February 25, 2013
‘Lieutenant Reginald Warneford VC’ by Ivan Berryman
Another depiction of the same event on June 7th 1915 as described above. This was actually the second time Warneford had attacked a Zeppelin. Three weeks previously, he had attacked LZ.39 over Belgium but the latter had jettisoned ballast and had climbed out of range.
February 25, 2013
‘Lieutenant Warneford’s Great Exploit’ by Gordon F Crosby
An earlier depiction of Warneford’s mission on June 7th, 1915. Only ten days after this action, Warneford was ferrying a two-seater to his RNAS base at Veurne with an American journalist named Harry Beach on board when the aircraft suffered a sudden structural failure, causing one of the wings to crumple. In the subsequent crash, Beach was killed immediately whilst Warneford died of his injuries shortly afterwards.
February 25, 2013
February 25, 2013
February 25, 2013
‘Warneford VC 1915’ by Les Urwin
Another depiction of the events of June 7th, 1915.
‘The Destruction of LZ-37’ by Charles H Hubbell
Another portrayal of the loss of Zeppelin LZ.37.
‘The Loss of Zeppelin LZ-37’ by Raymond Sheppard
Another depiction of the destruction of LZ.37
‘Lieutenant R Warneford VC’ (Drawing) by Raymond Sheppard
A line drawing of the same event
February 25, 2013
‘Gottfried von Banfield’ by Ivan Berryman
Gottfried Freiherr von Banfield was an Austrian aviator in the Great War who flew with the air arm of the Austro-Hungarian Navy. On June 27th, 1915, von Banfield, piloting a Lohner T two-seater flying boat L-47, attacked and destroyed an Italian observation balloon over Villa Vicentina near the mouth of the Isonzo River, achieving his first confirmed aerial victory, an event which this painting depicts.
Von Banfield (whose family were of Irish descent) achieved a total of nine confirmed victories, all of them whilst piloting seaplanes, making him not only the top-scoring Austro-Hungarian naval ace of the war but also the only flying boat ace of all time. In addition, he achieved 11 unconfirmed victories, many of those whilst on solo patrols over the Adriatic Sea. Von Banfield received the Military Order of the Maria Theresa, the highest honour that could be bestowed on an Austrian.
Von Banfield survived the Great War. After living for a short period in England, he returned to his former home at Trieste, now annexed with Italy and he became an Italian citizen, eventually becoming director of a shipping firm. He died in 1986 at the age of 96.
February 25, 2013
‘Dangerous Baby’ by Mervyn Corning
On July 25th, 1915, Captain Lanoe Hawker of No 6 Squadron RFC was flying his Bristol Scout C on patrol over the Western Front near Passchendaele. His aircraft was equipped with a Lewis Machine-Gun, fixed beside the cockpit to fire obliquely as at that time, Allied aircraft did not have the synchronisation (‘interrupter’) mechanisms that German aircraft were equipped with, allowing them to fire their weapons forwards through the rotating propellers. The Scout’s MG was fixed to fire at a 45-degree angle which required the pilot to approach his target from the right rear quarter which exposed him to return fire from an enemy observer.
Hawker, in quick succession, encountered three German aircraft and he managed to defeat them all. The first enemy plane, he emptied a full drum of his Lewis MG at and watched it spin away out of control. Intercepting a second enemy aircraft, he reloaded his weapon and opened fire at it, damaging it badly enough to force it to crash-land below. A third German machine, an Albatros C-I, appeared and at a height of 10,000 feet, Hawker engaged it, raking it with MG fire. The Albatros caught fire and spiralled earthwards to destruction, both of its crew, Oberleutnant Uebelacker & his observer, Hauptmann Roser, were killed.
For his exploits that day, Hawker was awarded a Victoria Cross. By the end of the year, his official score stood at seven aircraft destroyed, driven down or captured. Promoted to Major, he had a spell in Britain preparing a new single-seat fighter squadron, No 24, for operational duties. Assigned to command the unit, equipped with the new Airco DH2 Pushers, he returned to France in February 1916. Under his energetic leadership, No 24 Squadron claimed some 70 aerial victories by November of that year, at a cost of 21 pilots killed, wounded or missing.
On November 23rd, 1916, Hawker was shot down and killed by an Albatros D-II flown by Manfred von Richthofen.
