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The Red Knight

Discussion in 'World War One Forum' started by Jim, Sep 15, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    On 20 April 1918 Rittmeister Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen, commander of Jagdgeschwader Nr I, achieved his 79th and 80th victories to become the 'ace of aces' of all nations in World War 1. Led by Richthofen in his scarlet Fokker Dr I 425/17, seven Triplanes of Jagdstaffel 11 had engaged a patrol of Camels from No 3 Sqn of the newly-formed RAF east of Villers-Brettoneaux. Seeing a Fokker being attacked by one of the British fighters, the Rittmeister fastened onto the tail of the Camel, flown by Maj Richard Raymond-Barker. After only a few accurate shots from
    Richthofen's guns, the Camel (D6439) exploded in flames and Raymond-Barker was killed. With scarcely a pause, Richthofen was soon firing at Camel B7393, flown by 19-year-old Rhodesian 2Lt David G Lewis. The fighter's fuel tanks were hit and set on fire, but Lewis managed to cut his engine and dive to the ground, being thrown clear from the crash. Dazed, scorched, but alive, Lewis staggered to his feet and saw the blazing wreckage of Raymond-Barker's machine only 50 yards away. Richthofen soared overhead at low level and waved at German infantry who were coming to take Lewis prisoner. The young Rhodesian pilot subsequently wrote the following account of his encounter with the 'Red Knight' on this day;
    On the evening of 20 April, 12 of us left the aerodrome on an offensive patrol led by Capt Douglas Bell of my flight (C Flight), although the CO, Maj Raymond-Barker, was with us. The day had been a stormy one, with intermittent squalls, and there were still heavy clouds in the sky when we reached the German lines. Knowing that the German anti-aircraft guns would have the range of the clouds, Bell thought it advisable to rise above them. In carrying this out, we lost touch in the clouds with the other flight, and continued the patrol six-strong. About four miles over the German lines, we met approximately fifteen German tri-planes, which endeavoured to attack us from behind, but Bell frustrated this attempt by turning to meet them, so the fight started with the two patrols firing at each other head on. When the Germans came closer, we knew we had met Richthofen's circus - the machines of his squadron were always brilliantly coloured. A few seconds after the fight began, Maj Barker's petrol tank was hit by an incendiary bullet, which caused the tank to explode and shatter his machine. Bits of his machine were still reaching the ground when I was shot down. I was attacking a bright blue machine, which was level with me, and was about to finish this adversary off when I heard the rat-tat-tat of machine guns coining from behind me and saw the splintering of struts just above my head. I left my man and wheeled quickly to find that I was face to face with the renowned Richthofen, the baron always flew a bright red machine that is how I knew it was he.

    Rittmeister Manfred von Richthofen poses for an official photograph in early 1918. This image was turned into a postcard which was widely sold throughout Germany prior to the end of the war.

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    'I twisted and turned in the endeavour to avoid his line of fire, but he was too experienced a fighter, and only once did I manage to have him at a disadvantage, and then only for a few seconds, but in those few ticks of a clock I shot a number of bullets into his machine and thought I would have the honour of bringing him down, but in a trice the positions were reversed and he had set my emergency petrol tank alight, and I was hurtling earthward in flames. 'I hit the ground about four miles northeast of Villers-Bretonneaux at a speed of 60 mph, was thrown clear of my machine and except for minor burns, was unhurt. About 50 yards from where I was, Maj Barker's machine was burning fiercely, so I staggered over to the wreckage of his machine to see if it were possible to pull him out, but was beaten back by the flames. From the seat to the tail of my aeroplane, there was not a stitch of fabric left, it having been burned away. The following articles were hit by Richthofen's bullets; the compass, which was directly in front of my face, my goggles where the elastic joined the frame of the glass, these went over the side, the elbow of my coat, and one bullet through the leg of my trousers.
    The rest of my flight was saved from annihilation by the timely arrival of a squadron of SE 5as.

