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Viking

The top 3?

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Just a bit of fun here, Marty's thread on drab colouring on British aircraft and the lack of prominence/publicity given to pilots has got me thinking, so I'd best not hijack Marty's thread.

A large part of my interest in Great war aviation is the personalities involved. Acknowledging the background that all airmen of whatever side were serving their country, I wonder if any others have an interest in particular pilots and their achievements? Can you suggest a list of your top 3 pilots from whatever side.

Mine are;

 

1) Oswald Boelcke. Number one because he organised and developed the basics of air warfare that remained true for many decades, if not through to the present day with the basic tactics still valid.

He operated as a chivalrous opponent when possible, although he was always deadly in the heat of combat.

 

2) James McCudden. Started out as a mechanic in the RFC, and excelled at it, before becoming an observer and then a pilot. I read his book a few years ago, where he stated that when flying the Fe2.b he used to unstrap, stand on the seat, face backward and rest his elbows on the top wing while taking a good look behind, such was the stability of the Fee. I'd love to believe it is true, and if Jimmy McCudden wrote it, it probably is! He thought in forensic detail about air tactics and perfected the art of sneaking up on opponents so that the first they knew of him was rounds hitting their aircraft.

 

3) Georges Guynemer. Like McCudden he started as a mechanic and worked his way up to pilot. Dogged by ill health, he never let it get the better of him although he repeatedly suffered from stress and really should have been rested. He was a quiet and modest man. He took great care of his aircraft, engine and guns always ensuring everything was in tip top condition. His flying skills were exceptional, and in one on one duels he was almost unbeatable. I was thrilled to see one of his actual SPAD VII's in the musee de l'air at Le Bourget a few years ago.

One of several photos I took!

SPADVII.jpg

 

Oh how I wish we had more of the actual aces aircraft preserved like this.

 

Amway, I've gone on a bit more than I intended. I like making models of these aircraft, but for sure it is the back stories of the men that flew them that really add the interest.

Sadly not one of the 3 in my list survived the war. Boelcke and Guynemer died in combat, and McCudden lost his life after an engine failure on take off.

 

Any more for any more?

 

John

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Hi John - I'd have to agree with Boelcke, as the father of air combat.

 

For my part I've always had an interest in Frank Linke Crawford as a result of Dr Martin O'Connors ( was that him?) Scale Models series in the 80s about Austro Hungarian aces. A series I maintain is the reason I still like to dabble in WW1 stuff. With a British mother, he always seem to epitomise to me the turmoil that the rather stable Edwardian world was thrown into by the Great War, and was not only a fine flyer, but also looked after his men, often in spite of regulations.

 

Secondly - because I'm rather fond of unusual heroes, and because he was mentioned in a book I used to get out from the library as a young lad on a regular basis, on Richthofen of course; and if only for a name that they don't make anymore, then Major Lanoe George Hawker VC is in there too - "The British Boelcke" as  Richthofen dubbed him.  An incredibly brave pilot, but also very inventive - he epitomises to me the spirit of these early fighter pilots who basically had to work it out as they flew. He should be better known I think.

 

Finally - and solely because he holds a unique record: Stanley Vincent. Part of a rather small cadre of flyers who fought in both wars, but thats not why he's unique!

 

 

I have nothing but admiration for the flyers of the Great War - young, brave and usually very scared, flying things that could be more dangerous than the enemy. It takes a lot of cojones to do that, and even more to do it day after day.

 

Cheers - and keep up the excellent work mate - I love seeing your builds.

 

Jonners

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Very interesting thread you've started John.

 

Well my top three are:

 

1. Maj John Inglis Gilmour - Born in Helensburgh, Scotland and, so I was told by my Gran, a distant relation of my own and very much an unsung hero. From what little information I have on him he was a superb pilot, fighter and leader. He always took time to train new arrivals in real front line flying to give them the best possible chance of survival. He was Scotlands' top scoring ace flying Camels and his exploits in combat were remarkable. He was also one of the few, if not the only pilot, to actually shoot anyone else down while flying a Martinsyde Elephant. He claimed two kills flying the elephant although he was actually tasked with bombing duties at the time, superb marksmanship and handling of a large and ungainly aircraft with an odd armament set-up. Sadly I believe he suffered from mental health problems throughout his time at the front and in the years after which saw him hospitalised a number of times and culminated in his committing suicide with cyanide.