Corning’s painting refers to the Bristol Scout C as the ‘Baby’ which is incorrect. In some post-war histories, the Scout was sometimes mistakenly referred to as the ‘Sopwith Baby’ or ‘Bristol Baby’. In fact, the real Sopwith Baby was a seaplane fighter. Also, the serial number 1607 on the Scout’s tail is in-correct. The real number was 1611.
February 25, 2013
February 25, 2013
‘Captain Lanoe Hawker VC’ by Ivan Berryman
A more recent depiction of Hawker earning his VC on July 25th, 1915 with more accurate markings on his aircraft. A popular myth arose that Hawker had flown into this action armed only with a hunting rifle and had despatched his three opponents with single shots each. This has since been proven to be merely a legend but Hawker’s real-life exploits were impressive enough without such embellishments.
February 25, 2013
‘Liddell Made it Back Somehow’ by Les Urwin
Captain John Liddell of No 7 Squadron RFC was flying reconnaissance patrols over the Front in the summer of 1915. No 7 Squadron was equipped with the Royal Aircraft Factory RE5, an experimental two-seater of which only 24 were built and of that total, only eleven were sent to France. Liddell had previously served as a Captain in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, having enlisted in the army prior to the outbreak of war. He had spent over a month in the trenches in the grim winter of 1914 before transferring to the RFC the following year.
On July 31st, 1915, Liddell was flying his RE5 on a reconnaissance patrol over Ostend-Bruges-Ghent in Belgium when his aircraft was badly hit by anti-aircraft fire. Shot in the right thigh, Liddell temporarily lost consciousness and his aircraft dropped 3,000 feet before he came to and regained control. Levelling out, he continued to fly the rest of the patrol circuit despite the agony of his injury and continual enemy fire. Liddell headed back to Allied lines and managed to force-land his battered aircraft at a French aerodrome. A large group of French airmen and ground-crew crowded around his aircraft, giving aid to the badly injured Liddell. Thanks to his endurance, his observer Lieutenant Roland Peck, survived the ordeal unhurt.
Liddell was taken to hospital where his mangled leg was amputated. He survived the initial procedure but the amputation site became infected and he contracted septic poisoning. Liddell died on August 31st. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross which is now displayed in the Imperial War Museum, London.
His observer Lieutenant Peck later undertook pilot training and earnt his wings. He was transferred to an RFC unit in the Middle-East and was killed in action in 1916.
February 25, 2013
‘Boelcke Takes Off with Nurse B’ by James Field
German fighter pilot Oswald Boelcke was serving with an operational unit based at Douai in August 1915. Flying a two-seater, he and his observer had achieved their first confirmed aerial victory the previous month but Boelcke was now operating one of the new Fokker E-III eindeckers. On August 7th, he invited a nurse who worked at a nearby military hospital for a joyflight. Squeezed into the Fokker’s narrow cockpit, the nurse sitting on his lap, Boelcke took the young lady for a quick circuit. This was not the only occasion he entertained female companions in such a manner and it eventually took a stern reprimand from his superiors to prompt him to cease the practice.
‘Nearly Over Before it has Begun’ by James Field
The most famous and greatest fighter ace of the Great War, Manfred von Richthofen, began his aerial career as an observer in a reconnaissance unit in 1915. On August 19th, 1915 over the Eastern Front, von Richthofen was flying as an observer in a two-seater Albatros B-II. His pilot was a Prussian named Count von Holck, a good friend of Richthofen’s.
The German army was steadily pushing the Imperial Russian forces back through Poland. Observing the retreating columns of Russian troops, Richthofen and Holck flew towards the burning Polish town of Wicznize. A massive column of smoke was rising from the ruined town, reaching a height of 6,000 feet and astonishingly wide. To fly around the smoke would have added several minutes to their flight back to base, so Holck and Richthofen grinned and nodded at each other in mutual agreement to fly through it. The decision nearly proved their undoing. Flying into the inky, choking blackness, the aircraft’s engine, its air intakes choked with smoke and soot, began to immediately lose power. The Albatros quickly lost 3,000 feet in altitude, leaving them only 1,500 feet above the ground, bringing them within range of Russian infantry. Machine-gun and small arms fire spat at them from below. Knowing the fate that awaited them if they fell into the hands of Russian soldiers, the two Germans desperately tried to stay airborne but the engine was struggling and then, hit by bullets, it died completely. They crash-landed in a clearing near a small forest. The Albatros was a write-off but both men were unhurt and they hurriedly climbed out of the wreck and ran to the nearby woods, Holck taking his small pet dog with him. After a tense wait, they saw a lone figure walking towards them across the clearing. To the fliers immense relief, the man was wearing the grey uniform of the Prussian Guard and soon the rest of the regiment appeared from a nearby tree-line, its commander, Prince Eitel Friedrich, leading them on horseback.
