Friday, May 23, 2014

The Friday Flyby - 23 May

The Ringmaster
(Stan Stokes)
The 1st Fighter Wing of the First World War Imperial German Air Force also known as Richthofen's Flying Circus, is the topic of this week's Famous Aviation Units Flyby.
Jagdgeschwader 1 (JG 1) of World War I, was a fighter unit of the German Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Army Air Service), comprising four Jagdstaffeln (Jastas or fighter squadrons). It was formed on 24 June 1917, with Manfred von Richthofen as commanding officer, by combining Jastas 4, 6, 10 and 11. JG 1 became known as "The Flying Circus"because of the bright colors of its aircraft, and also because of the way the unit was transferred from one area of allied air activity to another - moving like a travelling circus in trains, and frequently setting up in tents on improvised airfields. - Wikipedia
During the unit's lifetime (June 1917 to November 1918), JG 1 claimed 644 Allied aircraft destroyed, while losing 52 pilots killed in action and 67 wounded.
The most well known pilot (and it's commander) was Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen (2 May 1892 – 21 April 1918), also widely known as the Red Baron, was a German fighter pilot with the Luftstreitkräfte during World War I. He is considered the top ace 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 Jasta 2 in 1916. He quickly distinguished himself as a fighter pilot, and during 1917 became leader of Jasta 11 and then the larger unit Jagdgeschwader 1 (better known as the "Flying Circus"). By 1918, he was regarded as a national hero in Germany, and well-known amongst opposing forces.

Richthofen was shot down and killed near Amiens on 21 April 1918. There has been considerable discussion and debate regarding aspects of his career, especially the circumstances of his death. He remains perhaps the most widely known fighter pilot of all time, and has been the subject of many books, films and other media. - Wikipedia
Pilots of Jasta 11

In the photo above are (left to right): Karl Allmenröder, Kurt Wülshoff, Sebastian Festner, Karl-Emil Schäfer (slightly behind Festner), Manfred von Richthofen (in the cockpit of his Albatross D,III), Kurt Wolff (sitting at left), Wilhelm Reinhardt (2nd from right standing), Erich Löwenhardt (far right standing) and Lothar von Richthofen (sitting on the ground). The man immediately in front of the Red Baron is unidentified as is the man sitting to the right (behind Lothar von Richthofen).

Richthofen the Younger
(Russell Smith)
The painting above, Richthofen the Younger, features the Fokker Dr.1 of Lothar von Richthofen. The tail and upper wing of this machine were thinly over-painted in yellow, while the struts, cowling and wheel covers carried the signature red of Jasta 11.

Lothar was flying this machine on March 13, 1918 when Jasta 11 ran into a flight of Bristol F2b's from 62 Sq. Lothar's machine was hit, and at the same time suffered a leading edge failure of the top wing. Lothar later stated that "My triplane suddenly became a biplane...". Despite the damage, Lothar managed to glide the triplane down, but he suffered severe facial injuries upon his crash landing.

The Bristol F2b
(Octopus Colour Encyclopaedia of Aircraft)

Richthofen (in flight gear) describes a combat beside the Albatros D.V Scout in which he was nearly killed on July 6, 1917.

In the following painting Jasta 11 is seen in action over the western front in early April 1917. Rittmeister Freiherr von Richthofen, flying in the red Albatros D.III scout, Lt. Kurt Wolff in the purple machine and Lt. Edy Lübbert in the yellow and blue aircraft prepare to engage Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutters as they emerge from behind a cloud. 

Ride of the Valkyries(Troy White)

The aircraft flown by the various squadrons of the Flying Circus over their times in service are shown below. (Not all were flown by JG 1 during von Richthofen's time, but this is a representative sample of German fighter aircraft used in World War I.)

Fokker E.III Eindecker

Halberstadt D.II

Albatros D.II
Albatros D.III
Albatros D.V- Flown by Vizefeldwebel (Staff Sergeant) Adam Barth of Jasta 10, late autumn of 1917.

Pfalz D.III
Halberstadt D.V - Flown by Oberleutnant Joachim Buddecke, commander of Jasta 4 at Vaux.

