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Lt Algernon Bird - von Richthofen's 61st opponent


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In the excellent thread recently pointing to the archive films made by Anthony Fokker, of Manfred von Richthofen

Does anyone know any more about Lt Bird? Did he survive his incarceration? What happen to him subsequently?

I should think it must have been a bit of a blow, first to be shot down, then to be introduced to von Richthofen, then to be told he's being filmed by Anthony Fokker for his home movies!

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According to Under the Guns of the Red Baron he survived and went on to run a factory in Norfolk. He was originally from Norfolk and was a member of 3/5th Norfolk Regiment prior to the RFC. I think he may have been from Downham Market, but I would have to have a copy of the book in front of me to be sure.

For reference, Bird's pup was number B1795.

Yours &c.,

Tim

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I recall an episode of "Timewatch" way back in the eighties that had Bird's son on it. He said that his father didn't like MvR at all, if I remember rightly - I have it on video tape somewhere if you'd like me to chase after it!

Bird lived until August 24 1957 - 51 years ago to this day.

Best wishes,

Trebrys.

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From the book : He was ex 2/5th Norfolk Regt, captured 3rd September 1917 he was eventually repatriated on 14th December 1918 when he returned to Norfolk to work in the family firm of F A Bird, Flour Millers and Merchants, Downham Market. He lived in The Beeches, London Road, Downham Market with his wife Winifred until his death on 24th August 1957.

Aye

Malcolm

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  • 2 months later...

I introduce myself as Algy Bird's son. I congratulate forum members on the accuracy of their information. If members are interested in any more of my father's personal details I will try to oblige but I must remind you that I was 15 years old when he died. Bird's Mill still exists in Downham Market but now it is owned and run by Heygate's of Northampton.

My father left behind a brief account of his shooting down which he prepared about ten years later. If members are interested, I could post a transcript on this site. I sent the original to Hendon and they have microfilmed it.

Back in the seventies or early eighties, my mother received a visit from AVM Sir Arthur Gould-Lee who presented her with a copy of his book "No Parachute" in which he recounts his experiences with 46 Squadron, among other things. That was my father's squadron. Back in the thirties, my father was plagued by correspondence from Floyd Gibbons the author of "The Red Knight of Germany" wanting personal details to put in his book. My father was an extremely poor correspondent and refused to have anything to do with Mr Gibbons.

After his capture, my father was sent to Holzminden POW camp. I believe he had a very bad experience as he never, ever, talked about it; my mother, however, did mention it by way of telling me not to ask about it. I would be interested if anyone can point me in the direction of more information about this camp in 1917-18; I am a newbie on this site and don't know my way around.

PEter Bird

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Peter,

Welcome to the forum. I'm an interested novice so will not be able to provide the wealth of knowledge that you seek and will surely receive. I've just watched the recording of last night's 'My family at war' with Tuffers' Grandfather in 46th.Squadron and Matthew Kelly with a Great Uncle as a POW. Seemed a real co-incidence after reading your posting and I recommend the programme, which has historical input from members of this forum, including POW details.

Good luck,

Phil.

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After his capture, my father was sent to Holzminden POW camp. I believe he had a very bad experience as he never, ever, talked about it; my mother, however, did mention it by way of telling me not to ask about it. I would be interested if anyone can point me in the direction of more information about this camp in 1917-18; I am a newbie on this site and don't know my way around.

PEter Bird

G'day Peter,

I just found this site, hope it is of some assistance;

IWM Display

Andrew

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Hi Peter,

You may like to obtain a copy of "The Tunnellers of Holzminden" by by H. G. Durnford.

It has a lot of detail about the camp, not just the escape. Karl Niemeyer had grown up in the US and returned to Germany for the war but, as I recall, was unfit for duty and was sidelined into the prison...with consequent sour mood. He also had a brother serving.

The camp was brutal and was a repository for many habitual escapers. There are quite a few parallels with Colditz in that regard.

I also seem to recall that your father was not an MvR fan and did not care much for him after personally meeting him...or does my memory fail me?

regards

Darryl

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Mr. Bird! I remember the interview that you gave on a National Geographic episode on the Red Baron that I taped a while back. I distinctly remember the bit where you said your father didn't like Richtofen due to his attitude towards your father as being a 'trophy'. Its great that you found this forum and I'd love to see a transcript of your fathers account. I certainly don't blame him for how he felt.

Kindest Regards,

Alex

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The interview I gave was originally for the BBC2 series "Aviators" - the MvR episode was one of four; I forget who the other aviators were who were featured in the series. Incidentally, the director who interviewed me mentioned that his production company had been asking the BBC for a decision on the series for over a year and that, during that year before they got approval, the remaining three people who had actually know MvR in person died. There certainly was a "Timewatch" programme on MvR a few years earlier which, to my mind, sought to understand the pressures on him towards the later part of the war in a way which Aviators did not.

My father was not an MvR fan. Obviously he was relieved to still be alive which comes over on the film, and some accounts say that MvR saved him from being killed by the infantry unit that was in the same field, but I think my father had a problem with the Prussian military caste to which MvR belonged and its belief in its own superiority. The silver trophies would be an outward manifestation of this.

Thanks for the info on Holzminden. I shall get the Durnford out of the university library as I know they have a copy.

My father's account next time I go up into the loft.