    Rittmeister Manfred von Richthofen sits on the wheel of a Fokker triplane which appears to be painted in factory finish except perhaps for a red cowling? Note the manufacturer's plate on the cowling. Dogs were a favourite of many pilots, and here the Baron gazes at his Danish hound 'Moritz'

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    Richthofen came down to within 100 ft of the ground and waved to me. Lewis was Richthofen's 80th, and final, victim. He was mistaken in his belief that the Rittmeister was waving at him, as the latter pilot's combat report reveals. He believed that his final opponent was quite dead, so he must have been waving at the triumphant German infantry who had appeared to take Lewis prisoner. Richthofen's combat report of the same incident read as follows; 'With six aeroplanes of Staffel 11, I attacked a large enemy squadron. During the fight, I observed that a triplane was attacked and shot down from below by a Camel. I put myself behind the adversary and brought him down, burning, with only a few shots. The enemy aircraft dashed down near the forest of Hamel, where it burned further on the ground.
    Three minutes after I had brought down the first machine I attacked a second Camel of the same enemy squadron. The adversary dived, caught his machine and repeated this manoeuvre several times. I approached him as near as possible when fighting, and fired 50 bullets until the machine began to burn. The body of the machine was burned in the air, the remnants dashed to the ground northeast of Villers-Bretonneux.


    Richthofen's final Dr I was 425/17, which is seen here at Léchelle in late March 1918-prior to having its cross markings modified. Note the cover over the fighter's propeller. This was the aircraft in which the 'Red Knight' was shot down and killed on 21 April 1918.

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    Pilot Biography: Manfred Von Richthofen​


    The most successful fighter pilot of World War 1 was born on 2 May 1892 in the Lower Silesian town of Kleinberg, near Schweidnitz. His father was a retired career Army officer, and Manfred was destined to follow in his footsteps - he entered the Cadet Institute at Wahlstatt at the age of 11. He graduated to the Main Cadet Institute at Gross-Lichterfelde in 1909, and was commissioned as a Leutnant in the Silesian Ulanen-Regiment (Kaiser Alexander III von Russland) Nr 1 in 1912. When the war began Richthofen's unit was sent to the eastern front, and he saw service both in Russia and then France. Dissatisfied with the inaction he experienced on the latter front, he petitioned to transfer to the air service, which he did in May 1915. After training as an observer, Richthofen was sent back to the eastern front with Fiedflieger Abteilung 69, then served with Brieftauben Abteilung Ostende (BAO) - a cover name for a multi-task unit which operated over the Flanders Front. After a chance meeting with leading ace Oswald Boelcke, he was inspired to pursue pilot training, and completed this in December 1915. While serving as a pilot with Kampfgeschwader 2 in Russia, Richthofen was recruited for Boelcke's new Jasta 2. Flying the Albatros D II, he rewarded Boelcke's faith in him by downing an FE 2b on 17 September 1916, the momentous first of an eventual 80 victories. After Boelcke's death on 28 October, Richthofen really showed his promise when he downed the DH 2 of Maj Lanoe G Hawker, the CO of No 24 Sqn and Britain's premier fighter tactician, on 23 November for his 11th victory. On 10 January 1917 he was made commander of Jasta 11, and two days later received the news of his Pour le Mérite, which followed his 24th claim. As a Staffelführer, Richthofen proved to be as skilful a leader, trainer and organiser as he was a fighter pilot. He rose to the rank of Rittmeister on 6 April. By the end of 'Bloody April' Richthofen had surpassed his idol Boelcke's score with 53 victories, and his Jasta 11 was famous throughout Germany. It was only logical that he be given command of the first Fighter Wing in the Luftstreitkräfte, but his leadership of Jagdgeschwader Nr I was soon interrupted by a near-fatal head wound of 6 July. Richthofen returned to combat far too soon, plagued by headaches and exhaustion after every flight. Nonetheless, his was a war of duty, and he persevered. Although many of his superiors and family urged him to retire from combat flying, he refused. In March and April 1918 he seemed to be back to his old form, scoring 16 kills in less than six weeks. His death on 21 April remains a subject of controversy, but his score would not be surpassed in World War 1, nor would his legend.

