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Duel of Aces.

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Duel of Aces.

Postby Baracchini » 24 Oct 2009, 14:40

The great encounter between Manfred von Richthofen and Lanoe Hawker VC.
An elegant but deadly dance between two masters of the air,Manfred von Richthofen's duel with Lanoe Hawker was probably the longest one-on-one dogfight in aviation history,lasting for 30 dizzying minutes. Powerend flight was less than 14 years old when British Ace Lanoe Hawker VC met Germany's rising star,Manfred von Richthofen,on november 23,1916,and now,more than 90 years later,it is still though of as one of the classic encounters of the 'Great War'.

The story of the British Ace - Lanoe Hawker.


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Englishman Lanoe George Hawker was born at the family home in Longparish,Hampshire on december 30,1890.
Hawker had attented the prestigious Royal Navy College at Dartmouth on England's southwest coast before moving on to the Royal Military Academy in Londen and later enlisting as an officer Cadet in the Royal Engineers. He displayed considerable skill as an engineer and inventor,but after visiting an early air show in 1910,his interests turned toward flying. He could afford to pay for his own flying lessons and earned his Private Pilot's Certificate in March 1913.
Hawker then joined the fledgling Royal Flying Corps (RFC),which at the time had been in existence for less than a year.
He was attending the Central Flying School at Upavon,Wiltshire,when World War One broke out. His first posting was to No. 6 Squadron as a Lieutenant flying Farman biplanes in the dual reconnaissance/bombing role. The squadron soon transferred to Be-2cs and it was while flying one of these that Hawker was hit and wounded by ground fire in 1915. On april 22 of the same year he was awarded the Didtinguished Service Order for an attack on a Zeppelin hangar at Gontrode,Belgium. Armed with a number of small bombs and hand granades,Hawker skillfully used a tethered German balloon to avoid ground fire while he lined-up his target.
The citation for his award,published in a supplement to the London Gazette of May 8,1915 read:


Lieutenant Lanoe George Hawker.
Royal Engineers and Royal Flying Corps.
For conspicuous gallantry on april 19,1915,when he succeeded in dropping bombs on the German airship shed at Gontrode from a height of only 200 feet,under circumstances of the greatest risk. Lieutenant Hawker displayed remarkable ingenuity in utilizing an occupied German captive balloon to shield him from fire whilst manoeuvring to drop the bombs


New Scouts.
When No.6 Squadron began to receive its first scouts,a mixture of FE2 'Pushers' and conventional Bristol Scouts,Hawker's engineering skills came to the fore as,helped by Air Mechanic Earnest Elton,the two men devised a way of mounting a Lewis machine gun on a Bristol Scout that allowed it be fired at an oblique angle,therebymissing the propeller arc.In the days before guns were synchronised to fire through propeller blades,this was revolutionairy thinking and gave Hawker a distinct,if short-lived,advantage over his opponents. Having already gained his first victory in juni 1915,he was soon able to put his new weapon to the test. On july 25,Hawker,now a captain,used it to attack three separate German aircraft,destroying two and forcing down a third that was damaged.
Hawker received the Victoria Cross fot this action,making him the first airman to receive Britain's ultimate honour for aerial combat and only the third flyer to win it overall. Allthough by the end of the conflict,the act of shooting down three aircraft on a single sortie would be achieved several times,Hawker was the first to achieve it and,being a previously unheard of feat,it no doubt influenced why he received the VC while those that followed did not.
During an almost year-long spell in the front line Hawker had earned himself a reputation within the RFC as a skilful and aggressive pilot,whose motto was said to be 'Attack Everything'. However,he remained virtually unknown amongst the British public as the War Office"s policy was to avoid giving publicity to individuals and instead concentrate on showering public acclaim on the 'team effort'.
Hawker had a significant influence on the RFC's tactics at a time when it was fighting for control of the skies while the infamous and bloody battle of the Somme raged across the fields below them.
He devised several improvements for both man and machine,including a disintegrating machine-gun belt feed,fur-lined thigh length boots for airman and,with assistance from others,the so-called 'double drum',which enabled more Lewis gun ammunition to be carried.
Three more kills during august 1915 took Hawker's total to seven and in the process he became,by virtue of achieving five victories,the RFC's first ace pilot.
He was sent home for a period of leave and,before returning to France,was promoted to the rank of Major and took command of the newley-formed 24 Squadron,whitch was Britain's first true all-fighter unit.
The squadron was equipped with the Airco DH.2 - known as a 'pusher' because it had its engine behind the pilot's seat.Therefore,the pilot,sitting in the very nose of the aircraft,had no propeller in front of him,giving him a wide arc of fire for his Lewis machine gun.
In february 1916,24 Squadron was posted to Bertangles in the Somme Valley and over the next few months it played a part in countering the Fokker Eindeckers that had dominated the air war in that region for many months. By the beginning of the infamous Battle of the Somme in july 1916,RFC squadron commanders - including Hawker - were banned from undertaking operations on the basis that it was an unnecessary risk. Despite this Hawker continued to carry out reconnaissance and offensive patrols whenever he could. Under his leadership,24 Squadron scored 70 victories in just a few months.
As the months passed by however,the DH.2's early succes was,like most other World War One types,short-lived. In just a matter of months the pushers were struggling to hold their own against new,and in many respects superior,German fighters they were encountering. By the autumn of 1916 the type was essentially obsolete.
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Re: Duel of Aces.