Greeting the two fliers, Friedrich loaned them each a cavalry horse. Both Richthofen and Holck were former Uhlans and they easily rode their mounts back to safety behind German lines. Upon their return to their unit, Richthofen learned he was being transferred back to the Western Front and he departed two days later on 21st August. Soon, he would undertake pilot training and the rest would be history. His close friend Holck was killed in action the following year, a loss which profoundly affected Richthofen.
February 25, 2013
‘La Sentinelle’ by Russell Smith
On October 26th, 1915, French fighter pilot Jean Navarre was on stand-by in his Morane-Saulnier Type N monoplane fighter at the base of his unit- MS-12. A signal arrived from observers at the front that an enemy two-seater had been spotted over the Chateau-Thierry sector. Navarre immediately took off and headed for the frontlines in pursuit of his quarry. He caught up with the German aircraft- an LVG two-seater and attacked it head-on. In his frontal firing pass, Navarre fired a very brief burst of barely ten rounds but it proved to be enough. The LVG descended and landed on a field alongside the Marne river. Navarre saw the German crew get out of their aircraft and prepare to set it alight. The Frenchman made a low pass, firing a burst deliberately aimed wide as a warning shot. The two German fliers got the message and walked away from their parked machine, their hands held upwards.
Navarre landed his aircraft nearby and walked over to the German crew. He spoke to the pilot who told him that four rounds from Navarre’s first burst had struck the LVG’s engine, disabling it enough to force the crew to land. It was Navarre’s second captured enemy machine and his third confirmed victory.
February 25, 2013
‘Navarre’ by Bernard Lengert
A second painting depicting the same action on October 26th 1915. The Morane Saulnier Type N monoplane had no flaps, using the method of ‘wing warping’ for turning. The distinctively large cone-shaped spinner, designed as much for aesthetic appeal as for aerodynamics, restricted air-flow to the engine, causing it to over-heat. The Royal Flying Corps employed a small number of Type Ns and they solved the problem by removing the spinner. Imperial Russia also used a handful of these fighters. Russian ace Ivan Smirnov achieved two of his twelve victories in the type. Barely fifty of the Type Ns were built altogether.
After his third victory on October 26th, Navarre was transferred to Escadrille 67 and commenced flying the new Nieuport 11 Bebe fighters. On February 26th 1916, he achieved two victories in a single sortie, becoming officially an ‘ace’ with five victories. Navarre is often in-correctly referred to as France’s first ace of the Great War but Adolphe Pegoud achieved that milestone prior to him. By June 1916, Navarre’s score had reached twelve. Many of his sorties were flown over the Verdun sector during the massive prolonged campaign fought there, leading to his famous nickname ‘The Sentinelle (Sentry) of Verdun’.
Navarre was badly wounded in action in mid-June 1916, sustaining a head injury from which he never fully recovered. His younger brother, also a pilot, was killed in an accidental air crash around the same time. Navarre did not return to duties until mid-1918 but he never flew in combat again. In 1919, Navarre was selected to be one of the pilots to fly in the massed victory fly-past over Paris. Whilst rehearsing a planned stunt flight through the Arc de Triomphe, Navarre, flying a Morane-Saulnier Type A.1, accidently crashed on an aerodrome near Paris and died of his injuries.
‘Immelmann Becomes an Ace’ by Mark Postlethwaite
German ace Max Immelmann achieved his fifth aerial victory on October 26th, 1915. Flying the Fokker ‘Eindecker’ (monoplane) fighter equipped with the synchronisation (‘interruptor’) gear which allowed the pilot to fire his machine gun forwards through the rotating propeller blades, Immelmann had achieved his first victory two months earlier and mid-October, his tally had reached four. On Oct 26th, he engaged a Vickers FB5 ‘Gunbus’ of No 11 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. After a short duel, Immelmann sufficiently damaged the British fighter to force it to crash-land in German territory below. The pilot, Flight Commander Charles Darley and his observer, Lieutenant Reginald Slade, both survived to become POWs for the rest of the war.