 

2. Werner Voss - I don't know why but I just feel a connection with this ace and he was, by all accounts, a superb airman and combatant while being also a 'decent bloke'. The accounts of his final battle are truly awe inspiring, he could have run but, despite there being very poor odds in his favour he faced the fray and fought to the death.

 

3. Edward Mannock - While Mannock strikes me as having been a little unbalanced with a desire to ensure the death of the enemy pilot rather than simply defeat them in fair battle there is no doubting that he was a brilliant pilot and fighter.

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Posted (edited)
On ‎30‎/‎07‎/‎2017 at 8:17 PM, Viking said:

James McCudden

 

My Grandad was a Sergeant  in the army in France WW1. He applied for the RFC, who wanted Carpenters , he was and accepted in 1916 posted to an RFC airfield in France, then  posted to Farnborough within days for Trade  Training (Airframes). He got there late at night and reported to the Guardroom for bedding and Block allocation. He was told the Orderly Sgt was working down the hangar. There he was, Flight Sgt McCudden (on Pilot training) uniform covered in grease and oil and swearing a lot ! He'd stripped engine and was rebuilding it. He flew it the next day after being up all night.

Aircraft mechanic RFC  to Fighter Ace Major in the RAF in  4 years. RIP

Edited by bzn20

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Some great responses already, hard to disagree with any of them!

 

37 minutes ago, bzn20 said:

 

My Grandad was a Sergeant  in the army in France WW1. He applied for the RFC, who wanted Carpenters , he was and accepted in 1916 posted to an RFC airfield in France, then  posted to Farnborough within days for Trade  Training (Airframes). He got there late at night and reported to the Guardroom for bedding and Block allocation. He was told the Orderly Sgt was working down the hangar. There he was, Flight Sgt McCudden (on Pilot training) uniform covered in grease and oil and swearing a lot ! He'd stripped engine and was rebuilding it. He flew it the next day after being up all night.

Aircraft mechanic RFC  to Fighter Ace Major in the RAF in  4 years. RIP

 

Wow, a personal connection, Love it! Just like Voss, McCudden was often in the hangar working with the mechanics. What a tragedy he should lose his life to a malfunctioning engine when he was so meticulous and a top rated engine man too. He said in his book that he was often 'cold shouldered' by other officers as he was not of 'officer stock', being an ex 'erk' and from humble origins.

 

40 minutes ago, Beardie said:

2. Werner Voss - I don't know why but I just feel a connection with this ace and he was, by all accounts, a superb airman and combatant while being also a 'decent bloke'. The accounts of his final battle are truly awe inspiring, he could have run but, despite there being very poor odds in his favour he faced the fray and fought to the death.

 

3. Edward Mannock - While Mannock strikes me as having been a little unbalanced with a desire to ensure the death of the enemy pilot rather than simply defeat them in fair battle there is no doubting that he was a brilliant pilot and fighter.

 

You've got me there Marty. I need 1a. Voss has to be on my list too. His fatal encounter with 56 Sqn is the stuff of legends, outnumbered on his own in the prototype Fokker F.1 he put bullet holes in every single SE5a of 56 Sqn, and very nearly survived. An absolute tragedy, that he should have gone on leave with his 2 brothers who had turned up at his Jasta to accompany him home on leave. And he decided on 'just 1 more flight...' Still it was probably for the better from the RFC's point of view. But a truly heroic figure nonetheless.

Mannock. I really struggled between him and McCudden, my decision could have gone either way.

 

1 hour ago, Jon Kunac-Tabinor said:

For my part I've always had an interest in Frank Linke Crawford as a result of Dr Martin O'Connors ( was that him?) Scale Models series in the 80s about Austro Hungarian aces. A series I maintain is the reason I still like to dabble in WW1 stuff. With a British mother, he always seem to epitomise to me the turmoil that the rather stable Edwardian world was thrown into by the Great War, and was not only a fine flyer, but also looked after his men, often in spite of regulations.

 

As you say Jonners, a truly fascinating character and heroic aviator and officer, a most unlikely guy to be on 'the other' side. I love the fact that he didn't bother to claim one of his victories, just casually mentioning it in a letter home! I know less about the Austro Hungarian front, but Godwin Bomowski is another one that takes my interest (and the lovely Albatros D.III OEF that the Ausrtians made into a much better aeroplane. Please Wingnut Wings, we need one or two or three variants. Easily done from the same basic mould :smile:).

