Red Baron Brought Down By A Shot Fired The Previous Year

Roundup: Talking About History

Roger Highfield, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH(LONDON), 22 Sept. 2004

A HEAD wound suffered by the Red Baron the year before his death was the underlying reason he was eventually shot down, according to a study by neuroscientists.

There has been endless speculation over who killed the 25-year-old First World War flying ace but the new study suggests that more credit is due to the British airman who grazed his skull in 1917 than to the Australian gunner who eventually brought him down in 1918.

The killing machine feared by the Allies and revered by his countrymen suffered significant brain damage to his frontal lobes when a machinegun round fired by Second Lieutenant A E Woodbridge of the Royal Flying Corps splintered his skull.

Against the advice of doctors and despite suffering nausea, headaches and fatigue, the baron was driven by a sense of duty to resume command of his"Flying Circus".

The most successful pilot of the war was still unfit to fly - his head wound had not healed - when his red Fokker triplane was shot down nine months later, according to a study in a forthcoming issue of Human Factors and Aerospace Safety.

The authors, Prof Daniel Orme of the University of Missouri-Columbia and Dr Thomas Hyatt, a semi-retired neuropsychologist of Cincinnati's Veterans' Administration Medical Centre, were inspired to investigate by a television documentary on the death of Manfred von Richthofen.

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