ROYAL AIR FORCE IS CREATED IN BRITAIN (LONDON APRIL 1, 1918)
The decade starting in 1910 included greater advances in aviation design and technology than any other either before or after. It is a truism that “Necessity is the mother of Invention”, and was never better illustrated than the period 1914-1918 as all combatants in the First World War strove for air superiority. It was the decade which included the formation of the Royal Air Force and the emergence of the early air aces like Ball, Hawker, Mannock, Immelmann, von Richthofen and Rickenbacker from America. In 1919 two Britons flew non-stop across the Atlantic ocean to crown and outstanding 10 year Era.
EVENTS AND ADVANCES IN CIVIL AVIATION
FABRE HYDROPLANE TAKES OFF IN SEA TESTS (MARTIGUES, FRANCE, MARCH 28, 1910)
For the first time, today an airplane took off from water. At the controls of his Canard aircraft, at Lake Berre near Martigues on the Mediterranean, was Henri Fabre, a 28 year-old engineer from Marseilles who had never flown before.
The Canard is a tail-first machine with a rear-mounted 50-hp Gnome engine powering one propeller; it has three floats, one under the tail and one under each wing. In earlier experiments Fabre rejected a hydrofoil undercarriage because it picked up weds and other flotsam; he has thus come up with his own design of a flat-bottomed float with curved upper surface. On the first four flights today, the machine flew for 1640 feet at about 13 feet. Fabre later extended this distance to 2625 feet.
Fabre takes off from water
KING GIVES ROYAL START TO BRITISH AIRMAIL
(HENDON, ENGLAND, SEPT.9 1911)
The first mail carried by air in the United Kingdom was successfully delivered today. The service has been commemorated by specially printed envelopes and postcards reading “1st UK Aerial Post”, made available in London shops and at Hendon aerodrome., north of London, from where the first mail aeroplane took off. Public demand for these souvenirs has been great, and a special mailbox was set up at Hendon for those wishing to have their correspondence among the first to be delivered.
Gustav Hamel of the Grahame-White flying school left in a Bleriot at 4.58pm to make the inital flight. He took just 10 minutes to flight the 19 miles to a meadow on the royal farm at Windsor in Berkshire, as strong tail winds allowed an average speed of 105mph. His bag contained messages for King George V and other members of the British royal family.
Aerial Post 1911 - Windsor Landing
BRIGHT FUTURE FOR AIRSHIP LINE
THAT LETS PASSENGERS TRAVEL
IN STYLE (GERMANY DEC. 31 1912)
Count von Zeppelin’s passenger airship line, DELAG, is celebrating two years of constant, accident-free flying. With the introduction of three new airships the line, based at Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance is confident of the future. More than 8,000 passengers have flown on its luxery flights between Germany’s main cities. Today, at the Kaiser’s urging, Admiral von Tirpiiz ordered the German Navy’s first Zeppelin. Airships, it seems, will, also have apart to play in war.
RUSSIA’S SIKORSKY DEFIES THE CRITICS
(ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA AUGUST 2, 1913)
The world’s biggest aeroplane today made a flight of 1 hour and 54 minutes carrying eight passengers. The machine called Bolshoi Balitskii weighs over 4 tons and has a 92-foot wing-span. It was piloted today by its designer, Igor Sirkorsky, foreman of the Russo-Baltic Wagon Works, Air division, with two 100hp engines.
It is a bi-plane and has a twin-finned tail, and it flew on March 2. Sikorsky saw that for its size more power was needed and had the machine rebuilt with four engines, two tractors and two pushers. It then made what was the worlds four-engined flight on May 10.
Sikorsky recognised that for maximum efficiency the four engines should all be tractors, arranged in a line. He has now had the giant rebuilt in this form, with a tail redesigned with four rudders s that control can be maintained if an outer engine fails.
In this third form the giant will be known as the Russkii Vityaz (The Russian Knight). It has confounded those who proclaimed that so large a heavy a machine could not fly.
PASSENGER SERVICE OPENS
(ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA, JANUARY 1, 1914)
US AIRMAIL SERVICE STARTS (WASHINGTON DC MAY 15, 1918)
George L. Boyle has map stitched to his breeches
The US Post Office and US Army today launched the US’s first regularly-scheduled airmail service between Washington and New York and vice versa, via Philadelphia. The army supplies the pilots and aircraft, while the Post Office takes care of the mail. By summer, the Post Office expects to provide its own pilots and aeroplanes and operate the service alone. Lt. George L. Boyle made the first flight, taking off from Washington. Unfortunately the inexperienced Boyle lost his way. Following the wrong railroad tracks and ignoring the sun, he flew south, not north, and landed in a field at Waldorf, Maryland. The other half of the flight, from Philadelphia to New York, left without the Washington mail. The New York/Philadelphia/Washington service, however, went well, with the mail arriving at 2.50pm.
