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Title: The Red Knight of Germany
Author: Floyd Gibbons [1887-1939]
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1100421.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: May 2011
Date most recently updated: May 2011

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Title: The Red Knight of Germany
Author: Floyd Gibbons [1887-1939]

A Red Star Book
  _The Story of Baron von Richthofen_
  _Germany's Great War Bird_





To kill and kill and kill was the cry. To burn, to destroy, to
devastate, to lay waste. Men heard the madness and knew it for madness
and embraced it, some with fear and some with joy. Kill or be killed.
Survive or perish.

Pink, yellow, and green patches on maps personified themselves. The
personifications glared at one another, then snarled, then cursed.
Millions of hearts heard and beat faster. Males strutted; females
loved them for it.

It was the march beat of tramping feet. It was the sharp staccato of
steel-shod hoofs. It was the whir and growl of speeding motors. It was
the shriek and roar of troop trains frontward bound.

His mother had not raised him to be a soldier.

She had made him wear curls and dressed him in white pretties. He had
looked like a girl, and hated it.

Then came killing time--war.

He killed a hundred men in individual combat: shot them, burned them,
crushed them, hurled their bodies down to earth.

He became the terror of the battle fronts. He grinned at grim death in
a hundred duels above the clouds. He fought fair, hard, and to kill,
and the better his foeman fought to kill him, the better he liked him
for it.


He shot down eighty fighting planes. He matched his life against that
of any man. He fought, not with hate, but with love for fighting. It
was his joy, his sport, his passion. To him, to dare and to die was to
live. He had the courage to kill and be killed, and war was his
hunting licence. On home leave from man-killing at the front, he
hunted and killed deer, elk, boar, bison, and birds, and brought their
heads to his mother's home.

He was courageous and knew it, gloried in it, flaunted it with his
challenge to the world of his enemies. He made them know him--he put
his name on their lips--his name that was unknown, unheard of, when he
started the war as a second "looie."

Wounded and decorated, he became the guest of kings and queens. Boys
and the youth of a nation made him their idol, cheered him, followed
him on the street.

He was young and blond, shy and handsome, proud and serious. Girls by
the thousands worshipped his picture and filled his mail with letters
by the sackful. One of them he loved. He wanted to make her his wife,
but he did not want to make her his widow. He knew he was going to be

He won the admiration and respect of his enemies. His instinct and
duty it was to kill them; he did. Their duty and instinct it was to
kill him; they did.

In one of the greatest air battles in the history of the world, he
went down, still fighting, still killing. He died a national hero at
the head of his fighting men in the service of his country. He was
buried by his enemies with respect and military honours in unstinted
recognition of his great courage, his sportsmanship, and his tireless,
relentless spirit.

His name was Manfred von Richthofen.

Into the grisly story of the World War there came a refreshing gleam
of the chivalry of old, when the pick of the flower of youth on both
sides carried the conflict into the skies. Into that Knighthood of the
Blue, Richthofen has {3} been given a place of highest merit by those
he fought with and against.

His life and death, his victories and his defeat, his loves, his
hopes, his fears bring a new record to the halls of that same Valhalla
in which rest the spirits of Guynemer, Hawker, Ball, McCudden,
Immelmann, Lufberry, Quentin Roosevelt, and many others who fought
aloft and died below with hearts that held emotions other than hate.

Young blood, hot and daring, raced through their veins, even as the
winged steeds they rode raced on the wind to conquest or disaster.
With keen young eyes, glinting along the barrels of their jibbering
machine guns, they looked at close range into one another's souls as
they pressed the triggers that sent one another tumbling down to

Some went down like flaming comets, burned beyond recognition before
the charred remains struck the earth thousands of feet below. Some
plunged earthward through the blue in drunken staggers as their
bullet-riddled bodies slumped forward lifelessly on the controls. Some
fell free from shattered planes at fearsome heights, poured out like
the contents of a burst paper bag, and some, hurtling down in formless
wrecks, buried themselves in the ground.

This was the death that Richthofen dealt out to his adversaries in the
air--it was the same death they dealt to him. As he had given to many,
so he received. As he fought, he died.

How many did he kill? The list is long and appalling. It is a string
of victories, a chaplet in which the beads of glory and tragedy
succeed one another to defeat and the grave. It has never before been
compiled, and it has only been after weeks of research through the
musty files and papers of the German archives in Potsdam that I am now
able to set forth for the first time the date of each {4} one of these
combats and identify to some extent the airmen that fell before the
German ace of aces.

Richthofen's officially confirmed victories in the air and a list of
the casualties inflicted by him appear in the Appendix.

On the day after his eightieth victory--April 21, 1918--he died as he
dove upon the British flyer selected for his eighty-first victim.
Strapped to the pilot's seat, his body sown with lead, the Uhlan of
the sky came down between the blazing lines before Amiens. With only a
dead man's hands on the flying controls, the bright red Fokker
triplane of the ace of German aces landed on an even keel in front of
Australian trenches. He was twenty-five years old.

To his country and the cause it was soon to lose, the loss of
Richthofen was great. Ludendorff, when he heard the news, said, "He
was worth as much to us as three divisions." His mother had not raised
him to be a soldier, but in the military estimation of his fighting
worth he was placed in the balance against thirty thousand bayonets.

The mother lives today in the little town of Schweidnitz in German
Silesia--lives in the large, cold, silent rooms and hall of the big
white house that once reechoed to the shouts of the boy who wore curls
and looked like a girl. Dearer to this sad-faced, gray-haired woman
than Ludendorff's high valuation of her son; dearer than the rows of
ribbons and decorations and the acknowledgments of comrades and former
foes, are three golden ringlets of fine-spun hair in a plain white
pasteboard box and a mother's memories of the cherubic head that bore

Although Prussian junkers from a fighting stock that won its title of
baron far back in the Seventeenth Century, the Richthofen family took
little part in subsequent wars. They were landowners, squires of
county seats who worked {5} their estates with thrift and efficiency
and found their sports in hunting and riding. Some held small
government posts, but they always returned to the fields and forests
and the country houses they loved.

And in the family of Schickfuss, from which came the mother of the
famous ace, it was the same. Conservatives to the bone, it was their
aim to work hard, respect order, and find their fun in hard riding and
hard hunting. Old Uncle Alexander Schickfuss, after shooting the
feathers and horns off all kinds of Silesian fauna, packed up his guns
and sought the huntsman's joy in the wilds of Africa, in Ceylon, and
in Hungary.

In the saddle and on the hunt, it was the same with Richthofen's
father, with the exception that he became the first of the line to
enter active service in the army. As an officer of a Uhlan regiment,
he evidenced a high sense of duty as a soldier, but the greatest
record he has left is on the walls of the Schweidnitz home in the
shape of four hundred mounted deer heads and stuffed birds, all
brought down afield by his gun. He served through the war as a major
of reserve, but died shortly after the Armistice.

>From this line of modern primitives came Manfred von Richthofen, born
May 2, 1892, in Breslau. Organization, reputed to be the forte of his
country, was not inborn with him. He was essentially an individualist.
The spirit of the hunter, the stalker, was strong within him, and with
it ran pride of conquest, the natural outgrowth of strong competitive
and combative senses.

He felt strongly the same urge that drives the city-bred man to the
wilds for relief from the pressure of organized life, to feel once
more the discipline of nature instead of that of steel and asphalt and
traffic regulations. The hunt was his life and the trophy was his
prize. Richthofen {6} was like his father and, no doubt, like all his
forbears in the matter of trophies. The hunter must show the prey he
ran to earth.

Since Stone Age days, man's abode, whether a cave or a tree nest, has
been littered with the bones of those he slew in hunt or combat.
Armorial halls festooned with captured standards, or walls studded
with antlered or feathered heads, are expressions of the same strain.
And so were the tons of German helmets that two million A. E. F.'ers
brought back from France.

It was no different with the individual air fighters of the World
War--the man-birds who hunted in the clouds. The boyhood bedroom of
Richthofen in Schweidnitz remains today, with the exception of its
owner's portraits, just as the victorious ace arranged and decorated
it his last trip home before his death.

Its walls are covered with the linen scalps of fallen foes. They are
the gaily painted red, white, and blue numbers and symbols cut from
fighting planes that went down in defeat under the guns of
Richthofen's red Fokker. To anyone who knew the war, the bedchamber is
a "room of dead men's numbers," but it is not that to Mother
Richthofen, whose son told her that the stripes of fabric placed on
the walls were taken only from vanquished planes whose occupants
survived the fight that forced them to earth behind the German lines.

The chandelier hanging from the ceiling over the centre table is the
rotary motor of a French plane which the ace brought down near Verdun.
Richthofen had it remade with electric bulbs on each cylinder head,
and, in order to support the unusual weight, he had to reinforce the
rafters in the ceiling, from which it is suspended on chains. The
table itself is made from parts of broken propeller blades of all
kinds. The night lamp on the bed table is formed from the metal hub of
an airplane's undercarriage wheel. {7} The centrepiece on the table is
a flying compass, and the wall table under the large portrait is
loaded down with silver cups commemorating battles in the sky.

  [Victory 11]

Among all these gruesome trophies, each representing a death struggle
in midair, one holds the position of honour over the bedroom door. It
is the machine gun from an English plane that sent many German flyers
to their death. It is the weapon of the first English ace, Major Lanoe
Hawker. Hawker was one of the best flyers in the Allied ranks. He had
received the Victoria Cross and many decorations, and had a long
string of air victories to his credit. Richthofen himself had been
decorated and had brought down ten enemy planes. It was a meeting of
champions of the air. It was a battle of eagles, each determined upon
the other's death, and it took place high over the battle lines
between Bapaume and Albert, in full view of thousands of mud-grimed
soldiers who watched the combat from their trenches.

Richthofen wrote the account of that fight for publication in Germany
during the war, and his publishers, Ullstein & Company, have given me
permission to reproduce it in English for the first time. Here it is:

  I must confess that it was a matter of great pride to me to learn
  that the Englishman I shot down on November 23 [1916] was the
  English equivalent of our great Immelmann. Of course, I did not know
  who he was during the fight, but I did know from the masterly manner
  in which he handled his plane and the pluck with which he flew, that
  he was a wonderful fellow.

  It was fine weather when I flew away from our airdrome that day. I
  was in the best of spirits and keen for the hunt. Flying at an
  altitude of about ten thousand feet, I observed three English
  planes. I saw that they saw me, and from their manoeuvres I gathered
  that our hopes for the day's fun were mutual. They were hunting
  bent, the same as I. I was spoiling for a fight, and they impressed
  me much the same. They were above me, but I {8} accepted the
  challenge. Being underneath and in no position to attack, I had to
  wait till the fellow dived on me. It was not long to wait. Soon he
  started down in a steep gliding dive, trying to catch me from

  He opens fire with his machine gun. Five shots rip out, and I change
  my course quickly by a sharp turn to the left. He follows, and the
  mad circle starts. He is trying to get behind me, and I am trying to
  get behind him. Round and round we go in circles, like two madmen,
  playing ring-around-a-rosie almost two miles above the earth. Both
  of our motors are speeded to the utmost; still neither of us seems
  to gain on the other. We are exactly opposite each other on the
  circumference of the circle, and in this position neither one of us
  can train our single forward shooting machine guns on the other.

  First, we would go twenty times around to the right, and then swing
  into another circle going round twenty times to the left. We
  continued the mad race, neither gaining an advantage. I knew at once
  that I was dealing with no beginner, because he didn't appear to
  dream of trying to break off the fight and get out of the circling.
  His plane was excellent for manoeuvring and speed, but my machine
  gave me an advantage by being able to climb better and faster. This
  enabled me at last to break the circle and manoeuvre into a position
  behind and above him.

  But in the circling fight, both of us had lost height. We must have
  come down at least six thousand feet because now we were little more
  than three thousand feet above the ground. The wind was in my
  favour. Throughout the fight, at the same time we kept getting
  lower, the wind was gradually drifting us back across the German
  lines. I saw that now we were even behind the German lines in front
  of Bapaume, and my opponent should have noticed that it was time for
  him to back out of the fight, because he was getting farther into my

  But he was a plucky devil. With me behind and above him, he even
  turned round and waved his arm at me, as though to say, _"Wie
  gehts?"_ We went into circles again--fast and furious and as small
  as we could drive them. Sometimes I estimated the diameters of the
  circles at between eighty and a hundred yards. But always I kept
  above him and at times I could look {9} down almost vertically into
  his cockpit and watch each movement of his head. If it had not been
  for his helmet and goggles, I could have seen what sort of a face he

  He was a fine sportsman, but I knew that in time my close presence
  behind and above him would be too much for him, particularly as all
  the time we were getting lower and lower and farther behind my
  lines. We were getting so close to the ground that he would soon
  have to decide whether he would have to land behind our lines or
  whether he would break the circle and try to get back to his own

  Apparently, the idea of landing and surrender never occurred to this
  sportsman, because suddenly he revealed his plans to escape by going
  into several loops and other manoeuvres of equal folly. As he came
  out of them, headed back for his lines, my first bullets began
  whistling around his ears, because up to now, with the exception of
  his opening shots, neither one of us had been able to range on the

  The battle is now close to the ground. He is not a hundred yards
  above the earth. Our speed is terrific. He starts back for his
  front. He knows I am right behind him and close on his tail. He
  knows my gun barrel is trained on him. He starts to zigzag, making
  sudden darts right and left--right and left--confusing my aim and
  making it difficult to train my gun on him. But the moment is
  coming. I am fifty yards behind him. My machine gun is firing
  incessantly. We are hardly fifty yards above the ground--just
  skimming it.

  Now I am within thirty yards of him. He must fall. The gun pours out
  its stream of lead. Then it jams. Then it reopens fire. That jam
  almost saved his life. One bullet goes home. He is struck through
  the back of the head. His plane jumps and crashes down. It strikes
  the ground just as I swoop over. His machine gun rammed itself into
  the earth, and now it decorates the entrance over my door. He was a
  brave man a sportsman, and a fighter.

Hawker's silent gun over her dead son's door is not the prize that his
mother likes to look upon. She does not like to think of Mother Hawker
somewhere, and she does {10} not like to think that her son's gun
today rests in a similar place over the bedroom door of some English
airman. But in Richthofen's bedroom is one trophy which she loves and
which brings moisture to her eyes as she touches it tenderly.

It is a square piece of brown pasteboard on which are three duck
feathers, held there by a gob of red sealing wax; it was the first
trophy of the boy that wore the curls. It is the proud symbol of his
first "kill." "We passed our vacations in the country with
Grandmother," Mrs. von Richthofen told me. "One day, Manfred could not
suppress his fast-developing passion for hunting. He had his first air
rifle, and with it he killed three or four of Grandmother's tame ducks
that he found swimming on a little pond near the house.

"He proudly related his exploit to his grandmother, and I started to
reprimand him. His good old grandmother stopped me from scolding him
because, as she said, he had been right in confessing his misdeed.
Today, when I see those three duck feathers in his old room with all
his trophies of war, I cannot keep back my tears."

That hunting passion that stood him so well in the air marked all of
his early life. He hunted for prey and he hunted for the thrill of the
hunt. To him, it was the expression of living. He had a splendid
physique and the keenest vision. His agility became a matter of
comment at an early age, when he mastered the trick of turning
somersaults without using his hands.

His first exploits in the air were made by way of a large apple tree
at the age of eight. He reached some difficult fruit on the uppermost
branches and returned to the ground not by way of the trunk but by
swinging and bending on the ends of the lowest branches.

"An easily terrified mother is a great obstacle to the physical
development of her children," Mrs. von Richthofen said. "When Manfred
was a little boy, I believe many {11} of my friends considered me
rather a careless mother because I did not forbid the two boys to
engage in some of the feats they liked, but I was then, and am still,
convinced children can only become agile if they are allowed such
freedom as will enable them to judge what they can safely demand of
their bodies."

The future ace knew the tingle that all humans feel on high places. At
the age of ten, when a schoolboy, he climbed the highest church tower
in Wahlstatt, made a terrifying ascent over the eaves, and even
mounted the uppermost lightning rod, to which he tied his pocket
handkerchief. He said, in after life, that flying at dizzy heights
like twenty thousand feet above the earth never reproduced the thrill
that he had as a boy when he looked down on the town of Wahlstatt from
the top of the steeple.

His daring extended even into the realms of the unknown, as, for
instance, that time in his twelfth year when he had the temerity to
hunt a ghost. There had long been a story to the effect that the
Richthofen house had been haunted since the time that a man had hung
himself from the rafters in the attic. The boy, with serious,
questioning eyes, made the old caretaker of the house show him the
exact spot from which the body had dangled.

He and his brother Lothar moved their bed to the attic and placed it
under the spot. They arranged to spend the night there and trap the
spectre. His mother, together with his sister, decided to impersonate
the ghost. During the night, they crept to the attic and started
rolling chestnuts across the floor. Manfred, who was asleep, was
aroused by his younger brother calling his attention to the unusual
noise. The mother recounts that the elder boy was out of bed in an
instant, brandishing a stick, and that she and her daughter only saved
themselves from blows by hurriedly switching on the lights.

Young Richthofen had no special inclinations toward {12} the life of a
soldier. Concerning the decision that sent him away to a cadet school
and marked him for a military career, he once wrote: "I was not
particularly fond of being a cadet, but my father desired it, and so I
wasn't asked about it." Parental authority in the Richthofen home was
supreme. Although the future ace had the natural hatred of discipline,
his home life developed in him a great respect for superiors, an
unquestioned obedience to authority, and a keen sense of duty. He
despised dishonesty because he considered it cowardly.

As a student, he never distinguished himself. He disliked classes and
worked only to the extent required to assure him passing marks, a
tendency which did not increase his popularity with his teachers. But
in the gymnasium and on the sports field he found his chief interest
in athletic feats and contest. He suffered an early injury to one knee
while performing on the bars, and for some time walked with a limp,
but never permitted this handicap to interfere with his continued
participation in sports. Boxing was not considered the manly sport in
Germany in those days, so Richthofen never had a glove on and his
youth barred him from the duelling field.

After eight years in the cadet corps, he became Herr Lieutenant in the
fall of 1912, and being assigned to the First Uhlan Regiment, named
after the Russian emperor, Alexander I, came first to know and feel
the pride of superiority that the man on horseback feels over the man
on foot. Richthofen said it was his proudest moment and that for the
first time he began to love his duty and his life as a soldier, He
liked to ride and to ride hard.

In the saddle, he was ever willing to dare much, but it does not
appear that the young Uhlan officer's horsemanship quite equalled his
intrepidity, because there are many stories of his frequent falls and
mishaps. Once he is thrown and nets a cracked collar bone, and again,
at a horse show, {13} his mount takes the water jump in full view of a
packed gallery, but leaves the rider head  foremost in the mud. In one
of these early incidents, he displayed a Spartan endurance that won
him the admiration of his fellow officers and commanders. It was in
the cross-country ride for the Emperor's prize in 1913, and
Richthofen, true to form, was pitched on his head in the first two
miles. Again the collar bone snapped. Painful as it was, however, the
rider remounted and rode on forty-five miles, reaching the finishing
point on time and winning the prize.

Within ten months of this date, the young Uhlan for the first time was
riding at the head of his men to war. His thoughts of flying were
confined to the saddle, toward taking fences and hedges and charging
across fields, when the great disaster broke out. Quartered with his
regiment in a little Silesian town, six miles from the German-Russian
frontier he refused to believe the rumblings and threats of strife
that began to appear in the newspapers.

He and his fellow officers did not believe it. So many times before,
the orders had come to be in readiness to move and as many times,
nothing had happened. The cavalrymen, proud of their designation as
the eyes of the army, followed orders but ignored the growing clamour.
It would not happen. The day before the last order was received--the
order to be in readiness to move at any minute--the Uhlan mess spent
the evening playing cards, eating oysters, and drinking champagne. All
were gay, and no one present had the thought that the world was on the
verge of a spasm that was to last more than four years and from which
but few of those happy ones present that night would emerge alive.
Richthofen was twenty-two years old at the time.

The mother of a fellow officer had hastened to visit them, and they
had laughingly assured her that there would be no war, and she in
happiness had invited the {14} entire mess to a special dinner. In the
midst of the celebration a ranking officer from Army Headquarters
opened the door and stood there silently. He gazed on the merriment
with a stern and serious face. It was August 1, 1914.

He was on a hastily ordered frontier inspection. Through him they
learned that all the bridges in the surrounding country had been
placed under heavy guard that night and fortifying work was
progressing that minute on important places in the area. The news
stopped the festivities only for a minute. It was only another false
alarm. War could not be. Life was too good. Peace was too sweet. Why

On the following day, war was declared. That night, the officers that
had attended the celebration rode across the frontier and invaded
Russia. The declaration brought an end to all rumours.

Here was something final, and to uniformed youth it brought joy and
the prospect of showing what mettle they had as a result of the long
years of training. They knew their task and felt keenly its
importance. They were the eyes of the army.

The High Command depended upon their reconnoitering their mounted
raids behind the enemy lines, their dashing charges on enemy advance
posts, their disruption of enemy communications--all these they
thought of in the old terms of war and with the old pride of the

Richthofen stood beside his horse in the courtyard of the barracks a
few minutes before midnight. He had just made a final inspection of
his troop of men and horses standing there in the darkness. In his
pockets he carried orders which he knew by heart. He had studied them
daily for more than a year. He was six miles from the frontier across
which he was to ride on the great adventure.

Using his saddlebag for a desk, he wrote the following:


  Aug. 2, 1914.

  My Dear Parents:
  These are to be my last lines, written in a hurry. My most hearty
  greetings to you. If we should never see each other again, take
  these, my most sincere thanks, for everything you have done for me.
  I leave no debts behind me. I have, on the contrary, saved a few
  hundred marks which I am taking along with me.

  Embracing everyone of you, I am,
    Your grateful and obedient Son and Brother,

A sharp command, the rattle of equipment as the troops mounted,
the sound of iron-shod hoofs on the cobbles, and they rode off into the
night-to war.



On the morning of August 3,1914, the inhabitants of the little Russian
village of Kielce, located just a few miles east of the German
frontier, awoke to find a troop of German Uhlans patrolling the main
street and occupying points of vantage on the road leading in and out
of the village.

A twenty-two-year-old second lieutenant swung from his horse in front
of a low building of weather-stained clapboards. His hair was blond;
his cheeks were pink, his uniform was natty. With the handle of his
riding crop he rapped on the wooden door, which was opened by the
village priest, a tall man in black robes, whose pallid face was
framed above by long black hair and below by a full red beard.

"Father," said the boy officer with heels together as though on
parade, "it is my painful duty to inform you that war has been
declared between Germany and your country and that your village is now
occupied and surrounded by my men. I must notify you that you are my
prisoner. My name is Manfred von Richthofen, Second Lieutenant of the
First Regiment of Uhlans."

The formal speech didn't even sound real to the youngster who spoke
it. Even less real it seemed to the cleric, who received it with a
smile and folded hands, quite after the fashion he always employed in
receiving visitors to the village. What nonsense was the boy talking?
War? Troops? Prisoners? What sort of fun-making was this?

Two normally peacefully inclined humans, neither of whom had ever
seriously thought of harming each other, {17} much less of war, faced
each other with smiles of equal strangeness on the opening day of a
struggle that was to last through four long years, spread ruin among
hundreds of millions, bring a continent to the brink of destruction,
devastate thousands of square miles of peaceful countryside, wipe out
millions of lives, and rock civilization.

The prisoner priest fades into the background, but the boy who took
him captive captured the undefended town without firing a shot, and
then found difficulty in  convincing the villagers that they were
prisoners--that boy became the national hero of his country and the
greatest air fighter that the German war machine ever sent aloft. The
incident, now lost in the reek and wallow of all that followed, was
the first hostile act of the youth who became the ace of German aces
in the air. In the act itself the boy became the man of war.

To make the peaceful villagers realize that they were prisoners, young
Richthofen wrapped himself in sternness and locked the priest in the
tower of the church.

"At the first sign of hostility from your villagers, you will be
executed," Richthofen assured him, in a properly forbidding manner.
"And I shall take such other measures as are necessary for the
protection of the men under my command and the proper pacification of
the inhabitants."

To insure against the priest's escape, Richthofen next removed the
ladder leading to the belfry, and placed a sentry there, both to guard
the priest and to watch the approaches to the town.

Then he reported in ponderous peacetime military fashion, writing long
accounts of his mission and sending off couriers to either flank and
to the rear. The frontier was a small river, and he, at the head of
his patrol, had crossed it stealthily in the darkness. The young
lieutenant and his men, all keyed up to the high pitch of the moment,
expected to encounter resistance on the international line; {18} and
their surprise was beyond words when they passed over the little
rustic bridge and found themselves on Russian soil without the firing
of a shot. They had thought there was something funny about this war,
after all. Maybe the order for hostilities had been recalled, maybe it
was all a mistake, but there was nothing for them to do but to carry
out orders until other instructions were received.

In five quiet, uneventful days young Richthofen's little patrol had
dwindled to himself and two men; the rest had been sent off as
dispatch carriers and as yet had not found their way back. It was
quiet in the captured village--so quiet that the lieutenant released
the priest with apologies from his belfry confinement and told him to
return to his house. The villagers were not only peaceful and
docile--they appeared to be helpful to the invaders. To Richthofen's
primitive instincts of the hunt, transferred and made applicable to
war, it didn't seem according to the rules of the game. How could a
huntsman show his prowess when no one questioned or resisted him?

Puzzled, he went to sleep on the fifth night of the occupation and was
awakened shortly after midnight by a tug at his shoulder. It was the
sentry he had left posted on the belfry.

"The Cossacks are here," he whispered in a husky voice.  He also was
young. He had seen the enemy for the first time. His voice betrayed
not fear but the thrill which comes with quickened heartbeats when
fighting males approach contact with their adversaries.

Jumping out from his blankets, Richthofen became the hunter--or the
quarry--he knew not which. Senses alert and keen, he stepped out into
the night. There was a fine mist of rain falling and the darkness was
complete. Under this covering he and his men led their three horses
through a break in the churchyard wall and into an open field.

Trailing a carbine beside him, Richthofen returned {19} through the
churchyard and, keeping under cover of the wall, they came to the
village street. It was filled with men and horses. He recognized them
immediately as Cossacks. He estimated their number at thirty. Some of
them carried lanterns. They were noisy and raucous as they questioned
the villagers. Seeing the leader of the newcomers in conversation with
the priest, the young Uhlan doubled his caution.

He crossed the churchyard, leaped the opposite wall, and joined his
two men with the horses in the field. They led the animals in silence
across the open field and took to the shelter of the near-by woods. In
the gray light of early morning, they saw the Cossacks ride out of the
village, but they did not return to their old quarters, realizing that
an outpost had been left to receive them. Funny war! No shooting--no
hunting; just a schoolboy game of  "robbers and policemen."

Unshaven, mud-splashed, and wrinkled from a week without removing
their clothes, the trio returned to the garrison town on the seventh
day after their departure, and were received as ghosts. Richthofen had
been reported dead in a brush with Cossacks, and his mother had
received condolences from friends far and near. An unmerited obituary
is the best of jokes to vibrant youth at twenty-two.

His "return from the dead" netted him an ovation in the little
garrison town, but this first sample of hero worship was short-lived,
because, within twenty-hour hours, the regiment had entrained and was
off for destination unknown but guessed to be France. Day and night
the troop train sped westward across Silesia and Saxony in the general
direction of Metz.

Richthofen and four young second lieutenants, with all of their bags
and equipment, were quartered in one second class compartment. They
had a table between them, and {20} it was loaded down with
bottles--bottles that were replenished at every stop, where cheering
crowds awaited them.

The regiment was known. The First Uhlans and the One Hundred and
Fifty-fifth Regiment of Infantry had been mentioned in the first
official German communiqué as having taken the Russian town of
Kalisch. They were greeted as heroes, and this greeting was not hard
to take when accompanied by the flashing eyes and admiring glances of
girls who offered them kisses and flowers and wine.

As neither Richthofen nor the three other officers had been in the
Kalisch engagement, the celebration galled a bit at first, but as it
was repeated at every place where the train stopped, they soon became
used to it and liked it. It felt good to be taken as heroes. Why deny
it? They stopped explanations.

Further than that, they invented wild tales of their encounters with
the ferocious Russians, and one of the party, who had brought with him
the sword of a Russian policeman, exhibited the weapon as first-hand
evidence of the fierce combat in which it had been wrested from the
grasp of a Cossack, and then sheathed in his own blood. Certain rust
stains on the blade further bore out this tale.

The officers' compartment was crowded and hot, and blue with tobacco
smoke. Fresh bottles succeeded the empty ones, which were sent out of
the window at convenient targets, They sang and joked and laughed and
made up more tales for the next enthusiastic throng that was to
receive them.

Once the revelry was brought to an end with an incident which might
have proved tragic. The train stopped suddenly in a long dark tunnel,
and those on board were not aware of the reason,
Bombs--wrecks--attacks flashed through their minds in the darkness.
The silence increased the tension. Then a shot was fired, and
immediately {21} hundreds of rifles protruded from windows and were
discharged. Bullets hitting the stone walls of the tunnel, richocheted
in all directions, The excitement was intense. That no one was wounded
seemed a miracle. The incident served to show however, that the German
military machine was not entirely the nerveless thing of ironclad
discipline and precision that it was supposed to be.

Richthofen rode with his regiment across Luxemburg without incident
other than his ill-advised capture of a Luxemburg policeman, whom he
finally decided to release, inasmuch as Luxemburg had not opened
hostilities or resisted the German invasion of its frontiers, and the
policeman had not interfered with his march or his men.

Approaching the fortified towns on the Belgian frontier, the cavalry
division rode as though on manoeuvres. With this division Richthofen
crossed his second enemy frontier in the vicinity of Arlon, in which
town he climbed the church steeple for observation purposes but
learned nothing more than that the surrounding country appeared to be
free of Belgian or French forces.

The townspeople were bitter, and the young Uhlan was forced to use all
of his diplomacy and reserve to get out of the town alone and join his
troop on the outskirts. Later he wrote that it had become necessary
subsequently to execute some of the citizens for sniping on troops
passing through the main street.

His daring, which could also be called his lack of caution, did not
mark him for any great success as a cavalry officer. The
characteristics which later made him such a redoubtable foe in the air
almost cost him his life, and did cost him the lives of most of his
troop in his first armed encounter with the enemy. For all his years
of military training, the young Uhlan officer fell victim to the
simplest in mounted manoeuvres. He allowed himself and his troop to be
ambushed and almost annihilated.


It was on August 21st, in the little Belgian village of Etalle, twenty
miles from the frontier, that Richthofen received orders to make a
mounted reconnaissance toward the south in the direction of a little
town called Meix-devant-Virton. His duty it was to discover the
strength of French cavalry supposed to be occupying a large forest.
With the war less than two weeks old, movement marked the efforts of
the opposing forces to get into advantageous contact with one another.

>From the height of a hilltop, Richthofen looked over the forest with
his binoculars. The dew on the treetops sparkled in the brilliant
morning sun. The scene was one of peace and quiet, and the Uhlan
patrol of fourteen men felt itself off again on an objectless ride
which would bring it back to camp late at night with nothing but
fatigue and aching bones to pay for a long day's march. It was soon to
have a rude awakening from such blissfulness.

After his two advance men had trotted into the forest without
encountering resistance, Richthofen advanced with his patrol to the
edge of the trees and easily discovered from the ground that a large
number of horsemen had passed that way shortly before. The hoof marks
were fresh in the damp soil. Here was the chance for action at last.
Young blood tingled.

"In my mind's eye, I saw myself at last at the head of my little
troop, sabring a hostile squadron," Richthofen wrote afterward. "I was
quite intoxicated with excitement, and I saw the eyes of my young
Uhlans sparkle."

They took up the trail immediately and advanced through the darkness
of the forest at a sharp trot. At first they rode with the regulation
caution of advance and rearguards, but, after twenty minutes, in which
nothing was encountered, the entire patrol became bunched together,
and eagerness increased the pace.

In thirty minutes, the first riders, making a turn in a {23} leafy
glade, were brought to a sudden stop by the presence of a barrier of
felled trees lying across the road. On the left there was a small
rivulet, and beyond that a small meadow fifty yards wide. To the right
rose a steep, stony slope. In all other directions, the darkness of
the forest pressed in with menacing shadows on the sunlight of the
small clearing. There was no other sound than the snorts and breathing
of the sweating horses and the rattle of equipment.

Richthofen galloped up to the barrier and raised his binoculars. On
that instant a volley of rifle fire blazed out on the little patrol
from three sides. Trapped! A mounted force of French cuirassiers
(light cavalry), estimated at one hundred men, had them at their

The carbines banged away. Horses reared and men fell to the ground,
some to lie quite still, and some to struggle with the reins of their
terror-stricken animals.

The path ahead was blocked by the felled trees. The river stopped a
charge to the left. The rocky hill on the right barred progress in
that direction.

Lifting his hand in signal for hasty retreat, Richthofen put spurs
into his horse and dashed backward, but the Uhlans behind had mistaken
his signal and had galloped up to his assistance. Bunched together in
the sunlit clearing, they offered an excellent target for the cracking

Richthofen later described the exploit which reflected so sadly on his
long years of cavalry schooling:

  As we were on a narrow forest path running across the clearing, one
  may easily imagine the muddle that followed. The horses of two men
  ran away in a panic because the noise of every shot was increased
  tenfold by the echoes of the forest. The last I saw of them they
  were leaping the barricade. I never heard again from the men, and
  presume they were taken prisoners. My orderly rode at my side.
  Suddenly his horse was hit and fell. {24} As he was slightly in
  advance, I had to jump both of them. Other horses were rolling on
  the ground. In short, it was wild disorder.

In his first clash with the enemy, Second Lieutenant Richthofen had
lost ten out of his small force of fourteen men. He himself escaped
unscathed. In a letter to his mother, written that night upon his
return, he described his escape as a miracle. He credited his French
foemen with having surprised him "beautifully."

His defeat at the hands of the French hurt his pride. He had expected
greater of himself. His injured pride, however, did not permit him to
excuse himself. He acknowledged his fault. His code, as he applied it
to himself, was as stern as when he applied it to others. His pride
would not permit him to be dishonest with himself even to save his
pride. Admitting his error as an officer still permitted him to retain
his pride in himself as a man who valued courage above all. With his
set of principles, an alibi would have cost him the pride he held in
his courage. To Richthofen, a liar and a coward were the same.

Pride, truthfulness, and the little glimmer of  jealousy are the
characteristics revealed in his letters at that time to his mother. He
wanted the trophies of the brave--decorations for valour. These
baubles appealed to him tremendously, and he did not attempt to hide
his ambition to win badges of credit for himself. To his mother he
wrote of his frequent assignments on reconnoitring duty, with the
addition, "I am trying hard to win the Iron Cross."

He knew the intrepid qualities of his younger brother, and he lived in
the fear that Lothar would see more action than he did, or would have
the first opportunity to distinguish himself.

  Unfortunately, we Uhlans have been attached to the Infantry [he
  wrote to "Liebe Mamma"]. I write "unfortunately" {25} because I feel
  certain that Lothar has already been in big cavalry charges such as
  we will probably never ride in here.

This feeling extended even to a fear that the war would end before he
was given the chance to win the coveted decorations. It made him
restless and ill at ease during the intervals of inactivity that
became longer as the fighting front solidified itself in the west and
the war of attrition began. Transferred from Belgium to Verdun, he
grew to despise himself as a "base hog" because the duties assigned to
him seldom allowed him to go within a mile of the frontline trenches.
He saw the day of the cavalryman disappear. Trenches and barbed wire
spelled their finish in the World War. He saw the infantry lay down
their rifles and take up the lowly spade and pick. His cherished
picture of war--waving standards, flashing sabres, the charge, the
_mêlée_--slowly erased itself, and in its stead came a loathsome
reality of muddy shell holes, water-filled ditches, damp, unclean
dugouts, and bombproofs. Where was the glory of war?

  I hear that a cavalry division stands on the approaches to Paris
  [Richthofen wrote in September, 1914], and I nearly believe that
  Lothar [his young brother] is lucky enough to be there. But apart
  from that, he must certainly have seen more than I have here before

  The army of the Crown Prince is investing Verdun from the north, and
  we must wait till the fortress surrenders. Its huge fortifications
  being what they are, any attempt to storm them would cost more in
  men and munitions than the strategic value of the position would
  justify. Only, it's unfortunate that we Uhlans are tied up here by
  these considerations, and that presumably we will have to end the
  war here.

  The battle of Verdun is very severe, and day after day a vast number
  of lives are sacrificed. Only yesterday, eight officers of the
  Seventh Grenadiers were killed in one attack.


One of the most decisive battles in the war is going on; thousands of
men are being killed, but Richthofen is on the side lines and not in
it. The war is quite unsatisfactory to him. His duties are almost
clerical, to his mind. Early in the morning, as a communications
officer, he approaches the front lines through filthy trenches. He
returns at noon to his deep dugout behind the lines and directs the
telephone lines for a sector. A fine job for "us Uhlans," and all the
time his younger brother, for all he knows, may be taking Paris
single-handed and winning the first Iron Cross in the Richthofen

He demanded action. On his hurried front-line visits, he would borrow
a rifle and take a pot shot now and then at the opposing trenches. In
places where the lines approached within ten yards of each other, he
would "stir things up a bit" by tossing a hand grenade over among the
French holding the opposing position.

Two or three similar presents usually came back, and one must presume
that these little diversions of the visiting "base hog" did not
increase his popularity with the men he visited.

His hunter instincts could not be denied. War was "killing time," and
he was not in on the killing. After twelve hours' trudging duty
through the trenches and in the foul air of the telephone dugout, he
would spend the night tramping the woods back of the front in search
of prey for his rifle. If they would not let him shoot at men, he must
find other game.

Full moonlight nights, with the light snow of late fall, came to his
assistance, and he followed the tracks of wild pigs through the dark
forest of La Chaussée. With much effort he and an orderly built a
shelter seat in a tree, and there he waited, night after night, for
his quarry. Morning frequently found him cramped and stiff and almost
frozen, {27} but these hardships were like food to the craving within

One night there came a sow which swam the little woodland lake in the
bright moonlight and broke into a potato field on the other side.
Several miles away, the guns of Verdun boomed, and their flashes
sometimes sent flickers of light across the night sky. From his tree
nest, Richthofen awaited the return of the sow and sent a bullet into
her body as she swam back across the lake from her midnight foraging.
She was only wounded, and the hunter, descending from the seat,
plunged into the cold water, bringing his victim out by the hind leg
and finishing her life with a trench knife.

At another time, it was a boar that he faced, rifle in hand, at twenty
yards, and sent a bullet crashing through its mighty head--a head
which was carefully salvaged, skinned, cleaned, cured, stuffed, and
mounted and forwarded, even in wartime, to the little bedroom in
Schweidnitz, where one sees it today on the trophy wall. If not the
Iron Cross, then some other trophy, but symbol there must always be
for the craving of the primitive.

At last the Iron Cross came--his first decoration, awarded in
recognition of his repeated trips along the front line under heavy
fire. It was his first trophy of the war, and he hastened to register
it with his mother. In his dugout the following night, he wrote:

  I come with glad tidings. Yesterday I was decorated with the Iron

  How are matters around Lemberg? Let me give you some sound advice.
  If the Russians should come, bury everything you want to see again
  deep down in the garden, or elsewhere. Whatever you leave behind you
  will never see again.

  You wonder why I save so much money, but don't forget {28} that,
  after the war, I must reëquip myself from head to foot. Everything I
  took with me is gone, lost, burned, torn--not even excluding my
  saddle. If I should come out of this war alive, I will have more
  luck than brains.

The Iron Cross helped: it brought some gratification to the pride
after the tediousness of his unaccustomed duties as an infantryman,
but there were long months ahead in which the accumulated boresomeness
of the unchanging and never-ending battle of Verdun was to drive the
restless young Uhlan to an act which approached insubordination. He
stuck it out, but with little spirit.

There was excitement, but not of the kind he craved. He was helping to
kill, but he was unable to see the foe he slew. His competitive spirit
had no opportunity for expression. His individualism was lost in the
great machine of which he had become a cog. Although he never put the
thought in words, his desire was to come to close contact with the
enemy, to cross swords face to face with an adversary, to kill him or
be killed.

In October, he was almost killed. Death passed him by a hair's
breadth. He was riding back of the front. A French shell came crashing
through the trees and landed ten yards in front of him. With the
explosion, the air was filled with earth, stones, pieces of wood, and
shell splinters. One sliver of steel struck the saddle on which he was
seated. His horse dropped beneath him with another splinter through
the brain. Three other horses were killed, but the only harm to
Richthofen was a hole in his overcoat and the destruction of his
equipment and the contents of his saddlebags.

But where was the glory in such a death? An unseen, unknown Frenchman
pulled the lanyard on an unseen fieldpiece thousands of yards away and
sent forth an engine of destruction to deal death. An unseen, unknown,
{29} impersonal target received the charge and died. What a death! It
was not Richthofen's idea of war. He wanted the personal element. He
wanted to attack a man and kill him.

  I must spend every other twenty-four hours in the trenches [he wrote
  his mother from Verdun]. We, the First Uhlans, unfortunately, have
  no chance to do anything else in this war unless the plague descends
  on Verdun. Lothar has the lion's share of the fighting in Russia,
  and I really envy him. He is not in the same part of Russia where I
  rode the first ten days of the war. I would like so much to earn the
  First Class Order of the Iron Cross, but there is no possible chance
  here unless I penetrate Verdun in a French uniform and blow up an
  armoured tower.

Verdun bored Richthofen. Lying in the mud almost motionless for
twenty-four hours became a dull, uninviting affair. Occasionally the
whistle of a shell overhead; occasionally a hit close at hand, and
some more human wreckage to be carried back to the first-aid stations,
but always the monotony of no movement. It became unbearable.

Three months of this stagnation without change and Christmas
approached--the first Christmas of the war and the first one
Richthofen had ever spent away from his mother's home. He wrote her
continually that he was sick of the work assigned to him, and that he
envied his younger brother, who, at least, was still a cavalryman and
had the chance at any time to come into actual contact with the
enemies of the Fatherland.

With the new year came a slight change when he was appointed Ordnance
Officer of an infantry brigade, but the endless inspections and
unending paper work brought to him the deeper realization that war was
by no means what he thought it was going to be, and with this growing
disappointment came disgust. Only when there are {30} prospects of
movement is he lifted from the gloom of depression into which the
stalemate of 1915 had thrown him.

In February of that year, before Avillers, Allied pressure increased,
and there was the possibility of a break through. There were frequent
night alarms in which the brigade staffs were called upon to put all
reserves in readiness to fill a breach in the line, but always it was
the same. The break never came, and after each attempt life settled
down to what it had been before.

  The French and the English and the others who are infesting the
  western front have been getting rather uppish lately [he wrote
  home]. Probably they think it an opportune moment for an attack
  because we have transferred large numbers to the east. As far as
  that goes, they figure correctly.

Only the killing of wild game seemed to lift him to a new interest in
life. Through his letters there runs a note of joy when there is a
prospect of a hunt in which he can bag new victims for his trophy wall
and feed the craving which even war, so far as he then knew it, had
failed to gratify. He wrote in the month of March:

  At last I have found a sufficient outlet for my energies. On the
  days free from trench duty, I go hunting. I am rather proud of my
  bag of three wild boars. The details of these hunting excursions, I
  am writing to Papa.

  Three days ago, we had a veritable offensive for wild pigs with
  thirty drivers and five hunters. I myself was the host of the party.
  The drivers stirred up eight pigs, but everyone of us missed his
  game. The affair lasted from eight in the morning till seven in the
  evening. In three days we will have another try, and in ten days,
  with a full moon, I am expecting confidently to bag a wild boar.


At times he would give serious consideration to his own chances of
being "bagged" in the game of war. He believed in his luck and liked
the axiom that "He who hesitates is lost." He frequently made a
mistake, but he never shunned a decision.

In the same month of the hunting party, his schoolboy friend, Hugo
Frei of the Fourth Dragoons, was killed, but his death made only a
passing impression on Richthofen. He admired Hugo. Hugo was dead.
Well, the best ones are always the first to go. "Weeds don't perish"
was his comment on his own salvation when his comrades had been killed
on both sides of him and he was as yet untouched by an enemy bullet.

But how long could he go on unscathed? That depended upon how long the
war went on. Here it was April, and the conflict had raged for nine
months, and there was no prospect of its abatement. Richthofen was not
the only German, or for that matter the only Allied combatant, who was
surprised at the duration.

  Who would ever have thought that the war could continue so long [he
  wrote to a friend at home]? Everyone believes that we will win, but
  no one knows when that will be. Consequently, we have to struggle

"Struggling on" was not Richthofen's strong point. He could sit up in
a tree throughout a winter night and keep his eyes open watching
through the hours for the approach of game. He could track a quarry
hour after hour through a forest and never give up the hunt. But he
could not play at the war of waiting. It broke his spirit.

So it was that toward the 1st of May, he received instructions to
prepare himself for another duty in the service of supply, still
farther back from the front lines. Strong as army discipline was in
him, he exploded, and the {32} day after that the Commanding General
of his Division received one of the shocks of his life when he read
the following unmilitary communication from the restless Uhlan:

  I have not gone to war in order to collect cheese and eggs, but for
  another purpose.

The rest of the letter was an official application for his transfer to
the Flying Service. Richthofen's constructive work in either the
infantry, the signal service, or the supply department seems to have
been on a par with his failure as a cavalryman, and it is not recorded
that his departure from the old services was accompanied by any great
regret on the part of his superiors. His uncivil letter gained his end
and his wish. At the end of May, 1915, he was transferred to the
flying service and sent to Cologne for training.

With the old cavalryman's contempt for the gas engine, he knew nothing
of what was under the hood of an automobile. He was a horseman, and he
had held, with other horsemen, that the cavalry would never have to
resort to rubber tires and smelly exhaust pipes. This pardonable
ignorance, inherited from the proud spirit of his branch of the
service, stood him in bad stead when he began his training for the
air. It almost barred him from the pilot's seat.

His conscious inclination was not toward flying as a sport. To him, it
offered an opportunity to get in touch with his enemies--to see the
man he wanted to kill. At the front he had seen the few military
planes then flying, but he had considered them only fads. He was not
aware that the legend of his corps as "the eye of the army" had passed
forever to another service.

He had watched the airmen aloft with not sufficient interest to learn
the different markings that distinguished {33} Allied flyers from
German. In the fall of  '14, his men had fired their carbines on all
planes that passed over them, being unable to distinguish foe from
friend, and also being unable to resist the temptation offered by so
excellent a human target.

  It never occurred to me to be a pilot [he wrote]. I was anxious to
  get into the air at the front as quickly as possible. I began to
  fear that I might get there too late; that the World War would be
  over before I could really get into it. To become a pilot would have
  required three months' training, and by that time peace might have
  been concluded.

It was upon his cavalry training, if not experience, that he depended
to fit himself for an aërial observer, and at the airdrome in Cologne
there was competition to stimulate him. He was in a class of thirty
young officers, from which the most successful ones were to be
selected and assigned to squadron duty. The others would be given the
opportunity of taking the course a second time, and then, in case of a
second failure, would be returned to the trenches. Richthofen had had
enough of the trenches.

But even his cavalry training for reconnaissance duty failed him that
morning in June, 1915, when he went up into the air for the first
time. His sense of direction left him, and in his new world of three
dimensions he was completely lost. The sensation is not new to anyone
who recalls his first flight, but it pained Richthofen and deprived
him of the fullest enjoyment of the sensation of flying, which he
began to love from that moment.

He had gone to bed early the night before to be in the best possible
condition for the early morning flight. He took his seat in a plane
for the first time, and encountered  the customary discomfort from the
propeller's blast, which whipped the muffler from his neck and blew
his helmet off before he had time to fasten it. His gloves blew from
{34} his hands, and the noise from the engine drowned his voice so
that he could not communicate with the pilot in front of him.

In the dash across the flying field, he gripped the sides of his seat
and tightened his muscles at every jolt. The machine finally left the
ground, slid into the air like a knife blade, wheeled first to the
right and then to the left, and then straightened out on a level
course 800 feet above the ground. The future ace of all German flying
men clutched the sides of the fuselage and peered over and downward.
He wrote later that he was much surprised to find that he was lost
over his own airdrome.

But there was glory in the motion. The wind tore at the buttons on his
jacket and gave him the sensation of speed. Here was movement, here
was the stimulation, the intoxication that he had felt taking the
jumps on the hunting field. No sign of sickness or dizziness--just
speed and exhilaration. He wanted to sing. His eyes sparkled and his
nerves tingled. Here was a steed worthy of a man hunt--with a machine
like this beneath him, a man could fight and see what he was fighting.

Richthofen was drunk with enthusiasm when he landed. In the long glide
to the landing field, he had been impressed by the heavy silence that
followed the heavy noise when the motor slowed down and the plane
skimmed over the ground at express-train speed. But he felt that he
could know no fear in the air. It was all so simple, all so clean, and
God! how he hated the mud of the trenches.

He won his brevet, and after two weeks' daily flights was sent to the
Russian front, where Mackensen was hammering his way through the
Russian lines at Gorlice. His pleasure was complete. Action at
last--burning towns and fields and the forward and backward sway of
battle, all unrolled below him every day like some great unnatural
spectacle staged to tingle the craving in his heart. The {35}
uplifting effect of actually seeing carnage reflected itself in his
first letters to his mother.

  July 20, 1915.
  20 kilometres south of Cholm.
  I hope you are receiving the letters I am sending. I am here with
  the Mackensen army and am attached to the Sixth Austrian Corps. Now
  we are again in the full war of movement. Nearly every day I fly
  over the enemy and report. I reported the retreat of the Russians
  three days ago.

  It gives me great fun--at least, more than when I had to play at
  being an orderly officer. We all live in tents. The houses are
  nearly all burned down, and the remaining ones are so filled with
  vermin that no human can enter them.

  I am so pleased that I can help here just at the most important
  sector of the front. In all probability, matters will come to a
  decision here shortly. I have been flying here now for a fortnight.
  The period of training lasted for four weeks only. Of my fellow
  students, I was the first to be sent to a field flying formation.

To Richthofen, those months of June, July, and August, 1915, when he
flew against the Russians, constituted a new freedom after the muddy
drudgery of the trenches. His experience of and distaste for the filth
and discomforts of land fighting gave him a new respect and admiration
for the million weary ones who plodded on through the mud and grime
throughout the war.

The air was clean and free and belonged to the brave, and he was glad
to count himself among that carefree company that carried the war
closer to God's heaven. To him it was like the war life he had
expected to experience in the cavalry.

Morning and afternoon, he sallied forth on reconnaissance flights over
the enemy lines and far into the rear, bombing railway stations and
bridges, machine-gunning columns of troops on the roads, but most
important of all,{36} bringing back the information upon which
Mackensen made his plans for new blows against his poorly equipped and
none too well organized foes.

His first pilot was Zeumer--little Zeumer, the "lunger." Zeumer was a
first lieutenant and one of Germany's earliest pilots. He was
considered one of the aces of the Sixty-ninth Squadron, and his daring
was a thing that officers and men alike talked about when out of the
little fellow's hearing. Zeumer did not like them to talk about it in
his presence.

He thought they suspected the reason for his daring. His eyes had a
feverish light in them and his sallow skin was drawn tight over his
cheek bones and temples. His voice was dry and weak, seeming to come
from a mouth that lacked moisture. He frequently wet his lips with his
tongue, and sometimes in the upper air he struggled vainly to suppress
fits of violent coughing which shook his skinny shoulders and made it
difficult for him to keep his fine, thin-skinned, birdlike hands on
the flying controls.

Zeumer was dying. Beneath his shrunken chest, slow death gnawed. But
his eyes were young and clear, his heart was stout and good, his mind
was keen and quick. In the air he was as good as any pair of spotless
lungs--yes, better, because he could dare with less to lose and more
to gain. He would disprove the charge that war took the best and left
the weak.

He would match his few remaining months against the full life span of
any healthy human machine that wore the colours of the enemy. If he
lost, he lost less in life than his adversary would. And if he lost,
he gained that which was dear to him in his doomed silence. To meet
quick death in the air as a fighting man would be a victory over the
slow death that was gradually killing him from within.

Richthofen gained new lessons in fearlessness in those days when he
flew with a dying man. Zeumer's flying was {37} a race with the
"bugs," and his goal was the hope of  cheating  them, His natural
instincts of self-preservation had gone out in rasping exhalations. He
courted any end other than the one that death had marked for him. Old
flying officers shook their heads when they saw the chances he took in
the air.

But the race was long. Death in the air evaded him, and the "bugs"
gained daily. A year later, he was shot down near Verdun by a French
flyer. He arose from the crash with only a few flesh wounds from
glancing bullets. Three days later with his growing weakness, he fell
from the pilot's seat of a new machine while it was in the hangar and
went into the hospital with a broken thigh. But the dying man's
determination knit the bone with the heat of desperation. A month
later, he limped out a cripple, but went aloft again trying to catch
up his lost laps on the "bugs."

Another year, and it is June again, and France. The story was
simple--several lines in a letter from Richthofen to his mother. They

  Yesterday, Zeumer was killed in air combat. It was the best that
  could have happened to him. He knew he had not much longer to live.
  Such an excellent and noble fellow. How he would have hated to have
  to drag himself on toward the inevitable end. For him it would have
  been tragic. As it is, he died a heroic death before the enemy.
  Within the next few days, his body will be brought home.

Little Zeumer had won his race. Richthofen's was still to be



  History will provide few examples of greater courageous
  self-sacrifice than that written into the annals of the World War by
  the daring spirits of all sides who followed their duties and found
  their fate in the air. They fought in an element new to war; they
  accepted and braved dangers unknown before; they were the young, the
  quick, and the keen of all who fought, and admiration for their
  deeds is non-partisan.

  Into the strife they brought the high ideal of chivalry. Their
  solicitude for a fallen foe that had won their admiration was almost
  the same as for a fallen friend. Their deeds have won for them the
  respect of all who admire sterling valour.

  They came from homes of all countries that participated in the
  struggle. From the French came Fonck, Guynemer, and Nungesser. From
  the British came Bishop, Ball, and Hawker. From America came
  Rickenbacker and his comrades who had succeeded him in the French
  and British services.

  From our own ranks came Immelmann, Boelcke, and Richthofen, and to
  Germans their names will always remain dear as the names and deeds
  of French, British, and American flying aces will  always stand out
  in the records at their own countries.

  But bigger than the national fame that these heroes, friend and foe
  alike, won as patriots to conflicting causes is the growing
  international recognition of their achievements, not as partisans,
  but as men who gave to the world new and unprecedented examples of
  the highest form of physical and moral courage. Respect for human
  qualities of this high order knows no frontier.
      (Signed) Gessler.

"To die a hero's death unnecessarily is stupid."

Two young fools once had this thought at the same moment. They
believed the moment was their last. The {39} thought flashed to them
as they were falling three thousand feet into the fiery furnace of a
burning town.

Below them was a sea of flames. Above and around them were dark
billows of smoke which stung their eyes and choked them. The heated
air through which they fell burned their cheeks and hands. They
hurtled through showery clouds of sparks which dug at their leather
flying jackets.

"What a fine pair of damned fools we are!"

The pair was in its early twenties. One was a baron and the other was
a count. Both were German flying officers. The pilot count's name was
Holck. The baron observer was Manfred von Richthofen. Both are dead

But they didn't die that day. The god of war and the fortune that
favours fools were with them in their fall. One was saved to kill a
hundred other men with his own hand before he went to the death that
he had dealt to his victims.

The incident which was Richthofen's first brush with death in the air
occurred in Russia in the autumn of 1915, when the man who was to
become the ace of Germany's air fighters was still a humble observer
with hardly a hundred hours in the air to his credit.

>From Gorlice to Brest-Litovsk and beyond, the Russians were retiring
before the hammering blows of Mackensen's advance. Behind them, they
left ruin in the wake of their retreat. Villages, fields, farmhouses,
and bridges were ablaze. From the air, it seemed as though the whole
countryside were burning. It was the terrible panorama of war.

Richthofen, from the forward observer's seat of his Albatross plane,
looked down on the picture and called it "beautiful." His side was
winning, advancing. The enemy was withdrawing. The signs of victory
were good to see. He shot an exultant smile over his shoulder to
Holck, {40} who was working the controls in the pilot's nacelle behind
him. That was the way the machines were constructed in those days.

The two were flying back to their lines after a successful
reconnaissance flight over enemy territory. They had seen the columns
of Russian infantry and artillery moving eastward along the roads, and
they had ascertained the direction of the retreat.

Flying at an altitude of  4,500 feet they approached the burning town
of Wicznice, over which an enormous column of smoke towered to a
height of 6,000 feet. The column looked to be several miles in
diameter. It writhed across their path like a great black phantom. To
have flown over or around it would have meant five minutes out of
their way.

Richthofen smiled to Holck, who returned the smile with a nod. Both
were flushed with victory. Around the smoke cloud was safety; through
it was danger, and nothing to be gained. The decision had been made in
the silent exchange of smiles while the engine roared away merrily and
they came closer and closer to the smoke pillar. The plane sped
forward with open throttle. It penetrated the smoke volume like a
needle disappearing into a black velvet cushion. From sunlight and
cool fresh air the two fools found themselves suddenly in hot,
suffocating darkness.

The horizon was blotted out: directions became jumbled up, down--
right--left--forward--backward--How? Where? The three dimensions
danced drunkenly. A sudden upward blast of almost withering heat, and
the machine reeled, tipped, slipped. They coughed and choked. So did
the motor.

Richthofen was almost thrown out of his seat, just saving himself by
grasping a strut and hanging on. He could not see Holck behind him
through the darkness, out {41} of control and seemingly helpless, they
plunged downward. It was like falling down the working smokestack of a
giant blast furnace. Then the darkness below them suddenly glowed red
and the heat increased. They were looking into the flaming town.

Then came a sudden jolt which drove both of them downward into their
seats with irresistible power. In a flash, their downward descent was
changed by the plane catching itself and changing course from the
perpendicular to the horizontal. In the next instant, it was shot
through the wall of the smoke cylinder and was again in the cool air
and light of day.

In the few seconds that had passed they had fallen 3,000 feet and were
now 1,500 feet above the ground with smoke-choked motor which began to
miss and bring the prospect of a new danger before their
smoke-reddened eyes.

As the engine slowed down, they began to lose height, and at the same
time bursts of machine-gun fire began to greet them from below.
Russian infantry at that time was not noted for any fine feeling
toward German aviators. The Russian regiments, many of them containing
wild, bearded units from the Siberian steppes, had suffered greatly
from the German flyers. Without a flying service of their own, and but
very little and quite ineffectual anti-aircraft, the Russians had
suffered the customary lot of the defenseless. German aviators falling
into the hands of these desperate, hard-pressed mujiks could expect
nothing but quick death--and a violent one.

"The motor is giving out!" shouted Holck. Motors with carburetor
trouble have been fixed or adjusted in the air by flyers, but this was
out of the question for Holck and Richthofen, both of whom, being from
the cavalry school, were still ignorant of the simplest facts
concerning the source of power upon which they had to depend while
{42} in the air. The situation reflects the pioneer stage of martial
aviation at the time, and also detracts somewhat from the generally
accepted idea of Germany's complete preparedness and the technical
efficiency of her flyers.

With the weakened motor, the Albatross lost altitude steadily. Now, at
less than a thousand feet above the ground, the Russian machine-gun
fire from below increased, and bullets began popping through the
fabric of the wings and hitting the taut wire braces. One strikes a
vital part in the motor and the propeller, after a few slow
revolutions, comes to a stop. They are gliding down without power.

Holck manages to keep the plane's nose up as they skim over the
treetops of a small forest and reach a clearing on the other side.
Richthofen recognizes it as a position that the Russians had occupied
with artillery the day before, but now it appears to be abandoned. The
guns are gone, but is the place still in the hands of the enemy
infantry? There's neither answer to the question nor choice of
selection. The plane comes to the ground, strips off its
undercarriage, tips to one side, breaks a wing, and comes to a halt.

Richthofen and Holck jump out of the wreck and run to the shelter of
the woods. Holck's little dog, which always flew with him, scampered
after them, unmindful of the fears then running through its master's
mind. The two flyers throw themselves flat on the ground at the edge
of the trees and peer out across the clearing. Richthofen has a pistol
and six cartridges. Holck is unarmed.

A man comes running across the clearing from the other side. The
hidden pair see that he is in uniform, but they still cannot
distinguish which uniform, and the German spiked helmet, then worn, is
ominously absent. The man is wearing a cloth cap. Is he Russian or
German? Are they in the enemy lines or their own?


Holck answers the question with a shout of joy as he recognizes the
uniform as that of a grenadier of the Prussian Guard. These troops had
stormed this part of the line that morning and had penetrated as far
as the Russian artillery positions. The fugitives came out from their
hiding place and learned from the soldier that a general advance all
along the line was in progress.

By the narrowest margin of chance, the two young Uhlans who had dared
to dive through the smoke column over the burning town had escaped
death both in the flames and at the hands of the retreating Russians.
For their luck, they received the congratulations of the German Prince
Eitel Friedrich, who soon rode across the old Russian position with
his staff officers. He supplied the stranded airmen with horses upon
which they returned to their airdrome.

Before the end of August, 1915, aërial activity on the Russian front
came to a temporary halt, and Richthofen's itch of restlessness was
gratified with orders which took him back across Germany and into
Belgium again, this time to the renowned seaside resort of Ostend,
where pilots and aviators were being trained on the latest German
model, the _Grossfleugzeug_, or "Big Fighting Machine," from which
great results were expected.

These machines, owing to their bulk and weight, lacked speed and
manoeuvring ability, which detracted greatly from their fighting
capacity, with the result that their eventual utility was that of
night bombers. In the slang of the air, Richthofen called it his "big
apple barge."

Little Zeumer, the "lunger" who had been his first pilot in Russia,
was again at the controls of his machine here, and Richthofen flew
with him many times on bombing expeditions over Belgian towns occupied
by the British forces.

Richthofen liked bombing, but he did not like the arrangements on his
machine which prevented the {44} observer from witnessing the burst of
the bomb after it had landed.

  This always made me wild [wrote the future ace], because one does
  not like to be deprived of one's amusement. If one hears a bang down
  below and sees the delightful grayish, whitish cloud of the
  explosion in the neighbourhood of the object aimed at, one is always

To the right and left of the observer's forward seat in which the
bomb-aiming device and the release levers were located were the two
whirring propellers. On one expedition--a daylight raid over a village
in the vicinity of Dunkirk--Richthofen had just released his first
bomb and was peering over the side to see how close it burst to its
target. As usual, one of the plane's wings came between him and the
object, wiping out his view. He quickly extended his left hand in a
signal to Zeumer to turn to the left so that he could see.

In his eagerness he forgot the whirring propeller blades and lost the
tip of his little finger. He confessed that the pain, while slight,
deprived him of further amusement in bombing for that day, and that,
after hurriedly dropping the remainder of his missiles, he returned to
the airdrome and a seven-day spell in the hospital. It was his first
tiny drop of blood for the Fatherland for which he was later to give
his life.

The war was not too bad, those happy, sunny days in Ostend. It was fun
to bathe in the surf and loll in bathrobes on the beach, with
orderlies to serve coffee and drinks from the big Palace Hotel that
the army had seized. One drawback, however, was that the Belgian girls
shunned the beach during 1915, both from choice and from the fact that
the naval gun batteries which the Germans had installed in
emplacements along the sand dunes were forbidden areas to the civil


There came one day an interruption to the peaceful scene when bugles
suddenly sounded, and the officers lounging on the beach hurriedly
left their deck chairs and directed their field glasses seaward, where
distant smudges of black smoke revealed the presence of a British
naval squadron.

A tiny flash of light is seen against the black smoke, and in less
than a minute a big shell arrives on the beach, sending up a geyser of
sand, beach chairs, and striped parasols. Richthofen and a number of
his fellow officers spent the remaining minutes of the fight in the
deep dugouts which they laughingly called the "heroes' cellar."

Back in the air, on the next day, he and Zeumer tested out the
auto-locking arrangements on the rudder of their twin motor machine,
by which the plane could be made to hold a normal course if only one
motor was working. The experiment took them far out over the English
Channel, and, in the midst of it, Richthofen's keen eyes detected a
submarine in the water beneath them.

The huge black hulk was travelling slowly under water when the two
airmen caught sight of it. They went down to several hundred feet
above the sea and flew back and forth across the spot.

Richthofen's face became tense and his hands reached for the levers on
the bomb releases. Here was a battle to his liking--a new thrill: bird
against fish--and this time with the bird having all the advantage of
its blind adversary below.

The undersea boat was submerged too far to use its periscope, and yet
it could be easily seen from the eyes in the air. But one thing could
not be detected. That was the nationality of the submarine, and
Richthofen had to suppress his destructive instinct through an
inability to determine whether the craft was Allied or German.

His debate and regret over having to relinquish such {46} easy prey
was interrupted by warning heat from one of the motors, and a sudden
realization that the water had disappeared from one of the radiators.
They started for the coast at once with the auto-locking arrangement
working on the rudder and thereby enabling them to reach land on the
one working motor. It was just another close shave with trouble.

Stalking a submarine from the air offered greater possibilities for
results than aërial combat in the fall of 1915, when the tactics of
air fighting were still undeveloped. Hostile airmen were almost immune
from danger from one another, because air armament and methods of
attack were inadequate, if not totally lacking.

This was one of the reasons why the chivalry of the air at the
commencement of war permitted the airmen of opposing sides to fly
about their duties without molestation from one another. Airplanes
were considered primarily for the purposes of observation, secondly
for bombing. Actual fighting in midair was almost unheard of, and the
airman's chief dread was from machine gun or shell fire from the

This state of affairs did not last long. Pilots began to take up with
them rifles, carbines, revolvers, and rifle grenades to attack one
another. Air fighting commenced in that way, but with very little
success. Machines moving past one another at several hundred miles an
hour had little chance of winging one another with single shots. The
machine-gun mounting had not been perfected.

Richthofen failed in his first air fight. It occurred in the month of
September, 1915. Both he and Zeumer were impressed with the battling
name of their machine, and both were eager to test its fighting
capacity. Although they flew from five to six hours every day on
bombing and reconnaissance flights, they had never encountered an
enemy plane in the air. Their hopes materialized one day {47} when
they sighted a lone Farman plane with the British cockade, taking
casual observations over the German lines.

Zeumer headed for the plane. Richthofen's heart beat faster and he
gripped his repeating rifle. Neither had been in a fight before;
neither had ever seen a combat between planes and neither of them had
ever heard the first-hand account of an air battle. Both knew that
they wanted to knock the other plane down out of the sky, but neither
knew how it was to be done.

The planes approached from opposite directions, but before Richthofen
knew what was happening, they had passed one another and were out of
range. He had had time in the passing to fire four shots at the
whizzing comet, but the only apparent result was to inform the English
flyer of his intentions. The latter swung his plane around and
attacked the German machine from the rear. The Englishman in the
forward observer's seat fired a repeating rifle into the tail of the
German plane.

Zeumer, trying to avoid the fire, flew around in a circle with the
Englishman flying after him. After several minutes of this futility,
both planes flew away. Zeumer and Richthofen landed at their airdrome
and each blamed the other.

Zeumer held that Richthofen had shot badly. Richthofen charged Zeumer
with not having manoeuvred the plane right so as to give him the
chance for a good shot. The air relations between the pilot and
observer became decidedly strained.

They tried it again the same day, but still with no result. Zeumer,
who was considered one of the best pilots, regretted that he could
discover no means of flying that would enable his observer to fire a
fatal shot. Richthofen, who prided himself on his marksmanship, began
to feel that he would never be able to bring down a hostile plane,
{48} no matter how many shots he had at it. Both were puzzled and
discouraged, War in the air was young.

A month later, when activity commenced on the Champagne front,
Richthofen and Zeumer and the "Apple barge" tried their luck again
against the French but still without result. It was not until
afterward, when Richthofen flew with Osteroth, another pilot who had a
small machine, that his nature was able to exult with the feeling that
he had shot down a human victim from the air.

Osteroth's machine was equipped with a machine gun that could be moved
from one mounting to another on the two sides of the observer's
cockpit which in this plane was behind the pilot. The French plane was
a Farman two-seater, and, strange as it may seem, it does not appear
that its two occupants had any hostile intentions toward the German
plane, which they permitted to approach them from the rear and to fly
along with them side by side.

Richthofen, with his machine gun mounted on the side facing the French
plane, opened hostilities with a rapid burst of ten or twenty shots,
which was stopped by the jamming of the weapon. None of the shots had
struck the French plane, but the fire had been noticed, and the
Frenchman began to fire back, also with a machine gun.

Richthofen worked at the jammed gun, and got it going again while
Osteroth held the plane to its course. The two machines sailed along
at equal altitudes like two rival cruisers, exchanging broadsides
after the fashion of sea warfare. Both of the flyers ignored the
manoeuvring possibilities of the third dimension.

