Gibbons’ work. The Red Knight of Germany, has been published in more than twenty editions over the years and was serialised again, this time in the Chicago Tribune. The flawed information was continually recycled.
In different editions of the serialisation and/or the book, some of the errors instanced above were corrected. The case of Gibbons not having information or proper knowledge on the type of armament fitted to
Captain Browns Sopwith Camel caused him much grief. The Liberty serialized version said:*., his last belt of ammunition was in place.’ This suggested it was something Brown had fitted prior to his last attack. Unfortunately the Vickers machine-gun belts on a Sopwith Camel could only be changed on the ground, and even worse, two men were required to perform the operation. The book form circumvented the belt problem by going back to the Summary and staring: his
last drum of ammunition was in place’ and thereby unwittingly introduced further error. Drums were fitted on Lewis guns, not Vickers.
A similar case occurred when Gibbons tried to correct the erroneous information that Captain Brown organised the removal of von Richthofen’s body from the red Triplane. Gibbons nominated Lieutenant Mellersh in Brown’s place, which was also incorrect. He was right in so far as it was an airman, but it was actually Lieutenant Warneford of 3 AFC Squadron.
It appears that rather than consult the Air Ministry in London, Gibbons would have done much better to have travelled to Canada and to have interviewed Roy Brown, always assuming he had not already tried and been rebuffed. Incidentally, Roy is his correct name, not Royal as has sometimes been stated.
In short, Floyd Gibbons honest, best efforts were seriously flawed due to no fault of his own. Who, in his situation, would entertain doubts as to the veracity and completeness of information provided by the Air Ministry. It would never have crossed his mind that it had been selected so as to provide a specific conclusion and that any evidence to the contrary had been downplayed or totally omitted.
There is also some irony too that Gibbons, as well as adding a few ‘facts’ to fit his researches, sometimes missed an important point. When he was writing his book he enquired of Air Ministry about a certain Sergeant McCudden, and was he the man known later as Captain James McCudden VC? They confirmed this to be so and in hindsight it appears that Gibbons had stumbled upon the possibility that Sergeant McCudden had possibly been the Baron’s opponent on 27 December 1916. With the limited information available to Gibbons in the 1920s he could not take the premise further and so missed the vital clues that showed that McCudden was indeed his 15th ‘victory’, although in this particular case it was one that got away.
Gibbons’ legacy to mankind is that from 1928 onwards most drawings and paintings show Brown attacking from the right, and this has become the popular belief or misconception. Other artists have placed all three aircraft in a line astern chase situation along the Somme canal, May-von Richthofen-Brown, which is equally incorrect.
For historical purposes both the Summary and the chapters in The Red Knight of Germany which cover the death of the Baron have no value whatsoever. They may be said to contribute negatively to a proper understanding of what happened on those two fateful days in April 1918.