EVENTS AND ADVANCES IN MILITARY AVIATION
AIRCRAFT USED IN BRITISH ARMY MANOEUVRES
(WILTSHIRE ENGLAND SEPT. 23, 1910)
In the teeth of opposition from many regular officers, both sides in the annual manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain have accepted that they need aerial reconnaissance if they are not to be out manoeuvred. First, the defending “Red” army employed Captain Bertram Dickson (a former gunner now employed by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company) as its scout in a Bristol biplane. Sceptics ignored him when adverse weather kept him grounded, but two days ago he took off through dawn mist and caught the “Blue” army advance between Salisbury and Amersham.
GERMANY - THE LARGEST AIR FORCE IN EUROPE
(GERMANY JULY 1914)
The Imperial German Military Aviation Service has the largest number of aeroplanes of any air arm, thought to total 246. Virtually all are two seaters, produced by more than 20 firms. Half the total are Taube aircraft, based on the Austrian design, which have been built by 11 companies. Another standard machine is the Arrow tractor biplane. There is a major airship force including seven Zeppelins.
Unlike the Royal Flying Corps in Great Britain, the German aircraft are under strict army control, divided between HQ and corps.. The aeroplanes are deployed in more than 40 squadrons and flights, with four to six aircraft each. The Imperial Naval Air Service adds about 36 seaplanes to the total, as well as the Zeppelin L3.
He returned half-frozen to relate the news to the “Red” officers as they took a leisurely breakfast. The Daily Mail reported that their indifference “turned to enthusiasm as Dickson painted a far more detailed picture” than the cavalry subsequently submitted. Later Dickson landed on “enemy” soil to telephone his report, only to be captured by a mounted corporal named Arthur Edwards. The Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, soon arrived to ply Dickson with questions. When actor-aviator, Robert Loraine read the Mail article, he offered his services to the “Blues”. After a stage-show he drove from London to Salisbury overnight and flew Dickson’s captured machine, having fitted it with a wireless Morse transmitter.
OBSERVERS SAVE BRITISH IN BATTLE AT MONS (BELGIUM AUGUST 22, 1914)
The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) here has been warned by air reconnaissance of a gigantic pincer movement by two German armies. Since Brussels fell to the Germans two days ago, the French Fifth Army on the British right has retreated to avoid von Bulow in the east, leaving that flank exposed. Today the RFC flew 12 scout missions, revealing another enemy corps moving west from Brussels, probably von Kluck’s First Army.
BRITAIN COMMISSIONS FIRST AIRCRAFT CARRIER (SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND, DEC. 9, 1914)
The Royal Navy is making a determined effort to rule the air as well as the sea, by commissioning a special warship whose sole purpose is to carry aircraft. HMS Ark Royal is to be the first newly built ship designed to launch, recover and house naval seaplanes. They will take off using jetisonable trolleys, land back on the sea on their own floats and be hoisted aboard into the ship’s hold by crane, a technique pioneered by HMS Hermes a converted light cruiser. The hull of the Ark Royal is that of a merchant ship, in fact a collier, which, although to slow to keep up with the fleet, allows good deck space
NEW AIRCRAFT CLAIMS MANY ALLIED LIVES. “Fokker fodder” is the ominous term used to describe the novice Allied pilots who are sent into battle to face Germany’s lethal new Fokker Elll’s. Experienced pilots speak of the menace they represent as “the Fokker scourge”, which is now a serious enough threat to forces’ morale to merit discussion in the British Parliament.
The Fokkers are armed with machine guns which fire through the propeller. To avoid hitting the revolving blades, Fokker has fitted an interrupter gear to the rotary engine which stops the gun firing when the propeller is directly in front of it. The deadly mechanism was developed in record time after the capture of French ace Roland Garros, together with his much cruder forward-firing system, on April 19. The German quickly saw the advantage; they no longer had t fly in one direction while firing the gun to the side, but could aim the whole aircraft at the quarry.
