(Manfred von) Richthofen received a fatal wound just after 11:00 am on 21 April 1918 while flying over Morlancourt Ridge near the Somme River, 49°56′0.60″N 2°32′43.71″E. At the time, he had been pursuing, at very low altitude, a Sopwith Camel piloted by novice Canadian pilot Lieutenant Wilfrid “Wop” May of No. 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force. May had just fired on the Red Baron’s cousin Lt. Wolfram von Richthofen. On seeing his cousin being attacked, Manfred flew to his rescue and fired on May, causing him to pull away. Richthofen pursued May across the Somme. The Baron was spotted and briefly attacked by a Camel piloted by May’s school friend and flight commander, Canadian Captain Arthur “Roy” Brown. Brown had to dive steeply at very high speed to intervene, and then had to climb steeply to avoid hitting the ground. Richthofen turned to avoid this attack, and then resumed his pursuit of May.
It was almost certainly during this final stage in his pursuit of May that a single .303 bullet[f] hit Richthofen though the chest, severely damaging his heart and lungs; it would have killed Richthofen in less than a minute. His aircraft stalled and went into a steep dive at 49°55′56″N 2°32′16″E in a field on a hill near the Bray-Corbie road, just north of the village of Vaux-sur-Somme, in a sector defended by the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). The aircraft bounced heavily, and the undercarriage collapsed and fuel tank were smashed, before the aircraft skidded to a stop. Several witnesses, including Gunner George Ridgway, reached the crashed plane and found Richthofen already dead, and his face slammed into the butts of his machine guns, creating contusions on his nose and face.
No. 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps was the nearest Allied air unit and assumed responsibility for the Baron’s remains.
His Fokker Dr.I 425/17 was soon taken apart by souvenir hunters.
In 2009, Richthofen’s death certificate was found in the archives in Ostrów Wielkopolski, Poland. He had briefly been stationed in Ostrów before going to war, as it was part of Germany until the end of World War I. The document is a one-page, handwritten form in a 1918 registry book of deaths. It misspells Richthofen’s name as “Richthoven” and simply states that he had “died 21 April 1918, from wounds sustained in combat”.
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