With the gun working and Osteroth reducing the range by flying
gradually closer to the Frenchman, Richthofen poured out the last of
his hundred rounds of cartridges, firing all the time with the picture
of the French observer {49} across from him firing at him. Then it
happened with a suddenness that surprised Richthofen. He said later
that he could not believe his eyes when he saw the French plane begin
to go down in a spiral.

Osteroth was busy with the controls, so Richthofen reached forward and
tapped him on the head to call his attention to the adversary's
descent. Richthofen's eyes never left his prey. Osteroth circled
slowly downward, keeping the falling machine in view all time. They
saw it land head first in a shell crater with its tail pointing to the

Hurriedly, they located the spot on the flying map and marked it with
a circle, noting that it was located three miles behind the French
lines. Neither ever knew whether the two Frenchmen survived the
descent. From the fact that the tail of the plane was still pointing
skyward, the landing was not as bad as it might have been, and there
is the possibility that the first two men that Richthofen shot down in
the air may have survived.

But of particular regret to the future German ace at that time was the
rule then prevailing in the German Air Corps, to the effect that
planes brought down behind the enemy lines were not placed to the
credit of the flyer or flyers who downed them. Richthofen was proud of
his success, but never forgot that his record of officially credited
victories, which amounted to eighty before his death, should have been
one more.

His experience with Osteroth, and it was a happy one, convinced him
that his chances of killing many adversaries in the air would not be
great as long as his flying was confined to large two-seater planes,
He realized early that these planes were too clumsy for manoeuvring,
and that the small, speedy single-seater had every advantage in a
combat with the bigger plane. It is to be noted from his record of
victories after he became the pilot of a {50} single-seater that
almost three quarters of them were big double-seater planes.

Little Zeumer graduated to a Fokker single-seat monoplane as soon as
this type reached the front, and Richthofen, still an observer, found
himself shifted to another two-seater plane with another pilot. This
hurt his pride. His restless spirit demanded action and progress. He
wanted to become a pilot, and his desires gained their greatest
impetus when, on October 1, 1915, he met for the first time the great

To Richthofen, Boelcke was the German air god. That day, in the fall
of 1915, when he met the young and insignificant-looking little
lieutenant in the dining car of a train, marked the birth of a new
ambition in Richthofen. Boelcke had shot down four hostile airplanes,
and he was the only man in the armies of the Central Powers who had
accomplished such a feat. At that time, he was the greatest individual
killer in the German Air Corps. His name had been mentioned in
dispatches. His appearance was not impressive, but his successes in
the air, then widely known, gripped the imagination of the young

"Tell me how you manage to shoot them down," Richthofen asked the idol
as the two sat over a bottle of Rhine wine in the dining car.

Boelcke smiled.

"Well, it's quite simple," he said. "I fly close to my man, aim well,
and then, of course, he falls down."

Richthofen, who had asked the question in all seriousness, reflected
that he had followed somewhat the same method, but his opponents did
not seem to come down so easily. He became more convinced than ever
that the difference lay not so much with the flyer as with the plane
he flew. He could not shoot them down in a "big fighting plane," but
Boelcke could in a Fokker. He resolves to do two things: to cultivate
Boelcke and to fly a Fokker.


Little Zeumer, his first pilot, came to his aid and flew with him in
an old training machine, a two-seater which had dual controls, so that
the student pilot in the observer's cockpit could operate the machine
from that point, and any mistakes of his could be corrected
immediately by the instructor in the pilot's cockpit. Richthofen
hurled himself into the work with desperation and studied harder than
he ever had in his life. Upon their landing after the twenty-fifth
instruction in the air, Zeumer announced that the lessons were over
and that the pupil was fit to take the plane into the air by himself,
fly it, and return it safely to the ground.

It was in the stillness of a late October afternoon that the man who
was to become the ace of all German airmen took a plane into the air
alone for the first time. In spite of his long experience now as an
observer and a student pilot, Richthofen had fears. He did not think
he could fly and land safely. His fears were well grounded. He

His head was buzzing with Zeumer's parting instructions when he
climbed into the pilot's familiar cockpit, tested the controls as he
had been taught, made his ignition contact, and felt the vibration of
the plane as the motor started in response to a swing on the propeller
by a mechanic.

The chocks were removed from the wheels--the plane moved off across
the field into the wind and, with the motor full on, left the ground.
Richthofen was in the air and with the knowledge now that his safe
return to earth depended solely upon himself. His fears left him as
the exhilarating tingle of motion stole over him. Acting under
Zeumer's last instructions, he circled to the left, and flying over a
ground mark, previously arranged, shut off his motor and headed the
plane back for the landing field, as he had been told.

Now came the test--the landing. His actions were {52} entirely
mechanical. He followed instructions to the letter. He did exactly as
he had been told to do, but he lacked the "feel" of the air and of his
machine. His flying was by the book and not by instinct. He noticed
that the plane's responses to his controls were different from what he
had expected. Something was wrong. He was not on an even keel. The
plane was approaching the ground at a high rate of speed.


Men came rushing across the field from the hangars as Richthofen,
shaken but uninjured, extricated himself from the pile of splintered
struts, twisted wire braces, and torn fabric. On his first solo flight
he had failed.

Smarting under the gibes and jokes of his comrades, he returned to his
quarters, and made a vow that nothing would stop his mastering the art
of flying. He plunged passionately into studies and instructions,
working days and nights on the machines, both in the air and on the
ground. After two weeks' intensive cramming, he believed he had
overcome his faults, and presented himself for his first examination.

This time he got off the ground well, circled left and right,
described figure eights in the air several times, and landed evenly
and easily. He repeated the demonstration several times, and glowed
with pride when he brought the plane down safely on the final landing.
He received the greatest disappointment of his life when the examining
officer, who had witnessed his performance in the air, told him that
his flying and landings were faulty, that he did not appear to be in
full control of the machine, and that he had failed in his examination

Richthofen developed perseverance and grim determination in the weeks
of hard study and training that followed. In spite of his failures, he
persisted in his ambition to become a pilot. On the 15th of November,
he flew as an {53} observer in a big Gotha from the front to Doberitz,
near Berlin, to make another effort toward mastering the pilot's

For five weeks he and another young lieutenant, of the name of
Lyncker, applied themselves entirely to the task. Both of them had the
ambition to become pilots and fly single-seater Fokkers in a fighting
squadron on the western front. Boelcke was their ideal, and no work
was too hard that brought them any closer to walking in the footsteps
of the great air fighter.

The life back from the front bored Richthofen. The killer instinct
that surged within him demanded prey. The peaceful pursuits of the
civilian population around him irritated him. His only diversions were
nocturnal trips to a near-by forest where he and Lyncker would track
and shoot wild pigs.

During the same period, his mother came to Berlin, and he spent
several days with her. They walked together through the Tiergarten or
down the Unter den Linden. One day, she mentioned to the son that,
when she walked with his brother Lothar in uniform, more girls looked
at Lothar than at him.

"I will make more of them look at me sometime," said Manfred. Lothar,
his younger brother, was almost a head taller than Manfred. This and
his failures in passing his pilot's examinations had renewed the
brotherly jealousy which had its foundation in that fear that the
younger brother would be the first to achieve distinction in the war.
The thought spurred Richthofen on to even harder study and
application. The possibility of the kid brother getting ahead of him
actually hurt.

Christmas Day that year--1915--brought him the reward he craved. He
was notified that he had passed his third examination and was now a
pilot. Although he had been successful in the tests, it does not
appear that his {54} instructors had sufficient confidence in his
ability to send him to the front. He chafed under the delay. Under
date of January 11th, he wrote his mother from Berlin:

  Since spending the New Year at Schwein, I have not flown once. It
  rains incessantly here, and we seem to be making no progress. I
  should love to be at the front right now. I think there is a lot
  going on there.

During spells of fair weather in January and the following months, he
made practice flights about Germany, landing at Breslau and Luben, and
once at his home in Schweidnitz. Another flight took him back to
Schwerin, where he reduced somewhat his ignorance of gas motors by a
study of the engines in the Fokker plant.

He arrived at the front as a pilot in March, 1916, being assigned to
the so-called "Second Fighting Squadron" then stationed in the line
behind Verdun. Richthofen was eager for combat. He wanted a fight in
the air, with himself operating both the flying controls and the
machine gun. Although he was a pilot, he had not yet achieved his
ambition to fly a single-seater machine. He was still assigned to the
heavier two-place planes and had to carry an observer with him.

As the planes were then constructed, this would have left all of the
fighting to the observer and all of the flying to the pilot. This
arrangement did not appeal to Richthofen. He had another machine gun
built into his plane, so that he could operate it from the pilot's
seat. The plane was an Albatross, with the observer sitting behind the
pilot and operating a rear machine gun.

The forward machine-gun mounting was copied from that in use at the
time on the French Nieuports. It was fixed above the upper plane in
such a manner that it could {55} be pointed upward or straight ahead
in the direction of the machine. Other pilots rather ridiculed the
idea, but Richthofen was proud of it and hoped for an early
opportunity to test its practical value.

The chance came on the morning of April 26th, when Richthofen and his
observer sighted a Nieuport machine wearing the French cockade. The
two observed the enemy plane for some time and then flew toward it,
although Richthofen had not made up his mind how he would attack the
plane. It is apparent from the tactics that followed that the
Frenchman was almost as much of a beginner as Richthofen, because, as
the two planes approached, the Nieuport swerved and started to fly

This manoeuvre would have been safe had the German plane been equipped
only with a rear machine gun. A gun so placed could not shoot forward
at a pursued plane, but the pursued plane would be able to fire on the
pursuer from its own rear gun. It is possible that the Frenchman did
not observe the unusual mounting of the forward gun on the German

Richthofen approached within sixty yards of the French plane. His
disappointments in flying had been so great that he had small hopes of
winging his prey, but he did want to reap the full benefits of
practice. Sighting the machine gun on the tail of the plane directly
in front of him, he fired a short burst of shots.

The Nieuport answered by zooming upward and side-slipping on one wing.
The German plane shot by to one side, and Richthofen was surprised to
see the French plane fall over and over in the air. He became wary
immediately, suspecting that the Frenchman was manoeuvring his machine
in this manner in an endeavour to trick the German plane into an
unadvantageous position.

>From a safe distance they watched the descent of the Frenchman. It
became apparent that the machine was {56} completely out of control.
It never righted itself once. The observer tapped Richthofen on the

"Congratulations!" he shouted, trying to make his voice heard above
the idling motor. "He's falling! He's done for! You hit him."

The fluttering white machine crashed among the treetops of the thick
forest behind Fort Douaumont. The Frenchman fell behind his own lines,
and Richthofen never knew his fate.

The German plane flew back to its airdrome, where Richthofen proudly
reported that he had had an aërial combat and had shot down a
Nieuport. For that day the German war communiqué read:

  Two hostile flying machines have been shot down in aërial fighting
  above Fleury, south and west of Douaumont.

Early next morning, Richthofen wrote his exultation to his mother
in the following letter:

  Before Verdun, April 27, 1916.
  In haste--some gladsome news. Look at the communiqué of yesterday,
  April 26th. One of these planes was shot down by my machine gun and
  is to my credit.

He had brought down his prey--he had tasted nameless acknowledgment in
the communiqué, but his craving for the credit for the kill was again
thwarted by the army rule which ignored, in so far as the flyer's
record was concerned, any planes brought down behind the enemy lines.
His pride in his achievement was great, but he had a certain feeling
of pique in being denied what he considered his just due, namely, a
public acknowledgment of his victory over the unknown French flyer.



  "With a bullet through his head, he fell from an altitude of 9,000
  feet--a beautiful death."

Baron Manfred van Richthofen employed this sentence in a letter to his
mother to describe the end of his closest friend and oldest flying
comrade, the young Count van Holck with whom he had had his first air
adventures in Russia.

Flying almost two miles above the battle lines in front of Verdun,
Richthofen, from a distance, saw his old friend battling for his life
with a number of French fighting planes. A contrary wind, a slow
engine, and the intervening distance between him and the scene of the
fatal combat prevented him from going to Holck's assistance, and he
was forced to stand off helplessly when the latter started on his
fatal plunge.

The spectacle occurred May 1, 1916, just four days after Richthofen
himself had shot down a French flyer in the same sector. The German
war machine was still pounding away at Verdun, and a violent drum fire
was playing on the battered, shell-pocked ruins of Fort Douaumont,
still valiantly held by the French. A strong wind was blowing from the

The Flying Uhlan, from the pilot's cockpit of his biplane, saw three
French Caudrons savagely attacking a Fokker single-seater machine
which he suspected was Holck's, although he hoped that it was not. The
Caudrons dived repeatedly, but always managed to maintain a position
between the Fokker and the German lines.

Gradually, the fight circled over the French position in {58} the town
of Verdun. Richthofen and his observer, still too far away to get into
the _mêlée_, watched the unequal combat with frequent exclamations of
admiration for the hard-pressed German pilot who, although outnumbered
three to one, was giving an excellent account of himself.

It soon became apparent, however, that Holck was on the defensive.
Other French machines were between him and the German lines, and his
numerous adversaries dived on him relentlessly, spraying lead from all
angles. Holck lost altitude with every manoeuvre, and Richthofen and
his observer both knew that this was fatal. It's the man on top who
wins in the air.

They could not fly to Holck's assistance. Their two-seater machine was
too heavy and its motor too weak to make headway against the wind and
arrive on the scene of the fight in time to be of use.

Holck plunged downward through some small clouds, and Richthofen's
heart beat faster in the belief that his old friend had evaded his
adversaries by this move. But it was not a ruse. It was Holck's last
dive. One of the French bullets had gone through his head. The German
pilot's lifeless body was strapped in the seat when the Fokker nosed
downward and plunged almost two miles to the earth.

Two days later--the day after his twenty-third birthday--Richthofen
had recovered from the effects of his friend's death and was able to
report in a different vein to his mother in the following letter:

  Verdun, May 3d.
  Many hearty thanks for your congratulations on my birthday, which I
  spent most enjoyably here. In the morning I had three nerve-tingling
  air fights, and in the evening I sat with Zeumer until 1 A.M. under a
  blossoming apple tree drinking _bowle_ [mixed wines].


  I love my new occupation as pilot. I don't think anything else can
  attract me in this war. I fly a Fokker--a plane with which Boelcke
  and Immelmann have had great success. I was very much grieved about
  Holck's death.

  Three days before he was killed, he visited me and we were very gay
  together. He told me of his imprisonment in Montenegro. One really
  can't imagine that this fine, healthy, and strong fellow doesn't
  exist any more.

  I witnessed his last air fight. First, he shot down a Frenchman in
  the midst of a hostile squadron. Then he evidently had a jam in his
  machine gun and wanted to return to the air above our lines. A whole
  swarm of Frenchmen were on him. With a bullet through his bead, he
  fell from an altitude of  9,000 feet--a beautiful death. One cannot
  imagine Holck crippled, with one arm or one leg. Today I am going to
  fly at his funeral.

It was no time for regrets. Air activity in the Verdun sector
increased steadily during that summer of 1916, and the French
Nieuports were exacting regular toll from the German flyers who dared
to meet them. Death was a frequent visitor to Richthofen's squadron.
Under date of  June 22d, he wrote to his mother:

  What did you say about Immelmann's death? In time, death comes to us
  all--also to Boelcke. The leader of  Lothar's fighting squadron also
  did not return from the bombing flight. The day before, the leader
  of my old fighting squadron No. 1 was also shot down. He was the
  Baron von Gerstoff, one of the most efficient squadron leaders. I
  liked him very much.

The death that Richthofen predicted almost came to him two weeks after
writing that letter. To the satisfaction of his great ambition, he had
obtained permission to make some test flights in a single-seater
Fokker, in which he believed he could duplicate the easy and multiple
air victories of Immelmann and Boelcke.


But air equipment was not plentiful, and he had to share the new
machine with a fellow pilot, who was equally ambitious to get away
from the heavy two-seater planes and cruise the air lanes as an
individual fighting unit. An element of security was not entirely
foreign to this mutual ambition.

Richthofen and his comrade both knew that by far the largest number of
victims in the air were amongst those who flew the heavy two-seater
planes. They were the prey of the speedy little one-seaters. The
fighting capacities of the two types measured up like a comparison
between butterfly and a wasp. Richthofen was sick of butterflies. The
wasps got too many of them. He wanted to be a wasp and hunt

The joint ownership of the new Fokker was unsatisfactory to both
Richthofen and his comrade. Each feared that the other one would smash
the plane. One flew it in the morning and the other flew it in the

Richthofen made his first trip without encountering a single enemy
plane, and, returning to the airdrome, made a difficult but safe
landing. His comrade flew off with the prize Fokker that afternoon,
and that was the last Richthofen ever saw of it. It crashed in No
Man's Land, but the pilot escaped uninjured and managed to return to
the German lines after lying in a shell crater until darkness.

The young Uhlan became the sole owner of the next single-seater that
was issued to the squadron. Just as he left the ground on his third
flight, the motor stopped and he had to make a forced landing in a
near-by field. All that remained of the machine was a scrap pile, but
the flying Baron again escaped death without a scratch. He wrote about
it to his mother:

  A few days ago I fell with my Fokker, head first. The onlookers were
  much surprised when I crept unwounded from the {61} wreckage. My
  dear friend, Zeumer, is improving. First, he was shot down by a
  Frenchman but only received a few flesh wounds from glancing
  bullets. Three days later, he broke his thigh bone in quite a silly
  affair. I intend to go to Boelcke and be one of his disciples. I
  always need change. This would be something new and would mean

Advancement he craved, but it came hard for him. The failures that
marked his efforts to progress from observer to pilot still plagued
his attempts to advance from the two-seater to the single-seater
types. Although only responsible for one, he was really charged with
crashing two Fokker single-seaters, and this record was taken into
consideration when he was once more definitely assigned to the heavy
two-seaters and suddenly transferred from the Verdun front back to the
eastern theatre of war, the scene of his martial début in the air.

The fighting squadron functioned as bombers and travelled as a
"circus." It had special trains for the flyers, the mechanics, and the
planes. They were equipped with dining and sleeping cars and repair
shops. Everyone's baggage and personal effects remained on board, so
there were none of the delays and troubles of breaking camp whenever
the squadron changed its base of operations.

Richthofen and two fellow primitives, the pilots Gerstenberg and
Scheele, left their effects on the train, but the heat of August
nights and the call of the wild drove them into the forests on each
side of the railroad. They built shakedown huts of timbers, roofed
with tenting, and spent merry nights around the camp fire in the open.

As a relief from their frequent excursions over the line they roamed
the forest at night in search of game. Richthofen loved it. Killing
beasts by night and men by day brought a sense of completion and
well-being to the combative spirit that ran through his veins.

Bombing ground troops from above gave him a {62} "tremendous
pleasure." His enthusiasm was tireless. There were times when, after
dropping one load of bombs on a camp or a troop train, he would fly
back to his airdrome, load up with explosives and fuel, and return to
the last scene of carnage with another delivery of death.

It was more fruitful from the stand point of results than seeking
victims in the air. So often the fighting pilot had to return with an
empty bag from a hunt in the sky. Maybe he didn't find the quarry, or
it was too wary for him, but not so with the bombing expeditions.
There was always something that could be done with bombs, and one need
never return with a feeling of unrewarded efforts.

The Russian army in the field, almost defenceless from the air,
constituted an excellent target. Anyone who could throw a missile out
of a boat and hit the surrounding water, was almost equally capable of
registering a hit if he dropped a bomb from the air anywhere
immediately behind the Russian front lines.

Sweating under the heat of the August midday sun, Russian troops were
being massed for an attack in front of a rail centre in the town of
Manjewicze, twenty miles back of the lines. Under orders to disrupt
the Russian communications, demoralize their reserves, and thereby
weaken the force of their attack, the bombing squadron left its
airdrome at noon.

Their "C" type planes of the two-seat reconnaissance variety were
heavily loaded with bombs to the limit of their capacity, which was
about three hundred pounds of explosive each, in addition to the extra
fuel, ammunition for two machine guns, and the weight of the pilot and
the observer.

They rose heavily in the light hot air of midday, and reeled
perilously as they left the ground. Once in the upper air, beyond the
danger of sudden sinkings from low air pockets, pilot and observer
breathed freer. The {63} anticipation of a ground crash with three
hundred pounds of explosive suspended under one is not without a
tingle to the dullest imagination.

Richthofen had a fat observer, whose extra weight he begrudged because
it meant that he must carry less bombs. With his 150-horsepower motor
turning over under a full throttle, he managed to get the plane off
the ground. The engine hummed regularly during the several preliminary
circles that he made up above his own airdrome. This was a precaution
taken by all flyers, especially those on the east front, because all
of them knew that a descent behind the Russian lines on account of a
motor failure meant death. Owing to the almost complete absence of
Russia aircraft and the scarcity and inaccuracy of Russian
anti-aircraft artillery, "dead motors" represented the principal risk.

They flew over Manjewicze, easily recognizable from its web of
hurriedly constructed side tracks, and the hundreds of tents and
wooden barracks which had been erected around it. Houses and barracks
were smoking, and one end of the railroad station was wrecked, all
indicating that some of Richthofen's comrades had already reached the
target and "laid their eggs."

They dropped bomb after bomb on the railroad station, and damaged the
one remaining line, so that a locomotive which happened to be moving
out slowly at the time was forced to stop at the place where the bombs
had torn up the rails and made a large hole in the right of way. They
flew so low that they could see the engineer and fireman hurriedly
abandon the engine and dive into a ditch beside the track.

It was all quite easy. No enemy airplanes to watch out for; no
intensive fire from the ground to fear. Richthofen thought that flying
on the east front was joy-riding as compared to the difficulties
encountered on the west front. {64} He was right, because at that
time, which was immediately after the beginning of the 1916 battle of
the Somme, the British Flying Corps had swept the German air force
from the air and made their flyers the butt of stinging jokes on the
part of the undefended German infantry.

Many German flyers paid with their lives for the British air offensive
on the Somme, and Richthofen's happy assignment during that period to
the eastern front may be looked upon as one of the reasons for his
survival throughout that year.

That season on the Russian front was a carnival of unimpeded daily
slaughter for the young sky Uhlan. Computation of the lives he took on
the ground is obviously not possible, but it is quite possible that he
killed many more men in this manner than he did in his entire career
of combat in the air. It was wholesale. He liked that. It fed the
killing hunger, but his spirit of combat starved. It was all killing
and no fighting. Richthofen preferred a mixture of the two.

Returning from bombing expeditions, he would seek out camps or
marching columns to dive on and spray with machine-gun lead. He wrote

  It was particularly amusing to pepper the gentlemen down below with
  machine guns. Half-savage tribes from Asia are much more startled
  when fired upon from above than are educated Englishmen.

  It is particularly interesting and comical to shoot at hostile
  cavalry. An aërial attack upsets them completely. Suddenly, all of
  them rush away in all directions of the compass. I should not like
  to be the commander of a squadron of Cossacks which has been fired
  upon with machine guns from airplanes.

Once the squadron was sent to break up a concentration of Russian
troops which were crossing the Stokhod River in preparation for an
attack. A long column of Cossacks {65} were riding four abreast over
the single bridge when Richthofen arrived above the spot with a plane
heavily laden with bombs and machine-gun munitions. He circled low
over the target, and the Cossack column went into a gallop.

Depressing the nose of the plane, he dived and swooped low over the
crowded bridge. He and his observer could see the bearded Cossacks
bending low over their horses' necks and urging them to greater speed
upon the appearance of this new enemy from a quarter in which they
could not defend themselves. Richthofen's observer, with his eye glued
to the bomb sights, pulled the lever that released the first missile.

It missed the bridge, but landed beside the crowded approach on one
bank. A cloud of dust and smoke, a terrific detonation, and the
galloping column was cut in half by the appearance of a large white
half circle of roadway dotted with the prone figures of men and

Some horses on the bridge leaped the stone side parapets and landed
with their riders in the stream below. Others on the shore edge of the
circle bolted. But the column closed up again, and the charge across
the bridge continued.

Three times the air guerilla swooped low, and each time another bomb
landed among the massed horsemen, creating terrific havoc. Men and
animals were rushing and dragging themselves away in all directions
from the centre of the bomb burst. The disorder was complete, with
officers urging their men to re-form and proceed, but with every mind
intent above anything else on the danger from the air.

With all bombs expended, the two flyers repeated their swoop
manoeuvre, spraying the column with machine-gun lead. Men toppled off
their horses and were trampled underneath their comrades who were
galloping behind them. {66} Horses rolled on the ground, and others
fell over them.  "We enjoyed it tremendously," Richthofen wrote, "and
I imagined that I alone had caused the Russian attack to fail!"

It was an orgy of blood for the Flying Uhlan, and he was in high mood
to receive a reward for his efforts. In the space of twenty minutes,
he probably killed more men than his air combats would total in his
busiest month, but the slaughter did not show on his record, and he
loved the trophies of victory--the symbols of his prowess. The prize
he received was even greater than he had expected.

On that day, the great Boelcke arrived at the airdrome at Kovel.

Everyone in the squadron knew the purpose of his visit. The great
German flyer was selecting flyers for a crack squadron which he would
take to the west front to fight under his command against the British.
The German air force, driven down on the Somme, left German artillery
blind and German infantry defenseless from air attack and subject to
terrific punishment from British and French artillery, which was well
directed from the air.

General von Bülow, who commanded the German First Army during the
battle, described the serious situation as follows:

  The state of affairs was aggravated by the enemy's superiority in
  the air, which at first was incontestable. Not only did the enemy's
  airmen direct the artillery fire, undisturbed, but by day and by
  night they harassed our infantry with bombs and machine guns in
  their trenches and shell holes as well as on the march to and from
  the trenches.

  Although the losses thus caused were comparatively small, their
  occurrence had an extremely lowering effect on the morale of the
  troops, who at first were hopeless. The innumerable balloons,
  hanging like grapes in clusters over the enemy's lines, produced a
  similar effect, for the troops thought that individual {67} men and
  machine guns could be picked up and watched by them and subjected to
  fire under their observation.

The irritation of the German infantry found expression in such remarks
as "May God punish England, our artillery, and our air force," or in
derisive questions passed from man to man as loud as they dared, "Has
anybody seen a German airman?" A German prisoner taken at Delville
Wood had recorded in his diary:

  During the day, one hardly dares to be seen in the trenches owing to
  the English airplanes. They fly so low that it is a wonder they do not
  pull us out of the trenches. Nothing is to be seen of our German
  hero airmen.

The day after his arrival at Kovel, Boelcke, wearing the star of the
order Pour le Mérite, called in person at Richthofen's quarters.

"Would you like to go with me to the Somme and see some real
fighting?" Boelcke inquired. Richthofen almost fell on his neck. Three
days later, he was speeding across Germany on a train with his
greatest wish fulfilled. Boelcke, his god, had chosen him to be one of
the great new fighting squadron. "From now on began the finest time of
my life," he wrote as he thrilled to the new joy and distinction.

Jagdstaffel No. 2 was the military designation of Boelcke's new combat
organization, whose mission was to put the German air force back into
the air on the western front. These selected pilots were assigned
specially fast and new one-seater planes whose sole use was fighting.
Bombing and reconnaissance and artillery direction from now on became
the duty of the slower, heavier machines.

The Jagdstaffel reached the Somme basin during the second week of
September, and Boelcke began at once to inculcate a new fighting
spirit into his cubs, most of whom {68} were young and, although at
home in the air, had but little or no experience in the rapidly
developing tactics of air fighting. The cubs trained on the ground and
in the air hours every day, improving their marksmanship by firing
thousands of rounds of machine-gun ammunition into the target butts
and, practising fighting evolutions.

Boelcke flew early every morning, returning to the airdrome to take
the first meal of the day with his cubs. Three days in succession he
reported to them that he had been able to shoot an Englishman for
breakfast that morning.

He told them how he killed them, and they leaned anxiously over their
plates with their eyes glued on those of the master. With each new
tale of death, their fighting spirit and eagerness increased.

Richthofen became impatient for the arrival of the new planes on which
they were to make their grand début.

They came, and the cubs took off with their master on the first test
flight. Behind the German lines, they played "follow the leader,"
Boelcke going through his fighting manoeuvres and then ordering the
cubs to perform the same feats. He put them through the stunts one
after another, and then flew them in squadron formation and signalled
orders to them by movements of the wings of his planes. When they
returned to the ground, he congratulated all of them and told them
that the squadron would receive its baptism of fire on the following

It was the 17th of September and a glorious fine day when the
Jagdstaffel, the first of the famous German flying circuses, went into
battle for the first time. It was the date on which young Richthofen
was to taste blood officially in the air for the first time.

  [Victory 1]

The morning sun shone brightly as the air fighters went aloft. They
did not have to go far before sighting the enemy. The British were out
early, and as usual were {69} seeking combat with the enemy over the
enemy's ground. Boelcke was the first to recognize a hostile squadron
of British planes flying far behind the German lines in the direction
of Cambrai.

He signalled the intelligence and his intentions to the V formation of
his young disciples, and they followed him as he manoeuvred into
position between the English planes and the front line. The Germans
were between them and their base. The Britishers would have to fight
to get back.

Richthofen counted seven planes in the enemy formation which contained
units of the Eleventh Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps, composed of
heavy bombing planes and an escort of two-seater fighting planes of
the F. E. type. The English flew steadily on their course, which was a
mission of destruction behind the German lines. The German manoeuvre
seemed neither to startle them nor to deflect them from the object of
their regular flight. They kept on toward their goal.

Boelcke and Richthofen and three more of the Jagdstaffel approached
the squadron. The altitude was about ten thousand feet. Richthofen and
the other cubs kept their eyes on their leader and hoped for the
chance to show their ability under his eyes. They all thirsted for a

They watched Boelcke in the lead as the master approached the first
English machine quite closely, but refrained from firing. Richthofen
followed immediately behind the squadron leader. The enemy plane
closest to him was a large two-seater F. E. painted in dark colours.

At its controls was Second Lieutenant L. B. F. Morris, and in the
observer's seat behind him was Lieutenant T. Rees. Both were
youngsters. Morris was the son of A. E. Morris of Merle Bank,
Rotherfield Road, Carshalton, Surrey, and Rees came from Cardiff. Rees
manned a Lewis machine gun, mounted on a turntable pivot over the {70}
observer's seat, and Morris had another Lewis fixed to the fuselage
and shooting forward through the propeller arc.

Richthofen's plane was a single-seater and speedier. His two machine
guns were fixed to the fuselage and fired only forward through the
propeller. He approached within fifty yards of the English plane and
opened fire.

At the same instant a stream of lead poured from the rear machine gun
on the English plane. Rees was on the job, and his aim was good
because Richthofen was forced to change his position immediately. He
dived out of range, but zoomed upward again and regained his position
above and in the rear of Morris and Rees.

Whenever he approached within range, Rees opened fire and Richthofen
would see the English tracer bullets zipping through the air quite
close to him. The English plane with its forward and after machine
guns could shoot in most all directions, while Richthofen's weapon
shot only forward, so that, in order to land a telling shot, he had to
get behind the Englishman.

Morris was young but experienced. Every time Richthofen attempted to
get behind him, he would swerve into a circle, during which time the
German flyer, coming under the muzzle of Rees's movable machine gun,
would find himself in danger of being riddled. Morris twisted and
turned and flew in zigzag spurts, increasing Richthofen's difficulty
in bringing his guns to bear on the plane. Rees met every attack and
succeeded in keeping the overeager Uhlan at a healthy distance.

Appearing to accept failure for the time being, Richthofen changed his
tactics and dived into a cloud. He made a large circle and returned at
a lower altitude. With his speedy machine, he soon had the English
plane in view again and noticed that Morris was now flying straight on
instead of twisting and turning. From this he presumed that the two
English flyers had lost sight of him.


He recalled the instructions of Boelcke. He had studied the model of
the F. E., and he knew that directly to the rear and slightly below
the English plane was a "blind spot"--a small angle of vision which
could be covered neither by the pilot nor the observer nor their guns.
He had manoeuvred himself into this safe angle, and Morris and Rees
above him were unaware that he was "under their tail."

He pulled up on the stick sharply and, with his motor roaring under a
wide-open throttle, zoomed upward under the dark red belly of the
English plane. In the flash of a few seconds, he was within thirty
yards of his quarry, and his twin machine guns were trained on the
bottom of the plane.

His finger pressed the trigger button, and the speeded-up Spandaus
poured forth a stream of lead which raked the under belly of the
Britisher machine from nose to tail. The first part of the stream
shattered the crank case of the engine, releasing the compression and
destroying the motor. The spray next ripped through the fabric and
wooden bracing above which Morris was seated. The last of the stream
sewed a long seam of lead under the cockpit in which Rees was sitting.

In describing the fight, Richthofen said:

  At that time, I did not have the conviction, as I later had in
  similar cases--the conviction best described by the sentence "He
  must fall." In this, my first encounter, I was curious to see if he
  would fall. There is a great difference between the two feelings.
  When one has shot down one's first, second, or third opponent, then
  one begins to find out how the trick is done.

After delivering the burst of lead into the bottom of the English
plane, Richthofen found himself so close under the F.E. that he had
to swerve suddenly to one side to avoid {72} colliding with it. As he
came out from under and swept by, he saw that the propeller of the
English plane had stopped; "I nearly yelled with joy," he said

The English plane reared and side-slipped. Morris at the stick had
received some of the bullets from below and was, temporarily at least,
out of control of the plane. As the machine fell, Richthofen dived on
it and, looking down into the after cockpit, saw Rees crumpled up on
his seat. He was either dead or unconscious. The disabled F. E.
plunged downward in a mad spiral toward the earth--almost two miles

Morris revived sufficiently to bring his shattered plane to a safe
landing in a field. Richthofen, his heart pounding and his eyes
burning with the excitement and exultation of the moment, had never
let the English plane out of his sight. So great was his eagerness
that he landed in the same field and almost smashed his own plane, so
intent was he upon keeping his eyes on his victim. He wanted to be
sure of his prey.

He jumped out of his plane immediately and rushed over to the English
machine. The field was behind the German third line, and reserve
infantry men were running out from all directions. Morris and Rees
were unconscious, their bodies both riddled with bullets. Richthofen's
shots had gone home with telling effect. The burst of lead from
underneath had shattered the motor and severely wounded both the pilot
and the observer.

With the assistance of the soldiers, Richthofen lifted his two victims
from the bloodstained cockpits. He laid them as tenderly as possible
on the ground, and loosened the leather flying coats and the collars
of their tunics.

Rees opened his eyes once with a boyish smile and died.

A medical officer and two stretcher bearers arriving, Morris was
placed on the stretcher and carried to a dressing station. He was dead
when he arrived there.


Returning to his airdrome, Richthofen found Boelcke and the rest of
the Jagdstaffel in the midst of a joyous victory breakfast. He proudly
reported his "kill" and learned that Boelcke had "had another
Englishman for breakfast," and that the other flyers of the unit had
each brought down their first plane. On the following morning he wrote
to his mother:

  You will have wondered at my continued silence, but this is the
  first chance I have had to sit down and take up a pen. I have been
  busy constantly of late.

  I had to fly a reserve plane with which I could not do much, being
  beaten in most encounters; but yesterday my new plane arrived, and,
  just think, when I was giving it a try-out, I sighted an English
  squadron right over our lines.

  Making for them, I shot one down. Its occupants were an English
  officer and a petty officer. I was rather proud over my try-out.
  Naturally, I have been credited with the downed plane.

  Boelcke is a mystery to everybody. Almost every flight sees him
  bring down an enemy. I was with him when he accounted for
  twenty-fourth, twenty-fifth, twenty-sixth, and twenty-seventh, and
  took part in the fight.

  The battle on the Somme is not quite what you at home think it to
  be. For four weeks the enemy has been attacking us with superior
  forces, most notably artillery. And there are always fresh troops
  thrown into the battle. Our men fight excellently.

  During the next few days we will probably move our hangars further
  back. The whole looks very much like an open battle.  I suppose you
  know that my friend Shweinichen has been killed. I had just made up
  my mind to visit him because he was stationed near by. That same day
  they got him.

He posted the letter and walked into Cambrai. He went to the hospital
in the of the town and out into the {74} backyard, where there were
two fresh graves in a lot set apart from the graves of German dead.
The crosses over the two fresh mounds of earth bore the names of
Morris and Rees.

He placed a stone on each grave. They were his first official victims
in the war. He honoured them and their graves.

Standing silently at the foot of the two graves, Richthofen did not
know that, by his own hand, he was to fill many dozen more like these
until he himself came to rest in a similar one. It was only the



Boelcke, the master, had watched his fledglings with happy pride that
September morning when young Richthofen shot down and killed his
"first two Englishmen."

High in the sky above them, his eagle-trained eyes observed every
feature of their performance. It pleased him to note that his pupils,
by following his instructions to the letter, reflected great credit on
the commander who had personally selected and trained them.

His pleasure and pride found immediate expression in a sudden descent
into the _mêlée_, where he engaged one of the enemy squadron and
brought it down. It added another victory to his "bag," which then
amounted to twenty-six. In his account of the affair, Boelcke wrote:

  On the 17th of September, 1916, came my twenty-seventh victory. With
  five of my colleagues, I met an enemy squadron of F. E. biplanes
  returning from the east. From this squadron of eight, six were shot
  down; only two managed to regain their lines.

  I myself took on the leader and shot holes in his engine so that he
  was forced to land back of our lines. One of the occupants was
  slightly wounded. The disabled plane, in approaching the ground, ran
  full into the cable of a captive balloon, and shortly afterward
  burst into flames. As it happened, the occupants had a contrivance
  readily to set the machine on fire.

One other thing he saw that day, and it was something that was
entirely new to his experience and, at that time, unprecedented in the
records of martial aviation.


It happened as the Jagdstaffel was flying back to its airdrome after
the fight with the enemy squadron. The German formation was
approaching a small bank of clouds floating on its exact level. Just
before reaching the clouds, an English two-seater plane, with motor
full on, suddenly emerged from the bank of fleecy white vapour and
flew straight for the centre of the German V, but did not fire a
single shot.

Several of Richthofen's flying mates swerved to attack, and one was
forced to dive suddenly to avoid a head-on collision with the
onrushing English plane. Boelcke's fledglings dived on it from above
and from the right and left, pouring round after round of machine-gun
lead into the machine.

Apparently undamaged by the repeated attacks, the English plane
continued onward without firing a single shot in reply. It flew
apparently under good control, and its course was that of a large
circle to the left.

Boelcke himself dived to a position over the tail and, with his eyes
along the sights of his twin Spandaus, pressed the machine gun
trigger. From above and behind he saw his bullets go into the bodies
of both the pilot and the observer, who were sitting bolt upright in
their cockpits. Still there was no return fire from the English plane,
and still no deviation in its course--apparently no attempt to
manoeuvre out of range and shake off its pursuers.

These were weird tactics. The German ace was puzzled. He was well
acquainted with English daring and audacity, but the conduct of this
plane was beyond his understanding. He flew closer and closer, holding
his fire, and ready at any minute to meet any sudden surprise attack
from the strangely acting plane. Gradually, he flew directly over it,
fixing the speed of his plane so that he kept a position fifteen yards
above the enemy machine.

Banking his wings slightly to depress one side of the {77} fuselage,
he peered down into the two cockpits of the English plane and into the
bloodstained faces of two dead men, sitting rigidly strapped to their

The plane was a derelict of the air.

Death had placed its controls in neutral, holding it to an even keel
as it sped onward across the sky, its motor roaring with life from a
wide-open throttle.

Boelcke wiggled his wings as a signal to his pupils to cease the
attack. Hovering above and around, the fledglings watched the master
fly some minutes above the derelict, escorting it like a funeral plane
as it flew westward with the bodies of its air Vikings on their last
flight. Before changing course to return, Boelcke dipped his wings in
a parting salute to the dead.

The German squadron reported the death plane but did not claim it as
one of its victims. Boelcke was certain that the English pilot and
observer were dead when the plane first appeared out of the cloud
bank. Where the fight had occurred, with whom, and when, remained
enigmas of the air. The death flight would continue until another
trick of circumstance changed the controls or the motor stopped for
want of fuel--then, down to the last landing.

There is no report of the derelict recorded in the casualties of the
Royal Flying Corps for that day, but the English annals of the air
authenticate an identical incident just three months later to a day.

On December 17th, Lieutenant J. L. Sandy, an Australian pilot, and
Sergeant F. L. Hughes, an Australian volunteer acting as observer,
flew from an airdrome back of the English lines to the German front
line and beyond.

Their machine was an R. E. 8, or Reconnaissance Experimental, equipped
with wireless, and their duty was to direct and correct the range of
an Australian battery of 8-inch howitzers, which were pounding the
enemy's back areas. While engaged in this work, Sandy and Hughes were
{78} attacked by a formation of six Germans flying speedy Albatross
scouting machines.

Although hard pressed on all sides and apparently alone, the
Australian flyers fought vigorously and succeeded in shooting down one
of the attacking planes. The unequal fight was witnessed by two other
Australian pilots, E. J. Jones and F. Hodgson, who flew into the midst
of the _mêlée_ and drove off the German planes.

Hodgson and Jones saw Sandy's plane emerge from the fight apparently
unscathed. With its motor humming merrily, it cruised away through the
air without making a single wave of its wings to its rescuers. But
from that minute on, its radio was silent; the awaiting battery on the
ground below never received another signal from its eyes in the air.

One hour later, a hospital located at St. Pol, fifty miles directly
southwest of the scene of the air combat, reported that the R.E. 8 had
made a safe landing in a field beside the airdrome, but that Sandy and
Hughes were found both dead, strapped in their seats. An immediate
postmortem examination proved that both of them had been dead for an
hour, death having been caused by an armour-piercing bullet which had
passed through the observer's left lung from behind and then into the
base of the pilots skull, killing him instantly.

The gas tanks were found to be intact and empty; the engine had
stopped in the air, and the throttle was wide open when the plane
landed. The auxiliary control in the observer's seat was still
unlashed. The plane landed without damaging itself and without
injuring the bodies of its dead occupants.

The wind that day had been from the northeast, causing a drift to the
southwest. The doctors and air experts, from a study of all the facts,
established that Sandy and Hughes were killed instantly in their
combat over the lines, and {79} that the plane had flown on with fixed
controls in wide circles to the left, caused by the tort  [torque] of
the motor, and that, during this circular flight, the wind had blown
it fifty miles southwest behind the lines, where death guided it
safely to the ground when the engine had consumed the last of the

Derelicts of the air--planes that fled on through space with the
lifeless bodies of their occupants seated at the fixed
controls--provided many of the weird tales that went around the mess
tables of the cavaliers of the air on both sides during the war.
Boelcke's derelict--named after him as a comet bears the name of its
discoverer formed a brief topic of conversation that night in the mess
of Jagdstaffel 2 when Boelcke's fledglings compared their experiences
of the day.

"A glorious death," was the comment of young Baron von Richthofen.
"Fight on and fly on to the last drop of blood and the last drop of
benzine--to the last beat of the heart and the last kick of the motor:
a death for a knight--a toast for his fellows, friend and foe."

They drank it standing, and with feeling, drank it in red French wine
from the large silver victory cups which had been the reward of each
of the five young fledglings that had brought down their first victims
in the air that day.

Boelcke had presented the cups in the name of the air commander, who
had inaugurated this method of spurring his young eagles to greater
endeavours aloft. They were large, heavy, beaten-silver mugs of
medieval German design, capable of carrying a full quart inside and an
ample inscription on the outside.

Richthofen's cup pleased him and gave him an idea. It was a proper
trophy commemorating a great achievement. On a trophy table in his
quarters in the field, or in the home of his mother in Schweidnitz, it
would look good {80} and well reflect his prowess as a hunter of the
war. But one trophy was not enough. There must be more. The young
Uhlan decided to inaugurate a system of cup presentation all his own.

Instead of the one official cup for his first victory, he would
present himself with a silver victory cup, not only for that victory,
but for each successive one.

He ordered the first one of his special set that night by mail from a
jeweller in Berlin. He described the kind he wanted in detail: small,
plain, two inches tall, and a little more than an inch across the top,
with slightly sloping sides to a base smaller than the top, the whole
to he done in finely polished sterling, and the inside of the cup to
be plated with a dull gold finish. He instructed the jeweller to
engrave on one side of the first cup the following inscription:

  1. Vickers 2.   17. 9. 16.

The numbers and the word indicated that the cup commemorated his first
victory, that the type of the enemy plane he had shot down was a
Vickers, a two-seater, and that the combat took place on the 17th of
September, 1916. That inscription and the many subsequent ones were at
fault in the use of the name "Vickers" as the type of the plane, but
among the Germans the British F. E. plane was generally known by the
other name.

Richthofen's first self-presented cup was the symbol for two dead
men--two enemy flyers he had killed in the air--the two young English
lieutenants, Morris and Rees, whose graves he honoured in the little
hospital burial ground at Cambrai.

In his letter to the jeweller, Richthofen advised that he would
forward successive orders for more cups, and warned the artisan to
preserve the same design and the same type of engraving, as he desired
to build up a uniform {81} collection, one for, each plane he shot
down, after each victory had been officially acknowledged and placed
to his credit.

Today in the bedroom of the Flying Uhlan in his mother's home in
Schweidnitz, one may see how that collection of dead men's cups grew
as the war in the air progressed. On a table under a large photograph
of the dead ace one may count sixty of the small silver drinking cups,
and read from the inscriptions on them the type of each machine, the
number of its occupants, and the date on which Richthofen shot each
one down from the sky.

The Berlin jeweller made a good thing out of Richthofen. The Flying
Uhlan's trophy lust spurred him on, and the orders were repeated so
frequently that it might in fact be said that, by his wholesale
killings in the air, Richthofen greatly depleted Germany's
fast-diminishing supply of silver.

Almost a year later, after engraving the inscription of the sixtieth
victory on the last silver cup, the Berlin jeweller had to decline
further orders. He had run out of silver and could get no more. The
result is that Richthofen's last twenty victories in the air, from his
sixtieth to his eightieth, are commemorated only by reports and the
graves of his victims, and not by dead men's cups.

But in the flush of his first "kill," and still tingling with pride to
be flying under the eyes of Boelcke, his admired master, Richthofen
renewed his determination to pursue his game without stint.

  [Victory 2]

On the sixth day after the killing of Morris and Rees, he posted
another letter to the jeweller in Berlin. In effect it read:

  One more cup, please, just like the last one ordered. Engrave it
  with the following:

    2. Martinsyde 1. 23.9.16.


  [Victory 3]

And a week later, on the 30th of September, 1916, he shot down another
two-seater, and the happy little German jeweller in Berlin screwed his
funny eyepiece into one eye again and scratched the record of victory
on another silver tombstone.

Having ordered the third trophy, he later registered the victory with
his mother in the following letter:

  On the Somme,
  Oct. 5, 1916.
  On September 30th, I brought down my third Britisher. His plane was
  burned when he crashed to the ground. One's heart is beating a bit
  more quickly when the adversary whose face one has just seen goes
  down enveloped in flames from an altitude of 12,000 feet. Naturally,
  nothing was left either of the pilot or his plane when they crashed.
  I picked up a small plate as a souvenir.

  From my second Britisher, I have kept the machine gun, the breach
  block of which had been jammed by a bullet.

  The Frenchman I brought down before Verdun is not on my record, as
  unfortunately we forgot to report him to headquarters.

  Formerly, a pilot was decorated with the order Pour le Mérite after
  he had brought down his eighth plane. Now they have discontinued
  that practice, although it becomes always more difficult to shoot
  one down. During the last four weeks since the formation of the
  Boelcke squadron, we have lost five planes out of ten.

  [Victory 4]
  [Victory 5]
  [Victory 6]

His fourth and fifth victorious combats were with two more English
machines, one a D. D. 2, a cumbersome pusher type with openwork tail
spars instead of fuselage, and hardly a match for the speedy Albatross
tractors that Richthofen and the other members of Boelcke's squadron
flew. Richthofen downed his fifth on October 16th and his {83} sixth
on October 25th, just nine days later, a fact which he mentioned
simply to his mother.

  The weather is rather poor here now, but even so I brought down my
  sixth Britisher yesterday.

Although winter was approaching and the changing elements added to the
difficulties of the conflicting forces, the long series of bloody
encounters known as the "Battles of the Somme, 1916," comprising a
part of the Allied offensive of that year, continued with unrelenting

The British had opened the offensive on July 1st with the battle of
Albert, which was marked by the capture of Montauban, Fricourt,
Contalmaison, and the bitter attack on the Commercourt salient. It had
continued with increasing frenzy and terrific losses on both sides
through July, August, and September, with the battles of Bazentin
Ridge, Delville Wood, and Pozières Ridge, and the battle of
Flers-Courcellette, marked by the British capture of Martynpuich,
during which Richthofen had shot down his first British plane.

By October, when the fighting had swung through Thiepval and the
Transloy ridges to the heights of the Ancre, Richthofen had flown so
many times up and down and across the Bapaume-Albert road, which
stretched out below like a straight and tight but somewhat frayed
ribbon of white, that he felt perfectly at home in the area. It was
indeed his happy hunting ground. The woods, rivers, hills, mine
craters, trench systems, and ruined villages below were as familiar to
him as the street signs and lamp posts in his native Schweidnitz.

The German flying service, though slowly regaining morale and strength
under new leadership, new model machines, and the adoption of
formation-flying tactics, was still hard pressed by the British air
forces, which continued their offensive policy of carrying the
fighting to the {84} German side of the line, bombing the German
airmen in their own airdromes, and offering battle whenever a squadron
of Maltese cross planes appeared in the sky.

  It was a beautiful time [Richthofen wrote]. Boelcke increased his
  bag of machines from twenty to forty. We beginners had not yet the
  experience of our masters, and we were quite satisfied when we did
  not get a hiding. Every time we went up we had a fight.

  Sometimes the English came down to very low heights and visited
  Boelcke in his own quarters, dropping bombs. They absolutely
  challenged us to battle and never refused fighting.

And then, on October 28th, came a disaster which went deep to
Richthofen's heart. His master, his hero, his air god, Boelcke the
Great, was killed.

It happened toward the end of the battle of the Ancre Heights after
the British ground forces had captured the Schwaben and Stuff redoubts
and parts of the Regina trench system.

The conflict was raging over a territory from Le Sars to Contalmaison
and from La Boiselle to Hamel, and was incessant day and night from
the 1st of October until the 11th of November.

There were many clouds in the sky that October day, and the wind blew
fitfully. It was cold aloft, but the unfavourable weather had not
prevented British patrols from daring the choppy air lanes above the
German back areas.

Boelcke was leading his Jagdstaffel of six fighting planes on his last
flight. His spirit always animated his pupils, Richthofen often said.
"We always had a wonderful feeling of security when he was with us.
After all, he was the one and only" are the words that his most famous
pupil used to sum up his opinion.

Although outnumbered three to one and far away from their own lines,
two British planes immediately accepted {85} battle with the six
Germans. Boelcke gave the signal for a united formation attack, and
the struggle began.

The Jagdstaffel swooped downward on the two Englishmen. Boelcke dived
on one of the enemy planes, and Richthofen, right behind his master,
fastened himself above the tail of the other machine and poured in a
murderous stream of lead. But the Flying Uhlan had to pull out of the
fight because of the return fire he encountered, and, further, because
of the fact that one of his comrades, flying in close formation, dived
in between him and his intended quarry.

>From a distance of several hundred yards, Richthofen watched Boelcke
and the English plane flying round and round in circles, each
endeavouring to shoot into the tail of the other.

Then down from above came another German Albatross with another of
Boelcke's pupils, a favourite, at the controls. He was diving at a
terrific speed to the assistance of his master. His eyes were on the
enemy plane as he manoeuvred to train his machine guns on the
Englishman, who was busily engaged watching Boelcke.

But the newcomer watched too closely his enemy and not his leader. As
he swooped past to the attack, the tip of one of his wings touched the
tip of Boelcke's right wing.

"Collision" was the thought that sped through Richthofen's mind as he
observed the entire incident from a flying position close to one side.
The lightness with which the two wing tips had appeared to touch
surprised the Flying Uhlan, who had thought that a collision in midair
had an entirely different aspect. He did not realize then that the
slightest contact between two bodies moving at such terrific speed
through space is sufficient to produce the most disastrous effects.

Boelcke's Albatross responded immediately to the wing contact. It
swerved leftward and nosed slightly downward {86} in a large curve.
Its descent did not appear to be out of control, but Richthofen was
able to notice from above that a part of his plane tips had broken
off, leaving splintered edges and flapping fabric at which the wind
tore. Soon the plane was lost from view as it sank through the level
of the clouds just below.

The pupil who had collided with Boelcke followed him down, and as the
master's plane came out on the under side of the cloud curtain, the
horror-stricken pupil saw that the falling Albatross was minus one
complete plane.

Weakened by the jolt of the collision, it had been torn off by the
rush of air in the increasingly rapid descent. It plunged downward,
entirely out of control. Thus perished the man whom Richthofen held to
be the greatest air fighter in the world.

Richthofen's admiration was unconsciously based on the fact that
Boelcke possessed something which Richthofen did not have. It was
personal magnetism.

Oswald Boelcke was a Saxon and the son of a schoolmaster. Richthofen
was a Prussian and the son of a Junker family. Killing was a duty with
Boelcke and his training in engineering was responsible for his
presence in the air force. Killing was an instinct as well as a duty
with Richthofen, and he took to the air simply because there he was
able to kill more and could see those he killed.

Boelcke began his army life in a battalion of telegraphers and took
his early training in Coblentz, where he first came in touch with the
German Air Force in 1913. An asthmatic affliction barred him from
strenuous physical exercise, and this, together with his interest in
motors and aëronautics, was responsible for his entering the
Halberstadt flying school just before the war.

He became a pilot in seven weeks' training and on September 1, 1914,
the anniversary of the battle of Sedan, he flew to the western front,
where, with his brother as {87} his observing officer, he did aërial
reconnaissance and, later, some fighting in the 1915 battles of the
Champagne and the Argonne. In June of that year, he had transferred to
the single-seater fighting division, where he flew in company with

After their eighth victory in the air, the two were cited for the Pour
le Mérite, the Empire's highest military decoration for bravery. When,
on May 21, 1916, he had downed his sixteenth plane, the high command
issued strict orders forbidding him to fly, for the reason that his
experience in the air was considered so valuable that he was worth too
much as an authority and instructor to be risked further in individual

Boelcke was sent to the eastern theatre of war and instructed
Austrians, Bulgarians, and Turks in airmanship, but always under
specific orders which prevented him from flying. He met Enver Pasha,
Mackensen, Ludendorff, Hindenburg, and many celebrities, but wearied
of the hero worship to which he was subjected and insisted upon being
sent back to the front.

During the battle of the Somme, when the German air service was driven
from the sky over or near the British lines, he was assigned to
organize a special squadron to regain superiority of the air. Reaching
the front early in September with Richthofen as one of his pupils, he
was able by daily flying and fighting to increase his victories to the
then unprecedented number of forty, when death overtook him.

Among both his mates and his foes, Boelcke had a great reputation for
bravery and chivalry. He seemed more human than Richthofen. He devoted
many of his rest hours to visiting wounded prisoners of war he had
brought down. He motored to their hospitals or sent cigarettes to the
men that survived a fight with him, and he made them believe he liked
them. He actually did. Once, back of the {88} German lines, he risked
his life to save a French boy from drowning.

  It is a strange thing [Richthofen later wrote] that everybody who
  met Boelcke imagined that he alone was his true friend. I have met
  about forty men, each of whom imagined that he alone had Boelcke's
  affection. Men whose names were unknown to Boelcke believed that he
  was particularly fond of them.

  This is a curious phenomenon which I have never noticed in anyone
  else. Boelcke had not a personal enemy. He was equally pleasant to
  everybody, making no differences. His death shocked us.

  Nothing happens without God's will. This is the only consolation
  which we can put into our soul during this war.

Boelcke's body lay in state in the military hospital at Cambrai, from
which place it was taken on a special funeral train to Germany. His
military funeral behind the front was one of the most impressive
ceremonies of the war. British planes flew high over Cambrai and sent
down parachutes to which were attached wreaths with the following

  To the memory of Captain Boelcke, our brave and chivalrous foe. From
  the British Royal Flying Corps.


  To the Officers of the German Flying Corps in service on this
  front: We hope you will find this wreath, but are sorry it is so
  late in coming. The weather has prevented us from sending it
  earlier.  We mourn with his relatives and friends. We all recognize
  his bravery.

  Please give our kind regards to Captain Evans and Lieutenant Long of
  the Morane Squadron.
             (Signed) J. SEAMAN GREEN, Lt.

  [Victory 7]

Richthofen returned from Boelcke's funeral and wrote to his mother as


  With the Boelcke Combat Squadron.
  Nov. 3, 1916.

  Unfortunately, I missed the train after Boelcke's funeral, to which
  I was detailed as the representative of the squadron. Now I can only
  visit you at the middle of the month. Boelcke's death came about in
  the following manner:

  Boelcke, some gentlemen of our squadron, and myself were engaged in
  a battle with English planes. Suddenly I see how Boelcke, while
  attacking his Britisher, is rammed by one of our gentlemen, to whom,
  poor fellow, nothing else happened. I followed him immediately. But
  then one of his wings broke away and he crashed down. His head was
  smashed by the impact: death was instantaneous. We are deeply
  affected, as if we had lost a favourite brother.

  During the funeral services and in the procession, I carried a
  pillow displaying his decorations. The funeral was like that of a
  reigning prince.

  During six weeks we have had out of twelve pilots six dead and one
  wounded, while two have suffered a complete nervous collapse.
  Yesterday I brought down my seventh shortly after I had accounted
  for my sixth. The ill luck of all the others has not yet affected my

Richthofen, as one of the three survivors of the original twelve
pilots of Jagdstaffel 2, was placed in command of the formation, which
from that time on, by special citation of the high command, was
designated as the "Jagdstaffel Boelcke," and the plan was that the
group should carry the name of its great leader forever as one of the
greatest traditions of the German air service. German plans in those
days did not include the possibility that Germany by defeat would lose
the right to have an air service.

With his sparse but hard-won seven victories, the Flying Uhlan found
himself stepping into the command vacated by the man who had shot
forty enemy planes from the {90} sky. It sobered him, and made him
look older than his twenty-three years, His Prussian seriousness
increased, He suddenly became aware that the discipline that had
always been so irksome to him, and which had been one of the factors
responsible for his transfer to the air service, was now the very
thing that he needed if he was to remould Boelcke's old unit from its
several nerve-shattered veterans and the enthusiastic new
replacements, freshly arrived from training schools to fill the gaps
left by death, wounds, and collapse.

He gathered the pilots of the Jagdstaffel in the messroom and talked
to them in the uninspired, quiet seriousness of a man who suddenly
feels great responsibilities on his shoulders. In ponderous,
hesitating fashion, he reviewed the fighting of the previous six
weeks, referring individually to each of the units' fallen comrades,
and with profound respect, approaching adoration, to the departed
leader, in whose name he asked them all to take a solemn vow to carry
on his great work, if need be at the cost of their lives.

He told them that changes were slowly taking place in air tactics, and
success, now more than ever before, depended upon organized flying and
fighting. Individual combats, he said, there would be, of necessity,
but the flying force that maintained the best formation and discipline
in the air was the only one that could meet, and even overcome, the
English superiority in the air. In Boelcke's name, he dedicated the
Jagdstaffel to the solemn duty of restoring the confidence of the
German land forces in their auxiliaries in the air.

He flew daily with them in close formation, and for those pilots who
failed for any reason to keep their prescribed position in the
uptilted, flying V he had only frowns of displeasure, which were
accepted as prophecies of the early transfer of the offender to some
less {91} distinguished unit. Twelve days after Boelcke's death, the
Flying Uhlan had opportunity to test the fighting capacity of the
Jagdstaffel in an air battle, which, for the number of machines
engaged, was the greatest that had ever occurred in the war up to that

Eighty airplanes, and more than a hundred knights of the blue, took
part in that aërial tourney of death--at least, that is the aggregate
of the estimates of both sides as to the strength of the enemy they
encountered, although both the English and the Germans recorded that
they were outnumbered by the others. The English reported the German
planes as numbering forty, and Richthofen estimated the English planes
at between forty and fifty. Each side admitted having about thirty of
their own planes in the battle. As the majority of the machines were
two seaters, it is safe to estimate that about one hundred winged
men-of-war took part in the hostilities.

It was on the morning of the 9th of November, 1916. The current battle
of the Somme was drawing to its conclusion, leaving behind it a gory
trail of death and destruction spread over four months of
night-and-day fighting on a scale and a ferocity seldom approached
before in the history of the world. It was during the last phase of
the Allied offensive of 1916, which was to end ten days later with the
capture of Beaumont Hamel.

The day was bright and clear, with good visibility after intermittent
periods of bad flying weather.

When the final word had come through on the weather, the O.C.'s in the
Royal Flying Corps airdromes off the Bapaume road sang out, "Carry

Hardly twenty miles almost due east but on the other side of the
German lines, another man was sampling the weather, rubbing his hands
briskly, breathing delicious lungfuls of the fresh morning air, and
gazing into the bright sky with a smile of approval.


It was His Royal Highness, the Grand Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha, a
noble relation of Emperor William and King George. He stood with
folded arms on the stone portico of the French country house from
which he commanded the German troops of that sector.

His headquarters was located close to the occupied French village of
Vraumont, in the centre of which was a large beet-sugar factory that
had been taken over by the Germans for the storing of vast quantities
of material, mostly explosive. It was the principal munition dump for
the sector: It was near Laigncourt, not far from Richthofen's

Some forty or fifty eyes of the air looked at the spot marked
Vraucourt on their flying maps shortly after eight o'clock when
sixteen heavy English bombing machines, with their escort of fourteen
fighting planes, climbed into the morning sun and nosed their
propellers eastward.

It was not many minutes afterward that Richthofen and his flight of
six planes, flying at an altitude of 12,000 feet, sighted the English
air flotilla as it came across the lines.

At similar altitudes, far to the right and left of him, but still
within sight, were five or six more V-shaped groups of planes on whose
brilliantly painted sides the black Maltese cross of the Fatherland
could be seen. The spread out German formations wheeled and changed
their several courses toward a common centre in the path of the
oncoming British group, which took the form of a deep, moving wedge,
with bombers below and fighting machines above.

The opposing forces moved toward each other.

The objective of the English operation was to bomb Vraucourt and its
environs, and particularly the sugar factory, with a couple of
carefully selected and martially correct visiting cards, to be dropped
on His Royal Highness the Grand Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha.


It was the duty of Richthofen and his comrades to thwart the English
plan and shoot down the bombing planes before they could reach their

It was the function of the English escort planes to protect their
bombing planes from being attacked by the German fighting machines.

All essential ingredients for a pleasant morning were present.

The first German attack was delivered head on from the front and from

The Boelcke Jagdstaffel of fighting Albatrosses, with the Flying Uhlan
in the lead, dived downward on a long steep swoop toward the
slow-going bomb carriers, plodding along at their best speed several
thousand feet below their escort.

The fourteen British fighting planes of the Eleventh and Sixtieth
squadrons, R. F. C., saw the move and dived from a similar altitude
almost at the same time to intercept them.

With motors full on, and the air shrieking through struts and bracing
wires, the belligerent planes sped downward toward one another like
swarms of winged furies sliding down the opposite and converging sides
of a mile-high letter "V," the apex of which was the covey of sixteen
English bombing planes flying in close formation.

The pilots of the bombing planes saw the avalanche coming down from
heights before them. Also they saw with some measure of comfort the
similar descent of their own protectors from positions above and
behind them.

The observers crouched in the forward cockpits of the bombing planes,
elevated the barrels of their movable machine guns, and prepared to
meet the onslaught with lead.

The firing opens.

With a roaring and the staccato gibbering of machine {94} guns, the
speeding, human-driven missiles of steel, wood, and fabric whizz by
and around one another, missing collision by scant margins of yards.

Zooming, swerving, swooping, diving, the tourney of the air is on. The
winged knights of the Black Cross direct their attention always to the
big bombing planes. The air cavaliers of the tricolour cockade try to
fasten themselves to the tails of the black-crossed falcons and drive
them from their prey. The falcons in turn try to shake them off.

The heavy-laden bombers meet each attack to the extent of their
defensive ability, and endeavour to maintain their covey formation,
which has been disrupted in the _mêlée_.  They are the quarry, and
they know it.

The dizzy whirl of gyrations causes the fighting planes to lose
height, so that now they engage one another hundreds of feet below the
plodding bombers, who continue on their course. Their only part in the
fight is defensive. They carry bombs. They have objectives. They must
deliver the goods--their "eggs."

Then down from the upper lanes come more diving black-crossed falcons,
spitting new streams of lead on the bombers. They attack from left and
right, and the formation is shattered again.

The machine gunners on the bombing planes try to hold them off by
spraying them with bullets. English fighters, disengaged from their
outranged enemies below, climb to meet the newcomers.

Again the combat goes into the _kurvenkampf_,  the circular whirlwind
of seemingly endless tail chasing, with death the penalty for the tail
that's caught.

Richthofen returns aloft and dives again. Little Immelmann, a cousin
of the great Immelmann, is also diving some yards on his right. Their
targets are two bombers who, as a result of the last _mêlée_ find
themselves detached {95} from their covey. Two English
fighters--Captain Dewey and Lieutenant Harrow-Bunn of the Eleventh
Squadron--see the move and dive to the rescue.

They are too late.

Immelmann's victim goes down in flames from a well-directed stream of
lead, but the bomber that Richthofen picked out puts up a stubborn

  [Victory 8]

At the machine gun is Second Lieutenant J. G. Cameron. He meets the
Flying Uhlan's first dive with a burst of hot lead from his Lewis gun.
Richthofen, seeing the English tracer bullets flashing by him, swerves
quickly and makes a turn which enables him to deliver a burst of
bullets full into his selected victim.

Cameron crumples in the cockpit, and his machine gun swings aimlessly
toward the zenith. The same burst stopped the motor and severed the
control wires.

Lieutenant G. F. Knight, at the useless controls, is helpless as the
powerless bomber noses earthward, saving itself from a stall in
midair. It descends in a wide spiral followed by Richthofen's still
pursuing gun. Knight faces the prospect of landing out of control,
while suspended beneath the fuselage of his machine is his unexpended
load of bombs. The bomb release levers are in the cockpit of the
helpless Cameron.

The plane came to earth near Laigncourt, not far from the airdrome of
the Boelcke squadron, which reveals how far the English were carrying
the fight into the enemy's country. The bombs did not explode. Knight
escaped uninjured, and from his prison camp at Osnabrück wrote to his
aunt a story of the fight and the further fact that Cameron died of
his wounds.

But the fight above continued. Dewey and Harrow-Bunn, separated from
their formation, were attacked by three Albatrosses and were just able
to regain their own lines with a failing engine. Lieutenant Cowie,
badly {96} wounded, with his observer Corporal Ward lying dead in the
rear cockpit with a bullet through his head, barely got as far back as
the space between the opposing trenches, where he crashed in the
English front lines. Several of the pilots and observers of the
surviving bombers were wounded with bullets, but none seriously.

As near as the results of the fight can be judged, from a comparison
of both the British and the German reports, it appears that the
English lost four planes and the Germans three. But the objective of
the operation had been accomplished. It shows briefly in the R. F. C.
operation report as follows: "72 bombs were dropped on Vraucourt."

With the fight over, Richthofen and Immelmann, eager to see their
latest victims, flew directly to their airdrome and landed.
Considerable havoc had been wrought in their vicinity and around the
sugar factory in Vraucourt by the English bombs, but without stopping
to inspect it, the German airmen jumped into a motor car and sped away
in the direction of their fallen prey.

After the cool air aloft, it was hot on the ground, and Richthofen
left his flying coat and cap in the car when he started out across the
fields in the direction of Knight's plane. Before reaching the spot,
he encountered a group of German officers returning from the scene and
asked them how the fight had looked from the ground. The officer
described the combat vividly, not omitting to tell about the bombs
which the British had dropped and their effect. He then inquired the
flyer's name and presented him to the group of officers, whose
uniforms were in scrupulous order and whose boots were all well

One of them appeared to be someone of particular consequence. He wore
peculiar epaulettes and the distinctive trousers of a general. His
face was young, and the star of a high order dangled from the throat
of his tightly hooked, stiff military collar. Richthofen, covered with
{97} grease, oil, sweat, and mud, felt ill at ease in the presence
whose identity he did not learn until that evening, when an aide
telephoned him that His Royal Highness the Grand Duke of Saxe-Coburg
Gotha had enjoyed meeting him and ordered his presence at the
Vraucourt headquarters. For accounting for at least one load of bombs
which were not aimed at his Royal Highness, Richthofen that night
received the bravery medal of the Grand Duke's duchy.

The medal looked well on his Uhlan tunic together with the
black-and-white ribbon for the Iron Cross of the second class that he
had won in the trenches at Verdun. He was the only one in the squadron
who had the Gotha decoration, and the distinction was by no means
unpleasant, but. ...