Fokker Dr.I
Fokker D.VII
Rated by many as the best fighter aircraft of World War I.
The Red Baron and his pilots
World War I German pilots with 26 or more aerial victories:
  • Name Victories
  • Manfred von Richthofen† 80
  • Ernst Udet 62
  • Erich Löwenhardt† 54
  • Josef Jacobs 48
  • Werner Voss† 48
  • Fritz Rumey† 45
  • Rudolf Berthold 44
  • Bruno Loerzer 44
  • Paul Bäumer 43
  • Oswald Boelcke† 40
  • Franz Büchner 40
  • Lothar von Richthofen 40
  • Heinrich Gontermann† 39
  • Carl Menckhoff 39
  • Karl Bolle 36
  • Julius Buckler 36
  • Max Ritter von Müller† 36
  • Gustav Dörr 35
  • Otto Könnecke 35
  • Eduard Ritter von Schleich 35
  • Emil Thuy 35
  • Josef Veltjens 35
  • Heinrich Bongartz 33
  • Heinrich Kroll 33
  • Kurt Wolff† 33
  • Hermann Frommherz 32
  • Theodor Osterkamp 32
  • Paul Billik 31
  • Gotthard Sachsenberg 31
  • Karl Allmenröder† 30
  • Harald Auffarth 30
  • Carl Degelow 30
  • Josef Mai 30
  • Ulrich Neckel 30
  • Karl Emil Schäfer† 30
  • Walter Blume 28
  • Walter von Bülow-Bothkamp† 28
  • Robert Ritter von Greim 28
  • Arthur Laumann 28
  • Friedrich Ritter von Röth 28
  • Fritz Otto Bernert 27
  • Otto Fruhner 27
  • Hans Kirschstein† 27
  • Karl Thom 27
  • Adolf Ritter von Tutschek† 27
  • Kurt Wüsthoff 27
  • Oskar Freiherr von Boenigk 26
  • Eduard Ritter von Dostler† 26
  • Max Näther† 26
The pilots with a "†" next to their names are known to have been either killed in action, went missing in action (presumed dead, body not recovered), died of their wounds, or were killed in a flying accident during World War I.

Last Flight of Baron von Richthofen
(John Young)

The remains of Richthofen's triplane under the guard of Australian Flying Corps (AFC) No. 3 Squadron on April 22nd, 1918.
(Photo Source - Australian War Memorial)

The funeral of Rittmeister Freiherr Manfred von Richthofen.
22 April 1918
The pallbearers and color guard are from AFC No. 3 Squadron.

Sic transit gloria mundi...


  1. As always, nice post. I'm not sure about the "Sic transit gloria mundi" though. After nearly 100 years, the Red Baron, his leadership style and rules have a major impact on Fighter Pilots throughout the world. Or maybe just this one.

    1. Well, you're right about the Baron's impact both then and now having not faded. But for him personally, that glory was fleeting. Dead at the age of 25.

      But I do get the point. Manfred von Richthofen will no doubt be remembered as long as people go to war in flying machines.

      Still and all, I do believe that "All earthly glory is fleeting." (The "mundi" part of that quote is seldom uttered in English. The final scene in the movie Patton springs to mind.)

  2. Another great post. Whenever I'm feeling cocky about what I think I know about military aviation, you give me a new lesson in what I don't know! (does that make sense?!!)
    Keep up the great work!!!

    1. Thanks Russ. I try to keep it interesting. I learn something new every time I do one of these myself. So yeah, what you said does makes sense.

  3. Sooooo cool! Thank you for the post and for all the research that went into it. Wow.

  4. They did bury him as a warrior.

    1. Yes he was. He was feared and respected by his foes. If not outright admired in some quarters!

  5. June-October Weekend Air shows. Original and reproduction WW1 aircraft Rhinebeck,NY

    1. Thanks for that link c-90. I may have to get over there.

      WWI Birds, biplane rides! What's not to like. Not to mention what a great topic for a blog post that would be!


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