By 1000 hours that morning the drizzle had stopped and, except down in the valley and over Vaux-sur-Somme, the morning mist had cleared enough for each side to send out their recce machines. Vertical visibility was quite good; it was not too bad over the river for even though there was a layer of mist, it was not dense and only about 200 feet thick. Horizontal visibility was about one mile through the mist except to the south where the effect of the sun reduced it to half a mile. Above the mist visibility was somewhat limited by the haze. Vertically, the haze was within the limits of the haze filters fitted to aircraft cameras but horizontally it was quite noticeable, especially when looking upwards to the south-east where the sun was behind it. When asked about the visibility that morning, as many ground witnesses said that i’ was good as said the contrary. Speaking many year – later. an airman said: “On that morning visibilirv was layered.’ In truth, the witnesses’ impressions depended upon where they had been positioned and in which direction they had been looking.

As the weather improved and the sky began to clear, 3 AFC’ Squadron despatched two of their RES observation two-seaters off to the Front froir. their base at Poulainville. Their target area was the German supply dump and troops assembly are^ around Le Hamel. Both machines were crewed b

One of the aerial photos taken by the 3 AFC RE8s just prior to Von Richthofen and Weiss’s attack upon them. Note Le Hamel at the bottom of the picture.

highly experienced airmen who were well- practised in the art of working together. Their progress was noted by German observers who very quickly made a telephone call toJGI at Gappy.

The observer in the leading RES (A3661) was Lieutenant E C Banks, from Mosman. New South Wales, his pilot being Lieutenant T L Simpson, from Hamilton, Victoria. In 1965, Banks wrote a long description of what occurred on this sortie. After taking six photographs (the other crew of Lieutenants S G Garrett, from Box Hill, near Melbourne, and A V Barrow, from Harrowgate, England, also took six), Barrow caught sight of about eight aircraft (there were actually nine) approaching them from the east. Suspecting they would be German, the two observers alerted their pilots and all four men prepared for action. The time was noted as 1045.

The nine hostile aircraft were soon identified as Fokker Triplanes, two of which separated from the formation and headed towards them. The colour of the leading Fokker was noted as red and its pilot selected Garrett and Barrows RES for attention. The second Dr. I which had come from the outer edge of the German formation, attacked Simpson and Banks. The first shots of the day s action were about to be fired.

A duel between experts without surprise being a factor is rarely resolved rapidly. After some minutes of manoeuvring for position and some dose-range exchanges of fire, the red Triplane suddenly rolled over and dived away; it did not return to the fray. This left the second Triplane alone to face two well-handled REHs. Working together, Simpson and Garrett turned their machines so that their observers could concentrate their fire on the German fighter each time it came within range. The manoeuvre was successful and splinters were seen to fly off the Triplanes wings. Then its pilot abandoned hostilities, made a diving turn to the east and quickly disappeared into the distance.

The two REs, not wishing to push their luck with the other Triplanes that must still be around, or even other Germans who may have been attracted by the scrap, took shelter inside a nearby cloud. When they emerged a short while later, the sky was empty and so they resumed their photographic work.

From the description of the formation of Triplanes it has to be assumed that the red Triplane, the formation leader, was flown by von Richthofen and the supernumerary position on the outside edge would probably have been taken by Leutnant Hans Weiss (but see also the end of Appendix G). Weiss had scored his 15th victory the previous day and in fact 21 April saw the award for him of the Knights Cross of the Royal Hohenzollern House Order. The part taken by von Richthofen has not been confirmed, but it is in keeping with the tactics used, that the senior pilots would attack while being covered by the rest of the Staffel. It is known, however, that Weiss returned home alone and early, to Сарру, with his rudder controls half shot away. In a letter to his friend Oberleutnant Heinz Schmauser, about the events of the 21st. Weiss wrote the next day:

Unfortunately I was not there at the time he made his emergency landing. Shortly before, I had attacked a flight of enemy reconnaissance aircraft and a bullet cut a rudder cable. I had to return home because I was unable to turn properly.

Manfred von Richthofen was not famous for abandoning a fight without proper cause. There is a good possibility that the poor ammunition quality problems which were to plague him this day had started to appear and that, being temporarily disarmed, he sought some quiet airspace where he could try to un-jam his guns. By the time he managed to clear one, or both of them, the RESs had vanished so he rejoined Jasta 11 on patrol.

