadowy figures were frittering noiselessly about the grounds and against the skyline could be seen the great machines that stood waiting for their pilots and observers. Off toward the east the sky glowed fitfully with the crimson flashes from a myriad of guns while the shrapnel buried vicious slashes all along the line. It was toward these ominous beacons that the flight was going.
There was no delay. Time was valuable for there were signs that mists tonight come at any time. Within five minutes the throbbing of a powerful engine began, a machine gun barked as the observer tested the weapon, and then the plane glided swiftly away across the field and swept into the air, as its signal lights gleaming like stars. Another followed and another, until twelve had all embarked on their perilous voyage whose ending no one could prophecy.
Gradually the blinking eyes of the planes disappeared and we stood and counted the minutes as we strained our eyes towards the battle lines where the flights would cross. Suddenly a stream of balls of fire began to mount high into the air over the trenches. The Airmen had reached the land of hate, and their punishment began in earnest.
The deluge continued, and the shrapnel flashed in ever increasing numbers. German searchlights went peering through the clouds, and we learned later that one ray rested squarely on a British plane. It was a heartbreaking moment for the pilot and observer. Their chances were small, but the plane was again enveloped in darkness.
All the planes but one were across the line at last. The one machine came wheeling back, flashed its personal signal as it felt its way towards home. A signal from the ground answered and the plane circled slowly down and came bobbing across the field. Engine trouble had forced a return, but there had been no accident.
It neared the hour for the other planes to be coming back. The squadron Commander was pacing up and down the field like a caged tiger. His nerves were strained almost to the breaking point, and he made no effort to cancel it. His boys, the lads whom he loved like a brother, were out there over the boche guns. He himself had spent many bitter days and nights in a fighting plane, as he knew the hell the flight was going through at the moment. And he stamped about unhappily, with his eyes peering over the eastern horizon watching for the twin stars which would herald the return of at least one of the wanderers.
Finally a set of lights appeared and swung swiftly towards the west. “Dash, Dot Dash Dash….It went the code.
“Its Brown and Little,” sighed the Commander, and he was off post haste toward the landing place. The machine circled and perched.
“That you Brown ?” the Commander demanded anxiously. “Everything all right?”
He didn’t ask whether they had reached their objective, or whether they had dropped their bombs. Were his boys alright.
“ Brown and Little are all right”, came the reply.
Ten times more the same thing happened the planes sometimes arriving in groups. One pilot and his observer were still out. We waited a long time and they did not appear. The Commander took himself off to be alone, and the other officers whispered quietly among themselves. There was tragedy in the air. Two of the finest men in the service were still unaccounted for.
Meantime this pilot and observer were struggling to win a hundred to one chance against them with death as the penalty for failure. Out over the German lines their engine went dead while they were at a height of perhaps 4,000 feet. They dropped a thousand feet and then the pilot got his engine running again spasmodically. Up they crawled to their former altitude with their nose towards home, and then the engine gave a final gasp and died.
All the probabilities were that they would crash and be smashed to pieces. There was only one thing which could possibly prevent it. And that was an iron nerve in the pilot’s box. He coolly started to coast westwards. On he came until his signal lights showed clearly to the watchers on the aerodrome. It was like the flight of the phantom machine, with its soundless engine. The pilot got near the aerodrome and then hesitated. He was lost and was coming down rapidly. He signaled wildly and a score of answering lights flashed back. He swerved and came swooping down into the aerodrome saved by a few yards.
The men were all back and we went to the Commanders office to hear them give their reports. They entered in twos and threes, their helmets pushed back, but still wearing their bulky garments that made them look like arctic explorers, or “teddy bears”. But what a change in their demeanor. They were no longer the laughing, jesting crowd of two hours before. They were pale and haggard and their eyes were strained and brilliant. No need for them to say what they had been through, their faces told the story.
One by one they told briefly what they had done. They had, or they had not reached their objective. The Hun hate? Very bad, indeed but not a subject for discussion. Their reports were taken and they moved quietly away. They wanted to be alone.
The Bostonian paused for a moment by the AP correspondent. The big youth still wore a smile, but he was subdued. The “chauffer” had a hard trip that night. He pulled out his pipe and filled it reflectively.
“This business of bombing is all habit.” He remarked philosophically, as he crammed the tobacco down. “The British army has a habit of sending us out and we have a habit of going and bombing the Hun. All a habit, just like smoking, though perhaps not quite so pleasant.
We shook hands and he went his way to his billet, his great frame completely filling the office door as he stepped out.
This story was written about a raid on London during the year 1915.
Another great little story from Flight Magazine
The Gotha Bomber
TAKING DOWN A GOTHA
FLIGHT November 7, 1918
THE big twin-engined Gotha bomber droned steadily
across the skies eastward. Her work of destruction had
been done, practically unmolested, as it happened. The
pilot, after the tension of the past few hours, relaxed his
tired muscles, and looked back at the tawny haze above
Paris, spattered with the gold of the setting sun. He fell
into a mood of drowsy content, lulled by the sense of dangers
past, and present security. Such moods are dangerous, for
no German may ever feel completely immune from our compact
little scouts, which may be racing up behind their " blind
spot," or hiding coyly in a cloud, to pounce at the psychological
Suddenly from underneath, a little de Haviland chaser
surged up, with the speed of a bullet. As she passed the
observer sprayed a fan of lead from his machine-gun at the
now thoroughly awakened Hun. The startled German
made a mental note not to be caught that way again. The
Spandau gun behind him broke out re-assuringly. The
little de Hav. eddied and wriggled, round the bomber, almost
as if in play, like a butterfly round a big, indulgent St. Bernard.
He " zoomed " as a cat scales a wall, fell into a sickening
" vrille," came out with a clean recovery, and executed an
" Immelmann turn " like a gutter-child flings a cartwheel.
Quickly he gained height again, still unhurt, and as he
pounced once more on the big machine, that clumsily tried to
evade him, his gun spoke anew. Suddenly there was the rending
noise of a splintering propeller. The little de Hav. had cut
it too fine in passing, or the bomber had surged upwards
unexpectedly. The nose of the scout was fixed, as if mortised,
in the right wing of the battle-plane. All this passed in a few
seconds. Both pilots switched off and stopped the flow of
The machines locked together, began to fall in a slow spin.
The pilot of the bomber burst into explosive gutterals, and
tried furiously to work his controls. It was utterly useless.
They were falling now with terrific speed, and he seemed to
feel in advance the shock that was to come, to see himself
crushed under his own engines. He could do nothing but
wait. The Englishman gripped the sides of his narrow
fuselage, and hoped that what must happen would happen
quickly. The wind whistled through the taut wires.
The altimeter showed him 3,000 feet, 2,000, the hand
rapidly receding on the dial. The country seemed to rush up towards them.
Then came the crash, a great smashing
of branches. Was it death ? The English pilot patted himself
all over gingerly, loth to believe that he had come through
unscathed. He crawled out of the crumpled framework.
On the ground he saw the pilot of the German bomber, white
with pain, and his observer bending above him, ripping open
seams to get at the compound fracture of the leg. Of the
three the Hun pilot was the only one gravely hurt, the other
two being practically scathless.