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Fokker Dr.1 - Lothar von Richthofen

This partially yellow Fokker Dr.1 represents aircraft 454/17 which was flown by Oberleunant Lothar von Richthofen, younger brother of Manfred von Richthofen ('The Red Baron'). Like his brother, when the First World War broke out Lothar was an officer in the German Cavalry. He transferred to the Imperial German Army Air Service in late 1915.

The solid yellow colour of the upper wing on Lothar's triplane indicates that he was a flight leader.  Photo: © Historical Aviation Film Unit

Between January and December 1916 Lothar served as an Observer with Jasta 23, and during this time was awarded with the Iron Cross, 1st Class. In December that year he started pilot training and was posted to Manfred's fighter unit, Jasta 11, on completion of that training—the German high command were keen to reap the propaganda value in having the two Richthofen brothers fighting in the same unit.

Lothar's skill as a fighter pilot was displayed very early on when he scored 24 victories in 47 days, although he quickly developed a reputation of being an impulsive and aggressive pilot, totally at odds to his brother who was far more cunning and calculating. One of his victories during this period was supposedly the English ace Albert Ball, who at the time of his death was the highest scoring British pilot. Subsequent research has revealed that Lothar did not enter combat with Ball, but with Ball's crash and death, the propaganda value for the German's in being able to claim he was shot by another Richthofen was significant—thus, Lothar was awarded the victory despite the truth of the matter.

During his fighting career he scored a total of 40 victories, was seriously wounded on three occasions, and held the position of Jasta 11 Commanding Officer on four separate occasions (1st -13th May 1917, 25th Sept 1917 - 19th Jan 1918, 16th Feb - 13th Mar 1918, and 19th - 26th July 1918).

Four triplanes of Jasta 11 get airborne together, from the left: Manfred von Richthofen, Werner Steinhäuser, Hans Weiss and Lothar von Richthofen.   Photo Copyright © 2007 Brad Hurley (Image Supplied)

Extract from 'Richthofens Circus' by Greg Van Wyngarden

On the morning of 12 March 1918, nine Bristol F2b Fighters of No 62 Sqn, Royal Flying Corps (RFC), were intercepted by a flight of Fokker Dr.1s of Jasta 11, the premier unit of Jagdgeschwader (JG) I, near Le Cateau. The triplanes were led by none other than Manfred von Richthofen in Dr.1 152/17, accompanied by his brother Lothar in Dr.1 454/17 and Ltn Werner Steinhäuser. At 1100 hrs the Fokkers stabbed into the formation of Bristols. After watching his brother bring down one of the two-seaters, Lothar looked around for an opponent of his own:

'To that end there was one especially suited for me about 100 metres below the English squadron. I attacked him. I was flying ahead of my Staffel when I suddenly saw that I was surrounded by aircraft with English cockades. I made a long dive of about 100 metres in order to get out of that unpleasant company. One of them followed me down. At the same altitude, we flew toward one another, head-on. We approached each other with the great speed of over 400 km/h. Here, you must aim clean, otherwise you will get the worst of it.

'We rushed towards one another shooting. At the last moment I noticed I had hit him. A blazing aircraft whizzed by me. I pulled my machine around and made such a sharp turn that I was three-quarters on my back. A sea of fire in the form of an Englishman whistled right by me. The observer stood up and stared into the flames. Completely ablaze, the English machine made another turn. Both crewmen jumped out along the way.'

In the running battle that followed, Lothar brought down another Bristol ten minutes later, and Steinhäuser added one more to bring his personal tally to four. These victories contributed to a total of seven for the day by JG I, the most legendary of all German fighter units of World War 1. Read more...

This video shows the two Jasta 11 Fokker Dr.1 triplanes of Manfred and Lothar von Richthofen flying together, as they might have been seen in early April 1918.

Unlike his brother, Lothar survived the war, and for a time worked on a farm and then accepted a job in an industrial company. He was married in June 1919, but the marriage only last a couple of years (before being dissolved), but it did produced two children. After his marriage ended Lothar returned to aviation and began working as a commercial pilot flying between Hamburg and Berlin. On 4th July 1922 the LVG C VI aircraft he was flying crashed at Hamburg due to engine failure, and at the age of 27 another of Germany's WW1 flying aces was tragically killed.

Three Fokker Dr.1 triplanes from Jasta 11, including that of Lothar von Richthofen, take to the air on a wet and wild morning to patrol the Western Front....

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