Experienced pilots in WWI would often spend time in selecting the ammunition and helping to fill their own machine-gun belts, or fill a drum for a Lewis gun. This did not eliminate rounds with a defective primer. Each pilot might also select his own mix of cartridges; tracer, incendiary, explosive, armour piercing, or jacketted lead. For balloon attacks special ammunition was generally used – Buckingham in the case of the British, (see Appendix I)

The events which followed give the impression that it was during his efforts to clear the stoppage(s) that the firing pin of the right-hand gun fractured. That he rejoined the patrol indicates that he had at least one gun working. What is certain is that a short time later, von Richthofen, who was renowned for his marksmanship and accurate deflection shooting, and who several times had Lieutenant W R May in a could not miss position, failed to dispatch him.

The RES crews recorded their height when the fight began as 7,500 feet, and although neither crew claimed a Triplane shot down, later events made it seem to 3 AFC’s CO, Major David V J Blake, that his men had downed von Richthofen. He anotated their combat report accordingly with

3 AFC - THE FIRST CLAIMAbove right: RE8 reconnaissance machine of 3 Squadron, AFC. It was an aircraft from this unit that started the day’s action.

Right: While the RE8s were photographing Le Hamel, JCI’s main task was to clear the air in order for German Rumpler CV photo-recce aircraft to locate the Australian batteries beyond the Moriancourt Ridge.

the word ‘Decisive’ and entered it as such in the Squadron Record Book. However, the fight having been fought between about 1040-50, this is too early to have been von Richthofens final action. Oddly enough, when Banks later wrote the story of this fight, he noted the time as being even earlier – 1020, although this is clearly an error of memory.

The waters were further muddied by later events as far as 3 AFC were concerned, for when Major Blake was asked to provide a salvage crew to bring in the wreckage of a downed Fokker Triplane later that day (after lunch), which had crashed near Vaux-sur-Somme, included was the news that the pilot, who had been killed, was none other than von Richthofen. Blake may well have added two-and-two together even if it had not been the Baron, and assumed at this stage the Triplane had been that engaged by his crews that
morning, but as it was the Baron, he would has r been even more keen to do so.

Later interest in the day’s events brought tor* the story that Captain Roy Brown had dived down several thousand feet to rescue two 3 AFC R£v which were being attacked by two Fokk;* Triplanes. Records show that this is incorrect. In his combat report. Brown does not mention. г г RESs, neither does his flying log-book entry, and nor do any of his companion’s reports. And neithrr of the two RE8 crews mention any such rescue bv Sopwith Camels. In fact, post war, the four RE" men denied indignantly that Camels had con.; anywhere near them, let alone rescue them. The.: saviour was good shooting coupled with teamwor». and a nice fluffy cloud in which to hide.

All becomes clear when one discovers the ‘rescue’ occurred not on the 21st but on the 22n^_ One of the REHs (C2270) was crewed К

‘8 SO 26) Will SO—*73 00,000 i-O/WVHWVM’ms/l) Ffrnn/WMIS/O

Подпись: Army Form W. 33-lS.* 10130—>1107 J.-.II. IKVI ’|)/lf


Combats in the Air.

—– Narrative.

Подпись: d " to Watch At 10.4Q a. in. while engaged on Photography wo were attacks» by two triplunee uo above. Ono triplane dived on us and the Observer fired 120 rounds in bursts. Ono E. A. >p;-s.,rod V – separate, from the others and alght down but tb<> pilot,.nd

Подпись: Signed Подпись: S.G.GAARB'n1. A-V.fiARROW. Подпись: Liout. Liout. Подпись: Pilot. 0 bservur.

Observer wore too bually engaged with the othar fi. A him down. Tho other h. A. finally withdrew.

Liout. T. L.Sirapnon, Pilot and Liout. fi. C.fiunics. Obsorver

a tat о –

At 10.40 и. ш. whilo proceeding ovoi tie linos ad photogruj wo його attacked near ILUIEL at 7000 feet by 4 fi. A. triplaneo. Її divod on ua and the Observer fired JiOO rounds. Tuo of the Я. А. eppotvred to att_ok Liout. Garrott and Biuut. Barrow in another Ш28 but we were too busily engaged in the fight to see what actually happened.

Подпись:•J!.JL, SIrtPS0U. Lieut. Pilot. В. С.ВАІГКЗ. Liout. Oboorvor.

3rd Aast. Divisional Artillery report –

At about 10.40 a. rn. several rod-nosed triplanee worn oeen to nttaok two REA’a in the neighbourhood of HA2JSL. One of these triplanes oarae down and eraohed ut J.19b.4.4. .‘Pilot killed. Papers on tho Pilot’s body show hi:,i t. o ho Captain von ЫСНТ0РАУ.



Сой. і – in • r<; о ;;.<■« і e-i. not. ЛІ;-,} n

Подпись: AFC after the action withCombat Report: Made out by Lieutenants Garrett and Simpson of 3 von Richthofen and jasta 11.

■*’ – w* Army Form W. 3243 Ж

INJot* available———————— No. Squadron.

