Two relatives of the WWI German ace pilot the Red Baron and his British counterpart Albert ball met for the first time during the opening of a new exhibit at the Royal Air Force Museum.
Baron Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the Red Baron, and Albert Ball were the Great War’s deadly air champs sharing 124 confirmed “kills” between the two of them. However, the two never had the chance to spar on the Western Front air.
A century on after the outbreak of WWI, two relatives of these two aces met for the first time during the opening of a new exhibit at the Royal Air Force Museum in London.
Baron Donat von Richthofen, a cousin of the Red baron, and Vanda Day, great niece of Captain Ball, shook hands with each other and even shared family legends together at the Royal Air Force Museum luncheon event where the Duke of Edinburgh was also the guest of honor.
Mrs. Day, now 55 and working as an illustrator, voiced out that though it felt queer to be meeting the Red Baron’s relative as it was like history coming to life, it was a pleasure talking to Baron Donat.
It can be remembered that Captain Ball downed 44 German aircraft during the Great War with 25 possible kills. He died at the young age of 20. He was fighting with the Red Baron’s younger brother, Lothar, in 1917 when he suddenly disappeared in the clouds and later on crashed down. Captain Ball was posthumously given the Victoria Cross for his gallantry during the war.
According to Mrs. Day, the family thinks that Captain Ball just got too exhausted the day he died he lost his bearings while he was in the clouds resulting to his crash. She went on to describe her great grand-uncle as someone who loved to be busy, who was restless and loved mechanical things. She added that Captain Ball was also a loner and wasn’t a great communicator when he was alive. being in the sky gave him the freedom he so wanted.
On the other hand, the 67-year-old Baron Donat had flown all the way from Munich just to attend the First World War In The Air exhibition at the Royal Air Force Museum. He recounted meeting the Red baron’s mother in a family gathering during Christmas of 1959. It was here that he learned how the Red baron loved to fly and how he was a cavalry officer before he went on to become a WWI pilot and an ace at that. The Red Baron downed 80 allied aircraft throughout his flying career.
Baron Donat sadly recalled his relative’s demise. The Red Baron was also young when he passed away in 1918 — only 26. But Baron Donat felt no ill will towards the British. According to him, all of it was in the past now.
First World War In The Air Exhibition at the Royal Air Force Museum
The First World War In The Air exhibition at the Royal Air Force Museum features twelve authentic and replicated WWI aircraft. Added to that are some of the personal belongings of these two WWI air aces.
The Baron’s family had donated his flying balaclava, which is made of leather, and a blue-hued tiny glass dog which, according to accounts, was the Red Baron’s lucky charm to the Royal Air Force Museum. Accordingly, the Red Baron, who had a soft spot for dogs, believed that as long as the glass dog was with him, no harm would happen to him.
But then, he let go of his dog charm. He, eventually, gave the glass dog to the nurse who took care of him and brought him back to health. He was shot in the chest during a dogfight and died shortly after relinquishing his lucky charm.
Other mementos of the Red Baron on display in the Royal Air Force Museum include a red fabric patch from his Fokker triplane. It is displayed right next to the field service cap of the British air ace Captain Albert Ball.
Captain Ball had lucky charms, too, though his did not survive longer than the dogfights he was engaged into. Fruit cakes made by his mother were what he considered his lucky mascots and he always brought a piece with him even when he was on flight. The fruit cakes were his sustenance.
Ball was Britain’s leading air ace up until his death. However, three other pilots surpassed his record; that includes Major Edward “Mick” Mannock who is considered the highest scorer with 73 confirmed “kills”.
The First World War In The Air Exhibition at the Royal Air Force Museum will be opened to the public free of admission starting December 4 at 10 AM.