Red Baron: Facts and Information About the WW1 Fighter Pilot

Here are some interesting facts about the Red Baron.

  • The Red Baron was a fighter pilot with the German air force during World War 1. He shot down 80 British planes and was the most successful German ‘ace’ of the war.

  • His real name was Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen and he was born in Breslau, Germany in 1892. He began military training at age 11, joining the war as a cavalry officer.
  • Richtofen became known as the Red Baron after painting his plane bright red. His squadron became known as the Flying Circus, because of the planes’ bright colours.
  • After shooting down his first plane, he ordered a silver cup engraved with the details of the encounter. After having 60 cups made, he stopped as Germany was running out of silver.
  • He shot down 22 British aircraft in one month (April 1917). On just one day in April, he shot down 4 planes, having taken command of a larger squadron.

Red Baron

  • The Red Baron received many awards and became a hero in Germany, even appearing on playing cards. His awards included the Prussian Iron Cross.
  • The Red Baron was an accurate shot, rather than a skillful pilot. He often used the strategy of attacking his enemies from above, using the suns light to temporarily blind them.
  • Richtofen was eventually shot down on 21st April, 1918, over France. Although RAF pilot Roy Brown is credited with shooting him, it has never been fully verified.
  • He is buried in a family grave in Wiesbaden, Germany. His plane’s engine is on display in London’s Science Museum and parts of his plane are in a Canadian military institute.
  • The Red Baron has been portrayed in almost a dozen films, and a pizza brand is named for him. He featured in several hit songs by the American rock group the Royal Guardsmen.

Who was Lord Kitchener? Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Lord Kitchener.

  • Lord Kitchener was a senior British army officer, who played an important part during World War I. His face is familiar from propaganda posters urging young men to join the army.
  • Kitchener was born in Ireland in 1850.

  • He fought in the Franco-Prussian war.
  • He joined the Royal Engineers at age 20, and served in Cyprus and Egypt. He learned to speak Arabic.
  • In 1874 Kitchener made important maps of Palestine and the Holy land. He became a major in the Egyptian army, although he was worried that the sun would turn his moustache white.
  • In 1898, Kitchener and his soldiers successfully defeated the Dervishes for control of Khartoum, in the Sudan. Kitchener became known as K of K, and became more popular.

Lord Kitchener

  • Lord Kitchener became commander in chief of the Indian army in 1902. He became consul-general in Egypt in 1911, was later made an earl, and travelled to Australia and New Zealand.
  • He was appointed Secretary of State for War in 1914.
  • He appeared on several patriotically themed recruitment posters, which helped to recruit solders and volunteers to fight.
  • The most famous recruitment poster shows Kitchener with a pointing finger, with the caption ‘Your Country Wants You’. The poster has been copied and parodied many times since then, but some historians think that it wasn’t used very much at the time.

Your Country Needs You

  • Kitchener predicted that the war would last a long time, and realized the importance of having many volunteers.
  • Lord Kitchener died in June, 1916 when his ship was hit by a German mine in the Atlantic Ocean. Various conspiracy theories surrounded his death, including one saying he was killed by a South African spy.
  • He has been featured on Britain’s two pound coin and has a road in the West Midlands named after him. There is a stone memorial to Kitchener on the Orkney Islands.

More Facts About World War 1

Here are some more World War 1 facts.

  • Geoffrey Keynes, a surgeon from Britain, designed a portable blood transfusion kit. It saved thousands of lives during World War 1.
  • Over 3000 of Britain’s motor vehicles were turned into ambulances and used on the western front. Some London buses became ambulances.

  • Many World War 1 ambulances were driven by women.
  • More than 300 British and Commonwealth troops were executed for desertion (leaving the battlefield without being ordered). In 2006, these men were officially pardoned.
  •  A pigeon called Cher Ami managed to carry a message to US soldiers 25 miles away despite having been shot.
  • About 1 million dogs died in service during World War 1.
  • British soldiers in the World War 1 trenches carried lots of kit, including: a rifle and bayonet, ammunition, a respirator (to help them deal with gas attacks), washing kit, water bottle and spare clothes.
  • Each British soldier (private) received a basic salary of 1 shilling per day.
  • By 1918, more than 100,000 of Britain’s women had volunteered to help the wounded and sick soldiers as Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses.
  • The United States wasn’t drawn into World War 1 until 1916, but by 1918 more than 1 million American troops were in France.
  • The Victoria Cross (Britain’s highest award for bravery in the face of the enemy) was awarded 628 times during World War 1. Only one man, Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, was awarded it twice.
  • In 1917, due to most work-age men fighting in World War 1, the Women’s Land Army was set up to provide a workforce for farms. Over 110,000 women joined.
  • The 3rd Battle of Ypres took place in 1917 (from July to November). More then 500,000 soldiers lost their lives in just three months of fighting.
  • Songs were used to maintain good morale in very difficult circumstances. Songs such as Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and It’s a  Long Way to Tipperary were very popular during WW1.
  • In Britain, by 1916 more than 2.5 million men volunteered to fight in World War 1. A further 2.7 million men were drafted.
  • Facial reconstruction surgery developed dramatically during World War 1. A special plastic surgery clinic in Sidcup, run by Harold Gillies, treated thousands of soldiers, many having been disfigured in the Battle of the Somme.

What next? Discover more World War 1 facts or learn more about life in the World War 1 trenches.

Harry Patch: Facts About the World War 1 Veteran

Here are some facts about Harry Patch.

