richthofenRICHTHOFEN, Manfred Freiherr. (1892-1918 (Rittmaster). Victories = 80 (top Great War ace). Highest award = Pour le Merité (January 1917). Nicknames = Red Baron, Red Knight, Petit Rouge = Little Red, Le Diable Rouge = Red Devil, Der Rote Kampfflieger = Red fighter pilot, Der Rote Baron = Red Baron, Ace of Aces.

Brought up as an aristocratic military cadet from 11 years of age, he was commissioned to Leutnant in the cavalry (1st Uhlans Cavalry Regiment) in September 1912.

After service in Poland and France he transferred to the GAAS in May 1915.

Began his aviation career in June 1915 with FA 7 as an observer on the Western Front and then on the Eastern Front in FA 69 in the same capacity.

Obtained his first victory (unconfirmed) on the 8th September 1915 over France using his observer's cockpit mounted machine gun.

Graduated as a pilot in December 1915.

His first posting was to the Eastern Front but he returned in March 1916 to what was to become his personal stamping ground on the Western Front.

Served with Jastas 1, 2 (the latter later named Jasta Boelke in honour of the German ace) and 11, JG 1 and KG 2 all of which he subsequently commanded.

His first confirmed victory - a RAF FE 2b - was on 17th September 1916.

In January 1917 he was promoted to Rittmeister.

He became renowned (or notorious) for his famous red painted aircraft - hence the nickname 'Red Baron' - and his highly mobile 'Flying Circus' of exceptionally skilled pilots.

Richthofen was a natural pilot with the essential ruthless (even sadistic) streak: he had an unhealthy morbid preoccupation with the fate of his victims and in trophy gathering.

Major Lanoe George Hawker VC was just one of his more prominent victims.

For two years Richthofen was the scourge of the Allied air forces.

Although seriously wounded on two occasions, he seemed to lead a charmed life. His nemesis overtook him on 21st April 1918 in the form of a single British 0.303-in bullet - probably fired by an Australian soldier from the ground near Corbie, east of Amiens, France - on 21st April 1918.

His final victory had been a Sopwith Camel shot down the day before his death on 20th April 1918.

Confirmed victories

Armstrong Whitworth Co. Ltd. AW FK 8. 2
Aircraft Manufacturing Co. Airco DH 2. 5
Aircraft Manufacturing Co. Airco DH 4. 1
Aircraft Manufacturing Co. Airco DH.5. 1
Bristol & Colonial Aeroplane Co. Bristol F 2A. 1
Bristol & Colonial Aeroplane Co. Bristol F 2B. 2
Martinsyde Ltd. Martinsyde G.100. 1
Royal Aircraft Factory.
RAF BE 2c.
3
Royal Aircraft Factory.
RAF BE 2d.
5
Royal Aircraft Factory.
RAF BE 2e.
5
Royal Aircraft Factory.
RAF BE 2f.
1
Royal Aircraft Factory.
RAF BE 2g.
2
Royal Aircraft Factory.
RAF BE 12.
3
Royal Aircraft Factory.
RAF FE 2b.
11
Royal Aircraft Factory.
RAF FE 2d.
2
Royal Aircraft Factory.
RAF FE 8.
1
Royal Aircraft Factory.
RAF RE 8.
7
Royal Aircraft Factory.
RAF SE 5a.
3
Société Anonyme des Etablissements, Nieuport.
Nieuport 17.
4
Société S.P.A.D.
Spad S VII.
4
Sopwith Aviation Co.
Sopwith Camel.
9
Sopwith Aviation Co. Sopwith Dolphin.
1
Sopwith Aviation Co.
Sopwith Pup.
2
Sopwith Aviation Co.
Sopwith 1.1/2 Strutter.
3
Sopwith Aviation Co. SopwithTriplane.
1
Total

80
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