German efforts are concentrated now in Flanders, where Ludendorff still hopes to inflict a decisive blow on the British. However the Germans are still pushing at the British in the Somme sector, hoping to either take Amiens or advance close enough to it that the transport hub becomes unusable to the enemy.
In support of the ground war the Germans have deployed much of their air force to the Somme. Manfred von Richthofen and his Flying Circus are patrolling here, doing as much as they can to keep the skies clear of Allied aeroplanes. Only yesterday the Red Baron brought down two enemy planes, shooting down first a Sopwith Camel flown by Major Richard Raymond-Barker, who dies, and then three minutes later another Camel flown by David Greswolde Lewis, who is lucky enough to survive and be taken prisoner.
Today while on patrol Richthofen sees an enemy aeroplane attacking one flown by his cousin, Wolfram von Richthofen. The Red Baron attacks, saving his cousin and then pursues the enemy aircraft, flown by Canadian pilot Wilfrid May. Throwing caution to the wind, Richthofen is unrelenting in his pursuit of May and allows himself to be drawn across the Allied lines. He declines to break off the chase even when another Canadian, Captain Arthur Brown, comes to his compatriot’s aid.
As May desperately tries to escape, the Red Baron finds himself being fired upon by Brown and also by Australian troops on the ground. A bullet pierces his heart, fatally injuring him. He manages to roughly land his Fokker triplane but dies almost immediately afterwards, lasting just long enough for Australian soldiers to reach the crash site and hear him say “kaputt”.
Richthofen’s body is taken away and prepared for burial with full military honours. His aeroplane is less fortunate, being torn apart by souvenir hunters.
In his two-year career, Richthofen has brought down some 80 enemy aircraft and sent a similar number of enemy fliers to their graves. There will never be another more famous fighter pilot.
Red Baron’s Last Patrol & Red Barons Last Flight (Barry Weekley studio: Aviation Galleries) follow link for more pictures of warplanes from the First World War and beyond