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Fokker Dr.1 Triplane - Manfred von Richthofen

One of the most famous aircraft in history

This full size replica aircraft has been seen at many different New Zealand airshows in three different colour schemes! This aircraft (ZK-FOK) now represents the most famous Fokker Dr.1 triplane of all time, the all-over red 425/17 which was flown by Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) on the day he was shot down and killed in April 1918.

ZK-FOK was built in the 1980's by Stuart Tantrum and John Lanham, and has been seen at New Zealand airshows ever since her first flight.  Photo: © Historical Aviation Film Unit

One of the most famous fighter aces of all time, Baron Manfred von Richthofen, like many of his contemporaries, actually served in a ground-based (infantry) unit before transferring to the Imperial German Army Air Service (Luftstreitkräfte) in 1916.

He was a fast learner, and after only a month in the air had already achieved 'Ace' status with six victories against Allied aircraft. As his reputation grew he began painting the fuselage of his aircraft (initially an Albatros D.III) bright red, and became known to the British as the 'Red Baron', and to the French as the 'Red Devil'.

In January 1917 he became the commanding officer of Jasta 11 and by June 1917 he was commanding Jagdgeschwader 1, a combined force of four individual Jasta (fighter squadrons).

While pursuing an Allied aircraft on 21 April 1918, von Richthofen was shot down. Canadian Sopwith Camel pilot Arthur Brown was officially creditted with the 'kill' but other evidence suggests that Richthofen may have been killed by a single bullet fired from Australian ground troops. Initially buried in France with full military honours (by the Allies), Richthofen's body was later exhumed and reburied in the family cemetery at Wiesbaden (Germany).

This air-to-air video of the Triplane in the colours of von Richthofen gives some idea of what it might have been like to fly alongside the Red Baron in 1918.

In 1917, Manfred wrote his autobiography 'Der Rote Kampfflieger', variously translated as 'The Red Battle Flyer' or 'The Red Fighter Pilot', and during the war this was the title that he was more commonly known by. It was only later that 'The Red Baron' became more common.

However Richthofen was not actually a 'baron' per se. Rather, he was a Freiherr (literally 'Free Lord'), a German title of nobility often translated into English as 'baron.' 'Freiherr' was not a given name nor strictly a hereditary title, since all the male members of the family were entitled to use it, even during the lifetime of their father.

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