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In my turn I opened fire on the Baron, and in another half minute found myself in the midst of what seemed to be a stampede of bloodthirsty animals. Everywhere I turned smoking bullets were jumping at me; and although I got in two or three good bursts at the Baron’s “red devil,” I was rather bewildered for two or three minutes, as I could not see what was happening to the major, and was not at all certain as to what was going to happen to me.

Around we went in cyclonic circles for several minutes, here a flash of the (enemy) machines, then a flash of silver as my squadron commander would whizz by. All the time I would be in the same mix-up myself, every now and then finding a red machine in front of me, and letting in a round or two of quick shots. It was a lightning fight, and I have never been in anything just like it.

Air Marshal William Avery “Billy” Bishop, VC, CB, DSO & Bar, MC, DFC, ED, LL.D. (8 February 1894 – 11 September 1956), on his battle with the Red Baron.

In the much disputed history of the First World War, folklore has said that Bishop shot down the Bloody Red Baron, but in fact they had a high risk dog fight that lasted several minutes before the Red Baron and his escort had to retreat.

Bishop, a Canadian fighter pilot, was the third ranked among WWI fighter aces, behind Frenchman Rene Fonck and German Manfred von Richthofen.  There were four Canadians among the top ten, but most often were called English as there was no such RCAF at the time.  Bishop had acquired such acclaim that the German’s began refering to him as Hell’s Handmaiden.  One Jasta (or jagdstaffeln, were specialized fighter squadrons in the Luftstreitkräfte) even had a bounty on his head.

The Red Baron would eventually get shot down, but not by the likes of Bishop or Fonck.  On July 6, 1917, he was shot down by Captain Douglas Cunnel and 2nd Lieut. Alfred Woolbridge.  Though von Richthofen would land his plane safely, he did receive a head injury as a bullet grazed him.  After receiving convalescence, where he wrote a book (under the guidance of German High Command), he went right back to flying missions.

Richthofen’s death did not come at the hands (or controls) of a fighter ace at all.  At the time the Red Baron was shot down and died due to his wounds, Bishop was on leave in Canada.  Bishop would return to Europe during the month the Red Baron was shot down, but he was promoted to Major and put in Command of No. 85 Squadron, the Flying Foxes.  As for Richthofen:

At the time, the Baron had been pursuing (at very low altitude) a Sopwith Camel piloted by a novice Canadian pilot, Lieutenant Wilfrid “Wop” May of No. 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force. In turn, the Baron was spotted and briefly attacked by a Camel piloted by a school friend (and flight commander) of May’s, Canadian Captain Arthur “Roy” Brown, who had to dive steeply at very high speed to intervene, and then had to climb steeply to avoid hitting the ground. Richthofen turned to avoid this attack, and then resumed his pursuit of May.

It was almost certainly during this final stage in his pursuit of May that a single .303 bullet hit Richthofen, damaging his heart and lungs so severely that it must have caused a very quick death.  In the last seconds of his life, he managed to make a hasty but controlled landing ( 49°55′56″N 2°32′16″E) in a field on a hill near the Bray-Corbie road, just north of the village of Vaux-sur-Somme, in a sector controlled by the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). One witness, Gunner George Ridgway, stated that when he and other Australian soldiers reached the aircraft, Richthofen was still alive but died moments later. Another eye witness, Sergeant Ted Smout of the Australian Medical Corps, reported that Richthofen’s last word was “kaputt”.

As for Bishop, after the war he went on a speaking touring of the United States.  He was promoted to air vice-marshal in 1936, and at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, was promoted to Air Marshal of the Royal Canadian Air Force.  During the war, he served as Director of RCAF and was in charge of recruiting.  He would also appear as himself in the Hollywood film Captains of the Clouds, which doubled as a tribute to the RCAF and a tool to persuade Americans to join the war (which was helped greatly by Pearl Harbour).

(via timholtorf)
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