ALLIES MOVE AGAINST FOKKER MENACE (NEW BRITISH FIGHTER IS A BIG BREAKTHROUGH) (SOMME, FRANCE APRIL 24 1916)
It looks as if Germany’s Fokker monoplanes, dreaded by the Allies, have finally met their match. Today about a dozen of them were decisively beaten by the new British D.H.” scouts of No. 24 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, jnder Major Lanoe Hawker. Since last September his 12 pilots have ben in intensive training on the machines, which each have a “pusher” engine and forward-firing Lewis gun.
Today 4 D.H.2’s were escorting five Bes of No. 15 Squadron when a group of Fokkers attacked. The Germans to their surprise, encountered in the D.H.2 an opponent of great aggression, agility and firepower. The Fokker was soundly beaten in combat: the D.H.2 with the new French Nieuport Bebe engine could finally end the “Fokker scourge”.
Britain took an historic step in the organization of its armed services today, becoming the first country in the world to formally acknowledge not only that a new dimension - the air - has been added to warfare but also that to fight in it a completely new armed force is needed. The Royal Air Force, which was born today, will be formed out of the Army’s Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, but the RAF should quickly become independent of its parent services. It will ultimately have its own ministry, its own distinct uniform and rank structure.
HENRY FARMAN MAKES SAFE NIGHT LANDING
(CHALONS, FRANCE, MARCH 1, 1910)
Until today no aviator had ben daring or foolhardy enough to attempt to fly on moonless nights. Now Henry Farman, one of the brothers who rival Louis Bleriot as the worlds most successful maker of aeroplanes has not only flown at night but has done so aboard a flying machine garlanded with Chinese paper lanterns.
Farman’s exploit was the first officially ratified night flight. In order to help him get his bearings, he attached the paper lanterns to the tips of his biplanes wings. These served both as landing aids and navigation lights. Until now, airmen who wished to risk night flights had had no option but to rely on the moonlight.
Farman’s breakthrough has not gone unnoticed. The president of France’s Aerial League has suggested that towns and cities be signposted for flyers by strategically placing luminous numbers on the ground.
EIFFEL TOWER TEST FOR NEW PARACHUTE
(PARIS DECEMBER 1911)
Air Test. Parisians gather at the foot of the Eiffel Tower to watch as the Hervieu parachute is tested with a dummy launched from the first storey of their cities most famous monument. The voluminous cotton parachute - which weighs 40lbs - passed with flying colours.
CATAPULT LAUNCHES AEROPLANE FROM WARSHIP (PENSACOLA, FLORIDA NOV. 6 1915)
United States naval aviation took a big step forward today when Lt. Cmdr. H.C. Mustin piloted a Curtiss AB-2 flying boat in the first catapulted launch of an aircraft from a moving ship. The Launch, announced by assistant navy secretary
Franklin D. Roosevelt, was from the stern of the USS North Carolina in Pensecola Bay. Its success opens up the prospect of warshps firing at an unseen enemy, using aeroplanes to direct gunfire.
The catapult was built at the Washington Navy Yard. It was tested on a Bargehere in April and then fitted to the North Carolina
WILBUR WRIGHT, AVIATION PIONEER, DIES FROM TYPHOID AT 45 (DAYTON, OHIO, MAY 30, 1912)
Wilbur Wright died at 3.15 this morning of typhoid fever at the early age of 45. The Wright home has been busy all day with callers, and there have so far been over a thousand telegrams of condolence. Wilbur’s death marks the end of an extraordinary partnership with his brother Orville, which culminated in 1903 with the first true powered flight in history. Wilbur was the practical one, Orville the ideas man; but Wilbur saw them through.His greatest personal triumph was in 1908 in France, when he showed sceptics that he and Orville really had mastered the air. He had high religious and moral principles, and this led to legal battles with fellow aviators over their use of the brothers patented system of wing-warping.
SAM CODY DIES IN CRASH (FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND,
AUGUST 7, 1913)
Samuel Cody, Britain’s Texan born air pioneer, was hurled to his death today as his latest machine - a seaplane with a 60 foot wingspan - broke up around him at 300 feet during a routine landing at Farnborough, Hampshire. His sons Leon and Frank watched horrified as the great wings crumpled vertically and Cody and his passenger were dashed to the ground. The aviator had hoped that his 70-mph seaplane, which he found “a lovely easy flier, steady as a rock”, would evolve into a machine to cross the Atlantic. When it crashed it was fitted with a land undercarriage.