Darley had served in the British army since 1910 and he joined the RFC upon the outbreak of the Great War. He flew with No 3 Squadron RFC in early 1915, flying French-made Morane-Saulnier Type L ‘Parasols’ before transferring to No 11 Squadron in July as a Flight-Commander. After his release from a POW camp in Germany, Darley remained in the Royal Air Force. In 1919, he and his older brother Cecil were performing a long distance flight of one of the new Vickers Vimy heavy bombers when it crashed en route from England to Egypt. Darley sustained severe burns trying unsuccessfully to rescue Cecil from the flaming wreckage and he was awarded a bravery medal by King George V.
Darley remained in the RAF during the inter-war era as a staff officer but was forcibly retired due to illness shortly before the outbreak of WW2. He died in 1962.
Immelmann’s victory tally and fame grew over the next eight months. He achieved his eighth victory on January 12th, 1916 and was awarded the Pour Le Merite shortly afterwards, alongside his friend and nearest rival Oswald Boelcke, the two pilots the first to receive the award which was later nicknamed the ‘Blue Max’ in honour of Immelmann. By the middle of May, another seven notches had been added to his victory tally. His fame and prestige in Germany were enormous and he began to be pressured from senior officers to cease operational flying and become a staff officer but he persisted in flying combat sorties. Immelmann was a quiet, aloof and very reserved personality, having very few friends and rarely socialising with his fellow pilots. He neither drank nor smoked, wrote letters almost daily to his mother and was fastidious with his appearance, usually wearing his dress uniform whilst not flying and carefully shaving and grooming himself daily. His one indulgence was a fondness for being photographed. The rivalry between himself and Boelcke somewhat soured their friendship but a mutual respect between the two remained.
On June 18th, 1916, Immelmann was involved in two engagements with FE2bs of No 25 Squadron RFC. He shot down two of the British fighters (although neither of the victories was officially confirmed at the time) but at dusk, during the second engagement, his Fokker broke apart in mid-air and Immelmann was killed in the subsequent crash. Debate persists as to whether he was shot down by one of the British fighters or his synchronisation gear malfunctioned, causing Immelmann to fatally damage his own propeller.
February 25, 2013
‘Gunbus Victoria Cross’ by Theo Fraser
In the Autumn of 1915, 2nd-Lieutenant Gilbert Insall was flying Vickers FB5 ‘Gunbus’ Pusher fighters for No 11 Squadron, RFC. On November 7th, 1915, Insall & his observer/gunner 1st-Class Air Mechanic T H Donald, were flying a patrol over Achiet-le-Grand when they spotted a German Aviatik two-seater below. Attacking the enemy plane, they successfully damaged it, forcing the latter to force-land in a ploughed field. Insall saw the German crew climb from the aircraft unhurt and the machine itself looked to be salvageable.
Not satisfied, Insall made a low pass over the stranded Aviatik. Donald fired a burst, forcing the German crew to take cover and, making a second run through heavy fire from a nearby AA position, Insall dropped an incendiary device, setting alight to the German plane. Flying back to Allied lines at 2,000 feet, their Gunbus was damaged by AA fire, puncturing the fuel tank. Crossing no-man’s-land with a spluttering engine, the FB5 cut out when they were crossing the British lines. They force-landed a mere 500 yards behind the British forward trenches. An enemy artillery bombardment was in progress and Insall and Donald were forced to shelter beside their plane as more than 150 shells landed in their vicinity. With the coming of nightfall, the barrage ceased, leaving the aircraft miraculously intact. Working by torchlight and assisted by some infantryman, the two fliers managed to perform makeshift repairs to their aircraft whilst fresh petrol was fetched from behind the lines. They managed to take off again before dawn and reach their aerodrome.
Insall was recommended for a Victoria Cross for his exploits which was approved but he would not be able to personally receive it for another year as only five weeks later, on December 14th, he and Donald were shot down by a German two-seater and the two fliers, both injured, became POWs. After three attempts, Insall escaped in August 1917 and reached France via neutral Holland a month later.
Insall served in the RAF until after WW2. He died in 1972.
