skip to Main Content

Victory 17

Event ID: 156

23 January 1917

50.43088970139912, 2.7483047123441313
South of Lens

Source ID: 13

Under the guns of the Red Baron, Norman Franks, Hal Giblin and Nigel McCrery

ISBN: 9781898697275

Combat Report: 1610 hrs, above trenches south-west of Lens. No details, plane fell on the enemy’s side. About 1610 I attacked, together with seven of my planes, enemy squadron, west of Lens. The plane I had singled out caught fire after 150 shots, fired from a distance of 50 metres. The plane fell, burning. Occupant fell out of plane at 500 metres height. Immediately after the plane had crashed on the ground, I could see a heavy black smoke cloud rising. The plane burnt for quite a while with frequent flares of flame. Weather: fine all day.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. source: Inside the victories of Manfred von richthofen – Volume 1, James F. Miller, Aeronaut Books, 2016

    A cornucopia of theories abounds regarding when Richthofen painted his Albatros D.III red. Why he painted it red ties in with what Lothar said about Manfred’s reason to overpaint his Albatros D.I and D.II while with Jasta 2: “When Manfred began to gain his first successes with Jagdstaffel Boelcke, he was annoyed because he felt he was much too visible to his enemies in aerial combat and that they saw him much too early. He tried using a variety of colors to make himself invisible. At first he emphasized the earth colors. From above one would not detect these colors if there were no movement, which is of course impossible in a plane. To his sorrow, Manfred found that no one color was useful in the air. There is no camouflage for the flier with which he can make himself invisible. Then, in order to at least be recognized as the leader by his comrades in the air, he chose the color bright red. Later the red machine also became known to the English as ‘Le petit rouge’ and the other names that accompanied it. ”

    Some researchers indicate that [asta Boelcke received the first Albatros D.llls in late December/early January and that Richthofen had been assigned one, which he subsequently took with him when he transferred to Jasta 11; a unit equipped primarily with the Halberstadt D,V. If so, did Richthofcn paint his new Albatros D.III red while still with [asta Boelcke? One theory suggests Richthofen had painted his D.II red even before the arrival of the D.III. However, if so painted for leader recognition why would a red airplane also require pennants for recognition, as McCudden witnessed on the Albatros he fought 27 December? This would have been redundant and something Richthofen did not do with any of his Albatrosses in Jasta 11, judging by their absence in every photograph of his machines— although (as will be seen) at least one of his partially-red Fokker triplanes used streamers for a brief period, though more for enemy taunting than friendly recognition. In any event, McCudden said nothing about the airplane he fought being red, which would have been a noteworthy detail at that stage of the war. Thus, is seems unlikely Richthofen’s Albatros D.II 481/16 was painted red, at least as of 27 December 1916.

    Regardless, a supporting theory for Richthofen’s flying a red D.III with Jasta Boelcke is that Richthofen needed time for his red machine to become well known to the enemy by the time he flew with Jasta I l, because after Victory No. 18 on 24 January (as will be seen), the captured British crew stated they were familiar with the red airplane (Richthofen wrote, . .my red painted plane is not unknown to them… ‘O, Furthermore, they were the ones who coined the nickname “Le Petit Rouge.” If Richthofen did not bring an Albatros D.III with him to Jasta 11, then the first D.III he could have procured arrived at that unit on 21 January. This would have given him only three days to have the machine painted, have the oil-based paint dry, and then let him fly it around frequently enough to become “known” along the front for having a red airplane (although Note 1 above indicates No.40 Squadron reported being attacked by at least one red machine 23 January). Some believe there was not enough time to become so known.

    However, this belief is based on supposition that Richthofen’s bright red Albatros D.III was well known by all the RFC units in that area, which is a bit of a stretch. According to the crew of FE.2b 6997 downed on 24 January (see Victory No. 18), they recalled, “we had previously seen it (the red Albatros D.III), but we did not know who it was.” I.e, they personally had seen it before and were personally familiar with it. “We” being the FE.2b crew in question, not the whole of the RFC. At that stage of the war, even one sighting of a red airplane easily could have created a lasting impression of familiarity with one crew.

    Therefore, this work asserts Richthofen painted his Albatros D.III after his arrival with Jasta Il on 16 January 1917, whether he brought a D.III with him from Jasta Boelcke or procured one with his new unit. This ties in well with the reason that Richthofen chose red was “to be recognized as the leader by his comrades in the air.” In Jasta Il he was no longer just the de facto leader in the air as he had been with Jasta 2. He was now the Staffelführer—-the appointed commander, leader in the air and on the ground—of a lackluster unit that needed much polishing and training to meet Richthofen’s standards. This was to be done hands-on, and the importance of leader recognition is ostensible. However, while well plausible that Richthofen painted his Albatros D.III red after joining Jasta I l, be advised this conclusion remains conjectural.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top