A naturalised Briton, Cody was a pioneer in building and flying aeroplanes in Britain. He has died as he wished. He said recently “I hope my death is swift ... From one of my own planes”.
POPULARITY OF AIR HEROES - A DANGER TO MORALE?
(BERLIN, JANUARY 12, 1916)
The German authorities announced today that two of our best fighter pilots, Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke, have been awarded Germany’s highest military honour, the order Pour le Merite. Immelmann and Boelcke have won their medals for shooting down a total of eight Allied opponents each in aerial combat. They both reached this figure in the skies near the French fortress of Verdun where the German where the German air service is playing its part inn the build-up for what appears to be a new offensive.
The coveted blue and gold medal, and its French title, were created inn 1740 by military genius and Francophile King Frederick the Great of Prussia. The award of so great an honour to two quite junior officers represents a new step in a tendency which has been apparent for some time: to mark the exploits of individual pilots, especially fighter pilots, for special attention. This arises for a need for heroes in a war which has reached a muddy stalemate on the ground; from the trenches the airmen's battles seem heroic, with the echo's of the chivalry of medieval knights. The reality is somewhat different; the technique of the fighter pilot is to creep up on his prey unawares, pounce when the time is right and shoot him in the back before he can escape.
Electric lighting on the ground helps night landings
Among the elite squadrons created to combat the German mastery of the skies, one has already begun to achieve legendary status: No.3 Nieuport Squadron, which has adopted the stork, traditionally a bringer of good luck, as its emblem. Stork Squadron is commanded by Captain Felix Brocard and includes several highly talented young pilots such as Lieutenant Georges Guynemer. Their function is to “seek the enemy, engage and destroy him”, harrying the Fokker squadrons which have hampered Allied observation flights over Verdun.
MYSTERY SURROUNDS THE DEATH OF “BLUE MAX”
(VERDUN FRONT, FRANCE, JUNE 18 1916)
German fighter ace Max Immelmann was downed and killed today, although the exact circumstances are unclear. Immelmann star pupil of veteran Oswald Boelcke, and with 15 confirmed ‘kills’ his only rival, was flying a Fokker monoplane with a forward firing Spandau machine gun.
An examination of the wreckage of his machine has revealed that one propeller blade was shot off in line with the Spandau , raising speculation that the gun/propeller synchronising system was faulty. But the British claim that an B.F.2b of No. 25 Squadron RFC, piloted by Second Lieutenant McCubbin shot Immelmann down.
In January, Immelmann known as the “Eagle of Lille” and Boelcke were the first pilots to win Germany’s prestigious Pour le Merite decoration.
ACE LAUNCHES SOLO BATTLE
(FRANCE AUGUST 31, 1916)
Nineteen-year-old British lieutenant Albert Ball, a shy loner on the ground, set new standards of aggressive airmanship this evening when he flew solo to a German air base near Canmbrai determined to attack anything that dared to fly against him. From 11,000 feet he saw 12 Roland 2-seaters flying in formation below and dived on them like a bird of prey, wreaking havoc. Ball a technician from Nottingham, was an expert shot before he learned to fly. In his Niueport, which has special gun mounts, he swooped below his quarry and got him with a complete drum of ammunition. With his own engine shot out and no ammunition in his machine gun, he drew his pistol and emptied that at the enemy before gliding down and landing in a field.
FLYING GERMAN BARON PICKS OFF BRITISH ACE
(GRANDCOURT, FRANCE, NOV. 23, 1916)
An aerial duel over the western front this morning deprived Britain of its top combat pilot, Major Lanoe Hawker. Hawker, the first flyer to win the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award for valour, was killed by a young German aristocrat, Baron Manfred von Richthofen.
On patrol over the Baupame sector, Hawker met an Albatross scout which, unusually did not turn and run. The two fought for over half an hour, the manoeuvrability of Hawker’s D.H.2 matched by the power and speed of the Albatros. Low on fuel., Hawker was dashing for Allied lines when a bullet from Richthofen’s last drum hit him in the head.
RED BARON LETS LOOSE LETHAL “CIRCUS”
(DOUAI, FRANCE, APRIL 1917)
German air ace Manfred von Richthofen has created a formidable weapon to pitch against the Allies fighting on the Somme. He has gathered an elite group of fighter pilots in single seater Albatross machines better armed than any other force. They fly in formations of 30 or more. The core of this group, which has been dubbed “the Flying Circus”, is the baron’s own 11-strong Jagdstaffel or Jasta (fighter squadron) 11.