4 209 Aeroplanes^ л<г 8QUADR0N RECORD BOOK.

1 U у————————- Date-

Тур* *nJ Number і Pilot and Obserrer


Hour of— 6t*K | Return

Berner kj

Sop*ltb B. R.l 1

______ В 6Щ_____ Limit «П«ОП-






p. m




D 33?fl В 7273 0 3328 В ЗчАв В 7272

Oaptn Boutlll li Lieut Taylor Lieut Srook Lieut Porter Lieut ttarfcar

»r I. g.p





5.40 0.40







2.CO Deolelve Coabet elth Altatroee 2.neater 2.uG et d. lO. a.o oror Albert, rhlon crmmbed

2.0 at eao. J 23,D. l’llot and ofceenrK* killed

2.0 (ьое 0Caabat report )


В 7 270 D 3320 I) 3340 D 3329

Oaptn Brow Lieut May Lieut Ьопав Lieut Meiiareh








10.30 6.25

2.10 Three Albatroee obeerved attacking aakz

2.10 B. B.a’e vnioh eere driven off. Mo deolelve 0 oo turned o>lng to Ignition reeult.


В 7250 D 3 34& D 3327 b 6311 D 6331

Lieut Kedgate Lieut Brake Lieut siadall Lieut btovln Lieut SdjtanlB










10.20 10.20





X. S6 nothing to niport.

1.55 1.55

Total 6a • Ten

Total fl;

Г flying tine ■ • • –

log tine «

m the Field


26 boure 20 boure

10 nlni 30 aln< 40 Bln<



•aajo r

Coraoan-iing 20Oth bquadron •oyal Air Koroe

Record Book of 209 Squadron’s final entries for 21 April and initial entries for 22 April. Carbon copies of this page do not show the…’2′ in the 21. The ’22’ in the "22.4.18" is completely missing. This has confused people in the past but the original clearly shows the correct dates. Note that the remarks concerning Captain Brown’s patrol refer to Albatros machines and not Triplanes.

Lieutenants F L Baillieu and E R Rowntree, who reported *… three EA scouts attempted to attack this machine at 3,000 feet over Bois deVaire but three Camels came up from the west and drove the EA back over their own lines. One EA is thought to have been brought down by Camels.’ This action was timed at 0910 hours.

The Squadron Recording Officer of 3 AFC’ (the Adjutant) later sent the day’s page(s) and Combats in the Air reports to RAF 22 Wing HQ. whence they would progress to 3th Brigade HQ. There, if considered to be of sufficient importance, a mention would be included in that day’s Summary of Work, submitted that evening to higher authority, which included the HQ of the British Fourth Army, commanded by General Sir Henry Rawlinson. The Simpson/Banks/Garrett/

Barrow claim, although not listed in the Combat- annex to the 5th Brigade Summary for 21 April. \ – shortly to be brought to the General’s attention.

While 3 AFC’ had been skirmishing with the Fokkers near Le Hamel, 2<>9 Squadron had bet patrolling the Front. Half an hour into their pam Lieutenant Mellersh had dropped out with engine trouble and returned to Bertangles. Here he changed to a spare machine (B6257) and took off: rejoin the others, which he succeeded in doing. about 1020.

At 1025, Oliver LeBoutillier, spotted anc engaged what he believed to be two Albatros two – seaters over Le Quesnel, about ten kilometres south of the Amiens-St Quentin road. Togetht* with Robert Foster and Merril Taylor, a: Englishman and a Canadian respectively, they downed one of the two-seaters in flames and drove, the other off.

This action took place at the southern end o: the Squadron’s assigned patrol line near Beaucoun so once re-formed, they turned and headed north again. C Flight (Lieutenant Redgate) now became separated from A and В and saw no further acnot. in the events that were about to unfold.

Аітт Form W 33*3. .Squadron.



No.. 3rd_


n… 22nd April 191^



RE8 A4404. Captain H. D.E. Ralfe.(P) Dusk Reconn.
,Lt. W. A.J. Buckland (0)>


5.50p. 8.05p.! No movement observed in forward areas, Strong point at P.8d.5.4. seems to be strongly helcl.

Enemy trenches betn MARRETT WOOD and J.6a£.6. appear to be In good Order.

Flashes and Zone Calls.

6.25p. NF PB|P.10c.2.2.(bacc. 4 yellow flashes) zone call sent, fire observed, corrections MC5. Battery neutrali’sed.


Two pages of 3 AFC’s Record Book for events of 22 April recording an action with EA scouts and Camels. The entry for RE8 C2270 has sometimes been misunderstood as Brown rescuing the RE8s on the 21st. Note that events after 4 pm are recorded on the sheet dated the 23rd.