Postby Baracchini » 24 Oct 2009, 14:42

The rise of Manfred von Richthofen.
Undeniably,as not only the most successful air ace of the 'Great War' but also the most famous,von Richthofen's legendary name survives to this day.


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Born in Breslau,Germany (now part of Poland) on may 2,1892,young Manfred entered a world of considerable wealth and privilege. Both his mother and father came from landed gentry,though his father was one of only a very few von Richthofens that chose to follow a military career. Like Hawker,Manfred's academic achievements were modest and it would seem that he was more at home in on the playing field than the classroom. As he grew older he joined in with the family's hunting trips and learned how to use a gu,something that would soon become very useful. Against his own wishes,Manfred was sent to join the military Cadet Corps at the age of eleven.
He graduated as a cavaleryman in 1911 and was still serving when World War One broke out. However,von Richthofen was assigned to spend much of his time as a runner,carrying messages between German trenches,useally well behind the front-line.
he soon tired of this,expressing his need for 'action',he asked his commanding officer for a transfer to the Imperial German Army Air Service. In may 1915,his request was granted.
After training as an observer/gunner he had spells over both the eastern and western fronts,claiming one enemy aircraft shot down,but he was unable to get official recognition for it as it fell behind Allied lines. He was accepted for pilot training in october 1916 and qualified two months later. Having been assigned to fly a two-seat Albatros reconnaissance machine,he had a forward-firing machine gun fitted over the top wing. He soon used it ti claim the destruction of a French Nieuport,but was again unable to get official credit for it.
He scored his first officially recognised kill - a FE-2 two-seater - on september 17,1916. By following Boelcke's advice to 'get in close and take good aim',Von Richthofen had achieved ten victories by the time of this famous encounter with Hawker.
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Re: Duel of Aces.

Postby Baracchini » 24 Oct 2009, 14:43

The legendary duel.
On november 23,1916 the stage was set for an epic encounter. Despite having less flying experience than Lanoe Hawker,Manfred von Richthofen had arready achieved more kills than his opponent,though contemporary records appear to show that they had a completely different approach to flying. On the one hand Hawker seemed to enjoy flying for its own sake,doing aerobatics and practising stall recovery techniques as he pleased,while von Richthofen went on record as saying that flying was a means to and end - defeating the enemy - and that he had never performed aerobatics like 'looping-the-loop'. He was a thoroughly professional 'soldier' and even if he didn't have the same joy for flight that many others did,he will to be the best ensured that he learned to handle his aircraft skilfully and aggressively.
That november morning,Major Hawker,flying an Airco DH.2 'pusher' biplane,was one of three 24 Squadron pilots who attacked a formation of German two-seaters. It was a trap,and Richthofen's fighters fell upon the British trio as their intended two-seater victims ran for home. Captain Andrews was landing the RFC machine with Major Hawker and Lieutenant (latert Air Vice Marchal) Saundby as his wingman. After spotting the larger formation of up to eight German scouts about to attack him,Andrews had decided to try to break away and avoid a fight,but then he saw Hawker diving after their original two-seater targets and decided he must stay with the developing battle.
Both he and Saundby lost contact with their commanding officer's machine and soon both of their aircraft were hit,though they managed to escape. Hawker was now facing the elite pilots of Jasta 2 alone.
As if the odds against him weren't bad enough,the British VC holder faced other diffuculties. The performance of his aging DH.2 was certainly inferior to the Albatros D.II's he faced and he was also over enemy lines,so any forced landing,even if he survived it,meant that he would be taken prisoner.
The engagement between the great flyers began at around 6000ft with both twisting and turning as tightly as possible in order to get the other in their gun sight. This continued for several minutes,causing them to both lose altitude,descending to around 2000ft.
Neither pilot seemed to be gaining the upper hand,but after pulling into a loop and letting off a burst of fire,Hawker broke away and dashed towards the relative safety of the British lines. As he did so,Hawker appeared to aknowledge his opponent's skill by waving to him as he turned for home,but von Richthofen was determined to continue the fight and chased after him. The faster German Albatros began to catch the fleeing DH.2. In Von Richthofen's book,Der Rote Kampfflieger,published in 1917 and later translated as The Red Battle Flier,the rising German star described the encounter:
"One of the three (DH.2's) attempted to attack me from the rear. After firing five shots he had to stop as I made a sharp curve. We circled round and round like madmen after one another at a height of about 10000 feet. First we circled 20 times to the left,and then 30 times to the right. We each tried to get behind and above the other. Soom I realised that I was not fighting a beginner. He had no intention of breaking off the fight. He was flying a machine that turned beautifully,but mine climbed better than his and I eventually got above and behind my English 'dance' partner.
Having dropped down to about 6000 feet without really achieving anything,my opponent should have realised that it was time for him to make a run for it. The wind direction favoured me as it pushed us further and further towards German lines.
Eventually we came above Bapaume,about half a mile behind the German front. The impertinent fellow was very cheeky and when we had got down to about 3000 feet he merrily waved to me as if to say,'Well,how do you do?'
The turns we made around each another were probably no more than 250 or 300 feet in diameter. I had enough time to take a good look at my opponent. I looked down into his machine and could see every head movement. If he wasn't wearing a flying helmet I would have been able to see the expression on his face.
My Englishman was a good sport,but eventually things became a little 'too hot' for him. He had to decide whether to land on German-held ground or try to fly back to the English lines. Of course he tried the latter,having tried in vain to escape me by looping and similar tricks. At that time his first bullet were flying around me,as previously,neither of us had been able to get a shot in.
When he dropped down to about 300 feet (91m) he tried to escape by zigzagging. This was my chance. I followed him down from about 250ft to 150fr (76-45m),firing all the time. He had to fall,but I was nearly robbed of succes when my gun jammed. A single shot from my last burst hit him in the back of his head and he fell to earth just yards behind German lines as I swooped over him."
Hawker's machine gun was taken from the wreackage and Richthofen kept it as a trophy at his family's castle. He later recalled: "I was extremely proud when I was told that the man I had downed was the 'British Boelcke'.
The British VC winner was buried by German infantry soldiers,but as that land was fought over many times the location of his grave remains unknown to this day.
Manfred von Richthofen was in the early days of his flying career and would go on to become the top-scoring ace of the war. Dubbed de 'Red Baron' by the British press,he was eventually killed on april 21,1918.
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