‘Max Immelmann’s Sixth Victory’ by Michael Turner
On November 7th, 1915, German Ace Max Immelmann achieved his sixth confirmed aerial victory when he engaged and shot down the Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c of No 10 Squadron RFC. The plane’s crew- Captain Theodore Adams and his observer, Lieutenant Owen LeBas, were both killed. Immelmann landed his Fokker nearby and walked to the crash site of the BE2, dragging both of the bodies from the wreckage and respectfully covering them with a blanket.
‘Richard Bell Davies VC’ by Kenneth A Mcdonough
On November 19th 1915, RNAS Squadron-Commander Richard Bell Davies of No 3 Naval Squadron flew a bombing mission against enemy positions at Ferrijuk Junction in Bulgaria, flying a Nieuport 10. Accompanying him was his wingman Flight-Lieutenant Gilbert Smylie, piloting a Farman. Davies, born and raised in London, had joined the Royal Navy in 1901 and was an experienced pilot, having served since the beginning of the war in the RNAS. He had been awarded a DSO the previous January for leading bombing missions against German submarine bases on the Belgian coast.
Reaching the target, both pilots released their bombs but Smylie’s aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire. He crash-landed in nearby marshlands where, having escaped physical injury, Smylie realised that one of his bombs had failed to detach from his aircraft. He set fire to his stranded aircraft, knowing the blaze would eventually ignite the bomb and destroy the aircraft. As he hurriedly walked away to put a safe distance between himself and the coming blast, Smylie noticed Davies’ aircraft approaching, beginning to descend. The former realised that Davies was intending to land and rescue him but the latter had no idea that Smylie’s burning aircraft was about to explode at any moment. Risking his own life, Smylie ran back towards his own plane and fired his pistol at the bomb slung beneath its wing, successfully detonating it before Davies was near enough to be harmed by the explosion. By good luck, Smylie also escaped injury.
Davies landed nearby, finding a patch of ground firm enough to support his aircraft. His Nieuport 10 was normally a two-seater but Davies had been flying alone from the rear cockpit whilst the front one was temporarily decked over. In order to carry a passenger, Davies told Smylie to climb into the rear cockpit and then wriggle his way underneath the instrument panel and around the control column and then worm his way into the front cockpit. Smylie, aided by his slim build, managed such a feat and he half-sat, half-lay in the enclosed, darkened cockpit whilst Davies took off again and flew the Nieuport back to base. Upon reaching their aerodrome, it took two hours for ground-crews to pry Smylie out of the cockpit but he had made it back, safe and sound, thanks to his own courage and that of Davies.
Davies was awarded a Victoria Cross for his exploits, whilst Smylie received a DSC. Davies survived the Great War and remained in the Royal Navy, achieving the rank of Vice Admiral by 1941, commanding the escort carrier HMS Dasher. He left the RN in 1944 and died in 1966. Smylie served in the RAF after the war, working in engineering and technical training until he retired in 1947. He died in 1965.
February 25, 2013
‘Guynemer’s Fifth Victory’ by Paul Lengelle
French fighter pilot Georges Guynemer joined his first operational unit- Escadrille MS.3- in June 1915. Flying two seater Morane-Saulnier Type Ls and Nieuport 10s, he achieved four confirmed victories by January 1916. Early in the New Year, MS.3 began receiving their first single-seat machines, the new Nieuport 11 ‘Bebe’ (Baby).
Flying a patrol in his Bebe on February 3, 1916, he encountered a German LVG two-seater near Roye. Guynemer later wrote, “I did not open fire until I was at 20 meters. Almost at once my adversary tumbled into a tailspin. I dived after him, continuing to fire my weapon. I plainly saw him fall in his own lines. That was all right. No doubt about him. I had my fifth. I was really in luck, for less than ten minutes later another plane, sharing the same lot, spun downward with the same grace, taking fire as it fell through the clouds.”
It was Guynemer’s fifth aerial victory, officially making him an Ace. He would go on to become France’s most admired and most beloved pilot & war hero and become the second highest scoring French ace of the Great War, achieving 54 victories before his death in 1917.