Richthofen thought a long time about it that night as he wrote another
letter to the Berlin jeweller instructing him to get busy on one more
"Victory Cup" to carry the inscription:

  8.  B.E.2  9.11.16.

Eight victorious combats in the air was by no means a bad record, he
felt. He reflected that when the great Immelmann and the great Boelcke
had shot their eighth victim down from the sky, they had been
decorated with the order Pour le Mérite, the highest award for bravery
in the gift of the Kaiser. It corresponded to the British Victoria
Cross, the French Médaille Militaire, or the Congressional Medal of
Honour in the U. S. A. But he had received only a provincial

It had not become any easier to shoot down enemy planes than in the
days of Boelcke and Immelmann.

On the contrary, it had become much more difficult. The Flying Uhlan,
in the privacy of his quarters, recalled that the first opponent
Immelmann shot down did not {98} even carry a machine gun. No chance
to find any easy meat like that in these days.

Aërial equipment and armament had undergone tremendous improvement in
the space of a year; the motors had doubled in horsepower and
efficiency, the ceiling had been pushed up from 10,000 to 18,000 feet,
and organized fighting tactics had evolved from the old individual

True, the knight of the air had more engagements aloft now than he had
before, and consequently more opportunities to shoot down enemy
planes, but, at the same time, the chances of being shot down himself
had increased in proportion.

Whether Richthofen made his thoughts on this subject known, or whether
some of his immediate superiors, sharing the thoughts with him,
bestirred themselves on his behalf, is unknown, but the records show
that on November 11, 1916, just two days after he had accounted for
his eighth victim and received the Gotha medal, he was cited for the
Hohenzollernschen Haus Order mit Schwertern (The Order of the House of
Hohenzollern with Swords), and that helped somewhat. At least, the
ruling family of the Empire was aware of his existence and his efforts
for "Gott und Kaiser." This knowledge further whetted his desire for
the Pour le Mérite.

  [Victory 9]
  [Victory 10]

After a week of almost daily combats in which he failed to bring down
a single enemy, the Flying Uhlan redoubled his efforts on November
20th and "shot a double," which, in the parlance of the corps, meant
that he brought down two enemy planes in one day. The first was a
two-seater bombing plane, and the second was a single-seater fighting
plane. Both were British.

This success, which to Richthofen was unprecedented, set his mind
running back to his trophies, in quest of some {99} means by which the
dual victory could be symbolized in a manner to distinguish it from
single affairs.

His first thought was to mark the double event with a cup twice the
size of the eight little cups that now formed his collection. But, by
doing so, he would reduce the number of trophies by one, and this
would conflict with the original purpose of the collection. He
pondered this and then abandoned the idea for a compromise.

Writing to the jeweller, he ordered two more cups, the first one,
after the usual fashion, to be inscribed:

  9. Vickers 2.  20.11.16

The second was to be of the same design but just twice as big and
was to bear the inscription:

  10. B.E. 1.  20.11.16

The similarity of the dates registered the fact that both were brought
down in one day, and the double size for No. 10 would mark the passing
of his first decade. He instructed the jeweller that, hereafter, every
tenth cup was to be just twice the size of the little ones that
commemorated the intermediate victories.

The little bespectacled jeweller in Berlin chuckled when he received
the new orders and exhibited them and the cups to his customers. His
pride in the collection was almost as great as Richthofen's. How
droll, how carefree, how happy these knights of the air who faced
death aloft every day and then joked about their risks! The Fatherland
would be forever safer with sons like these to protect it. The
jeweller, with the wartime spirit of the land, gloried in his task as
a maker of silver tombstones for the enemies of his country.

  [Victory 11]

If anyone of Richthofen's conquests in the air deserved distinction
above the others, it was the next one, his {100} eleventh, which
occurred a few days later--on November 23d. On that day, he killed the
first and foremost ace of the Royal Flying Corps, an accomplished air
fighter of long experience and fame, and one who carried on his breast
the purple ribbon and the bronze emblem of the Victoria Cross. His
victim was Major Lanoe George Hawker, V.C., D.S.O., R.E., R.F.C.

Richthofen's story of that long-extended death struggle between two
champions of the air was related in the first chapter of this book. In
spite of the great respect and admiration which the German Flying
Corps had for Hawker's intrepid flying, which had cost them many of
their best airmen, the German people rejoiced over the elimination of
this ace of all their enemies in the air.

With the example of Boelcke before them, Richthofen's flying mates
arranged a military funeral for their fallen foe, but the man who
brought him down did not attend the ceremonies, which was according to
the custom then in vogue.

He personally dropped a note from the air behind the English lines,
addressed to Hawker's comrades of the Royal Flying Corps, stating
briefly the death of the English ace and expressing the widespread
admiration of German airmen for him as an exceptionally brave airman
and a chivalrous foe.

In the record of the Richthofen cups of death, Hawker is found today
with the simple inscription:

  11. Vickers 1. 23.11.16

But in the hearts of the R.F.C. and the English people he left a
tradition that will live as long as that of any hero of the World War.
Hawker was twenty-five years old when Richthofen shot him down. He was
one of the few pre-war airmen in the greatly extended Flying Corps of
the British forces.


Like the Flying Uhlan, he was from the regular army, in which he had
received his commission as a second lieutenant on July 20, 1912, at
the age of twenty-one. His interest drew him immediately to military
flying. On March 4, 1913, he received his pilot's license after
successfully flying one of the old Deperdussin monoplanes three times
around the airdrome at Hendon.

Two months after the outbreak of the war, he graduated from the
Central Flying School at Hendon and flew to France with the Sixth
Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. Within seven months, his daring
exploits in pioneer war flying had pushed him to a most prominent
position in his branch of the service. He gained public distinction
and a citation for the D. S. O. on April 18, 1915, when he destroyed a
Zeppelin hangar on the ground. The citation reads:

  For conspicuous gallantry on April 19th, 1915, when he succeeded in
  dropping bombs on the German airship sheds at Gontrode from a height
  of only 200 feet under circumstances of greatest risk. Hawker
  displayed remarkable ingenuity in utilizing an occupied German
  captive balloon whilst manoeuvring to drop the bombs.

To protect himself from the fire of machine guns and artillery from
the ground, Hawker had spiralled down around the German balloon,
throwing hand grenades at the machine gunner in the basket. The German
gunners on the ground were prevented from firing on him for fear of
hitting their own balloon. Even then, Hawker's machine was found to
have 23 bullet holes in it when he returned after laying his eggs on
the Zeppelin nest.

Three months later, while flying alone over the lines, he encountered
three German two-seater planes armed with machine guns, which were a
novelty in the air at that time. Hawker attacked the three


The first one managed to escape. The second one he damaged and drove
to the ground, and the third, which he attacked at an altitude of
10,000 feet, he drove to earth behind the English lines, with the
result that the pilot and observer were killed. For this exploit he
won the Victoria Cross.

Richthofen knew dimly of these feats, accounts of which had been
published in the English newspapers that found their way through
Holland into Germany and went to compose the voluminous intelligence
reports with which the German Flying Corps was provided. The knowledge
detracted in no way from his pride in removing such an important
personal force from the ranks of his enemies and he reflected this
feeling two days after his victory when he sent the following letter
to his mother:

  Squadron Boelcke,
  Nov. 25, 1916.
  Accept my most sincere congratulations for your birthday. I trust
  this will be your last birthday in wartime.

  My eleventh Britisher was Major Hawker, twenty-six years old and
  commander of an English squadron. According to prisoners' accounts,
  he was the English Boelcke.

  He gave me the hardest fight I have experienced so far, until I
  finally succeeded in getting him down... Unhappily, we lost our
  commander three days ago, and eight days ago a plane of our squadron
  was brought down.

Richthofen felt that, in killing Hawker, whose bravery and fighting
capacity he highly admired, he had in a degree wiped out the loss of
Boelcke. His mechanics brought him the fabric numbers from the English
ace's F. E. fighting plane and several other souvenirs, among them
Hawker's machine gun, which, as I have said, is to be {103} seen today
over the doorway of Richthofen's old bedroom in his mother's home at

  [Victory 12]
  [Victory 13]
  [Victory 14]

In the following month of December, bad flying weather reduced the
activity of the air forces in the Somme sector, but, in spite of this,
Richthofen led the Boelcke Jagdstaffel on line patrols, and often
there were combats, with occasional successes. His twelfth victim, an
English one-seater fighting plane, went down under his guns on the
11th of that month, and nine days later he sent two more of the same
type to destruction. Three days after Christmas, he wrote his mother:

  On the Somme,
  Dec. 28, 1916.
  Papa and Lothar were with me on Christmas Day. It was a memorable
  holiday. There is more fun to such a Christmas in the field than you
  at home would think.

  Our Celebrations consisted of a Christmas tree and an excellent
  dinner. On the next day, Lothar went up alone for the first time, an
  event only equalled by the first victory.

  Yesterday (December 27th), I downed my fifteenth Britisher after I
  had shot my second double two days before Christmas, Numbers 13 and

Richthofen's father was a major of reserve infantry stationed back of
the Somme line not far from the son's airdrome. Lothar, his younger
brother, had transferred from the cavalry and was taking his final
training for the air in a front flying school near by.

That Christmas feast in his quarters at the airdrome comprised a happy
reunion for the proud Prussian family spirit of the Richthofens.
Father, sons, and brothers, one and all, took pride in themselves and
in one another for the services they were performing for their
country--and they celebrated it on the nineteen hundred and {104}
sixteenth birthday of Him Who said, "Peace on earth, good will to
men." War does that.

Young Lothar's initial flight alone the day after the feast was an
event that Richthofen watched with confidence, but with some degree of
anxiety, because he still remembered the difficulties and the dangers
he had encountered and survived in order to get the coveted licence to
be a fighting pilot.

The younger brother came through with flying colours, passing the
examination by a wide margin of safety and receiving the assurance of
both his instructors and his brother that he was now well trained for
the front.

  [Victory 16]

They celebrated the event together on New Year's Day, and three days
later Lothar was watching from the ground when his elder brother
brought down his sixteenth British plane in a hot air fight almost
immediately above the airdrome.

The silver cups of death, ranged in a row on Richthofen's desk, now
numbered sixteen. They told the story of his victories over a period
of as many weeks. Those cups, together with several accounts in his
unofficial writings and confirmatory fragments from the chronicles and
casualty lists of the Royal Flying Corps are the only records of these
successful air duels to be found at present.

The German Reichsarchiv is unable to produce the combat reports that
Richthofen wrote on his first sixteen victories, and it is presumed
that they are lost somewhere in the tons of military records that the
German experts have been working on and patching together for the last
eight years. Bur the record of the first sixteen is engraved in silver
on the cups, and may be read in the Appendix.

Looking at the cups on his desk, Richthofen could reflect with some
degree of pride upon his achievement. He had shot down sixteen planes
in four months: three in the last half of September; three in October;
five in {105} November; four in December; and one in the first four
days of January.

As eight of the planes had carried two occupants and eight of them had
carried one occupant, he individually had accounted for twenty-four of
his enemies.

In the absence of exact records, flying men, both German and English,
estimate that sixteen of the twenty-four defeated airmen were killed
and the rest wounded or taken prisoners of war.

The Flying Uhlan, as the result of his work on the Somme, could report
a personally inflicted casualty list that would read as follows:

  Killed: 16 (12 unidentified).
  Wounded or Made Prisoners of War: 8 (7 unidentified).
  Total Casualties Inflicted: 24.
  Enemy Planes Destroyed: 16.

But the most important aspect of his record to Richthofen at that
period of his career was the fact that his sixteen victories placed
him in the lead of all the living air fighters in the service of his

He had reached the zenith. He was the ace of German aces.



With the new young year of 1917, fame came to Richthofen.

Jade or goddess, she came to feed with her own delicious sweets the
hunger of a spirit proud and brave and young.

The twenty-four-year-old Uhlan had with his own hand killed more
enemies of his country than any other living man in the ranks of the
millions of the Central Powers.

He answered the old Teuton demand of a nation of fighting people for a
personal champion, a blond youth with shining armour and flaming sword
to be its war god.

Boelcke and Immelmann, the old heroes, though not forgotten, were
dead. The war was on, and it was the day for the live, the quick, the
strong. Richthofen succeeded to the favours the old heroes had once
received from the hands of Fame.

>From his throat she suspended the coveted gold-and-white enamelled
cross of the order Pour le Mérite with a special citation from the
Emperor. And on his breast she pinned the Austrian war cross from
Francis Joseph.

She brought him telegrams and illuminated messages of congratulations
and felicitations from notables of state, army, and navy.

Before his eyes she unfolded the newspapers that welcomed the new
d'Artagnan of the air with front-page pictures of himself and large
black headlines that blazoned the name, "RICHTHOFEN"--his name, to the

She decked his quarters at the front with floral wreaths {107} and
conqueror's palms, sent from admiring organizations and individuals
from all over Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey.

She filled his mail with hundreds of letters from sighing maidens, who
expressed the pangs of their hero worship and adoration in passionate

Richthofen smiled as he read these letters from unknown admirers, many
of whom looked up to him with soulful eyes from scented photographs.
Some of them he showed to Voss and Schaefer, who clapped him on the
back and told him that he was a gay young blade. Sometimes they read
some of the burning epistles aloud, and discussed the writers with
gales of laughter.

One series of letters, he never showed. The handwriting was
distinctive. One of them turned up every time the mail arrived at the
front. There was almost one for every day in the week. It was from the
same girl--the same fraulein--the one who has since remained the
mystery in the haze of legend that now surrounds the life of Germany's
greatest air fighter.

Her penmanship was well known to the mail orderly and to Richthofen's
personal orderly. The letters were thick. They could not be mistaken.
The mail orderly always removed them from the flutter of general mail,
and they were turned over to Richthofen separately.

At times, returning from a raid in the blue, in which he had added
another victim to his string, he would be met at the hangar doors by
his personal servant, who would hand him the one missive that he
wanted. The Flying Uhlan, still tingling with the thrill of his latest
kill, would go to his quarters alone and devour the contents of the

She was the one who shared his joy. She was the one he believed, among
all the crowd of blind worshippers. Her words seemed to mean more to
him than all the rest. {108} Everyone in the Jagdstaffel knew about
her, although none knew who the mystery girl was, and Richthofen never
permitted any discussion of her.

His mother knew--and knows today--but she will not remove the veil of
secrecy that still surrounds the identity of this girl her son loved
above all other women.

"Manfred loved this one girl," Frau Richthofen says. "He had for her
the love of an honourable man for the woman he wanted to be the mother
of his children. I know that she loved him."

It is known that the girl of Richthofen's dreams lives in Germany
today, but who she is or where she lives are secrets closely guarded
both by her family and by the mother of the man who loved her. For
reasons which obviously must appear good to both of these families,
Richthofen's sweetheart of nine years ago refuses to acknowledge
herself as the one woman who brought the deep emotion of love to young

Friends of both say that the romance was one of suppressed desire on
both sides. They both wanted to be married, but Richthofen feared, and
rightly, he would not survive the war. He knew Death stalked him.

"I cannot indulge myself in the right of marriage," he once said, "as
long as I am liable to die any day."

But the exchange of letters between him and the girl continued until
he met his expected end in the air. Richthofen kept her letters, and
she kept those from him. The present whereabouts of those love notes
is one of the mysteries of the affair. Those who have studied
Richthofen hope that some day those letters will come to light to
reveal the human side of a man whose reputation rests now upon his
power and spirit to kill.

Unknown as the mystery girl remains, she is credited with having been
his inspiration and confidante in those days when his name stood forth
with those of Ludendorff {109} and Hindenburg. She was with him at the
peak of his distinction.

That distinction was uncontested in Germany and was recognized amongst
the fighting forces of all the Allied countries. It was spoken of
along the fronts in the first days of January, when the Flying Uhlan
took the lead of his countrymen in the air.

It was a general recognition that Richthofen liked, but he desired

He wanted each of his adversaries in the air to know who it was they
fought. As the knights of old distinguished themselves by the colour
of the plumes waving atop their steel casques, so he identified
himself personally in the tilt yard of the sky.

It happened during the days when the flyers on both sides were
experimenting with camouflage in the air. Richthofen, with the rest,
had tried out many different colours to make his plane less
conspicuous, but the search for "invisibility" remained fruitless.
Seen from below with a sky background above, all airplanes, by their
very opaqueness, showed distinctive silhouettes.

Once the ace daubed his wings with blotches of yellow, green, and
brown on the theory that, if seen by an enemy from above against the
background of the earth, the outline of his machine would appear less
perceptible, but as most of the flying done by the fighting scouts
carried them into the higher altitudes, the earth camouflage appeared
of little advantage and was discarded.

Convinced of the futility of these efforts, Richthofen went to the
other extreme with a gesture of daring that gave new impetus to his
reputation for fearlessness among friend and foe. He had his plane
completely painted a bright and glaring red. He mixed advertising with
his chivalry.

The assumption was that in so doing he made himself {110} more
conspicuous and thereby invited more attacks. It was a gauntlet thrown
down to the enemy, proclaiming that his prowess as a knight of the air
was such that he could handicap himself with the brightest hue and did
not have to seek ambush in schemes of neutral colouring. Actually it
was no handicap.

The Allied flyers accepted the challenge, and the air soon became
kaleidoscopic with colour. Richthofen was allowed by common consent to
maintain a copyright on the use of "all red." When all the distinctive
solid colours of the rainbow had been adopted and exploited, the use
of combinations came into vogue. Thus in the spring of that year the
cavaliers of the air sallied forth in pink planes with green noses and
black planes with yellow wings, blue bodies, and orange tails.

Out of these efforts the German evolved one system of differing the
colours of the surfaces and wings on one airplane so that it increased
the difficulty of an English flyer in determining at a glance whether
the other craft was flying right side up or not, or was approaching or
going away. This colour confusion might have carried a shade of
advantage during the excitement of a "dog-fight."

Richthofen, however, having made the gesture, stuck to his all red
plane and had the satisfaction of learning from prisoners of war that
his machine was known above all the rest. Later, when rumours reached
the squadron that special rewards and inducements had been offered for
Richthofen's head, his flying comrades prevailed upon him to let them
share his special colour. He consented, but always made them carry an
additional colour on some part of the machine, so that he still
retained the distinction of  being "all red."

Thus it was that Lothar Richthofen's plane was red with a splash of
yellow, Schaefer's was red with the elevators and tail black,
Allmenröder's was red with a white tail. {111} Although each had a
distinctive colour, from the ground or at a distance, they appeared as
though all of them were red.

Richthofen maintained his colour monopoly, so that when, during the
first two weeks of the new year, he was suddenly transferred and
placed in command of a new flying formation, he took the colour with
him, and the old Boelcke squadron had to adopt different adornment.

The new formation was Jagdstaffel II, and although just as old as the
Boelcke unit, it started out under its new commander without a single
killing to its record. Richthofen did not like to make the change. He
was accustomed to his old flying mates, and he cherished the
traditions connected with Boelcke's name, but orders were orders, and
he had to go. The methods and discipline of the new unit and its
personnel of a dozen officers did not appeal to him.

  [Victory 17]

Just to show them how it was done, he led them over the English lines
for the first time on January 23d and "knocked down" the first victim
to be registered on the unit's victory book. For Richthofen it was his
seventeenth "kill."

His combat report for the day read:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 17th Victory
  Date: Jan. 23, 1917.
  Time: 4:10 P.M.
  Place: Above trenches southwest of Lens.
  Plane: No details as plane dropped on the enemy's side.

  About 4:10 P.M., together with seven of my planes, I attacked an
  enemy squadron west of Lens. The plane I had singled out caught fire
  after I had discharged 150 shots into it from a distance of  50

  The plane fell burning.

  The occupant of the plane fell out of it at a height of 500 yards.


  Immediately after it crashed on the ground, I could see a heavy
  black smoke cloud rising. The plane burned for some time with
  frequent flares of flame.

Richthofen's victim that day was another young second "looie" like
himself, except that he was so new to the war in the air that the
English Air Ministry had not yet made the customary record of his
civilian address or the names of his next of kin.

Somewhere, presumably in the British Empire, a family is waiting for
word about what happened to Johnny Hay after his letters stopped
coming, and this publication of Richthofen's report in conjunction
with the notations on the Royal Flying Corps casualty lists for that
day will supply some of the missing information.

Johnny Hay and several planes from the Fortieth Squadron R. F. C. left
the airdrome west of Lens shortly before three o'clock in the
afternoon. He was flying an F. E. 8 armed with a forward-firing Lewis
machine gun. It was Hay's job to escort two slow-flying photographic
planes on a patrol over the lines.

The report of the Canadian artillery observers coincides with
Richthofen's account of Johnny's last flight. They saw the several
English single-seaters, among which Hay's was one, protecting the rear
of the photographic planes, when five planes of the German formation
dived down from the blue.

While the camera planes flew away, the single-seaters engaged the
enemy fighters. The opposing planes flew round and round, each
endeavouring to bring his gun to bear on the tail of the other.

Watching through their glasses, the Canadian gunners saw a burst of
smoke at the tail of one of the hard-pressed English planes.


"God! he's a goner," said a mud-grimed Tommy with uplifted head and
open mouth.

It was Johnny Hays. His plane nosed downward in a dive. The smoke
changed to flames. It came down like a bolt of glowing fire, leaving a
sooty streak against the gray winter sky.

While still more than a thousand feet above the trenches, a black bulk
shot out from the ball of fire.

Failing slightly to one side, the dark satellite turned over and over
in the air, revealing arms and legs.

Charred fragments of the plane fell over a wide area.

The Canadians picked up what was left of Johnny Hay about two miles
southeast of the little village of Aix Moulette and buried it. The
exact spot on the military map is R. 30, a. 92.

That night in the mess at Squadron Forty's airdrome, the sergeant
major packed up a bundle of letters, photographs of several girls, an
extra pair of boots, and some trinkets and marked the bundle:

  2nd. Lt. J. Hay, Pilot 40th Sq. Killed in action, 23. 1. 17.

Twenty miles away in his quarters at the Douai airdrome, Richthofen
was writing an order to his Berlin jeweller for another silver victory
cup to be inscribed:

  17. F.E. 1. 23.1.17

At dinner time, when his twelve officers gathered around the mess
table, he explained the technique of his first demonstration, called
attention to some flying blunders his pupils had made, and answered
their questions. At the close of the meal and the lecture the Flying
Uhlan and his disciples retired to their quarters with the knowledge
that they were "going over" again in the morning.

  [Victory 18]

At high noon the next day, the Richthofen swarm found its prey in the
air just west of Vimy Ridge, then {114} held by the Germans. It was an
English photography plane from the Twenty-fifth Squadron, Royal Flying
Corps, engaged calmly in taking mosaic photographs of the ridge.
Captain O. Greig was at the controls and Second Lieutenant J. E.
MacLenan was working the camera.

The work the two English airmen were doing required great accuracy and
was being performed with a stop watch so as to obtain correct overlaps
on each exposure. Greig's task was to keep his plane at exactly the
same altitude and to fly in a direct line; otherwise the results
obtained would be unsatisfactory. The attention of both Greig and
MacLenan was obviously fully employed in the taking of these
photographs, which were to be of such great importance in the Vimy
attack some months later.

High above and to the rear of the photography plane, three English
fighting planes, comprising an escort, kept an eye on Greig and
MacLenan and at the same time watched another camera machine that was
operating on the other side of them. As events turned out, the escort
proved to be too far away to protect Greig and MacLenan from the
attack that came on them suddenly from above.

Greig and MacLenan's "blue" was an F. E. 2b, another type of the old
British Fighting Experimental. It was a two-seater "pusher," that is,
with the propeller behind, and its power consisted of a 160-horsepower
Beadmore motor. It was equipped with two Lewis machine guns, one
firing in a forward arc and the other firing backward and upward in an
arc above the upper plane. With this rather cumbersome armament,
controlled only by the observer, it was impossible to fire backward
and downward.

Richthofen's machine was the latest word in German production, a
single-seater B. U. Albatross with two synchronized guns firing
through the propeller, and fitted with a 200-horsepower Mercedes
motor. At that time,  it {115} was considered the fastest plane in the
war. It was unmeasurably superior to Greig and MacLenan's bus.
Richthofen could climb three times as fast as the English plane and
was much quicker on the turns and dives.

So swift was the German plane, and so capable its master in availing
himself of the advantage of clouds and sun spots that the two
Englishmen were taken completely by surprise.

MacLenan, in the forward compartment with his eyes glued on the camera
sights pointed toward the earth, suddenly heard the rat-tat-tat of a
machine gun from behind. A burst of leaden pellets from Richthofen's
twin barrel sprayed the photography plane.

The lead missed MacLenan, owing to his being in a bent-over position
at the time, but Greig's feet were actually lifted off the pedal
controls when bullets tore their way through both of his legs below
the knees.

Richthofen's first aim was even more disastrous because both the oil
and petrol tanks were punctured, and the pressure released, and at the
same time the propeller was shattered. Powerless, the machine could
only glide downward while Greig, with his shattered and bleeding legs,
managed to get his feet back on the controls and endeavoured to keep
the plane out of a spin, at the same time trying to manoeuvre out of
the streams of machine-gun lead which Richthofen continued to fire in
his repeated attacks.

MacLenan, who at the first shot had turned about face in his "front
office," stood up in the plane and grabbed the trigger of the aft
machine gun which fired backward and upward over Greig's head.
MacLenan saw the red machine diving away below him.

Richthofen zoomed upward again, swerved, and attacked a minute later
from below and behind and once more his bullets ripped their way
through the disabled {116} English machine, while Greig tried in vain
to manoeuvre out of range and also into a position whereby MacLenan
could bring either his forward or aft gun to range on the speedy red

Only once did Richthofen depart from his tactics of attacking the
English bus from its "blind spot"--that is, behind and below. That was
when, in returning to his favourite position, he swept at terrific
speed directly in front of the English plane, and MacLenan managed to
rip out two short bursts of bullets from the forward gun.

Some of that lead went home, cracking one of the Albatross's wings,
but the machine held together, and Richthofen managed to bring it
safely to earth a quarter of a mile away from the spot where Greig had
landed the limping F. E. 2b on an even keel. They were behind the
German lines.

Greig couldn't stand, but MacLenan crawled into the pilot's
compartment and pulled his wounded comrade out. Clumsily and with some
pain to Greig, he managed to slide him over the side to the ground six
feet below. He jumped out and carried Greig twenty feet away from the
plane; then, running back, he reached into the cockpit and pulled the
flare torch provided for that purpose. In a minute, the English plane
was blazing.

The two Englishmen surrendered themselves with smiles to the German
soldiers who now ran forward, somewhat chagrined that they had allowed
them time to fire their machine and thereby prevent its capture either
as a trophy or for salvage purposes.

"Who was in 'die rotten Teufel'?" MacLenan inquired in the best German
he could muster.

"Freiherr von Richthofen," chorused several infantrymen. That was the
end of the war for MacLenan and Greig, who spent the next twenty
months in German hospitals {117} and prison camps. It was not until
several months ago that MacLenan had the satisfaction of knowing that
some of his shots in that air battle had winged the great German ace
and forced him to land. He only learned it from Richthofen's combat
report, which reads as follows:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 18th Victory
  Date: Jan. 24, 1917.
  Time: 12:15 P.M.
  Place: West of Vimy.
  Type of Plane: F. E. 2. No. 6937
  Fixed Motor No. 748.
  Occupants: Captain Greig and Lieutenant MacLenan.

  Accompanied by Sergeant Howe, I attacked about 12:15 P. M. the
  commanding plane of an enemy formation. After a long fight, I forced
  the adversary to land near Vimy.

  The occupants burned the plane after landing.

  I myself had to land, as one wing had been cracked when I was at an
  altitude of 900 ft. I was flying an Albatross D. III.

  According to the English occupants, my red-painted plane was not
  unknown to them, as on being asked who brought them down, they
  answered, _"le petit rouge."_

  Two machine guns, have been seized by my staffel. The plane was not
  worth being removed, as it was completely burned.

MacLenan is still in the British air service, which makes it
impossible for him either to write or to talk for publication. He is a
flight commander out at Digby, Lincolnshire, where I found him and
showed him the report.

"As regards the red machine," he said, "we had previously seen it, but
we did not know who it was. I am glad to hear that he had to land, as
I did not know this. Possibly a lucky shot of mine got home, as the
range was rather long."

Old pals in war get thrown far apart during peace. {118} Greig's last
address was Pensile, near Nailsworth, down in Gloucestershire, but
he's unknown there today, and the old English postman on the route
returns his letters unforwarded. MacLenan doesn't know where he is
either, but he hopes to hear from him if he reads this.

MacLenan's machine-gun fire made more than a passing impression on
Richthofen, because, while he was getting a new plane in shape, he had
time to think it over, and three days later he made special mention of
the matter in a letter to his mother. Here it is:

  With the Eleventh Combat Squadron,
  Jan. 27, 1917.

  I am certain you wonder at my silence. So much has happened in the
  meantime that I do not know where to start. I have been appointed
  commander of the Eleventh Combat Squadron stationed in Douai.

  I left the Boelcke squadron only very reluctantly. But no matter how
  hard I bucked I had to go. The Eleventh Squadron exists as long as
  my former one, but so far it has no enemy to its credit and the way
  they do things here is not very edifying for me. I have twelve
  officers under my command.

  Luck has been with me. On the first time up with my new command, I
  brought down my seventeenth and on the following day number

  As I settled with the latter, one of my wings broke at an altitude
  of 900 feet, and it was nothing short of a miracle that I reached
  the ground without a mishap.

  On the same day the Boelcke squadron lost three planes, among them
  dear little Immelmann--a thousand pities. It is quite possible that
  they met with a similar accident. Unhappily, there is no chance of
  leave, and I would have liked to show you my Pour le Mérite.

During the following week, the Jagdstaffel assigned itself seriously
to the business of building up its score of {119} killings so that it
would make a showing against the old intrenched record of the Boelcke

There were daily patrols in the bitter winter air high above the
lines, and brushes occurred with the English during every flight.
Richthofen opened the month of February with another successful combat
in which two more English flyers paid with their lives.

  [Victory 19]

The Flying Uhlan's combat report for the fight reads:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 19th Victory

  Date: Feb. 1, 1917.
  Time: 4 P.M.
  Place: Over trenches 1 kilometre southwest of Thelus.
  Type of Plane: B. E. two-seater. No. 6742.
  Occupants: Lieut. Murray. Lieut. McBar, both wounded. [Died Feb. 2].

  About 4 P. M., while flying with Lieutenant Allmenröder at an
  altitude of 5,000 feet, I spotted a B. E. two-seater artillery
  flyer. I managed to approach, apparently unnoticed, within 50 yards
  of him in my Halberstadter plane.

  From this distance up to only the length of a plane, I fired 150

  The enemy plane then went down in large, uncontrolled right-hand
  curves, pursued by Allmenröder and myself.

  The plane crashed to earth in the barbed wire of our first lines.
  The occupants were both wounded and were made prisoners by the
  infantry. It is impossible to remove the plane.

The unlucky plane was engaged on a photography mission over the German
lines. Lieutenant P. W. Murray, an old pilot of the Sixteenth
Squadron, R. F. C., was handling the controls, and Lieutenant T. D.
McRae was operating the camera. They had flown out from their airdrome
at two-thirty in the afternoon, and the casualty records show that the
next heard from them was when the {120} centre group of the Third
Canadian Divisional Artillery reported a machine shot down in the
German front-line trenches near Thelus as the result of an air fight
between three British and four German planes.

The Canadian Artillery observers allowed twenty minutes for the
occupants of the plane, if alive or not too badly wounded, to crawl
away from it. Then a Canadian battery concentrated on the English
plane and destroyed it. From Richthofen's report it would seem that
Murray and McRae, while seriously wounded, had been able to get out of
the plane and get into the German dugouts, because the Germans
reported that they did not succumb to their wounds until the following

McRae was a Canadian whose mother lived at one time at St. Anne de
Prescott. Murray came from Durham, where his father lives at 10
Clermont Terrace, Norton-on-Tees. My efforts to acquaint this father
and mother with the details of their sons' deaths have been
unsuccessful so far. It is ten years now since the day the R. F. C.
sent them the two brief telegrams announcing that the boys were

Sometimes the hope in that dreaded word "missing" materialized, as,
for instance, in the case of one of the two flyers who figured in
Richthofen's next victory, just two weeks later.

  [Victory 20]

"Doug" Bennett was "missing" to his parents for two months. To
Richthofen he was dead. The German ace reported by name that he had
killed him. Here's his report:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 20th Victory Date:

  Feb. 14, 1917.
  Time: 12 noon.
  Place: Lens-Hulluck road, west of Loos.
  Type of Plane: B. E. two-seater. No details. Plane landed in fire zone
  Occupants: One killed, one heavily wounded.
  Name of pilot: Lieut. Bonnet (died).

  While flying back from a conference with the Boelcke squadron, I saw
  an enemy artillery flyer at a height of 6,000 feet, west of Loos.

  I approached within fifty yards of him without his noticing me and
  attacked immediately. After several hundred shots, the plane dashed
  down, falling into our trenches.

  The pilot was killed in the air, and the observer was seriously
  injured when landing.

But "Bonnet" was not killed. His name is Bennett, and he's alive today
and has had the tingle of his life in reading the above report of how
he was killed.

Both mistakes are understandable in the excitement of war. "Bonnet,"
the dead man, is a smiling, quiet-mannered man, by the name of Cyril
Douglas Bennett, who was the pilot of the plane that Richthofen
"knocked down" that February noon ten years ago. Bennett was nineteen
years old then. Second Lieutenant H. A. Croft, his observer, was
killed, but Bennett pulled through with a base fracture of the skull
which completely wiped out every memory of his fight in the air.

Sitting in an office in London and reading Richthofen's report of his
death, Bennett smiled and said:

"I certainly should be interested in knowing whether I got any shots
in at him, but I guess I'll never know. Poor old Croft is dead and
Richthofen's dead and so's my memory of what happened that day, but,
anyhow, I'm alive."

What happened that day according to the British records is that
Bennett and Croft hopped off the airdrome at nine forty-five in the
morning in a B. E. two-seater engaged on a mission of directing
artillery fire. They were last seen at noon by Lieutenant E. M.
Lugard, a flying comrade, and were being attacked by German planes.
{122} Lugard saw Bennett and Croft go down in a quick spiral over Cité
St. Auguste, and that was all.

The Croft and Bennett families received "missing" telegrams from the
War Department, and for two months they read those strips of blue
paper every day and prayed. The Bennetts' prayer was answered. On the
18th of the following April, the International Red Cross at Geneva
reported Bennett as a seriously wounded prisoner of war, and later
that Croft was dead--had been killed in the air by a bullet.

Locating Bennett to tell him who hit him (he never knew it was
Richthofen) was a trail that led through German hospitals and prison
camps, attempted escapes, release with the Armistice, a wild and wet
reception at the hands of American doughboys in the Argonne, one
"lurid party" in Paris, then 'way down to the Crimea to fly with
Denikine and Wrangel and fight the "bolos" from the air, and then out
to a lumber company on the Baltic Sea, until one day recently, when
Bennett showed up back in London, still smiling and still travelling.

"You know," he said, after reading Richthofen's report, "I certainly
am glad to learn this, because I have been searching around in my head
for ten years trying to find out what happened to me that day. You
know, I have no recollection of ever being in the air that day--I
don't even remember leaving the airdrome.

"Croft and I both felt we were pretty good in the air. He was a fine
chap. We met in France. I was born in Russia, you see. My father's
house in Moscow is now one of the offices of the Cheka. I went to
England in 1916 and joined up in May. Took my air training and was
flying over the lines by August, doing bombing, photography, and
artillery observation, which I liked best.

"We had been quite lucky--only been attacked twice before. Worst time
was over Loos, when my observer {123} picked up a piece of archie in
his leg and we got back to home base with thirty-nine bullet holes in
the old bus.

"We felt something like bait. Couldn't hardly do more than 60 miles an
hour in the old B.E.'s, and we were bumping into Huns who could hit a

"Of course, I recall the work I was doing several days before my last
flight in France. We were registering for 'Mother'--you know, those
big 9.2 'How's.' Best pieces we had in the war.

"Big fellows they were, firing off a bed fixed in the ground.
Travelled in three pieces drawn by caterpillars. Could swing into
action in three hours and get out of position in one. They had a range
of 9,000 yards for a 250-lb. shell, and the Huns needed at least 18
feet of solid ground as a head covering against it. 'Mother' had a
great rep., and was considered the most accurate gun in the army.

"We used to signal to the battery by wireless and train it on all
kinds of targets from motor transport on the roads to ammunition
dumps. Our great success was against dumps, and that was why we liked
snow, because from above we could always trace well-trodden paths
better against the white. We found these most often led off the road
to dumps.

"It sounds kind of funny to have gone through a fight with the big
Baron and not know anything about it, but it's the truth. My first
recollection is waking up and a German telling me that I was in a
field hospital behind Lens, and that I had been unconscious three
days. Then I remember a hospital at Douai, but I don't know when, and
after that I travelled around from one hospital to another, but I
guess I was asleep most of the time.

"I had a long talk with a German doctor who spoke English, and I told
him that I couldn't understand why I had no recollection of ever
leaving my own airdrome. He told me that I had received a severe
fracture at the base {124} of the skull when my plane landed, and that
poor Croft had been killed by a bullet received in the air.

"He said that it was customary in cases of fracture to the base of the
skull for the shock not only to wipe out the consciousness of what
happened at the time, but also to wipe out everything that had
happened for days before. He said that it might come back to me some
day, but the chances were that the six or seven days of my memory from
February 10th or 11th to the 17th would remain lost forever. Funny to
pass out like that, isn't it?"

Bennett, as the sole survivor of the three youngsters that took part
in that combat a mile above the earth, hopes that his travels take him
some day down into Silesia to Richthofen's old home in Schweidnitz,
where he wants to see the little silver cup that Richthofen had
engraved to represent his twentieth victory.

He also wants to locate the parents of Croft and give them the newly
discovered details of "what happened," but in this regard he has
little hope unless the parents read this account. There is no present
known record of the address of the Croft family.

  [Victory 21]

Richthofen had another fight on that same day and was given credit for
a double victory. The English plane he shot down landed on the English
side of the lines, but the English records reveal no air casualty at
the time stated, so it is presumed that the occupants of the machine
escaped without sufficient injuries to place them on the casualty
lists, although Richthofen's report would make such an outcome seem
almost a miracle.

The report reads:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 21st Victory

  Date: Feb.14, 1917.
  Time: 4:45 P. M.
  Place: Station 1,500 yards southwest of Mazingarbe.  {125}
  Type of Plane: B. E. two-seater.
    No details as plane landed on enemy side.

  About 4:45 P.M. in company with my Staffel, I attacked an enemy
  squadron of five artillery flyers in a low altitude near Lens.
  Whilst my gentlemen attacked another B. E. I attacked the one flying
  nearest me.

  After the first 100 shots, the enemy observer stopped shooting. The
  plane began to smoke and twist in uncontrolled curves to the right.

  As this result was not satisfactory to me, especially over the
  enemy's lines, I shot at the falling plane, until the left part of
  the wings came off.

  As the wind was blowing at a velocity of twenty yards a second, I
  had been drifting far over to the enemy side, and consequently I
  could observe that the enemy plane touched the ground southwest of
  Mazingarbe. I could see a heavy cloud of smoke arising from the
  place where the plane was lying in the snow.

  As it was foggy and already rather dark, I have no witnesses either
  from the air or from the earth.

This is the only one of Richthofen's early claims that was
acknowledged and credited to him as a victory when there were no
witnesses to the event. After his sixtieth victory in the air,
witnesses were no longer required to the reports he made of his
combats, because, after that time, he seldom appeared with less than
twenty planes with him.

Although he flew almost every day and fighting was always his
principal duty, there was other work required of the German ace, and
this principally concerned his ingenuity in creating or perfecting new
methods of both individual and organized attacks and also in analysing
the air tactics of the enemy.

In the Reichsarchiv in Berlin, I was fortunate enough {126} to find
one of the reports he made at this period under date of February 16,
1917, with regard to air fighting in general and the training of
pursuit flyers. In this report, which was addressed to the commander
of the Sixth Army air forces, Richthofen wrote:

  The adversary often slips downward over one wing or lets himself
  fall like a dead leaf in order to shake off an attack. In order to
  stick to one adversary, one must on no account follow his tactics,
  as one has no control over the machine when falling like a dead

  Should the adversary, however, attempt to evade attack by such
  tricks, one must dash down [_sturzflug_] without losing sight of the
  enemy plane.

  When falling like a dead leaf, or intentionally falling wing over
  wing, the best pilot loses control of his machine for a second or
  two, therefore, it is a manoeuvre to be avoided.

  Looping the loop is worse than worthless in air fighting. Each loop
  is a great mistake. If one has approached an adversary too close, a
  loop only offers a big advantage to the adversary. Change of speed
  should be relied on to maintain the position desired, and this is
  best effected by giving more or less gas.

  The best method of flying against the enemy is as follows: The
  officer commanding the group, no matter how large, should fly
  lowest, and should keep all machines under observation by turning
  and curving.

  No machine should be allowed either to advance or to keep back. More
  or less, the whole squadron should advance curving. Flying straight on
  above the front is dangerous, as even machines of the same type of
  plane develop different speeds. Surprises can be avoided only when
  flying in close order. The commanding officer is responsible that
  neither he nor any of his pilots are surprised by the enemy. If he
  cannot see to that, he is no good as a leader.

In analysing and giving his opinion of English air tactics
prevailing in the spring of 1917, he wrote:


  The English single-seater pilots always fly in squad formation when
  on pursuit work. Reconnoitring and artillery fire is also now
  carried on by squads of two-seater machines, sometimes containing as
  many as twenty machines. Many English airmen try to win advantages by
  flying tricks while engaged in fighting, but, as a rule, it is just
  these reckless and useless stunts that lead them to their deaths.

  When flying in large squads, the English planes keep close together
  in order to be able to come to one another's assistance at any given
  moment. When attacked, they maintain even closer formation. If an
  English plane which has fallen behind is attacked, the first planes
  of the enemy formation make left and right turns and hurry to its
  assistance. After the rest of the formation has passed them, they
  close up the rear as the last planes.

As squadron and close formation flying developed on both sides, it
became the tactics of the most successful air scouts to lie in wait
for the plane that dropped out of formation and fell behind for any
reason. The lone plane was almost "cold meat" to an experienced scout

  [Victory 22]

On March 4th, Richthofen "singled out" and shot down his twenty-second
plane, adding two more dead men to his list of casualties inflicted.
The affair occurred as the result of a clash between a German and an
English formation.

Richthofen's victims were two more English lieutenants of the
Forty-third Squadron. The Flying Uhlan reported the affair as follows:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 22d Victory Date:

  March 4, 1917.
  Time: 4:20 P.M.
  Place: Acheville.
  Type of Plane: Sopwith two-seater.
  Occupants: Lieutenant W. Reid and Lieutenant H. Green, both killed,
  buried by local command, Bois Bernard.

  Accompanied by five of my planes, I attacked an enemy {128} squadron
  above Acheville. The Sopwith I had singled out flew for quite a while
  in my fire. After my 400th shot, the plane lost a wing while trying
  to do a sudden turn. It plunged downward.

  It is not worth while to have the plane taken back, as parts of it
  are scattered all over Acheville and the surrounding country. Two
  machine guns were seized by my Staffel. (One Lewis gun, No. 20,024
  and one Maxim gun, No. 17,500.)

Lieutenant Herbert J. Green was the pilot and Lieutenant William Reid
was the observer in the English plane, which went up early that
afternoon on an offensive patrol over the lines.

It was their job to look for trouble, and they went out to meet it
according to the report of Lieutenant Henderson of the Fortieth, who
saw Green and Reid leave their formation and attack Richthofen's unit.
Henderson from a distance saw the English plane fall out of control.

"Bertie" Green was just nineteen years old. He came from
Newcastle-on-Tyne, where his father and sister live today. He had had
a brilliant career as a young student, winning prizes and scholarships
that brought him to his first year at Armstrong College, Oxford, when
he answered the call to the colours and trained for the air service.
His brother Ernie, who was also a flyer, won the Military Cross and
survived the war, but later was killed in a flying accident.

"Our first news of Bertie's last fight," says Miss Doris Green, his
sister, "was the telegram stating that he was missing, but believed
not killed. It was not until after the war that we really knew he was
dead. We kept hoping against hope to hear that he had been made a
prisoner of war. We have since had returned a small wallet of
Bertie's, containing two checks he made out a day or two previously,
one being to my father.

"He was buried at Bois Bernard, just as Richthofen {129} says, but his
body has been taken from there, and he now lies beside Lieutenant Reid
in Sanchez cemetery, which is between Arras and Lens. I went over to
France last June and visited the cemetery that is 'forever England.'
The cemetery is a small one. The grass was so green, and flowers had
been planted on the graves. For the present there are only little
wooden crosses erected, but each grave is to have a beautiful
headstone. There is no distinction made, which I think is very
fitting. 'Tommies' and officers lie side by side."

Reid's identity disk was sent back to England by the Germans who
buried him. It was returned to young Reid's father, who was at that
time in the English army training recruits. He has since left the

Earlier on the same day that he killed Green and Reid, Richthofen had
encountered another English plane and shot it down, but "credit" for
the victory was not acknowledged by the high command until some time
later, on account of the dearth of witnesses and the fact that the
plane fell in the English lines. In consequence, the combat, while
really his first one of that day, is registered to him as his
twenty-third, and not his twenty-second.

  [Victory 23]

Concerning this fight, which took place just before noon, one
kilometre north of Loos, Richthofen reported:

  I had started out all by myself and was just looking for my squadron
  when I spotted a B. E. two-seater, all alone. My first attack was
  apparently a failure, as my adversary attempted to escape by curves
  and dives.

  After I had forced him downward from 7,500 to 3,500 feet, he
  imagined himself safe and started to fly once more in a straight
  line. I took advantage of this and, putting myself behind him, I
  fired some 500 shots into him. My adversary dived, but in such a
  steep way that I could not follow him.

  According to our infantry observers, the plane crashed to the ground
  in front of our trenches.


The English casualty list reveals that this plane was from the Eighth
Squadron and was being flown on an artillery patrol by Pilot Sergeant
R.J. Moody, with Second Lieutenant E. E. Horn in the observer's seat.
English infantry witnessed the air fight and watched Moody's plucky
attempts to regain his own lines. The plane crashed between the lines
and could not be reached during daylight. That night, when patrols
reached the wreckage, they found Moody and Horn both dead.

Lieutenant Horn's relatives were unknown to his fellow officers or the
corps records, but Moody's father, who then lived at North
Warnborough, Odiham, Hampshire, was notified of his son's death. The
father has since followed the son.

In the German records there are sufficient inconsistencies to reveal
that great pains were taken to verify the claims made by flyers for
combats that took place over the enemy lines, and as a result of this,
earlier victories sometimes bear a record number not in keeping with
the date on which they occurred.

On March 3d, Richthofen claimed to have shot down an English plane
behind the English lines, but acknowledgment of his report was
withheld until some days later, and subsequent victories having been
acknowledged in the meantime, the March 3d claim was entered on the
records as Victory No. 24.

  Together with Lieutenant Allmenröder, I attacked two enemy artillery
  flyers in a low altitude over the other side [Richthofen reported].
  The wings of the plane I attacked came off. It dashed down and broke
  on the ground.

He said that the plane was a B. E. two-seater, and that the fight
occurred at 5 P.M. over Souchez, but it is apparent that a mistake or
a misrepresentation exists in one of the two records, because the
English records report no air casualty on that day.


On his silver victory cups, Richthofen inscribed his twenty-fourth
victory under date of March 6th. In that Valhalla where the heroes of
the air must meet some day, there will be ample material for argument.

  [Victory 24]

For example, the shade of Richthofen will undoubtedly want to know who
it was that shot him down on March 9, 1917, just after the official
acknowledgment of the twenty-fourth "victory." The Flying Uhlan has
written at length on that experience, which gave him a chance to feel
some of the things that his victims felt when they fell under his

It occurred early in the morning over the German artillery positions
around Lens, where the English flyers, in accord with their customary
offensive policy, were out in force, making observations,
photographing trench lines, bombing ammunition dumps, and directing
artillery fire. Richthofen's squadron is attacked by a formation of
English pursuit planes, and the fight is on.

  I watched whether one of the Englishmen would take leave of his
  colleagues [Richthofen wrote afterward], and soon I saw that one of
  them was stupid enough to do this. I could reach him, and I said to
  myself, "That man is lost!"

  I started after him, and when I got near, he started shooting
  prematurely, which showed he was nervous, so I said, "Go on
  shooting, you won't hit me." He shot with a kind of ammunition that
  ignites. [Tracer bullets containing a phosphorous mixture that
  leaves a trail of smoke behind, and shows the gunner where his
  bullets are going. These fiery bullets are deadly to petrol tanks.]

  At that moment I think I laughed aloud, but soon I got my lesson.
  When within 300 feet of the Englishman, I got ready for firing,
  aimed, and gave a few trial shots. The machine guns were in order.
  In my mind's eye I saw my enemy dropping.

  My excitement was gone. In such a position one thinks quite calmly
  and collectedly and weighs the probabilities of hitting and being
  hit. Altogether, the fight itself is the least exciting {132} part
  of the business, as a rule. He who gets excited in fighting is sure
  to make mistakes. He will never get his enemy down. Calmness is,
  after all, a matter of habit.

  At any rate, in this case, I did not make a mistake. I approached
  within fifty yards of my man. I fired some well-aimed shots and
  thought that I was bound to be successful. That was my idea. But
  suddenly I heard a tremendous bang when I had fired scarcely ten
  cartridges, and presently again something hit my machine.

  It became clear to me that I had been hit, or, rather, my machine
  had been hit. At the same time I noticed a fearful stench of
  gasoline, and I saw that the motor was running slow. The Englishman
  noticed it too, for he started shooting with redoubled energy, while
  I had to stop it. I went right down. Instinctively I switched off the
  engine. I felt in the air a thin white cloud of gas. I knew its
  meaning from my previous experience with my enemies. Its appearance
  is the first sign of a coming explosion. I was at an altitude of
  9,000 feet and had to travel a long distance to get down. By the
  kindness of Providence, my engine stopped running.

  I have no idea with what rapidity I went downward. At any rate, the
  speed was so great that I could not put my head out of the machine
  without being pressed back by the rush of air.

  Soon I had lost sight of the enemy plane .... I had fallen to an
  altitude of perhaps 1,000 feet, and had to look out for a landing.
  These are serious occasions. I found a meadow. It was not very
  large, but it would just suffice if  I used due caution. Besides, it
  was very favourably situated on the high road near Henin-Liétard.
  There I meant to land, and I did, without accident.

  My machine had been hit a number of times. The shot that caused me
  to give up the fight had gone through both the petrol tanks. I had
  not a drop left. My engine had also been damaged by bullets.

A German officer who had watched the fight and the forced
landing rushed into the field and found Richthofen sitting in the cockpit
of his bus with his legs dangling over the side.


The officer took him to a near-by officers' mess, but failed to
recognize the German ace either by face or name.

"Have you ever brought down an Englishman?" the officer asked. "Oh,
yes, I have done so now and then," replied Richthofen, proud but a
little pained.

"Indeed," he replied. "Maybe you have shot down two?"

"No, not two," replied the Flying Uhlan, "but twenty-four."

Richthofen said later that the officer looked at him as though he were
talking to a colossal liar. The explanation came when the German ace
removed his flying togs and stepped forth in uniform, wearing the
order Pour le Mérite hanging from his neck. The mess feasted
Richthofen with oysters and champagne.

Lieutenant Lubbert, a member of Richthofen's squadron, had been
brought down in the same flight. Lubbert was known in the squadron as
the "bullet catcher," because he always flew his plane back full of
bullet holes. This time he had been wounded in the chest and taken to
a hospital, but his plane, which landed in a field not far from
Richthofen's landing place, was intact. Richthofen flew it back to the
airdrome. Lubbert was killed three weeks later, March 30th, when his
plane crashed near Bailleul. The "bullet catcher" was brave, but flew
without luck.

  [Victory 25]

Before noon that same day of his forced landing, Richthofen had
entered the fight again and "bagged" his twenty-fifth victim. This was
Lieutenant A. J. Pearson, a young mechanical and electrical engineer
from civil life whose work prior to the war had been the installation
of the telephone exchanges in China, Africa, and Australia for the
British Western Electric Company.


Pearson had hurried back to England upon the outbreak of hostilities
and joined up with the Royal Fusiliers in September, 1914. Although of
officer material, he went into the ranks and earned his commission
there in March, 1915, and won his Military Cross one year later when
he carried one of his wounded men back from No Man's Land under heavy

He learned to fly at Upham in Wiltshire, where he won his wings and
flew to France in December of 1916. Mrs. and Mr. George Pearson, the
young flyer's mother and father, were living at Shenley House, Heath,
Leighton-Buzzard, in March, 1917, when they received the last letter
from their son at the front.

Pearson wrote his mother that he had just brought down a German flyer
alive and unwounded, and that the prisoner at that, the moment of
writing, was having a good feed in the squadron mess. The German had
presented Pearson with his helmet, which the English flyer had
promptly forwarded to his mother as a trophy.

Two days later came the War Office telegram announcing that he had
been shot down in flames over the German lines, and later, through the
International Red Cross at Geneva, came the evidence upon which the
name of this young M. C. went on the casualty lists as killed in

Identification had been difficult because, as Richthofen states in his
report on the fight, Pearson's body was not recognizable as it had
been almost completely cremated before his flaming coffin struck the
earth. Richthofen's report was as follows:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 25th Victory

  Date: March 9, 1917.
  Time: 11:55 A.M.
  Place: Between Roclincourt and Bailleul, this side of the line,
  500 yards behind the trenches. {135}
  Type of Plane: Vickers one-seater. Tail number A. M. C. 3425 a.
  Occupant: Not recognizable, as completely burned.

  With three of my planes, I attacked several enemy machines.

  The plane I had singled out soon caught fire. After I had fired one
  hundred shots into it, it burst into flames and plunged downward.

  The plane is lying on our side of the lines but cannot be salvaged
  because it is nearly completely burned and is too far in front.

Pearson was not flying a Vickers, but a De Haviland scout plane, and
was on escort duty with his squadron, the Twenty-eighth, at the time
of the fight. Tommies in the English trenches saw his fiery death

Richthofen, who had followed his flaming victim almost to the ground,
saw at close hand the fearful death that fate had spared him just
three hours earlier that day. The sight did not unnerve him.

Two days later, he killed two more.

  [Victory 26]

One of these was Eddie Byrne, whose death deserves particular
attention because he was one of those ardent spirits who refused to
recognize the generally accepted dictum, that air fighting is a young
man's game. Byrne was thirty-seven years old and an old soldier of the
regular army, with twelve years' service in China, India, and Africa
to his record.

When war broke out, Byrne, having retired from the army with an
honourable discharge, was managing the establishment of a wealthy
Scotsman in Edinburgh, but always maintained his rooms at the Catholic
Working Boys' Home in Edinburgh.

He went to France at once with the Australian volunteer hospital
corps, and finding this too dull and different from {136} his old army
life, switched over to the armoured motorcar corps for more
excitement. When the armoured cars went into the limbo of bows and
arrows after the end of the war of movement, the commanding officer of
the Corps, the Duke of Westminster, recommended the old Tommy for a
commission. He received one in the Fourth Gordon Highlanders, with
whom he served in the trenches until severely wounded.

Two weeks after leaving the hospital, he was undergoing instruction
for the air, and a month later saw him a qualified observer on flights
over the German lines.

On the day that Richthofen sent Pearson down to his death, Byrne was
sitting in his quarters in the Second Squadron at one o'clock in the
morning, writing to the one man whom he considered his closest friend
and well wisher in the world. This was the chairman of the working
boys' home, Mr. Frederick J. Smith, K. S. G.

Here is his last letter "home":

  Friday, 9th March, 1917.

  Just a line to let you know I'm still "going strong." I may say
  (knowing how busy you are) that I'll not be expecting an immediate

  It was raining heavily yesterday, and we did no flying, so I spent
  most of the day letter-writing, and have just come back from the
  Mess and, not feeling either tired or sleepy, thought I might as
  well write one more letter. It must be Friday, because it is past
  midnight--my best time for writing, as I always was a bit of a night
  hawk--not a Piccadilly one though. I read a lot of piffle in some
  London paper a few days ago about the creatures of that ilk--it was
  piffle being so greatly exaggerated. In the same way people are
  always writing in the _Daily Mail_ and _Mirror_ about officers not
  being able to live on their pay. Well, I've always been considered
  extravagant, and really I did think at first I should have great
  difficulty in keeping my head above {137} water when I was
  commissioned, but, on looking at my pass book, which arrived a few
  days ago, I find I've over £90 in credit. And I've done my share in
  more than one fizz supper before now both at home and out here. What
  is more, that credit has accrued before any flying pay has been
  entered in the pass book. Of course, I am much better off in the R.
  F. C. than in the Infantry. One thing I can never understand is why
  a subaltern carrying his life in his hand every day in the trenches
  should only get 12 shillings, 6 pence per diem when a M.P. gets 400
  a year without even being obliged to show his face in the House.

  My old battalion is back in the line again. I found out where they
  were. I had previously spent five months in the same place. I went
  down by side car one day last week and spent a jolly afternoon among
  my old friends.

  I've just spent a very pleasant evening. We invited our Squadron
  Commander to dinner and, as I'm mess president of  "C" Flight Mess,
  I had to arrange an exceptionally good menu. Well, I think I
  satisfied everyone. My days in Belgrave Crescent helped me in many
  ways, though I spent many hours in a big town near by our airdrome
  before I found all the odd little items that are required before a
  cook can concoct what the few words on a menu card really imply.

  However, everyone was satisfied, and that was the main thing. The
  success of the evening was my special liqueur--"drambuie"--which no
  one in the mess had ever heard of before, far less sampled. The
  success is best judged by the fact that the evening outlived the
  bottle--in spite of the fact that the usual fare (as far as liqueur
  goes) was provided. I happened to go to B--e (Censor won't allow the
  name to pass) expeditionary force canteen and spotted a bottle on
  the shelf, and realized that that at least would be a real treat. I
  think it is a good job for the other members of the mess that I take
  an interest in catering as well as having a practical knowledge of
  cooking, because they foisted the honour of mess president on me
  without considering my feelings on the subject. It is now agreed
  that as long as I'm in No. 2 Squadron, I'm a permanent fixture as
  far as mess presidents are concerned, in "C" Flight, at any rate. I
  often feel I've come out "on top" and I only wish that a few {138}
  more of the old boys from 50 and 52 could do likewise--still, that
  word luck, which has such peculiar meaning, is not the password in
  the life of many mortals.

  Well, it is now Friday with a vengeance, being after 1 A.M., so I
  had better draw to a close.

  With the best of wishes to those under your charge at 50 Lauriston
  Place, and kindest regards to yourself,

  Yours very sincerely,

His previous letter, written February 17th, was as follows:

  17th February, 1917.

  Many thanks for your ever welcome letter of 15th January. I only
  received it today. My first letter to my old battalion must have
  gone astray, so I sent them another line a few days ago and got a
  pile of letters forwarded on here. I'm now an observer attached to
  the R. F. C. My address is No.2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, B. E.
  F., France. No doubt you will find corresponding with so many old
  Home boys no easy matter when you have so much work in connection
  with the Home besides your own business. Talking about Home boys: Is
  that lad Dodds still in the 17th H. L. I., as they are in the same
  part of the line as I patrol? If so, I might manage to look him up.
  I forget the other boy's name who was with him at Ripon.

  The frost has now broken for good, I think--it rained a little this
  afternoon--that will make things worse than ever in the trenches.
  I've experienced trenches in all kinds of weather, and rain I always
  looked upon as our worst enemy--though flying has its dangers. We
  have always a comfortable mess and quarters to go to when we do get
  safely back at our airdrome. Every day we have fights in the air
  with Hun machines, in addition to our having to run the gauntlet of
  Archies. (Archies is our nickname for anti-aircraft shells.) We
  don't mind the Hun machines--we can always face them and chase them
  away--but you never know when an Archie may burst close to your
  machine, and {139} down you come like a stone. However, by the time
  you get to mother earth, you would be too dizzy to feel the bump.
  The one thing we dread is our machine catching fire through being
  hit in the petrol tank by a tracer bullet. Though the pilot might be
  able to land the machine, the observer would be badly burned, if not
  finished off altogether. Being burned alive is the one form of death
  I don't want to experience--an Archie would be far more

  Yes, when Sir Douglas Haig gets going in earnest this time,  poor
  old Fritz will get the fright of his life.

  I spent one trip in the trenches at New Year. It was an old system
  of Hun trenches we were unable to repair owing to the weather. They
  were in a most deplorable condition, and it was the most
  uncomfortable time I ever had in the line. Still, we were all happy,
  as we knew it was our last trip before going out for divisional
  rest. Many thanks for your kindness in sending me the _Dispatch_. News
  from Edinburgh will always be welcome. I'm getting an Aberdeen paper
  sent out daily. I sent a subscription to the firm today. It will
  keep me in touch with the old battalion and let me know what happens
  in the next Big Push to the lads I know so well. Our division did
  well at Beaumont Hamel, but we have not altogether wiped out the
  score at High Wood, so they will give the Huns fair hell next time
  my battalion goes "over the top."

  Kindest regards to all old friends, and warmest wishes to the boys
  at the "Home."

  Yours very sincerely,

Byrne met the death he feared on March 11th. At ten-thirty that
morning, Byrne, in the observer's cockpit and with second Lieutenant
J. Smith in the pilot's "office," went aloft in one of the old B. E.
two-seaters and crossed the lines under orders to photograph certain
German artillery positions. The plane was armed with two Lewis machine

Over Givenchy, another English flyer saw a lone {140} German plane
drop out of the upper blue and rip a merciless volley of lead into the
photography plane. They saw Byrne and Smith go down on the German side
of the line with smoke pouring from the plane. On the next day, German
prisoners told the English infantry that both of the airmen had been

Exactly what happened during those exciting minutes in the air is made
public now for the first time in this long lost combat report written
by Richthofen. It reads:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of my 26th Victory

  Date: March 11, 1917.
  Time: 12 noon.
  Place: South of La Folie forest near Vimy.
  Plane: B. E. two-seater. No. 6232. Details of motor not at hand, as
    motor buried itself in the ground and cannot be dug up because
    locality is under heaviest artillery fire.
  Occupants: Lieutenant Byrne and Lieutenant Smith. Both killed.

  I had lost my squadron and was flying alone.

  I had been observing for some time an enemy artillery flyer.

  In a favourable moment, I attacked the B. E. two-seater machine,
  and, after 200 shots, the body of the machine broke in half.

  The plane fell smoking into our lines.

  It is lying near the forest La Folie, west of Vimy and only a few
  paces behind our trenches.


Byrne had no kin. He had saved almost $1,000 out of his pay. He left
it to the working boys' home.

Byrne's pilot, Second Lieutenant Johnny Smith, was a youngster just in
his twenties and newly married. His widow lives today at 98, Chestnut
Road, Plumstead, London, S.E. Byrne's and Smith's battlefield graves
near {141} Vimy lay under the thundering requiem of the guns for many
months in the fighting that followed on the Somme.

As a rule, Richthofen did not like to see the bodies of his victims.
He would send a young officer of the squadron to the scene of his
latest kill, with instructions to obtain the particulars necessary for
the Flying Uhlan's report, so that he could obtain credit for another

Wherever possible, this officer would bring back some trophy of the
fallen plane or its occupants. Most frequently this souvenir consisted
of a strip of fabric bearing the printed number of the plane and this
was affixed to the wall of Richthofen's office at the airdrome in
Douai. As the number of these strips grew, they soon filled one whole
wall of the Staffel commander's office, which then became known as the
room of  "dead men's numbers."

  [Victory 27]

Several days after his next victory, Richthofen received in the
military mail a postcard photograph of the body of the English flyer
he had killed.

It was gruesome and pitiful, but yet the Flying Uhlan was so
fascinated by the grisly trophy of his prowess that he kept it as
carefully as hunters keep and frame the photo of prize victims of the
chase or the finny captives of their rods and lines.

On the back of the photograph, which I found among Richthofen's
effects in his mother's home at Schweidnitz, in Germany, was the
following inscription:


  SIR: I witnessed on March 17, 1917, your air fight and took this
  photograph which I send to you with hearty congratulations, because
  you seldom have the occasion to see your prey.

  _Vivat sequens!_ (Here's to the next!)

  With fraternal greetings,
   _Colonel and Commander of the 87th Reserve Infantry Regiment_.


The photograph is that of the body of Lieutenant A. E. Boultbee, a son
of the Reverend R. C. Boultbee of Hargraves Rectory, Huntingdon, in
England. The father has since gone to join his son, so this picture of
the fallen falcon, which might be called "The Last Landing," will
never reach his eyes.

It shows Boultbee where he fell, near the German reserve line trenches
in the neighbourhood of Oppy, over which place he and his observer,
Air Mechanic F. King, fought Richthofen to the death at about
eleven-thirty in the morning of that day.

The Flying Uhlan's report on the fight reads:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 27th Victory

  Date: March 17, 1917.
  Time: 11:30 A.M.
  Place: Oppy.
  Plane: No. a. 5439. Vickers two-seater, Motor Aëro Engine 854.
    Machine gun a. 19633 and 19901.
  Occupants: Both killed. No identity disks. Names found on maps were
  Smith and Heanly.

  About eleven-thirty with nine of my machines, I attacked an enemy
  squadron of sixteen units.

  During the fight, I managed to force a Vickers two-seater to one
  side and managed to bring it down after firing 800 shots into it.

  In my machine-gun fire, the machine lost its openwork fuselage tail.

  The occupants were both killed and were taken for burial by the local
  commander at Oppy.


No flyers by the name of Smith and Heanly figure in the English
casualties of that day, but it was possible from the number of the
plane, the motor, and the machine guns {143} definitely to identify
the plane as the F. E. 2b, which Boultbee and King flew from the
airdrome at nine o'clock on the morning of their death. The maps were
borrowed ones. At the time of the fight, they were attached to the
Twenty-fifth Squadron and were acting as escort for photography planes
in the locality of Annoeulin-Vitry, near which place the fight

King's mother lives today near Blue Bell, St. Nicholas, near Spalding,
in Lincolnshire, where she was ten years ago when she received the War
Department telegram notifying her that her son was missing. King was
twenty years old when he entered the service, and was about to receive
a commission as an observer when he was killed.

The fallen falcon was identified as Boultbee from the officer's
trousers that he was wearing, which were different from the uniform
worn by King, who was in the ranks.

Boultbee and King "went west" before noon that St. Patrick's Day, but
for Richthofen the day was only half over. He was in excellent form.
He had killed two men in the morning. In the afternoon, he killed two

  [Victory 28]

One of them was Second Lieutenant G. M. Watt, a twenty-seven-year-old
pilot of the Sixteenth Squadron, and the other was his observer,
Sergeant F. A. Howlett, who had come into the Flying Corps from an
East Kent regiment in which he had distinguished himself in the ranks.

Watt was an Edinburgh Scout, the son of George Watt, K. C., Sheriff of
Inverness, Elgin, and Nairn. From Fettes College in Edinburgh, where
his father lives today, he went out to far-off Burma in 1912 and
plunged into the teak-wood and timber trade with the old Eastern firm
of the MacGregors. When England's needs became desperate in 1916 and
the call for men went to the farthest frontiers of the Empire, Watt
packed his duds and said good-bye to the jungles. In July of that
year, his sun helmet {144} was replaced by a flyer's képi, and he was
training for the air in his native Scotland.

He hit the front in France on January 17th, making his first flight
over the lines with the Sixteenth Squadron, with which he flew almost
daily during the next two months. On the afternoon of March 17th,
Watt, with Howlett in the observer's box, left the airdrome at
three-thirty and flew for the lines. They had a job of artillery
observation to do over the little village of Farbus, which was several
miles behind the German lines.

For almost two hours they ranged the guns of the English battery with
which they were in wireless communication. They indicated targets,
reported the shorts and overs and contributed considerably to the
afternoon's discomfort of the German residents of Farbus.

Although the anti-aircraft guns were banging away at them, Wart and
Howlett disregarded the safer altitudes above and carried out their
"shoot" around the more perilous 2,500-foot level. English fighting
planes hovered above them, as an escort, and Watt depended upon them
to protect him from aërial interference, while with the Archies, he
simply trusted to luck and the best speed and manoeuvring that he
could get out of the old B. E. two-seater, which, in addition to its
wireless equipment and armament of two Lewis guns, carried a pair of
twenty-pound bombs.

They were so close to the front lines that English Tommies witnessed
the fight at five o'clock, when Richthofen swooped down upon them and
raised his day's toll of lives from two to four. Watt tried to shake
Richthofen off by throwing the old B. E. into sharp curves, which also
gave Howlett opportunity to rip out streams of lead toward their
faster adversary every time he approached within range.

Then the Tommies saw the tragedy. At a height of 1,000 {145} feet the
hard-pressed B. E., suffering from the strains of the curves and dives
into which Watt was throwing her, collapsed in midair.