Richthofen, defying modern military convention, encourages his men to paint their machines in bright colours, almost like the shields of medieval knights. His is bright red hence his nickname “the Red Baron”. Both the British and French have tried for a year to combat German air superiority, with generally unsuccessful results. Richthofen’s men fly as hunters and attack less capable aircraft, but dogfights can still last an hour and involve a hundred aircraft.
BRITISH AIR ACE ASSUMED
DEAD AFTER MYSTERY CRASH
(VERT GALAND, FRANCE MAY 7, 1917)
Six S.E. 5 single-seater fighters of No. 56 Squadron of Britain’s Royal Flying Corps are missing tonight from a force of 11 which left on attack patrols around Arras. The top RFC ace, the much decorated Captain Albert Ball, is among those who have failed to return.
As midnight approaches, his men are reassuring one another he h as been forced down and is a prisoner. He was last seen at dusk by Captain C M Crowe, as Ball and a red albatross from Richthofen’s “Flying Circus” disappeared into a cloud still dogfighting.
SLOW STARTER WINS PRESTIGIOUS VALOUR AWARD
(WESTERN FRONT JULY 20. 1917)
Edward “Mick’ Mannock received one of Britain’s top bravery decorations today after shooting down two more German’s. Mannock who has been awarded the Military Cross, started as a fighter pilot in April, but failed to “score”. His furious commanding officer even thought he might have “cold feet”. Mannock is not typical of a Royal Flying Corps officer. A socialist, he was working as a telegraph repair man in Turkey when war broke out . He was interned there until April 1915. His first “kill” came last month. Gunnery practice and study of German tactics have now paid off.
AMERICAN ACE DOWNS GERMAN AIRCRAFT (TOUL, FRANCE, SEPTEMBER 25, 1918)
Captain Eddie Rickenbaker, 29, was very busy today, his first day as commander of America’s 94th Aero Squadron. The famous racing car driver turned air ace met with his unit and then took to the air to put into practice what he preaches to his pilots. The result: two more “kills” for Rickenbaker as he approaches the status of a double ace with ten victories.His prey did not come easily. Alone, patrolling over enemy lines.
he spotted two Halberstadt reconnaissance planes escorted by five Fokkers. Despite the odds he did not hesitate to confront the German aircraft and on his initial diving attack one of the Fokkers fell to his guns. In the dogfight that followed he destroyed a Haberstadt.
Rickenbacker who has returned to duty after four months convalescence from a severe ear infection, wants to make the 94th the very best of the US pursuit units.
GRAHAME-WHITE, PILOT AND SHOWMAN (NEW YORK. OCT. 29, 1910)
Grahame-White lands in Washington street
Aristocratic Englishman Claude Grahame-White today won the second Gordon Bennett trophy race at Belmont Park race-track, Long Island. It was the climax of a week long international aviation meeting, and Grahame-White was one of ten competitors. He covered the 100 kilometres (62 mile) course inn his Bleriot in 1 hour and 5 seconds to win $5000 and the trophy.
Grahame-White apprenticed himself as an engineer at 16 and went into bicycles, cars and then ballooning until he saw Wilbur Wright in France and became addicted to aeroplanes. He learned to fly just last year but already has a name as a showman; on October 14, he surprised Washington DC citizens by landing in the street.
TEST PILOT LANDS PLANE ON DECK OF A U.S. CRUISER
(SAN FRANCISCO JAN. 18. 1911)
Eugene Ely, professional test pilot of the Curtiss company, has today notched up another success at sea. Following his daring accomplishment last November, when he flew his Curtiss Model D biplane from the light cruiser Birmingham he has landed a similar machine on a warship at sea, widely regarded as far more difficult. The cruiser USS Pennsylvania chosen for this highly dangerous experiment, was anchored in the harbour. She was modified by having a large 119 foot long wooden platform fitted over her stern. The Curtiss lacks landing brakes, and various methods of stopping it were considered. The solution chosen - 22 ropes stretched across the platforms secured to sandbags - had previously been tested on shore. Rails had also been positioned around the whole deck area of the ship.
