Tag Archives: Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte

21 April 1918

vo R Portrait by Nicola Perscheid.
Rittmeister Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, Jagdstaffel 11, Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte. (Portrait by Nicola Perscheid)

21 April 1918: Rittmeister Manfred Albrecht Freiher von Richthofen, “The Red Baron,” was killed in combat at Morlancourt Ridge, near Vaux-sur-Somme, France. He was just 25 years old.

A cavalry officer turned airplane pilot, Baron von Richthofen is considered to be the leading fighter ace of World War I, with 80 officially credited aerial victories. In January 1917, he had his airplane, an Albatross D.III, painted bright red. It was in this airplane that he scored most of his victories, and earned his nickname.

Fokker Dr.! (National Archives)
“The Red Baron prepares for a flight over British lines in his Fokker Dr. I Triplane (National Archives)”—MHQ

Flying his Fokker Dr.I Dreidecker (tri-plane), serial number 425/17, von Richthofen was in pursuit of a Sopwith Camel F.1, D3326, flown by Lieutenant Wilfred Reid May, No. 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force, when he was attacked by a second Sopwith Camel BR, number B 7270, piloted by Captain Arthur Roy Brown, DSC, May’s commanding officer.

During the battle, the Red Baron was wounded in the chest and crash-landed near Vaux-sur-Somme, France. He was still alive when he was reached by Australian infantry, but died almost immediately. He was buried with full military honors by No. 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps.

Captain Brown later wrote:

. . . the sight of Richthofen as I walked closer gave me a start. He appeared so small to me, so delicate. He looked so friendly. Blond, silk-soft hair, like that of a child, fell from the broad high forehead. His face, particularly peaceful. had an expression of gentleness and goodness, of refinement. Suddenly I felt miserable, desperately unhappy, as if I had committed an injustice. With a feeling of shame, a kind of anger against myself moved in my thoughts, that I had forced him to lay there. And in my heart I cursed the force that is devoted to death. I gnashed my teeth, I cursed the war. If I could I would gladly have brought him back to life, but that is somewhat different than shooting a gun. I could no longer look him in the face. I went away. I did not feel like a victor. There was a lump in my throat. If he had been my dearest friend, I could not have felt greater sorrow.”

Captain Arthur Roy Brown, DSC and Bar, Royal Air Force

Captain Arthur Roy Brown, DSC and Bar, Royal Air Force. (Royal Canadian Air Force)

     The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of Bars to the Distinguished Service Cross to the undermentioned Officers late of the Royal Naval Air Service:—

To receive a Bar to the Distinguished Service Cross.

Lieut. (Hon. Capt.) Arthur Roy Brown, D.S.C., R.A.F.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On 21st April, 1918, while leading a patrol of 6 scouts he attacked a formation of 20 hostile scouts. He personally engaged two Fokker triplanes, which he drove off; then seeing that one of our machines was being attacked and apparently hard pressed, he dived on the hostile scout, firing the while. The scout, a Fokker triplane, nose dived and crashed into the ground. Since the award of the Distinguished Service Cross he has destroyed several other enemy aircraft and has shown great dash and enterprise in attacking enemy troops from low altitudes despite heavy anti-aircraft fire.

— Fourth Supplement to The London Gazette of Tuesday, the 18th of June, 1918, Numb. 30756, at Page 7304, Column 2

Sergeant Cedric Popkin, Australian Imperial Force

Captain Brown was credited by the Royal Air Force with the shoot-down and was awarded a Bar to his Distinguished Service Cross (a second DSC).

There has been speculation that the Baron’s wound was actually caused by a .303-caliber (7.7×56mmR) rifle or machine gun bullet fired from the ground, rather than from Brown’s Sopwith Camel.

Many researchers have come to the conclusion that Sergeant Cedric Bassett Popkin, 24th Australian Machine Gun Company, 4th Division, Australian Imperial Force, fired the burst of gunfire that struck the Baron. Other machine gunners and riflemen also fired at von Richthofen’s Fokker tri-plane.

Lieutenant Donald L. Fraser, Brigade Intelligence Officer, 11th Australian Infantry Brigade, A.I.F., witnessed the incident and was one of the first to reach Rittmeister von Richthofen. In his official report he wrote:

“. . . I congratulated Sergeant Popkin on his successful shoot, but afterwards found out that two A.A. Lewis Guns belonging to the 53rd. Battery A.F.A. had also fired at this plane when it was directly over my head, but the noise of the engine prevented my hearing the shooting.

     “The 53rd. Battery Lewis Gunners probably assisted in sealing the fate of this airman, as he apparently flew right into their line of fire. However, I am strongly of the opinion that he was first hit by Sergeant Popkin’s shooting as he was unsteady from the moment of the first burst of fire.”

Two postmortem examinations determined that the fatal bullet entered von Richthofen’s chest from low on the right side, struck his spine and exited to the left. Captain Brown had attacked from the left rear and above. The Red Baron broke away to the right. Because von Richthofen’s airplane could rotate in three axes, and the pilot could move and turn his body somewhat within the cockpit, it is unlikely that it would be possible to determine with certainty what direction the fatal bullet came from.

