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The Bloody Red Baron Shot A Harrismith Oke! The Swine!

Red Baron fly
– von Richthofen’s famous red Fokker Dr.1 triplane –

Sheila found this:

On the 16 April 1917, the crimson killer Manfred Von Richthofen shot down his 45th Allied aircraft, which included 2nd Lieutenant Frederick Seymour Andrews, the son of Thomas Frederick and Louisa G. Andrews, of Warden Street, Harrismith, in the Orange Free State, South Africa.

Andrews was born in 1889, and was educated at Merchiston College, Pietermaritzburg and – even better – at school in Harrismith. Like many of his countrymen Andrews made the trek to England to volunteer his services in the ‘Great War.’ Approximately 10,000 South Africans and Rhodesians served in the British Armed forces during World War 1, around 3,000 of them in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC).

Andrews joined the RFC and initially served in the ranks with No.1 Squadron, before being commissioned and gazetted as 2nd Lieutenant to the General List in March 1917. He was then posted to No.53 Squadron where he was to meet his pilot, Lieutenant Alphonso Pascoe, who hailed from Cornwall. Andrews and Pascoe were subsequently transferred, in tandem, to No.13 Squadron on the 18 March 1917, the squadron helping to pioneer formation bombing during the war.

Unfortunate timing. April 1917 has gone down in British history as ‘Bloody April’ as the RFC was to suffer a disproportionate amount of casualties – three times as many – in relation to German losses. Since September 1916, the Germans had held the upper hand in the contest for air supremacy on the Western Front, with the Albatros DII and DIII outclassing the British and French fighters charged with protecting their exceptionally vulnerable two-seater reconnaissance and bomber machines.

On the 9 April 1917 the Battle of Arras began with RFC support. In subsequent engagements with the German air-force, the British lost roughly 245 aircraft, with 211 aircrew killed or missing, and a further 108 taken prisoner. A catastrophic period of RFC history.

Andrews’s squadron was equipped with the Royal Aircraft Factory Bleriot Experimental 2 single engine two-seat biplane, the BE2. Approximately 3,500 were built during the war and used as fighters, interceptors, light bombers, trainers and reconnaissance aircraft. The BE2 was not a popular aircraft with the British airmen, being seriously under-powered and unreliable – even by the standards of the time.

BE2e Allied aircraft WW2.jpg

Due to bad weather, rain and low clouds, there had been few combats on 16 April but at 14:50 hours, Pascoe and Andrews were dispatched in their BE2e aircraft No. 3156 on an Artillery Observation sortie. According to Von Richthofen, flying his red DIII, No. 2253/17, he approached Pacsoe and Andrews from approximately 1,000 metres. The two ‘British’ pilots were flying at an altitude of 800 metres, and were supposedly totally unaware of the enemy. Von Richtofen promptly attacked, whereupon Pascoe’s aircraft lost control and began smoking. The pilot regained control, but in the end the plane plummeted from approximately 100 meters to the ground below, coming down between Bailleul and Gavrelle. It was the Baron’s 45th victory in total.

Pascoe and Andrews survived the initial crash. Pascoe was the luckier and could be sent home to England to recover from his wounds. His ‘Springbok’ observer was not so fortunate. Desperately wounded, Fred Andrews was lifted from the smashed wreckage and passed through a series of casualty stations until he finally reached Le Tocquet Hospital, where he was to die thirteen days later, on the 29 April 1917.

Lieutenant Andrews lies buried in Etaples Cemetery, France, near where another Harismithian, Annie Watson Bain lies buried. He was twenty eight years old at the time of his death.

~~~oo0oo~~~

How short and hurried life can be in war. Fred Andrews lasted barely a month in combat. Von Richthofen’s spell was much longer, but still pitifully short.

Von Richthofen earned his pilot’s license in June 1915. After honing his skills flying combat missions over France and Russia, he met the famed German flying ace Oswald Boelcke, who enlisted him in a new fighter squadron called Jasta 2.

Under Boelcke’s tutelage, Richthofen grew into a seasoned fighter pilot. He recorded his first confirmed aerial victory in September 1916 by shooting down a British aircraft over France. He soon racked up four more kills to earn the title of “flying ace.”

He had his Albatros D.III fighter plane painted blood red. The distinctive paint scheme gave rise to the immortal nickname ‘The Red Baron’.

In June 1917 Richthofen was promoted to leader of his own four-squadron fighter wing and was outfitted with the Fokker Dr.1 – Dreidecker = triplane – the distinctive three-winged machine that would become his most famous aircraft.

The Red Baron’s final flight took place on April 21 1918, when pilots from his Flying Circus engaged a group of British planes over Vaux-sur-Somme, France. As Richthofen swooped low in pursuit of an enemy fighter, he came under attack from Australian machine gunners on the ground and a plane piloted by Canadian ace Arthur Roy Brown.

During the exchange of fire, Richthofen was struck in the torso by a bullet and died after crash-landing in a field. Brown got official credit for the victory, but it seems it was probably the Australian infantrymen who fired the fatal shot.

Allied troops recovered Manfred von Richthofen’s body and buried him with full military honors. The 25-year-old had only prowled the skies for a little over two years, but his 80 confirmed aerial victories proved to be the most of any pilot in World War 1.

~~~oo0oo~~~

By bewilderbeast

It's about life, marriage, raising kids, paddling rivers, travel in Africa . . . re-posting thoughts written over decades - at random, I'm afraid.

One reply on “The Bloody Red Baron Shot A Harrismith Oke! The Swine!”

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