February 25, 2013
‘Jean Chaput’ by Paul Lengelle
On March 18th, 1916, French fighter pilot Jean Chaput, flying a Nieuport 11 on patrol over Woevre, spotted an enemy LVG two-seater below. After stalking his intended victim for several minutes, Chaput dove on the German plane, opening fire at close range, killing the observer and leaving the LVG defenceless from attack from the rear. In desperation, the German pilot flung his aircraft in a sharp banking climb, trying to ram his attacker.
Chaput manoeuvred aside just in time and then skilfully nudged his own plane into the German aircraft, the Nieuport’s propeller neatly slicing through the LVG’s fuselage, sending the dismembered tail section tumbling earthwards, shortly followed by the rest of the aircraft.
Chaput managed to coax his battered fighter back to his aerodrome. Chaput had been serving with the French airforce since the spring of 1915 and in June of that year, he had been credited with his first aerial victory. A serious wound suffered in July 1915 had put him out of action for some six months and it was January 1916 before Chaput had returned to flying duties. His un-conventional victory on March 18th was the second of his combat career. He flew in combat for another two years, achieving a total of 16 confirmed victories before he was shot down and killed in May 1918.
February 25, 2013
‘Dawn of the Dogfight’– Terry Jones
On May 16th, 1916, Captain Alan M Wilkinson of No 24 Squadron RFC was flying an Airco DH2 ‘Pusher’ on a patrol over the Somme Valley when he encountered a pair of hostile enemy aircraft, an un-identified twin-engine type to which Wilkinson referred to in his combat report as ‘two tails’ (the type would have most likely been an AGO C.II, a twin-fuselage reconnaissance aircraft & light bomber) and a Fokker E-IIIa ‘Eindecker’ (monoplane) fighter.
Wilkinson made an attack on ‘two tails’ but it turned towards him and opened fire. As the enemy aircraft headed westwards, Wilkinson was attacked by the rear by the Fokker E-IIIa. He made a second attack on the first enemy machine with again no result and then again had to evade another attack by the Fokker, obviously acting as an escort for his comrade. On the third firing run, Wilkinson let the Fokker get within 220 yards of him and then made a sharp sudden turn inside the monoplane’s attack, forcing the Eindecker to swerve away. The British pilot then feinted another attack on the retreating ‘two tails’ and the Fokker turned to intervene yet again. Wilkinson switched targets at the last moment, turning again to meet the Fokker just as the latter was turning across the DH2’s line of fire.
Wilkinson later wrote, ‘apparently he thought I had turned to attack two-tails again, for he turned in front of me, presenting a splendid target (and) at this moment I got a burst (in) and he promptly went down vertically.’
This was Wilkinson’s first confirmed victory. He remained with No 24 Squadron until the end of the Summer of 1916, by which time he was credited with ten victories, all of them whilst flying the DH2. Transferred to No 48 Squadron, he flew Bristol F2Bs in 1917, gaining an additional nine victories that year. Wilkinson survived the war and he later served in the RAF during WW2. He died in 1972.
February 25, 2013
‘Locating the German Fleet at Jutland’ by Ivan Berryman
On May 31st, 1916, one of the largest naval battles of modern times was about to erupt in the North Sea near the Jutland Peninsula of Denmark. The British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet were bearing down on each other as the Germans made their largest effort to break the British naval blockade of Germany. The German plan was for the High Seas Fleet to sortie and lure a portion of the British Grand Fleet into a trap, a necessary tactic as the German fleet, smaller than the British forces, could not afford to engage the entire Grand Fleet in a pitched battle. Yet, thanks to unexpected events and circumstances, that is ultimately what did happen.
In the afternoon of May 31st, the British Battlecruiser fleet, comprised of 51 warships, including four Queen Elizabeth-class Battleships, forming the vanguard of the Grand Fleet, was heading northwards. Knowing the German vanguard force was nearby, British Admiral Beatty ordered seaplane tender HMS Engadine to launch her Short 184 reconnaissance seaplane. The Short 184, piloted by Flight-Lieutenant Frederick Rutland and his observer, G S Trewin, took off in the murky weather but the cloud base was low, forcing them to restrict their altitude. However at 1530hrs they soon sighted the approaching smoke-trails of what was the German vanguard force, a force of Battlecruisers under Admiral Hipper. This was the first time in history, a ship-borne reconnaissance aircraft had been used in naval combat and thereafter, Rutland was always known as ‘Rutland of Jutland’.
