The Red Baron Aced

Day 349 of Colourisation Project – April 21

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication. 

It was on this day, 21 April 1918, that Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, aka the Red Baron, one of the most decorated fighter pilots in Germany was shot down and killed by enemy forces near Amiens in France during World War 1. He was three weeks shy of his 26th birthday.

The Red Baron

Photographer: C. J. von Dühren ~ Manfred von Richthofen, The Red Baron 1917 – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Born in Breslau, Germany in 1892, he was considered the top ace of the war, and was officially credited with 80 air combat victories, making him both a national hero and a propaganda tool.

A national champion horseman, he originally started out as a cavalryman before transferring to the Air Service in 1915. Within a remarkable two-year career as a fighter pilot, he established himself as a supreme aviator, whose prowess in the air was widely respected by all including even his enemies.

Contrary to popular belief,  Manfred von Richthofen was never known as the “Red Baron,” during his lifetime. The French called him Le Diable Rouge (the Red Devil). In his own diaries, he referred to himself as der rote Kampfflieger (the red fighter pilot), a reference to his bright red aircraft. It was only after the war that the “Red Baron” moniker came into play, referring to both his plane and his title of nobility, Freiherr (baron).

Just who was responsible for his death was never known with certainty. He had been chasing a British fighter pilot when he was struck by a single bullet and fatally wounded. It was either a Canadian or an Australian. He managed to land his plane intact, before dieing. (It didn’t take long before his Fokker plane was dismantled by souvenir seekers.)

For many years, Canadian fighter pilot, Arthur Roy Brown was credited with shooting down von Richthofen’s plane. However, forensic and other evidence in recent years seems to leave little doubt that von Richthofen was actually killed by machine gun fire from the ground, after his brief air engagement with Brown. The entry and exit points of the bullet wound indicate that the fatal shot came from an Australian machine gun unit.

Upon viewing Richthofen’s body the following day before his burial, Brown wrote that

“there was a lump in my throat. If he had been my dearest friend, I could not have felt greater sorrow”.

The following day, von Richthofen was buried with full military honors by the Allies in the village cemetery at Bertangles, near Amiens, France. In an incredible act of respect for von Richthofen, members of the Australian air squadron served as pallbearers and an honor guard.

That’s war I guess…kill and then glorify.

In 1925, von Richthofen’s family had his body returned to his homeland, Germany, where he was buried in the war heroes’ cemetery at the Invalidenfriedhof Cemetery, in Berlin.

57 years later his remains were moved to his family’s plot at Wiesbaden.


“Everything depends on whether we have for opponents those French tricksters or those daring rascals, the English. I prefer the English. Frequently their daring can only be described as stupidity. In their eyes it may be pluck and daring.”    –Manfred von Richthofen

This entry was posted in Colorization, Colourisation, Germany, History, Photography, World War 1 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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