In falling, the wreckage was carried by the wind back over the German
lines and landed in No Man's Land, where it instantly became the
target for the German infantry and artillery. That night, English
patrols crawled out in the dark and extracted the crushed and
bullet-riddled bodies of Watt and Howlett and buried the remains at a
spot which they marked on the military map as S. 27 a. 59. The bodies
of the two now lie side by side in the British cemetery near Bruay.

Richthofen reported that night as follows:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 28th Victory
  Date: March 17, 1917.
  Time: 5 P.M.
  Place: Above trenches west of Vimy.
  Plane: B. E. two-seater. No details, as plane landed between lines.

  I had been watching an enemy infantry flyer for some time. Several
  of my attacks, directed upon him from above, produced no results,
  especially as my adversary did not accept fight and was protected
  from above by other machines.

  Consequently, I went down to 2,000 feet and attacked from below my
  adversary, who was flying at about 2,700 feet.

  After a short fight, my opponent's plane lost both wings and fell.
  The machine crashed into No Man's Land and was fired upon by our

That night, in the messroom of the squadron at Douai, Richthofen
received the congratulations of his cubs on his double victory for the
day. The Flying Uhlan accepted their praise modestly but reminded them
that, as an organization, the squadron had not yet equalled the record
{146} of the old Boelcke squadron, and he would not be completely
satisfied until the number of victories credited to the unit he
commanded was greater than that of any other unit in the German air

He gravely directed the attention of his flyers to the current
situation on the front, and repeated what they well knew, that the
High Command would be forced to depend now more than ever upon the
courage and cleverness of its air-force fighters.

Without being marked by battles of major importance, the months of
January, February, and March had been punctuated with numerous fierce
actions and engagements which have been placed under the general
heading of the operations on the Ancre and which, beginning January
11th, had continued until the 13th of March.

Richthofen's squadron had participated in the fighting around
Miraumont on February 17th and 18th, which had extended from Thiepval
to Hamel and Beaumont. The unit had bitterly fought the English
airmen, who endeavoured to dominate the air during the last week of
February while their wet and freezing land forces were pushing forward
to the capture of Thilloys. They had exacted a heavy toll of planes
when the English took Irles on March 10th.

Four days later, the Allied world had been sent into a delirium of
delight by the commencement of the German retreat to the Hindenburg
Line. The German press agencies broadcast the story of the retreat as
one prearranged for the purpose of disrupting the carefully laid
Allied plans for the spring push. The flyers of the Maltese cross were
kept aloft every daylight hour to interfere, if not to prevent, Allied
observation of the new positions to which the Germans were retiring.

On that 17th of March when Richthofen snuffed out the lives of Byrne
and Smith and Watt and Howlett, {147} English ground forces pushed
their way into Bapaume in the face of considerable resistance and on
the following day occupied Péronne.

The German retreat and the Allied advance to the Hindenburg Line
continued from March 14th until the 5th of April, and in the confusion
of rearrangement and readjustments of forces due to the changed
positions of the opposing armies, the respective commanders were
forced to depend more and more upon aërial reconnaissance.

The activity in the air increased daily, the Allies concentrating
every effort on finding out the details of the new German positions,
while the Germans put every available plane in the air to frustrate
these efforts.

Although he spent from three to six hours every day in the air and
engaged in numerous hot combats, it was not until three days after the
English occupation of Péronne that Richthofen succeeded in registering
his next victory, which he did at the cost of two more English lives.

  [Victory 29]

Pilot Sergeant S. H. Quicke, a London youngster who had said goodbye
to his mother several weeks before at East Finchley, and Second
Lieutenant W. J. Lindsay, were doing their second patrol of the day on
the afternoon of March 21st. In an old B. E. two-seater with two Lewis
guns, they were registering English cannon on new positions around

It was about four-thirty English time which was the same as
five-thirty by the German clock, that Lindsay's wireless signals
ceased. The operator in the artillery dugout tore the receivers from
his ears and, gaining the ground above, scanned the sky to the east
with his binoculars.

He saw Quicke and Lindsay, caught without an escort of fighting
planes, striving to defend themselves and escape from a fast enemy
scout machine which attacked them repeatedly. The end came in five
minutes, when the {148} English machine was suddenly enveloped in a
cloud of black smoke, and a second later plunged to earth.

The operator telephoned through to the Sixteenth Squadron airdrome,
asking for another plane to be sent up to register the guns of the
battery. He reported that Quicke and Lindsay had been shot down, the
plane landing quite close to the new battery position. Quicke was
picked up dead, and Lindsay died in five minutes.

Richthofen reported:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 29th Victory

  Date: March 21, 1917.
  Time: 5:30 P.M.
  Place: 12 Hill 123, north of Neuville.
  Plane: B. E. two-seater, details unknown, as came down on enemy

  Messages had come through that enemy planes had been seen in 3,000
  feet altitude in spite of bad weather and a strong east wind.

  I went up by myself with the intention of bringing down an infantry
  or artillery flyer.

  After an hour's flying, I spotted at 2,500 feet altitude a large
  number of enemy artillery flyers beyond our lines. They sometimes
  approached our front, but never passed it.

  After several unsuccessful attempts, I managed, half hidden by
  clouds, to take one of these B. E.'s by surprise, and to attack him
  at an altitude of 1,800 feet about 1 kilometre beyond our lines.

  The adversary made the mistake of trying to fly away in a straight
  line in an effort to escape from me, but in doing so he remained
  just a wink too long in my machine-gun fire (500 shots).

  Suddenly, he made two uncontrolled curves and dashed smoking to the
  ground. The plane was completely ruined. It fell in Section F 3.


This was the last air fight that Richthofen had as "second louie." On
the following day, March 22d, he received his first promotion of the
war. The Uhlan of the sky became a first lieutenant, which, in
consideration of his age--he was still only twenty-four years old--was
an exceptional advancement under the strict regulations of the German

 [Victory 30]

Two days later, he celebrated the promotion with another successful
combat which he described in his report as follows:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 30th Victory

  Date: March 24, 1917.
  Time: 11:55 A.M.
  Place: Givenchy.
  Plane: Spad with Hispano motor. The first I have encountered. Plane
  No. 6706. Hispano Suiza Motor, 140 H.P.;
    Machine Gun Maxim No. 4810.
  Occupant: Lieutenant Baker, wounded, taken prisoner.

  I was flying with several of my gentlemen when I observed an enemy
  squad passing our front.

  Aside from this squad there were two new one-seaters which I had
  never seen in the air before, and they were extremely fast and

  I attacked one of them and ascertained that my machine was better
  than his.

  After a long fight, I managed to hit the adversary's gasoline tank.
  His propeller stopped running. The plane had to go down.

  As the fight had taken place above the trenches, the adversary tried
  to escape me, but I managed to force him to land behind our line
  near Givenchy.

  The plane turned completely over in a small shell hole, and remained
  upside down. It was taken by our troops.

The pilot of this new English plane was Lieutenant R. P. Baker of the
Sixteenth Squadron, which had been {150} engaged that day in an
offensive patrol over the lines in the region of Lens, Liétard, and
Bailleul. Lieutenant Harding, one of Baker's comrades, saw the fight
from afar, but was unable to go to Baker's assistance.

Baker later wrote to his brother from a prison camp in Germany that he
had been forced to land on account of his motor being useless. He was
wounded in the landing. Baker's whereabouts since the Armistice is
unknown today, and mail addressed to his sister, who lived in London,
is returned, undelivered.

The day after his capture of Baker, Richthofen took another prisoner
of war, this one being Second Lieutenant C. G. Gilbert, a pilot of the
Twenty-ninth Squadron, who was flying a speedy French Nieuport machine
on escort duty.

The Flying Uhlan was proud of the ease and dispatch with which he
handled this English adversary, because it was the first time he had
had an opportunity to perform in the air on the same mission as his
younger brother, Lothar.

Lothar was with him that day, and Lothar himself attacked one of the
English planes. It was his first combat as a fighting pilot, and he
succeeded in disabling his adversary, but was not fortunate enough to
shoot him down out of control. He still had his first victory to
register. He was eager to duplicate the big brother's success in the

Lothar, without previous military training or schooling, had entered
the army at the beginning of the war as a Fahnenjunker, that is, as a
man in the ranks who is destined to be commissioned as soon as he has
fitted himself by study and service.

In the Fourth Dragoons, he had ridden in the advance on the Marne in
1914, and claimed to have been one of a small patrol that had
approached close enough to Paris {151} actually to get a glimpse of
the top of the Eiffel Tower. Following the example of his elder
brother, he entered the air service in the fall of 1916 and made his
first solo flight during the Christmas holidays.

His first brush with the enemy was a great event for the boy. It was a
red-letter day for his elder brother also, because it recalled to him
the thrill and the tingles he had felt that day hardly seven months
earlier when he, under the watchful eyes of Boelcke, the great master,
had shot down his first victim from the sky.

  [Victory 31]

Back in the flying baron's quarters in Douai, Lothar watched with a
mixture of pride and envy over his brother's shoulder as the latter
filled out the inevitable report with its reiterated petition for
credit. He wrote:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 31st Victory

  Date: March 25, 1917.
  Time: 8:20 A.M.
  Place: Tilley.
  Plane: Nieuport. Burned.
  Occupant: Lieutenant Grivert (Mistake for Gilbert).

  An enemy squadron had passed our lines. I went up and overtook their
  last machine. After only a few shots, the enemy's propeller stopped
  running. The adversary landed near Tilley, thereby upsetting his
  plane. I observed that, some moments later, the plane began to burn.

It was all so easy if one made one's self letter perfect and exercised
care, was the gist of the lesson Richthofen repeated to the men of his
Staffel, and especially to his kid brother. He repeated that the
successful flyer had to know the possibilities of his plane, he had to
be able to recognize different types of enemy planes and be thoroughly
aware of the capabilities of each type. Then he {152} had to learn how
to take advantage of wind and sun and put them to his own use against
the enemy. Combine an offensive spirit based on knowledge instead of
blind sporting courage with the proper degree of carefulness, and one
would go far and fare well in the air. Lothar learned well under his
idolized brother, and some say he did even better. He followed his
brother's rules and survived the war. The Flying Uhlan did not.

At this period of his career Richthofen's spirits were high. He
reflected them in his current letters to his mother On March 26, 1917,
he wrote:

  Yesterday I brought down my thirty-first, and the day before my
  thirtieth. Three days ago I received my appointment as First
  Lieutenant, and have thus gained a full half-year. My squadron is
  shaping well. It really gives me great pleasure.

  Lothar had his first air encounter yesterday. He was satisfied with
  it because he touched his adversary who, in our parlance, "stank,"
  leaving a black, smelly trail behind him. He did not come down, of
  course--that would have been too much luck. Lothar is very
  conscientious and will do well.

  How is Papa, and how did you like yesterday's official army report?

The little silver cups of death now ranged on Richthofen's desk
numbered thirty-one. It was not quite three months since he had been
placed in command of his own squadron, and he had jumped his
individual bag of victories from sixteen to thirty-one, almost
doubling the score.

In four months' flying in the old Boelcke squadron, from September,
1916, to January 4, 1917, he had shot down his first sixteen planes.

In less than three months' flying with a squadron under {153} his own
command, from January 4 through March 25, 1917, he had shot down
fifteen more, almost equalling his former bag.

He had downed two in January, two in February, and in the month of
March had established a new record for himself by downing eleven. Four
of the planes had been single-seater fighters, and eleven of them had
been two-seater machines, whose principal functions did not include
air fighting.

A list of casualties inflicted by Richthofen during this period
appears in the Appendix. The English air-casualty lists reveal no
casualties applicable to the twenty-first and twenty-fourth victories
credited to Richthofen's string. He reported in both these combats
that he shot his adversary down behind the British lines. If
Richthofen's data be correct, it must be presumed that the English air
fighters he engaged were able to land safely behind their own lines.

  Number of planes shot down in 1917    15
  Previously reported (1916)            16
       Total planes shot down           31

  Killed in 1917                        16
  Previously reported (1916).           16
       Total killed                     32

  Wounded and prisoners of war in 1917   5
  Previously reported (1916)             8
    Total wounded and prisoners of war  13

Richthofen's books with death stood well in his favour.

There was still more than a year of carnage ahead of him {154} before
he himself was to go the way of his many victims, but before that day
arrived, he was to double and almost treble the terrible score that
now stood beside his name.

Of all this following period, his record for the next month, April,
1917, was to be the reddest.



To kill, to wound, or to capture a man a day, for a month is the
unprecedented war record which young Von Richthofen wrote in blood
during the thirty days of April, 1917.

It was the month America entered the war.

The appearance of this new and formidable ally in the ranks of
Germany's foes had the effect of adding fresh fuel to the killer
spirit that dominated the Uhlan of the skies.

With renewed energy and determination, with increased ferocity and
aggressiveness, he applied himself and his fighting pilots to the
ambitious task of forcing a conclusion at arms before the weight of
American force could be brought to the fighting lines.

At the head of his pursuit group, he coursed the skies daily in search
of fresh victims, and found them. Plane after plane he shot down in
flames, finding new and keener exultation in following his disabled
prey to the ground.

He produced results and demanded increased "production" from the
members of his unit. He kept careful records of their flights and
combats and became intolerant of those who lagged on the record. His
own "bag" increased almost daily.

It was partly Richthofen's red score for April that Ludendorff had in
mind when he said the flying Baron was worth as much as two divisions
of German infantry.

Killing in individual personal combat on such a scale was beyond the
experience, knowledge, and even the {156} imagination of Prussia's
ruthless war lords. It became the boast at German headquarters that
Richthofen's appearance on any new sector was sufficient to cause
extensive troop movements on the part of the enemy.

The Uhlan gloried in his success. On his closely cropped blond hair
rested a grisly crown which distinguished him above all others as the
foremost killer in the ranks of his militant people, and the ablest
single executioner in the service of the grim reaper.

He made "Bloody April" a month of death and carnage in the air. In the
number of casualties inflicted, the German air service achieved the
zenith of its power.

Reorganized under a general air commander and greatly reinforced, it
was able to take from the Allies the aërial superiority which the
latter had so decisively achieved in 1916.

During the period from March 31st to May 11th, the Germans claimed to
have shot down 4 British planes for each German plane that was lost,
and they put down the British losses at 120 planes as against 30
German planes. It would seem that the Germans even understated the
losses of their enemies, because the records of the Royal Flying Corps
show that, during the month of April, 151 British planes were
ominously "missing."

Germany's technical genius and industrial efficiency were responsible
in no small degree for the April successes of her flying forces. They
had stolen a march on the British by bringing out their new spring
model planes at least six weeks before the British could deliver
theirs at the front.

For this failure on the part of home production in England, scores of
young British flyers paid with their lives. Their old last-year
machines--slow, cumbersome "B. E.'s" and "F. E.'s" and De Haviland
pusher scouts--were hopelessly outclassed by the new Halberstadt and
Albatross scouts.


The German flyers had all the advantage. Their machines were the
latest word in aviation. In speed, they could literally fly circles
around their adversaries. The Halberstadt and Albatross could outclimb
and outmanoeuvre any British plane in the air.

But in spite of this mechanical superiority, the British, with
characteristic tenacity, refused to change their offensive policy and
continued to carry the war in the air to the enemy's side of the line.
Whereas, during the British superiority in the air in 1916, the German
air force had been completely swept from the skies, the turning of the
tables did not bring the same results in 1917.

The severity of the British losses broke all existing records, but
they were not allowed to interfere with the orders to "carry on" as
usual. There were still plenty of last year's machines, and there was
never a dearth of young Englishmen from the army and navy eager to
escape the monotony of trench and sea and to fight it out in the

There are few examples of more sterling courage than that shown by
these cavaliers of the air with their hopelessly inferior equipment.
Even the most expert and courageous flyer in one of the old British
machines was almost a certain victim to any novice who flew one of the
new German models. But, in spite of the inequality of the contests,
the English knights of the blue went up day after day to almost
certain death. It was like sending butterflies out to sting wasps.

Although the butterflies might conduct offensive observation and
bombing patrols in the air over the enemy lines, they were forced to
rely solely upon defensive measures when they were attacked by the new
German air fighters. They had to create new tactics to protect

It was a game of trying to ward off the other fellow's blows and never
being able to deliver one at him. The price {158} of the game was
death. Two defensive measures were created by the hard-pressed

First, they learned to play "ring-around-a-rosie," or "tail-chasing,"
as it became known later. An English unit, when attacked, would close
its formation and start flying in a circle, with each plane chasing
the tail of the plane in front of him. To a degree this made it
possible for each plane to protect the tail of the plane immediately
in front of him in the circle.

If the formation were lucky in this device and closed in the circle
just as quick as planes were knocked down from it, it was possible to
get home by gradually shifting the circular course more and more in
the direction of the English lines.

When flying alone, and attacked by one of the new German models, the
trapped butterfly could only depend upon diving to within four or five
hundred feet of the ground and then streaking for home by zigzagging
and hedge-hopping. This method was adopted when it was found that the
new German planes were sometimes unable to pull out of a dive as low
as five hundred feet from the ground, and, in consequence, their
pilots were loath to follow their quarry to such a low height.

But even with the best of luck, it was a game in which the odds were
greatly against the English. Few flights were completed without
losses, and amongst these losses were old experienced men who were
sorely needed later. Sometimes an entire formation would be
annihilated in one flight.

It was not until the middle of the following month of May that the
lagging British supply department was able to equalize matters by
delivering numbers of the new English models, the two-seater Bristol
fighters, the S. E. 5 single-seater fighting planes, and the De
Haviland 4 two-seater fighting and bombing planes.

By the 5th of April, the Germans had completed their {159} retreat to
the Hindenburg Line, and four days later, the Allies opened their
spring offensive of 1917, with the attack on Vimy Ridge and the first
battle of the Scarpe. The conflict waged unremittently night and day
throughout the month, and the activity of both sides in the air
reached a peak never before touched in the war.

Some idea of these busy days may be gained from the weekly reports of
the flying units that participated in the fray. Jagdstaffel II (in its
abbreviated form it was called "Jasta"), under command of Richthofen,
was in the air seventy-eight hours during the six flying days between
March 29th and April 4th. The report of the unit adjutant reads as

  _Jasta II._ O. U. April 4, 1917.
  Weekly Report of Activities from March 29 to April 4, 1917
  1.  _Changes in Personnel. None_.
  2.  _General State of Weather_. Two fine days, otherwise clouds,
    rain, and on two days snow.
  3.  _Enemy Flying Activities_.
       Repeated squad flying up to our airdrome.
  4.  _Our Flying Activities_.
      Six flying days; 95 flights; 78 flying hours.

  _Air Fights:_
  March 30. 1 fight, Lieutenant _Wolff_, successful, 11:45 A.M, near
  Fouquières, this side of lines, Nieuport D.D., one-seater, occupant:
  Lieutenant Garnett, killed; 1 fight, Lieutenant _Lubbert_, near
  Bailleul, killed, 2:15 P.M. plane smashed; 1 fight, Lieutenant
  _Allmenröder_, successful, 2:15 P.M., near Bois Bernard, this side,
  Nieuport, one-seater, occupant: Douglas M. F. Sinclair, killed.

  March 31. 1 fight, Lieutenant _Wolff_, successful, 7:40-7:45 A.M.,
  between Bailleul and Cavrelle, this side, F.E. D.D., two-seater,
  5th victory, occupants: Lieutenants Clifton and Strange; 1 fight,
  Lieutenant _Allmenröder_, 7:35 A.M., near Arras, unsuccessful.

  April 1. Sergeant _Festner_, 3 P.M., near Neuville, unsuccessful.


  April 2. First Lieutenant Baron von _Richthofen_, successful, 8:35
  A.M., near Farbus, this side, B.E. D.D., two-seater, 32d victory,
  occupants: Lieutenant Powell and (?), both killed; 1 fight,
  Lieutenant _Krefft_, successful, 9:50 A.M., near Courcelles, this
  side, F.E. D.D., 3d victory, occupants: Captain Tomlinson,
  Lieutenant Lenison, both wounded; 1 fight, Lieutenant _Kleinhenz_,
  unsuccessful, 9:50 A.M., near Courcelles; 1 fight, Sergeant _Festner_,
  successful, 10:50 A.M., near Auby, this side, F.E. D.D., two-seater,
  3d victory, occupants: Lieutenant Menghirth, Lieutenant Sworder,
  both killed; 1 fight, Lieutenant _Schaefer_, unsuccessful, 10:45, near
  Souchez; 1 fight, Lieutenant _Allmenröder_, unsuccessful, 9:50 A.M.,
  near Douai; 1 fight, Lieutenant _Allmenröder_, successful, 10:35 A.M.,
  near Angres, 6th victory, other side, R.E. D.D. two-seater,
  occupants unknown; 1 fight, Lieutenant _Wolff_, 9:50, unsuccessful; 1
  fight, First Lieutenant Baron von _Richthofen_, successful, 11 A.M.,
  near Givenchy, this side of lines, Sopwith, two-seater, 33d victory,
  occupants: Sergeant Dunn and Lieutenant Warren, one killed.

  April 3. Lieutenant Baron von _Richthofen_ (Lothar), airfight,
  unsuccessful, 4:15 P.M., near Givenchy; 1 fight, Lieutenant
  _Schaefer_, successful, 4:15, near Givenchy, F.E. D.D. two-seater,
  9th victory, occupants: Lieutenants Dodson and Richards, both
  killed; 1 fight, First Lieutenant Baron von _Richthofen_,
  successful, 4:15 P.M., near Hénin-Liétard, F.E. D.D., two-seater,
  34th victory, occupants: Lieutenants O'Beirne and McDonald, both
  killed; 1 fight, Sergeant _Festner_, successful, 5:15 P.M., near
  Hendecourt, full body D.D. one-seater, 4th victory, occupant:
  Lieutenant Heyworth, wounded; 1 fight, Sergeant _Festner_,
  unsuccessful, 6:20 P.M., near Neuville above Siegfried position,
  against 4 F.E. D.D.

  _Special Report_:
  On April 4th, Lieutenant Schaefer crashed his machine when landing
  on airdrome. Lieutenant Schaefer slightly wounded.
  (Signed) HARTMANN,
  _Lieutenant and Staffel Adjutant_.


  [Victory 32]

Richthofen's first successful fight in "Bloody April," although not
very different from the many others that follow, is perhaps the best
documented combat of his career.

The Flying Uhlan took a photograph of the wrecked plane in which he
killed Lieutenant J. C. Powell and Air Gunner P. Bonner. It remains
today, with his notations on the back of it, in one of his several
scrapbooks in his mother's home at Schweidnitz.

Further documentation comes in a detailed account of the fight which
Richthofen wrote for publication and another account of it written by
his younger brother Lothar, who was now a full-fledged member of the
Jasta. In addition to the above, Richthofen's official report on the
combat has been found in the German Reichsarchiv in Berlin.

Jasta II, composed of eight pilots, was divided into two groups or
"chains" of four planes each. Richthofen flew alternately with each
group. Lubbert the "bullet catcher" had been shot down and killed
three days before, and the second chain now consisted of Richthofen's
brother Lothar, and Lieutenants Wolff and Allmenröder, all of whom
were decorated with the Pour le Mérite before they were killed.

  On this day (April 2d) [Lothar wrote], our group had been assigned
  to an early morning start, that is to say, it had to be prepared to
  take the air first at any moment. Our duty began between 4 and 5
  A.M. We had just got up and were sitting in the starting house, when
  the telephone rang.

  "Six Bristols coming across from Arras in the direction of Douai"
  was the message.

  We jumped into our planes and started. High up above us at about
  9,000 feet there was a broken cover of clouds. We could see the
  English planes below the clouds not far from our airdrome. My
  brother's red bird was standing ready at the doors of its hangar,
  but my brother was not to be seen.


  We came into contact with the enemy, but the Englishmen were too
  clever with their machines, and we could not bring any of them down.
  Whenever we thought we had one of them, he disappeared in the
  clouds. After flying around for an hour without having brought down
  a single plane, we flew back and landed.

  My brother's red plane was in the open hangar door, apparently in
  the same spot where we had last seen it, but anyone could see,
  judging from the activity of the mechanics working on it, that it
  had been up in the air. We asked the mechanics.

  They told us the Lieutenant had left the ground five minutes after
  we had started, and that he had returned twenty minutes later, after
  having brought down an English plane. We walked back to our quarters
  and found that my brother had gone back to bed and was sleeping as
  though nothing had happened.

  Only a few bullet splashes and holes in his machine and the report
  of his having shot down another Englishman indicated that he had
  been flying. We were just a little bit ashamed of ourselves. We had
  been three, and we had started earlier and landed later than my
  brother, and we could show no results.

  While we were getting ready for our next start, my brother turned
  up, and it seemed to me that he was cross with the English who had
  interrupted his sleep and who forced peace-loving men to leave their
  beds at unseemly hours.

Richthofen himself described the fight as follows:

  The second of April, 1917, was a very warm day for my Jagdstaffel.
  From my quarters I could clearly hear the drum fire, which was again
  particularly violent. I was still in bed when my orderly rushed into
  the room and exclaimed: "Sir, the English are here!"

  Sleepy as I was, I looked out of the window, and, really, there were
  my dear friends circling over the flying ground. I jumped out of bed
  and into my clothes in a jiffy. My red bird had been pulled out of
  the hangars and was ready for starting. My mechanics knew that I
  would probably not allow such a favourable moment to go by unused.
  Everything was ready. I snatched up my furs and went up.


  I was the last to start. My comrades had started earlier and were
  much nearer to the enemy. I feared that my prey would escape me and
  that I should have to look on from a distance while the others were

  Suddenly, one of the impertinent Englishmen tried to drop down upon
  me. I allowed him to approach me quite near, and then we started a
  merry quadrille. Sometimes my opponent flew on his back and
  sometimes he did other tricks. He was flying a two-seater fighter. I
  realized very soon that I was his master and that he could not
  escape me.

  During an interval in the fighting, I assured myself that we were
  alone. It followed that the victory would belong to him who was
  calmest, who shot best, and who had the clearest brain in a moment
  of danger.

  Soon I had got him beneath me without having seriously hurt him with
  my gun. We were at least two kilometres from the front. I thought he
  intended to land, but there I had made a mistake. Suddenly, when he
  was only a few yards above the ground, I noticed how he once more
  went off on a straight course. He tried to escape me. That was too

  I attacked him again, and to do so I had to go so low that I was
  afraid of touching the roofs of the houses in the village beneath
  me. The Englishman defended himself up to the last moment. At the
  very end, I felt that my engine had been hit. Still I did not let
  go. He had to fall. He flew at full speed right into a block of

  There is little left to be said. This was once more a case of
  splendid daring. The man had defended himself to the last. However,
  in my opinion, he showed, after all, more stupid foolhardiness than
  courage. It was again one of the cases where one must differentiate
  between energy and idiocy. He had to come down in any case, but he
  paid for his stupidity with his life.

  I was delighted with the performance of my red machine, and returned
  to the airdrome. My comrades were still in the air, and they were
  surprised when we met later at breakfast and I told them that I had
  scored my thirty-second machine.


In his official report on the fight, Richthofen wrote:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 32d Victory

  Date: April 2, 1917
  Time: 8:35 A.M.
  Place: Farbus (village).
  Type of Plane: B. E. two-seater. No. 5841, Motor P. D. 1345/80
  Occupants: Both killed. Name of one Lieutenant Powell.
  Other occupant had no documents of identification.

  I attacked an enemy artillery flyer.

  After a long fight, I managed to force the adversary nearly on to
  the ground, but without being able to put him out of control.

  The strong and lusty wind had driven the enemy plane over our lines.
  My adversary tried by jumping over trees and other objects to
  escape. Then I forced him to land in the village of Farbus, where
  the machine was smashed against a block of houses.

  The observer kept on shooting until the machine touched the ground.

Powell and Bonner were from the Thirteenth Squadron, R. F. C. They had
left their airdrome a few minutes before 8 o'clock to photograph
German artillery positions, and their comrades heard nothing more of
them until the Germans dropped a message announcing they had been

Richthofen learned the identity of his victims in the late afternoon
of the same day he killed them. With Lothar, he motored over to Farbus
village and examined the wreck of the English machine crumpled up
against the wall of a house. A slight snow had fallen, effacing the
dark red stains left by the life blood of the two English war birds.
The Uhlan of the sky did not see the bodies of his victims. He did not
want to, but he took a photograph of the plane.


Concerning the visit of the two brothers to the scene of Powell and
Bonner's fatal crash, Lothar wrote:

  It was a sad sight which we saw. Half of the machine was hanging
  from a roof, and the other half was on the ground. After inspecting
  the remnants, we went home. The soldiers around the place had in the
  meantime recognized my brother and cheered us madly.

Powell's father, who lived on Tudor Road in that part of London called
Upper Norwood, learned of his son's death two days after it occurred.
Bonner's parents, living at Guildford in Surrey, received a similar
notice from the War Office.

Before noon of that same day, Richthofen had gone aloft again and
brought down another. There are three accounts of this fight, which
took place more than two miles above the earth. Two, of them are by
Richthofen himself, and they contradict each other vitally. The third
account is by the only living survivor of the combat, and it differs
from the other two.

In the wartime account, which Richthofen wrote for publication and
which has every appearance of careful editing under the hands of the
military censor, the Flying Uhlan takes credit for having spared the
lives of his victims because, in the persistence with which they
defended themselves, they displayed most sterling courage. On his
military report of the affair, he wrote that he deliberately killed
one of the English flyers after the plane had landed behind the German

The Prussian was in gay spirits after his early morning triumph.
Visiting him at the airdrome was Lieutenant Werner Voss, a crack flyer
and an old comrade from the Boelcke squadron. Of all the German aces,
Voss was closest to Richthofen in the score of planes downed. On the
day previous to this meeting, he had been accredited with his {166}
twenty-third victory and was only nine behind the flying Baron. They
joked with each other about their competition.

  [Victory 33]

The weather had turned out bad, with a strong wind and frequent
flurries of snow and hail. Richthofen went aloft with Voss to
accompany the latter back to his airdrome. They flew above the clouds
in the direction of Arras, over which place they were joined by
Lothar, who had recognized his brother's red machine from afar.

  Suddenly, we saw an English air patrol approaching from the other
  side [Richthofen later wrote]. Immediately the thought occurred to
  me "Now comes number thirty-three." Although there were nine
  Englishmen, and although they were on their own territory, they
  preferred to avoid battle. I began to think that it might be better
  for me to repaint my machine. Nevertheless, we caught up with them.
  The important thing in airplanes is that they shall be speedy.

  I was nearest to the enemy and attacked the man at the rear of the
  formation. To my great delight, I noticed that he accepted battle,
  and my pleasure increased when I discovered that his comrades
  deserted him, so I had once more a single fight. It was a fight
  similar to the one I had had several hours earlier. My opponent did
  not make matters easy for me. He knew the fight business, and it was
  particularly awkward for me that he was a good shot. To my great
  regret, that was quite clear to me.

  A favourable wind came to my aid, and it drove both of us over the
  German lines. My opponent discovered that the matter was not as
  simple as he had imagined. So he plunged, and disappeared in a
  cloud. He had nearly saved himself.

  I plunged after him and dropped out of the cloud, and as luck would
  have it, found myself quite close behind him. I fired and he fired,
  without any tangible result. At last I hit him. I noticed a ribbon
  of white gasoline vapour. He must land, for his engine had stopped.

  But he was a stubborn fellow. He would not recognize that he was
  bound to lose the game. If he continued shooting, I could {167} kill
  him, for meanwhile we had dropped to an altitude of about nine
  hundred feet.

  However, the Englishman continued to defend himself by shooting at
  me exactly as his countryman had done in the morning. He fought on
  until he landed.

  When he had come to the ground, I flew over him at an altitude of
  about thirty feet in order to ascertain whether I had killed him or
  not, and what did the rascal do? He levelled his machine gun and
  shot holes into my machine.

  Afterward Voss told me that, if that had happened to him, he would
  have shot the aviator on the ground. As a matter of fact, I ought to
  have done so, for he had not surrendered. He was one of the few
  fortunate fellows who escaped with their lives. I felt very merry as
  I flew home to celebrate the downing of my thirty-third airplane.

That was the account of the fight that admiring millions read in
Germany during the war. It threw an even brighter mantle of chivalry
around the Uhlan of the skies. He gave quarter to his foes after he
had downed them. He could be merciful.

But read Richthofen's official report of the same combat, and it will
appear that somebody is lying somewhere. Here it is:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of my 33d Victory

  Date: April 2d, 1917.
  Time: 11:15 A.M.
  Place: Givenchy.
  Plane: English Sopwith two-seater. Clerget Blin motor, type 2, without
  Occupants: Sergeant Dunn and Lieutenant Warren.

  Together with Lieutenants Voss and Lothar von Richthofen I attacked
  an enemy squadron of eight Sopwiths above a closed cover of clouds
  on the enemy's side of the lines.

  The plane I had singled out was driven away from its formation and
  tried to escape me by hiding in the clouds after I had put holes in
  its gasoline tanks.


  Below the clouds, I immediately attacked him again, thereby forcing
  him to land 300 yards east of Givenchy. But as yet my adversary
  would not surrender, and even as his machine was on the ground, he
  kept shooting at me, thereby hitting my machine very severely when I
  was only five yards off the ground.

  Consequently, I once more attacked him already on the ground and
  killed one of the occupants.

>From my study of Richthofen's character, I don't believe he would have
shrunk from publishing the statement that he killed one of his victims
on the ground. It would have been the sporting thing to ignore the
final shots of the downed flyer, who was a prisoner anyhow, but
military ethics would have given the captor a perfect right to kill a
prisoner that resisted.

If Richthofen's official report to his superiors is the true account
according to his best belief, then it is my opinion that the change in
the published account was made by the German censor for the purpose of
destroying any possible material for "Hun atrocity" stories that might
find its way to the hands of Germany's foes.

But now comes the third account of the affair, and this one is from
Lieutenant Peter Warren, who is alive and kicking today. He was the
pilot of the plane Richthofen shot down. His observer was Sergeant R.
Dunn, and Dunn died shortly after the plane landed. Death came as the
result of a bullet through his abdomen, but it was a bullet which he
received at 12,000 feet in the air and not after he was on the ground.

Dunn was a marine architect at Newcastle and enlisted in 1916. After
service in the motor transport, he had transferred to the Flying Corps
and was twenty-four years old at the time of his death.

Warren was nineteen years old at the time of the fight. He had left
Oxford for the Flying Corps and had been in {169} the air almost a
year when he bumped into Richthofen. He is an architect today and
lives with his parents in London.

  "Really, I am afraid Richthofen in his report on his fight with Dunn
  and me must have mixed us up with somebody else," says Peter Warren.
  "I certainly wish Dunn and I had been able to put up as much
  resistance as the Baron credits us with, but actually it was rather
  a one-sided affair almost entirely in Richthofen's favour. Poor Dunn
  was hit early in the fight and was unconscious through most of it.

  "It was the first time I had ever taken Dunn up, although he was a
  veteran observer with, I believe, three Hun machines to his credit.
  My regular observer, an infantry officer who had been in the air
  about three months, had fallen off a horse the day before and broken
  his knee. Dunn was assigned as a substitute. The fact that we had
  never flown together before would be a disadvantage if we were

  "We left the airdrome at ten-thirty in the morning. The weather was
  bad--rain and hail, with almost a gale blowing in the direction of
  the German lines. Our faces were covered with whale oil to prevent
  frostbite. So many flyers had been laid up with frostbitten faces
  that the use of the grease was compulsory, and a case of frostbite
  became an offence calling for a court martial.

  "Our flight consisted of six machines from the Forty-third Squadron,
  with Major Dore as patrol leader. Our planes were Sopwith
  two-seaters armed with Lewis and Vickers machine guns, firing fore
  and aft. Our job was to photograph a section of the Second
  Hindenburg Line, east of Vimy Ridge, which, as you remember, was
  attacked just a week later. My plane and one other carried the
  cameras. The other four were escort.

  "We were flying in a V at about twelve thousand feet, {170} and our
  direction was northerly. I was flying at the end of the V, in the
  last position, which made me the highest.

  "Richthofen dove down out of the sun and took Dunn by surprise. The
  first notice I had of the attack was when I heard Dunn from his seat
  behind me shout something at me, and at the same time a spray of
  bullets went over my shoulder from behind and splintered the
  dashboard almost in front of my face.

  "I kicked over the rudder and dived instantly, and just got a glance
  at the red machine passing under me to the rear. I did not know it
  was Richthofen's. I looked back over my shoulder, and Dunn was not
  in sight. I did not know whether he had been thrown out of the plane
  in my quick dive or was lying dead at the bottom of his cockpit.

  "I realized that he was out of action, however, and that I was quite
  defenceless from the rear. I endeavoured to get my forward machine
  gun on the red plane, but Richthofen was too wise a pilot, and his
  machine was too speedy for mine.

  "He zoomed up again and was on my tail in less than half a minute.
  Another burst of lead came over my shoulder, and the glass faces of
  the instruments on the dashboard popped up in my face. I dived
  again, but he followed my every move.

  "I had lost several thousand feet, but still below me at about nine
  thousand feet was a layer of clouds. I dove for it, hoping to pull
  up in it and shake him off in the vapour. Bad luck again.

  "The clouds were only a thin layer, you know, and instead of
  remaining in them, I went completely through them, came out below,
  and found that the red albatross with those two sputtering machine
  guns had come through with me.

  "Another burst of lead from behind, and the bullets {171} spattered
  on the breech of my own machine gun, cutting the cartridge belt. At
  the same time, my engine stopped, and I knew that the fuel tanks had
  been hit.

  "There were more clouds below me at about six thousand feet. I dove
  for them and tried to pull up in them as soon as I reached them. No
  luck! My elevators didn't answer the stick. The control wires had
  been shot away.

  "There was nothing to do but go down and hope to keep out of a spin
  as best I could. I side-slipped and then went into a dive which fast
  became a spiral. I don't know how I got out of it.

  "I was busy with the useless controls all the time and going down at
  a frightful speed, but the red machine seemed to be able to keep
  itself poised just above and behind me all the time, and its machine
  guns were working every minute. I found later that bullets had gone
  through both of my sleeves and both of my boot legs but in all of
  the firing, not one of them touched me, although they came
  uncomfortably close.

  "I managed to flatten out somehow in the landing and piled up with
  an awful crash. As I hit the ground, the red machine swooped over
  me, but I don't remember him firing on me when I was on the ground.

  "I looked into what was left of the observer's cockpit and saw poor
  old Dunn crumpled up on the bottom. He was quite heavy, and I had
  some difficulty in lifting him out. He was unconscious. I laid him
  down on the ground and tore open his coat. He had been plugged
  through the stomach, apparently from the back.

  "I lifted his head and spoke to him.

  "'I think I'm done,' he mumbled, and then became unconscious. German
  infantrymen rushed out from dugouts near by; some of them brought a
  stretcher. We carried Dunn to a dressing station in a stone hut. I
  was kept outside under guard. The doctor came out and told me that
  {172} Dunn was alive but would not last much longer. I never saw him
  again. Later, they told me that he died six hours afterward. He was
  a stout fellow.

  "My guards marched me back some distance to a headquarters, where I
  was put into a car and taken to Douai. There I was placed in a room
  in the old French military barracks. The dirty plaster walls were
  covered with many names, so I presume a lot of prisoners had
  preceded me there.

  "In one corner there was a bed with a blanket on it. An electric
  light bulb hung down from the centre of the ceiling. There was a
  high barred window in one wall and a small wood stove stood by one
  of the side walls.

  "The German sentry, who frequently looked at me through a wicket in
  the door, came in twice and relighted the fire in the wood stove,
  which I had allowed to go out. I sat on a wooden stool in front of
  the stove and felt pretty miserable. I presume it was my nerves. I
  couldn't get my mind off poor old Dunn. I felt completely dejected.

  "About six o'clock in the evening, when it had become rather dark, I
  heard someone unlocking the door. I looked up as it was opened. An
  enormous great Dane dog--biggest one I ever saw--walked into the
  room and right across to me.

  "He wagged his tail and, putting his nose up in my face, started
  licking the whale grease which I still had on my cheeks. We were
  friends at once. I needed a wash badly, anyhow.

  "The electric light flashed on, and in its yellow light I saw the
  dog's master standing in the doorway smiling at me. He was a thin
  dark man of medium height, thin intelligent face, pince-nez glasses,
  well-trimmed moustache. He wore a very smart and dapper uniform with
  highly polished boots and looked to be about fifty years of age.

  "'Good-evening,' he said in flawless English. 'I am {173} Captain
  Baron von Karg Bebenburg. It is needless to tell you that I am from
  the intelligence section. I have come to talk with you and ask you
  if there is anything I can do for you. I am sorry to tell you that
  your comrade, Sergeant Dunn, is dead.'

  "There was nothing that I could say. I remained silent. He offered
  me a cigar, which I accepted, and repeated his offer to do anything
  for my comfort within his power. I told him that I could make good
  use of some soap and water and a towel. He sent these up late during
  the night, together with a packet of cigarettes and a French novel.

  "Of course, I would answer none of his questions about the number of
  my squadron, its strength, location of its airdrome, and the reason
  for our renewed air activity during the last week.

  "'I appreciate your reticence,' he said, 'but, as a matter of fact,
  we have most of that information. Our intelligence system is working
  quite well on this front. I have just perfected a new organization
  of charts and telephone communications whereby our airdromes are
  notified whenever your squadrons start on a mission over the lines.
  I know, from my charts of your past performances, almost what your
  destination is and just about what time you will arrive there. Your
  flying corps operates so closely on schedule and with such
  regularity that we are now able to recognize your intentions before
  you have time to execute them.'

  "I told him this was all very interesting, but I offered no opinion
  on it. He told me that he was a Bavarian and had been a professor of
  history in the University of Munich. He was a most interesting
  talker, and conversation with him became almost a temptation.

  "'What the world needs today,' he said, 'is two good strong nations
  to divide it and run it as it should be run. Germany and Great
  Britain are the only nations that could {174} do this.
  France--Paris--they could be just a common playground for all of us.
  What do you think?'

  "I told him I had never thought of it.

  "'How do you think the war is doing?' he asked. "'Very favourably
  for the Allies,' I replied. 'It seems almost certain that America is
  coming in with us.'

  "It seems strange, as I recall that conversation today, to realize
  that America did enter the war just four days afterward. My opinion
  at the time, however, did not shock or seem to disturb my

  "'Yes,' he said, 'we recognize such an eventuality, and have made
  our dispositions accordingly. Our intensive submarine campaign will
  neutralize any effects the United States might have.'

  "He smiled, but I just continued petting the dog.

  "He left me, and I never saw him again. I was moved the next day to
  the prison camp at Karlsruhe, and later to Schwarmstadt, where I
  attempted an escape but was caught. I spent the rest of the war
  caged up."

The mother of Dunn lives today at Workington and has never heard an
account of her son's fatal combat with the Flying Uhlan. Dunn's
comrades who survived the war recall with great vividness, however,
the wonderful fight that Dunn put up March 4th, almost a month before
his death, when he was flying as an observer with Second Lieutenant C.
D. Thompson of the same squadron. Attacked by two hostile planes at
the same time, Dunn, by expert manipulation of the after machine gun,
was able to shoot one of them down in flames and drive the other one

In the fight on April 2d, Lieutenant E. E. T. de Berigny, one of
Warren's squadron mates, saw Richthofen's persistent attack on the
disabled plane and was able to get a burst of machine-gun bullets into
Richthofen's machine, without effect, however. But as results were
what counted, {175} it is not amiss to record that the rest of
Warren's patrol returned with the Vimy Ridge photos it had been sent
out to get. Berigny did not survive the month. He was killed in the
air April 29th.

His interference in the fight might account for some of the divergence
in the three accounts of the hot combat. All flyers realize that
impressions are but instantaneous flashes during a death duel in the

The official British communiqué for that day acknowledged the loss of
six British planes. Richthofen personally had accounted for two of
them and the remaining four went to the rest of the German Flying

  [Victory 34]

British G. H. Q. still demanded more accurate information and
photographs of Vimy Ridge, against which a massed attack was to be
launched within a week. The lives of thousands of infantrymen depended
upon this information, and it was up to the flyers to get it.
Photographic patrols went over daily on this hazardous mission, and
the next victims that went down under the guns of the German ace were
engaged in that work at the time. The fight occurred on the afternoon
of the next day. Richthofen reported it briefly as follows:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 34th Victory

  Date: April 3d, 1917,
  Time: 4:15 P.M.
  Place: Between Lens and Liévin.
  Plane: Vickers two-seater, No. A6382. Motor unrecognizable.
  Occupants: Lieutenant O'Beirne, killed. Observer MacDonald,

  Together with Lieutenant Schaeffer and Lieutenant Lothar van
  Richthofen I attacked three enemy planes. The plane I myself
  attacked was forced to land near Liévin.

  After a short fight, the motor began to smoke and the observer
  ceased shooting. I followed the adversary to the ground.


Second Lieutenant D. P. McDonald piloted the machine and Second
Lieutenant J. I. M. O'Beirne operated the cameras and machine gun from
the forward cockpit. Through McDonald's aunt, Miss Jessie Weld, at
Leamington, England, it was possible to locate the captured pilot, now
living with his father in Cape Province, South Africa, and also to
find Major and Mrs. O'Beirne, the parents of the dead observer, at
their London home, 95, Eaton Terrace.

Young Jack O'Beirne left the mining school at Cambon in the early days
of the war and was with the Sixth Warwickshires at the first battle of
Ypres. Out of twenty-eight officers and a thousand men who went into
the fight, he was the only surviving officer to command the one
hundred men that remained of the battalion. He got full of poisoned
water during the next spring, and was invalided home, but went back to
France and transferred to the Flying Corps in February, 1916. He had
flown from May of that year until his death in April the following
year, and was one of the "old-timers" of the squadron. McDonald wrote
to O'Beirne's mother as follows:

  Hook Hill, Woking,
  Sunday 12:19

  Dear Mrs. O'Beirne:
  We were on a purely volunteer "show" in the evening of a fine spring
  day. All of us had finished our day's flying, but the C. O. at the
  time (Major Cherry) asked us to go and obtain photographs of Vimy
  Ridge. These photographs were particularly required by Headquarters
  and many were the attempts that had been made to get them by other
  squadron commanders and squadrons. We all naturally
  volunteered--there were three machines, and off we went with
  cameras, etc. We were supposed to be met by an escort at the lines,
  but we were disappointed in not finding one over them when we
  arrived. However, we were not to be daunted by this, and chose our
  moment, and over we went.

  Every one of us, as far as I have found out, succeeded in {177}
  getting the required photographs, about sixty plates each, and then
  our group leader gave us the order to close in as a preliminary to
  returning home. All this took about twenty-eight minutes, and,
  luckily enough, we had so far not been spotted.

  However, when we all got our height, our leader did not turn home as
  expected, but waited, and we saw then what he was after. There were
  _three_ machines coming up from Douai! These we took on with
  comparative safety, as it was our squadron motto: "Take on any two
  machines." I think we each "downed" our man. I think Jack did very
  neatly when he came up under our nose.

  Alas! though, these were only a bait! There were from a dozen to
  sixteen almost on top of our tails then! We had then a very
  one-sided "scrap," of course keeping ourselves in a small circle and
  endeavouring to keep them outside, but they were too many for us;
  when it got too hot for anyone of them, he dropped out and another
  couple had a go at us.

  Jack was firing over my top plane (to the rear) when suddenly a
  close burst from behind hit him right in the head and he dropped
  down in his seat.

  The machine tossed and dropped its height!

  When again I levelled it and looked over to see how he was, I saw he
  was hit right through the side of the head, and death must have been

  It was but a matter of a few minutes before some of them got my
  engine while I was endeavouring to steer and shoot at the same time,
  and I was forced down to the ground just outside Lens on the S. E.

  The Hun followed me right down to the ground, firing all the time,
  till he almost shot away every control I had. I made for a
  good-looking field, but, as luck would have it, beneath the long
  grass were barbed-wire entanglements, and with all my instruments
  shot away, I landed at a faster pace than I should have done and
  caught in the wire, going head over heels.

  Fortunately, the machine went right over the top of me when I was
  thrown out. I was picked up unconscious (for two hours) and
  recovered in a dugout.

  It was quite dark, and I immediately inquired if any attention {178}
  had been paid to my observer, and the doctor reported that he had
  been shot through the head and had been killed in the air

  I was marched to Lens from here, and requested to see the machine
  and the last of Jack before going to prison, which they eventually
  allowed me to do, though the place was being shelled heavily at the

  I saw him laid out on the grass beside the wreckage of my machine,
  and with a farewell prayer for him I was marched off, not allowed to
  go any nearer than a few yards from him.

  Later, at Douai, I asked the authorities if he might be buried at
  the same spot by the machine he had done his duty in to the last,
  and so valiantly too; and to this they consented, but, of course, I
  have never been allowed to get anywhere near there again, and cannot
  say if they ever did.

  It was just the fortune of the war; he had just shot down a Hun
  machine when he in turn was shot by another. How I escaped, I don't
  know, but I am glad to have the honour to be able to relate his last
  well-fought hour to you--his mother...

While Jack had been fighting the flying Baron on the Somme, his elder
brother, Second Lieutenant Arthur James Louis O'Beirne, was carrying
on the war in the air 'way down in East Africa, where German forces
still held out in interior positions against the repeated colonial
expeditions that the British sent in after them.

Jack's father, who was a major in the reserve at Budbrooke Barracks in
Warwick, received the War Office telegram about his son, and went out
to the little house on Eaton Terrace to console a gray-haired woman
who sat unconsolable before the photographs of her two soldier sons.
The major wired to his older son in East Africa, who got through the
quickest transfer on record.

Two months later, he arrived in England, took a final course in the
new models in the air, and flew across the Channel to join a fighting
squadron on the Somme. Jimmie {179} was reserved, silent, and grim
under the tan of the African sun. He loved Jack. He flew to avenge his
"kid brother."

Three days after his arrival on the front, July 27, 1917, he was shot
down and seriously wounded. On the next day, another War Office
telegram reached the little house on Eaton Terrace, announcing his
death. Major and Mrs. O'Beirne reside there today, with a daughter.
Mrs. O'Beirne doesn't like to talk war. The Major's eyes blur a bit
when the sons are mentioned, but he never forgets that he is a father,
a soldier, and an Englishman.

"Yes, both good boys," is all he says. It's a way the English have of
making their deepest emotion eloquent.

It must have been rainy or otherwise inclement weather on the Somme on
April 4, 1917, the day after Jack O'Beirne's fatal fight, because
Richthofen, whether he took the air or not, appears to have missed one
day without having, as his friends liked to say, "his customary
Englishman for dinner."

  [Victory 35]
  [Victory 36]

But, on the following day, he made up for it by knocking down two
planes in less than fifteen minutes. In these two successful combats,
he killed one man and captured three, two of whom he wounded.

These were not photography or artillery planes this time, but
offensively armed fighting machines, quite worthy of his most careful
attention. The fight occurred when a flight of the Fourth Squadron,
Royal Flying Crops, while on a scouting patrol across the lines,
bumped into Richthofen and four of his fighting pilots almost directly
above the Flying Uhlan's airdrome at Douai. The English were out to
attack the Baron in his lair.

Lieutenant A. M. Leckler piloted one of the Bristol two-seaters with
Lieutenant H. D. K. George manning the gun in the back seat.
Lieutenant H. T. Adams flew the second plane with Observer Lieutenant
D. J. Stewart protecting the rear. H. B. Griffiths, a second "louie"
{180} of the same squadron, was also on the patrol which was out to
get Richthofen. The Bristol fighters each carried double armament of
Vickers and Lewis guns.

Griffiths, who survived the fight, reported later that he had seen the
two planes of his comrades engaged in a hot dog-fight over Douai--had
seen them go down and had noticed later that their machines were
burning on the ground behind the enemy lines. The next news the
squadron received was in the form of a German message dropped over the
lines stating that George had been killed, Leckler, Steward, and Adams
taken prisoners, with the former two wounded.

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 35th Victory

  Date: April 5, 1917.
  Time: 11:15 A.M.
  Place: Lewards, southwest of Douai.
  Plane: Bristol two-seater, No. 3340, Motor 10,443.
  Occupants: Lieutenant McLicker and Lieutenant George both seriously

  It was foggy and altogether very bad weather when I attacked an
  enemy squad while it was flying between Douai and Valenciennes. Up
  to this point, it had managed to advance without being fired upon.

  I attacked with four planes of my Staffel.

  I personally singled out the last machine, which I forced to land
  near Lewards after a short fight. The occupants burnt their machine.

  It was a new type of plane, which we had not known before, and it
  appears to be quick and rather handy, with a powerful motor,
  V-shaped and twelve cylindered. Its name could not be recognized.

  The D III Albatross was, both in speed and ability to climb,
  undoubtedly superior.

  Of the enemy squad, which consisted of six planes, four were forced
  by my Staffel to land on our side.



Requesting Acknowledgment of My 36th Victory

  Date: April 5, 1917.
  Time: 11:30 A.M.
  Place: Quincy.
  Plane: Bristol two-seater, details unobtained as machine burned.
  Occupants: Pilot Lieutenant Adams. Observer Lieutenant
  Steward, unwounded.

  After having put the first adversary near Lewards out of action, I
  pursued the remaining part of the enemy squadron and overtook the
  last plane above Douai.

  After a rather long fight, the adversary surrendered. I forced him
  to land near Quincy. The occupants burned their machine to ashes.

War birds are hard birds to trace and notoriously bad at answering
letters. Leckler was repatriated after the Armistice and last heard of
in Edinburgh, where he used to live at 17, Librig Street. The next of
kin to George are unknown to the British Air Ministry. Adams used to
live with his father out on Sydenham Road in London, but he flies in
other regions now. Stewart, in so far as the present air force is
concerned, is a man without an official residence.

Richthofen revealed in the two reports the anxiety with which each air
force watched the other for new types, devices, or mechanical
improvements that could give one side an advantage over the other. The
Uhlan felt convinced, however, that this new English type was still
inferior in speed and climbing to the German plane then in use.

Whether there was anything new on  the Sopwith two-seater that the
Germans would care to copy and apply {182} to their own machines is
not apparent, but from the care with which the occupants of the
vanquished planes immediately destroyed their machines upon landing,
it would seem that the English flyers thought it embodied features not
known to the Germans.

The arrival of the new English air steeds was the subject of many
reports and much discussion that night--April 5th--at Richthofen's
airdrome at Douai. After the dinner debris had been cleared away at
the long mess table, the flyers gave heated accounts of their
encounters during the day, pointing out the strength and the weakness
of the "Sops" as they had found them. All of them shared their
knowledge from experience to develop the best way in which to attack
the new bus and also how to evade its attack.

During that dinner, events were shaping themselves not many miles away
that would rudely disturb the evening's discussion before it was

In an airdrome close by the village of Izel le Hameau, behind the
English lines, there were indications of unusual activity.

Mechanics bustled back and forth in the dark carrying bulky metal
objects in their arms. Others crawled over the machines in the
hangars, making final adjustments under the furtive gleams of
carefully hooded lights.

Occasionally a door of the O. C.'s office would open, and an orderly
would stand framed in the light for a moment and then disappear into
the murkiness of the moonlight.

In the elephant iron huts of the flyers and observers, cheery-faced
youngsters tugged at hip-length flying boots lined with sheepskin and
bundled themselves up in sweaters and mufflers, surmounting the
resultant bulk with leather flying coats.

Soon the planes, with loaded bomb racks, fuel tanks, {183} and landing
flares fixed below the under wing tips, were pushed out of the
hangars, like giant night birds surrounded by retinues of attending

The orders for the night were simple. Every pilot and observer knew
them. They read:

  No. 100 Squadron will bomb Douai airdrome on the night of April
  5th-6th if the weather is suitable.

There was no question about the weather. It was made to order. An
early moon was rising to the full. The wind was light.

Nineteen planes of the squadron--F. E. 2b's they were--were lined up
ready for the start. They had been painted from wing tip to wing tip a
dull black, with the bodies of the plane in dull gray. On the under
side of the lower wings, plain white circles took the place of the
customary markings, but the upper surfaces of the top planes bore the
regular red, white, and blue cockades. The tail planes and rudders
were painted as black as the night itself. Their decorations were
supposed to make the planes less visible in a searchlight's beam or
against a moonlit sky.

The thirty-six youngsters of the squadron were off on a maiden
venture. These were the squadron's first orders for a night raid, and
they were received with enthusiasm. The job was to lay a few eggs in
Richthofen's nest and "blow the stink off it." There were a lot of
scores to settle with the "jolly old Baron," and the prospect of
paying him a night visit was a happy one.

An officer reads 10:30 on the illuminated dial of his wrist watch. The
wave of his hand is answered by increased life in the idling motor of
the first plane in the line. The volleys grow to a deafening roar.
Flame and sparkling soot particles flash down the wind from the
red-hot exhaust pipes.


A sign from the pilot, and the wheel chocks are pulled away. The plane
moves across the field, gathering speed. The watchers soon see the
glow of those red-hot exhaust pipes mounting from the ground, higher
and higher, until a black-winged shadow, passing between the watchers
and the moon, reveals that No. 1 is "on her way."

The rest of the planes pull out at three-minute intervals, and with
the departure of the last of the eighteen, the airdrome is painfully
silent after the nerve-racking thunder of the motors.

Up aloft, the night riders of the sky were strung out in eighteen
sombre units, each framed in a halo of the young moon's pale
murkiness. The tiny hooded lights of the instrument boards, reflected
up into the goggled young faces of the pilots, whose eyes constantly
watched the compass needle, the flying map, the altimeter, the "rev"
meter, the water thermometer.

A large fire was burning in Lens--behind the German lines. It made an
excellent landmark. The squadron could not mistake its direction. It
climbed steadily in the hope of crossing the lines without the
knowledge of the enemy. It was to be a surprise attack.

Flash back now to the long smoke-filled room of the officers' mess at
the Douai airdrome. The table is littered with coffee cups and wine
glasses. Richthofen, sitting at the head of the table is, with the aid
of two uplifted saucers, demonstrating in three dimensions a manoeuvre
by which an Albatross or a Halberstadter can reach the "blind spot" of
the new Sops.

The telephone rings. An officer picks up the receiver.

"The English are coming," he shouts after a minute's conversation. The
detectors at the lines had picked up the drone of the heavily burdened
English motors, and the warning was being spread up and down the lines
and to the rear, to be on guard and to extinguish all lights. {185}
Dozens of searchlight crews and anti-aircraft gunners rolled from
their bunks and manned their posts in response to the summons.

The warning caused sufficient excitement in Richthofen's camp to
indicate that the night visit was not expected. Officers and men dived
down immediately into the bombproof shelters which Simon, the supply
officer of the Jagdstaffel, had already constructed. Soon the hum of
the motors was heard overhead, and beams of white light lashed the
moonlit sky.

  The enemy was still too far away to be attacked [Richthofen wrote
  later in describing the night]. Down in our bombproof shelters we
  were particularly merry. The only thing we feared was that the
  English would not succeed in finding our airdrome.

  To find some fixed spot at night is by no means easy. It was
  particularly difficult to find us because our airdrome was not
  situated on an important highway or near water or a railway, which
  are guides most useful to night flyers.

But the night-time war birds of One Hundred Squadron found
Richthofen's nest that night. They had studied the terrain carefully.
They knew that the Douai airdrome lay exactly 270 feet below the level
of their own flying ground at Izel le Hameau and even this
comparatively insignificant difference was taken into careful
consideration in conjunction with the orders that not a single bomb
was to be released at more than 500 feet above the target.

This is close work when the searchlights are full on the low, swooping
plane, and machine guns and anti-aircraft cannon are popping away in a
human "duck hunt."

The squadron hovered at its highest altitude above the airdrome but
hung on to its bombs until the agreed signal. The target had to be
illuminated first so that more of the pills would hit their mark. This
was the work of the squadron leader, and now he is swooping to carry
it out.


Off goes the motor, and the plane points downward in a circling glide.
Suspended from the racks under the wings are two forty-pound
incendiary bombs of phosphorus and T.N.T. The rest of the squadron is
waiting up above for "the great white way to be lit up."

Meanwhile, the suspense below was intense. Richthofen and his men made
what jokes they could while sitting in the crowded darkness of the
bombproof shelters. Sometimes there were periods of silence, easily
understood by anyone who has ever had the experience of sitting under
a load of dynamite and waiting for it to fall. The uplifting
stimulation which comes from the excitement of action is entirely

  We had begun to think that our friends had given up their job and
  were looking for another objective [Richthofen wrote in describing
  his impressions' and sensations during those weighty minutes before
  the first bomb fell].

  But suddenly we noticed that one low-flying plane had shut off his
  motor. So he was coming lower. Lieutenant Wolff, who was standing
  beside me, said, "Now we are in for it."

  We had two carabines, and we began shooting at the Englishman. We
  could not see him. Still, the noise of our shooting was a sedative
  to our nerves.

  Suddenly the searchlights reveal him in their glare. A shout rises
  all over the flying ground, "There he is." Shots ring out from all

  Our friend was sitting in one of the prehistoric English packing
  cases, and we could clearly recognize the type. He was half a mile
  from us, but was flying straight toward us.

  He came lower and lower. At last he had come down to an altitude of
  about 300 feet. Then he started his engine again and came straight
  toward the spot where we were standing.

  Wolff thought he took an interest in the other side of our
  establishment. Before long, the first bomb fell, and it was followed
  by many others. We were amused by some very pretty fireworks.


The wartime censor would not permit Richthofen to reveal further
results of that night, but they are to be found in the excellent
accounts written by Captain W. E. Collinson, who compiled a record of
the many exploits of One Hundred Squadron.

In the swoop of the first plane, the two incendiary bombs exploded
right on the airdrome. Richthofen's nest was lit up like the last
night of a carnival. From above, the rest of the squadron could easily
see the three sides of the triangular flying field with the hangars
ranged at regular intervals on two sides.

Two of the hangars were blazing bright when the seventeen remaining
planes started downward. One after another they skimmed low over the
flying field, dropping their loads of twenty-pound high-explosive

The engines roared as the pilots "gave the gun" to the old F.E.'s,
which swept across the danger arc at topmost speed. The observers
sitting braced in the "front porch" offices worked the release levers
on the bombs and at the same time fired their machine guns straight
down the beams of dazzling light which held the planes in glares as
bright as midday. Some of the lights went out, either damaged by the
sprays of lead or deserted by their crews. Others carried on in their

The downpour of fire and explosive lasted about twenty minutes and
ended as suddenly as it had started. The night riders, after dropping
their bombs, climbed faster and higher, being relieved of their loads,
and soon gained safer altitudes, although searchlight beams still
whipped the heavens, and the night sky was punctured with the bursts
of anti-aircraft shells and flaming strings of "Spanish onions."

Richthofen and his flyers rushed from their shelters and directed
their attention to preventing the flames from spreading to other
hangars. The planes were pushed out {188} of the threatened hangars,
ancient French fire apparatus was rushed from the town, fire
extinguishers were applied to the flaming ruins of the hangars, and
men were put to work at once to fill in the holes made by the bombs in
the flying field.

Back to the airdrome at Izel le Hameau, the exultant pilots of One
Hundred Squadron returned one by one, flashed on their landing lights,
received their signals from the ground, and landed down the broad beam
of the station searchlight, flattened out across the flying field to
make a pathway of light.

All returned. As each plane landed, it was surrounded by its crew of
mechanics, who first asked if everything had been in order and then
hurried themselves to the task of immediate inspection, refuelling,
and lubrication. The crews vied with one another in counting the
bullet holes through the planes.

In the messroom, pilots and observers clapped one another on the back
and lifted glasses to the "jolly Baron."

Thirty minutes later, with bomb racks replenished, they took the air
again and went back over the same route. They arrived over Douai
airdrome just in time to interrupt the reconstruction work then going

Down went the squadron leader again, and two more phosphorous
forty-pounders were released to provide the footlights for the second
show. They landed close to two hangars, which immediately went up in
flames. The illumination thus provided, plus the glow of the burning
phosphorus which ignited everything inflammable that it touched,
revealed the target in a glare almost as bright as day. The gentlemen
"upstairs" swooped down as before to do their stuff.

Down in the bombproof shelters again, Richthofen and his flyers heard
the roar of the low motors as the "flying pianos" sped across the
airdrome at heights of {189} from two to three hundred feet, dropping
their twenty pound presents of trinitrotoluol. They heard splitting
crashes as these deadly missiles exploded and filled the air with
steel splinters that populated the night darkness with humming birds
and bumble bees.

Knife blades of flame spurted from the muzzles of rifles and machine
guns as the ground defences released their venom on the deadly night
birds. The English observers returned the fire as best they could,
directing most of it toward the searchlights and their crews.
Anti-aircraft guns barked up at them from all sides, their bursting
shells blinking and twinkling in the night sky, which resounded
continuously with the thump and wallop of the explosions.

With its mission performed, the squadron reached for the ceiling again
and headed for home, always followed by the groping beams of the
searchlight and the angry puffs of shell and shrapnel. One by one, the
planes landed on their home grounds to celebrate the night's work,
which in the daybook of war consisted in dropping 4 phosphorous and
128 high-explosive bombs, more than a ton of highly concentrated death
and destruction, in a place where it could be expected to do a lot of
good. Again the waiting crews tended the returning planes, repaired
fabric rents, replaced stay wires that had been cut by bullets, or
laid new piping that had been destroyed by shell particles. One crew
waited in vain, looking long and eagerly into the night sky toward the
north. The bird did not come back to roost.

The missing machine was that piloted by Second Lieutenant A. R. M.
Richards with Second-Class Air Mechanic E. W. Barnes presiding over
the "lump sugar" and the "pepper box." What happened to them was not
known for some time. Their old F. E. during its low swoop over
Richthofen's home grounds had been mortally wounded by a burst of
machine-gun lead which found its way to {190} the motor's vitals. The
propeller stopped spinning, and Richards and Barnes made an
unconventional landing in the dark in a field close to Douai. They
escaped the resulting crash and spent the rest of the war as guests of
the Kaiser.

The Flying Uhlan's camp ground the next morning looked as though a
cyclone had struck it. Four hangars had been burned completely to the
ground, all the rest of them had been burned or ripped up in spots,
and many of the Jagdstaffel's machines had been temporarily, if not
permanently, put out of action. The grounds, which had been carefully
smoothed off for landing and starting, were pock-marked with so many
bomb craters that a plane could leave the ground only with the
greatest difficulty and danger.

It is significant that the squadron leader's almost daily record for
the month so far, shows no registration for a victory on April 6th,
the day after One Hundred Squadron had left its cards, and it is quite
probable the all-red Albatross was among the wounded birds that
couldn't take the air.

The day was well spent in arranging for a hot reception should the
visitors return again that night. Richthofen openly admired the nerve
of the English flyers in clumsy "flying pianos" swooping as low as 200
feet above his airdrome on a moonlight night. He considered it also an
impertinence amounting to an insult to his well-known ability as a

He reflected that he had shot wild pig at that distance at night; why
not an Englishman? He had shot plenty down from above; how about
winging one from the ground? He decided it would be a worth-while
novelty. At least it would be better than the nerve-racking
uncertainty of huddling supinely and inactively in the dugouts waiting
for all hell to fall.


While extra gangs of workers repaired the hangars and filled in the
holes in the flying grounds, the mechanics busied themselves with the
damaged machines, and others were put to work ramming piles and posts
into the ground on which machine guns would be mounted for high-angle

Extra machine guns mounted on old steel tripods after the fashion
employed by infantry were rushed to the airdrome from the nearest
supply dépôt, and these were placed in position erect, as though
standing on their hind legs, with just sufficient room under the
breech to permit a gunner to aim.

As there were not enough German machine guns to go around, Richthofen
dealt out machine guns that had been captured together with ammunition
from the enemy. Together with his flyers, he pracised at the butts
with the captured guns, and then returned them to emplacements from
which they could be used that night.

Richthofen placed great reliance upon the dependability of the
English. If they had come last night at a certain hour, they would be
certain to come at the same hour the following night. He had reason.

  Again we were sitting in our mess [he wrote concerning that night of
  April 6th]. Of course, we were discussing the problem of the night
  flyers. Suddenly an orderly rushed into the room shouting:

  "They are there. They are there," pointing above. He was only
  half-dressed, and he finished his warning by diving into the closed

  We all rushed to our machine guns. Some of the men who were known to
  be good shots had been given machine guns. All the rest were
  provided with carabines. The whole squadron was armed to the teeth
  to give a warm reception to our kindly visitors.


  The first Englishman arrived exactly as on the previous evening, at
  a very great altitude. Then he came right down to about 150 feet
  and, to our greatest joy, was making for the place where our
  barracks were. Just then he got into the glare of the searchlight.

  When he was only 300 yards away someone fired the first shot and all
  the rest of us joined in. A rush of cavalry or of storming troops
  could not have been met more efficiently than the attack of that
  single impertinent individual flying as low as 150 feet.

