Roy Brown became captain of the 209 Squadron of the Royal Air
Force (RAF) in the spring of 1918. His school friend
"Wop" May, a relatively
inexperienced pilot, was assigned to Brown’s squadron. At the
same time, Rittmeister Manfred von Richthofen, known as the Red
Baron, and his young cousin Wolfram, were flying in Germany’s
Jasta 11 Squadron.
On 21 April 1918, aircraft from squadrons on both sides took
to the air and met over the battlefield. Brown signalled to May
that he should fly higher and stay out of the fight. Brown was
attacked by two triplanes that were on his tail, but he was able
to turn and get away. May saw some Fokkers pass under him and
attacked, firing both of his guns. He continued firing without
hitting anything until his guns jammed, and he headed back to
Allied lines. The Red Baron, however, saw him and pursued.
May realized he was being followed when bullets ripped into
his Camel. He tried to spin and zigzag to get away, but the
Baron was still on him, even though May had made it back to the
Allied side of the line. Brown saw the chase below and dived in
to help May. The Red Baron’s left gun jammed and the right gun
could only fire one bullet at a time. The German flying ace came
under heavy fire from Brown and from the Australian ground guns
and crashed his plane into a hill.
Brown was given a bar to add to his Distinguished Service
Cross for the victory over the Red Baron. Although many believe
that Australian anti-aircraft gunners played the crucial role in
bringing down the Red Baron, Brown received the credit.