However the reconnaissance mission proved less than successful. An attempt to send a radio signal to the British fleet was jammed by the Germans and the Short aircraft had to return to their tender to make their report, resulting in a significant delay of the intelligence reaching Beatty whose leading ships by then had already spotted the approaching Germans themselves. Meanwhile, the weather worsened, causing a swell which prevented further missions for the aircraft. By 1600hrs, Beatty’s vanguard battle squadron was engaging the German force and thus began the epic Battle of Jutland which lasted two days and ultimately involved 250 ships. By the end, 25 warships (14 British, 11 German) had been sunk with over 8,500 men killed.
‘Albert Ball’ by Mark Postlethwaite
Young, eager British ace Albert Ball, on June 1st, 1916, flew across enemy territory in his French-made Nieuport 11 ‘Bebe’ to a German aerodrome at Douai and circled above it at a height of 10,000ft for the next half an hour before two German planes, a Fokker Eindecker and a two-seater Albatros C-II, eventually took off to intercept. Ball drove off the Albatros with a quick burst and then engaged the Fokker, damaging it enough to force it to land in a field. It became Ball’s fourth confirmed aerial victory. Many more were to follow in the famous youngster’s short but illustrious combat career.
February 25, 2013
‘Immelmann’s Last Flight’ by Ivan Berryman
Max Immelmann was one of the famous German aces of the Great War and was the first German pilot to officially achieve the status of ‘Ace’ by being credited with five or more confirmed victories. Scoring his first victory in August 1915, Immelmann, known to the German public as ‘the Eagle of Lille’, piloted a Fokker Eindecker (Monoplane), a single-seat fighter which carried the innovative synchronisation mechanism on its forward-firing machine gun. Often known as the ‘interrupter’, this device timed machine-gun bullets to be fired in between the rotations of the propeller, enabling the rounds to pass between the propeller blades without damaging them. This enabled the pilot to aim not just his weapon but his whole aircraft at an enemy plane, making destroying an opponent easier with considerably less risk to himself.
The Fokker Eindecker models began operating over the Western Front from mid-1915 and for the next six months, despite their modest numbers (most German air units only included one or two Eindeckers), they dominated the skies, leading Allied pilots to dub the era as ‘the Fokker Scourge’. Losses in both RFC and French units rose to unacceptably high levels. Immelmann, often credited with inventing the combat manoeuvre popularly known as the ‘Immelmann Turn’, was at the forefront of this scourge. By January 1916, he was credited with the destruction of eight Allied aircraft, his nearest rival being Oswald Boelcke. That month, he was awarded the Pour Le Merite, Germany’s highest award. The medal would later be popularly dubbed the ‘Blue Max’ in honour of Immelmann.
In the New Year, the Fokker’s days of supremacy began to wane as the Allied introduced better aircraft such as the Nieuport 11 Bebe and the Pushers such as the DH2 and FE2b. Immelmann’s score continued to grow, reaching 15 by mid-June but he had several brushes with death, his aircraft being badly damaged in combat on April 25th and five weeks later, on May 31st, his synchronisation-gear malfunctioned, causing him to damage his own propeller, forcing him to make a dead-stick landing.
On June 18th, 1916, Immelmann flew a late afternoon patrol over Arras. He encountered Royal Aircraft Factory FE2bs of No 25 Squadron RFC and in the ensuing melee, Immelmann shot one of his opponents down but the victory could not be officially confirmed. With dusk approaching at the end of a long mid-summer day, Immelmann flew another patrol. At 2145hrs, over the village of Lentz, he ran into No 25 Squadron again. In a furious dogfight, he destroyed another FE2b but like the previous victory, this one too would go un-confirmed. Attacking a second FE2b, Immelmann’s opponent suddenly turned sharply inwards to meet him head-on. The British crew, pilot 2nd-Lieutenant G R McCubbin and observer Corporal J H Waller, opened fire, Waller’s burst hitting Immelmann’s Fokker which broke apart in mid-air and plummented earthwards, killing the famous ace.
Controversy still surrounds the action, some historians believing that Immelmann’s demise was caused by his synchronisation-gear malfunctioning. German media at the time blamed his death on ‘friendly fire’ from German anti-aircraft batteries.
Immelmann’s body was retrieved from the wreckage by German troops and he was given a state funeral in his hometown of Dresden.
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