RED BARON TRIBUTE IN DEATH
By Peter Barnes
The photograph is of Australians firing a volley at the graveside of the ‘Red Baron’ on the 22nd of April 1918.
Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen (2 May 1892 – 21 April 1918), known in English as Baron von Richthofen, was a fighter pilot with the German Air Force during WW1. He is considered the ace-of-aces of the war, being officially credited with 80 air combat victories.
Originally a cavalryman, Richthofen transferred to the Air Service in 1915, becoming one of the first members of fighter squadron Jagdstaffel 2 in 1916.
He quickly distinguished himself as a fighter pilot, and in 1917 became the leader of Jasta 11. Later he led the larger fighter wing Jagdgeschwader 1, better known as “The Flying Circus” or “Richthofen’s Circus” because of the bright colours of its aircraft, and perhaps also because of the way the unit was transferred from one area of Allied air activity to another – moving like a travelling circus, and frequently setting up in tents on improvised airfields.
By 1918, Richthofen was regarded as a national hero in Germany, and respected by his enemies.
Richthofen was shot down and killed near Vaux-sur-Somme on the 21st of April 1918. There has been considerable discussion and debate regarding aspects of his career, especially the circumstances of his death.
He remains one of the most widely known fighter pilots of all time and has been the subject of many books, films, and other media.
In common with most Allied air officers, No. 3 Squadron Australian Flying Corps’ commanding officer Major David Blake, who was responsible for Richthofen’s body, regarded the Red Baron with great respect, and he organised a full military funeral, to be conducted by the personnel of No. 3 Squadron Australian Flying Corps.
The body was buried in the cemetery at the village of Bertangles, near Amiens, on the 22nd of April 1918. Six of No. 3 Squadron’s officers served as pallbearers, and a guard of honour from the squadron’s other ranks fired a salute.
Allied squadrons stationed nearby presented memorial wreaths, one of which was inscribed with the words, “To Our Gallant and Worthy Foe”.