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    Although aeronautical designers in Germany had been experimenting with triplane designs from aviation's earliest days, it was the appearance of the RNAS's Sopwith Triplane over the Western Front in late 1916 that prompted the hasty development of the Dr I. Created by Fokker's design team, the Dr I was a compact fighting scout that boasted wings without 'bracing' - it had no flying, landing or incidence wires, the airframe's strength instead coming from an original single-spar arrangement which was actually two box spars joined vertically. Following successful type testing, the Dr I was ordered into production on 14 July 1917. The soundness of the design was proven the following month when two pre-production prototypes were tested at the front by Richthofen and fellow ace Werner Voss. An incredibly manoeuvrable aircraft about all axes, and very tiring to fly, the Dr I proved formidable with a skilled aviator at the controls, despite being rather slow and restricted to combat at lower altitudes. Briefly grounded in November 1917 due to a spate of wing failures caused by poor workmanship, the aircraft had all but disappeared at the front by August 1918.


    Fokker Dr I 425/17 of Rittmeister Manfred von Richthofen, JG I, Cappy, April 1918 Richthofen's Dr I 425/17 (Wk-Nr 2009) was one of the few aircraft that the Rittmeister flew that was actually all-red - the smooth finish evident in photographs suggests it may have been painted this way at the factory. Following the introduction of the Balkenkreuze (sometimes called Latin crosses), the markings of 425/17 were amended twice. The Dr I is seen here in its final appearance, with narrow-chord cross bars and a white rudder.

    [​IMG]


    Source: LEGENDS OF THE SKIES
     
  2. Jamie 111

    Jamie 111 New Member

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    A fantastic post Jim. The most well known pilot in WW1 and had to be a German!

    The British High Command refused to let our pilots wear parachutes, on the grounds of "inciting cowardice" or some other non-sense! And I suppose the Germans were handed the same b.s. as well? ..Unbelievable!
     
  3. Buford

    Buford New Member

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    Hope i dont sound too ignorant, but why on earth was his plane bright red? Surely that would have been painfully obvious to enemy pilots, as a easy mark? or was that the whole point?
     
  4. Buford

    Buford New Member

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    Swan, regardless of the colour, the paint design was still enough to break up the contours of the plane to the naked eye, so it still acted as a camoflauge.
     
  5. TxGirl

    TxGirl New Member

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    he is like a super hero! He was the most successful flying ace of World War I. there isn't anyone that even compares to him!
    this is a wonderful site, and a great picture of him! GOSH i luv the picture!!!

    The Red Baron
     
  6. wallstreeterww

    wallstreeterww New Member

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    maybe he wanted it that way because he liked the challenge. Just imagine if he had a chance to fly a modern day jet what he could do with it. I mean there is no comparison between those planes and our modern ones.
     
  7. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Aye, you don't see the colour when they come from the clouds right behind you .. :thumb:
     
  8. wallstreeterww

    wallstreeterww New Member

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    That was probably one of his specialties. I always imagined what it would be like to be in one of those WW1 planes. We have an old airfield here close to where i live that still flys those planes out. Its like going back in time:).
     
  9. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Member

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    Im not carried away by the Richthofen mystique.

    There were other pilots that surpassed him in my view. A short list includes
    Mick Mannock..
    Albert Ball..
    Rhys David's
    Renee Fonck..
    Werner Voss..
    Georges Guynemer...
    Edward Rickenbacker...

    Richthofen was a trophy hunter. He produced no examples of instruction of other pilots in his methods, and his method was not associated with Teamwork, but he represented the Lone Wolf Ace personified by Albert Ball.

    When Voss was shot down and killed, Rhys David's was heard to exclaim "oh if only we could have brought him down alive!"

    When Mick Mannock heard of Richthofens fate, he said, "I hope the bastard went down in flames!", reflecting the attitude that British pilots generally speaking had for Manfred von Richthofen. Not respect for a gallant enemy, but hatred for a trophy hunter and a killer of men.

    Bolshevik
     
  10. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Member

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    I used to play an Avalon Hill wargame called "Richthofens War". It wasn't a particularly inspiring game, but in the designers notes, the man that put the game together told us that he had been for several rides in open cockpit replica aircraft as part of his research.

    He said that you couldn't hear a thing above the motor noise, the wind buffeted the aircraft up and down giving him a nice look at just how unstable a gun platform some of these biplanes were, and he made the comment..."And they used to FIGHT in those machines!!!!!??????"