  Quick firing from many guns received him. Of course, he could not
  hear the noise of the machine guns. The roar of his own motor
  prevented that. However he must have seen the flashes of our guns.
  Therefore I considered it tremendously plucky that our man did not
  swerve but continued going straight ahead in accordance with his
  plan. He flew exactly over our heads.

  At the moment when he was directly above us, we jumped quickly into
  our bombproof. It would have been too silly for flying men to die by
  a rotten bomb. As soon as he had passed over our heads, we rushed
  out again and fired after him with our machine guns and rifles.

That first swoop as on the night before was the one that turned on the
light. Two more hangars blazed upward as a pair of phosphorous
bonfires landed neatly between them.

The resultant conflagration made every detail of the airdrome stand
out in bright relief. As before, the rest of the squadron swooped down
and across, but this time there were only 13 "flying pianos" instead
of 18 as on the night previous. In addition to the captured bus of
Richards and Barnes, four other machines had been so badly hit by
anti-aircraft fire that they were unable to take part in the second
night's excursions.

If the intensity of the German reception was a surprise to the English
visitors--and it was--then the German defences had a surprise in store
for them also. The wise ones of the One Hundred Squadron had put their
heads together, {193} and remembering the experience of the previous
night, had evolved some new tactics.

As soon as each machine had dropped its bombs, it remained at the low
height and started looking for more trouble instead of climbing
immediately for the upper levels. They directed their attention
particularly to searchlights, diving straight down the beams and
spraying the lamps and their crews with lead.

Many of them were thus put out of commission, with the result that the
following bombers had things easier, as they could approach the target
without being revealed in the air and targeted by the ground defences.

Machines that had released their bombs would circle the field and
watch for a searchlight to open up on one of their comrades descending
with bombs. The instant the light went on, it suddenly received a rain
of lead from another quarter of the darkness and usually it went out
while the crew scampered for safety.

This was the beginning of a new form of air fighting which later found
complete exploitation at the battle of Messines. It became known as
"ground strafing," and there are but few records of it having been
employed before this date.

Richthofen's closest friend in his squadron was Lieutenant Schaefer,
who prided himself on being as good a shot as his commander. Like a
trap-shooter sitting at the butts, he emptied hundreds of rounds into
the air as each English plane swooped across his zone of fire.

Schaefer insisted that he had hit one of the night birds, but
Richthofen refused to believe him, stating with reason that, as so
many were firing at each machine at the same time, it would be
impossible to tell which one had hit the target.

The Germans believed, however, that the intensity of  the ground fire
had caused some of the bombs to be dropped {194} rather aimlessly,
although Richthofen admitted that one of the missiles did explode only
a few yards from his own plane where it stood in the hangar.

  During the night, the fun commenced again [he wrote, indicating that
  One Hundred Squadron was determined to duplicate its double raids of
  the previous night].

  I was already in bed fast asleep when I heard, as though in a dream,
  anti-aircraft firing. I awoke to find the dream a reality. One of
  the Englishmen at that moment was flying so low over my quarters
  that, in my sudden fright, I pulled the blankets over my head.

  The next moment, I heard an incredible bang just outside my window.
  The glass fell in, a victim to the bomb. I rushed out of my bedroom
  in pajamas in order to get a few shots in after him, but
  unfortunately I had overslept my opportunity. He was being fired on
  from everywhere.

That night, back at Izel le Hameau after the second raid, One Hundred
Squadron counted noses and found that another plane was missing. This
time it was one piloted by Second Lieutenant L. Butler, with
Second-Class Air Mechanic Bobbie Robb in the observer's seat.

The survivors were silent a moment over their goodnight pegs and drank
silently to the hope that Butler and Robb had had a "happy landing."

The outfit hated losing Butler. He was one of the best bridge players
in the squadron. Down in the men's quarters Robb's comrades rolled up
his kit to send it home. Word came through the next day that both
Butler and Robb were prisoners of war and unwounded. They had been
forced to land by a bullet through the old motor. Probably Schaefer
did bring down his bird, after all.

The squadron leader reported that, as the result of the second double
raid, ninety-eight bombs, containing an even ton of "hot stuff," had
been dropped on the Flying {195} Uhlan's doorstep, and that four of
his hangars had been reduced to ashes with incidental damages to his
flying field and machine shops. The ground casualties inflicted by the
raiders are not so easily determined, but they are believed to have
been more than light.

In Richthofen's opinion, the only effect of bomb dropping at night was
a moral one. He did not believe the material damage thus caused was
worth the effort.

Bombing might be killing, but it was too impersonal to suit the
intense spirit of Germany's leading ace. He was ever the hunter. He
liked to see the man he was going to kill, he liked to mark him out
for death, lay his plans to get him, and then get him.

  [Victory 37]

He got one the following day. It was his thirty-seventh.

This victory celebrated his promotion on that day to the rank of
captain. The orders had come through that morning, whereby the
Freiherr Manfred von Richthofen would from now on carry the handle of

"No. 37" was a nineteen-year-old Manchester boy who had flown out from
his airdrome after tea that afternoon. Three hours later, his charred
remains were being buried by lantern light in a shell hole beside the
smoking wreck of his Nieuport, and on the broken propeller that was
placed as a cross at the head of his battlefield grave was scratched
the inscription:

  Second Lt. G. O. Smart, R.F.C. Killed in action, April 7, 1917.

Smart left the offices of his father's cotton mills in Manchester in
1915 and went into the air force as a mechanic. Before the end of the
year, he was flying as a sergeant pilot and won his commission in
June, 1916. His mother, father, and sister saw him last when he came
home on leave to get his uniform and new kit.


Smart's elder brother, C. D. Smart, turned over his director's desk at
the mill and followed his younger brother into the air. He was flying
over the front that same day when the boy was shot down by Richthofen,
but he did not learn of his brother's death until ten days later.

The day of Smart's last flight was a bad day for Nieuports. Six of
these speedy little French machines with English pilots figured in the
air casualties of the day. Three of them were from Smart's own
squadron, No. 60, two more from the Twenty-ninth, and the last one
from the First Squadron. In all, twenty-eight British planes were lost
that day.

The Nieuports were all armed with single Lewis guns firing through the
propeller, and their duty was offensive patrolling over the lines.
They were the best fighters that the English could put into the air at
that time. Richthofen's account of the fight is brief:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 37th Victory

  Date: April 7, 1917.
  Time: 5:45 P.M.
  Place: Mercatel, other side of our lines.
  Plane: Nieuport one-seater, English, details not at hand.

  Together with four of my gentlemen I attacked an enemy squad of six
  Nieuport machines south of Arras and behind the enemy lines. The
  plane I had singled out tried to escape six times by various tricks
  and manoeuvres.

  When he was doing this for the seventh time, I managed to hit him,
  whereupon his engine began to smoke and burn, and the plane itself
  went down head first, twisting and twisting.

  At first I thought it might be another manoeuvre, but then I saw the
  plane plunge without catching itself to the ground near Mercatel.


Headquarters of the British Third Brigade telephoned to the Sixteenth
Squadron airdrome at Izel le Hameau that Smart's machine had been
found at M.7.d. 53 (near Mercatel), together with information that
caused the following notation to reach the casualty list:

  Pilot had been burned to death. He has been buried in a shell hole
  near his machine, and a cross is being erected by his squadron.

Ten days later, George's brother, now a captain, flew over from his
airdrome at Bruay and tried to locate his brother's grave, but the
ground had been so torn up by artillery fire that all trace had been

The older Smart wanted to get into the fast scout squadrons to take
his brother's place, but his services were still required with the air
reconnaissance. He had to remain as a pilot of the heavy, slow-flying
R. E. 8's, whose chances of picking off a Hun flyer were far from

It was not until the 12th of the following August that the surviving
brother had a chance to even off the score for the Smart family. On
that day, which, as every Englishman knows, marks the opening of the
grouse-shooting season, Captain Smart and his observer were "doing a
shoot" at 2,500 feet between Lens and Arras and just north of Oppy.
They were engaged in ranging an 8-inch "How" when three speedy
Albatrosses dropped down on them from the clouds above.

Smart and his observer, Lieutenant Short, were alone and without an
escort, but the Captain managed to swing the old R. E. around in such
a way that Short slammed a full burst into one of the German scouts.
It went down burning behind the German lines. Smart dived at the same
time so as to avoid the other two Albatrosses, and in going down was
so close to the burning plane that he could see {198} the German
pilot's face. The Captain survived the war, and is now back in
Manchester running the cotton mill.

  [Victory 38]

Richthofen killed his next man before noon the day following his fight
with Smart and the six Nieuports. This time it was a new Sopwith
two-seater that he went up against, and although the Flying Uhlan
himself was successful, two of his accompanying planes were shot down
or forced to land behind their own lines. The young English knights of
the air were becoming better acquainted with their new models.

Six of these cavaliers of the red, white, and blue cockade hopped off
from Forty-three airdrome at Isaire after a late breakfast that
morning and started for the "beat" they had been assigned to patrol
along the front. The "Sops" had Vickers and Lewis guns fore and aft.
The three pilots were Lieutenants J. S. Heagerty, Jimmie Collier, and
Bobbie Kito. Each had an observer in the back seat. The observer with
Heagerty was Lieutenant L. Health-Cantle. It was his last flight.

Cantle came from Weybridge down in Surrey, where his mother lives
today. He left Trinity Hall, Cambridge, to wear the King's khaki and
was almost twenty-two years old when Richthofen's bullet found his
heart. He was the liveliest youngster in the Forty-third.

Heagerty was twenty and hailed from Wellington College, whose rugger
field he deserted in '15 just in time to take part in the doings at
Gallipoli, where he served with the West Kents.

He and Cantle had flown to France together and had always flown
together there. The pair had two hundred hours in the air scratched
down in the log books, and this, their last flight, was the third
combat of their flying careers.

April 8th was an anxious day for the British. It was the day before
the battle of Arras, and troops were massing behind the lines for the
attack that would be launched {199} against Vimy Ridge at dawn the
next morning. It was up to the air force to prevent enemy observation
of any movements taking place behind the British lines.

And so it happened that this patrol of three English "Sops" met the
Flying Uhlan and several of his Albatrosses high in the blue about
11:30 that bright April morning. Richthofen's report of what occurred
is as follows:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 38th Victory

  Date: April 8th, 1917.
  Time: 11:40 A. M.
  Place: Near Farbus.
  Plane: Sopwith two-seater,  details not at hand as machine is badly
  wrecked and now lying under shell fire.
  Occupants: Lieutenant Heagerty, wounded.
    Lieutenant Health-Cantle, killed.

  With three of my planes I attacked three Sopwiths above Farbus. The
  plane I singled out made a right-hand curve downward. The observer
  ceased shooting. I followed the adversary to the ground, where he
  was dashed to pieces.

"It was the hottest dog-fight I had ever been in," Lieutenant Heagerty
told me as we sat one day in the smoke-room of the Royal Air Force
Club on Piccadilly and punished a bottle of Dewar's.

Heagerty is thirty now, and one of the members of a London firm of
architects. The flying helmet and the joy stick are now replaced by a
"bowler hat" and the inevitable umbrella, without which any Piccadilly
clubman would feel nude.

  "Until you showed me just now my own name on Richthofen's own
  report, I never knew that it was the jolly Baron who gave us that
  party ten years ago in France," {200} the ex-pilot remarked with a
  smile as he scanned once more the translation of the Flying Uhlan's
  combat report.

  "So poor old Cantle and I were number thirty-eight on his list," he
  continued, lighting a cigarette. "Well, it feels good to be alive,
  even if I am the last survivor. You know, of course, that
  Richthofen's squadron didn't come out of the flight entirely
  untouched, even though Cantle and I were shot down. Collier and
  Kito, who were flying the two planes with me, each got one of the
  Albatrosses that day, although they were both full of bullet holes
  when they got back to the hangars at Isaire.

  "I think we must have been somewhere around ten thousand feet when
  we bumped into the Albatross formation. I noticed that Richthofen
  says there were only two planes with him, but it rather seemed to me
  there were more. Anyhow, no matter how many there were, they
  certainly shook things up a bit.

  "Of course, there was a terrible rumpus going on down below. The
  artillery preparation had been increasing daily, and here it was the
  last day before the opening of the big Arras show. You may imagine
  what it sounded like.

  "The German scouts were higher than we were, and they dived down on
  us from out the sun. They seemed to drop down from all directions,
  pumping lead as they came. Cantle was working the aft Lewis, and I
  heard him let out a good blast at someone in back of us. At the same
  time, a spray of lead whipped past my head, and several bullets tore
  through the woodwork beside me.

  "I kicked over the rudder just in time to see the red plane passing
  below. He swerved at the same time, and round and round we went,
  each trying to get on the other's tail. I believe his Albatross was
  a little speedier than mine, but at that the Sop was a stout bus.

  "With six or ten planes all mixed up and flying around, it took
  almost all of my attention to avoid collisions, but {201} I managed
  to rip out several bursts from the forward-firing Vickers. In the
  spiral fighting, we two-seaters lost height steadily, and the German
  scouts, climbing quicker, were able to keep just a little above us
  most of the time.

  "Cantle's gun was rattling away, when suddenly he ceased firing, and
  at the same time, the pressure on the joy stick was suddenly
  released. It was useless. My controls had been shot away. They must
  have gone in the same burst that killed Cantle.

  "From a glide, we went into a dive. All the way down the red
  machine, or some machine, kept right in back of me, ripping burst
  after burst of machine-gun bullets into the plane from the rear.

  "I remember seeing the windshield in front of my face fly away in
  small pieces, and then the propeller stopped. Our speed was
  terrific. There was no chance to choose a landing place. I could
  only hope to get her out of that dive. I recall putting all my
  weight on one foot on the rudder and seeing one wing tip swing
  toward the ground which was coming up at a fearful rate. That was my
  last recollection. I figured it was all over. I must have fainted,
  anyhow. I don't remember the crash.

  "Some time later, I woke up. I was lying on my back on some
  blankets. Wherever I was, it was almost completely dark except for
  the feeble light of a candle, the flame of which jumped up and down
  every now and then. I watched the flickering of the candle as though
  through a haze, and then connected the flickerings with the shock
  and burst of successive explosions which came from somewhere and
  seemed to shake the very ground.

  "Removing my eye from the candle flame, I looked up into the bearded
  face of a man who was bending over me. He was doing something to my
  face. I learned later that he was picking teeth and dirt out of my
  jaw, which had been fractured. Something was the matter with one of
  my {202} eyes, and I couldn't see out of it. My body ached all over,
  and I had a crushing pain in one foot.

  "The man with the beard pressed a glass of brandy to my mouth, which
  was still full of blood and sand. It burned my throat as it went
  down, but it gave me new life. I asked him who he was and where the
  devil I was.

  "He laughed, and in broken English said that he was a major and that
  I was in a dugout in the German artillery positions.

  "'How is my comrade?' I asked. 'Dead,' he replied.

  "My mind started working at once. I was a prisoner, but if I were
  not too far back from the front, and if I were not moved, the place
  might be recaptured by our troops in the next attack. How long had I
  been unconscious?

  "'What time is it?' I asked the major.

  "'Midnight,' he replied, 'and your friends certainly are paying us a
  most unusual lot of attention tonight. The shelling has never been
  so heavy as it is this minute.'

  "I had been unconscious twelve hours.

  "My hopes rose. The barrage outside certainly was hellish. The very
  ground shook beneath us, and dirt kept falling down through the
  chinks in the ceiling timbers of the dugout. Rats scuttled in and
  out of their holes, and the candle flame jumped continually.

  "I figured that this was the finally intensive shelling approaching
  the climax of the artillery preparation preceding the attack, which
  I knew was scheduled for the morning, although I did not know the
  exact hour the infantry would advance. If I could just stay where I
  was, and if no delay-action shells reached the dugout, there was a
  chance that I might find myself within our own lines in the morning.

  "But luck was against me. A medical officer and four men entered
  carrying a stretcher. I protested that I was {203} in no condition
  to be moved, but they placed me on the stretcher and carried me out
  of the dugout. I said goodbye to the major, who really had been good
  to me. He had washed my face and foot and put clean bandages on me.
  The brandy was also a godsend.

  "Outside, all hell was popping loose as the men carried me on their
  shoulders through interminable communicating trenches. I never heard
  and felt the jolt of so many shells in my life. As I was lying on my
  back, I could see the sky above the trench walls lit up by the
  continual reflections of the explosions. The noise was deafening. I
  confess I had the wind up, and I thought what a silly thing it would
  be for me, after having survived all that machine-gun lead and a
  two-mile fall, to be sent west by one of our own shells.

  "Poor old Cantle. He was lying out there above ground in all that
  downpour of steel, I figured, but then he was dead and at least his
  body would be found by our troops in the morning advance. I wish I
  could have seen the poor devil before they took me back, but, of
  course, that was out of the question."

Heagerty paused to empty his glass slowly in silence.

  "Well," he continued, "that's about all there is to it. My
  stretcher-bearers dropped me at a dressing station, where a German
  doctor sewed up my upper eyelid, which it seemed had been split in
  half. He did a mighty good job on it, too, although I cursed him and
  yelled murder at the time. There were no anesthetics, and it felt
  far from good. The doc was an old fellow, and he sewed away like he
  was darning a sock, while three of his assistants sat on me. I
  remember him saying:

  "'You doan't permit me sew your eye, nefer again you see pretty

  "After all, I was only twenty, and I guess he thought that argument
  would appeal.


  "The rest of the yarn is dregs. I sat in jail until the Armistice,
  and while there lost so many meals that I haven't caught up on my
  food yet--and that was ten years ago."

Heagerty poured another whisky-and-soda for me and I accepted on his
promise to give me a photo of himself. The drink we drank to the
memory of Health-Cantle whose photograph I obtained later from his
mother. On the back of it was written: "A dear son loved by

Collier and Kito learned the next day from messages that Richthofen
dropped over the lines that Heagerty was a wounded prisoner and
Health-Cantle was dead. Eight days later, when units of the British
Third Corps had pushed the Germans off the ridge, Cantle's body was
found lying beside the wreckage of his plane, which was located on the
British military map at B.13. d. 7. 4. The remains were buried near
the dugout occupied by the battalion commander.

Heagerty has but few material souvenirs of the war but there is one he
wants. He has written to Richthofen's younger brother Bolko to obtain
the little silver victory cup marked "38" that the German ace had made
and inscribed to commemorate the combat.

"Mrs. Heagerty and I feel that it would look nice over the clock on
the mantelpiece in our dining room. It would give me something to
think of every time I look at it" says Heagerty.

Bolko von Richthofen and his mother refuse to part with the silver
trophy that makes up the set of sixty that rest today on a desk in the
old bedroom of the ace of German aces.

  [Victory 39]

In that set of cups there is another exactly like "Heagerty's" which
bears the same date. It is "39" and it symbolizes two more English
"second louies" whose lives {205} went to fill Richthofen's "bag" for
that day of April 8th.

The Flying Uhlan shot them to pieces so badly that he never could find
out their names, although he thought one of them was called Davidson.
>From some of the wreckage of the plane, however, he picked up the
number "A 2815."

Second Lieutenants Kenneth L. Mackenzie and George Everingham, pilot
and observer of the Sixteenth Squadron, flew _A2815_ that day on its
last trip and theirs.

The plane was old, a B. E. two-seater, and the job of Mackenzie and
Everingham was to make a mosaic photograph of the village of Farbus.
They left the airdrome at 3 P.M., and at 4:40 observers in the English
front lines reported them shot down by a German plane. They were seen
falling, and crashed about one thousand yards west of Vimy.

Seven days later, when the English had pushed forward, they found the
bodies of Mackenzie and Everingham near the Bois de Bonval and buried
them there. That was the news that was sent back to Everingham's young
widow, who then lived out in northern Wales.

Richthofen devoted thirty words to the narrative of the victory. His
report reads:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 39th Victory

  Date: April 8, 1917.
  Time: 4:40 P.M.
  Place: Vimy, this side of the lines.
  Plane: B. E. two-seater, No. A2815. Remnants distributed over more
  than one kilometre.
  Occupants: Both killed. Name of one believed to be Davidson.

  While scouting, I surprised an artillery flyer. After a very few
  shots, the plane broke to pieces in the air and fell near Vimy on
  this side of the lines.


The Flying Uhlan had great admiration for the pluck of English flyers
who risked their lives in old, antiquated machines. He thought that
men of such courage deserved better than to lose their lives through
structural weaknesses of the machines they flew. He was quick to
report any such weakness in any of his own machines, and frequently
was unsparing in his criticism of errors in German design or

That very day, with the horrible picture of the Englishman's collapse
in midair fresh in his mind, he returned to the airdrome at Douai and
found that one of his own men had almost suffered a similar fate in
one of the new Albatross triplanes. Obtaining all the facts and
details, he reported immediately as follows:

  To the Engineer Department, Berlin, Adlershop. Via C. O.
  Air Forces, 6th Army.
  Subject: Breaking of wing of Albatross D III 2-23-16.

  On April 8th, 1917, Sergeant Festner's machine, Albatross DIII
  2-23-16 broke its lower left wing at an altitude of 13,000 feet
  without previous straining.

  In spite of the fact that the wing was torn to pieces and diminished
  by more than one third of its surface, Sergeant Festner managed to
  land without accident. Sergeant Festner is submitting a detailed
  report of how it happened.

  Technical examination: From the second rib up to the V strut, the
  lower surface was folded upward. Cause: breaking of all ribs.
  Locality of the break: entirely near the forward part of the wing,
  where the factory had applied special rib-supporting braces. The
  fabric covering of the wings was torn to pieces by the current of
  air through the broken parts.

  The naked wing was thus strained in front by the wind, causing it to
  bend backward and then to move loosely frontward again. This, of
  course, was too much strain for the V strut.

  The machine is being sent home as useless for warfare.


The German ace well appreciated the value of his flyers having
confidence in the machines they flew. The danger of diving any great
distance in a plane which might collapse under the strain of coming
out of the dive was enough to prevent many flyers from adopting this
most effective method of sudden attack. Richthofen felt that, while
the Albatross D triplane was superior to the British planes he was
then encountering, it had certain weaknesses which left it far from

  Among the chief properties of a good pursuit plane [he wrote in a
  secret opinion to the technical staff] are the following: A good
  plane must not lose altitude even when curving and after flying and
  turning several times on its back, provided, of course, the motor is
  doing full speed.

  It would be ideal if a plane could even gain in altitude while
  performing these manoeuvres, but this is not the case with the
  Albatross D III, and that is its chief drawback. When moving the side
  or altitude rudders, even the slightest change must effect a big
  movement. With the Albatross, the ailerons are not quite sufficient,
  and this is a most important factor with a pursuit plane.

  Great speed and great altitude are both necessary. To be able to fly
  slowly by regulating the motor is very essential.

  A pursuit plane must be able to stand the strain of diving down
  3,000 feet. The Albatross does not do this always.

The English flyers, handicapped in their old machines, had learned
this weakness during April and were frequently able to escape the
Albatross by descending to three or four hundred feet above the
ground, at which low altitude the Albatross pilots did not like to
risk diving on them. It was too close to the ground for the speedy

  [Victory 40]

But, in spite of these weaknesses, the Albatross flyers continued to
exact terrific toll from the English every day. On the day Richthofen
gave the above opinion, which {208} was April 11th, eighteen English
planes were shot down. It was a loss the Royal Flying Corps could ill
afford in the height of the battle of Arras, which then had been
waging for three days.

The German ace contributed one of the victories that made up the
eighteen planes. It was another old B. E. "flying piano," and although
it did not reach the ground whole, its occupants escaped with wounds,
and by reason of their landing behind the English lines, do not figure
in the list of prisoners of war.

They were Lieutenant E. C. E. Derwin and Air Mechanic H. Pierson, both
of whom survived the war and now live in Australia. The fight occurred
not two hours after they had gone aloft on a photographic mission for
the Seventeenth British Army Corps, which was then advancing. The two
English airmen fell in the front-line trenches, on which a terrific
artillery fire was playing at the time. In spite of their wounds, they
managed to crawl away from the wreck of their machine and reach the
safety of an abandoned German dugout.

Richthofen's account of the fight read:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 40th Victory
  Date: April 11, 1917.
  Time: 9:25 A. M.
  Place: Willerval. This side of the lines. [The lines moved that day.]
  Plane: B. E. two-seater. No details, as English attacking this
  part of front make communication with the front lines impossible.
  Occupants: No details.

  Flying with Lieutenant Wolff, I attacked an English infantry flyer
  at a low height.

  After a short fight, the enemy plane fell into a shell hole. As he
  dived toward the ground, the wings of the plane broke off.


Eleven days of "Bloody April" had passed, and the Flying Uhlan had
added eight more victories to his record, but this last combat was one
of particular significance to him.

With his fortieth conquest, he had at last equalled the record of the
dead Boelcke, the man who had taught him to fly. From now on, he would
reflect, with the pride that was strong within his Junker heart, that
no German living or dead had killed more men in the air than he.



As a marksman requires a target to shoot at, Richthofen demanded
records to break. Having brought his score of air victories up to the
high level established by the great Boelcke, he now sought to exceed
the accomplishments of his master and reach a new goal which would
bear his name.

He did it two days afterward.

It was April 13, 1917. In three flights, morning, noon, and afternoon,
he shot down three planes and killed four men in the space of ten
hours. These combats brought him the much-desired credit for his
forty-first, his forty-second, and forty-third victories, anyone of
which was sufficient to establish a new record in German air fighting.

Amongst his comrades in the flying corps and at German headquarters,
particular significance had been placed on that number "41." It had
proved fatal to Boelcke. He had met his death as he dived to shoot
down his forty-first victim.

Already Richthofen's superior officers were beginning to fear the loss
of the new super-ace. They could ill afford to be without such an
individual killing force as the man who had made his red fighting
plane known as the terror of the skies. The death of Richthofen would
also be a blow to home morale.

The ace was told that he would have to go on a leave of absence after
his forty-first victory. That number was designated in consideration
of Richthofen's unspoken but well-understood zeal to make his record
surpass all others. This desire was so keen in him that he wanted to
veil it {211} from his millions of German admirers. It would require
the effort of no great psychologist to penetrate the intended
obscurity which Richthofen expressed as follows:

  As a matter of fact, I had been allowed to bag only forty-one.
  Anyone will be able to guess why the number was fixed at forty-one.
  Just for that reason, I wanted to avoid that figure.

  I am not out for breaking records. Besides, generally speaking, we
  of the flying service do not think of records at all. We merely
  think of our duty.

  Boelcke might have shot down a hundred airplanes but for his
  accident, and many others of my dear dead comrades might have vastly
  increased their bag but for their sudden death.

Records and trophies were as precious to Richthofen as they are to any
pot hunter of the links or the traps, or, for that matter, to any
human in whom there is the combination of the competitive and the
combative. If his written denials were not sufficient affirmation of
this truth, one may even find written expression of it. The Flying
Uhlan referred to the day of his forty-first victory as "My record

This referred to another record. It was the first time that he had
"shot a triple," which was his manner of describing the day's "bag of

The ace took great pride in the feat because it was accomplished under
the keen eyes of a high-ranking and probably a noble officer of the
German High Command. Four men paid with their lives for this
gladiatorial exhibition of the skies, which the visitor from
headquarters followed closely with his eyes glued to a telescope. It
seemed strange to Richthofen that this prominent spectator was not
unduly thrilled by the sight of burning planes and their human freight
plunging earthward from fearful heights.


  [Victory 41]

  The day began well [the ace later wrote]. We had scarcely gone to an
  altitude of six thousand feet when an English patrol of five
  machines was seen coming our way. We attacked them with a rush, as
  if we were cavalry, and the hostile squadron lay destroyed on the
  ground. None of our men was even wounded. Of our enemies, three had
  plunged to the ground and two had come down in flames.

  The spectator down below who was watching us through the telescope
  told us later that the affair had surprised him much because it did
  not seem as fierce as he had imagined. He had thought that it would
  be far more dramatic and look quite different.

  He thought the whole encounter had looked quite harmless until
  suddenly some machines came plunging down like flaming rockets. I
  myself have gradually become accustomed to seeing machines falling
  down, but I must say that it impressed me very deeply when I saw my
  first Englishman fall, and I have often seen the event again and
  again in my dreams.

It was verily a day of records. That evening, it was possible for
Richthofen to report proudly that six planes of his Staffel had
destroyed thirteen enemy planes in the air. The Flying Uhlan reflected
his satisfaction in this accomplishment when he wrote:

  Boelcke's squadron had only once been able to make a somewhat
  similar report. At that time, it had shot down eight planes in one
  day. But today one of us had brought low four of his opponents. The
  hero was Lieutenant Wolff, a delicate-looking little fellow in whom
  no one could have suspected so redoubtable a hero. My brother had
  destroyed two, Schaefer two, Festner two, and I had destroyed three.

Captain Jimmie Stuart, an Irishman from Colraine, and Lieutenant M. H.
Wood, a rollicking youngster from Essex, were the two victims of the
Flying Uhlan's first combat on his record day. Flying an old R. E. 8
as an {213} escort to photography planes, together with other planes
of the British Fifty-ninth Squadron, they bumped into the jolly
Baron's red birds about nine o'clock in the morning and found out, at
the cost of their lives, that their Vickers and Lewis guns were no
match for the sputtering two Spandaus that snorted death from the
nostrils of the Flying Uhlan's sky charger.

Richthofen's official report reads:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 41st Victory

  Date: April 13, 1917.
  Time: 8:58 A.M.
  Place: Between Vitry and Brebières.
  Plane: New body D. D. Burned. Fixed Motor No. 3759,
  V-shape 12 cyl.
  Occupants: Lieutenant M. A. Woat and Steward (Thomas), both killed.

  With six planes of my Staffel I attacked an enemy squadron of the
  same force. The plane I had singled out fell after a short fight and
  struck the ground between Vitry and Brebières. On touching the
  ground, both the occupants and machine burned to ashes.

Stuart and Wood were burned to death, and the scene of the cremation
was recorded by a German camera that morning. I found the photo in
Richthofen's scrapbook in his home in Schweidnitz. On the back of it
Richthofen had written:

  My 41st.

  D. D. two-seater, 12 cyl. Beadmore motor. Two occupants dead. Shot
  down and burned on the electric wires on April 13, 1917, about ten
  o'clock in the morning at the canal between Brebières and Vitry.


Wood's young widow has moved from the little cottage at Stansted in
Essex and Stuart's father was last heard from in Ireland but lives
there no longer. The only information either of them ever received was
the contents of a message that Richthofen dropped over the lines
several days later, announcing the death of both.

  [Victory 42]

After a late breakfast, the baron went aloft again for his noonday
flight, but it is doubtful whether the officer at the telescope on the
ground at the airdrome was able to follow the combat, because this
fight occurred over the British lines, and it would appear from the
British casualty records that Richthofen's victims escaped, not only
with their lives, but without wounds, because the English reports
carry no account of the affair.

Richthofen's flying comrades confirmed his report of the fight, and
the all-necessary credit was granted. The report read as follows:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 42d Victory

  Date: April 13, 1917.
  Time: 12:45 P.M.
  Place: between Monchy and Feuchy.
  Plane: Vickers two-seater, details unknown, as plane downed beyond
  enemy lines.
  Occupants: Unknown.

  Together with Lieutenant Simon, I attacked a Vickers two-seater
  coming back from German territory. After rather a long fight, during
  which I so manoeuvred that my adversary could not fire a single shot
  at me, the enemy plane plunged to the ground between Monchy and

There was always uncertainty about planes that were shot down behind
their own lines, and the German, as well as the English and French and
later the American flying {215} services, demanded ample verification
of these affairs before the pilots-claimant were credited with
victories. The fact that most of the fighting occurred behind the
German lines was a double advantage for Richthofen.

In the first place, in case of a forced landing or a slight wound, or
in the event that he was shot down behind his own lines and survived,
it did not mean the end of his fighting career, as would have been the
case if the downfall had occurred behind the English lines. In the
second place, it was easier to substantiate his victories when the
planes he attacked came to earth behind the German lines.

  [Victory 43]

There was ample substantiation for his forty-third victory, the third
that went to his credit on April 13, 1917. He killed both of the
occupants of the plane which he shot down over the village of
Noyelle-Godault, just behind his own lines.

Second Lieutenant Allan Harold Bates and Sergeant William Alfred
Barnes were the two unfortunates that paid the price and together with
Stuart and Wood went to make up the quartette of deaths representing
the results of Richthofen's record day.

Young Bates was six feet three in his flying boots, slim as a reed but
with a jaw and projecting chin that insinuated a strength of steel
wire and a determination to back it. He was just a month on the young
side of twenty-one when he went down under the guns of the Flying

Yearly prize-winner at college, he stepped into the war with a degree
in engineering, which was enough to condemn him to the place where
England needed him most--namely, in an airplane works, inspecting
parts, testing planes, and passing on new designs. Bates hated it. He
served notice that he did not intend fighting the war out in an office
in England, and demanded his transfer to the active service branch of
the Flying Corps.


He reached the front in France, April 3, 1917, and the flying career
of this brilliant young giant lasted just ten days.

"On the thirteenth of the same month," says his mother, who lives at
Swansea, "he was shot down and reported missing. His C. O. wrote to us
and buoyed up our hopes, stating that he was most probably not killed,
as his machine had been seen coming down _under control_.

"However, on August 4, 1917, we received the news of his death. But
the Air Ministry has never given us further particulars. The only
information we have received has been from the natives of the village
of Noyelle-Godault, where he lies buried in a little cemetery with six
or seven other British soldiers."

As for Sergeant Bill Barnes, who was sitting in the observer's seat in
front of young Bates, it seems he was considerable of a man. Down at
Woolston, near Southampton, lives William Barnes, senior, today, and
he says, as who shouldn't:

  "That boy of mine was a soldier from his head to the soles of his
  feet. I ought to know. I was a soldier myself--enlisted in 1874. I
  trained that boy for the civil service, but when he was fifteen he
  said that there was nothing for him but the army, and I let him have
  his way and I was proud of him.

  "He wasn't much for talking, especially about himself. I learned
  from his comrades that he had shot down three Huns, and when he was
  home on leave about a month before he was killed, he told me that he
  hoped to get a few more when he went back. He was in the Flying
  Corps only four months.

  "Once I asked him about how things were going at the front and all
  he said was, 'Well, Dad, I'd love to tell you, but it's a strange
  thing, as soon as I leave for home, I forget everything at the front
  until I get back there again.'


  "Here's the letter I got from his squadron commander telling me the
  boy was missing. It's all I ever heard about what happened that

Tough job those squadron commanders had during that month of April.
Almost every day there were one or two letters like the following that
had to be written to the folks back home about the boys who did not
come back:

  April 14, 1917.

  I am most awfully sorry to have to tell you that your son Sergeant
  W. A. Barnes, observer in my squadron, is missing since yesterday
  evening. He was returning from a bomb raid, and his machine was
  attacked from behind by a fast hostile scout and the engine hit.

  He had to come down behind the enemy's lines, but so far as could be
  seen got down all right. So we have considerable hopes that he is
  alive and unhurt though, of course, a prisoner. I most greatly
  regret losing him, as he was a very stout and keen observer who had
  done some very fine work with us. I would like to offer you my
  sympathy and that of the other pilots and observers in your great
  anxiety for him, and our hopes that you will in time hear from him
  that he is alive and well. We can ill afford to lose such fine
  fellows as your son.

  Hoping that the news will be good,

    Yours very truly,
    R. G. CHERRY, Major.

Bates and Barnes flew an old F. E. 2b. armed with two Lewis guns, and
on the afternoon of their death they had just completed dropping
several hundred pounds of concentrated destruction on a German
ammunition dump located at a railroad junction between Henin-Liérard
and Lens.

Richthofen's report carried complete details for identification of his
victims. It reads:


  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 43d Victory

  Date: April 13, 1917.
  Time: 7:35 P.M.
  Place: Noyelle-Godault near Henin-Liérard.
  Plane: Vickers two-seater, No. 4997. Motor No. 917, 8 cyl.
  Occupants: Lieutenants Bates and Barnes, both killed.

  With three planes of my Staffel, I attacked an enemy bombing
  squadron consisting of Vickers (old type) above Henin-Liérard.

  After a short fight, my adversary began to glide down and finally
  dashed into a house near Noyelle-Godault. The occupants were both
  killed and the machine destroyed.

That night, at the Douai airdrome, the fighting pilots of Jagdstaffel
II toasted their leader for the first time as the ace of all German
aces. His forty-third victory had established a new mark in the annals
of the German Flying Corps.

Richthofen returned the toast and the plaudits of his comrades,
congratulated little Wolff on his feat in bringing down four machines
that day, and thanked the flyers of the squadron as a whole for
hanging up the new record of thirteen enemy planes down in one day.

Some of the occupants of the thirteen enemy machines had survived the
day as prisoners, and several of these had been brought to the
squadron's mess. The flyers were always at odds with the army command
on this question of entertaining captured aviators. The army insisted
that air prisoners, like any others, should be turned over immediately
to the intelligence section for examination and then sent off
immediately to the prison camps.

Whenever possible, the war birds, whether they were English or German,
"recaptured" their own prisoners, and on various pretenses transported
them to the airdrome for a meal, drinks, and a general discussion of
the business of killing one another in the air.


Men who had flown at one another during the day high above the clouds
and emptied their machine guns at one another frequently sat facing
one another over a mess table that same night.

The captor would drink to the health of his prisoner, compliment him
on the fight he had put up, and, to take the salt out of the prison
prospect, would remind him that at least he was safe for the rest of
the war.

The prisoner would lift his glass to the man who shot him down,
declare with a smile that it had been a real pleasure on his part to
fight so capable an adversary, and end with a sporting announcement
that the best man had won.

With this exchange of compliments, the evening would progress as
merrily and as late as the supply of liquor permitted. Usually, it

Richthofen's four victims of the day were dead, bur he took delight in
exchanging views with the living victims of his Staffel. One of these
must have made a quick analysis of the Flying Uhlan's disposition and
lack of humour, because it appears that he took advantage of it to the
extent of pulling the German ace's leg.

  Of course the prisoner inquired after my red airplane [Richthofen
  wrote concerning the evening]. It is not unknown even amongst troops
  in the trenches and is called by them "le diable rouge." In the
  squadron to which the prisoner belonged, there was a rumour that the
  red machine was occupied by a girl--a kind of a Jeanne d'Arc. He was
  intensely surprised when I assured him that the supposed girl was
  standing in front of him. He did not intend to make a joke. He was
  actually convinced that only a girl could sit in my extravagantly
  painted machine.

The English version of this incident was told many times amongst the
Royal Flying Corps men in German {220} prison camps and contributed
not a few hearty laughs to the life of confinement. Richthofen was a
stranger to English humour.

The German communiqué of the following day called particular attention
to the achievements of Richthofen's squadron on his record day. Every
man in the unit took individual pride in the official statement, "Six
German machines have destroyed thirteen hostile airplanes."

It was good stuff to start the new day on. It contributed something to
the flying and fighting by which the Staffel knocked down eight more
planes before nightfall. Of this eight, Richthofen received credit for

  [Victory 44]

Lieutenant W. O. Russell, who lives at Hilliers Farm down in Andover,
tells the story of the fight because he is the man the Flying Uhlan
followed to the ground behind the German lines.

"Unfortunately, it can scarcely be termed a combat," Russell told me,
"as, by the time Richthofen arrived on the scene, I had lost the use
of my engine and so, therefore, I had not the honour of 'putting up a
show' against him.

"Briefly, this is what happened. Six of us were engaged on offensive
patrol in the neighbourhood of Douai in Nieuport scouts at a height of
12,000 feet.

"After about one and a half hour's flying, my flight commander
suddenly dived. I followed him down, and at about eight thousand feet
I perceived two enemy two-seaters to my right.

"I attacked one of these machines, and then discovered, to my horror,
that I had lost my engine. After descending about another thousand
feet, I was attacked by two enemy scouts, and I was obliged to make a
zigzag descent to the ground and landed at Bois Bernard.

"A red scout followed me to the ground, and I learned the pilot was

"I believe my engine was hit during my first attack on {221} the
two-seater, as petrol was flowing freely from my tank when I landed.

"It appears our flight was very soon hopelessly outnumbered by
Richthofen's squadron. I afterward met my Flight Commander, Captain
Binney, in a German prison camp.

"He had accounted for four enemy machines before being hit in the arm
while changing a drum on his gun. He remembered nothing more till he
woke up in a German hospital. His arm had to be amputated at the
shoulder. Three of my comrades were killed and I believe one succeeded
in reaching our lines."

Richthofen won credit with the following claim:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 44th Victory

  Date: April 14, 1917.
  Time: 9:15 A.M.
  Place: 1 kilometre south of Bois Bernard this side of lines.
  Plane: Nieuport one-seater. No. 6796. Rotary Motor No. 8341 I. B.
  Occupant: Lieutenant W. O. Russell, made prisoner.

  Above Harlex, one of our observer planes was attacked by several
  Nieuports. I hurried to the place of action, attacked one of the
  planes, and forced it to land one kilometre south of Bois Bernard.

  [Victory 45]

The two victims of the Flying Uhlan's next victory, his forty-fifth,
landed behind the British lines. The motor went clear through one of
them, and the other one woke up five weeks later with wounds which
kept him in the hospital for more than a year and a half.

They were Lieutenants Willie Green and C. E. Wilson. When they dug the
motor out of the ground, they found what remained of Wilson under it
and buried him there. His mother, living in Surrey, received an
expurgated account of his death from his squadron mates.


Willie Green limps a bit today as he travels around England selling
phonographs and records. Thicker than "Wullie's" limp is the Scotch
burr that hangs thistles on his words as he recounts his curious
recollections of his last day in the air. A bottle of highland dew
shrunk visibly between us on the table in the corner of the Savoy
grill in London as the flying Scot unfolded the story.

  "So it was the big Dutchman himself that got me," he agreed, after
  an inspection of the combat and casualty reports I laid before him.
  "And I have been thinking for the last ten years that it was a
  ten-inch shell that hit me in the back of the neck. It was certainly
  a stout blow.

  "I was twenty-six years old at the time, and proud of my kilts. I
  used to fly in them, bare knees and all. I had gone out to France in
  1915 in the Black Watch, and let me tell you, there was an
  organization which rationed out as much risk every day as ever was
  my share in the air service.

  "It was mud night and day in the trenches, and all hell dropping on
  you all the time. I happened to hear that officers in the Flying
  Corps were paid a guinea a day, and they only had to fly over the
  front three or four hours a day. Here was I with the Black Watch,
  drawing down my seven shillings and sixpence a day and spending
  twenty-four hours in the front line and dodging shells half the

  "There was no argument left for a Scotsman. No one could have
  expected me to do differently. I transferred to the Flying Corps
  immediately. I was taken on in '16 and reached the front in February
  of  '17.

  "It was a great life. Good food and good drink; fine quarters and
  good fun, both in the air and on the ground. Poor old Wilson and I
  were together all the time. He was my age and had a great reputation
  as a college cricketer. We were the only two officers playing in the
  squadron {223} football team. I don't know what happened to it after
  we dropped out.

  "For two months, we had been flying together almost every day and
  particularly during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. Those
  were busy days, with contact patrols and ranging the big guns to
  keep Jerry on the move.

  "Our old B. E. was slow, but we had two Lewis guns, and both of us
  thought we knew how to handle them pretty well, although several
  times we brought the old bus back limping with a peppering of bullet
  holes through the planes and fuselage.

  "I recall leaving the airdrome on the afternoon of April 16th, and
  our job was an artillery patrol. So far as I know, we had done
  rather nicely, although my recollection of details is most
  indistinct. I remember once calling to Wilson and pointing below to
  something I thought he should mark on the map, and I have a dim
  memory of the plane making a sudden plunge, out of which I was able
  to pull it. But that's all.

  "When I came to myself again, and that only for a minute, I was in
  bed, and a pretty little lass with black hair was holding my hand,
  and she told me that I had been sound asleep for five weeks.

  "Then the hysteria would come on me.

  "Sometimes I would wake up with a jump and the sweat breaking out
  all over me. I was in a long ward, you see and it had six windows in
  the wall opposite. To me it would seem like a long railway carriage
  and I always had the feeling that it was moving along at a terrific

  "The conviction would come over me that just up ahead on the track
  somewhere was a sharp curve in the road and that it would be
  impossible for our car to get around it. Maybe the first section
  would get around, maybe the second section might make it, but I was
  certain that my end of the car would crumple up with an awful crash.


  "I couldn't understand what it was then. I never had any fear of
  railway trains before, and I spend half of my time travelling on
  them now, but the fear then would paralyse me. I would shriek for
  the nurse, and the orderlies would run in and hold me down on the
  bed, although, what with a fracture at the base of the skull and my
  right leg broken above the knee, I had no chance of getting up.

  "They would calm me somehow, and after the hysteria had passed,
  everything was all right, and I would realize that it was foolish to
  think that I was speeding along in a train when I was right safe and
  sound in a British hospital back of the lines; but even during the
  same periods, I would feel myself slipping back into hysteria and
  begin babbling again.

  "The worst part of it all was that I seemed to be two different
  people. One time I was my old self, and the next minute I would be
  the stranger that I didn't know. I suffered terribly from doubting
  myself. I could never tell exactly which personality I was, and,
  naturally, I was most anxious to know which was my real self and
  which was my insane self. This went on for months, and sometimes I
  despaired of ever getting it straightened out.

  "The trouble was that my skull had been fractured at the base, and
  the shock of the fall had wiped out all memory of the fight in the
  air. It's most uncomfortable to know nothing about what has happened
  to you; to have to accept everything that's told to you and be
  unable to question it, but now I can see from the six places where
  my casualty report jibes up with Richthofen's combat report that he
  was the gentleman responsible for the party. They are identical in
  the type of plane, and time, and place, the surprise attack fits in
  also, and his observation of the fact that our plane was an
  artillery flyer.

  "Richthofen's report clears up a lot of things that have been mighty
  dark to me for years.


  "My condition in the hospital was made worse by the fact that
  everybody had expected me to die in a few hours and then in a few
  days, and the result was that nothing was done for my broken leg,
  and when I woke up six weeks after, it had knitted together crooked
  and was useless.

  "Well, they shipped me to a hospital in England, where they broke
  the leg and nailed a couple of strips of metal on both sides of the
  bone to make it knit together again strong. It did and I began to
  hobble around on it, but found out that my leg was beginning to bend
  inward toward my other leg.

  "The docs took an X-ray and found the bone was splitting down the
  centre because the nails in the metal strip had been nailed in on a
  vertical line up and down the strip. Now, you would think that any
  kid would know enough to stagger nails when nailing a strip with the
  grain against anything.

  "So there wasn't anything to do but open her up and break that leg
  again. I have metal strips on the bone now with the nails staggered
  so they won't split the bone and the leg's quite strong, but she
  bends a lot inward.

  "I always was bow-legged. They say it goes with kilts. So now my
  left leg bows out and my right leg bows in, which gives me a couple
  of concentric arcs bending to the left. It's not bad at all, and, in
  fact, I make use of it, because I carry my sample case in my right
  hand; the knee on that side now being bent inward, it doesn't bump
  at all when I walk. The right leg, of course, is shorter, making it
  possible for me to turn quick on right-hand corners and follow a pal
  into a pub. All in all, I have no kick coming. I am here, and the
  hysteria's gone, and I have been able to kick out the other fellow
  that used to change places with me. My great regret is about poor
  old Wilson. They told me that the engine went clear through him."

Before finishing the highland dew, Wullie Green read {226} once more
the following report of Richthofen on the fight that still evades the
Scotsman's memory.

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 45th Victory

  Date: April 16, 1917.
  Time: 5:30 P.M.
  Place: Between Bailleul and Cavrelle.
  Plane: B. E. two-seater. No details, as plane fell on other side.

  When pursuit flying just under the clouds, which were at a height of
  3,000 feet, I observed an artillery flyer in 2,500 feet altitude.

  I approached him unnoticed and attacked him, whereupon the plane
  plunged downward smoking. The pilot caught the machine once more,
  but then lost control of it at 300 feet from the ground. The plane
  crashed between Bailleul and Cavrelle.

  [Victory 46]

The Flying Uhlan's next prey, representing his sixteenth victory for
the month, escaped with wounds following the fight which sent them to
the ground near Laignicourt behind their own lines.

Lieutenant W. F. Fletcher, piloting the machine, which was returning
from a photography reconnaissance, was badly wounded about the head
and arm in the landing crash, and his observer, Lieutenant W.
Franklin, carried away one of Richthofen's bullets in his left leg.

The telephone messages from English front-line observers who watched
the combat coincide in detail with the report written by Richthofen as

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 46th Victory

  Date: April 22, 1917.
  Time: 5:10 P.M.
  Place: Near Laignicourt.
  Plane: No details, as fell other side of line.

  While my Staffel was attacking an enemy squadron, I personally
  attacked the last of the enemy planes. Immediately {227} after I had
  discharged my first shots, the plane began to smoke.

  After 500 shots, the plane dashed down and crashed to splinters on
  the ground. The fight had begun above our side, but the prevailing
  wind from the east drifted the planes to the west.

  [Victory 47]

In a little soot-grimed tenement house in the southeast end of London,
a man and a woman of the name of Tollervey are living today. On the
wall of the front room is a framed photograph of a soldier's grave in
France. It's the last souvenir of nineteen-year-old Sergeant Alfred
Tollervey, who, with Second Lieutenant E. A. Welch, was shot down and
killed by Richthofen on April 23d in an air fight which added another
victory to the Flying Uhlan's well-filled game bag. British infantry
saw Welch and Tollervey attacked by a red scout plane, saw one wing
fold back on the hard-pressed English plane, and then turned their
backs as the remnants fell to earth.

Richthofen thought his victims fell behind his own lines, but he
didn't take into consideration the fact that the second battle of the
Scarpe was in full swing that day, and the front lines were by no
means stationary. He received credit for the "kill," although the
error was embodied in his claim as follows.

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 47th Victory

  Date: April 23, 1917.
  Time: 12:05 P.M.
  Place: Méricourt; just this side of the lines.
  Plane: B. E. two-seater. No details, as plane broke in air and remnants
  scattered in falling.

  I spotted an artillery flyer, approached him unnoticed, and shot
  into him at closest possible range.

  The left wing of his plane came off.

  The machine broke to pieces and fell down near Méricourt.


"He was due home on leave when he was killed," said Mrs. Tollervey,
"but he gave up his leave in favour of a comrade whose wife was having
a baby."

It was sometimes several days before Richthofen received credit on his
claims and on the day he killed Welch and Tollervey, the High Command
had acknowledged only as far as his forty-fourth, which was his
capture of Lieutenant W.O. Russell nine days earlier. This much is in
the characteristic letter which the German ace wrote his mother upon
his return that noon to the airdrome:

  With the Eleventh Squadron,
  April 23, 1917.
  I intend to come home at the beginning of May, but before then I
  will go pheasant shooting, to which I have been invited and to which
  I am looking forward eagerly.

  After that I have been invited to lunch with the Kaiser.

  Meanwhile, my forty-fourth stands to my credit, but I will take a
  rest after the first half century.

  Lothar has had his tenth victory.

  Since I took over this command, it has accounted for one hundred

  Uncle Lex will visit me during the next few days. Wedel was here
  too, and apart from them the house is continuously crowded with

In the following five days, Richthofen made daily flights at the head
of his Jagdstaffel and engaged in several combats but results were not
forthcoming, and he was still two units removed from the goal he had
set before he would go on leave.

But with the opening of the week beginning April 27th and ending May
3d, the business of killing in the air took a brisk spurt which
attracted new repute to the fighting Jagdstaffel.


In those seven days, twenty-six British machines were shot down behind
the German lines. Richthofen and his fighting pilots accounted for
twenty-three of them, and the rest of the victims were divided amongst
the other Jagdstaffels. Jagdstaffel II figured it out on paper that it
had accomplished more than seven times as much as all the rest of the
German Flying Corps put together. It was a boast worth writing home

  [Victory 48]

Of those twenty-three successful combats, Richthofen came off victor
in five and he only worked two days at it. The first of the quintette,
his forty-eighth conquest, occurred on the morning of April 28th.

The only living survivor of that fight is a quiet-mannered, keen-eyed
London business man, whose most exciting sport and diversion these
days is his week-end retirement to a cottage at No. 193, Beehive Lane,
in the town of Ilford, Essex.

Since the exciting days of the war, addresses, as well as times and
customs, have suffered considerable changes so that it was not without
long hunting that a one-time twenty-three-year-old second "louie" of
the name of F. J. Kirkham, who was an observer in the Thirteenth
Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, was located in the person of the man who
likes his pipe, dogs, and rose garden down in Beehive Lane.

  "It was rather a mess that day in the air," Kirkham told me. "While
  it was going on, I never had the slightest idea that I would be
  here, sitting in a cafe, ten years afterward and telling about it
  over a bottle of ale. It's hard to believe that old Follett, who sat
  right behind me in the plane that morning, has been dead and buried
  that long. Really, it seems like yesterday. One can't forget those
  things, can one?

  "Our airdrome, the Thirteenth, was at Savy--you know that little
  village up Amiens way. Follett was a year older {230} than
  I--twenty-four, I believe. He had just been married a year--pretty
  little wife living in Kensington--always looking forward to leave to
  get back to see her. Great chap on sport, too--his father used to be a
  member of the Surrey Cricket Club and played at the Oval.

  "Follett piloted our bus, which was a B. E. two-seater tractor with
  the observer sitting in front. We had two Lewis guns, one firing
  forward through the propeller, and the other fixed over the top
  plane and firing backward. Not a bad bus at that, but slow and
  hardly a worthy competitor to a fast scout plane. Good enough,
  though, for our purpose, which was artillery patrolling to range the
  eight-inch Hows.

  "We pushed off at 7:20 in the morning that day to do a shoot over
  the lines. Everything had gone fine for some time--my wireless was
  working good, and the receiver at the battery was getting the stuff
  and making good corrections on our targets. The stuff was dropping
  where we wanted it to.

  "I was watching the ground for the arrivals of our shells, when a
  burst of machine fire came to my ear directly behind me. I turned
  quickly and stood up to man the rear gun. I was too late. The red
  Albatross had continued its dive downward just in back of our tail
  and was 'way out of range.

  "He must have been doing 150 miles an hour. He was away in the flash
  of an eye. I saw two others swing by, so I knew that at least three of
  them had dived on us from above and behind.

  "They had taken us quite by surprise. We were quite low--not over
  three thousand feet, I believe, and Archie had been giving us some
  close attention.

  "Our plane dove straight down, so that, standing up as I was in the
  forward seat the back of my neck was to the ground and my face to
  the sky. I pulled back into the seat and looked into the pilot's


  "Poor old Follett had sort of crumpled up and fallen forward on the
  stick. I couldn't see his face, but I knew that some of that first
  burst had hit him. His body on the stick sent the plane down in a
  steep dive. He must have rolled off it, however, because we seemed
  to straighten out once or twice.

  "It had only been a comparatively few seconds since that first
  burst, but here was the red Hun scout back in position again just
  behind and above my tail. I fired round after round from the gun
  attached to the upper plane, but, as our machine was out of control,
  I couldn't aim well. The red plane just hung on my tail and kept
  firing all the time.

  "We were going down at a frightful rate. There was a dual-control
  stick in my seat which I might have rigged and pulled her out of the
  dive, but that would have meant turning my back to the Hun scout's
  machine gun, and I should have got it the same as Follett.

  "I figured everything was over but the final fade-out, so I just
  stuck to the rear gun and fired away at him in the hope that I might
  get him also. Apparently not a chance. I emptied the entire drum
  without effect. The red scout stuck right there on the tail, and his
  two machines were pumping lead all the time.

  "I had a number of bullet splashes in my face and hands. The sleeves
  and shoulders of my flying jacket had several dozen holes through
  them and then one bullet hit the barrel of the machine gun right
  under my nose. I remember looking over my shoulder, and the ground
  didn't seem over ten feet away. I closed my eyes and said
  good-night. I had seen it happen before.

  "But luck was with me. The plane hit a clump of small trees in the
  German big-gun positions. I woke up while German gunners were
  cutting me out of the wreckage. The first thing I heard was
  Follett's voice.


  "'God, we're on fire!' he shouted weakly.

  "I think he must have been unconscious and raving. The tanks had
  split wide open and petrol was over us and everything, but no fire
  started, although the wireless key had not been switched off. I was
  pretty well shaken and sore all over but aside from cuts and bruises
  and the bullet splashes on my face, was all right. I could stand up,
  but a couple of men helped me walk at first.

  "The Germans carried Follett on a stretcher. We walked back through
  the open, and English shells were falling around pretty thick. Some
  of the batteries we had been ranging were shooting this stuff in on
  our calculations, I thought, as some of them came rather close.

  "It must have been about three quarters of an hour after the crash
  when we reached a dressing station in a stone hut. I think it was
  near Vitry. I sat on the ground in the sheltered side of it while a
  doctor dressed my wounds and stopped the bleeding from the cuts.
  They had Follett inside the hut trying to find the bullet, which
  they told me had hit him in the back and lodged in his chest. They
  couldn't find it. It must have gone close to the heart. He died five
  minutes after we reached the hut.

  "The Jerries were considerate to both of us there. They took a gold
  ring off Follett's finger after he died and gave it to me. I knew it
  well. I had seen it on his finger many times. It was his engagement
  ring. I carried it with me in prison until the Armistice, and then
  took it back to his widow who was then living at No. 9, Glendower
  Place, South Kensington, London, S. W. [She's not known there

  "I was marched back somewhere to a big unit headquarters where I
  wrote and addressed a postcard to my mother telling her that I was
  all right and asking her to tell Mrs. Follett that her husband was
  dead, and the Germans promised to drop it over the lines. I believe
  they did.


  "From there I was marched ten miles back along the road with a
  mounted Uhlan, carrying a lance; riding behind me. I must have been
  a funny-looking sight walking into Douai with that ferocious escort,
  and myself in a torn and petrol-soaked uniform with a lot of
  blood-soaked bandages.

  "Walking along the canal into Douai, French girls came out and
  walked beside me at the side of the road. They gave me cigarettes
  and said mighty nice things to me in French, just low enough so that
  the Uhlan in back of me couldn't hear. Soon my French escort of
  women, girls, and little boys in wooden shoes became so large that
  the Uhlan made a mock lunge at the crowd with his lance and ordered
  them to stop following.

  "The Uhlan marched me up to Richthofen's airdrome in Douai, and some
  of the pilots of his squadron treated me very nice--gave me coffee
  and something to eat. One of them told me that it was Richthofen
  himself who had shot me down, and apologized to me for the absence
  of the Baron, saying that he would have liked to meet me. We never
  met. I left that night for prison, and that was my address until the

Kirkham's great disadvantage in the plucky fight he made during
the descent, as well as Richthofen's cleverness in being able to keep his
target in range, while at the same time keeping himself out of the range
of his victim, is revealed in the final sentence of the Flying Uhlan's
combat report, which in full reads:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 48th Victory

  Date: April 28, 1917
  Time: 9:30 A. M.
  Place: Woods, east of Pelves, S. E. comer of Square 6998,
  this side of lines.
  Plane: English B. E. two-seater.  {234}
  Occupants: Lieutenant Follett, killed. Observer F. I. Kirkham,

  About 9:30 A.M., while pursuit flying, I attacked an enemy infantry
  or artillery flyer at 2,000 feet above the trenches.

  Above the woods of Pelves, I shot the enemy plane down.

  From the beginning of the engagement to the end, my adversary was
  never able to get out of the range of my gun.

The German ace liked a good gallery. He knew he was "the goods" in the
air, and it gave him great enjoyment to put up a good show for
interested spectators on the ground. The presence of a grandstand
inspired him to greater exertion of the power and will that had
brought him such success and fame in the air.

Under the eyes of a special guest from headquarters, he had shot down
three planes and killed four men on the thirteenth of the month.
Today, he would even break this record, because there was someone on
the ground watching him with eyes that reflected mixed emotions of
pride, love, and fear.

The witness of this day's carnival of death with which the young Uhlan
closed his flying for the month of April was none other than his
father. Richthofen was still young enough to enjoy exhibiting his
prowess before the father whose ability as a hunter and as a marksman
and whose love for the antlered and feathered trophies of the chase
had been the boyish inspiration of the German ace.

He could remember the many days in the old home down in Schweidnitz,
when his eyes would stray from his lesson books to the walls of the
large drawing room, on which were mounted several hundred bleached
white skulls and horns that had once been living sprites of the forest
before they had fallen under the gun of the head of the family. He
well recalled and still loved the dusty glass cases in which stuffed
eagles, falcons, hawks, and buzzards, {235} all victims of his
father's marksmanship, looked down on him with what life a German
taxidermist could put into their glass eyes.

He reflected now that the walls of his rooms were hung with human
scalps in the form of strips of fabric bearing the numbers of the
planes he had brought to earth and there on his desk was the
ever-increasing collection of little silver cups of death, which kept
pace with his conquests in the air. Showing the old man how he did it
was a joy.

There was another development that also piqued his pride that day. It
had been reported to him through the intelligence department that his
name and fame and that of his squadron had become so well known behind
the enemy lines that the British had organized an "anti-Richthofen"
squadron for the special purpose of driving him from the air.

I have been unable to find the existence of any such organization in
the British Flying Corps, and at that time on the front I never heard
of it, although it was well appreciated among the Allied flyers that
the man who "got" Richthofen would gain special distinction as an air

  [Victory 49]

It is true, however, that the first man Richthofen killed on this day,
April 29th, was in the air with two others for the express purpose of
dealing with the German ace. These three English air knights who flew
on that special mission, Richthofen and two of his comrades shot down,
killing two and taking one prisoner.

Richthofen and his two comrades of that fight, Wolff and Lothar, are
all dead, but they left three vivid accounts of the combat. The third
account, and the most vivid one. I received from the lips of the sole
survivor, who lives in England today.

  We flew to the lines, hoping to find our enemy [Richthofen
  explained]. After about twenty minutes, the first arrived and {236}
  attacked us. This had not happened to us for some time. The English
  had abandoned their celebrated offensive tactics to some extent,
  having found them somewhat too expensive.

  Our aggressors were three Spads, one-seater machines. Their
  occupants considered themselves quite superior to us on account of
  the excellence of their apparatus. Wolff, my brother, and I were
  flying together. We were three against three. That was as it ought
  to be.

  Almost from the beginning of the encounter, the aggressive became
  defensive. Our superiority became clear. I tackled my opponent and
  could see how my brother and Wolff each handled his adversary. The
  usual waltzing began.

  We were circling around one another. A favourable wind came to our
  aid. It drove the fighting away from the front and farther behind
  the German lines.

  My man was the first to fall. I suppose I smashed up his engine. At
  any rate, he made up his mind to land. I no longer gave pardon to
  anyone. Therefore, I attacked him a second time, and the
  consequences were that his whole plane went to pieces.

  His wings dropped off like pieces of paper, and the body of the
  machine fell like a stone, burning fiercely. It dropped into a
  swamp. It was impossible to dig it out, and I have never discovered
  the name of my opponent. He had disappeared. Only the end of the
  plane's tail was visible and marked the place where he had dug his
  own grave.

  Simultaneously with me, Wolff and my brother had attacked their
  opponents and forced them to the ground not far from my victim. We
  were very happy, and flew home, and hoped that the Anti-Richthofen
  Squadron would often return to the fray.

Richthofen's three opponents in the combat related above were Major H.
D. Harvey-Kelly, D.S.O., Second Lieutenant R. Applin, and Second
Lieutenant W. N. Hamilton, all from the Nineteenth Squadron.
Richthofen killed Applin, Wolff killed Harvey-Kelly, and Lothar took
for himself the credit for forcing Hamilton to land as a prisoner.


Lothar's account of the fight, which, in the light of the story of the
only living survivor, is inaccurate in a number of details, follows:

  The warm April morning is beautiful. We are standing near our birds,
  waiting for orders. The telephone rings. Enemy planes south of
  Arras! A short command to the N. C. O. of the start service, the
  alarm bells ring, and suddenly everything comes to life. The
  engineers come hurrying to the machines and test them. The pilots
  rush along. Which shall be the commanding plane? My

  We arrive above and south of Arras at about three thousand metres.
  No enemy planes! Yes, there are three Englishmen, and now we have
  something to wonder about. The three of them attack us, dropping
  down on us from a great height.

  My brother takes the first in hand, Wolff the second, and I myself
  deal with the third. As long as the Englishman towers above me, he
  shoots incessantly. I have to wait until he is on my level,
  otherwise I cannot shoot. Now he is quite near me. I am just
  preparing myself to shoot when he suddenly drops down, down, down. I
  am thinking: "What you can do, I can do also!" Down I go.

  Now my opponent is flying straight onward. I take my machine in hand
  and follow him. As soon as he notices me, he starts wild curves. As
  we have west wind, the fight will gradually slip farther to our
  side. I follow my adversary. As soon as he tries to fly straight, I
  shoot to scare him. Finally, I grow tired of it. I try to hit him
  whilst he is flying curves. I shoot and shoot.

  In the meantime, we tower in about five hundred metres altitude. I
  force my opponent to continue his curves. When doing curves, one's
  plane is forced, gradually, lower down and lower down, until one has
  to either land or try to fly home in a straight line. My opponent
  decides to try the latter manoeuvre.

  "Your hour has come, my poor friend!" I manage to think, and then I
  approach him. I start to press the trigger of my gun in about fifty
  metres' distance, but, damn it, no shot can be heard. Damn! My gun
  is jammed! And so near victory as I was at that moment! I have a
  look at my gun. Confound it! I had {238} discharged all my shots,
  1,000 cartridges. Never before had I used such a lot.

  "You must not let him get off!" is my idea. To have fought for 15
  minutes with a red plane, and to manage to get away unhurt would be
  too much of a triumph for my opponent. I approach him nearer and
  nearer. I calculate: 10 metres, five metres, three, now only two

  Finally, I think of a rather desperate measure: shall I knock off
  his rudder with the help of my propeller? Then he is done for, but
  with me it would be the same.

  Another theory: If I turn off the engine the moment I touch him with
  my plane, what then? In this moment, my Englishman turns and looks
  in a horrified way at me. Then he stops his engine and goes down,
  landing somewhere near our third line. On the ground, I can see his
  engine still running.

  If one has the misfortune to land behind the enemy's trenches, one
  always tries to destroy and burn one's machine. In order to prevent
  this, it is the duty of the pursuing pilot to shoot round about the
  landed machine so as to drive the inmates away. That is exactly what
  I did, and when the Englishman heard my bullets tearing through the
  air, he skipped out of his plane, waved to me, and surrendered to
  the infantry. [But he had no cartridges.]

  As I found out some time later, investigating a similar event, I
  should most certainly have been killed if I had tried to touch the
  Englishman with my propeller. For his sake, I must say he had no
  idea that _my cartridges had run out._

  One single cartridge would have done with him, so near as he was to
  me at the moment. If he had turned it would have been I who would
  have been compelled to flee. He had only discharged some fifty
  cartridges, whereas I, run out of ammunition, was utterly helpless.

  But I had succeeded, and that was the chief thing. The next day I
  went by plane to the squadron that had salvaged the Englishman's
  plane, a then very good Spad, and had a good look at my captured
  treasure. But look as I might, I found no evidence of having hit the
  machine. And I had discharged 1,000 shots! I asked whether my
  opponent had been wounded, but  {239} I was informed that this was
  not the case. Not one hit in a thousand. A fine performance! I had
  to laugh. The Englishman had gone down simply because I had scared

  In my book of victories I inscribed: "On April 29, 1917, in the
  morning, near Izel, one Spad, inmate an English officer." I never
  had a chance to speak to my victim, our camp being too far from
  where he came down. Thus, most probably, he will never have heard
  that I had no cartridges left and that he had gone down from sheer
  terror. When I came home to camp that day, I said to myself:
  "Surely, you cannot tell this story, no hit in a thousand!"

  My brother and Wolff had brought their enemy planes to the ground. I
  don't think I told anybody anything of my wonderful shooting. By the
  way, it is interesting to hear how many shots are required to bring
  down an Englishman. When flying for the first time with my brother,
  I noticed that he really began to shoot when his adversary was more
  or less falling. Up till then, he had mostly not used more than
  twenty bullets.

  But this is by no means the rule. When attacking English planes, it
  is best to do so from backward. If the English plane is then flying
  straight on, a good shooter will hit him fatally after the first
  shots. But if the adversary starts to making curves so that one
  cannot get him right in front of the gun, only a chance hit will
  bring him down.

The fact that two men quite frequently, if not most frequently, give
different accounts after witnessing the same incident, is not
considered sufficient to condemn either for a falsehood, and Lothar's
account differs in many essentials from that told by Lieutenant

Lothar, however, contradicts himself in his own story when he says
that all of his ammunition was expended in the air, and later,
forgetting this statement, writes that he fired his machine gun around
Hamilton's plane on the ground to prevent the latter from burning it.

To one who has studied both the accounts and the characters of those
who related them, it would seem that {240} Lothar was not averse to
making a good story at the expense of facts which he might not have
considered important in view of the propaganda purposes his story
might serve at that time.