 

Great stuff guys!

 

John

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Would folks include, or exclude, pilots who did things like follow down and machine gun a pilot once his plane was downed? I came across a biog of a British Pilot whose name I forget and he was awarded a medal for just such an exploit but it strikes me as being an ignoble act.

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To Beardie i say no i would exclude someone like that.

    As to the original question and as im not a WW1 expert. I would say my #1 pick would be Oswald Boelcke. My 2nd pick might very well be The Richthofen family Manfred, Lothar, and Wolfram were all supposed to be fairly well regarded as people and pilots. My # 3 I would angle for Eddie Rickenbacker. I believe he also started out as a Sergeant and a mechanic. He had to force his way into flight training as he was considered more valuable as a maintenance person. So that would be my three. 

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13 hours ago, Beardie said:

Would folks include, or exclude, pilots who did things like follow down and machine gun a pilot once his plane was downed? I came across a biog of a British Pilot whose name I forget and he was awarded a medal for just such an exploit but it strikes me as being an ignoble act.

When we look back on it now, deliberately targeting a pilot who has bailed out seems barbaric, but of course as we all know, the propaganda at the time would have painted the German's as inhuman monsters. The British pilot may have read that morning about the Hun crucifying a Tommy on a barn door; or putting a nurse in front of a firing squad; or murdering Belgian babies, so normally he may have been a decent, honourable pilot. Who knows what we would have done with similar brain-washing.

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Agreed but I don't think that the pursuit and murder of the downed pilot should really have been included in the medal citation or even worthy of a medal.

 

I think there was also a degree of wisdom in giving a downed pilot a chance at survival. If you did it for your enemy he just might do it for you if the roles are reversed at a later date.

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Albert ball would be my first choice followed by Richthoven and Rene Fonck the sole survivor of the trio.

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On a slighlty oblique tack...

 

Robert Smith Barry. He saved hundreds of lives by inventing the system of flying training that is stil the basis of what is used today. Every fighter pilot since about mid 1917 owes a large part to RSB

 

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On 7/31/2017 at 7:03 PM, stevej60 said:

Albert ball would be my first choice followed by Richthoven and Rene Fonck the sole survivor of the trio.

solid choices, i'm surprised it took that long for Ball's name to come up. 

On 7/31/2017 at 5:36 AM, Beardie said:

Would folks include, or exclude, pilots who did things like follow down and machine gun a pilot once his plane was downed? I came across a biog of a British Pilot whose name I forget and he was awarded a medal for just such an exploit but it strikes me as being an ignoble act.

To be fair, by many accounts, Mannock may not have actually done so, but wanted to. The "knights of the air" stuff was mostly "moonshine."

 

that said i'll start my list with Udet. i'm going to try to avoid those named already, but oddly, i don't think Udet's name has come up yet. His interpretation of the famous Guynemer fight is very "knights of the air", but many think Guynemer's guns also jammed. 

 

next up, Collishaw. Collishaw should be among the best known and deserve a one-word name like Madonna but he isn't, largely because he was a humble fella. by many accounts he'd let his noobs finish off an enemy and claim the kill to build their confidence. a real leader. 

 

finally (although my actual list is well over 200) 

Billy Barker. one hell of a pilot, as the VC combat demonstrates. his Camel was the single most successful airframe of the war by any account i've seen, and it wasn't one of those "5 for Minifie, 7 for Fall, and a few for Little, and some other guy" situations. that Camel was all barker, as were the kills. 

 

ask me tomorrow, i may say Josef Jacobs, Keith Park and Frank Luke. The next day? Rickenbacker, Seversky and Immelmann. 

 

there are so many... i'm in awe of them all. 

 

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Udet was high on my list as well as was Jacobs. I seem to recall reading that Mannock was of the opinion that one should aim for the pilot rather than the machine and is recorded as having a real hatred for the enemy (If I recall correctly he developed this hatred while interned and mistreated in Turkey)

 

I do think there was a degree of chivalry in air combat, as there was also in the trenches. Each man develops his own code of conduct and sets the boundaries he will not cross. There are accounts of pilots on both sides who chose not to attack an enemy whose guns had jammed or who were clearly unable to defend themselves or chose not to pursue aircraft which had the appearance of going down already being satisfied that they were simply removed from the fight.