    It gave him much respect for the truely skillful flying required to manage all of the different tasks required of a combat pilot.

    And all of that without a parachute?

    Whoever insisted on that particular rule had obviously not been near an open cockpit plane or had any fear of going down in flames. Many pilots carried a pistol to give themselves a way out rather than burn to death, screaming all the way down.

    Bolshevik
     
  11. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Member

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    One possible explanation for the colourful paint schemes of German aircraft was as an aid to recognition for your own side. It also might have assisted greatly when you saw one of your own pilots going down. It would have aided recognition.

    Also, it was a psychological trait that demonstrated that you as a pilot were not afraid to let the enemy know who you were.

    Erich "Bubi" Hartmann had a personal colour scheme on his aircraft, and he reported that some Soviet pilots that recognised "The Black. Devil of The Ukraine" used to turn for home rather than take him on.

    One wonders whether this also was an intended result from the colourful paint jobs on many German aircraft in the Great War in the Air.
     
  12. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Richthofen just did his job-shooting down enemy airplanes. He was a well-to-do aristocrat, so he did award himself a victory cup for each of his victories. A conceit perhaps, but most combat fighter pilots were proud of their scores. He did try and teach the "newbies" about combat flying but there was not a lot he could do once his unit was in the air.
    The difference between Rhys-David's and Mannock's comments may have been more a difference between the personalities' of the two men or the difference in attitudes in different stages of the war.

    It's fairly clear that Richthofen was killed by ground fire. His death-wound came from below. Brown was behind him so could not have delivered that bullet. However, the RFC wanted to be the one who got him and for a long time won the propaganda war.
     
  13. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    In WW1 I think the pilots had colourful planes to show who was a star and who not.
     
  14. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Member

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    Most pilots proud of their scores?

    Mick Mannock lost count, and used to break in new pilots by partially shooting down aircraft and letting his student for the day finish him off.
    So his "score" more than likely surpasses Richthofen. And he did that apparently with eyesight that was less than perfect, although I have heard that this was just a story.

    And Albert Ball used to attack whole groups of German aircraft ALONE and unassisted, something I have never heard Richthofen doing.

    And Eddie Rickenbacker achieved his score with only a very short stint of frontline service.

    And I forgot to mention Raoul Lufbery from the Lafayette Escadrille. He managed to achieve his victories with a pronounced lack of training, but as a volunteer he probably wasn't given much thought anyway.
     
  15. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Member

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    Furthermore, if you look at Richthofens trophy collection, it is not composed of purely silver cups either.
    There are pieces of the aircraft, weapons scavenged, and other odds and ends, all along the wall in the Richthofen family home. He might have done this to confirm a kill, but the collection is rather ghoulish IMHO, and quite frankly it doesn't seem to dovetail with a humanitarian character.

    People like Ball and Rhys-Davids regretted having to take lives. Mannock was certainly not a cold blooded killer either. And George's Guynemer was such a frail fellow that he was rejected at first until he built himself up.

    Richthofen was in it for the GLORY. And as Boelcke's favourite student, he should have been passing Boelcke's legacy on, which he demonstrably failed to do in my view.

    Bolshevik
     
  16. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Richthofen was also criticized for mostly shooting down 2-seater recon planes, which were easy. Those people forgot that recon planes were the most important planes of that war. Protecting them or shooting them down was one of the major objectives of both sides.

    I'll stick to my guns of the "score" issue. Most pilots were proud of their scores. The whole "ace" thing was big. It was a way of showing off their prowess in a very dangerous game.
     
  17. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Member

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    But there is one thing I might mention.

    Some of the greatest pilots were killed while still unvanquished.
    Albert Ball was supposedly ambushed by ground fire.
    Richthofen was definitely killed by a single bullet from the ground, underneath and from his right side.
    Georges Guynemer was last seen flying into a cloud. No one claimed to have shot him down, and his plane wreck and body were said to have come down in no man's land and been buried in an artillery barrage.
    Combat flying is a dangerous trade in any war
     
    Kai-Petri likes this.

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