I believe Hamilton is one of those men honest enough to admit that he
has experienced fear, but Lothar, in my opinion, was mistaken when he
wrote that he had bluffed or scared Hamilton to land. Why the English
pilot was forced to earth is revealed in the account by himself.

Hamilton, as a young branch manager of a leather factory in India,
went back to England in 1915 to fight. He enlisted and gained his
commission in 1916. Attached to a battalion of the Northumberland
Fusiliers he went through the first battle of the Somme and then
transferred to the Flying Corps. His story follows:

  "I was sent to England to train as a pilot, and after a two weeks'
  theoretical course at Oxford, was posted to an airdrome near
  Edinburgh to learn to fly.

  "In February of  '17, after completing my air training, I went to
  France and was attached to the Nineteenth Squadron (Spads). I had
  been in C Flight, which, in common with the other flights at that
  time, had been divided into two groups of three machines each.

  "This we had permission to do, as we found that, if we patrolled in
  sixes, the enemy kept very clear of us and we had nothing to do. Our
  particular beat at that time was from 18,000 feet upward with the
  baby Nieuports and Sop pups patrolling below us.

  "Even when reduced to groups, we had little or no excitement, an
  occasional enemy machine taking photographs being our only 'bag'; so
  that, after considerable application, we were given a roving

  "The morning of April 29, 1917, broke very thick. I was on the early
  patrol, and took my machines up, but, as at 10,000 feet we were lost
  in a thick bank of clouds, it was {241} no use continuing, so I
  washed out the patrol and returned to the airdrome.

  "In addition to being group leader, I was squadron machine-gun
  officer, so that, after a second breakfast, instead of returning to
  bed for a few hours, as my next patrol was not until 2 P.M., I
  returned to the hangars and pottered about with the guns.

  "The whole squadron was fitted with Vickers, one to each machine,
  and no Lewis guns were carried. It is necessary to explain that each
  plane's gun was fixed along the port side of the engine and was
  synchronized to fire through the blades of the air screw, the
  gearing used being peculiar to the Spad, as the gun was built into
  the engine and the tripper bar tripped direct from the port cam
  shaft which operated over the feedblock cover. A double feed or any
  jam occurring in the feed block necessitated a partial dismantling
  of the engine before the feedblock could be freed. This, of course,
  could not be done in the air.

  "We used a continuous metal belt made up of sections, each section
  being attached to the next by the cartridge case, so that, as each
  cartridge was extracted from the belt that section of the belt was
  allowed to fall away from the machine. At first, the belt was
  carried wound on a drum under the gun.

  "In practice, we found that, after a burst of say twenty rounds, the
  drum having got up a bit of speed, there was a possibility of it
  forcing the belt on even after the gun had ceased firing, and this
  would cause a double feed. In order to overcome this fault, I was at
  that time fitting all our machines with boxes instead of drums. In
  fact, the change had been completed except for my own bus.

  "While I was in the hangar attending to the guns, Harvey-Kelly came
  to me and said that the wing commander was 'hot-airing' about
  Richthofen's circus having been seen over Douai and he wanted three
  Spads to go {242} up and deal with them. Owing to the fact that the
  machines of the other flights were either away on patrol or not
  ready, I was ordered to send up three from C Flight.

  "In the ordinary course of events, the other group should have taken
  the job as mine had already done one patrol that day, but, as the
  matter was urgent, I agreed to take my pilots up again. At the last
  moment, Harvey-Kelly insisted that he himself would go instead of
  me, but, as I declined to be left behind, I detailed one of my
  pilots, Harding, to remain behind and to let Major Harvey-Kelly have
  his machine.

  "Harvey-Kelly and myself got off the ground together and hung around
  for a spell waiting for Applin, but, as he appeared to be making no
  attempt to follow us, we presumed something had gone wrong, so we
  started off by ourselves. We were not on any particular patrol, but
  cruised about looking for Richthofen and his circus.

  "We had been in the air about two hours when a third Spad joined us
  and, judging from the markings, I concluded Applin had eventually
  got off the ground and found us.

  "This was particularly praiseworthy as Applin had had very little
  experience over the lines, and it required considerable pluck for a
  more or less raw pilot to hunt for us by himself forty miles behind
  the German lines. He took up a position on my right rear as we
  always flew that way, in V formation, with No. 1 plane leading and
  No. 2 slightly higher than No. 1, and No. 3 slightly higher than
  No.2. In this formation it was the duty of No. 3 to protect Nos. 1
  and 2 from attack from behind.

  "Soon after Applin joined us, we sighted the circus about a thousand
  feet below us. There were eighteen planes flying more or less on a
  line ahead, slightly échelon.

  "As we were only 4,000 feet up, I did not expect Harvey-Kelly would
  attack, but at the same moment we noticed {243} six triplanes, Royal
  Navy Air Service, flying toward us. Harvey-Kelly immediately gave the
  signal to attack the enemy, but the triplanes sheered off and left
  me to it.

  "Harvey-Kelly had already turned and dived at the tail Hun, and I
  was turning to attack the centre machine, so as to break up the
  formation and prevent the leading machine getting above us.

  "Applin was following me, when I saw him stall on his tail and go
  down in a spin and then burst into flames.

  "I looked up and saw that Richthofen in his all-red plane had been
  cruising about two thousand feet above his circus, which
  incidentally was his usual position, and had evidently shot Applin
  down as he swooped away immediately afterward.

  "I carried out my original plan of attacking the centre machine,
  noticing, as I did so, that Harvey-Kelly had apparently accounted
  for two Huns and was pretty busy with four or five more.

  "I joined battle a second or two later, our position at that time
  being somewhere over Epincy. I didn't see Harvey-Kelley again, as I
  was fully occupied with my little bunch and carried on a running
  fight until, over Douai, my gun jammed.

  "I made a rapid examination and found my cursed drum had forced a
  double feed, so that there was nothing to be done except get away.

  "I 'splitassed' to get toward our lines, when they managed to hole
  my main tank, which, being under my feet, was force-fed into the
  engine. Of course, the moment the pressure was released, my engine
  stopped, and as it stopped on the turn, I stalled and spun.

  "I got her out of the spin almost immediately, switched on to my
  gravity tank, and dived to pick up my engine, but in doing so I
  naturally lost a bit of height and cooled my engine to such an
  extent that she wouldn't give me {244} full revolutions, so that I
  was now much slower than my opponents, in addition to being below

  "I held my bus down to keep up speed and steered for our lines, but
  very soon had four of the enemy on my tail--at least, one was on my
  tail, one above, and one on each side behind.

  "They made pretty good shooting and managed to shoot away all my
  instruments and most of my struts and flying wires, so that, before
  long, I was practically flying a monoplane, as my bottom plane was
  flapping. Had I been flying any machine other than a Spad, it would
  have crumpled up, but as a Spad has no dihedral, the main spar of
  the top plane was solid right through, which no doubt saved my life.

  "I was now down to about three hundred feet off the ground, when
  they holed my gravity tank, and my engine stopped for good. I made a
  good landing just behind Oppy wood about a kilo short of the line,
  and while the Huns on the ground were running up to secure me, I
  endeavoured to fire my bus. During this time, however, the four Huns
  in the air (one of them was Richthofen's brother flying a red-nosed
  Albatross) continued firing at me. Owing to my having no petrol
  left, I was unsuccessful in firing my bus but I saw her hit by our
  own guns soon after, so that she was completely destroyed.

  "I heard later that Applin was dead and that Harvey-Kelley died in a
  hospital three days later from head wounds. I also understand, but
  could never get authentic confirmation, that Harvey-Kelley and
  myself accounted for five of the Huns before we were shot down.
  Applin, of course, was killed before he could fire a shot."

Hamilton was twenty-five years old at the time of the fight. He spent
the rest of the war in a German prison, and was repatriated after the
Armistice. He now lives in Surrey. Since the death of his son,
Applin's father has {245} moved from the old home in Southampton, and
all efforts to locate the mother of Major Harvey-Kelley at her old
address in Buckingham have been fruitless.

Richthofen's official claim for credit for shooting down young Applin
was written as follows:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 49th Victory

  Date: April 29, 1917.
  Time: 12:05 P.M.
  Place: Swamps near Lecluse, this side of lines.
  Plane: English Spad one-seater, no details,
    as plane vanished in swamp.
  Occupant: No details.

  With several of my gentlemen, I attacked an English Spad group
  consisting of three machines. The plane I had singled out broke to
  pieces while curving and dashed, burning, into the swamp near

The father of the German ace was waiting by the hangars of the Douai
airdrome when his two sons returned from the fight with the three
English Spads. He had seen Applin go down burning, and he had seen the
other two English machines forced to earth.

Lothar jumped out of his plane first and, running over to the bearded
head of the family, who stood there erect in his major's uniform of
field gray, saluted militarily and said:

"Good-morning, Father. I have just shot down an Englishman."

This greeting, sounding curiously cold to Anglo-Saxon ears, is good
form according to the code of the Prussian military family. Richthofen
himself followed his brother, standing before his father. He clicked
his heels and said:


"Good-morning, Father. I have just shot down an Englishman."

Describing that curious meeting between father and sons, Richthofen

  The old man felt very happy, and he was delighted with our reports.
  That was obvious. He is not one of those fathers who have fears for
  their sons. I think he would have liked very much to get into a
  machine and help us with our shooting. We all had a meal together.

The family reunion at table was interrupted by an air combat taking
place immediately over the airdrome. The persistent, dogged Englishmen
were at it again. The three Richthofens watched the fight from the

Suddenly, from out the _mêlée_ above them, a German machine came
plunging down in uncontrolled curves. It turned over and over, but
finally righted itself, to the relief of the tense spectators on the
airdrome. It reached the flying ground safely, but made a rough
landing and turned over.

The elder Richthofen walked hurriedly across the ground to the wreck.
The disabled plane was a two-seater. The machine gunner in the rear
seat was dead with an English bullet through his head. The pilot was
slightly injured in the landing.

Richthofen, senior, was seriously silent as he walked back across the
field behind the group that carried the body of the dead observer. The
incident actually amounted to a prevision of what was to happen months
later to his eldest son. This part of the exhibition was not on the
programme and was something that Richthofen would have preferred to
remain hidden from his father's eyes. Grimness replaced the previous
heartiness when the interrupted meal was resumed.


  [Victory 50]

Several hours later, the German ace shot down and killed two English
airmen, both of whom were under twenty years of age. They constituted
his much-desired fiftieth victory, the record which he had wanted his
father to see him make. Unfortunately for his plans, the fight took
place beyond the range of the telescope with which the father scanned
the sky from his post of observation on the Douai flying field.

The victims of this combat were young non-commissioned officers,
although Richthofen raises one to the rank of captain in his report.
They were Sergeant G. Stead and Air Mechanic Corporal Alfred Beebee,
both of the Eighteenth Squadron, R. F. C. They flew an old F. E. 2 b
armed with Lewis guns, and they were acting as escort to photography

Stead was nineteen years old and came from Manchester, where he had
said goodbye to his bride just eight days before his death. Those
eight days constituted his entire career as a pilot in France.
Richthofen had probably killed twice as many men as Stead had flying
hours to his credit.

Beebee's mother, who lives today in Birmingham, had always brought him
up with a respect for the truth, but that did not prevent the boy from
swearing that he was nineteen years old when he was actually
seventeen. With this misstatement of fact, he enlisted and served
eighteen months in the air. He had not yet reached nineteen when he
was killed, but he had shot down seven German planes and won the Croix
de Guerre.

"I don't know where my boy is buried," says. Mrs. Beebee, "but I know
he died a true English gentleman. The only information I ever received
was this letter from his commanding officer."

The letter, so awfully similar to those received by the many women who
paid for the war, reads:


  I presume that you have already heard from the War Office that your
  son is missing. On the 29/4/17 he and his pilot, Flight Sergeant
  Stead, were acting as escort to a photo reconnaissance. A number of
  hostile aircraft attacked the formation, which was split up, each of
  our machines fighting two or three hostile machines.

  After this combat, all our machines returned with the exception of
  your son's and his pilot's. No one knows what became of them, as all
  our machines were fighting hard, and results could not be observed.

  I very much regret that I cannot give you any further information.
  If anything more is found out or heard about your son, I will let
  you know at once. By the loss of your son, this squadron has lost a
  very gallant and keen gunner. He was by far the best gunner observer
  we had. Regretting the smallness of the information I am able to
  give, I am,

    Yours sincerely,
      G. R. M. REID,
    _Major, Eighteenth Squadron, R. F. C_.

How the Uhlan killed Stead and Beebee is related in his combat report,
which reads:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 50th Victory

  Date: April 29, 1917.
  Time: 4:55 P.M.
  Place: S. W. of Inchy, Hill 90., near Pariville, this side of line.
  Plane: Vickers two-seater. No details. Burning in first line.
  Occupants: Capt. G. Stead and unknown.

  Together with five of my gentlemen, I attacked an enemy squad of
  five Vickers.

  After a long curve fight, during which the adversary defended
  himself admirably, I managed to put myself behind him.

  After 300 shots, the enemy plane caught fire.

  The plane burned to pieces in the air, and the occupants fell out.


Apparently, not even the Germans ever found Beebee's body, so it is
most unlikely that the mother in Birmingham will ever find the grave
of her son.

On the front below, where the battle of Arleux was now forty hours
under way, the day was beginning to fade, but up aloft there was still
light, and Richthofen was yet to knock down two more planes before

  [Victory 51]

Number fifty-one--his start an the second "half century"--was an
English artillery plane, but neither Richthofen nor the English
casualty reports are able to reveal the identity of the airmen,
because the wrecked plane, while burning on the ground, was blown to
bits by shell fire. Five other English planes of the same type were
shot down that afternoon, so that it is not possible in this case to
specify which one was Richthofen's victim.

The Flying Uhlan had spotted two artillery flyers who appeared to be
without escort. By wiggling the wings of his plane, he signalled to
Lothar to attack with him. The two brothers flew toward their prey
with increased speed. Each brother knew the flying and fighting
capacity of the other. They knew that their red-nosed Albatross
machines were superior to those of their intended victims. There was
confidence in their dual attack.

Before opening fire, both Richthofens looked carefully around to see
whether any escorting planes were in sight. These two victims looked
almost too good to be true--so good, in fact, that the ace had the
fleeting suspicion they were bait in a trap set far him. But the sky
appeared clear above him. The wasps were alone with the butterflies.

It took several minutes' manoeuvring to get into the favourable
position under the tail of the two-seater--then a short burst of
machine-gun lead, and the old English plane collapsed in the air. The
German ace said later that he had never had a more rapid success.

His combat report reads:


  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 51st Victory

  Date: April 29, 1917.
  Time: 7:25 P.M.
  Place: Near Roeux this side of the line.
  Plane: English B. E. dd.2. No details, as plane under fire.

  Together with my brother, we each of us attacked an artillery flyer
  at a low altitude. After a short fight, my adversary's plane lost
  its wings. When it hit the ground near the trenches near Roeux, it
  caught fire.

Lothar had engaged the other enemy plane, and the fight was going on
hardly five hundred feet away from the elder brother's moving
position. He watched every development of the engagement.

  I had time to study the struggle [he related afterward], and must
  say that I myself could not have done any better. He had rushed his
  man, and both were turning round each other. Suddenly, the enemy
  machine reared.

  This is a certain indication of a hit. Probably the pilot received a
  bullet in the head. The wings collapsed and the plane fell. It fell
  quite close to my victim.

  I flew toward my brother, and we congratulated each other by waving.
  We were highly satisfied with our performance and flew off. It is a
  splendid thing when one can fly with one's brother like that and do
  so well.

  [Victory 52]

Not fifteen minutes later, Richthofen found himself attacked by a
speedy pursuit plane of a new model and much more worthy of his
attention than the slow artillery plane.

It was a new Nieuport from Squadron Forty, and the twenty-two-year-old
youngster who handled the stick was looking for trouble. He picked
Richthofen out from all the rest of his planes and dove on him.

The pilot was Captain Frederick Leycester Barwell. When war broke out,
Barwell, just entering Cambridge, {251} changed his mind for an
enlistment in the Queen's Westminster Rifles, in which he received his
commission in six weeks. He was fighting in France by the 1st of
November, 1914, and didn't get back to England until August, 1916,
when he returned, wounded, to his father's home, The Tower, at Ascot.

In January of the following year, he transferred to the Flying Corps,
gained his pilot licence on April 10th, hit the front with the
Fortieth Squadron on April 13th, and was burned to death in the air
April 29th as the result of his fight with Richthofen. The Germans
buried him with honours at Beaumont, west of Douai, and one enemy
infantry report had this to say about the fight:

  The combat lasted almost half an hour. All the troops in the
  neighbourhood came out and watched this thrilling fight. The
  British airmen persistently sought combat, and half a dozen times
  appeared to be nose diving to death, but each time he flattened out
  and, with admirable daring, attacked again. They [the troops] were
  full of admiration for the courage of this pilot.

Richthofen was able to avoid Barwell's first dive. He escaped the
shower of lead that spurted from the Englishman's Vickers gun as the
speedy little Nieuport darted down from above. That miss cost Barwell
his life.

The dive carried him below Richthofen, who from then on maintained the
superior position above. It was the proud boast of the German ace that
anything that was beneath him in the air, especially a pursuit plane
that could not shoot to the rear, was lost.

Barwell's machine was good and speedy. He did not concentrate his
attention on Richthofen, but let fly at any black-crossed plane that
he could get within range of. At one time, he was flying right in the
midst of Richthofen's formation, but through it all the German ace
hung tenaciously to his position on the tail of the Nieuport.


The fight between the two swung eastward over Lens, with the rest of
the Jagdstaffel hovering on both sides between the lone Englishman and
his lines. Richthofen resorted to a trick to deprive the Englishman of
the advantage of his speedy plane.

He began firing his machine gun, although he realized he was not
within range. The sound of the double Spandaus coming from behind had
the effect of making the English pilot immediately relinquish the
straight line he was flying in. The Nieuport began flying a zigzag,
curving course, hoping to prevent his pursuer from hitting him.

This was what Richthofen wanted. The zigzag course reduced the speed
of the Nieuport just sufficiently to permit the red Albatross to
approach within range.

When within fifty yards of the Nieuport's tail, Richthofen steadied
his plane and sent his eyes down the sights of the Spandaus. He aimed
carefully and pulled the triggers.

The aim was true. There was a slight hissing sound just audible as the
pressure escaped from a punctured petrol tank. Then a fine white
vapour ribbon trailed from the Nieuport's tail. The terrible nature of
the end that followed just a second later loses none of its terror in
Richthofen's own words:

  Then I saw a bright flame, and my lord disappeared below.

Officially the ace reported:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 52d Victory

  Date: April 29, 1917.
  Time: 7:40 P.M.
  Place: Between Billy-Montigny and Sellaumines this side of lines
  Plane: Nieuport one-seater, no details, as plane burned.

  Soon after having shot down a B. E. near Roeux, we were attacked by
  a strong enemy one-seater squad of Nieuports, {253} Spads and
  triplanes. The plane I had singled out caught fire after a short
  time, burned in the air, and fell north of Henin-Liétard.

The Flying Uhlan never learned Barwell's name. He was too busy that
night celebrating with his father the great day that he had had in the

Not only was fifty-two an unheard-of number of victories at that time,
but the downing of four enemy planes in one day was a feat he had
never achieved before. Lothar having downed two, the brothers could
say that, between them, they had wiped out one complete English

Richthofen, senior, joined in the big dinner and glowed with pride and
undoubtedly with some happiness owing to the fact that he knew that
his son was scheduled to go on leave from the front the next day.
There was to be a rest from the killing and a recess from the danger
of going the way of his many victims.

At eight o'clock, in the course of the dinner, the ace was called to
the extension telephone in the mess hall. He found himself in
communication with the grand headquarters of the High Command, the
Holy of Holies of the All Highest War Lord.

The following message was read to him:

  I have just received the message that today you have been for the
  fiftieth time victor in an air battle.

  I heartily congratulate you upon this marvellous success with my
  full acknowledgment.

  The Fatherland looks with thankfulness upon its brave flyer.

  May God further preserve you.

Richthofen's personally inflicted casualty list for the month appears
in the appendix.


At the close of "Bloody April," when he went home from the front on
leave, this was the balance of Richthofen's books of death:


  PREVIOUSLY REPORTED                             31
  TOTAL PLANES SHOT DOWN                          52

  KILLED IN APRIL, 1917                           23
  PREVIOUSLY REPORTED                             32
  TOTAL KILLED                                    55

  PREVIOUSLY REPORTED                             13



It was May 1, 1917, when Richthofen said goodbye to his flying mates
at Douai and retired from the front on a leave of absence that the
High Command had insisted that he take. His superiors had even ordered
that he confine himself to the ground during his vacation away from
the battle lines, but this did not prevent the Red Knight of Germany
from making the trip by air.

The cheers and congratulations of his pilots and mechanics rang in his
ears as he flew away, this time a passenger in a two-seater
observation plane, much slower and safer than the speedy little red
Albatross in which he had sent so many men to their death.

With the unprecedented "bag" of fifty-two victorious combats on his
record, the German ace of aces went back to receive the plaudits and
worship of the Fatherland's millions, who breathed his name with
praise and prayer. Prince and peasant acclaimed him as Germany's young
war god. The Kaiser, the War Lord himself, extended himself to shower
new honours on this keen-eyed blond Prussian youth who had served his
country so well.

Girls with fluttering hearts and reddened cheeks caressed him with
their warmest smiles and glances everywhere he went. Their presence
frequently embarrassed him. He would find himself surrounded by bevies
of them, and every time he sought escape from the charming but
somewhat terrifying circle, he looked into glowing eyes all carrying
the same avowal of adoration.

Boys followed him in the street or clung about him in swarms whenever
he stopped. They would walk ahead of {256} him, with faces turned back
over their shoulders to look up into the features of the great
champion. His walk, his manner, his smile, his uniform--no detail
escaped these young male eyes who saw in their hero the man who had
killed half a hundred men. He was their ideal of courage and bravery,
of power and strength, of right and might. He could fly, shoot, fight,
and kill, and do it better than anyone.

The Flying Uhlan's younger brother, Lothar, succeeded him to the
command of Jagdstaffel II, although neither in rank nor number of
victories was he the senior officer. The German public demanded the
name of Richthofen in the air, and the High Command was not asleep to
its propaganda benefits.

Richthofen wore only the oil-stained flying togs that comprised almost
his entire wardrobe at the airdrome. Dressed just like him was
Lieutenant Kreft, one of his pilots also on leave, who handled the
stick in the two-seater. Toothbrushes carried in coat pockets
constituted their only other baggage.

They left the thunder of the battle of Arras behind them, and soon the
last of the German sausage balloons disappeared over the hazy rim of
the flat horizon. Away from the zone of war, they flew over peaceful
countrysides, over rivers, canals, and railroads, over wooded mounds
that were the mountains of the Meuse.

The ace traced the route on the map, descending once through some
clouds to identify Namur just beneath, and then on by way of Liége and
Aix-la-Chapelle to Cologne, where the coming of the war hero had been
flashed by wire.

The airdrome was jammed with people whose cheering drowned the blare
of the band. Every _"blatt"_ in Germany on the previous day had
carried the news of the fifty-second victory, and everyone of their
millions of readers was {257} anxious to get a look at the new
D'Artagnan of the air.

The ranking officers who received him as he stepped from the airplane
were succeeded by a delegation of Cologne fräuleins who presented him
with bunches of freshly cut flowers. The rewards of war won glory were
the same in Cologne as they were in Paris, London, New York, or What
Cheer, Iowa.

Richthofen was self-conscious and shy in the presence of these girls,
who received their war thrill from the knowledge that by their
presence they alone could bring blushes to the cheeks of a man who had
faced death so often without a change in complexion. He smiled
boyishly and mumbled his thanks clumsily. He felt intensely
uncomfortable with the bunches of flowers in his hands and with warm
glances seeking his eyes everywhere he looked. He was not a "ladies'

Pleading a headache due to his three-hour flight from Douai the ace
escaped from the cheering mass packed round the flying field and
gained the security of an officer's quarters where he immediately went
to bed for the midday nap that had become his habit and nerve
stimulant. In an hour, he and Kreft returned to the refuelled plane
and sailed away amid cheers that they could hear above the roar of
their motor.

They flew low over the Rhine and late in the afternoon reached the
German army headquarters at Kreuznach, where they reported to General
Heppner, in command of German aviation. The ace spent the night
quietly with old comrades who were attached to headquarters and whom
he quite openly pitied as poor "ink spillers" whose duties, far away
from the fight, deprived them of "half the fun of war."

The next morning, he waited first in the anteroom of General Field
Marshal von Hindenburg. The headquarters hummed with activity. Numbers
of high-ranking civilians {258} and soldiers went in and came out of
huge doors guarding the private office. Here was the German brain
centre of the war.

Richthofen was warmly received by the marshal, whose attitude was as
much fatherly as military. Only commonplace greetings and salutations
passed between them, but Hindenburg notified him that His Majesty the
Emperor had learned that today, May 2d, was Richthofen's twenty-fifth
birthday, and that he was commanded to lunch with His Majesty.

In the antechamber of Von Ludendorff's office, Richthofen saw and met
men high in the affairs of state and industry--men who had been only
names to him before. In one corner sat Balin, the shipping magnate, in
serious conversation with a general staff officer. Helfferich passed
through the room at a quick walk. Bethmann, the Minister for Foreign
Affairs, succeeded him in the private office. If anything, the scene
was even busier than that in Hindenburg's office.

After an hour's wait, an officer called Richthofen from the dozen or
more generals who were waiting and ushered him into Ludendorff's
office. The marshal shook his hand and waved him into a chair.

"How's the air activity at Arras?" was the first question he shot at
the ace. Richthofen at first liked the businesslike directness and the
absence of any time-wasting congratulations or inquiries about his
health. He answered as directly and endeavoured to keep himself
strictly on the subject of Ludendorff's question. Frequently, however,
when, in attempting to illustrate a point, he wandered off on to a
personal anecdote that might not have been of military importance,
Ludendorff would stop him suddenly with a wave of the hand and bring
the conversation back to the original question.

In half an hour, the popular idol had been pumped dry {259} of all
information of a military nature concerning the struggle in the air.
The stern inquisitor then abruptly dismissed him. Richthofen left the
office with relief. Ludendorff's trip-hammer questions and
overpowering seriousness left him almost breathless.

At noon he lunched with the Kaiser. Wilhelm the Second was playful and
dignified by turns. With his keen eyes, he measured the ace from head
to foot, missing no part of the well-worn Uhlan's tunic, riding
breeches, and leather puttees, which seemed rather out of place in the
midst of the well-pressed uniforms and brilliantly polished boots and
leather accoutrements of the Emperor's household.

The monarch familiarly poked him in the ribs with his thumb and
remarked that he was looking fat and gay. He congratulated him both
upon his successes in the air and upon his twenty-fifth anniversary,
at the same time expressing the hope that he would live to more than
double both his birthdays and his air victories.

As they left the table two orderlies entered the room carrying a heavy
bronze and marble bust of Germany's war lord in full martial array,
from bristling moustaches to golden helmet. It was the birthday
present from the monarch to Germany's greatest individual champion. It
occupies a prominent corner today in the drawing room of Mother
Richthofen's home in Schweidnitz.

After the meal, the Kaiser talked with Richthofen for fully half an
hour, the conversation being mostly on the subject of the latest
developments in anti-aircraft artillery which the ace found to be
rather a monotonous subject.

That night, the young Uhlan was the guest of honour at a dinner given
by Hindenburg. He sat on the right of the marshal at a table around
which were seated no less than eight knights wearing the star of the
order Pour le Mérite. Richthofen had never seen so many notables of
the {260} order assembled before. Hindenburg impressed him as amiable
and elderly. The marshal addressed his birthday felicitations to the
ace in a warmly worded speech of praise and congratulation, and
proposed his health and continued success.

"Now, tell me, Richthofen," the marshal asked, in his characteristic
low voice, "have you ever been a cadet?"

"I was a cadet at Wahlstatt, sir," the ace replied, and in answer to
further questions related that he had begun his military career in
Room 6 in the barracks at that school.

Hindenburg smiled broadly and observed:

"Good, I also began my life
playing soldiers in Room 6 at Wahlstatt and I have given a picture of
myself to be hung on the wall of that room in token of my happy

Ten years later, Hindenburg, as President of the German Republic, was
to stand bareheaded at the foot of a huge block of black marble as it
was placed over Richthofen's final resting place in a cemetery in

On the following day, the ace, piloted by Kreft, flew from Kreuznach
to the country place where the Kaiserin was staying, not an hour's
flight from General Headquarters. Her Majesty had commanded him to
report to her, and her desire to see the new hero of the Fatherland
was so keen that she waited for his arrival at the private airdrome on
the estate.

Richthofen apologized for the old leather jacket he wore, but
explained that it was part of the flying equipment that he had used in
his air combats at the front.

The Empress examined the coat carefully and even passed her hand over
the worn leather sleeves that had become somewhat thin at the elbows.

"A good old jacket," she said, "and just imagine that it has seen
fifty-two victories."

She concluded her birthday congratulations by {261} presenting him
with a gold and white enamelled cigarette case inscribed with her
name, and then insisted that the ace lunch with her that day.
Richthofen liked her. She seemed like a dear old aunt or a
grandmother, and he took delight in showing her how the motor of his
plane was started.

Although all Germany was waiting to fête him, this first week of glory
and celebration annoyed him as much as it impressed him. The
attentions of the high rankers were oppressive. The wholesale
compliments embarrassed. They left him speechless and feeling foolish.

It was all so different from the feeling of solitude and of individual
power that one experienced soaring at a hundred and fifty miles an
hour above the clouds. This world of compliments and neatly turned
phrases was not his. He yearned for the heights and for the feel of
triggers under his steady fingers.

He applied and obtained permission to go to a state hunting preserve
at Freiburg and roam the forest in search of game. He declared that he
needed it for his nerves, that his system required it just as other
constitutions required the relief that was to be had in a week or two
in the mountains or at the seashore.

And it was at Freiburg, on May 9th, that: he wrote his mother as

  I suppose you will be angry with me for having been in Germany for
  eight days without dropping you a line.

  I am shooting pheasants here and expect to remain here until the
  fourteenth. The sport is wonderful.

  After that, I have to go to Berlin to look over the new planes. That
  will take me about three days, and then for Schweidnitz. Until then
  you will have to excuse me.

  From Schweidnitz I will ride over to the Prince of Pless's estate
  and bag an elk there. Toward the end of the month, I will {262} look
  over the other fronts, the Balkans, etc. That will take from three
  to four weeks.

  In the meantime, Lothar is commanding my squadron and is, I think,
  slated for the Pour le Mérite. How do you like your two bad boys?

In his forest retreat, with his dogs, guns, and red wet hunting bags,
Richthofen did not know, when he wrote the above letter, that Lothar
was lying at that moment close to death in a hospital. The younger
brother had been brought to earth by an English bullet as easily as
the elder brother had been knocking down pheasants.

It must be remembered that rivalry, as well as love, existed between
the two brothers. Manfred's schooling had been that of the
professional soldier in the cadet corps. Lothar had been trained for
the world in the high school at Schweidnitz.

This schooling made it possible for him, at the beginning of the war,
to enter the army as a _Fahnenjunker_, or a soldier of the ranks who is
a candidate for a commission. He was assigned to the Fourth Regiment
of Dragoons at Luben, and reached the western front before Manfred
did, a fact which caused the elder brother some personal concern.

Lothar's dragoons vied with the Uhlans in daring patrol exploits that
blazed the way for the German advance on Paris in 1914. It is even
said that Lothar himself was one of the party that had approached so
close to the French capital they were able to see the top of the
Eiffel Tower.

Like Manfred and other horsemen, Lothar suffered much from the mud and
infantry life of the stabilized warfare that dragged through 1915.
Having followed his brother into a mounted organization, he again
acted on Manfred's example and transferred to the flying service in
the winter of 1916-17.


The younger brother was the taller. He always carried a riding crop,
either tucked under the left armpit or grasped in the right hand, and
used for smartly rapping the right boot leg. It was the mannerism of
the mounted corps, and with Lothar it became an easy habit. Tapping
his boot leg with the riding crop indicated interest additional to the
smiling admiration with which he frankly looked on every attractive

Girls could make Manfred blush with one tender look. Lothar made women
feel not unpleasantly uncomfortable when he looked at them. Lothar was
just as much of a killer as his elder brother, but he was a
"lady-killer" also--something that Manfred decidedly was not.

Where Manfred was modestly retiring, not through an absence of pride,
but on account of a great self-consciousness, his younger brother was
socially forward, gay, debonair, always at ease, and ever as ready for
a battle of the lighter emotions as he was for a death duel in the

He liked women, wine, and war, and was not backward in acknowledging
his complete absorption in that ticklish triangle. He could drink,
flirt, and fight, and did. He thought it was not only the best war he
had ever been in, but the happiest period of his life. He was well
aware that that life might come to an abrupt end at any minute in the
air, but fräuleins and flagons were pleasant anodynes for such
thoughts, and besides, he enjoyed the happy lenitive of superstition.

He always flew with a talisman. At first it was the riding crop that
had been with him when he charged with the dragoons. He attached great
importance to its being beside him in the plane. He believed that to
fly without it increased the chances against him. Three times, when he
had left it behind him, he had encountered additional difficulties in
the air.

But when he left the bombing planes on which he first {264} flew and
became a fighting pilot in a small scout plane, the stick was too
large to carry, and he had to discard it.

"When I went up alone for the first time," he explained, "it required
all my courage and determination to leave that stick on the ground."

The incident was more than trivial. Lothar had a friend, Wintgrens,
who also flew with a riding stick. Once he flew without it, and on
that day he was killed. Lothar had to force himself to overcome the
feeling of protection that he had in the company of his first

He held it to a degree responsible for carrying him safely through his
first flying days and the dangerous work of night-bombing expeditions.
He had heard the whine and thump of anti-aircraft shells as they
exploded around him, and he was fully acquainted with the dangers of
landing at night in land fogs. But, on the whole, he preferred night

Dropping nocturnal bombs gave him greater satisfaction because under
cover of darkness, he could approach his objectives closer and be more
certain of a hit.

  At night the enemy could not see us [he wrote]; therefore it was
  easy to descend within 300 feet of the ground and release the bombs
  from there. The explosions would illuminate the surroundings in
  bright light.

  Bungalows filled with troops, provisions, or munitions could be seen
  splendidly. Once we succeeded in blowing up a whole munition dépôt.
  One single bomb did it. The explosion spread over the entire camp,
  which was about a square kilometre in size.

  Columns of fire leaped up 10,000 feet from the ground. One dump
  detonated its neighbour, and they exploded one after another. The
  next day, it was possible to see that the entire camp had been
  destroyed by fire.

Back in the airdrome, Lothar and his comrades would congratulate one
another on the night's work, while they took on heat and new courage
from steaming mugs of {265} rum, hot water, and sugar. Sometimes the
squadron would make as many as three separate raids or "deliveries" a

Graduating from the bombing service, Lothar attained the peak of his
desires early in 1917, when, after his first solo flights, he became a
member of his famous brother's fighting unit. He inherited one of
Manfred's old well-tried-out planes--a bus in which the ace had gained
ten Victories.

As a new talisman to replace the old riding crop for which there was
no space in the cockpit of the fighting plane, the fledgling received
a pair of old fur gloves from his brother. Lothar was conscious of the
fact that these gloves had transmitted the ace's finger pressure to
the triggers in many a victorious air duel, and the knowledge brought
him a confidence that carried him through his first ten combats in the
air. After that tenth victory, the old bus and the gloves went to
pieces, and the novice now with new reliance in himself, advanced to a
new plane and new equipment.

The younger brother's offerings upon the altar of chance were not
unique in Richthofen's Jagdstaffel, or, for that matter, in any air
service. Little Wolff always wore an old German nightcap under his
flying helmet, and Voss would never fly a plane over the lines unless
his special death-defying device of a black skull and crossbones was
stencilled on its side.

One superstition general among the German flyers was that it was
extremely bad luck to be photographed just before a duty flight.
Boelcke had defied this fear and paid with his life. A friend had
snapped him in front of his plane just before he took to the air. He
never came back. Schaefer's death was preceded two hours by a personal
photograph, and so was Manfred's. The camera fiend was not a welcome
guest on the airdrome just before a flight.


It was noticeable, however, that the respect and importance given to
charms were less prevalent among the flyers whose background was the
discipline and training of the regular army. War was more a science to
the trained professional, and chance, although admittedly ever
present, was the minor consideration.

The war birds from civilian life flew with almost as much desperation
as they did with hope. If luck was against them, they would be killed;
if it was with them they would survive, was the way most of them
accepted the proposition, and it was a feeling that contributed
greatly to the daring and recklessness with which they wrote their
names in the stirring annals of air fighting.

Manfred knew that his brother was in this class. Soldiering as a
career was of no interest to Lothar, but war was a game and a gamble
that he loved. Manfred prided himself that he killed through a sense
of duty and for a purpose. He believed that Lothar shot down his
enemies for the pure sport of it.

Manfred characterized Lothar a "butcher," not unkindly. He compared
his brother with the "game hog" who prefers killing everything in
sight to the careful, well-planned and executed stalking of one
victim. His opinion, while adversely critical, was not without a big
element of pride in the youngster's prowess, because there is a place
in war for the game hog as well as for the war craftsman who excels in
the technique of methodical killing.

The difference between the two types is great. Lothar killed when and
where and as he could. Manfred figured each attack out beforehand and
did it according to the book of regulations. Lothar depended upon his
luck. Manfred depended upon his skill and his trained coordination of
mind and muscle.

Good fortune flew at Lothar's side during the war, which he survived
with a record that still remains a source {267} of pride to his
organization. In four weeks after his arrival in Manfred's unit, he
had downed twenty planes. His flying was reckless and daring, and this
made him more popular with the officers and men of the squadron than
his brother.

Manfred, with the will power and energy to command men, was a strict
disciplinarian. Popularity was not one of the results he was looking
for. He prided himself that he was a soldier who obeyed orders whether
he liked them or not, and he insisted upon his subordinates obeying
his orders whether they liked them or not. Lothar was a "good fellow."

It was on May 7th that Lothar received his first taste of some of the
punishment he had been inflicting upon the enemy. His daring on that
day netted him an almost fatal wound from a British bullet. He needed
all the assistance that good fortune reserves for the brave, for
consciousness left him in the air from loss of blood, and only chance
brought his plane safely to earth behind his own lines.

When Manfred, at his hunting camp, received the telegram that his
brother had been wounded but not mortally, he obtained details of the
affair by long-distance telephone and characterized Lothar's conduct
as plain rashness.

Having succeeded the ace as leader of the Jagdstaffel, Lothar had
selected Allmenröder to fly with him late on the afternoon of that day
when the battle of Bullecourt raged on the ground beneath them.

>From an altitude of 6,000 feet, young Richthofen dove down to attack
an English flyer who, from an altitude of 3,000 feet, was making
frequent dives upon the German infantry and spraying them with
machine-gun lead. The British infantry flyer accepted combat with the
fast German fighting plane, and Lothar found that he was up against an
opponent who was ready to hold his ground. Every time he approached
the infantry flyer from the {268} rear, the English observer sent
forth a stream of lead from his rear machine gun. Attacks from the
front were met with equally warm receptions.

Allmenröder went down and joined his fellow officer, down came the
rest of the red Albatross unit, and then there came another descent of
English planes from above. Bait had piled up on bait, and in less than
five minutes a general dog-fight was on at an unusually low altitude.
The sudden burst of air fury almost stopped the battle on the ground.

At times, the battle swung back of Vimy Ridge, now in the hands of the
English, and again it was carried on the wind back of the German
lines. Planes went down on both sides--some like dead flies, some like
falling firebrands.

Lothar and Lady Luck were hard pressed. He found himself with a
particularly speedy Englishman hanging close on his tail and literally
blistering it with hot lead. He failed to recognize the terrain below
him, and for the moment did not know whether he was behind his own
lines or not.

Twist and swerve as he might the Englishmen hung on and pumped lead.
Lothar saw the splash of bullets on the motor in front of him and saw
splinters fly up from the woodwork of the instrument board. Then came
a sharp pain through the hip and a stream of warm liquid flowing down
his right leg.

Below was a meadow. He headed for it. He looked down at his leg, saw
his own blood, and fainted. This is recognized as a psychological
condition entirely removed from the question of moral courage. There
are brave men to whom the sight of their own blood is a paralyzing
shock. The red Albatross, speeding at more than a hundred miles an
hour and hardly a thousand feet in the air, plunged earthward with its
unconscious pilot strapped in the seat.


Lothar's lucky star landed the machine safely. How, the wounded man
never knew, because everything remained a blank until he woke up in a
field hospital with no other injury than the bullet-shattered hip.

As a result of the fight, he was given credit for his twenty-second
victory, and the downed English plane designated as his particular
victim was that of Captain Albert Ball, the leading British ace whose
wonderful career in the air ended with his death in action on that

It is rather well substantiated that Ball was killed in the same
general fight in which Lothar escaped with a wound, but there are
serious grounds for doubting whether it was a bullet from the younger
Richthofen's guns that passed through the head of the famous English
ace and sent him crashing to earth.

The meager German accounts of Ball's end all state that the Englishman
was flying a triplane, which was not the fact. There is a strong
probability that Ball received his death blow in the general air
scrimmage instead of in a single duel, and that the German pilot who
killed him lost his life in the same fight, with the result that no
one claimed to have downed the English youth, and that credit for it
was given to the disabled Richthofen.

Ball was the idol of the British flying service. "He was the most
daring, skillful, and successful pilot the R. F. C. ever had," is the
opinion of Air Commodore H. Trenchard, the present head of the British
air force. Like the elder Richthofen, his victories had passed the
half-century mark, and his country had acclaimed him the greatest
flyer of the war and heaped him with honours. He wore the Victoria
Cross, the medal of the Distinguished Service Order, and the Military

Marksmanship, airmanship, careful planning, and extreme bravery were
the characteristics that contributed to the destructive capacity of
the young English ace. Like {270} Richthofen, he possessed the killing
instinct. His flying comrades report that he would often follow his
burning victims earthward, pouring streams of machine-gun lead into

In his public appearances at home, he had an engaging boyish smile
that won the hearts of all who saw him, but in the air or on the
airdrome in France, he was reticent to the degree of being almost
unsocial. While members of his squadron idled an hour over "pegs" of
whisky in the mess hall, Ball would be found alone in his quarters
with his phonograph. He liked good music and flowers, and in the
presence of these or under their influence would hatch out most of the
plans and manoeuvres that made him so successful in the air.

He would spend hours at the gun butts, ever improving his
marksmanship. He carried empty paper boxes and tin cans up with him,
and before returning to the airdrome from a flight over the lines
would toss them out and expend his remaining ammunition upon these
moving targets as they fell.

The men in his own squadron knew very little of him, except that they
were all aware that he possessed one overpowering ambition, which was
to kill as many Germans as he could. What was sport or duty to them
was food and drink to the fire that raged within this strange
youngster who hid his fighting instincts behind a mask of boyish
smiles. Bashful, shy, retiring in the presence of others on the
ground, he was a grim and fearless demon in the air--cold,
calculating, and merciless. He believed in no quarter and expected

Ball preferred to fly alone. Surprise and sudden attack from as close
as thirty feet were the secret of his tactics. He practised it on his
own mates, frequently flying for miles under the tail of a British
plane without the pilot being aware of his presence in that fatal
position. From {271} the attack at short range, Ball gained an added
security which he employed when he made his famous lone attacks on
superior numbers of the enemy. He could cling so close to his special
victim that the other Germans would not dare fire on him for fear of
hitting their own man.

At the time of his death, Ball preferred the fast French Nieuport
scout plane to any of British make, and his squadron, the Sixtieth,
was equipped with these in place of the Morane biplanes it had been
using. With the machine-gun mounting employed on this plane, Ball was
able to surprise his victims by varying his aim without changing the
course of his plane.

Stalking his intended victims from above and behind, exactly as
Richthofen did, he would dive, zoom upward beneath the selected German
plane, and then, at a range of hardly ten yards, would spray the enemy
machine with lead from nose to tail. He would accomplish this by the
slightest oscillation of the control stick, and most frequently would
heave a hundred rounds into his victim before the latter was aware of
his presence.

His delight was to hang on above the tail of a German formation of
from seven to twelve planes, making sudden dives and shooting bursts
of lead until one of them would leave its position in the flying V.
The first German machine to leave its station would be pounced upon,
and usually the deadly shooting and superior airmanship of the English
ace would send it down in flames.

There is no English account of Ball's last fight. If any of his flying
mates saw him go down, they did not recognize his plane. He was
reported missing that night, and several days later the Germans
dropped the following note, which seems, for once, at least, to have
permitted a personal pride and exultation to replace the respect that
was generally expressed for a fallen foe whose gallantry was
acknowledged. The note read:


  R. F. C. Captain Ball was brought down in a fight in the air on May
  7, 1917, by a pilot who was of the same order as himself. He was
  buried at Annoeulen.

This was apparently written after credit for Ball's death had been
given to Lothar Richthofen. The Germans found in Ball's pocket a
newspaper clipping which they sent to the hospital to Lothar, who
placed it proudly among his trophies in the scrapbook that remains
today in his mother's home. The clipping shows Ball with the casket
which was presented to him by the City of Manchester when he was given
the freedom of the city. On the day that the photo was taken, Ball and
his mother and father had proudly posed for other pictures, which are
the last photographs taken of him in England. Shortly afterward, he
returned to, France and to his death.

To both of the Richthofens and to their family and, for that matter,
to all Germany, it was a source of pride that two brothers had each
laid low an English champion of the air. All of the newspaper accounts
accrediting Lothar with the killing of Ball recalled that Manfred had
killed, as his eleventh victim in the previous year, the no less
renowned and decorated British ace, Major Hawker.

Assured that his brother would recover from his wounds, the ace on
leave continued his pursuit of small game, unmindful of the fact that
conditions at the front were fast changing from what they had been
when he left. While on the state hunting preserve, he received an
invitation from the Prince of Pless to shoot bison on the latter's

Richthofen was overjoyed at the prospect of matching his wits and gun
against one of these mighty monarchs of the forest which exist in
Europe only at Pless and on the estate of the late Czar at Bialowicza.
In the latter forests, {273} the bison had almost been exterminated by
hungry German and Russian soldiers. All that was Prussian and
aristocratic in Richthofen resented the thought that game which he
believed should have been reserved for the sport of a ruling monarch,
or at least someone of title or lineage, had gone to fill the mess kit
of a hungry common soldier.

These thoughts did not prevent him at Pless from rushing from the
station to the estate keeper's lodge and demanding that they set off
into the forest that very afternoon, because he was determined to
bring down one of the rare animals on the first day of his visit. He
got his kill.

Two hours' tramping through the woods, and they sighted the herd
through the trees. A mighty bull charged toward them. Richthofen put
three successive bullets into him, and on the third shot the
ponderous, charging beast toppled over dead, fifty yards from the
mound on which Richthofen stood and tingled with what he later
described as one of his greatest hunting thrills.

The ace, with his own hands, assisted in the work of skinning the
animal and cutting off the enormous head which he had properly mounted
and placed on the wall over his bed in Schweidnitz, where it has since
served to disturb the slumbers of a maiden aunt who uses the room and
the bed upon her visits to the ace's mother. She retires in deadly
fear that the head of the furry monster will fall upon her as she
sleeps beneath it.

Richthofen's sport in the forests of Pless was cut short by more
ominous news from the front. The struggle in the air had become a
struggle indeed. German air losses were increasing. The conditions
that prevailed during the previous month of "Bloody April," when the
Germans had destroyed four British planes to every one of their own
brought down, had changed. The advantages of superior equipment, which
had been responsible in no small degree {274} for Richthofen's record
bag of victories during that month, no longer existed. The spring
model British planes had at last reached the lines.

The ace was needed back at the front. He received orders cancelling
his extended leave, and on June 10th, he reported for duty at General
Headquarters at Kreuznach. There followed two days of conferences and
lunches with the Kaiser and the King of Bulgaria, who decorated him
with the Bulgarian cross for bravery. He liked the
seventy-six-year-old monarch for his lively interest in aviation, and
he enjoyed the exchange of hunting stories with the old Prince of
Pless, but uppermost in his mind was the thought that his presence was
necessary at the front, and that his Jagdstaffel, which during his
absence had suffered numerous losses, needed him to reorganize it and
give it new inspiration for the fight.

In the week from June 1st to June 7th, during the operations
preliminary to the battle of Messines, the British air force had
actually wrested the air superiority from the Germans. Twenty-four
German machines had been shot down, and many others driven down out of
control. During the battle itself, which was in progress while
Richthofen was at General Headquarters, the British airmen managed to
drive the German fighting units away from the immediate battle zone,
with the result that German guns lost the advantage of aërial
observation, and English infantry advanced with less danger from
annihilating enemy barrages.

New British machines and pilots began to arrive at the front in
numbers, and the German began to hear that thousands of Americans were
going through speedy courses of training for both the French and
British air services. The new British models were the two-seater
Bristol fighters, the S. E. 5 single-seater fighters and the D. H. 4
two-seater fighter-bombers. They began to prove themselves birds {275}
worthy of meeting the speedy Albatross and Halberstadt.

Richthofen reached the front on the fourteenth and resumed command of
Jagdstaffel II, which, in addition to that of his brother, had
suffered losses. Surviving officers reported to him that things had
changed in the air and that the British were stronger now than they
had been since their last superiority on the Somme, a year earlier.
The ace was warned that the new enemy planes were speedy, that it was
unhealthy to attack the new two-seaters from behind and most difficult
to approach them from beneath, and furthermore, that the new crop of
young British pilots were more reckless and daring than ever, and that
the enemy still maintained its offensive policy of carrying the fight
in the air to the German side of the line.

While the German units at the front had endeavoured to meet this new
condition of affairs by combining into larger formations, air
headquarters was working on plans for the perfection of new flying
organizations on a larger scale than ever attempted before. These were
to be the "Jagdsgeschwaders," or fighting squadrons, each composed of
four Staffels and numbering about forty-eight planes in all.

These were the organizations that first earned the name of "Circuses"
amongst the Allies, because they were moved from time to time to
different parts of the line, where the locally stationed air forces
needed reinforcement. They were manned by the best fighting pilots,
and were led in the air by a special commanding officer. The
organizations were not completed during June, and did not make their
appearance on the front until about the middle of  July.

Richthofen's return to the front was ill-omened. His first official
duty was to attend the funeral of his old friend and fellow airman
Lieutenant Schaefer, himself an ace with thirty English planes to his
credit. Schaefer had {276} fallen in a dog-fight under the guns of
Lieutenant Byhys-Davids, the English pilot who was later killed after
his eighteenth conquest in the air.

Lothar owed his life to Schaefer. The younger Richthofen, engaged in a
furious fight with a single English plane, found himself at a low
altitude some miles behind the enemy lines. He was forced to withdraw
from the combat and streak it for his own lines, when he was attacked
from behind by another English plane. Lothar, with his guns pointing
forward, was defenseless from the rear and could only resort to a
zigzag flight and sharp curves to keep out of the pursuing
Englishman's relentless fire.

Then the stream of lead and tracer bullets cut through several of the
bracing wires on the German plane. The necessary tension is lost, and
the wings tremble from the unequally distributed air pressure. Any
sudden stress now may result in the loss of a wing and destruction.
Conscious of this new danger, as well as of the persistent Englishman
hanging on to his tail, Lothar dares one last curve in an effort to
get behind his enemy. His plane holds together, but at that minute a
streak of red drops from the heavens, and the English plane bursts
into flame.

  It was Schaefer, thank God [Lothar wrote after]. I could have laid
  any wager that within the next half minute I should have been shot
  to the ground or my wings would have crumpled up. Instead of me, my
  enemy went burning to the ground. Schaefer flew with me back to the
  airdrome, and I bought him the best bottle of champagne in the mess.
  Good that one could at least do that.

Manfred had spent one anxious night in March telephoning all along the
front for trace of the ever-smiling Schaefer, who had failed to show
up after a late afternoon patrol. The missing flyer had gone down to
600 feet to pick off {277} an English infantry flyer, and had been
shot down between the lines for his pains.

Schaefer jumped out of his machine and into a shell hole as the
English infantry poured a murderous machine-gun fire into the disabled
Albatross. He took a cautious observation and found himself
uncomfortably close to the English first-line trenches. While bullets
ripped at the rim of his shell crater and an occasional shell burst
near by, the German pilot lighted a cigarette and waited for the
approaching darkness.

As night fell, Schaefer, who was also an accomplished hunter and
woodsman, heard a couple of partridges near by suddenly flyaway with a
frightened flutter of wings. Interpreting this as the approach of a
hostile patrol, the German started crawling from one shell hole to
another in the direction of his own lines.

Again noises in the darkness in front of him indicated the approach of
another party. This time they proved to be Germans, who guided him
back to the nearest command post in his own lines. It was two o'clock
the following morning before he could report his escape by telephone
to the anxious Richthofen.

And now Schaefer was dead--gone the way of the thirty or more men he
had killed.

There were strange faces replacing the old ones in the Jagdstaffel.
Richthofen wondered which of the remaining survivors would be next to
go. There was a different feel in the air and a different tone in the
morale of the unit as it took the air again under its old leader. Now
the fighting was around Ypres and Dickebush and between the Nieuport
canal and the sea, where the Flanders offensive of the English was
starting on the red carnage that was to continue on until November.

  [Victory 53]

Richthofen's first victim after his return to the front was not one of
the British new spring model planes. It was {278} another piece of the
same "cold meat" that had boosted his string of victories so high in
the month of April. The German ace had listened well to what had been
told him of the performances of the new English machines, and his
plans for successfully combating them were far from complete. But he
knew how to handle the old planes, and he jumped the first one he
spotted alone.

It happened to be an old R. E. 8 two-seater, slow, comfortable, and
easy-going, and engaged at the time on a photographic reconnaissance
behind the German lines. It was one of several of its type that failed
to return on that day, and the English casualty records indicate that
it was most probably piloted by Lieutenant R. W. Ellis with Lieutenant
H. C. Barlow operating the camera in the observer's cockpit. It
carried Lewis and Vickers guns fore and aft. Richthofen's report of
the fight reads as follows:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 53d Victory

  Date: June 18, 1917.
  Time: 1:15 P.M.
  Place: Struywe House, Square V. 42. This side of line.
  Plane: R. E. 8.
  Occupants: Both killed.

  Accompanied by my Staffel, I attacked at an altitude of 8,000 feet
  north of Ypres on this side of the line an English artillery flyer
  of the R. E. type.

  From the shortest distance I fired some two hundred shots into the
  body of the plane and then zoomed over it. As I passed above it, I
  could see that both pilot and observer were flying dead in their

  Without falling immediately, the plane went down in uncontrolled
  curves to the ground. Driven by the wind, it fell into Struywes's
  farm, where it began to burn.

The Germans later reported the death of Ellis, but apparently Barlow's
body was too badly burn to be identified. {279} A sister of Ellis,
Mrs. A. Robinson, was notified at her home at Cromdale, Surbiton,
England, but surviving comrades of Ellis are unable to locate his
sister today. In the case of Barlow the Air Ministry lacked data, and
there was no one to notify.

The first kill after his vacation brought some of the old-time thrill
back to Richthofen, but not much consolation, and it did not succeed
in overcoming the sombre thoughts of deaths and funerals, losses and
wounds that had been ever present with him since his return.

Back in the airdrome, he filled out his report and then sat down to
write the following letter to his mother.

  In the field,
  June 18, 1917.

  Here I am back again and working at top speed.

  Just now I brought down my number fifty three.

  On my return from the hinterland, I stopped at Kreuznach, where I
  again was invited to lunch with His Majesty, and where I met the
  King of Bulgaria, who decorated me with the first order of the Cross
  of Valour. It is worn like the Iron Cross and looks very nice. I was
  introduced to the Chancellor, Count Dohna, and some other ministers.

  As regards Oscar, I have only been able to ascertain that he is
  dead, because he either fell or jumped out of his plane at a height
  of 1,500 feet. He came down close to the front but on the other
  side. By dropping queries over the British lines, I have endeavoured
  to find out whether his body was recovered. In this respect, the
  Royal Flying Corps is extremely noble.

  I attended Schaefer's funeral.

  I made the trip from Krefeld to Berlin in three hours in a plane,
  whereas the train takes eight hours. I took Von Salzmann with me. He
  was very enthusiastic about his first flight.

  Yesterday, Zeumer was killed in air combat. It was perhaps the best
  that could have happened to him. He knew he had not much longer to
  live. Such an excellent and noble fellow. How {280} he would have
  hated to have to drag himself on toward the inevitable end. For him
  it would have been tragic. As it is, he died a heroic death before
  the enemy. During the next few days, his body will be brought home.

  I visited Lothar (at the hospital) and arrived just in time to see
  him before his removal. He looked tanned and very well, stretched
  out full length on a divan. He was fully dressed and wore the Pour
  le Mérite around his neck. He is already able to stand and will
  fully recover. He will be able to walk and ride a horse again, but
  must have a good long rest.

It was good flying weather, these days of late June, with long, light
evenings. Richthofen flew daily, but warily. It was not like the
harvest time seven weeks earlier, when the sky was full of easy prey,
and a man with a red Albatross would call it a bad day if he didn't
return with anywhere from one to four fresh victories to his record.

The new enemy planes were marvels of speed and manoeuvrability, and
whereas the German pilots, least of all Richthofen, would not admit
that they were superior to the Albatross biplanes and triplanes and
the Halberstadt, none of them would deny that the old advantages of
the German models had been greatly reduced, and that now, in a
man-to-man duel, victory went to the best man, because the new
machines were almost equal.

Having maintained their offensive policy over the German lines during
the days of mechanical disadvantages, the British pilots now became
more daring, and at the same time the German flyers concentrated on
extending and perfecting flying in larger groups, to reap a new
advantage from this quarter.

  [Victory 54]

Combats and feints at combats occurred daily, while the ground battle
waged across the torn-up plains of Flanders, but it was not until
almost a week later that {281} Richthofen could report another
victory, and this a doubtful one. He wrote:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 54th Victory

  Date: June 23, 1917.
  Time: 9:30 P. M.
  Place: North of Ypres.
  Plane: Spad one-seater.

  I attacked together with several of my gentlemen an enemy one-seater
  squad on the enemy's side of the line. During the fight, I fired
  some three hundred shots into a Spad from the shortest possible
  distance. My adversary did not start to curve and did nothing to
  evade my fire.

  At first, the plane began to smoke, and then it fell, turning and
  turning, three kilometres north of Ypres, where it touched the
  ground without having caught itself.

It is a curious thing that neither the British nor the French lost a
Spad machine on that day. Several Nieuports and Sopwith machines were
shot down, but none at so late an hour as 9:30. It is possible that
the murkiness of the hour impaired or possibly prejudiced Richthofen's
otherwise good vision. It is also possible that the plane he fired
into may have landed unharmed behind its own lines, in which case it
would not appear on the Allied casualty lists.

  [Victory 55]

  [Victory 56]

Similar vagueness casts a shadow over the report Richthofen made of
another combat three days later when he claimed to have shot down an
English De Haviland DD plane behind his own lines after nine o'clock
at night. Again the otherwise impeccable English casualty lists reveal
no loss of any plane of that type on that day. Richthofen's report


  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 56th Victory
  [Recorded as his 55th victory]

  Date: June 26, 1917.
  Time: 9:10 P.M.
  Place: Between Keibergmelen and Lichtensteinlager, this side of lines.
  Plane: De Haviland D. D. one-seater.

  With six machines of my Staffel, I attacked an enemy formation
  consisting of two reconnaissance planes and ten pursuit planes.
  Unimpeded by the enemy pursuit planes, I managed to break one of the
  reconnaissance planes in my fire.

  The body of the plane fell with its two occupants into a hangar
  between Keibergmelen and Lichtensteinlager, this side of our lines.
  The plane burned when it crashed, and destroyed the hangar.

It would appear that the changed conditions in the air had their
effect on the usual course of events on the ground because, in this
particular instance, there is an absence of the available detail that
marked Richthofen's previous reports on his victories. Undoubtedly,
telephone communication between the ace's airdrome and the German
hangar could have established the exact type of the plane and the
names of its occupants, unless both planes and occupants were
incinerated in the fire that destroyed the hangar.

On the day previous to this combat, Richthofen had reported downing
another plane behind the German lines, but credit for it had been
delayed, so that, on the German records, it carries the number
fifty-six in the ace's list of victories. Of that fight, he wrote:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 55th Victory
  [Recorded as his 56th victory]

  Date: June 25, 1917.
  Time: 6:40 P. M.
  Place: Above trenches near Le Bizet, other side of the line.
  Plane: Old R. E.


  I was flying with Lieutenant Allmenröder. We spotted an enemy
  artillery plane whose wings broke off in my machine-gun fire. The
  body of the plane was burning when it dashed to the ground between
  the trenches.

English casualty records confirm this battle, in which the victims
were Lieutenant Leslie Spencer Bowman and Second Lieutenant J. E.
Power Clutterbuck. English infantry saw the all-red Albatross
triplanes diving on the old R. E. machine, which was returning from an
artillery coöperation flight.

Young Bowman and his observer were unprotected by their own pursuit
planes when the covey of red hawks fell upon their prey. The end came
quickly. The disabled R. E. nose-dived and crashed just behind the
first-line British trenches. Bowman and Clutterbuck were dead when
their bodies were extricated from the burning wreck.

Bowman's comrades in the Fifty-third Squadron had fittingly celebrated
his twentieth birthday four days before in the squadron mess. He had
come into the air force from the Fourth King's Own Royal Lancaster
Regiment, with which he had gone to France in 1914. Wounded in May,
1916, he took his air training and got back into the air in January of
the following year. He was slightly wounded in an air fight on June
10th, but ten days later found him back in the air for the final five
days of his life.

Dr. and Mrs. L. N. Bowman, the parents, received the news of their
boy's death at their home, Lightburne House, Ulverston, and it was not
until ten years later that they were able to read, like a letter from
the grave, the report of the man who sent their son to his death.

Clutterbuck, who, as Bowman's observer, manned the after Lewis gun on
the R. E. bus, left no trace of his next of kin on the Air Ministry


It was a tough life for any of the English pilots who had to continue
flying the old planes. The decrepit R. E.'s were duck soup to
Richthofen. He seemed to concentrate on them, and seldom missed an
opportunity to knock one down.

Not that he did not have his encounters with the speedier models. He
did. But discretion sat beside him when he tackled these new birds of
equal power, and if none of them show up among his victims at this
period of his career, at least he did not figure among the victims
that fell to them. And that, after all, was a matter not entirely
devoid of personal satisfaction.

  [Victory 57]

A week goes by, and another R.E. falls under his guns. It was
literally as "simple as shooting." Here's how he shot down Sergeant H.
A. Whatley and Second Lieutenant F. G. B. Pascoe, who happened to be
returning from a photographic excursion in one of the old aerial

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 57th Victory

  Date: July 2d, 1917.
  Time: 10:20 A.M.
  Place: Deulemont, between the lines.
  Plane: R. E. No details, as plane fell burning.

  I attacked the foremost plane of an enemy formation. After my first
  shots, the observer collapsed.

  Shortly thereafter, the pilot was wounded mortally, I believe, by my

  The R. E. fell, and I fired into it at a distance of fifty yards.
  The plane caught fire and dashed to the ground.

The epitaph of Whatley and Pascoe in the English casualty records is
terse. It reads:

  Killed in action. Machine brought down in flames by enemy aircraft.


Lieutenant Pascoe, the observer, is an unknown so far as the records
are concerned, but not so with Whatley. There's a gray-haired widow
living at East Croydon in Surrey, and she cherishes the bloodstained
log book, letters, and other papers that were taken from her son's
body before it was laid to rest by his comrades behind the English

The hard-fighting pilot Sergeant Whatley is not the picture that
remains with her, but rather that of a sunny-faced smiling boy,
Hubert, who had been her constant companion since his father's death,
when he was seven years old. She is proud of the fact that, at the age
of fifteen, he became an engineer apprentice and laid his plans to
become the head of the fatherless house. She glories in the memory
that he presented himself before the recruiting sergeants at the age
of sixteen years and eleven months and deliberately swore that he was
of age. She's proud that he headed straight for the air service and,
without a commission, became a pilot who was the pride of his

She finds consolation in reading over the following two letters. The
first is from Sergeant J. I. Moss:

  August 8, 1917.

  I am home on a course of aviation. Sergeant Kay, as you no doubt
  know, has been wounded and is now in the hospital in Lancashire.
  Directly your son came to our squadron, he and I began to chum
  together, as I always used to fly with him as his observer.

  Consequently, we were nearly always together, and I got to like him

  Strange to say, the time he was brought down was the first time he
  had ever taken anyone else up but me. Although it is a hard thing to
  say, I am very thankful I did not go with him that morning.

  To give you a few more details, I was with an officer pilot {286} in
  a photography machine, and your son and an officer observer in
  another machine were escorting us. About three miles over the lines
  we were attacked by nine German scout machines. After putting up a
  splendid fight for our protection, your son's machine was shot down,
  and also the other escort machine was shot down shortly afterward.
  We had to come back for another escort and then go over again. We
  were then attacked by the same machines and succeeded in bringing
  two of them down which is some consolation. Your son's machine, in
  falling, glided into our front-line trenches, where his body was
  given a decent burial in our own lines.
    SERGEANT Moss.

The second is from Sergeant Randall Kay:

  Queen Mary's Hospital,
  Wally, Lane.

  I have just received your letter forwarded from France. Since
  writing to you about Hubert, I have myself been severely wounded and
  barely got away with my life. It will be many weeks before I can get
  about again.

  With regard to the exact spot where Hubert is buried, I can say that
  he fell about 1,000 yards northeast of Messines about 10:30 A.M.,
  July 2, 1917, and was buried near there by some of the third
  division Australian infantry. His observer's name was Lieutenant
  Pascoe, but I do not know where his home was. I have made many
  inquiries, but this is about all the information I can get.

  I apologize for the abruptness of my letter from France, but I did
  not know it would be the first intimation you would have. Please
  again accept my dearest sympathy.
    Very sincerely,

Just as Frau Richthofen down in Schweidnitz treasures and reads
over and over again the letters from her son so does Mother Whatley
over in East Croydon caress the relics of the boy he killed.


Several hours after young Whatley and Richthofen fought it out, the
air activity along that same part of the front took on a new spurt and
revealed for the first time the new German plans for bigger
organization flying.

Captain H. L. Satchell and Lieutenant H. L. Jenks, leading an
offensive patrol of old F.E.'s during the lunch hour in the vicinity
of Comines, were attacked successively by five formations of German
planes totalling about fifty Albatross scouts and two-seaters. The
English planes were now equipped with two forward-firing guns and one
protecting the rear. The fight took place at an altitude ranging from
one to two miles above the earth, which was completely hidden by

  On occasions, the leader of the enemy aircraft fired a white light
  which burst into several stars [Satchell reported]. During the
  fight, which lasted on and off about an hour, we hit with both
  forward guns a red enemy plane which was very persistent. It fell
  out of control, emitting black smoke. Flames were seen on this
  machine by Pilot Joslyn and Observer Potter, Pilot Trevethan and
  Observer Hay. The clouds beneath us prevented us from seeing whether
  it crashed or not.

There is no record that Richthofen suffered any serious difficulty on
this day, so the presumption is that the red Albatross fired by
Satchell was one of his squadron, and it is also presumed that it was
Richthofen who led the formation and sent up the white signals.

The audacity of the old F.E.'s ploughing into big enemy formations of
speedy scouts indicates the extent to which the British offensive
policy was being carried over the German lines, and the development of
air signals being given aloft to multiple flying units revealed the
efforts of the Germans to gain new advantages of manoeuvre by adapting
naval methods to the air and handling enlarged {288} formations as a
fleet at sea is directed from a central command.

The struggle increased daily in bitterness, extent, and losses. Four
days after he killed Whatley and Pascoe, Richthofen himself went
hurtling down from a fearful height with an English bullet wound in
his head.

It was the first wound he had received in almost three years of war.
He had had many narrow escapes, but this was the first time that the
enemy had touched him. He has left a most thrilling account of the
fight, and this account made it possible to locate the Englishman who
fired the stream of lead that sent the German ace to earth and kept
him out of the fighting for some weeks.

The man who shot Richthofen down that 6th of July morning, according
to a comparison of the available records on both sides, was Flight
Commander Albert Edward Woodbridge, who was a Second Lieutenant at the
time and was acting as observer for Pilot Captain D. C. Cunnell,
commanding a wing of the Twentieth Squadron, R. F. C.

Cunnell was killed six days afterward, but Woodbridge survived the
war, and then ten more years of peace-time flying in the Royal Air
Force. He has just retired with the rank of a Flight Commander, and
lives at Westcliff-on-Sea on the Essex coast.

