Tag Archives: Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen

17 September 1916

Rittmeister Manfred Albrecht Freiher von Richtofen. (Portrait by C. J. von Dühren)
Rittmeister Manfred Albrecht Freiher von Richtofen. (Portrait by C. J. von Dühren, 3 May 1917)
Morris
Lt. L. B. Morris

17 September 1916: At approximately 11:00 a.m., near Villers-Pouich, Nord, France, Rittmeister Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, of Jagdstaffel 2, Die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches (the Luftstreitkräfte) while flying an Albatros D.II, serial number 491/16, shot down a British Royal Aircraft Factory F.E. 2B scout plane, serial number 7018, flown by Second Lieutenant Lionel Bertram Frank Morris, with Captain Tom Rees, as observer and gunner. Both officers were assigned from their original regiments to No. 11 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. Captain Rees was killed by the Baron’s machine guns. Lt. Morris was wounded but landed the crippled airplane near a German airfield. Von Richthofen landed his Albatross alongside, but Morris died while being taken to a field hospital by ambulance.

The body of Lieutenant Morris was buried at Porte-de-Paris Cemetrary, Cambrai, France. Captain Rees was buried at Villers-Plouich.

Morris and Rees flew this Royal Aircraft Factory F.E. 2B, serial number 7018, shown surrounded by enemy soldiers. (Unattributed)
Morris and Rees flew this Royal Aircraft Factory F.E. 2B, serial number 7018, shown surrounded by enemy soldiers. (Wikipedia)

Von Richthofen had just joined Jasta 2 after becoming a fighter pilot. Originally a cavalry officer, he had become an aerial observer before becoming a pilot. This action was his first confirmed aerial victory. 83 more would follow and he would become known as The Red Baron.

Captain Tom Rees
Lieutenant Tom Rees, 1915

The Royal Aircraft Factory F.E. 2 (also designated Fighter Mk.I) was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. He made the first flight in the prototype at Farnborough, Hampshire, 18 August 1911. The F.E. 2b was a two-pace, single-engine pusher biplane used as a scout bomber. It was 32 feet, 3 inches (9.830 meters) long with a wingspan of 47 feet, 9 inches (14.554 meters) and height of 12 feet, 7½ inches (3.848 meters). It had an empty weight of 2,105 pounds (955 kilograms) and gross weight of 2,827 pounds (1,282 kilograms). The airplane’s three-bay wings had a chord of 5 feet, 6 inches (1.676 meters)  and were spaced 6 feet, 3½ inches (1.918 meters), vertically.

The F.E. 2b was powered by a water-cooled 13.937 liter (850.48 cubic inches) William Beardmore and Company inline six-cylinder engine rated at 120 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. It could produce a maximum 154 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m. This engine was a license-built Austro-Daimler 6, which had been designed by Dr.-Ing. Ferdinand Porsche.

The airplane had a maximum speed of 73 miles per hour (117 kilometers per hour) at 6,500 feet, 72 miles per hour (116 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). The airplane could reach 6,500 feet (1,981 meters) in 19.5 minutes, and 10,000 feet in 45.5 minutes. Its service ceiling was 9,000 feet (2,743 meters).

The F.E. 2b had fuel to remain airborne for 3½ hours.

Boulton & Paul Ltd.-built F.E. 2B A5478 (Aviation News)
Boulton & Paul Ltd.-built F.E. 2B A5478 (Aviation News)

The F.E. 2b was armed with one or two .303-caliber Lewis guns. The second gun was mounted on a telescoping post between the cockpits, and in the raised position could fire over the upper wing to defend the airplane from attacks in the rear. This required the gunner to stand in his seat. and could carry a maximum 517 pounds (235 kilograms) of bombs.

A total of 1,939 F.E.s were built.

An Albatros D.II, similar to that flown by Manfred von Richthofen, 17 September 1916.
An Albatros D.II, similar to that flown by Manfred von Richthofen, 17 September 1916.

The Albatros D.II was a single-place, single-engine biplane fighter designed and built by Albatros Flugzeugwerk GmbH, Johannisthal, Berlin. It was also built under license by Luft-Verkhers-Gesellschaft and Oesterreichische Flugzeugfabrik AG. It was 7.40 meters (24 feet, 3-1/3 inches) long with a wingspan of 8.50 meters (27 feet, 10-2/3 inches) and height of 2.59 meters (8 feet, 6 inches). It had an empty weight of 637 kilograms (1,404 pounds) and gross weight of 888 kilograms (1,958 pounds).

The D.II was powered by a water- and air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 14.778 liter (901.68 cubic inches) Mercedes F1466 (D.III) single-overhead cam inline six-cylinder direct-drive engine with a compression ration of 4.50:1, which produced 162.5 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m. The engine weighed 618 pounds ( kilograms).

The Albatros D.II had a maximum speed of 175 kilometers per hour (109 miles per hour) and a service ceiling of 5,180 meters (16,995 feet).

The fighter was armed with two fixed air-cooled 7.92 mm machine guns.

A total of 291 Albatros D.II fighters were built before production shifted to the D.III.

Manfred von Richtofen with an Albatross D.II. (Unattributed)
Manfred von Richtofen with an Albatross D.II. (Unattributed)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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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

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