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Victory 62

Event ID: 75

23 November 1917

50.166605989778986, 3.145300994647669
SE edge of Bourlon Wood-rescued from no-mans land
Bourlon Wood

Source ID: 13

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

ISBN: 9781898697275

Combat Report: 1400 hrs, south-east corner of Bourlon Wood. DH5. Englishman. At 1400 hrs, shortly after I forced an Englishman to land at the west side of Bourlon Wood, I attacked a DH5 north of Fontaine (Notre Dame) at about 100 metres height. After the first shots, the Englishman started to glide downwards, but then fell into the south-east corner of Bourlon Wood. I could not observe the plane hitting the ground. Weather: low clouds.

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  1. source: Inside the victories of Manfred von richthofen – Volume 2, James F. Miller, Aeronaut Books, 2016

    1. Popular belief is D.4693/17 was red from spinner to cockpit, as was common with Jasta 11 Albatros D.Vs during summer 1917, and for which photographic provenance exists for several Staffel machines. Although this disregards Richthofen’s two descriptions of its markings (“red hood, red tail” on 23 November, and then ‘I red body, red tail” a week later), a photograph of D.4693/17 is said to exist in private hands—i.e., unavailable for public scrutiny—that shows the machine with a red nose up to the cockpit. The author’s queries as to the method of identification (i.e., visible serial number), the date of the photograph, and its availability for personal eyewitness remain unanswered.
    Therefore, until such photographic availability, a keystone of doubt remains centered on Richthofcn’s CISC of the word /’hood,” at least as has been translated. The only other Albatros he described as having a “red hood” was that which he used 2 July, which matches the photographed Albatros he landed in Comines 6 July 1917. That plane had its red nose not to the cockpit but just on the spinner and the metal cowl immediately aft the spinner. As will be seen, he always used “hood” when describing his red triplane cowls and not the entire front of the airplane up to the cockpit, and it seems (“seems” being an important caveat, as it is supposition) that red from spinner to cockpit on an Albatros—i.e., almost half its fuselage—would warrant more than a description of “hood.”

    Furthermore, Richthofen’s second description of D.4693/17 for victory 63 a week later switches from “red hood” to “red body,” suggesting the fuselage was ultimately painted completely red. A check of JGI Adjutant Karl Bodenschatz’s diary reveals that between 23 and 30 November there was very limited flying because of frequent inclement weather—i.e., plenty of time to paint an airplane with time enough for it to dry before the next sortie, even with the relocation to Avesnes le Sec airfield that occurred at this time. The other Albatros Richthofen described as having a “red body” was D.1177/17, believed to be the machine photographed in late June with an entirely painted fuselage. Thus, would not “red body” indicate complete overpainting for D.4693/17 as well? Yet, if completely painted red, why include “red tail”? Perhaps to differentiate between other red-fuselage Albs with non-red tails (such as the second Albatros in the Gontrode photographs)? Or does this imply the red stopped at the forward edge of the cockpit after all, beyond which the fuselage was unpainted shellacked-and-varnished wood until the red empennage?

    Theories contend it apples and oranges to compare Dr.l and Albatros engine cowls because the former’s cowl was confined to the very front of the machine while the latter’s cowl progressed along the top half of the fuselage from the spinner to just ahead of the cockpit—i.e., if the engine cowls of both machine types were painted red, then despite their differences in length each could be described as having “red cowls.” However, it is a valid comparison when one regards the Albatros D.V Richthofen flew 2 and (presumably 6 July was described as having a “red hood.” Photographs reveal it was not painted red from spinner to cockpit, nor did it only have its engine cowlings painted red up to the cockpit, with the bottom half of the forward painted fuselage unpainted shellacked and varnished “warm straw” colored wood. Rather, just its spinner and the foremost cowling were red. This establishes precedent that even with the Albatros D. V’s longer engine cowls, “ted hood” Incant the very front of the machine and not the entirety of the engine cowls.

    Richthofen was consistent with his descriptions amongst his various combat reports, and his interchanging “hood” with “body” would be the sole discrepancy in that regard. Yet, his description of D. 1177 merely states “red body” and does not mention the wings being red, as does his description of his 2 July (and presumed 6 July) Albatros D.V (“hood, tail, decks red”) and various triplanes (“red upper deck”). Still, the author concedes that the photographed all-red D.V with the overpainted wings at Gontrode may not be D.1177 at all – or is D.1177 but was photographed after Richthofen last scored with it 25 June, during the combat of which its wings were not painted red but were so afterwards.

    Thus, as based on Richthofen’s combat reports that have been cross referenced with photographs of known machines, coupled with his consistent description nomenclature, there are three possibilities regarding the appearance of 4693/17:
    1. “Red hood, red tail.” (As flown 23 November.) Spinner and very front cowl red, empennage red, fuselage shellacked and varnished wood. Similar to the Albatros D.V flown 6 July, but without the red wings.
    2. “Red body, red tail.” (As flown 30 November.) Fuselage entirely red, from spinner to trailing edge of rudder. Although seemingly redundant, perhaps “red tail” was included to differentiate Richthofen’s machine from accompanying fully red Albatrosses that had different coloured tails, Such distinction would be important as regards victory confirmation, because an eyewitness description of ‘red plane’ might be too vague to support a victory claim and invoke the follow up question: “What colour was the tail (that portion of an airplane Richthofen stressed be uniquely painted to identify a pilot in flight)?” This is offered merely as conjectural food for thought. 3. “Red body, red tail.” (As flown 30 November.) Red nose up to cockpit, red tail. “Red tail” indicates that between cockpit and tail the fuselage remained factory-finish unpainted wood.
    If the use of and then “body” stems from a translation error, it remains the only translation confusion of “hood” and “body” throughout all of the combat reports. This does not prove there were no translation errors, of course, but since “hood” Haube and “body” Körper, would such dissimilar words be confused during translation? There is no way to know definitively. Until the provenance of indisputable photographic evidence, all descriptions regarding the markings of Richthofen’s 4693/17—including the author’s contention that its spinner and front cowl were red on 23 November (“red hood”), with that red then being extended up to the cockpit (if not the entire plane) between 23 and 30 November (“red body”), with red tails on both days—are— conjectural.

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