A couple days ago, I highlighted the Harlem Hellfighters. Today I’m looking at another one of the Battlefield 1 preorder bonuses – this time it’s about the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen.
If you’re interested in flying planes in Battlefield 1, you need to know the history behind one of the greatest knights of the sky that ever lived.
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Manfred von Richthofen came from an aristocratic Prussian family. When World War I broke out, he served as a calvary reconnaissance officer, but quickly became bored. Richthofen wanted to see combat, and applied for a transfer to the Imperial German Army Air Service, allegedly writing on his transfer application “”I have not gone to war in order to collect cheese and eggs, but for another purpose.”
After a brief stint as an observer, Richthofen entered pilot training, where he underperformed, actually crashing in his first flight at the controls. Still, he was eventually selected by German ace Oswald Boelcke to join one of the first fighter squadrons. He scored his first confirmed aerial victory on September 17th 1916. Boelcke was killed in a collision with a friendly aircraft about a month later, and the event stuck with Richthofen until his death.
Though he painted many of his planes red, Richthofen disapproved of spectacular and risky flying. He was a master tactician and developed a set of guidelines for pilots in his squadron, which he dubbed the “Dicta Boelcke.” These will likely be very important for aerial combat in Battlefield 1:
- Try to secure the upper hand before attacking. If possible, keep the sun behind you
- Always continue with an attack you have begun
- Open fire only at close range, and then only when the opponent is squarely in your sights
- You should always try to keep your eye on your opponent and never let yourself be deceived by ruses
- In any type of attack, it is essential to assail your opponent from behind
- If your opponent dives on you, do not try to get around his attack, but fly to meet it
- When over the enemy’s lines, always remember your own line of retreat
- Tip for Squadrons: In principle, it is better to attack in groups of four or six. If fights break up into a series of single combats, pay attention that several comrades would not go after one opponent.
These guidelines served Richthofen well. By the end of the war, he was credited with 80 confirmed kills. Until supplies of silver ran out, The Red Baron commissioned a small silver cup for each kill, engraved with the date of the kill and type of aircraft.
Richthofen was wounded in combat in July 1917. He suffered a head injury, which caused post-flight nausea and headaches. This injury may have also contributed to his death, which occurred April 21, 1918 – just a few months before the war’s end.
Richthofen sustained a fatal wound just after 11:00 am, while flying over Morlancourt Ridge, near the Somme River. There is much debate over who was responsible for downing the Red Baron. A single .303 bullet hit Richthofen in the lungs and heart, but the ace still managed to land the plane in a field. He was just 25.
At the time of his death, Richthofen had been pursuing a british plane at low altitude, when he was attacked by a plane flown by Canadian Captain Arthur “Roy” Brown. At the same time, Australian units on the ground were firing at Richthofen’s plane. Brown was officially credited with the kill, though it is now widely accepted the fatal shot was fired from the ground. Brown was attacking from behind and above, but the fatal shot was fired from below and to the side.
Though a scourge of the skies, Richthofen garnered immense respect from friend and foe. Richthofen fell behind enemy lines, but was given a full military funeral and burial in France. Nearby allied squadrons presented memorial wreaths to their adversaries, one of which read, “To Our Gallant and Worthy Foe”. In 1925, Manfred von Richthofen’s youngest brother, Bolko, recovered his body from France, and took the Red Baron home to Germany.
As part of Battlefield 1’s preorder bonus, players unlock themed items related to the Red Baron. While details have yet to be released, it’s safe to assume a red camouflage for aircraft or other vehicles is among them. We also might be looking at unique dogtags – perhaps featuring a silver cup or a Blue Max, which was a combat decoration Richthofen received.
The Red Baron pack is part of Battlefield 1’s deluxe edition.