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Mannock was particularly angry with Germans because he  had been incarcerated by the Turks (he was working there as a young telephone engineer when the war broke out). His health was badly affected when he was held as a prisoner so he vowed a personal vendetta against the Turks and their allies.

 

Mannock was born in Cork (some sources say Brighton but it's generally accepted now that he was born in Ireland). His father was a Scottish soldier stationed in ireland but left the family when Mannock was young. Mannock thought of himself as Irish and was actually quite Republican in his views. If he had survived the war it is likely he would have gone to Ireland and got involved in the politics. Who knows how things would have turned out for him.

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A very interesting topic, bringing back all sorts of memories of books read as a child. I didn't think I would know any WW1 pilots when I started reading this thread but now remember reading a fair few of the biographies mentioned above.

Who was the RFC Pilot who was blind in one eye and allegedly learned the eye test chart to blag his way through the medical?

 

Duncan B

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I believe it was Edward "Mick" Mannock who was blind in one eye.

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On ‎30‎/‎07‎/‎2017 at 9:49 PM, Viking said:

personal connection, Love it!

Just another little "connection" In 72 I was posted to Brize Norton, I found out that we could get on Local Flyers on VC10s,Belfasts and Britannias by just asking. Within a couple days of arriving I got on a VC10 local flying (Circuits and bumps) at Brize then to Machrihanish, Argyll and Bute ,Scotland ( 3 or 4 approaches in evil weather ) to pick up some crew. It was XV104 which was named James McCudden VC . Within a month of 56 years later !

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On 8/8/2017 at 13:50, Beardie said:

I believe it was Edward "Mick" Mannock who was blind in one eye.

He wasn't blind in one eye but did have poor sight in the affected eye. He cheated by learning the eye chart.

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1° René Fonck, best French ace of the war, and maybe best of them all (but the French strictness in confirming the claims).

The fighter pilot's fighter pilot.

 

2° Charles Nungesser, for his fighter pilot career, but also for his early War as a Hussard, and his life lived to the full after the War.

 

3° René Dorme, its nickname Père Dorme says it all.

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On 7/30/2017 at 11:36 PM, Beardie said:

Would folks include, or exclude, pilots who did things like follow down and machine gun a pilot once his plane was downed? I came across a biog of a British Pilot whose name I forget and he was awarded a medal for just such an exploit but it strikes me as being an ignoble act.

Robert Stanford Tuck, by his own account (via Larry Forrester), did exactly that. I read Forrester's book as a child: it includes an account of how Tuck shot down a Bf110, which made a belly landing. He flew low over the crash site and thought the downed pilot was waving at him but "the German's raised arms held a Schmeisser machine pistol" and he put a bullet into Tuck's armoured windscreen, so Tuck machinegunned him. I've always found it difficult to believe that's what actually happened - someone who has just crashlanded jumps out and puts a bullet into the windscreen of a lowflying WW2 fighter aircraft, using an inaccurate, close range weapon (he just happened to keep in the cockpit) that employs low velocity pistol cartridges? I strongly suspect that Tuck was carried away in the heat of the moment, felt lasting guilt about what he'd done and constructed an account to justify it, primarily to himself. Who are we to judge him?

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That doesn't sound very plausible. I don't believe it was usual to carry a machine pistol in the cockpit, maybe a side-arm and how he would manage to hit the armoured front windscreen anything other than a glancing blow is difficult to imagine. I think that is a bit of a tall tale. In order to hit he would have to have been very close as well so gunning him down would have to have taken a deliberate 'go-round' in order to bring your guns to bear and, if you had gone past with little or no damage to return to kill the offender would be a little bit like murder.

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Clive Caldwell used to practice this, also.

Kind of total war, with true reasons behind it.

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Dipping into the basics of Clive Caldwell, his words imply that he struggled psychologically with what he did. He disliked being called 'killer' by his comrades and the press and writing "it's your life or theirs. This is war" in his notebook suggests someone trying to come to terms with and justify his own actions to himself.

 

I suspect that there is more than a little truth in the belief that, with every life you take, you lose a little of your own soul.

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I discovered yesterday that one of my colleague's great-grandfather was an ace in Naval 8 flying Sopwith Tripehounds!

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I personnaly think that his reasons were perfectly justified.

He you might spare today might come back tomorrow to try and kill you.

Good thing facebook was not available at the time...

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