  "I feel like an old veteran talking about those days," Woodbridge
  told me as we sat in a corner of the Savoy grill in London. He
  poured a "pukka" portion of Victoria Vat and completed his iceless
  highball from the siphon bottle. "Gad, I'm just thirty now. I was
  sixteen years old and worrying Greek verbs at Mercer School when the
  row started in '14. I got into it and the air two years later.

  "A solo crash spoiled my pilot chances at first and pushed me off to
  France as an observer in April of  '17. We had some tight goes in May
  and June, and I got through {289} until the last day of June without
  anything hitting me, which was rare luck for those days. Captain
  Cunnell, my Flight Commander and the pilot of our bus, was killed
  about a week after our party with Richthofen.

  "Of course, neither old Cunnell nor I had any idea that it was the
  bully Baron himself with whom we were exchanging pot shots, and, for
  that matter, I don't know it yet, but I must say that Richthofen's
  account of the fight coincides exactly with our reports made at the
  time and my recollections of that damned busy forty minutes we had
  with his flock of red Albatross scouts."

Woodbridge had just finished several hours' perusal and comparison of
the Richthofen account with the reports found at the British Air
Ministry which he and Cunnell had written immediately after the fight
and also a letter which he had written to his mother the same day.

  "It all fits in," he said, refilling a black briar, "and it seems
  conclusive that the Baron had Cunnell and me picked out for his meat
  that day, and also that some of our shots sent him down. Seems funny,
  patching it all together like this ten years afterward, but I
  remember it now as clear as though it happened two hours ago. As I
  wrote to my mother that day, it was the toughest fight I had ever
  been in.

  "Our Squadron No. 20 was quartered at Marie-Chapelle, not far from
  the road between St. Omer and Cassel. We didn't have the new
  machines yet. They had us still using the old F. E. 2 d's, pusher
  type, you know, with the motor behind and the observer sitting out
  in front in a sort of a front porch with a shape to it like the back
  end of a bathtub. The motor was behind the pilot and aimed to go
  right through his back in case of a nose crash. There was no
  covered-in fuselage built out to the tail like the planes of to-day,
  but the rudder and elevators were connected to the {290} body by a
  trellis of openwork wooden spars like three or four ladders bound
  together in a horizontal pyramid sticking out behind. They were
  jolly dodo's!

  "The motor, though, was reliable if not speedy, and being
  immediately in back of the pilot, it offered him some protection if
  we were attacked from behind, but such an attack usually either
  killed the engine or ignited the petrol tanks, and that was never
  for the best.

  "The armament had been improved and tripled to meet the emergency
  condition developed by the Albatross scouts employing twin Spandaus
  firing through the propeller. That doubled the enemy's volume of
  fire from each plane. As we did not fire through the propeller, we
  did not employ the synchronizing mechanism.

  "The principal weapon was manned by the observer. It was mounted on
  a movable pivot attached to the flooring of the front porch, and had
  a wide field of fire. This gun could fire forward and to both sides
  and slightly upward and downward in the same three directions. It
  could not, however, fire to the rear either above or below the

  "A second Lewis gun was fixed to the side of the forward cockpit and
  could be fired by a trigger on the pilot's controls, but it would only
  be aimed by pointing the entire plane. A third Lewis was fixed on
  another tall pivot rising from the observer's cockpit. With this one
  he could fire backward and upward above the rear plane.

  "But, in order to fire this gun, he had to abandon the forward gun
  and elevate himself by standing up on the edges of his cockpit and
  facing the rear, a rather ticklish position in a moving plane two
  miles in the air. It was all makeshift, but it was the best we had,
  and we had to 'carry on.' We were 'cold meat,' and most of us knew

  "And our job was offensive patrolling--in other words, we were
  supposed to go out and light into any enemy planes we could find. We
  knew the Albatrosses and {291} Halberstadts could fly rings around us
  and shoot hell out of us from that blind spot under our tails. Right
  you are, we were like butterflies sent out to insult eagles.

  "It was a fine morning, that 6th of July, Just as Richthofen
  recalled, and the wind was in our favour. The six of us composing
  our flight buzzed off about ten o'clock and started for our patrol
  area, which was over Comines, Warneton, and Frelinghein, up between
  Ypres and Armentières. We had been on our way about half an hour and
  were well over the German lines at an altitude of about twelve
  hundred feet.

  "Swinging down from the north, we spotted a formation of eight
  speedy German planes. They wheeled around to the west of us and got
  between us and our own lines. I notice that the Baron calls this
  manoeuvre a trick to cut off our retreat. That's pulling it rather
  long, because, you know, we did most of the fighting over the German
  lines--that's where it all took place--and according to orders we
  were there looking for it.

  "As soon as they were behind us, we turned around and started for
  them to engage them. We had hardly got in contact with them when
  other enemy formations--larger ones--seemed to close in from all
  sides. Gad, I don't know where they all came from. My word, I never
  saw so many Huns in the air at one time in my life before. We
  estimated later that there must have been about forty Albatross
  scouts altogether in formations that seemed to number from eight to

  "As Cunnell wrote in this report, 'A general engagement ensued.'
  That's formal verbiage for the damnedest scrimmage imaginable. I
  fired my fore and aft guns until they were both hot. I kept jumping
  from one to another; Cunnell handled the old F. E. for all she was
  worth, banking her from one side to the other, ducking dives from
  above and missing head-on collisions by bare margins of feet. The
  {292} air was full of wizzing machines, and the noise from the full
  motors and the cracking machine guns was more than deafening.

  "The Jerries showed more spirit than usual. They went to it hammer
  and tongs. This enables us to fire from the closest range and was
  really to our advantage. Cunnell and I fired into four of the
  Albatrosses from as close as thirty yards, and I saw my tracers go
  right into their bodies. Those four went down and fortunately some
  of our flight saw them tumble, because we were given credit for
  them. Some of them were on fire--just balls of flame and smoke, you
  know--nasty sight to see, but no time to think about it at the

Woodbridge paused as we bent the brown bottle over our glasses and
added seltzer.

  "Two of them came at us head on, and I think the first one was
  Richthofen. I recall there wasn't a thing on that machine that
  wasn't red, and God, how he could fly!  I opened fire with the front
  the front Lewis, and so did Cunnell with the side gun. Cunnell held
  the F.E. to her course, and so did the pilot of the all red scout.
  Gad, with our combined speeds, we must have been approaching each
  other at somewhere around 250 miles per hour.

  "Thank God, my Lewis didn't jam. I kept a steady stream of lead
  pouring into the nose of that machine. He was firing also. I could
  see my tracers splashing along the barrels of his Spandaus and I
  knew the pilot was sitting right behind them. His lead came
  whistling past my head and ripping holes in the bathtub.

  "Then something happened. We could hardly have been twenty yards
  apart when the Albatross pointed her nose down suddenly. Zip, and
  she passed under us. Cunnell banked and turned. We saw the all-red
  plane slip into a spin. It turned over and over and round and round.
  It was no manoeuvre. He was completely out of control. His {293}
  motor was going full on, so I figured I had at least wounded him. As
  his head was the only part of him that wasn't protected from my fire
  by his motor, I figured that's where he was hit.

  "But I didn't see him crash--Gad, no--too busy for that. More
  Jerries dove in from all directions, and we just kept on pumping it
  into any of them that whizzed by or that we could dive on. Hell of
  it was that it never seemed to let up. I had been in short fights
  before, but this seemed like it was going to be an all-day affair.
  Fact is that it only lasted about forty minutes, but that's eternity
  in an air fight.

  "My hands were burned and blistered and my throat aching dry when we
  finally pulled out with all of our ammunition expended. The Archies
  gave us hell as we streaked it back for the lines. Our flight had
  knocked down seven Huns, of which number Cunnell and I were given
  credit for four on the testimony of other pilots. Our credit did not
  include the all-red chap, who now appears to have been Richthofen,
  because I was not sure whether he could not have righted himself
  before crashing, but he certainly was out of control.

  "Three of our chaps were lost--two over the enemy side and the third
  managed to limp back and landed with a dud engine and a wounded

  "When you sent me the Richthofen report and the result of your
  research through the reports of the other English flyers who
  survived the fight, together with your conclusion that it was
  Cunnell and I who winged the flying Baron that day, I asked the
  Mater if she had any of my old letters from the front, and here's
  the one she dug up. I wrote it to her just after getting back to
  earth from the fight."

The somewhat soiled paper and faded ink carry the nineteen-year-old
impressions of the man who sat {294} opposite me--impressions of a day
that he will never forget. It reads as follows:

  In the field,
  July 6, 1917.

  Gad, we had some scrap this morning. The Huns have been very quiet
  lately, but today we "bought it" good and proper!

  Six of us arrived at the lines at about 10:30 A.M. and saw six Huns
  patrolling miles over their side. We went over and attacked.

  Before you could say Jack Robinson, umpteen more appeared, and a
  hell of a scrap ensued. According to the official report, there were
  at least forty Huns! Seven are claimed as being brought down, of
  which we [Woodbridge and his pilot] claimed four.

  I was so near one poor devil I could easily see his face. I emptied
  a whole drum [100 shots] into him, and he then burst into flames.
  Gad, I'll never forget that chap's face, I must have got the petrol
  tank, as there was a terrific flame and cloud of black smoke.

  He saw everything was up, and simply threw his hands up and clasped
  his head and seemed to completely double up.

  It's surprising how you notice one particular thing like that and
  which seems to stand out so well afterward.

  I also got another chap, but didn't claim him because, as far as I
  could see, he was only "out of control."
  [This was Richthofen.--F. G.]

  On our side, three were driven down, one with the poor old observer
  with a blighty, the other two being too much shot about to reach
  home. Just to make matters better for the last five or ten minutes,
  Archie started.

  The actual time of the fight was forty minutes--exceptionally long,
  as usually an aërial fight lasts about fifteen minutes. I thought
  that other time, when we had eighteen up against us, it was about
  the limit, but after today, why, it's a mere handful. The Hun must
  have had every blessed machine for miles {295} around up this
  morning, and if it takes forty of  'em to engage half a dozen of us,
  well, I don't think there is much doubt as to who holds the
  supremacy of the air.

  Well, I'll wash out now, as I have to turn out at 2:15 in the
  morning, up again with Cunnell, our flight commander. I wonder if he
  is going to have me as his observer.

  Well, W. S. G. S.

"Where did you get that name of Pip?" I asked, handing the letter

"Don't know. Mother always called me that--does yet."

"Tell me, Woodbridge, what's the meaning of the four last letters in
the letter, this W. S. G. S.? Was that code?"

"Yes," he replied lifting the tall glass to hide a blush.





"I know this is none of my business, and you can tell me to go to hell
if you want to. We all used codes in our letters from the front. I
know I did. They're funny now when I think of them. If it's not too
god awful personal, would you mind telling me what the 'W. S. G. S.'
stood for?"

Woodbridge smiled foolishly:

  "It was a code I had rigged up with Mother. You see, when I was
  training, I had a bad crash and broke my wrist watch all to pieces.
  Times were not any too good, and I couldn't buy another one, so when
  I left for the front, Mother gave me her gold watch, which she had
  worn for years on a chain around her neck. Of course, it wasn't as
  handy as a watch fixed on the wrist, but it served the purpose
  excellently. The watch was one of Mother's most treasured
  possessions, and I always flew with it.


  "Before I left for France, she told me that she had no objection to
  my going to war and that I could go with her full permission on two
  conditions. One was that I was not to get hurt, and the other that
  under no circumstances was I to let anything happen to her watch.

  "The letters 'W. S. G. S. simply let Mother know 'Watch Still Going

To one who has been immersed in thousands of words of cold-blooded
brutal reports on the business of killing, which is the purpose of
war, Woodbridge's letter brings a refreshing breath of something human
and clean. He did feel sorry for that "chap" he sent down in flames.
He doesn't know who he was to this day. To Woodbridge he remains
simply "Some poor devil who might just as well have been I," but he
can never forget the look on his face as he went down to a horrible

How close Woodbridge came to killing Richthofen is best shown by the
helmet which the German ace was wearing when the English bullet turned
off his lights. The missile struck the German ace on the left side of
the head, a glancing blow which tore a bad hole in the helmet. The
gruesome relic hangs today in the Flying Uhlan's bedroom in
Schweidnitz. Richthofen frequently looked at it and pondered over how
closely death had missed him. He had the helmet with him during the
days in the hospital, when he wrote the following thrilling account of
his narrow escape:

  On a very fine day, July 6, 1917, I was scouting with my gentlemen.
  We had flown for quite a while between Ypres and Armentières without
  getting into contact with the enemy.

  Then I saw a formation on the other side and thought immediately,
  these fellows want to fly over. They approached the front, saw us,
  turned to one side, and I began to feel that they flew away, but in
  the meanwhile I watched the enemy's squadron closely.


  Not long afterward, it approached our front again. We had an
  unfavourable wind--that is, it came from the east. I watched them
  fly some distance behind our lines. Then I cut off their retreat.
  They were again my dear friends, the Big Vickers. [Richthofen's name
  for F. E. planes.]

  This English type has a body braced with cross-bar construction. The
  observer sits in front. It would have taken us some time to get
  contact with them, if we had not been above them and forced them
  down. After some time, we approached so close to the last plane that
  I began to consider a means of attacking him. Wolff was flying just
  below me. The hammering of a German machine gun indicated to me that
  he was fighting.

  Then my opponent turned and accepted the fight, but at such a
  distance that one could hardly call it a real air fight. I had not
  even prepared my gun for firing, for there was lots of time before I
  could begin to fight. Then I saw that the enemy's observer, probably
  from sheer excitement, opened fire. I let him shoot, for, at a
  distance of 300 yards and more, the best marksmanship is helpless.
  One does not hit one's target at such a distances.

  Now he flies toward me, and I hope that I will succeed in getting
  behind him and opening fire.

  Suddenly, something strikes me in the head. For a moment, my whole
  body is paralyzed. My arms hang down limply beside me; my legs flop
  loosely beyond my control. The worst was that a nerve leading to my
  eyes had been paralyzed and I was completely blind.

  I feel my machine tumbling down--falling. At the moment, the idea
  struck me, "This is how it feels when one is shot down to his
  death." Any moment, I wait for my wings to break off. I am alone in
  my bus. I don't lose my senses for a moment.

  Soon I regain power over my arms and legs, so that I grip the wheel.
  Mechanically, I cut off the motor, but what good does that do? One
  can't fly without sight. I forced my eyes open--tore off my
  goggles--but even then I could not see the sun. I was completely
  blind. The seconds seemed like eternities. I noticed I was still

  From time to time, my machine had caught itself, but only {298} to
  slip off again. At the beginning I had been at a height of 4,000
  yards, and now I must have fallen at least two to three thousand
  yards. I concentrated all my energy and said to myself, "I must
  see--I must--I must see,"

  Whether my energy helped me in this case, I do not know. At any
  rate, suddenly I could discern black-and-white spots, and more and
  more I regained my eyesight. I looked into the sun--could stare
  straight into it without having the least pains. It seemed as though
  I was looking through thick black goggles.

  First thing I did was to look at the altimeter. I had no idea where
  I was. Again I caught the machine and brought it into a normal
  position and continued gliding down. Nothing but shell holes was
  below me. A big block of forest came before my vision, and I
  recognized that I was within our lines.

  If the Englishman had followed me, he could have brought me down
  without difficulty, but, thanks to God, my comrades protected me. At
  the beginning, they could not understand my fall.

  First, I wanted to land immediately, for I didn't know how long I
  could keep up consciousness and my strength; therefore, I went down
  to fifty yards but could not find amongst the many shell holes a
  spot for a possible landing. Therefore, I again speeded up the motor
  and flew to the east at a low height. At this, the beginning, I got
  on splendidly, but, after a few seconds, I noticed that my strength
  was leaving me and that everything was turning black before my eyes.
  Now it was high time.

  I landed my machine without any particular difficulties, tore down a
  few telephone wires, which, of course, I didn't mind at the moment.
  I even had enough strength left in me to get up and to try to get
  out of the plane. I tumbled out of the machine and could not rise
  again--I was weak.

  Immediately, a few men ran to the spot. They had watched the whole
  fight and had recognized my red machine. The soldiers bound up my
  head with bandages. I have only a hazy idea of what happened later.
  I didn't lose my senses entirely, but I was only half conscious.

  I only knew that I had fallen into some thorns and that I did not
  have the strength to roll away.


  By a lucky chance, I had landed my machine beside a road. In a short
  time, a motor ambulance came, and I was packed into it and taken to
  the field hospital at Courtrai. The surgeons there were already
  prepared and began immediately with their work.

  I had quite a good-sized hole--a wound of about ten centimetres in
  length. At one spot, as big as a dollar, the bare white skull bone
  lay exposed. My thick Richthofen skull had proved itself bullet

  For days I had a deadly headache. At home, it was reported that I
  was lying in a hospital with wounds in the head and the stomach. As
  I write, I wonder whether my brother or myself (both wounded now)
  will be able to board his plane first. My brother fears that it will
  be I, and I fear that it will be my brother.

Cablegrams and letters of sympathy reached the hospital at Courtrai
from his family and from comrades at the front, but not from the
general public, from whom the news of his wounding had been withheld.
It would hardly have helped German morale at the time if it had become
generally known that the enemy had put both of the famous Richthofens
out of the fight at the same time. But it would have been "jolly good
news" in the camps of the Royal Flying Corps on the other side of the
lines. The English airmen admired the flying Baron and his brother but
would have been completely satisfied to have them remain in the
hospital for the rest of the war.

Sitting up in the bed, the ace read his correspondence and
communicated with his old jeweller in Berlin, from whom he ordered
five more little silver death cups, inscribed as before, to
commemorate the five victories which had been placed to his credit
during the three weeks' fighting since his return from leave.

He smiled at the showing. It didn't give him the same exultation that
it had when he closed his books at the end {300} of  "Bloody April."
But, then, conditions had changed, and  no one knew it better than

Of the five new victories credited to him, two of the planes remain
unidentified. The casualties inflicted in downing the other three are
listed in the appendix.

As an ambassador of the grim reaper, the Red Knight of Germany still
ranked highest among the killers of the sky.

His victories numbered fifty-seven.

His killing totalled forty-seven identified and fourteen unidentified.

Since he had taken no new prisoners since April, his rating in that
department of martial efficiency remained, as before, at twenty-six.

But the red days were not ended. He would recover. He would return to
the front. He would fly again. He would kill more. He willed it with
all the fire of his indomitable spirit.

His fine and carefully preserved physique responded to the command of
his will. He had to get back into the fight. Before one of his
industrious disciples took advantage his absence and wrested from him
the crown of the ace of German aces. The war took on a new and
personal tone to Richthofen.



Richthofen was never the same after that English bullet dented his
skull and sent him tumbling down two miles to earth.

Still another score of enemy planes and as many men were yet to fall
under his blazing guns, but in the head of the Red Knight of Germany
were a scar and a memory that might be overcome but could not be

Wounded veterans know this....

Men at arms go to their baptism of fire either with courage and hope
or with courage and despair. Those that advance with despair usually
meet the fate they fear. Those that plunge with hope may get it the
same way, but the little something that carries them through is the
feeling that their time is not up yet, and that, no matter how many
others are killed, they themselves will survive.

It is a God-sent hunch that contributes in no small way to that
greatly misunderstood and frequently overestimated quality called

Untested men, fearful of being cowards, are really ignorant of their
potential bravery. "Brave" men emerging from the rest are always
conscious of their fears.

Along with courage, Richthofen had always flown and fought with hope
and with a feeling of superiority over his enemies. This latter
conviction, however, did not permit him to act with contempt for those
with whom he fought.

He was convinced he had certain advantages over them, both in training
and in equipment, and it was his commonsense game to take full
advantage of their handicaps. {302} Post-bellum slogan-slingers
bromided these tactics in the recommendation, "Never let the sucker
have an even break."

Supplementary to the above conviction, but deep-lying and powerful in
its motivating force, was the little inside hunch of personal
immunity. He had felt that "his number was not up yet."

After that bullet touched his skull he was not so sure.

"Manfred was changed after he received his wounds," his mother told
me. "I noticed numerous differences in him. His fears for Lothar's
safety increased and he was no longer certain that victory would come
to our side. He said that people in Germany did not realize the power
of the Allies as well as did the men who had to face their forces at
the front."

And then there was the one girl he loved. Her letters came to him in
the hospital by every mail. He kept them under his pillow. Their
marriage had been postponed until after the war. The culmination of
their strange romance of self-denial seemed even more distant now. The
war seemed endless. Here was America growing stronger in the ranks of
the Allies. Would it ever end? Would he survive?

There was lots of time to think about these things while lying on a
hospital cot. The thoughts were not pleasing. The more they possessed
him, the more that little immunity-hunch weakened. To relieve his
mind, he would ask his nurse, Katie Ottersdorf, to read him some of
the fan mail that continued to arrive from admirers all over Germany.
There was diversion, as well as vanity food, in this general
correspondence. The capable Fräulein Ottersdorf, sitting beside the
wounded ace's bed, enjoyed the letters thoroughly. Among the many
feminine hearts that skipped beats at the thought of Richthofen was a
girl in a convent high in the hills of the German Tyrol, not far from
the village of Oberammergau.


She was a frequent writer to her hero of the air, and Manfred had been
sufficiently touched by the simplicity and sincerity of her letters to
answer several of them, but always in the vein that the hopes and
desires of individuals had to be suppressed in times of war, and that
he had forbidden himself to think of his heart as long as he flew.

She wrote that there were only two objects on the otherwise bare,
whitewashed walls of her convent room. One was a crucifix and the
other was a photograph of Manfred in uniform and flying helmet. The
presence of a man's picture in the room was a violation of the convent
rules, and the Mother Superior had ordered its removal.

The girl took the picture down, but with brush and oil paints she
covered the flying helmet and uniform with the black and white
headdrape of a nun and left the face of the fighting airman looking
forth calmly from a frame of religious habiliments.

In this camouflaged form, the picture of her hero remained on the
walls of her convent cell until Richthofen's death when the girl sent
it to the ace's mother and, according to the story believed in
Schweidnitz, she herself then took the veil. There were other
diversions besides love notes in the hospital at Courtrai. The ace
received the attentions of the best surgeons and doctors that Germany
could supply. There were frequently painful episodes in which new
splinters of bone were removed from his wound, and his scalp was sore
for days from thorn points. These had been driven in when he had
fallen head first out of his machine after bringing it safely to the
ground. He had landed on his head in a briar bush, and the first-aid
sergeant, who attended him had shaved the scalp. This operation had
cut off the tops of the thorns but had left the fine, sharp points
still imbedded in the torn scalp.

The enemy was also attentive. Courtrai's population of {304} 7,000
spent most of its nights, during that month of July, sleeping in
cellars or in the fields outside of the town. French and British
bombing planes flew almost nightly over the town and dropped tons of
more or less well-directed bombs on the railway communications, which
were of great military importance to the German war machine.

Richthofen was told that there were many wealthy French and Belgian
families native of the town and that they had begged permission of the
military authorities to give him an ovation as the airman who had shot
down so many of the bombers that were making life unbearable in
Courtrai. The ovation never took place.

The ace's father, who was commanding a reserve battalion, was granted
leave to visit his son and the two spent many hours sitting together
in the garden of the hospital. German artists, too old for the ranks,
came to sketch them.

Things were moving on the front. The battle of Messines, with the
English capture of Wytschaete had been succeeded by renewed activity
in the Ypres sector as the British applied, or misapplied, more
pressure on their costly Flanders offensive. Richthofen's rivals in
the air were adding new victories to their grisly scores and although
the ace felt his crown safe with his present credit of fifty-seven
successful combats, he was anxious to escape both the tedium and pain
of the hospital and to return to his command. From the hospital under
date of July 25th, he wrote his mother as follows:

  Many thanks for your dear letter, which gave me great pleasure. I
  was glad to hear that Lothar is doing well, but he must still have a
  good rest before he takes up his trade again. Physical fitness is
  its principal requisite. What do you think of our sudden
  overwhelming successes in the east? Everyone here has been filled
  with fresh hope. The Russians have made their last {305} ineffective
  attempts. They should be offered favourable conditions now, and
  perhaps we could come to an agreement about separate peace.

  Professor Bush is staying with me, turning down one drawing after
  another. He is a well-known artist and has drawn Papa and myself
  very well indeed. Lothar is the next on his programme. I can walk
  around now, and will soon go up again.

A week later, he was back with his squadron, bringing himself up to
date on what had happened during his absence. His return to his
command was the occasion for an ovation by his surviving comrades and
the new replacements who had come in to fill the gaps.

Although his rank remained that of a captain, he was now squadron
commander, with four and sometimes five Jagdstaffels under his orders.
The administrative work was handled by ground adjutants. Richthofen
continued to fly with Jagdstaffel II, but it was not the same unit as

>From the surviving veterans in its ranks had been taken the commanders
for the other Jagdstaffels, so that Richthofen missed the old
teamwork. The newcomers were keen and eager and well trained, but he
did not feel he could place the same dependence upon them in a pinch
that he put upon his old comrades. German flying men have since
pointed out that Richthofen's successes in the air were never so great
after death and promotions had scattered the personnel of the old
flying unit. It is also recalled that almost all of the old
Jagdstaffel's eleven veterans were dead within six months after they
were transferred to command other formations.

  [Victory 58]

After several test flights and front patrols, the ace had his next
combat on August 16th, when he and his flyers pounced on a Nieuport
single-seater. His report on this fight is missing from the files in
the Reichsarchiv but {306} Manfred registered this, his fifty-eighth
victory, with a silver death cup, engraved with the type of the plane
and the date.

It was his first fight after being wounded, and he knew that he was
not the man he had been. The combat made a greater call upon his force
and energy. His caution had increased. He was so tired upon his return
to the airdrome that he went to bed, from which he arose several hours
later unrefreshed by the fitful naps that now took the place of his
former sound slumber.

  [Victory 59]

Although he flew on daily patrols in which he endeavoured to revive
the old organization spirit among his new flyers, he did not engage in
another combat until ten days later, when a lone-flying Spad
single-seater fell as his prey. Manfred's report on the fight
unconsciously reveals the pains he took to take every advantage of
height, sun, numbers, and location before he delivered the death blow.
The report reads:

  Requesting Acknowledgment of My 59th Victory

  Date: Aug. 26th, 1917.
  Time: 7:30 A. M.
  Place: Between Poelcapelle and Langemarck this side of our lines
  Plane: Spad one-seater. English.

  When flying with four gentlemen of my Staffel II, I detected below
  me at 9,000 feet, a single Spad flying above a close cover of
  clouds. The adversary was probably trying to find a low-flying
  Germany artillery plane.

  When he came out of the sun, I attacked him. He tried to escape by
  diving, but at this moment I shot at him, and he disappeared through
  the clouds.

  I followed him and saw him falling below the clouds, and then he
  exploded at a height of 1,500 feet.

  The new very bad F. B. ammunition had done a lot of damage to my
  plane, and my pressure pipes, intake pipes, etc., were shot through.
  It would have been impossible for me to follow an {307} only
  slightly wounded adversary, and I had to try to turn in as soon as
    _Captain and Squadron Commander_.

The victim of this fight was Second Lieutenant C. P. William, a pilot
of the Nineteenth Squadron, R. F. C., who was not looking for German
artillery planes at the time but was engaged as a single escort to
another plane, which was performing a "special mission." His combat
with Richthofen's Albatross was witnessed from afar by English
observation planes. The Germans reported his death several days later.

Richthofen's head had spun and his stomach contracted as he watched
Williams go down to his death. This feeling of "squeamishness" was
something new that he had to fight against. He revealed his inner
feelings two days later in his letter home:

  I am glad to hear of Lothar's continuing improvement, but under no
  circumstances should he be allowed to return to the front before he
  is entirely fit again.

  If he is permitted to do otherwise, he will suffer a relapse or he
  will be shot down.

  I speak from experience.

  I have only made two combat fights since my return.

  Both were successful, but after both of them I was completely
  exhausted. During the first one, I nearly became air sick.

  My wound is healing very slowly: It is still as large as a five-mark
  piece. Yesterday they removed another splinter of the bone. I think
  it will be the last.

  Some days ago the Kaiser visited our section to review the troops.
  We had a rather long conversation. I am scheduled for leave and am
  looking forward to seeing you all together.


It is quite apparent that the ace was still suffering from the effects
of his wound. Although he had been back at the front just two weeks,
he had had enough of it for the time being, at least, and longed for
the safety and peace of leave in the homeland. This was not cowardice.
His leave had been granted on the recommendation of the medical
officers attached to his squadron. They affirmed that he was not yet
in proper condition. With the leave assured but not yet in effect, he
flew with even greater caution, so that an unwise engagement or
surprise attack should not prevent his withdrawal.

  [Victory 60]

It was six days after his fifty-ninth victory that the ace made his
next attack. Then he jumped on a sure thing. He was flying a new
Fokker triplane that the British had not seen before in this front,
and that was not unlike an experimental triplane then used by the
English naval flyers. This similarity in appearance had the effect of
disguising the German plane.

Again the victim was an old R. E. bus, all alone far over on the
German side when Richthofen and four comrades swooped down on it. The
plane was flown by Second Lieutenant J. B. C. Madge of the Sixth
Squadron, and Second-Lieutenant W. Kember performed the observer's

They were not looking for "trouble" but for artillery targets, which,
however, could not be located alone in those days and places without
trouble. One Vickers and one Lewis gun were their means of defence
when the trouble came.

It came suddenly. Here's Richthofen's account:

  Requesting Acknowledgment for My 60th Victory

  Date: Sept. 2, 1917.
  Time: 7:50 A.M.
  Place: Near Zonnebeke, this side the lines.
  Plane: R. E. Two-seater. English.


  Flying my triplane for the first time, I and four of my gentlemen
  attacked a very courageously flown English artillery plane.

  I approached and fired twenty shots from a distance of fifty yards,
  whereupon the Englishman fell to the ground and crashed near

  It is most probable that the English pilot mistook me for an English
  triplane, because the observer was standing upright in his plane and
  watched me approach without making use of his gun.
    _Captain and Squadron Commander_.

Poor old Kember. Bad eyes probably. Didn't see the Maltese cross on
the triplane's wings. Thought it was the jolly old R. N. having a
look-see at the war. He paid for the mistake with his life.

Several days later, the Germans dropped a note stating Kember was
dead. His mother, Mrs. E. E. Kember, received the usual telegram from
the War Office at her home, 3, Dover Road, Brookdale, Southport, from
which place she has since moved.

Madge was badly wounded when the R. E. piled up on its nose. He
enjoyed the rest of the war in German hospitals and jails, and
returned to his father's home, 116, Gilmore Place, Edinburgh, after
the Armistice, only to suffer a relapse and to take more courses in
British war hospitals, in which his trail is lost today.

On the R. F. C. casualty lists, the finish of Madge's and Kember's air
careers is a brief single line:

  Took off at 6.50 A.M. Machine attacked by E. A. (Enemy Aircraft) and
  came down in spin over Polygon Wood at 7:40 A.M.

Before returning to his airdrome, Richthofen flew back several miles
to the cantonments of rest troops, where {310} he knew his father had
headquarters as a major commanding a battalion of reserves. Swooping
low over the huts, the ace tossed out of his cockpit a small tin
cylinder attached to a streamer of cloth. It fell in a company street
and was taken to Major Richthofen, who opened the cylinder and removed
a single piece of paper on which had been hastily scribbled:

  My sixtieth.--MANFRED.

The performance of the new triplane pleased him. He had the chance to
demonstrate his belief in his plane's superiority in a long and
hard-fought combat early the next morning.

  [Victory 61]

His account of the fight reads:

  Requesting Acknowledgment for My 61st Victory

  Date: Sept. 3, 1917;
  Time: 7:35 A.M.
  Place: South of Bousbecque, this side of the lines.
  Type of Plane: Sopwith one-seater, No. B. 1795; 80 H. P.
    Le Rhone type "R" motor No. 35,123,
    carrying machine gun No. A 4723.
  Occupant: Lieutenant A. F. Bird, made prisoner unwounded.
  My Own Plane: Fokker F. I. 102-17 triplane.

  Being engaged together with five planes of Staffel II in a fight
  with a Sopwith one-seater Spad, I attacked, at an altitude of
  10,000 feet, one of the enemy's machines.

  After considerable manoeuvring, I succeeded in forcing it to the
  ground near Bousbecque. I was absolutely convinced that I had a very
  capable opponent, because he refused to surrender even after I had
  forced him down as low as fifty yards above the ground. Even then,
  he kept right on shooting.

  Before he landed, he emptied his machine gun into a column of our
  infantry, and then, when on the ground, deliberately steered his
  plane into a tree and smashed it.


  The Fokker Triplane, F. I. 102-17, was undoubtedly better and more
  reliable than the English machine.
    _Captain and Squadron Commander_.

Lieutenant Bird read Richthofen's report of the affair, but refused to
add to it.

The report of Bird's capture is one of the best authenticated in
Richthofen's collection, and serves as a sample of the method by which
the claims of the German aces were presented to their superiors.

Attached to the report were seven affidavits of officers and men who
had witnessed the fight.

Richthofen's report with the affidavits attached was forwarded by the
ground adjutant of the ace's command to air headquarters, where it was
considered and credit granted. The signed testimony and details
accompanying the flyer's claims indicate the pains taken by the higher
command to eliminate false claims. At times the job of deciding and
giving the credit was an arduous one, as two or more flyers frequently
claimed the same victims. These claims and counter claims were by no
means confined to the German air service.

In the Allied air services the establishment of credit for German
planes brought down was even more difficult, because, in the large
majority of cases, the victims fell behind their own lines.

Richthofen now got a leave, and by special invitation of the
government was allowed to hunt elk, which had become almost extinct,
on a reservation in East Prussia. At the end of the expedition he
wrote to his mother:

  Gotha, Schloss Hotel,
  Sept. 30, 1917
  I was extremely glad to hear of Lothar's sudden recovery. On my
  return from leave, we can again go up together and {312} show the
  English a few tricks. We will be in the same squadron.

  My bag during the last fortnight has been far from bad--a large elk,
  three excellent stags, and a buck. I am rather proud of my record,
  because Papa has only shot three stags in all his life. I am leaving
  for Berlin today and will be with you in less than a week.

Showing the English tricks in the air was becoming harder than ever,
in spite of Richthofen's restored enthusiasm and healed nerves. Just a
week before the above letter was written, the British themselves had
been able to show a few new tricks in planes, pilots, and manoeuvres
that had cost the German Air Service one of its greatest pilots, the
Reserve Lieutenant Werner Voss, an old friend of Richthofen and the
flyer whose killings in the air closest approached the record of the
first German ace. Voss had been shot down in an heroic struggle
against odds.

Another ace whose career ended during that month of September when
Richthofen was fortunate enough to be on leave was Captain Guynemer,
the conqueror of fifty-five German planes and the idol of France. On
September 11th, Guynemer, in the midst of a terrific air duel, went
down between the blazing lines near Poelcapelle. The Germans recovered
his body and placed it in a dugout that was later destroyed by
artillery. The remains of the French ace have never been found, but in
the hearts of the French people his place will always be that of the
greatest hero of the air.

Richthofen spent a week in Berlin, where his every appearance caused
excitement, and then a week with his mother at Schweidnitz. The
farewell of the mother and son at the end of this visit was their

November found the ace and squadron commander back at the front in
time to participate in the battle of Cambrai which opened on the 20th
with the tank attack by the {313} British. These were the operations
that brought the Allied offensive of 1917 to its bloody, futile close.

  [Victory 62]
  [Victory 63]

Richthofen's next victories, his sixty-second and sixty-third, were
over Lieutenant A. Griggs and Captain P. T. Townsend, respectively.
The exact fates of these men have never been learned. Their bodies
were not found.

As cold weather gripped the fighting fronts, air activity lessened,
and the ace turned his mind to thoughts of home and plans for spending
his third Christmas in the Flying Corps. He wrote:

  In the field, Dec. 11, 1917.
  There is little doing here at present and things are consequently
  rather dull. I am leaving for Speyer today to look over an airplane

  Christmas I intend spending with my squadron, together with Papa and
  Lothar. My orderly has already sent a Christmas parcel to Bolko, and
  I trust I have succeeded in meeting a cadet's tastes.

Another young Richthofen--the last and now the only surviving male of
the family--was taking his training for war.

The last year of the war, which was to be the year of his death dawned
happily for the Kaiser's deadliest ace. In January he went to
Brest-Litovsk, and saw the revolutionary delegates of a beaten and
disorganized Russia forced to accept the peace laid down to them by

He mingled and dined with the diplomats of Germany and her allies and
met many of the Russian revolutionaries who believed they had found
victory for their own cause in the defeat of their country. Some of
them were women communists and one in particular--a Madame
Bicenko--interested Manfred deeply because of her vivid personality.


On the whole, however, diplomatic negotiations bored him, and, with
permission from the commander in chief of the eastern front, he made a
trip by sleigh to the forest of Bialowicza, there to hunt for bison
and red stag in an old hunting preserve of the Romanoffs. He was
accompanied by his brother Lothar, and hard-bitten by the snow, the
cold, and the wind, the two brothers returned to Berlin January 20th,
in high spirits. Before leaving the eastern front Manfred wrote:

  January 15, 1918.
  You will wonder why you have been so long without news from me, but
  that is always an indication that I am well. In this case, however,
  I have been seeing much. Lothar has already written you that we were
  in Brest-Litovsk. There we saw and were introduced to all the
  prominent diplomats. I should like very much to tell you all about
  it. As it is, I can only write you that peace was concluded along
  the lines laid down by Ludendorff. For a few days, we roamed through
  the forests around Bialowicza, where each of us shot a stag. The
  stay in the quiet forest has done us both a world of good. I will be
  in Berlin for a fortnight after the twentieth, when I hope to be
  able to see you.

On the front, the situation in the air was changing. Russia's collapse
had not only released German armies, but also German air squadrons,
for duty in the west, where now, if ever, the Central Powers would
have to force a decision before the arrival of America's full strength
on the fighting line. Germany's intentions to break through to the
Channel ports and separate the British and French armies were
suspected. The Allies awaited the moment of the great enemy offensive
with intense anxiety.

The British had profited by the costly lesson of April, 1917. Their
terrific losses in the air had caused much inquiry and {315} public
questioning. An air board had been established, and new life had been
injected into the air service to speed up the supply and distribution
of material for the fighting airmen and at the same time to improve
the equipment upon which they had to depend. Regular army "crocks"
were booted out of the technical departments, and England's best
brains were applied to the all-important work of aeronautical

Then the entire air service was reorganized by a fusion of the Royal
Flying Corps with the separate Royal Naval Air Service, and this great
third arm, called the Royal Air Force, was placed under the authority
of a special secretary of state whose status was equal to that of the
political heads of both the army and the navy departments.

In the training department, special attention was paid to
marksmanship. It had been found costly to send expert flyers into the
air if they couldn't use their machine guns effectively. A bad shot in
the air represented wasted time and effort. He was "cold meat" for the
enemy flyer who knew how to handle his triggers. In the air-training
camps in France, special devices were rigged up in which pilots
practised quick shooting.

To replace air mechanics who had been promoted to service in the air,
English girls from homes and schools went eagerly into the grease and
oil of the hangars and worked long hours on the repairing of planes.
Other girls took the places of orderlies or motorcycle messengers,
releasing these men for fighting service.

King George, Queen Mary, and the Prince of Wales began to honour the
air service with attentions similar to those bestowed upon the senior
services. They visited the airdromes in France, inspected damaged
British planes, and talked with English, Canadian, and American flyers
who had fought Richthofen and his circus.


At the same time, big improvements were made in the anti-aircraft
artillery and ground defences that were required to keep German
bombers and ground strafers a greater distance from the ground. The
mechanical and administrative personnel of all airdromes in France
were trained in anti-aircraft defence with all manner of improvised
weapons. As the fighting reached higher altitudes, the use of oxygen
tanks became necessary.

The effect of all of these new but delayed attentions to the air
service began to show in the number of victories that these flyers
were able to chalk up against the Germans.

At the beginning of the year, the British were equipped with Sopwith
"Camels" or S. E. 5's which had a ceiling of 15,000 feet and could do
117 miles an hour at that height. There were Spads and Nieuports which
could better this speed. The "Camel," upon improvement, developed into
a type called the "Dolphin" and this was later succeeded by the
"Snipe," which had still greater speed.

The Germans were using mostly the Fokker scout and triplane. Fokker
and Junker monoplanes with 220 horsepower motors developed speeds of
150 miles an hour later in the year. The Albatross and Halberstadt
models were considered the best fighting planes. The Germans suffered
an increasing deficiency in essential materials, but never once gave
up the race in the improvement of engines and the development of
high-powered scout machines.

In spite of the best efforts of their engineering and efficiency
experts and the endeavours of their combat leaders, German losses in
the air increased throughout the spring. On March 8th and 9th, 44
German planes were shot down. On March 24th, 45 were destroyed and 22
driven down, as against 10 British planes. The English records claim
372 German planes destroyed and 205 driven down for the month of
March. In the following month of April, the month of Richthofen's
death, 172 enemy {317} machines were destroyed and 75 driven down out
of control.

German pilots driven down by non-fatal wounds behind their own lines
or successful in making a landing there with disabled planes were not
_hors de combat_, as most British and French pilots under similar
circumstances for the reason that the most fighting occurred over the
German lines. A wounded German pilot landing successfully behind his
own lines had immediate first-aid treatment and stood a good chance of
being back in the fighting as soon as he recovered.

There is ample photographic evidence in German archives to prove that
many of the planes shot down suffered serious crashes, in which it is
most probable that their pilots did not escape death.

It must not be believed, however, that the German air force always
confined its activities to its own side of the line, because
photographs in the British archives show many German planes that were
brought down behind the British lines, over which they must have been
fighting at the time.

The struggle in the air was inclining to the side of the Allies, and
Manfred was not blind to it, those last days in Berlin when he
received the acclaim of the crowds. He knew that the chances of death
were piling up against him, and there is a prophetic note in the
letter that he sent to his mother after his return to the front. He

  At the Front, Feb. 11, 1918.
  I am sorry that I was kept in Berlin so long that I could not come
  to Schweidnitz to say goodbye. It would have been so pleasant, and I
  was looking forward to it.

  Now I think I will not come back to Germany for a long, long time.

  Keep Lothar with you as long as possible. He is rather {318}
  negligent with his ears and does nothing to cure them. He loses
  nothing here. Tell him from me, he should not leave before the first
  of March. Should things become more lively here, I will advise him
  by wire.

  I am afraid Bolko is angry with me, but it was really impossible to
  make a landing in Wahlstadt. In the fall, with the crops off the
  fields, I will do it surely.

  [Victory 64]

Toward the end of February and during the first days of March, aërial
activity increased as the day of the great German offensive of 1918
approached. Lothar came to the front and joined his brother's
squadron. On March 12th, Manfred shot down his next English plane and
captured its two occupants, one of whom he had wounded in the air. The
prisoners were Second Lieutenant L.C.F. Clutterbuck, a pilot of the
Sixty-second Squadron, and his observer and gunner, Second Lieutenant
H.J. Sparks, M.C.

Manfred reported the capture as follows:

  Requesting Acknowledgment for My 64th Victory

  Date: March 12, 1918.
  Time: Between 11:10 and 11:15 A.M.
  Place: North of Nauroy, Square No. 2858
  Type of Enemy Plane, Bristol fighter, No. 1251;
    Motor, Rolls Royce 200 H.P. 12 Cyl. V-shaped, No. 275.

  Together with Lieutenant Lothar von Richthofen and Lieutenant
  Steinhäuser, both of Staffel II, we attacked an enemy squadron
  between Caudry and Le Cateau at an altitude of 16,000 feet, far
  behind our lines.

  The plane I attacked immediately dived down several thousand feet
  and tried to escape. The observer, who had fired only when high in
  the air, had disappeared in his cockpit and began firing again
  shortly before the machine landed.

  During the fight, we had drifted off to La Catelet. There I {319}
  forced my adversary to land, and after doing this, both passengers
  left the plane.
    _Captain and Squadron Commander_.

The German ace never knew the names of these two prisoners, and
neither Clutterbuck nor Sparks was aware that their captor was
Richthofen until the recent unearthing of the Flying Uhlan's report,
which carried the number of the fallen English plane. Identification
and location of the two English prisoners was possible through this

Clutterbuck, who lives today at 15, Acacia Road, St. John's Wood,
London, prepared for this book the following account of his last fight
in the air:

  It is nine years since the greatest incident in my life happened. It
  finished my career as a flying officer, but, as a Hun officer
  remarked, "The war is finished for you," meaning that, being a
  prisoner of war, I should at least see the end of hostilities.

  Until I saw the copy of Richthofen's own report, I believed that I
  had been brought down by one of the members of Richthofen's
  celebrated circus, and had no idea that it was the famous Baron
  himself whom I had tried to down and who succeeded in downing me and
  badly wounding my observer. Every detail of the scrap is as fresh in
  my mind as though it happened yesterday, but I can't begin telling
  it without paying my little tribute to Baron von Richthofen and the
  men who comprised what was known as his circus.

  To my mind, they were undoubtedly the pick of the German airmen and
  although their methods of attack were different from our own, they
  were no mean adversaries, and certainly they were line pilots, for
  which statement I can personally vouch. Richthofen handled his
  machine very cleverly, was an excellent shot, and was entirely

  It should be remembered that the German machines very {320} seldom
  had the temerity to cross our lines, and when they did, it was
  usually at a great height, and consequently we seldom had the chance
  of a scrap on our side of the lines.

  The squadron to which I belonged, namely 62, was equipped with the
  latest types of Bristol fighters. We flew over to France in January,
  1918, having extensively trained together for several weeks in
  England, and I think I can say that we were quite an efficient body
  After preliminary work in France, we were detailed to give our
  attention solely to fighting, and it was our job to patrol twenty to
  thirty miles inside the German lines and to knock down anything we

  It was a delightful job; no red tape about reports when we got back,
  no bombs to carry, and no reconnaissance to make. Just scrapping,
  and, incidentally, we got it.

  The day before I was brought down, the squadron had accounted for,
  and had had confirmed, fourteen machines of the circus, and we had
  lost no machines, nor had we had any casualties.

  The fatal day for me, we set out nine strong, and after being over
  the lines for two hours at a height of 18,000 feet, we had not
  commenced operations, although the Germans had a decoy in the shape
  of a two-seater hovering below us, but the air had been rapidly
  filling with machines for some time.

  My great friend Lieutenant G. Gibbons was flying on my left, and
  suddenly I saw him go down as though to attack the large two-seater.
  I followed him down, and my observer, Lieutenant Sparks, M. C., as
  usual tested his gun, but, curiously enough one empty cartridge case
  flew into my cockpit and lodged down between the tank and the joy
  stick, which rather curtailed my movements to climb. My friend in
  the meantime pulled out of the dive and climbed up again, while I
  continued to lose height until I managed to poke the cartridge case
  aside. By that time, my formation was some three thousand feet above
  me and a long way off.

  A few minutes later, the three machines that had been in our
  vicinity for some time attacked me, and I had a little difficulty in
  placing my machine in a good position for my observer, owing to
  their coming out of the sun; that is, they kept the sun behind {321}
  them and in a line with my machine--a position favoured by all
  experienced pilots.

  My observer managed to get off a few bursts before he collapsed. I
  looked over into his cockpit and saw him huddled up, apparently
  dead. I quickly decided the combat was unequal and tried to
  withdraw. The Bristol fighters were excessively strong, and I had
  often dived them with the engine full on, and could always leave
  anything behind me in a dive.

  I did so on this occasion until, glancing at my planes, I saw
  several of my bracing wires streaming aft. They had evidently been
  shot away in our little scrap. I pulled out of the dive at 4,000
  feet and, to my astonishment, found I was much farther over the
  lines than I had thought at first. I now kept the machine's nose
  down and kept up a steady 140-mile streak for home, passing under
  numerous German machines.

  Soon I discovered a machine gaining on me from above and behind. I
  unstrapped my belt and endeavoured to obtain my observer's gun, but,
  unfortunately, was unable to reach it; otherwise I could have
  continued my flight home and kept the enemy machine off my tail.

  Gradually but surely, owing to his height, he gained on me--a
  sinister demon getting closer and closer every minute. I figured I
  should have to interrupt my flight home and try to send him down, so
  when I thought he was near enough, I turned and faced him. We were
  now approaching each other, nearer, nearer, at a terrific pace,
  neither giving way on direction and neither firing until quite
  close, when I believe we both opened fire simultaneously. My gun,
  after a few rounds, jammed--a number three stoppage, which usually
  took about three minutes to rectify in the air.

  Now my gun was out of action and my adversary's guns were very busy.
  He had two of them firing through the propeller. For the moment I
  think I lost my head and decided to ram him head on, but he decided
  otherwise and passed below me a matter of a few feet.

  He then tried to get on my tail or in a suitable position to hit me
  while I decided to ram him with my undercarriage, but always he
  would manage to pass a few feet under me, looking up {322} into my
  face. I often wonder if he divined my intentions. During these dives
  he would get into a burst at me while flying in a vertical turn or
  from various weird angles. Although my machine was heavier than his
  single-seater, he seemed unable then to get above me or to sit on my
  tail, the fatal position.

  After some trying minutes of these gyrations, my forward petrol tank
  either gave out or he put a shot through it, so I dived again and
  switched over to the other tank, and was now flying about one
  hundred feet up, but this time I was getting nearer to the lines,
  and in a few minutes I would be safe. Of course, I knew my adversary
  would continue to follow me down, which he did, and just sat on my
  tail pumping lead into me.

  I suppose his machine was just a few miles faster than mine, because
  I could not gain on him, and all the time he kept firing bursts into
  me. I kept kicking the rudder to alter my direction and confuse his
  aim. This went on for a while, and I began to hope that he would run
  out of ammunition when, suddenly, my observer, whom I had taken for
  dead, got up to his gun and started firing.

  It is hard to imagine my joy. I shouted and cheered the stout
  fellow. Half his arm was shot away, and he had been unconscious for
  some time and weak from loss of blood, but he had managed to crawl
  up to his gun and get off a burst. It was too much for him, however,
  for he sank back in a heap again.

  My spirits dropped us quickly as they had risen, and a few moments
  later my adversary had punctured my petrol tank. It was a
  pressure-feed, and in spite of my efforts to pump up the pressure by
  hand, the engine gradually petered out, and before I knew what I was
  doing I was on the ground among shell holes. I pancaked from about
  five feet and stopped with my wheels in a shell hole.

  By the time I had helped my observer out of the machine, the Germans
  rushed out of their dugouts and took great pleasure in telling us on
  which side of the lines we were, and so prevented us from firing the
  machine. Another minute in the air and I should have been on our
  side of the line, as it was only two miles away.

  My observer was treated with great courtesy and kindness {323} and
  his wounds dressed in a near-by dugout. We have nothing but praise
  for the manner in which we were treated near the line. We eventually
  arrived at a village a few miles away, where many troops were
  quartered and it amused us to see them turn out their band. When we
  inquired the reason, we were informed it was to celebrate our

  My observer and I eventually parted at Le Cateau, where he went to a
  hospital and I to a cell to be questioned by officers. We were
  generously offered a dish of likely looking horse and macaroni, but
  had it been _pâté de foie gras_, I am afraid we could not have eaten
  it at that moment. To the officer who looked after us, we tendered
  our best thanks for his kindness.

Clutterbuck and Sparks have never met since their last day together in
the air, although both of them live in England today. Sparks is
thirty-seven years old now. He was a soldier before the war, having
purchased his discharge from the Royal Marine Band, in 1913, after
five years service. He reënlisted in the Black Watch in 1915, and
received his commission as a lieutenant, April 1917, in the King's
Royal Rifle Corps, where he won his military Cross.

Sparks transferred to the Flying Corps in August, 1917, and began
flying in France in December of that year. Today he is a government
inspector of taxes at Sittingbourne. Here is his vivid recollection of
the day Richthofen shot him on the wing:

  There were eight of us Bristol fighters patrolling the line from
  Cambrai to Caudry or Le Cateau. Clutterbuck and I were flying in the
  machine on the extreme right at about 13,000 feet. We were due to
  leave the line at 11:05 A. M. At about 10:55, Clutterbuck drew my
  attention to three enemy machines hovering below. They had those
  noticeable fish tails, but otherwise, being highly coloured, they
  could not be detected as Huns. I quite anticipated a hot time, as I
  could hear machine-gun fire overhead, but, although I was equipped
  with glasses, I could see nothing on account of the dazzling sun.


  About 11, our flight commander Captain Kennedy, M. C., fired a red
  Very light, which was the signal to prepare for action. I had been
  keeping my eyes on the three enemy planes below me. But no sooner
  had the action signal been given than we were pounced on from above
  by various types of Hun machines numbering about twenty. I could
  tell from the red under carriages that they were members of
  Richthofen's circus.

  It seemed that it didn't matter which way my pilot turned, an
  iron-cross plane would appear. Clutterbuck immediately spun down.
  The last thing I noticed before he went into the spin was the flight
  commander's plane bursting into flames and the occupants falling

  After our dive of about eighteen-hundred feet, we came in contact
  with the three machines that had been below us.... One after
  another, they attacked us. My pilot was busy placing me in position
  to fire, but it was difficult to take accurate aim, as new machines
  were always appearing above us. During these attacks, we came into
  very close range, and eventually I managed to get a good burst into
  a machine that was painted with black and white squares. I saw it go
  down entirely out of control. Clutterbuck and I both saw this
  machine on the ground afterwards while we were being led away as

  I was just getting into position to try my luck with the all red
  machine which I presume was Richthofen's, but the baron got me
  before I got him. His first stream of lead went through my left
  shoulder and arm, rendering me entirely useless. The shock knocked
  me down into the cockpit.

  But Clutterbuck never gave up. He put up an excellent fight with two
  Huns picking at him all the time. Our machine was completely riddled
  with bullets, and I will never understand why more of them did not
  hit us. I tried persistently to ring out a few shots, but I was too
  handicapped, and finally Clutterbuck was forced to land. Had I not
  been wounded so early in the fight, I believe I could have made it
  much more interesting for the baron. The time of the combat was
  about fifteen minutes, which is a long time for actually every
  minute fighting in the air. It seemed like fifteen weeks.

  After landing, we were surrounded by German soldiers who {325}
  seemed to spring from nowhere. They prevented us from destroying the
  plane. A German officer and his orderly, both on horseback, rode up,
  and the officer questioned us in broken English and finally led us
  away to a dressing station where my wounds were dressed.

  We were taken to a battalion headquarters, I riding on the orderly's
  horse. I felt like Nelson the second or King Cole, riding in this
  manner through a big crowded village which I think was Caudry. We
  lunched with the German guard on coffee and black bread, after which
  we were taken in a motor car to Le Cateau and interviewed by some
  German general.

  Clutterbuck and I would give no information concerning the number
  and whereabouts of our squadron, and refused to answer many other
  questions they put to us... The general got rather annoyed and
  ordered us taken away. I was detained in the base hospital and
  Clutterbuck--I don't know where he vanished to, as I have never seen
  him since that moment.

  During my second day in the hospital, a German flying officer came
  in and said he had been sent to see me by Baron von Richthofen, who
  wished me to accept half a dozen cigars with his compliments. I did,
  with thanks. The treatment received as a prisoner of war was nothing
  brilliant, and yet was not so bad under the circumstances. The worst
  time I experienced was the few months in the hospital.

Richthofen had followed his disabled opponents to the ground and
frustrated their last attempts to regain their own lines and safety.

On the following day, March 13th, Lothar von Richthofen was shot down
almost out of control behind the German lines, and crashed.

That smash kept Lothar in the hospital a number of weeks. It was the
worst one he ever had during the war, which he survived with the rank
of a first lieutenant and almost as many decorations as his brother.
He was credited with bringing down forty British planes. In 1919, he
married the Countess Doris van Keyserling, the daughter {326} of an
old privy counsellor to the Kaiser. There was a daughter by the
marriage, but trouble followed the romance of the gallant war bird,
and it ended in a separation.

Three years later, on July 4, 1922, Lothar and an American film
actress, Fern Andra, and the latter's manager, were flying from
Hamburg to Berlin in an old war-type plane. Motor trouble, a forced
landing, another unseen electric wire, and a crash in which the war
bird lost his life while his two passengers suffered serious injuries.

  [Victory 65]

On that day of Lothar's almost fatal crash at the front, his famous
brother fought, if possible, with even increased determination. He
drove off the British planes that were in pursuit of his brother's
disabled triplane and shot down one of the pursuing British pilots.

The victim was Second Lieutenant J. M. L. Millett, a lighting pilot of
the 73d Squadron, which had left its airdrome shortly after nine
o'clock that morning in speedy new Sopwith Camel scouts equipped with
Vickers and Lewis machine guns. Millett came from Windsor, Nova
Scotia, where his father received a cable a week later notifying him
that the boy had been shot down in flames behind the German lines, and
that the Germans had later dropped a message that he was dead.

  [Victory 66]

Although Richthofen flew daily during the next five days, during which
there were numerous combats between large numbers of hostile planes,
he did not succeed in bringing down his next plane, his sixty-sixth
until March 18th. The victim who survived without a wound but spent
the rest of the war as a prisoner is alive today and lives at 3545,
Sussex Avenue, McKay, New Westminster, British Columbia. He was
located through the number of his plane, Sopwith Camel B. 5423, which
Richthofen recorded on the report he made of the fight. The name of
the survivor and only living witness to this combat is William G.


  I managed to survive at it until that day I came in contact with the
  jolly old Baron [Ivamy wrote from Vancouver]. It happened this way:
  A naval bombing squadron had been detailed to bomb the German
  airdrome at Molain on March 16th and 17th, and to do it without
  escort. On the next day, the 18th, the day of my last fight, the
  bombers were given an escort of ten S. E. 5's and nine Camels.

  We crossed south of St. Quentin following the D. H. 4's, which
  carried the bombs. They were down around 9,000 feet and we were up
  around 12,000. I was deputy flight commander and brought up the rear
  of the last formation. After we were about 8 miles across, I could
  see the German planes getting into position to have a smash at us,
  they being about 3,000 feet above us and seeming to number between
  50 and 60.

  As we were following the bombers, the German planes were in position
  on four sides of us and above. Directly the D. H.4's had dropped
  their bombs, they turned for home, and this evidently was the signal
  for the Germans to attack, and the lot of them came down on us with
  a bang.

  Their plan of attack was to get anyone with streamers on. As deputy
  flight commander, I flew these streamers, and being in the rear of
  the flight and highest up, I got it first. I can't say that I had
  much of a fight with his highness the baron, as I was slightly
  handicapped from the start, having an explosive bullet in the petrol
  tank and the emergency tank being punctured.

  I was saturated and blinded with petrol and sitting up there with a
  dead engine. There was nothing to do but descend, which I did in a
  veering nose dive. I have a faint recollection of the speed
  indicator going off the scale, but the old Sopwith hung together,
  and I made the best landing I ever made up the side of a hill among
  a bunch of German infantry who were training for the big push. They
  appeared none too friendly with their rifles. By the time I could
  get out of the bus, three German planes were buzzing around over it,
  and the scrap up above seemed to be over.

  I looked up and saw that the S. E. 5's had pulled away a bit to the
  north, so we were rather in the soup. We lost five out of  {328} our
  nine: the flight leader, two deputy flight leaders, and two new
  fellows, three of them prisoners and two killed.

  The S. E.'s lost two and the bombers one, and I don't know what the
  German casualties were. It was just two days after this that the big
  German push of March, 1918, began, and this accounts for the number
  of German machines that were in the air that morning. That was the
  end for me, as I was a guest of the Kaiser till the Armistice.

  I am awfully curious about how Richthofen counted his victims. I
  have heard from various sources that the number of machines shot
  down by his entire circus was claimed by him personally and after
  the holy mix-up that morning, I should imagine it would be hard for
  anyone definitely to claim anyone, especially a machine shot down at
  the beginning of the fight.

It appears from Richthofen's report that he, in command of three
staffels totalling thirty planes, must have been operating that
morning in conjunction with another German squadron of equal strength,
to comprise the sixty planes that Ivamy saw.

Individual man-to-man and plane-to-plane fighting that had won for the
airmen their comparison with the knights of old was still the backbone
of combat aloft, but the tendency to organization flying began to show
itself more and more.

This factor, which begins at this period to make its appearance in the
annals of all the fighting air services, is most significant, inasmuch
as it probably marks the twilight of the days when knighthood ruled
the air.

It is almost inevitable in the opinion of air experts that the war
birds of future conflicts will have as much opportunity for individual
combat as the infantryman of the Great War had for bayonet work.
Control of the air when next disputed will be decided, not by
individual aces but by wings, flights, swarms, flocks, squadrons,
fleets, clouds, and avalanches of highly specialized planes that will
{329} manoeuvre under a central control. Team work will beat
individual stardom in the air, as it does on land and sea.

Organized air fighting increased on both sides beyond all previous
limits as the zero hour for the great German offensive of 1918 drew
near, The onslaught opened early on the morning of March 21st, and
Picardy, the ancient cockpit of Europe was the scene over which the
airmen flew to the aid and opposition of the conflicting ground

The general fighting, which is known as the first battle of the Somme,
1918, opened with the battle for St. Quentin, which the Germans won
decisively in three days' terrific struggle over the area bounded by
the river Oise to Chauny, then the road to Guiscard, to Ham, to
Péronne, to Bapaume, to Boyelles, and thence to the river Cojeul.

Again it was Richthofen's old stamping ground, and he knew it with the
instinct of bird as well as man. He flew daily, but his new duties as
commander of a bigger organization required that he stay aloft,
observe and direct his fighting units rather than engage in personal
combats that would have boosted his score of killings.

The German advance on the ground seemed overpowering. The British
retreat had begun, and by March 24th, when the fighting extended all
along the line of the Somme from Ham to Hem, it had become almost a
débâcle. It might well have been, had it not been for the heroic
services rendered on that day by the Allied air forces.

One English pilot who fought against Richthofen's circus broke all
previous records by personally shooting down six of the forty-five
German planes that were destroyed on, or above, the battlefield that
day. His name is J. L. Trollope, and he is today a real-estate agent
in London, living at The Cottage, Branstead, Surrey. One missing arm
and an M. C, with bar testify to his war record.

Richthofen commanded some of the planes Trollope downed that day. On
the night before what both sides {330} still call "The day of the
great battle," Richthofen wrote a letter to his mother. It is the last
one of these epistles that have been found to date.

He knew the plans for the morning and the uncertainty that went with
them. He felt that it might be his last letter home, but he managed to
keep this feeling out of the words he sent to the gray-haired woman
who waited and prayed in the white house in Schweidnitz.

The letter read:

  March 23, 1918,
  In the Field.
  You will have received my wire advising you of Lothar's fall. Thanks
  to God, he is doing nicely. I visit him daily. Please, Mother, don't
  worry about anything. He is really doing quite well.

  His nose has already healed, only the jaw is still bad, but he will
  keep his teeth. Above his right eye he has a rather large hole, but
  the eye itself has not been damaged. Several blood vessels burst
  under his right knee and in the left calf.

  The blood he spit out did not come from any internal injuries. He
  had merely swallowed some during his fall. He is in the hospital in
  Cambrai and hopes to be back at the front within a fortnight. His
  only regret is not to be able to be with us at the present moment.

It was a busy five days that Richthofen started the following morning.
In spite of speed and distance, the squadron commander, as the highest
ranking officer in the air, had to keep in the closest possible
communication with all of the planes under his control. Communication
between planes at this time consisted principally of visual signals
either by wing movements, streamers, or different coloured pistol
rockets. At the same time, the leader had to {331} observe the
approach of enemy units from all directions and not permit his own
force to be taken unawares.

Nevertheless, in the five days that followed, he found time enough off
from his executive duties in the air to engage in the actual fighting
to the extent of downing one plane on each of the first two days, two
on the third day, three on the fourth day, and one on the fifth day of
the all-eventful period, which he concluded with his victory score
boosted from sixty-six to seventy-four.

  [Victory 67]
  [Victory 68]

On the first day, March 24, Richthofen shot the wings from the plane
of Second Lieutenant Wilson Porter, Jr., of Port Dover, Ontario;
Wilson's body and the pieces of the plane fell to the earth.

In his reports Richthofen showed strict attention to facts, and
particularly the fact of fire, as is shown in his report of the very
next afternoon, when nineteen-year-old Second Lieutenant Donald
Cameron went down in a wreath of flames and smoke, started by the twin
streams of hot lead that the Flying Uhlan fired into him at a range of
fifty yards. He reported:

  Requesting Acknowledgment for My 68th Victory

  Date: March 25, 1918.
  Time: 3:55 P. M.
  Place: Above Bapaume, Albert Road, near Contalmaison.
  Plane: Sopwith one-seater. Burned. Englishman (beginner).

  With five planes of Staffel II, I attacked several English
  one-seaters northeast of Albert.

  I approached to within fifty yards of one of the machines and shot
  it to flames.

  The burning machine fell between Contalmaison and Albert and burned
  on the ground. Bombs that had apparently been in the plane exploded
  several minutes later.
    _Captain and Squadron Commander_.


The incendiary words "burn," "flames," and "explode" occur five times
in the comparatively short report, and there is clear evidence that
Richthofen was much more affected by those victories in which he sent
his opponents down in flames then by any others.

  [Victory 69]

Second Lieutenant W. Knox, a young Welshman from Cardiff and a
fighting pilot of the Fifty-fourth Squadron, appears from an
examination of all available material to have been the next living
fuel for the fiery spirit of the air demon. On March 26th Knox was
shot down in flames while on a patrol late in the afternoon. This was
Richthofen's sixty-ninth victory.

  [Victory 70]

Fifteen minutes after the death of Knox, Richthofen shot down in
flames a British R. E. old type, two-seater.

There were two British R. E.'s missing that afternoon.  The four men
that flew in them were never heard of again. These obsolete machines,
undoubtedly sent aloft as last straws to relieve the British emergency
on the ground, were the easiest possible prey for the fast-flying
Fokker triplanes.

Of the two daring ones who tried to fill the gap with their lives, it
is most likely, from the available accounts, that Second Lieutenant
Matt Leggat and his pilot, Second Lieutenant V.J. Reading, were the
victims of Richthofen's seventieth. Armed with Lewis and Vickers guns,
they had left the Fifteenth Squadron airdrome shortly after four
o'clock in the afternoon to patrol the German line near Albert, and
return, if possible, with a report of size and whereabouts of the
German reserves then being brought forward. This would account for
their flying at a low height (Richthofen's report says 2,000 feet)
over so dangerous a part of the active front. They never came back.

The second R. E. that fell in the fighting that day and was most
probably sent down by some of Richthofen's _"Herren"_ was occupied by
{333} Lieutenant Observer C. E. Wharram and Second Lieutenant T. H.
Buswell. They were engaged on an afternoon bombing expedition with
other members of the Fifty-second Squadron.

Richthofen's aim and ammunition were proving particularly disastrous
in the big push. Having set fire to two planes in the air on March
26th, he followed it the next day by firing three more, with similar
fatal results.

  [Victory 71]

Richthofen's seventy-first victim was H. W. Ransom, a
twenty-one-year-old boy from Hertfordshire who had served in South
Africa. Richthofen's report shows that he sent Ransom's plane down, in
flames, into the "flooded part of the Ancre."

For his second victim of the day, the Flying Baron jumped on a
low-flying two-seater plane of the Bristol fighter type. Richthofen
brought it down smoking and described it as burning, which was a
mistake, because at least one of its occupants lives today to tell the
tale. Richthofen's report says that the fight took place at half past
four near Foucancourt.

  [Victory 72]
  [Victory 73]

The English casualty records for that afternoon, hour, and place
indicate that the occupants of Manfred's seventy-second were Captain
K. R. Kirkham at the pilot's stick and Captain J. H. Hedley in the
observer's coop. Nobody got hurt, and a delightful time was had by
all, according to Hedley, who now lives in Chicago. Kirkham has
disappeared somewhere in the Orient. Hedley says he and Kirkham were
shot down from a low height but landed safely about twelve miles back
of the German lines. He also says that they were brutally treated as
prisoners. Hedley had previously had a remarkable experience while
acting as an observer in the plane of a Canadian officer named
Makepeace. They had been in an air fight when Hedley had been thrown
into the air. He had fallen several hundred feet as the plane dove
down almost vertically, and landed on the plane's tail. He had been
brought safely {334} to earth in that position. One wonders whether
there is any thrill left for such a man to look forward to.

Five minutes after "his nibs, the Baron," as Hedley calls him, had
shot Hedley and Kirkham down into the hands of the advancing German
infantry, the Flying Uhlan put down in flames his third plane for the
day and for this one the record on the English casualty list reads:

  "Never heard of again."

Much difficulty surrounded the identification of this victim, but the
closest examination of the records indicates that he was Captain H. R.
Child, a pilot of Squadron II, who was flying a Bristol fighter
two-seater on a special mission between Albert and the Somme. Child's
civilian address was the Royal Air Force Club in London, but the
records of the club show that he was never heard from again after that
night when he lifted his last glass in the club smokeroom, said
"cheerio" to his table mates, and returned to his squadron in France.

