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The Red Baron

Roy Brown was flying a Sopwith CamelRoy 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.


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