THE FUNERAL OF RITTMEISTER MANFRED VON RICHTHOFEN, APRIL 1918 (Q 10919) The service at the graveside. No. 3 Squadron Australian Flying Corps. Bertangles, 22 April 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205215975

"Four officers placing wreaths from British Squadrons on the grave. Bartangles, 22 April 1918." (Imperial War Museum, Catalog number Q 10923)
“Four officers placing wreaths from British Squadrons on the grave. Bartangles, 22 April 1918.” (Imperial War Museum, Catalog number Q 10923) [Note: The officer to the right, without a cap, appears to be Captain Arthur Roy Brown.—TDiA]
© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

23 September 1917

Leutnant Werner Voss
Leutnant Werner Voss, Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte. Lieutenant Voss is wearing “The Blue Max,” the Knight’s Cross of the Order of the House of Hohenzollern, the Iron Cross and the Pilot’s Badge. (Gustav Liersch & Co.)

23 September 1917: Leutnant Werner Voss, commanding officer of Jagdstaffel 10 of the Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte (German Air Force), a leading fighter ace with 48 confirmed victories, was shot down during a battle which lasted at least eight minutes and involved seven British pilots, themselves aces.

Though Voss’ machine gun fire damaged most of his opponents’ airplanes, his own was hit by fire from at least two of the British airplanes. Voss was struck by three bullets.

His airplane, a prototype Fokker F.I triplane, serial number 103/17, went into a steep dive and crashed north of Frezenberg, Belgium. Voss was killed.

Major James Thomas Byford McCudden, VC, DSO and Bar, MC and Bar, MM, one of the British pilots involved in the dogfight, later said of Voss, “As long as I live I shall never forget my admiration for that German pilot, who single-handed fought seven of us for ten minutes and also put some bullets through all our machines. His flying was wonderful, his courage magnificent, and in my opinion he was the bravest German airman whom it has been my privilege to see fight.”

Werner Voss in the cockpit of his Fokker F.I fighter, 103/17. (Unattributed)
Werner Voss in the cockpit of his Fokker F.I fighter, 103/17. (Unattributed)

The Fokker F.I was a prototype single-engine, single-seat triplane fighter, designed and built by Fokker Flugzeugwerke GmbH, Schwerin, Germany. After very slight changes, the production version would be designated Fokker Dr.I. The fuselage was constructed of steel tubing and covered with fabric. The wings used plywood ribs and a boxed plywood spar.

The F.I was 5.770 meters (18 feet, 11.2 inches) long. The upper wing had a span of 7.190 meters (23 feet, 7.1 inches); the middle wing, 6.225 meters (20 feet, 5 inches); and the lower wing, 5.725 meters (18 feet, 9.4 inches). All three wings had a chord of 1.000 meters (3 feet, 3.4 inches). The airplane had an overall height of 2.950 meters (9 feet, 8.1 inches). Its empty weight was 405 kilograms (893 pounds), and the gross weight was 587 kilograms (1,294 pounds).

Leutnant Werner Voss' Fokker F.I triplane, 103/17. (Unattributed)
Leutnant Werner Voss’ Fokker F.I triplane, 103/17. (Unattributed)

Originally built with a Motorentfabrik Oberursel Ur.II nine-cylinder rotary engine rated at 110 horsepower (a license-built copy of the French Le Rhône 9J engine), Werner Voss had an actual Le Rhône 9J, serial number J6247, installed to replace the Ur.II.

The Le Rhône 9J, produced by Société des Moteurs Le Rhône, was an air-cooled, normally aspirated, 15.074 liter (919.85 cubic inches) nine-cylinder rotary engine, capable of producing 113 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m., and a maximum 135 horsepower at 1,350 r.p.m. As the engine rotated, it turned a two-bladed Axial Proppellerwerk AG fixed-pitch, laminated wood propeller with a diameter of 2.660 meters (8 feet, 8.7 inches). The Le Rhône 9J was 850 millimeters (2 feet, 9.47 inches) long and 970 millimeters (3 feet, 2.19 inches) in diameter. It weighed 137 kilograms (302 pounds).

The Fokker F.I had a maximum speed of 185 kilometers per hour (115 miles per hour) at Sea Level and 166 kilometers per hour (103 miles per hour) at 4,000 meters (13,123 feet ). The service ceiling was 7,000 meters (22,966 feet). It carried fuel for approximately 1½ hours of flight.

The F.I was armed with two fixed 8mm Spandau LMG 08/15 machine guns, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc. The fighter carried 550 rounds of ammunition per gun.

Werner Voss’ triplane, 103/17 (Wn. 1730), was a prototype, Versuch 5, or V5, ordered on 14 July 1917 and accepted by the German Air Force on 16 August. It was sent to Jagdstafell 10 on 21 August.

A British intelligence officer who examined the wreckage of Voss’ Fokker F.I described it as having camouflaged green upper surfaces and blue lower surfaces. Photographs of 103/17 show painted eyes and a mustache on the engine cowling, which are believed to have been inspired by Japanese kites that Voss had flown as a child.

Leutenant Werner Voss had been awarded the famous Pour le Mérite (the “Blue Max”), Germany’s highest award; the Hausorden von Hohenzollern (the Cross of the Order of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Crown and Swords); and the Eisernes Kreuz (Iron Cross), 1st and 2nd Class.

Leutnant Werner Voss with his Fokker F.I triplane, 103/17. (This photograph may have been taken by Anthony Fokker)
Leutnant Werner Voss with his Fokker F.I triplane, 103/17. (This photograph may have been taken by Anthony Fokker)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather