On Wednesday, a Bonhams auction in New York will offer some extremely rare items relating to WW1’s highest-scoring ace, Manfred von Richthofen (aka the Red Baron), including fabric from his machines and an eyewitness report of his demise.
The eyewitness account of Lieutenant Donald Fraser notes that Richthofen’s Fokker Dr.1 became “wobbly and irregular” after it was fired upon by Australian infantryman Sgt. Cedric Popkin. Fraser then stated the following:
“I congratulated Sergeant Popkin on his successful shoot but afterwards found out that two A.A Lewis Guns…had also fired at this plane when it was directly over my head.
(They) probably assisted in sealing the fate of this airman as he apparently flew right into their lines of fire. However, I am strongly of opinion that he was first hit by Sergeant Popkin’s shooting as he was unsteady from the moment of that first burst of fire.”
Over the years, controversy has formed over who actually killed von Richthofen while he was engaged in a low level chase with novice pilot Wilfrid May on April 21, 1918. Canadian pilot Arthur Roy Brown had been officially credited with the kill, although several documentaries concluded that ground fire was much more likely to have brought him down.
The collection that contains the eyewitness account includes the following:
1. A wood splinter from the coffin of Manfred von Richthofen with a signed certificate of authenticity from E.A. Wischnowski, Department of the Navy, 1974.
2. Three strips of red fabric and a section of harness taken from Richthofen’s 425/17 Fokker triplane following his fatal crash with a contemporary picture of his gravesite; a 1959 painted illustration of Richthofen’s triplane in combat; three replicas of the brass plates from Richthofen’s triplane displaying plane designation and commission dates.
3. A contemporary report on the shooting down of Richthofen by Intelligence Officer Donald L. Fraser, 11th Australian Infantry Brigade, with a period photo of Fraser in uniform.
4. Correspondence between Richthofen historian Charles Donald and crash eyewitness George Ridgeway, 8th Brigade, First Australian Imperial Force, with two maps detailing Richthofen’s flight path and crash site, a 1968 newspaper clipping detailing Ridgeway’s account and a 1968 photo of the crash site with an overleaf description of the terrain by Ridgeway; together with various other correspondences between Donald and Australian servicemen who were in the vicinity of the crash site; and 26 aviation photographs from the Charles Donald Collection.
Another item that will certainly draw a great deal of attention is a 34″ x 22″ piece of fabric which bears a Balkan cross and was reportedly taken from one of Richthofen’s earlier aircraft. The fabric, valued at £80,000, was reportedly a gift of the Richthofen family to Col. Kimbrough Brown and includes a letter of provenance from Brown’s widow and a newspaper account regarding Brown’s collection. The fabric will also be sold with “a large photo album of images of Richthofen, aircraft, etc.”
Additional details on the auction and available items can be found at the Bonhams website.
(via Daily Mail)