LINCOLN BEACHEY FLIES CURTISS
BIPLANE OVER NIAGARA
(JUNE 27, 1911)
American stunt pilot Lincoln Beachey fliers his Curtiss biplane over Niagara Falls and beneath the international bridge separating the United States and Canada. A crowd of 150,000 watches spellbound as he skims along the lake before landing safely on the Canadian side of the border. Beachey;s spectacular feat is made all the more remarkable by the fact that he was taught to fly - by Glenn Curtiss - only this year!
SCHNEIDER CUP LURES FLYERS TO MONACO
(APRIL 16, 1913)
The two weeks of flying competitions at the Monaco hydroplane meeting ended to day with the first contest of the new maritime aviation cup offered by Jacques Schneider, son of a wealthy French arms maker and keen patron and organiser of aviation events. He is giving the winners of three annual events trophies and FF25,000 each. Contestants must taxi for half of lap on and fly the remaining 173 miles over 28 laps at their fastest speeds.
Taking part were Frenchman Gabriel Espanet in a Nieuport, Roland Garros in a Morane-Saulnier and Maurice Prevost in a Depardussin. Plus American Charles Weymann in a Nieuport. A course was marked outin Roquebrune Bay. First off was Prevost; he flew confidently. Garros taxied out next but so much water was disturbed by his aircraft that his engine cut out and he had to be towed back. By now the Nieuports were flying at high speed. The finish was dramatic. Espanet had to retire with engine problems and Garros decided not to reenter. Prevost on his final lap, alighted short of the line and taxied over it; this disqualified him unless he went out and and flew over the finish. He refused to do this until Weymann had to retire on lap 24. Then Prevost, with Garros this time, took off; Prevost won with a speed of almost 46mph.
BRITON CARRIES OFF SECOND SCHNEIDER TROPHY (MONACO APRIL 20, 1914)
Howard Pixton today flew a Sopwith Tabloid biplane to victory in the second Schneider cup competition. All four entrants from last year’s contest entered again this year, Joined by Pierre Levasseur of France, Pixton and Lord Carbery of Britain, Ernst Burri of Switzerland, Ernst Stoeffler of Germany and William Thaw of the US.
The first shock came in the eliminating trials when last years winner Maurice Prevost, failed to qualify. Pixton was fourth away today and was unstoppable, reaching 86.8 mph in his flight of 2 hours 13 seconds. Second was Burri in his FBA flying boat, taking 3 hours 24 minutes and 12 seconds after refuelling on lap 23. Espanet and Levasseur retired early, Garros broke a propeller and did not start, Stoeffler withdrew yesterday, and Thaw and Weymann did not take off.
CANADIAN PILOT SHOOTS ZEPPELIN OUT OF THE SKY (BRUGES, BELGIUM JUNE 9, 1915)
Fl;ight Sub-lieutenant Reginald Warneford a Canadian in No.1 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, was on a mission to bomb Zeppelin sheds near Bruges two nights ago when he spoted airship LZ37 returning to base. In his moraine-Saulnier L monoplane he stalked LZ 37 for 40 minutes but his attacks were forced off by its gunners.
He tried again gliding above the Zeppelin and releasing six bombs. Five missed; the sixth caused a blast so great it flipped Warneford over. LZ 37 crumpled to earth in flames: the first Zeppelin shot down. (It hit a convent near Ghent, killing four people on the ground
“RED BARON” IS SHOT DEAD. (LE HAMEL, FRANCE, APRIL 21, 1918)
Airmen on both sides are stunned tonight at the loss of Baron Manfred von Richthofen, the greatest air ace of them all. A lively debate has already begun over who fired the bullet which killed the German aviator as he harried what would have been his 81st victim.
The end of the nobleman known from the colour of his Fokker triplane as the “Red Baron” came over the Somme when 25 German Fokker and Albatross fighters met 15 Sopwith Camels of 209 Squadron Royal Air Force (RAF). One flight leader, Canadian, Captain Roy Brown, told Lieutenant Wilfred May, a school friend and novice flyer; just to watch. As the fight heated up however, May dived on a Fokker. Then his guns jammed. As bullets struck his machine May fled but to no avail, for he had picked a fight with Richthofen himself. May tried hedgehopping at ground level, but the red triplane stayed with him, its fire damaging his machine and wounding him in the right arm. Brown dived, guns blazing, to aid his friend at the same time as Australian troops on the ground began shooting at the baron’s plane. Richthofen stood to check his tail, but seconds later his machine crashed into the ground. One bullet - Australian or Canadian?- had hit him in the heart.
Janus and his Benoist Flying Boat
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