Tuesday 31 October 2017

And now for something completely different

The Red Baron. Freiherr Manfred von Richthofen's early career, and the aircraft he flew in.

MvR first joined Fliegerabteilung 69 (FA69) in April 1915.

The Albatros C.I, B.I were both used by FA69  in the East between April and August 1915.  During the time, MvR was an observer. Missions included recon and some inffectual ground attack of the rather chaotic Russian forces.

From August through to October 1915, he was posted to the Western Front, flying as an observer with Briftrauben Abteilung Ostend (BAO) in the new wonderweapon, the AEG G.II Battleplane. These were largely, heavily armed multiengined machines that could do anything; shoot down enemy aircraft, bomb targets, recon at long range... In theory. In practice, the bombing and recon worked, the shooting down enemy aircraft not so much, smaller aircraft with machine guns fired by observers worked as well or better. The whole Battleplane concept was flawed, and the aircraft redesignated as Bombers.

Single seater aircraft with a machine gun firing through the propellor were better still, but synchronisation was still in its infancy.

Von Richthofen really wanted to get into these new single seaters. He'd already shot up - and may have shot down - a Farman while in the AEG G.II.

So he commenced training as a pilot in October 1915. To say he was not a natural pilot - though a very good shot - is not an understatement. But despite writing off 3 Fokker monoplane trainers, unlike many fledgling pilots, he didn't kill himself, so must have been average or better.

After learning to fly in October-March he was posted to Kasta/Kagohl 2 in the west, which apparently had Albatros C.IIIs. He may have shot down a Nieuport in one, using a gun affixed to the top wing firing over the prop. 

When KG2 was transferred to the East in June 1916 it re-equipped (entirely?) with Roland C.II. It had 7 flights, with a mix of aircraft before then.

 In August 1916 MvR was transferred to the West at Boelke's request arriving at Jasta 2 on Sept 1. They initially flew Fokker E.III but by September 16 they had at least 6 Albatros D.IIs. MvR was issued with one, and on September 17 flying in the group of 6 Albatros scored his first confirmed kill, an FE2b. The rest is well known.

This comes from a variety of sources, including MvRs rather unhelpful autobiography.