Three in one day was a pleasant reassurance to the Flying Uhlan that
he was getting back into his old form, but it could not wipe out the
fact that the total German air losses for the previous three days had
been much larger than those of the British.

  [Victory 74]

On the following day he shot down in flames an Armstrong two-seater
flying homeward near Méricourt. It was his seventy-fourth victory and
his last in March.

His victims were another team of nineteen-year-old second
"looies"--Joseph Bertram Taylor and E. Betley. There is a noticeable
absence of names and identifying numbers on Richthofen's reports
during the days of the big German push, and this is quite
understandable in view of the facts that the Germans were advancing
daily, that the ground they captured was battle torn and impossible
for safe landing, and that communication between the rear and the
advanced areas was almost impossible. Three {335} English Armstrong
planes were shot down that day, but two of them fell behind their own
lines and were accounted for. The only unaccounted one was that
occupied by Betley and Taylor, who were reported lost over the enemy

That day of his seventy-fourth victory marked the opening of the first
battle of Arras, 1918, but it concluded Richthofen's string of
successful combats for the month. While the fighting on the ground
continued with intensity, there appears a lull of six days in the
records of the German ace during which he did not score again for

He resumed fighting on the third day of the next month, April,
1918--the last month of his life.



The badge of the brave ... the pay of the proud ... another decoration
was the reward granted to Richthofen on the first day of the last
month of his life.

Three weeks later, his admiring and respectful enemies nailed still
another one on his coffin. This was the thin plate of service
duralumin on which were inscribed in English and German his name, age,
date, and place of his death in action.

It was the Kaiser himself who signed the citation on April 1, 1918, by
which the Red Knight of Germany added another, and the last,
ribbon-hung bauble to the collection of gallant hardware that adorned
the breast of his dress tunic.

This accumulation of highly prized and well-earned symbols of courage
now assumed more the proportions of a bandolier than of a medal bar.
It represented twenty-six special citations for bravery and service,
and included among others the Pour le Mérite, the order of the Red
Eagle, the Iron Cross of the First and Second Class, the order of the
House of Hohenzollern, the Bulgarian Cross for Bravery, the German and
Austrian Pilot Badges, the separate and highest orders of the states
of Mecklenburg, Bavaria, Guttenberg, Coburg, Saxony, Hamburg, and
Bremen, and three Turkish decorations, concerning the meaning and
importance of which Manfred was more or less in the dark.

He had won all the martial distinction there was to win except that
last and highest one that is conferred on {337} Christian soldiers,
not by kings or the high ranking, but by a simple burial detail. The
French called this decoration the Croix de Bois. As the war birds used
to say, it was not conferred with a kiss on the cheek, but the
recipient of the honour was smacked in the face with a spade.

Manfred's last medal was granted to him in recognition of his
seventieth victory--the late afternoon party of five days before, when
he shot Leggat and Reading down in flames. The citation did not reach
him until after he had added five more to his "bag."

  [Victory 75]

That fifth one, his seventy-fifth, was paid for with the lives of
nineteen-year-old Second Lieutenant E. D. Jones and Second Lieutenant
R. F. Newton. It happened April 2d, the day after the Kaiser signed
the citation.

Jones and his observer Newton, both of the Fifty-second Squadron, had
left their airdrome at noon on April 2d in an old R. E. plane, engaged
on a low-flying bombing expedition. They did not see Richthofen until
he was within fifty yards of them. They went down in flames and their
plane exploded on the ground.

Newton, the observer, was highly praised, not by name, but by
reference, on the afternoon of his death, when Richthofen sat over a
late lunch at the squadron's advance quarters and unofficially related
the story of the killing for the benefit of an unexpected guest,
Lieutenant Lampel.

The scene was an abandoned English hut of  "elephant iron," in which
it was just possible to stand. Light poured in through the open doors
at either end. Richthofen and his officers sat on all four sides of
the long table that occupied the centre and most of the room. The ace,
himself, was seated on a wooden box at the head of the table.

He was wearing a heavy gray woollen sweater, which, being open in
front, exposed a leather vest beneath. He wore a pair of
yellowish-brown riding breeches and leather puttees. Other members of
Staffel II, including {338} Lieutenants Weiss, Wolff, and Gussmann,
were wearing the coats of their gray service uniforms. None of them
was wearing decorations, and not one of the coats was buttoned. Some
of the flyers still had smears of oil on their cheeks. They were all
young, and tingling from the last flight over the line.

Lampel, the visitor, is meeting the famous ace for the first time.
Lampel is shy in his presence.

"Take a seat with us," Manfred invites, with a wave of the hand toward
a vacant place at the table. "Orderly, another plate and some lunch.
It's not much, but you are welcome to the hospitality of our English
bungalow. Our hosts left so suddenly, they forgot to leave a full

Lampel asks what success the squadron had in the air today.

"I have just brought down my seventy-fifth enemy plane," Richthofen
replied simply.

While Lampel babbled congratulations Richthofen was looking silently
out of the door. The pictures of the burning planes are again in his
mind, refreshed by the hour-old memory of Jones and Newton's plunge
earthward in fire.

"Queer," he began slowly, "but the last ten I shot down all burned.
The one I got today also burned. I saw it quite well. At the
beginning, It was only quite a small flame under the pilot's seat, but
when the machine dived the tail stood up in the air and I could see
that the seat had been burned through.

"The flames kept on showing as the machine dashed down. It crashed on
the ground with a terrible explosion--worse than I have ever witnessed
before. It was a two-seater but its occupants defended themselves

"You almost touched him in the air," Gussmann interrupted, almost in a
tone of reproof. "We all saw you {339} fly so close to him that it
seemed a collision was inevitable. You scared me stiff."

"Yes, it was close," Richthofen replied with a smile. "I had to come
up quite close. I believe that observer, whoever he was, was a tough
party--a first-class fighting man. He was a devil for courage and
energy. I flew within five yards of him, until he had enough, and that
in spite of the fact that I believe I had hit him before. Even to the
very last moment, he kept shooting at me. The slightest mistake, and I
should have rammed him in the air."

The tale is interrupted by the appearance of a slim young officer in
the doorway of the hut. He holds a telegram in his hand. It is the
announcement that the Emperor has conferred on Richthofen the
third-class order of the Red Eagle with Crown. There are boisterous
congratulations, and Richthofen urges his comrades to do their best.

Under the spur of their leader's parting remarks, the flyers of the
circus took the air that afternoon and brought down three more English
planes. Weiss shot down his fourteenth and Wolff his fourth which
completed a credit of 250 planes to Manfred's old original Staffel II.
This record was the highest of any Staffel in the German air service
at that time. The third victim fell to another Staffel under Manfred's
command, making its total record 100 victories.

While the celebrations of these victories were being held in the
Staffel messrooms that night, the ace spent the evening in his own hut
reading. Manfred had a nerve control that enabled him to suppress the
after-tingle of his strenuous air work and concentrate his attention
on good novels or scientific works. He favoured geography and

The leader's new decoration was both a source of pride {340} and a
subject of conversation for the victorious celebrants that night. The
Flying Uhlan was the German air hero _par excellence_ and, as such,
their idol. Lubbert, one of the new flyers of Staffel II, pointed out
that it would seem only natural if Manfred, with all his strenuous
work and the honours he had gained, had no place in his heart for
friends and comradeship.

He declared that he had found the exact opposite true. His leader, he
held, was both a kind superior and at the same time a loyal comrade to
all his fellow officers. When off duty, he played hockey with them or
frequently took a hand at bridge after dinner. Lubbert had gone to him
with questions and worries, and always found him sympathetic.

As a teacher, he had quickly gained the confidence of his pupils, but
he demanded eagerness, enthusiasm, and application in return. He
seldom lost his patience over stupid questions, and always had
complete control of his temper. His strictness was directed
principally in the selection of his pilots. He took all beginners
under his close observation, and, if convinced that the applicant was
not morally or technically qualified to fight in his squadron, he
transferred him to some other unit. He judged his pilots upon their
capabilities, and not according to his personal likes or dislikes.

Not only the officers but the enlisted men and mechanics of the
squadron felt that these characteristics of their leader were
responsible for making him the cool, capable, thinking killing machine
he became in an air fight. They believed he had all the qualities
necessary to an air fighter: to fly well, to shoot well, to see
everything, to keep one's nerve and to be plucky. "Slow but sure" was
the motto attributed to him, and he was quoted as saying, "Better
shoot down one plane less than to be shot down one's self, because
then one can be of no more use to one's country."


The battle of the Avre, took place on April 4th in the area between
the rivers Avre and Somme. Richthofen directed the air fighting of his
Staffels on the 3d, 4th, and 5th, and engaged in several combats, but
did not register another kill until the afternoon of the 6th.

  [Victory 76]

>From his report and all available records, it appears that the war
bird he killed that day was Sydney Philip Smith, twenty-two years old,
a captain and fighting pilot of the Forty-sixth Squadron, Royal Air
Force, and a flyer whose skill and intrepidity were the pride of his
squadron mates. As an airman, he had fought and bombed everything that
the enemy had at the front, on the ground or in the air, and had
missed only a personal encounter with the Red Knight of Germany. He
had inflicted casualties to German observation, bombing, and fighting
planes, had attacked supply trains and troop columns on the ground,
and had sent German balloons down in flames and German ammunition
dumps up in smoke. He was a young, soft-spoken, pleasant, smiling,
fighting demon. He had flown almost daily in the fighting that
preceded and accompanied the German ground offensive. A number of
enemy planes, yet untotalled, were credited to him, and he had been
cited for a D.S.O. He "got" his last man on April 2d, the same day
that Manfred "got" Jones and Newton.

On April 6th Smith left his airdrome at 2:45 P.M., flying his Sopwith
Camel single-seater with others to make another low patrol behind the
enemy lines. The English air casualty lists on that day have inscribed
behind his name "Last seen over Lamotte, shot down in flames."
Richthofen's report and a letter to Smith's father from Lieutenant
Donald G. Gold show that Smith was shot down in flames by Richthofen,
who was leading five other members of Staffel II--all using Fokker
triplanes. Smith's body was never found.


  [Victory 77]

The records indicate that Captain G. B. Moore, a six-foot-three
Canadian who weighed more than two hundred pounds, followed Smith into
Richthofen's list of victories on the very next day. Moore was one of
the biggest men in the air service, and, curious to relate, he had had
his greatest success in the smallest planes. He survived through all
of the 1917 fighting by flying a small Nieuport with which his
squadron, the First was equipped at that time.

Although the German High Command acknowledged Richthofen's
seventy-seventh victory, and his reports and the records indicate that
the plane in question was piloted by Moore, the latter's friends who
witnessed his death attribute the Canadian's end to a direct hit by an
artillery shell.

Moore and his plane practically disappeared in the air at the moment,
it would appear, when Richthofen was firing into him at the unusually
long range of 200 yards. The plane was reduced in midair to such small
parts that there was nothing left to salvage on the ground and nothing
found of Moore to bury. One observer said the débris drifted downward
almost like dust. Plane and pilot had disappeared in one sudden burst
of smoke.

Careful analysis of Richthofen's report reveals no direct conflict
with this theory of Moore's death. Although the ace claimed and
received credit for the downing of this plane, he avoided the direct
statement that it went down as a result of the fire he directed
against it. It was Richthofen's method to deliver his death blows at
much closer range, and he taught his disciples that long-range fire
was a waste of ammunition.

  [Victory 78]

In his next engagement, thirty-five minutes later, which was credited
as his seventy-eighth victory, Richthofen again avoided stating that
he had shot the plane down. He made the record truly as he saw the
event--namely that the plane "fell down" after he had obtained a
favourable {343} position in back of it several times. He specified
that the machine was a Spad, and as there were no Spads among the
English casualties that day, it is presumable that the occupant of the
plane referred to escaped when it crashed to the ground behind the
British lines.

Now comes the calm before the storm--the last lull--the last gap in
the killing record of the ace of German aces.

For thirteen days after his seventy-eighth credit, his balance with
death was stationary. There was plenty of fighting, and he flew almost
daily, but his new duties as squadron commander carried him to the
highest altitudes, from which he could watch and direct the operations
of his fighting Staffels below.

The battle of the Ancre, 1918, waged fiercely, with the Germans
continuing their victorious advance on Villers-Bretonneux, in the
direction of Amiens. The air fighting was intensive, and costly to the
Germans. On April 12th, the English flyers succeeded in destroying
forty German planes and driving twenty others down, as against the
loss of twelve English planes.

Richthofen believed that the offensive was approaching a stall, during
which he could go on leave. There were rumours that the High Command
was going to order him back from the front and relieve him from combat
flying. Manfred honestly did not want this, but he did cherish the
idea of another hunting vacation, with his gun, on the trail of game
in the peaceful forests of Germany, and, later, a visit to his mother.
In the week before his death, he talked these matters over with his
flying comrade Lieutenant Hans Joachim Wolff. Manfred wanted to shoot
woodcock with him.

  [Victory 79]
  [Victory 80]

His final brace of human victories came in a hot three minutes of
fighting on the late afternoon of the day before his death. In the
first one, he killed Major R. Raymond Barker, M.C., and in the second
and last, he captured {344} Second Lieutenant D. E. Lewis. He shot
down both of their planes in flames, and both of them landed behind
the German lines.

A division in the German line in front of Villers-Brettoneux had
called for protection from the low-flying English planes, which buzzed
over it in swarms and peppered it with machine-gun fire. Richthofen
and his squadron flew to its defence.

Major Barker, his first victim, was, like Richthofen, the commander of
a fighting squadron composed of several flights. He had a long record
in the air, where he had won his Military Cross. The German ace shot
Major Barker down in flames during an engagement between six planes of
Staffel II and a British squadron.

Manfred was in fine fettle, his speedy Fokker triplane, with red upper
planes, red hood, red wheels, red tail, all red, responded to the
controls like a thing of life. The fixed motor gave forth an even,
throaty roar. The chambers of the twin Spandaus hungered for more of
the feed belt.

Without following his first victim to the ground, he turned his guns
on the nearest English plane and the result was that eighteen-year-old
Second Lieutenant D. E. Lewis went down in flames as Richthofen's
eightieth and last victim. Lewis survived the warm descent with
blisters and bruises, and is alive today to describe the fight in
which Richthofen shot down his last official victim. His home is on a
ranch near Gwanda, in Southern Rhodesia, South Africa, where he wrote
for this book, the following account:

  On the evening of the 20th April, twelve of us left the airdrome on
  an offensive patrol led by Captain Douglas Bell of my flight (C
  flight) although the C. O. Major 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 {345}
  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 triplanes, 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, Major 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 on a level with me,
  and was just about to finish this adversary off when I heard the
  rat-tat-tat of machine guns coming 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. My machine was a Sopwith Camel
  (F.)--this before I forget. The baron always flew a bright red
  machine, that is how I knew it was he.

  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 N. E. of Villers-Brettoneux at a
  speed of sixty miles an hour, was thrown clear of my machine and,
  except for minor burns, was unhurt.

  About fifty yards from where I was, Major Barker's machine was
  burning fiercely, so I staggered over to him 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 plane, 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

  The rest of my flight was saved from annihilation by the timely
  arrival of a squadron of S. E. 5's. Richthofen came down to within
  one hundred feet of the ground and waved to me.
    Yours faithfully,
    D. E. LEWIS.

Richthofen's jubilant wave of the hand to his last captive included
also a column of German infantry, which cheered the well-known all-red
triplane and its famous pilot. He returned to the flying field in a
happy mood. Safely landed, he jumped spryly from the cockpit of "le
petit rouge" without the assistance of the smiling riggers and
mechanics who surrounded the machine.

"Gad--eighty--that is really a decent number," he said joyously, at
the same time clapping his hands and rubbing them together in a
gesture of complete self-satisfaction.

His comrades of the flight congratulated him. Wolff had missed the
plane he had picked out for attack, but Weiss had sent one down in
flames and raised his own score to eighteen. They clapped one another
on the back with joy. Here was youth, daring youth, tingling with the
joy of life and the wine of victory.

In the messroom, they lifted their cups and toasted their leader,
their master and teacher, their idol and their comrade. Manfred's
boyish, smiling eyes reflected the joy he felt, not only in the
happiness about him, but in the pride of his accomplishment.

Yes--eighty was, in fact, a real number--a fat, well-rounded-out
figure. It was emphatic and solid, ample and generous. It even sounded
better than eighty-one, which {347} had something accidental about it.
Yes, eighty seemed like a goal that had been designated and gained. It
was momentous, even, well balanced, and carried an air of finality.
With this feeling of complacency, Manfred, went to bed on the last
night of his life.

  [Final Battle]

On the morning of April 21, 1918, two young men rolled out of their
wartime bunks in France and took a look at the weather.

The two bunks were about twenty miles apart, but across that twenty
miles thousands of men comprising battling units of two enormous
military forces were engaged in death grips.

One of the young men was a Canadian. He was twenty-four years old and
a war bird of the Royal Air Force. He awoke with a sick stomach and
shattered nerves. He had been living for the past month mainly on
brandy and milk and fighting in the air daily on that diet. He was
almost all in.

His name was Roy Brown.

The other man was twenty-five-year-old Baron Manfred von Richthofen,
the Red Knight of Germany and the Kaiser's deadliest ace.

His eyes were clear, his nerves were steady; he both ate and slept
well. He felt fine. Brown and Richthofen had never met, or, if they
had met, neither one of them knew it. Richthofen had never heard of
Brown, but Brown had heard a lot about Richthofen.

Fate knew the life and record of both, and destiny had designated noon
of that day for their fatal contact. Brown was due to kill Richthofen
at midday over the little village of Sailly-le-Sec, in the valley of
the Somme.

It seems there was a war on.

It had been going on for almost four years. It had yanked Richthofen
out of his barracks in Silesia and sent him {348} riding across the
Russian frontier with his patrol of Uhlans, and later had put him into
the air to kill, maim, and capture scores of his country's enemies.

It had carried Roy Brown from his home in Toronto at the age of twenty
to the Wrights' flying school at Dayton, Ohio, there to study aviation
at his own expense and risk. He wanted to fly and fight for his
country, and he learned the first rudiments of how to do it in the
United States of America, which at the time was not in the war.

With this American training, he gained his commission as a flight
sub-lieutenant in the British Royal Navy on September 1, 1915, and in
December of that year sailed from New York for England. He first felt
the dangers of flying at Chingford, where, while undergoing combat
training, he crashed to the ground and fractured a bone in his spine.
It kept him in hospital until the beginning of 1917.

For the rest of that year and until the first of April, 1918, he flew
with the Royal Navy Air Squadron No. 9, which was assigned to land
duty in France. His unit patrolled the Belgian coast and escorted
bombing raids far behind the German lines. The squadron also did
photographic and reconnaissance work and offensive patrols over the
lines as far south as the British area extended.

Officially, he was credited with having shot down twelve German
planes, but his flying comrades believed that this figure did not
approach the actual number of enemy machines that were sent to
destruction under his guns. He had won his Distinguished Service Cross
in the air.

He was known for the modesty of the reports he made concerning his
combats in the air. He had both disbelief in and dislike for the
flyers who made victory claims after every engagement. He knew how
difficult it was to obtain corroboration. He knew that many flyers
actually discredited their good work by telling tall stories. Some of
his {349} successful engagements only reached his credit list because
they were reported by other observers.

On the first day of the month in which he was to kill Richthofen,
Brown was raised to the rank of captain and flight commander in the
newly formed Royal Air Force, which combined the flying services of
the army and the navy. With a number of other former navy pilots, he
was assigned to Squadron 209.

His physical condition was bad. Fourteen months of the strain and
uncertainty of constant air fighting--more than a year of hairbreadth
and hair-raising escapes from death--long days and longer nights in
the shell-torn war zone, with ears, eyes, and sensibilities shocked by
recurrent concussions of high explosive--these, plus irregular hours
and diet, exposure to inclement weather and the daily spectacle of
death, suffering, and destruction had left an indelible stamp upon the
brain, bone, and flesh of this war bird whose youth had been one of
peace and tranquility with never a thought of war.

His nervous system was disorganized, and his stomach was in revolt. He
should have been in hospital or some convalescent rest camp back home
in Canada.

No chance for leave for any Allied soldier, outside of an actual
casualty, those hot days of April, 1918, with the German hordes still
pushing down on Amiens. Everybody's shoulder was needed at the
wheel--every active human body was needed to fill the gap--even sick

When Brown was not in the air, he was in bed, soothing the jumpy
nerves, doping the bolshevik tummy, and pegging himself with brandy
and milk for nourishment. Then up again, twice a day, into the flying
boots and togs, and into the air on the regular patrol.

Squadron 209 kept two dates every day with the Richthofen circus.
Morning and afternoon, they bumped into the Flying Baron's aggregation
of gaily decorated Fokker {350} triplanes and Albatross scouts,
numbering anywhere from twenty to fifty planes, and flying in various
formations under a central command. Richthofen had developed mass
manoeuvres for the air, and the British had been forced once more to
follow his lead.

The strategy of these manoeuvres prevailed until the opposing air
forces came into range of one another's weapons, after which the
engagement became a rough and tumble affair in three dimensions. This
was the "dogfight" in which the man you got seldom saw you and you
seldom saw the one who got you.

The fighting planes could be offensive only in the direction in which
they flew; from every other angle they were vulnerable to attack.
Shooting one's adversary in the back or from any undefended angle was
perforce within the ethics of air fighting.

For several weeks previous to the morning of April 21st Brown had been
engaged in a couple of dog-fights a day, with various units under
Richthofen's command. He had singled out a Fokker triplane with a pale
green fuselage and lavender wings, and each day he and this machine
had emerged from the dog-fight together, each circling and whirling,
trying to get on the other's tail. Brown's cherry-nosed Sopwith Camel
and the unknown German pilots lavender-winged "tripe" spun out miles
of tail chasing, without either opponent gaining the fatal position
over the other.

One of Brown's comrades, the Canadian ace, Lieutenant Colonel W. A.
Bishop, V. C., best described the whirl of the dog-fight in the
following words: You fly round and round in cyclonic circles, here a
flash of the Hun machines and then a flash of silver as my squadron
commander would whizz by. All the time I would be in the same mix-up
myself, every now and then finding a red machine in front of me and
getting in a round or two of quick shots. There {351} was no need to
hesitate about firing when the right colour flitted by your nose.
Firing one moment, you would have to concentrate all your mind and
muscle the next in doing a quick turn to avoid a collision. Then your
gun jams and you have to zoom up and fuss with it to put it right.

Brown's squadron, which was under the command of Major C. H. Butler,
D. S. C., was located at Bertangles and was coöperating with the
British Fourth Army on the Amiens front.

Richthofen's circus had its principal airdrome just east of the little
village of Cappy. Manfred had slept there the night before, his ears
tingling with the congratulations of his flyers upon his eightieth
victory of the previous day.

In addition to this exultation, he felt particularly happy over the
prospect of leave and game hunting in the Black Forest. This leave was
to become effective on the 24th, and he and Lieutenant Hans Joachin
Wolff had planned to spend it together. They hoped to be able to fly
their machines back to Freiburg or to Speyer, but, in the event of bad
weather, they had agreed to use the railroad and had purchased tickets
for this purpose.

After a light breakfast, the German ace stepped out of his quarters,
in front of which a regimental band was playing. It had been sent to
the airdrome by a near-by division commander, who offered this
serenade with his congratulations upon the eightieth victory.

Richthofen did not like the music. He said it was too loud. With
Wolff, he walked away from the band, and together they went to the
hangars where mechanics were putting the finishing touches on his

The weather was cold, but there was just the touch of spring in the
air. Richthofen noticed that the wind was from the east. This was not
so good. German air tactics on the western front had long been devised
to take advantage of their westerly winds which prevailed most of the
time. {352} It meant that a disabled German plane limping home had the
advantage of the wind behind it. It constituted even a greater
disadvantage to the British airmen, because, with most of the fighting
over the German side, a disabled Britisher had to fight against the
west wind when he started back for his own lines.

At the door of the hangar that housed his Fokker triplane, Richthofen
stopped to play with a puppy. Someone with a camera recorded this act.
It was the last photograph taken of him in life. In the air service,
this snapshot has been sufficient to reinforce the superstition, long
held among German flying men, that it is bad luck to be photographed
just before departing for a fight.

A sergeant from among the mechanics came forward with a postcard
addressed to his son back in Germany. He had asked Manfred to sign it
for him.

"What's the matter? Do you think I won't return?" the ace inquired
with a smile, as he signed his name for the last time.

Staffel II left the ground at about 11:30 A.M. German time, which
corresponds with the English hour of 10:30. It flew in two groups of
five planes each.

Manfred led the first group, which included his cousin Lieutenant von
Richthofen, who, as a beginner, had been warned to take no chances but
carefully to observe the tactics of the Staffel veterans and learn
exactly how to kill without getting killed. Lieutenant Karjus,
Lieutenant Wolff, and Sergeant Major Scholz made up the remainder of
the group or chain. Staffel 5, also under Richthofen's command, had
taken the air at the same time. They flew west toward the front.

Brown's squadron, composed of three flights of five planes each, had
taken the air from Bertangles flying field at almost the same hour.
The first flight flew in a close V-shaped formation, with Major Butler
leading, two planes {353} slightly behind him and at each side, and
two others still farther apart and above and behind them.

Flanking the leading flight on the right, but in the same formation,
was Captain Brown's flight, he being second in command. A similar unit
of five planes flanked the Major's group on the left. This was the
squadron's air formation for battle. It was out for trouble.

Up and down the front it flew, taking a methodical patrol beat over
the lines which ran north and south. Flying in wide arcs, the squadron
gradually gained an altitude of 15,000 feet. The visibility was fair,
with few clouds, but Brown soon noticed that Major Butler and five
planes of the leading flight were not in sight.

Upon this development, the young Canadian assumed command of the two
remaining flights and signalled for the flight on the left to take up
position behind and above him. With this formation, he headed

Two miles below Brown, a couple of slow-flying reconnaissance planes
were taking photographs. They were old R. E. 8's, belonging to No.3
Australian Squadron. They were flying at about seven-thousand feet, and
their job was to train their cameras on the German lines around the
village of Hamel.

A daring quartette of Australian youngsters manned these antiquated
machines. S. G. Garrett, a former architect from Melbourne, handled
the stick in one plane, with A. V. Barrow, a former salesman,
operating the cameras. T. L. Simpson, an electrical engineer from
Hamilton, Australia flew the second machine, with E. C. Hanks, a
Sydney surveyor, manning the rear machine gun. They were all
lieutenants but Simpson's expert faculty with the flying controls had
won for him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

These were the essential human elements of the impending
battle--Richthofen flying west--Brown flying {354} east--the
Australians' observation planes flying two miles lower, and all of
them converging approximately over the village of Hamel.

The engagement opened when four Fokker triplanes started down to get
the "cold meat" represented by the old R. E.'s. Simpson and Banks were
first in their path. Banks jumped from his camera sights and got into
action with the rear machine gun. Simpson gave the old R. E. her full
throttle and manoeuvred for the best defensive position. While the
rear Lewis gun was spitting out the last of two hundred rounds of
lead, Simpson drove the machine into a cloud, seeking cover.

The Fokker "tripes" continued their swoop, training their Spandaus now
on Garrett and Barrow. While Garrett dived and wheeled the R. E. to
avoid the direct lines of fire from the attackers, Barrow kept a
steady stream of lead from the after cockpit. The fight was uneven.
The two old-fashioned observation planes were no match for the fast
German scouts.

Suddenly, the English anti-aircraft artillery came to bat with a call
for help. "Archie" shells bursting below him called Brown's attention
to the plight of the Australian observation planes. Looking down, he
saw them being savagely engaged by the three or four "tripes."

A kick on the rudder turned Brown's Camel on its side and brought to
his vision for the first time that morning the sight of the enemy he
was out to kill. Richthofen's swarm of Fokkers was diving on the same
planes. Brown saw the hard-pressed Australians giving the best
possible account of themselves, but he realized that they could hold
out but a few minutes against the superior numbers and fighting
strength then descending upon them like an avalanche.

While he watched the fight more than two miles below--he estimated the
engagement to be {355} at 3,000 feet altitude--his mind, trained to
the mathematical formula of flying formations, quickly reviewed the

His first duty was to get enemy planes, but equally important was the
requirement that he exercise every precaution to get his men back
safely. Up to this time both of his records in these directions were
clear. He had shot down more than his share of planes, and he had
never lost a member of his flight in enemy territory. He wanted to
keep the record.

If he went to the assistance of the two Australian planes, he would be
throwing his own formation into an uneven engagement, in which he was
outnumbered more than two to one by the enemy organization that was
the pick of the German air force. Brown knew Richthofen, his flyers,
and his methods well enough to appreciate their fighting worth. If he
did not go down into the _mêlée_, the observation planes would be lost.

His consideration of the problem was only momentary. He waggled the
wings of his plane, the signal for the others to follow him. The next
second, he pushed forward on the stick stood the Camel on her nose,
and dove straight for the combat, his plane splitting the air with the
combined speed of a full-out motor and the acceleration of gravity.

Seven cherry-nosed Camels followed on the two-mile descent. Neither
opportunity nor necessity for orders to the others. All knew they were
to drive the attacking Fokkers off the flanks of the hard-pressed R.
E.'s, who were still holding out by skill and luck. After that, it
was, to get as many of the enemy as possible and then get home.

This final objective was definite and specific. British air losses had
been so severe that conservative orders had been issued to hold the
remainder of the fighting air strength in being until new flyers could
be trained.

Especially had these orders been given that day to one {356} of
Brown's men, who, like Richthofen's cousin in the opposing force, was
a beginner. He was Lieutenant W. R. May of Melbourne, Australia. This
was the morning of his baptism of fire in the air. He operated under
instructions that forbade him under any circumstances to enter a
general dog-fight. Without the experience of those that flew with him,
he would have been "easy meat" for an enemy plane, if not a collision
menace to his comrades.

He had been told to keep out of the _mêlée_, to pick out a single
isolated plane and put it down if he could; if not then to play with
it until he could break away, and then to streak for home. Pilots on
their maiden flights had had the habit of trying to do too much, and
too many had been lost.

With the wind screaming through every strut and bracing wire, Brown
pulled his phalanx out of the dive a bare thousand feet above the
Fokker R. E. engagement. The R. E.'s were still aloft, but now
additional Fokkers and Albatrosses appeared, giving the planes of the
Maltese cross a hurriedly estimated strength of twenty-two.

With guns roaring and motors wide open, the eight Camels plunged into
the _mêlée_. There was no order of battle--only thirty racing engines
of destruction rolling, diving, turning, circling, banking, and firing
bursts of bullets each time an opponent flashed across the sights of
their guns.

The R. E.'s were saved--diving with all speed, they pulled out of the
fight, leaving their assailants to deal with the new and more
competent forces that now attacked them. In the _mêlée_ that followed,
all of the planes lost height and position, and, in the grip of the
east wind the combat swung slowly back toward the actual ground-battle
line, the contestants getting lower and lower each minute.

Infantrymen in both the British and German front-line {357} trenches
lifted their mud-stained, helmet-framed faces toward the sky to watch
this battle royal of the clouds.

On the great natural grand stand of the Morlancourt ridge Australian
"diggers" and gunners stood in their pits and watched the ferocious,
quarterless tourney of death taking place hardly a thousand feet above
their heads. So close were the planes together, so swiftly did the
individual units of this flying cloud of human gnats dart in and out
on trails of fire, that friend or foe could not always be
distinguished from the ground.

Manfred van Richthofen was in the midst of the fight, and it was to be
his last. He had led his Staffel to the attack over Hamel as soon as
he had sighted the descent of Brown's cerise-nosed Camels on the
assailants of the struggling R. E.'s.

  Apart from us five, there was Staffel No. 5, not far from us over
  Sailly-le-Sec [Lieutenant Wolff explained three days later in a
  letter to Lothar van Richthofen]. Above us were more Sopwith Camels,
  seven in all, but they partly attacked No.5 Staffel, and some
  remained high in the air.

  One or two, however, came down on us. We started to fight
  immediately. During the fight, I saw the captain several times not
  far off but as yet I had seen him bring down no plane.

  Of our special group, only Lieutenant Karjus was with me. Scholz was
  fighting somewhere over Sailly-le-Sec, and Lieutenant von Richthofen
  was, as a beginner, not quite up to the affair.

  While I and Karjus are fighting two or three Camels, I see that the
  captain's red machine is engaging a Camel which, apparently hit,
  drops down and then retreats to the west. This took place on the
  other side of Hamel.

  We had a violent east wind, and most probably the captain had
  forgotten this fact. As soon as I had more freedom in the fight, I
  took good aim and brought down my Camel. While it was dashing down,
  I looked for the captain and spotted him in a very low height
  somewhere over the Somme and not far from Corbie. He was still
  pursuing the Camel.


  I shook my head involuntarily and wondered why the captain was
  following a machine so far behind the enemy lines. Just as I am
  looking to see where my victim is going to crash on the ground, I
  hear machine-gun fire behind me. A new Camel is attacking me. He
  puts twenty holes into my plane.

  After getting rid of him, I look for the captain, but the only one I
  can see is Karjus. It was then I felt the first forebodings of
  disaster, because I ought to have seen him, provided all had gone
  well. We flew in circles, were attacked once by an Englishman whom
  we chased as far as Corbie, but of the captain we saw nothing
  whatever. We returned, anxious and nervous.

Somewhere, indefinitely, in the dog-fight, Roy Brown had spent what he
today considers the speediest and most exciting ten minutes of his
life. Flying automatically, he concentrated on the triple problem of
avoiding collision, putting his own bullets where they would count,
and at the same time protecting himself and his plane from opponents
equally intent upon doing the same thing to him. The synchronized
Spandaus and Vickers spat twin streams of lead at one another every
time a target whizzed by the speeding gun sights.

Brown's men were also units in the dizzy whirl of the fight.
Lieutenant Taylor sent an Albatross down in flames. Lieutenant
Mackenzie knocked down a triplane out of control. A triplane with a
blue tail took the death dive earthward after receiving a full burst
of lead from the guns of Lieutenant F. J. W. Mellersh.

Two more "tripes" fasten themselves on the tail of Mellersh's Camel,
and, to save himself from disaster, he spins down to within fifty feet
of the ground, where he makes a forced landing, happily within his own

May, the baby of the squadron, had been in the jam also. He had picked
out his lone plane on the edge of the _mêlée_, and it had gone down in
flames. Then he remembered his other orders, and started a long dive
for home.


Brown, coming out of a death waltz with two Fokkers, saw May's
departure. He wished him luck and turned his attention to his other
planes, planning to stay with them, unless May got into trouble.

Trouble lit on young Mr. May immediately. It came out of the sky from
above and behind. It came with terrific speed in the form of an
all-red Fokker triplane.

In the single cockpit sat a young man who in three years of war had
earned the title of death's ablest ambassador. It was his proud boast
that any flyer that got below and in front of him was a goner. That
was the way he had killed one of England's greatest aces. That was the
way he had shot down eighty planes: that was the way he had sent
scores of men to death.

Richthofen was flying on May's tail. He had selected him for his next
victim. It will never be known whether the Flying Uhlan recognized his
selected prey as a beginner or not, but that is beside the case. In
his string of victories, amateur victims counted just as much as a
fallen master of the air. In the business of war one destroys' as one

The nose of the all-red Fokker was within thirty yards of the fleeing
Camel. May, looking over his shoulder, saw the approach of death. He
saw the openwork air-cooling casings of the two Spandau barrels
pointing down on him from above. Between the butt ends of the machine
guns, the top of a leather helmeted head was just visible, down as far
as a pair of dark glass goggles. This he could see through the blur of
the invisible propeller. The eyes of Germany's deadliest marksman in
the air peered through the glasses.

They were the eyes of a
hunter--cool--calculating--nerveless--deep--true of sight. They were
eyes that had sent countless men and beasts to destruction. They were
eyes that knew how to direct death--eagle eyes, trained {360}
specially for the job. They were eyes that men feared and women loved.

The open cockpit of May's Camel comes within the wire-crossed circle
of Richthofen's sights. The pressure of a steady finger on the
trigger--two jets of lead--short burst--spout from the gun barrels.
Bullets snap through the air close by May's ears. Splinters fly from
the struts before him.

He is defenseless from the rear. He can only shoot forward. Richthofen
keeps behind him. The young Australian resorts to every stunt he knows
to get out of that deadly line of fire. He darts to one side--darts
back--goes into a zig-zag course, but his pursuer seems able to
foresee his every manoeuvre. Richthofen keeps the nose of the red
Fokker trained on the body of the fuselage. The short bursts continue
to rip out from the Spandaus.

May pulls on the stick--kicks over the rudder--pulls up
hard--loops--side-slips, and turns in the opposite direction. He comes
out of the evolution only to find the sputtering red-nosed Fokker
still bearing down on him.

The speed of the pair is terrific. They are going down the wind with
full motors and depressed planes. May is flying for life against an
agent of death who has seldom failed before.

Roy Brown, from the height of 1,000 feet, has seen the frantic efforts
of his fledgling to extricate himself from the talons of the pursuing
eagle. He noses the Camel down again at full speed toward the whirling
duellists, who are now not more than two hundred feet off the ground.

Directly in front and beneath the pair are the trench positions and
gun pits of the Thirty-third Australian Field Battery of the Fifth
Division. They are located near the crest of the ridge, and the
waiting gunners watch with bated breath the two whirling, twisting
forms of Richthofen and his harassed quarry.


May, still zig-zagging, makes for the crest of the ridge in a last
desperate effort to land before those two streams of lead reach him.
One bullet has already traversed his right arm. The pain is forgotten
in the excitement of the moment.

The Australian gunners see that the leading machine is British and
that the one behind it is an all-red Fokker.

The machine gunner on the nearer flank of the battery aims forward and
upward at the writhing on-coming pair, but so close is Richthofen upon
May's tail that the gunner dares not fire. The two planes are almost
in line. Another Lewis gunner beyond the ridge sprays a stream of lead
upward. His range is 100 yards. He sees splinters flying from the
woodwork of the German plane.

But Brown has arrived at the end of his dive. He comes out of it
slightly above and to the right of the darting Fokker. His last drum
of ammunition is in place. His sights come to bear on the red machine.
He presses the trigger, and the ready Vickers speak in deadly unison.

He watches the tracer bullets going to the red triplane from the right
side. They hit the tail first. A slight pull on the stick--a
fractional elevation of the Camel's nose, and the Canadian's line of
fire starts to tuck a seam up the body of the Fokker.

Richthofen, with his spurting Spandaus still trained on May, is
unaware of this new attack from the rear.

Brown sees his tracers penetrate the side of the Fokker cockpit.

The Fokker wavers in midair--falters--glides earthward.

The Red Knight of Germany goes down.

Mellersh, from the Australian line beyond which he has landed, has
witnessed the escape of May, and now he hears the roar of Brown's
motor as it swoops overhead less than a hundred feet off the ground.

The red Fokker hits the uneven ground, but rolls on an {362} even
keel. It loses one undercarriage wheel and comes to a stop right side
up in a shell hole not fifty yards from where Mellersh is standing. It
is on the outskirts of the ruined village of Sailly-le-Sec, not far
from Corbie.

The terrain on which the triplane rests is open and exposed to fire
from the German side. The Australians in the near-by shell holes and
gun pits wait for the occupant of the plane to emerge. Telescopes in
the German position a quarter of a mile away are also trained on the
machine for the same purpose. But the occupant makes no effort to get

An Australian with a rope wriggles forward across the field, taking
advantage of the protection of every shell hole. Bullets from indirect
machine-gun fire flip mud from the lips of the craters. He reaches the
machine, attaches the line to the undercarriage and returns to his gun
pit by the same route.

Then, carefully, so as not to overturn the machine, it is drawn back
to the shelter of a small rise in the ground. Mellersh and the gunners
look into the cockpit.

The German pilot is sitting bolt upright in his seat, strapped to the
back. His hands still hold the control stick between his knees. There
is blood on that part of the face which shows below the strapped
helmet and the broken goggles. Blood is coming from the mouth, and the
lower jaw sags. The man is dead.

The form is unstrapped from the seat and laid on the ground. From the
pockets of the unknown are removed a gold watch and some papers
carrying the name and rank of the bearer.

"My God, it's Richthofen!" exclaims Mellersh.

"Christ, they got the bloody baron!" an Australian in the group shouts
over to the next trench. Men crawl forward to take a look at the body
of the terror of the air.


"Gawd, wot a scrapper he was. Young, too--Just a blooming nipper,"
says a corporal. "Here, give us a hand. Shall we take him into the
dugout, sir? There'll be all hell dropping round here in a few

Under Lieutenant Mellersh's instruction, the body is carried with awed
reverence to the closest underground shelter, where a medical officer
unfastens the bloodstained leather jacket and opens the red-wet blue
silk pajama coat found underneath. There is a bullet hole in both the
right and the left breast.

The news travelled almost like electricity through the trenches along
the front. Men in advanced position heard it and, like all rumours
heard in the army, disbelieved it but passed it.

"Hey, digger, the Fifty-third, machine gunners say they have killed
the circus master himself. And also, did you hear that they signed the
Armistice last month?"  ran the comment among the men.

Back over the signal wires went the official information to army and
air headquarters. Brown and May landed at Bertangles, the former with
only half of his cylinders working and fifty bullet holes in his
plane. May's bullet-torn arm didn't prevent him from heartily thanking
the man who had saved him from the all-red Fokker. Neither one of them
knew that the pilot of the downed plane was Richthofen.

In a highly nervous state, Brown wrote the following  report:

  Date: April 21, 1918.
  Time: 10:45 A.M.
  Place: 62 D. ". 2. (Map designation.)
  Duty: High Offensive Patrol.
  Altitude: 5,000 feet.
  Engagement with red triplane.
  Locality: Vaux sur Somme.
  Fokker triplane, pure red wings with small black crosses.
  Time: About 11 A.M.

  (1) at 10:35 A.M. I observed two Albatrosses burst into flames and

  (2) Dived on large formation of fifteen to twenty Albatross scouts,
  D. 5's, and Fokker triplanes, two of which got on my tail, and I
  came out.

  Went back again and dived on pure red triplane which was firing on
  Lieutenant May. I got a long burst into him, and he went down
  vertically and was observed to crash by Lieutenant Mellersh and
  Lieutenant May. I fired on two more but did not get them.
    (Signed) A. R. BROWN, Captain.
    C. H. BUTLER, Major.
    209 A. F.

Then news reached Bertangles that the pilot of the red triplane shot
down close to the ground over the ridge was Richthofen. Lieutenant
Colonel Cairns, wing commander of the sector, ordered Brown to go
forward with him at once and if possible identify the plane. This was
done with the aid and corroboration of May and Mellersh and the body
of the German ace was brought to the rear.

As the Australian machine gunners claimed at the time that the red
plane had been brought down by fire from the ground, a post-mortem
examination was held by army and air medical officers, who agreed that
Richthofen died from a single bullet wound which had traversed his
breast from the right to the left side. The air medicos probed the
wound and stated that the "situation of the entrance and exit wounds
are such that they could not have been caused by fire from the

While some doubt ranged on the English side as to who had killed
Richthofen, the entire German side of the line, {365} and particularly
the flyers, were stunned with dread and uncertainty.

For the first time, Richthofen had not returned. Was he killed or

A German front-line observer reported back:

  Red triplane landed on hill near Corbie. Landed all right. Passenger
  has not left plane.

Lieutenant Wolff swore that it was not possible that an English pilot
could have shot the ace down from the rear. His interest in expressing
this belief was not diminished by the fact that he regarded himself
the rear protection for the ace.

Flying officers flew low over the lines, trying to search out the
plane, which, however, they were unable to find. Ground officers raked
the sky all afternoon with powerful range finders trying to sight some
trace of the missing triplane.

Ugly rumours ran behind the German lines. It was charged that
Richthofen's landing had been normal and that, if he had been mortally
wounded in the air, he would not have landed without a crash. Staffel
II, threatened reprisals if this rumour of Richthofen being killed on
the ground was substantiated.

To the credit of those of Richthofen's comrades who survive today, it
must be noted that none of them believes the story of his death on the
ground, but the wish is ever father to the belief that he was supreme
and invincible in the air. It is a belief typical of the closest
admirers of all the great aces who were killed in the war.

The last German hope that Richthofen had survived as a prisoner
expired on the night of the 21st, when his death was announced through
British official channels. On the following day, a pilot of Staffel
II, flew under {366} special orders to a landing field on the Flanders
front and personally told the father of the dead ace.

"May my son's spirit continue with you," were the words with which the
soldier father received the news. They were also his message to the
comrades who survived. Richthofen senior knew what war was.

Gloom hung over the squadron's airdrome at Cappy, and the hotheads
among the flyers got together. Lieutenant Lowenhardt of Staffel  10
placed a daring and most ambitious plan before his comrades.

He proposed that he and two others should fly over the spot where
Manfred's body rested. From aloft, they would signal all sector
artillery on the German side to lay down a box barrage that would
completely isolate the spot, and even though it was behind the English
lines, he proposed with two others to land there in two two-seater
planes, take the body of the fallen ace, and fly back with it to

"Sheer madness" was the comment that this proposal brought forth from
German army headquarters, which emphatically forbade any attempted
execution of the idea.

Meanwhile, Richthofen's body lay in state in one of the English tent
hangars at Bertangles the following day. All English airmen who could
be present viewed the remains and paid their respects in silent
admiration for a brave foe.

But little remained of the all-red Fokker when souvenir hunters got
through with it. Superstitious airmen took bits of fabric from it to
carry with them on their hazardous daily jobs aloft. An omen of good
luck surrounded the equipment of the man whose long success in the air
had blazoned his record around the world.

British pilots who had been fighting the circus daily for the past
month closely examined the dismantled twin Spandau machine guns with
which Richthofen had sent so many of their comrades to death.


Roy Brown kept away from the tent, the guns, and the wreckage.
Comrades came to his quarters to tell him he had done a bully fine
job. He preferred not to talk about it.

While the body of the man he had killed lay in the tent, Brown led his
flight over the line once more, and there engaged newly embittered
units of the old circus, out for blood to avenge their fallen leader.

He has no recollection of ever returning from the patrol, and, for
that matter, recalls but little of what followed for the next few
weeks. He landed his Camel safely, but collapsed in the pilot's seat.
He was removed to a hospital near Amiens, listed as a critical case
suffering from stomach trouble accentuated by nervous strain. For
three weeks, he was delirious.

In six weeks, he resumed duty as a combat instructor in England, where
the Prince of Wales pinned an additional bar on his D. S. C. Several
months later, he fainted in his machine in the air and crashed to
earth. When he was lifted from the wreckage, he was pronounced dead,
but the physicians managed to fan back a spark of life, which survived
a number of skull fractures.

Today, at thirty-three years of age, the man who killed Richthofen
lives at No. 8, Morse Street, Toronto, and is engaged in business. He
has a wife and three children, and has completely recovered his

Richthofen was buried with full military honours on the afternoon of
the day after his death. From the tent hangar, a plain black-stained
wooden box, containing the remains, was carried on the shoulders of
six fighting pilots of the Royal Air Force, who acted as pallbearers.

The coffin was placed in an open army tender and covered with floral
tributes that came from all near-by air squadrons. Preceded by a guard
of Australian infantrymen, who carried their rifles reversed, the
cortège proceeded slowly down the road beside the airdrome. To the
left of {368} the road, the hum and roar of motors told of the arrival
and departure of fighting planes to and from the front. The war
continued as usual, but the busy war traffic on the road slowed up for
once to the pace of a solemn funeral.

The procession arrived at the cemetery on the outskirts of Bertangles.
There, at the foot of a tall poplar tree, an open grave awaited. It
had been dug with entrenching tools by men who had been spending
months digging trenches.

The black box is placed beside the grave while the pallbearers stand
bareheaded at the foot. At one side are stationed two files of Anzacs,
standing rigidly with bowed heads and the muzzles of their rifles

French children and old civilians beyond the years of military service
attend, while Australians from the ranks range themselves behind the
hedge fence on the road.

>From the east, the rumble of the guns continues, as the English
chaplain in white surplice repeats the words of the burial service of
the Church of England. He recites a prayer for the dead, and a
murmured amen comes from the silent assemblage.

The casket is gently lowered into the grave by the pallbearers. The
quiet is broken by a sharp order from a lieutenant. The double rank of
Australians snaps to attention. Another order, and they raise their
rifles. Three volleys, a parting salute, are fired over the remains of
a respected fallen foe. The grave is filled.

On the following day, a British pilot flew low over Richthofen's old
airdrome at Cappy. He threw down a metal container attached to a
streamer. It fell not far from the hangars in front of which the
German ace had stopped to pet the puppy mascot three days before.

The container bore a photograph of the funeral party firing its
parting salute over the grave in Bertangles cemetery, and the
following message:


  Rittmeister Baron Manfred von Richthofen was killed in aërial
  combat on April 21, 1918. He was buried with full military honours.

All the German war correspondents wrote long obituaries of the fallen
ace. Dr. Max Osborn, in the _B.Z. am Mittag,_ called upon his readers
to revere forever the memory of Richthofen. War Correspondent
Scheuermann, in the _Tägliche Rundschau_, related the German account
of the last air-fight. All Germany mourned its hero.

In the big white house in Schweidnitz, Lothar, convalescing from his
last wounds, reads the telegrams and letters of condolence to his
gray-haired mother. One is from Hans Wolff, who flew with Manfred on
the last flight. Another is from Von Hoeppner, the commanding general
of the air forces. Another is from General von der Martwitz to the
dead airman's father. All of the letters praise Manfred von Richthofen
in the highest terms, both as a soldier and as a man.

Frau Richthofen, with hands folded in the lap of her severely plain
black dress, sat through the reading of the letters without a word.
Her grief was inward and concealed. She knew the Spartan stuff that
Germany expected of the mothers of its fighting men.

Her gaze was out of the window on the wet branches of the young firs
and pines in the front grounds of the house. Manfred had played under
them when he was young. Yes, it had happened, they said on April 21st.
Why that was only twelve days before his next birthday. On May 2d, he
would be--would have been--twenty-six.

Seven months more, and the war was over--lost for Germany. Her son had
died in a vain cause. Another year, {370} and her husband, Major Baron
von Richthofen, slips into the beyond. Two years more, and Lothar
leaves for the same destination, by way of a flying accident.

There remain Bolko, the youngster of the family, whose age had kept
him from the front, and one married daughter. They were with her two
years ago when she went to Berlin to attend the final burial of her

It was the 19th of November, 1925, that Richthofen's body came back to
Germany. After the exhumation at Bertangles, the remains were placed
on a private train, which, as soon as it touched the German frontier,
became the object of veneration all along the road to the capital.

Draped with black bunting, it passed through Karlsruhe, Darmstadt,
Frankfurt, Kehl, and Baden. It steamed slowly through the stations,
between crowds of silent bareheaded Germans. It arrived at Potsdam at
night, where it was met by a torchlight procession which escorted the
casket on a gun carriage to the Berlin church in which the body lay in
state for two days.

There were two guards of honour. The dead soldier's helmet and sabre
reposed on the new oaken casket at the foot of which rested the simple
black wooden cross that had marked the grave in France. In front of
the casket were the decorations of the ace. Floral tributes were
banked high in the chapel.

Princes and princesses of the old empire that is gone followed common
citizens of the new republic in the crush of humanity that came to pay
homage at the bier.

And not only Germans, but Americans and Britons attended the services.
One of the most significant tributes was a large floral airplane
propeller, carried to the church and placed before the casket by two
Allied airmen who were members of the forces that Richthofen fought so
successfully. They were Lieutenant John Clayton, formerly of the
United States Army aviation corps, and {371} Lieutenant John Hays, a
Canadian pilot in the old Royal Air Force.

At the state funeral ceremonies on the second day, the casket was
placed in front of the altar and at the foot of the Cross. Four of the
old Spandau machine guns with which Richthofen had shot down so many
of his victims were superimposed on the bier, at the foot of which a
broken propeller projected through an enormous wreath.

Eighteen silent flying men, sombre knights of the air, in black
leather helmets and jackets, stood the final guard. They were
survivors and comrades of the Red Knight's war days. The church was
packed with notables of the German state and army.

After the ceremony, the casket was carried by eight pallbearers, all
wearing the cross of the Pour le Mérite order, and placed on a gun
carriage. Frau Richthofen left the church accompanied by Bolko.

Through long, stiff ranks of silent troops, a military band with
muffled drums led the funeral cortège through the streets of Berlin to
the cemetery. Throughout Germany, flags of the Republic hung at half
mast and in many places, the old Imperial flag was flown. Pacifist
organizations called the funeral a monarchist demonstration, but it
could not be denied that it was the most largely attended funeral that
had ever been held in the capital.

Before the horse-drawn gun carriage on which rested the casket, a
steel-helmeted soldier carried a cushion bearing his decorations. It
was a service similar to that which Richthofen himself had performed
at the funeral of his old master and air-fight instructor, Boelcke.
The most prominent fighting men of the old German Army, all wearers of
the highest decorations for bravery, carried the floral pieces and
flanked the gun carriage.

Frau Richthofen, in deep mourning but with the veil thrown back over
her black bonnet, exposing a lined face {372} that told the story of
her sorrows, followed the casket on the arm of her son, and
immediately behind her marched the old Field Marshal von Hindenburg,
now President of the German Republic.

In Mercy cemetery, the body was lowered into the grave, while the
military stood at the salute, civilians bared their heads, and the
colours were dipped. All heads save those covered by the steel casques
of the military were bared during the final prayer, and Hindenburg
concluded the impressive rites by tossing the first handful of earth
into the grave.

Last year--October, 1926--Mother Richthofen stood again at the foot of
her son's tomb in the presence of a number of German dignitaries,
gathered this last time to unveil the stone that marks the final
resting place of Germany's greatest war hero. The old war song of the
Empire, _"Deutschland über alles,"_ rose from five hundred intensely
sincere German throats to the accompaniment of martial music. The
simple ceremony ended with the firing of a volley across the grave.
The mother took one last look at the heavy marble slab and returned to
the old home in Silesia.

She lives there today, a woman of dreams and hopes--a mother who has
suffered and who can understand French, English, and American mothers
who have suffered as she has. Her home is a museum of the relics of
the life, the battles, and the death of the Red Knight of
Germany--these and her memories are the treasures that remain.

Of all the honours and eulogies, praise and tributes that Manfred
earned in his remarkable war career, there is one she prefers above
all the rest. She has copied it in English in her quaint penmanship in
her diary.

It was published in London, three days after Manfred's death, in the
British aviation review, _Aëroplane_, a publication widely supported
by British flying men. It reads:


  Richthofen is dead.

  All airmen will be pleased to hear that he has been put out of
  action, but there will be no one amongst them who will not regret
  the death of such a courageous nobleman.

  Several days ago, a banquet was held in honour of one of our "aces."
  In answering the speech made in his honour, he toasted Richthofen,
  and there was no one who refused to join. Thus Englishmen honoured a
  brave enemy.

  Both airmen are now dead; our celebrated pilot had expressed the
  hope that he and Richthofen would survive the war so as to exchange
  experiences in times of peace.

  Anybody would have been proud to have killed Richthofen in action,
  but every member of the Royal Flying Corps would also have been
  proud to shake his hand had he fallen into captivity alive.

  It is not true to say that Richthofen personally was credited with
  _all_ planes shot down by his squadron. The German numbers are
  mostly exact and are, perhaps, sometimes exaggerated when strategic
  necessities make this advisable. It must be mentioned, however, that
  the Germans include army blimps [balloons] in the number of
  brought-down planes, but even so, Richthofen's victories would
  amount to seventy planes.

  Richthofen was a brave man, a decent adversary, and a true nobleman.

  May he rest in peace!

Beloved by his people, honoured by his foes, admired by the brave, the
Red Knight of Germany, whose indomitable spirit made him the greatest
individual killing force in the ranks of his country's fighters,
earned well the epitaph that will be ever his in the hearts of his

  He was a soldier.







  Of Richthofen's 19 unidentified victims during the period,
  September 17, 1916, through January 4, 1917, 12 were killed and
  seven wounded or made prisoners of war. [They are part of victories
  2-7, 9, 10, 12-16]

Each victory is indicated in the text as
  [Victory 1]

1. Sept. 17, 1916, near Cambrai; Vickers 2 (i. e., two-seater); Second
   Lieutenant L. B. F. Morris, pilot, and Lieutenant T. Rees, observer,
   both died of wounds.--Page 68

2. Sept. 23, 1916, on the Somme; Martinsyde I (i. e., one-seater);
   unidentified occupant--Page 82

3. Sept. 30, 1916, on the Somme; Vickers 2; two unidentified occupants
   shot down in flames, killed--Page 82

4. Date unknown, on the Somme; D. D. 2;
   two unidentified occupants--Page 82

5. Oct. 16, 1916, on the Somme; B. E. 1;
   unidentified occupant--Page 82

6. Oct. 16, 1916, on the Somme; B. E. I;
   unidentified occupant--Page 83

7. Nov. 2, 1916, on the Somme; Vickers 2;
   two unidentified occupants--Page 89

8. Nov. 9, 1916, near Laignicourt; B. E. 2; Second Lieutenant J. G.
   Cameron, observer, died of wounds,  Lieutenant G. F. Knight, pilot,
   made prisoner.--Page 95

9. Nov. 20, 1916, on the Somme; Vickers 2;
   two unidentified occupants--Page 98


10. Nov. 20, 1916, on the Somme; B. E. I;
    unidentified occupant--Page 98

11. Nov. 23, 1916, between Bapaume and Albert; Vickers I; Major Lanoe
    George Hawker, killed.--Page 7, 99

12. Dec. 11, 1916, on the Somme; Vickers I;
    unidentified occupant--Page 103

13. Dec. 20, 1916, on the Somme; Vickers I;
    unidentified occupant--Page 103

14. Dec. 20, 1916, on the Somme; Vickers I;
    unidentified occupant--Page 103

15. Dec. 27, 1916, on the Somme; F. E. 2;
    two unidentified occupants--Page 103

16. Jan. 4,1917, on the Somme; Sopwith 2;
    two unidentified occupants--Page 104

17. Jan. 23, 1917; S. W. of Lens; F. E. I;
    Second Lieutenant John Hay, killed.--Page 112

18. Jan. 24, 1917, W. of Vimy; F. E. 2; Captain O. Grieg, pilot, and
    Second Lieutenant J. E. MacLenan, observer, both wounded and made
    prisoners.--Page 114

19. Feb. 1, 1917, S. W. of Thelus; B. E. 2; Lieutenant P. W. Murray,
    pilot, and Lieutenant T. D. McRae, observer, both died of wounds
    on Feb. 2. --Page 119

20. Feb. 14, 1917, Lens-Hulluck road, W. of Loos; B. E. 2; Lieutenant C.
    D. Bennet, pilot, wounded and made prisoner, and Second Lieutenant
    H. H. Croft, observer, killed.--Page 120

21. Feb. 14, 1917, S. W. of Mazingarbe; B. E. 2; two unidentified
    occupants probably escaped uninjured behind the British lines.--Page

22. Mar. 4, 1917, Acheville; Sopwith 2; Lieutenant H. J. Green, pilot,
    and Lieutenant William Reid, observer, both killed.--Page 127


23. Mar. 4, 1917, N. of Loos; B. E. 2; Pilot Sergeant R. J. Moody, and
    Second Lieutenant E. E. Horn, observer, both killed.--Page 129

24. Mar. 3 or 6, 1917, Souchez; B. E. 2; mistake: no English casualty
    records.--Page 130

25. Mar. 9, 1917, between Roclincourt and Bailleul; De Haviland I;
    Lieutenant A. J. Pearson, killed.--Page 133

26. Mar. 11, 1917, S. of La Folie Forest, near Vimy; B. E. 2;
    Lieutenant E. Byrne, observer, and Second Lieutenant John Smith,
    pilot, both killed.--Page 135

27. Mar. 17, 1917, Oppy; Vickers 2; Lieutenant A. E. Boultbee, pilot,
    Air Mechanic F. King, observer,  both killed.--Page 141

28. Mar. 17, 1917, W. of Vimy; B. E. 2; Second Lieutenant G. M. Watt,
    pilot, and Sergeant F. A. Howlett, observer, both killed.--Page 143

29. Mar. 21, 1917, N. of Neuville; B. E. 2; Pilot Sergeant S. H. Quicke,
    pilot, and Second Lieutenant W. S. Lindsay, observer, both
    killed.--Page 147

30. Mar. 24, 1917, Givenchy; Spad I; Lieutenant R. P. Baker, wounded
    and made prisoner.--Page 149

31. Mar. 25, 1917, Tilley; Nieuport 1; Second Lieutenant C. G. Gilbert,
    made prisoner.--Page 150

32. April 2, 1917, Farbus; B. E. 2; Lieutenant J. C. Powell, pilot, and Air
    Gunner P. Bunner, both killed.--Page 161

33. April 2, 1917, Givenchy; Sopwith 2; Lieutenant Peter Warren, pilot,
    made prisoner, and Sergeant R. Dunn, observer, killed.--Page 166

34. April 3, 1917, between Lens and Liévin; Vickers 2; Second
    Lieutenant D. P. McDonald, pilot, made prisoner, and Second
    Lieutenant J. I. M. O'Beirne, observer, killed.--Page 175


35. April 5, 1917, Lewards, S. W. of Douai; Bristol 2; Lieutenant A. M.
    Leckler, pilot, made prisoner, and Lieutenant H. D. K. George,
    gunner, killed.--Page 179

36. April 5, 1917, Quincy; Bristol 2; Lieutenant H. T. Adams, pilot, and
    observer Lieutenant D. J. Stewart, gunner, both made
    prisoners.--Page 179

37. April 7, 1917, Mercatel; Nieuport I; Second Lieutenant G. O. Smart,
    killed.--Page 195

38. April 8, 1917, near Farbus; Sopwith 2; Lieutenant J. S. Heagerty,
    pilot, wounded and made prisoner, and Lieutenant L. Health-Cantle,
    killed.--Page 198

39. April 8, 1917, Vimy; B. E. 2; Second Lieutenant Kenneth L.
    Mackenzie, pilot, and Second Lieutenant George Everingham,
    observer, both killed.--Page 204

40. April 11, 1917, Willerval; B. E. 2; Lieutenant E. C. E. Derwin
    and Air Mechanic H. Pierson, both wounded and escaped behind the
    British line.--Page 208

41. April 13, 1917, between Vitry and Brebières; D. D. 2 or
    R. E. 2(?); Captain James Stuart and Lieutenant M. H. Wood, both
    killed.--Page 212

42. April 13, 1917, between Monchy and Feuchy; Vickers 2;
    two occupants and their fate unknown, downed behind the British
    lines.--Page 214

43. April 13, 1917, Noyelle-Godault near Henin-Liétard; Vickers 2
    or F. E. 2b(?); Second Lieutenant A. H. Bates, pilot, and Sergeant
    W. A. Barnes, observer, both killed.--Page 215

44. April 14, 1917, S. of Bois Bernard; Nieuport I; Lieutenant W. O.
    Russell, made prisoner.--Page 220


45. April 16, 1917, between Bailleul and Cavrelle; B. E. 2;
    Lieutenant W. Green, pilot, wounded but escaped behind British
    lines, and Lieutenant C. E. Wilson,  observer, killed.--Page 221

46. April 22, 1917, near Laignicourt; Vickers 2; Lieutenant W. F.
    Fletcher, pilot, and Lieutenant W. Franklin, observer, both
    wounded but escaped behind the British lines.--Page 226

47. April 23, 1917, Méricourt; B. E. 2; Sergeant Alfred Tollervey and
    Second Lieutenant E. A. Welch, both killed.--Page 227

48. April 28, 1917, E. of Pelves; B. E. 2; Second Lieutenant F. J.
    Kirkham, observer, wounded and made prisoner, and Lieutenant
    Follett, pilot, killed.--Page 229

49. April 29, 1917, swamps near Lecluse; Spad I; Second Lieutenant R.
    Applin, killed.--Page 236

50. April 29, 1917, S. W. of Inchy, Hill 90, near Pariville; F. E. 2b or
    Vickers 2(?); Sergeant G. Stead and Air Mechanic Corporal Alfred
    Beebe, both killed.--Page 247

51. April 29, 1917, near Roeux; B. E. D. D. 2; two unidentified
    occupants, both killed.--Page 249

52. April 29, 1917, between Billy-Montigny and Sellaumines; Nieuport I;
    Captain F. L. Barwell, killed.--Page 250

53. June 18, 1917, Struywe House; R. E. 8. 2;
    Lieutenant R. W. Ellis, pilot, and Lieutenant H. C. Barlow,
    observer, both killed.--Page 277

54. June 23, 1917, N. of Ypres; Spad I;
    no Allied report of this.--Page 281

55. June 26, 1917, between Keibergmelen and Lichtensteinlager;
    De Haviland D. D. I; no Allied report of this.--Page 281

56. June 25, 1917, near Le Bizet; R. E. 2; Lieutenant L. S. Bowman and
    Second Lieutenant J. E. Power Clutterbuck, both killed.--Page 282


57. July 2, 1917, Deulemont; R. E. 2; Sergeant H. A. Whatley and Second
    Lieutenant F. G. B. Pascoe,  both killed.--Page 284

58. Aug. 16, 1917, place unknown; Nieuport I; Name and fate of occupant
    unknown.--Page 305

59. Aug. 26, 1917, between Poelcapelle and Langemarck; Spad I; Second
    Lieutenant C. P. William, killed.--Page 306

60. Sept. 2, 1917, near Zonnebeke; R. E. 2; Second Lieutenant J. B. C.
    Madge, pilot, wounded and made prisoner, and Second Lieutenant W.
    Kember, killed.--Page 307

61. Sept. 3, 1917, S. of Bousbecque; Sopwith 1; Lieutenant A. F. Bird,
    made prisoner.--Page 310

62. Nov. 23, 1917, S. E. corner of Boulon Wood; D. H. 5. I; Lieutenant
    A. Griggs, killed.--Page 313

63. Nov. 30, 1917, near Moevres; S. E. 5. I; Captain P. T. Townsend,
    killed.--Page 313

64. Mar. 12, 1918, N. of Nauroy; Bristol Fighter 2; Second Lieutenant L.
    C. F. Clutterbuck, pilot, made prisoner, and Second Lieutenant
    H. J. Sparks, observer, wounded and made prisoner.--Page 318

65. Mar. 13, 1918, between Gonnelieu and Banteux; Sopwith Camel I;
    Second Lieutenant J. M. L. Millett, killed.--Page 326

66. Mar. 18, 1918, above the Molain-Vaux road and near Audigny;
    Sopwith Camel I; deputy flight commander  W. G. Ivamy, made
    prisoner.--Page 326

67. Mar. 24, 1918, Combles; S. E. 5. I; Second Lieutenant Wilson Porter,
    Jr., killed.--Page 331

68. Mar. 25, 1918, above Bapaume-Albert Road, near Contalmaison;
    Sopwith I; Second Lieutenant Donald Cameron, killed.--Page 331

69. Mar. 26, 1918, S. of Contalmaison; Sopwith I; Second Lieutenant W.
    Knox, killed.--Page 332


70. Mar. 26, 1918, N. E. of Albert; R. E. 2; Second Lieutenant Mat
    Leggat, observer, and Second Lieutenant V. J. Reading, pilot, both
    killed.--Page 332

71. Mar. 27, 1918, River Ancre, N. E. of Aveleux; Sopwith I; H. W.
    Ransom (officer), killed.--Page 333

72. Mar. 27, 1918, near Foucaucourt; Bristol Fighter 2; Captain K. R.
    Kirkham, pilot, and Captain J. H. Hedley, observer, both made
    prisoners.--Page 333

73. Mar. 27, 1918, N. of Chuignolles, S. of Bray-sur-Somme; Bristol
    Fighter 2; Captain H. R. Child, pilot, alone, killed.--Page 334

74. Mar. 28, 1918, near Méricourt; Armstrong 2; Second Lieutenant J. B.
    Taylor and Second Lieutenant E. Betley, both killed.--Page 334

75. April 2, 1918, N. E. of Moreiul; R. E. 2; Second Lieutenant E. D.
    Jones, pilot, and Second Lieutenant R. F. Newton, observer, both
    killed.--Page 337

76. April 6, 1918, N. E. of Villers-Bretonneux, near Bois de Hamel;
    Sopwith Camel I; Captain S. P. Smith, killed.--Page 341

77. April 7, 1918, near Haugard; S. E. 5. I, or Nieuport I(?);
    Captain G. B. Moore, killed.--Page 342

78. April 7, 1918, N. of Villers-Bretonneux; Spad;
    no English record of this.--Page 342

79. April 20, 1918, S. W. of Bois de Hamel; Sopwith Camel I;
    Major R. R. Barker, killed.--Page 343

80. April 20, 1918, N. E. of Villers-Bretonneux; Sopwith Camel I;
    Second Lieutenant D. E. Lewis, made prisoner.--Page 343

    April 21, 1918,
    Sailly-le-Sec; Fokker triplane;
    Captain Baron Manfred von Richthofen,
    killed, by Captain Roy Brown in a Camel I.--Page 347


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