  • Harry Patch was the last British soldier alive to have fought in World War I and, for a time, was the oldest man in Europe.
  • He was born in June 1898 and died in July 2009.

  • Patch was born near Bath, and became an apprentice plumber until World War 1 broke out. He fought in France and Belgium, returning to England in 1917 after being wounded.
  • After the war, Patch became a full-time plumber, operating his own successful business despite high unemployment at the time.
  • He was too old to fight in World War 2 so he served as a fireman.
  • Patch never really spoke about his experiences in World War I until he reached the age of 100. He always felt that the horrific loss of life was never worth it.
  • In 2004, Patch met one of the last surviving German soldiers and the two exchanged gifts. In the same year, a local cider company manufactured Patch’s Pride cider.
  • In 2009, Harry Patch wrote and published his autobiography, making him one of the oldest people to ever write a book. It was called The Last Fighting Tommy.
  • The poet laureate at the time, Andrew Motion, wrote a poem about Harry Patch when he reached the age of 110. The poem, The Death of Harry Patch, was recited on the radio on Armistice Day.
  • Patch won several medals, including the British War Medal, Victory Medal and National Service Medal. In 2008 he was given the freedom of the city of Wells.
  • Harry Patch died aged 111 and his funeral was held in Wells, Somerset. The cathedral bells were rung 111 times, and no soldiers attending were allowed to carry guns, as Patch had requested.
  • His funeral was shown on television, as there was so much interest. Some people camped out overnight to get one of 1,050 tickets to attend the funeral.

Battle of the Somme: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Battle of the Somme (World War 1).

  • The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest and most well-known battles of World War I. It lasted from 1st July to 18th November 1916 on the banks of the Somme River, in France.

  • It was also one of the bloodiest battles of the war, or of any war before or since. An estimated 1,000,000 men were killed or wounded, including about 485,000 British and French troops.
  • The intent of the British was to attack and take control of a 24 km stretch of the River Somme. Most historians today agree that the plan was not well thought out.
  • Before the battle started, the British fired over 1,700,000 shells at the German soldiers, although many did not explode, or missed the targets completely. The German soldiers also sheltered underground.

The Battle of the Somme

  • Almost 60,000 British soldiers were killed, wounded or taken prisoner on the first day of fighting. The Germans killed many officers, having been trained to recognize how they dressed.
  • Trench warfare was common during this time. The conditions in the trenches were cramped and uncomfortable and the drinking water was sometimes collected from holes made by enemy shells.
  • The Battle of the Somme saw several different weapons being used, including mines, poisonous gas and machine guns. Some larger machine guns needed 12 men to operate them.
  • Tanks were first used during the Battle of the Somme. The first tank, known as Little Willie, was not able to drive across the trenches and could only reach speeds of about 3 km per hour.
  • When the battle had ended in mid-November, the British and French soldiers had only advanced about 8km. The battle ended partly because heavy rains made fighting too difficult.
  • Today there are dozens of cemeteries and memorials in the area around the Somme, including a memorial to all the pipers who died. Farmers still dig up pieces of barbed wire, which they call the iron harvest.

World War 1: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about World War 1

  • World War 1 began on July 28, 1914 and lasted until November 11, 1918. Differences in foreign policies were to blame, although the immediate cause was the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Ferdinand. (Follow this link to learn more about how World War 1 started)

  • The two main sides were the Allies, which included France, Great Britain and Russia; and Germany and Austria-Hungary. In total, 30 countries were involved in the conflict. Italy, once part of the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, fought on the side of the Allies.
  • King George V (Great Britain), Kaiser Wilhelm II (Germany) and Tsar Nicholas II (Russia) were cousins, and grandchildren of Queen Victoria.
  • Soldiers fought largely in trenches during the war, and thousands suffered from stress, known as shell-shock.  The British and French trenches were often squalid, whereas the German trenches were almost luxurious in comparison, with bunks and decent cooking facilities. (Click here to learn more about life in the trenches)
  • By the end of WW1, over 9 million soldiers had been killed, and another 21 million wounded. Over a million soldiers were killed in the infamous Battle of the Somme alone, including about 30,000 in just one day.
  • Around 11 percent of the population of France was killed or wounded during the war. About 116,000 Americans were killed, even though the US was only in the war for about 7 months.

World War 1

  • During World War 1, dogs were used to carry messages in capsules attached to their body. Dogs also carried and placed telegraph wires in important areas.
  • Pigeons were also used during the war. About 500,000 pigeons were regularly dropped into enemy lines by parachute, and then sent back with messages.
  • On Christmas Eve, 1914, both sides declared an unofficial truce and sang Christmas carols to each other. Football matches were played in no-man’s land (the area between the German and British) trenches, and German and British soldiers exchanged food and souvenirs. The ceasefire was known as the Christmas Truce. The following Christmas, sentries on both sides had orders to shoot any soldier who did this.
  • Cannons and artillery were often extremely loud. In 1917, the explosives used to destroy a bridge in France could be be heard over 130 miles away in London.
  • Many new weapons were invented or first used during World War 1. Big Bertha was one of the most famous; it was a 48 ton gun capable of firing a shell over 9 miles. It took 200 men several hours to assemble the gun.
  • Tanks were so called because of early attempts to disguise them as water tanks. They were also known as male and female tanks; male tanks had cannons and female tanks had machine guns.

What next? Discover more facts about World War 1, or check out these World War 1 resources and factfiles.