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Down from the loft now. Herewith my father's account of the events of 3rd September 1917:

"A Flight of No 46 Squadron of which I was a member had received orders to carry out the first Offensive Patrol on the morning of September 3rd 1917.

In accordance with instructions the flight took off shortly after 6AM and having attained a height of about 14,000 feet proceeded over the lines to a point about 10 miles on the German side and commenced the patrol. normally on these occasions we were treated to a liberal dose of Archie but on the morning in question everything appeared more than usually calm - an ominous calm as it proved.

As far as my recollection goes we had covered our allotted beat once and had just turned to repeat the process when an enemy machine was seen some way below us and a flight commander indicated his intention of diving. I followed suit and by this time another enemy machine having appeared proceeded to attack him. It then became clear that we were involved in a scrap with a large number of the enemy. While chasing my particular opponent OI took a glance over my shoulder to find myself being followed by two triplanes which I at once took to belong to an R.N.A.S. squadron with whom we occasionally cooperated. The next thing that I knew was that Iwas under a fusillade from machine guns at very close quarters; my engine cut out and I got one under my right arm wich momentarily knocked me out. On recovering I found that I had got to do all I knew if I was to stand a chance of reaching our lines. The two enemy triplanes were making wonderful ahooting practice at me and my machine was being hit times without number, the splinters flying from the two small struts just in front of the cockpit, and from the instrument board. It was impossible to fly straight for more than a few moments at a time before they got their guns on me and my progress wotards our lines was very slow compared with the height I was losing for my engine was a passenger only.

It began to be quite obvious that I should not succeed in regaining our lines as I was now within a few hundred feet of the ground and, looking for a place to put my machine down I found a field in which a German fatigue party were digging trenches. In this I eventually landed hitting I believe a tree in the process: all the while my assailants had kept up a heavy fire whenever they coyld get their guns on me.

Upon my machine coming to rest it looked as if the trench digging party were going to finish the work that their airmen had begun but fortunately for me an officer drove up in a horse and cart and took charge, taking me to the HQ of a K.B. section where I was searched, my flying kit removed and my wound dressed. This later proved to be very slight"

There is no full stop at the end of the last sentence so I conclude that my father never got around to completing what he had to say. Frustrating, to say the least.

As to his previous service history I have the following original documents in my possession:

T.1. (A) appointing him as 2nd Lieutenant into the 5th Batallion The Norfolk Regiment on 16th May 1915 (3 days after his 19th birthday)

Signalling Certificate certifying that 2nd Lt A.F. Bird, 2/5th Batt Norfolk Regt had passed classification tests on Semaphore, Lamp and Buzzer and had also passed in Map reading, Telephones and signal office and despatch riding. Issued at Euston, Thetford (Norfolk) by Maj Chales W Blackwell, O.C. 69th (E.A.) Divl Signal Co. R.E. Dated 7th Feb 1916.

Certificate of qualification as 2nd Class Instructor of Signalling from the School of Signalling in Cambridge. Dated 9th June 1916. His detachment is given as 2/5th Norfolk Regiment.

Temporary pass to Military Zone, Aboukir dated from 19th April 1917 to 18th May 1917. Regiment given as 5th Norfolks. Signed by Lt Col Wilfred H Beak. Comlete with photo ID.

Graduation Certificate No 4861 From the Central Flying School, Upavon, Wilts dated 12th May 1917 to certify that Lt A.F. Bird of the 2/5th Bn Norfolk Regiment had completed a course at the Central Flying School and was qualified for service in the Royal Flying Corps. Signed by Lt Col A.C. MacLean, commandant.

Photograph of four men in uniform, one of whom is clearly my father, taken by a shed with what looks like a sustantial house in the background. On the back is written in pen "Kindest regards Norman A Birks, 23/1/19". Also written on back in pencil by my mother " taken in Germany"

Tattered remnant of "Word of Honour" not to escape issued at Holzminden and signed by Lt A.F. Bird. Date indecipherable.

I hope these might be of interest to someone.

Peter Bird

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Thank you Peter ! :)

Thank you for sharing "your treasure" with us !!

My friend sent me this site .... and I thought this was interesting ....

such was Algy’s handling of his mortally damaged aircraft that Richthofen was under the mistaken impression that the Pup was being flown not by a novice but an experienced opponent, and it has been suggested that it was out of respect for his adversary’s courageous struggle that he uncharacteristically abstained from delivering the coup de grace.
:)

http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Steam-Mills/...rket-steam.html

Annie :)

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  • 3 weeks later...

If I may crave the indulgence of the readers of this thread, I can report that I googled the name of the man who gave the Holzminden photograph to my father, Norman A Birks. He was a prominent engineer in the Bradford area and in his obituary provided by his son, it is confirmed that he was in the RFC and Holzminden camp. I can also confirm that the photo is of Holzminden as it corresponds exactly to a photograph in "The Tunnellers of Holzminden".

This is the URL of the photograph and I would be grateful if anybody can identify the other people in it. My father is second from the left with the pipe.

http://www.flickr.co...s/31173169@N06/

Thanks, in hopeful anticipation.

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  • 1 year later...

I apologise to members that the website that I chose to put up the photo of my father in Holzminden had some pornographic associations of which I was unaware when I did it. Can anyone suggest a "clean" hosting site on which I might re-post it? I have now changed the URL to a "clean" site (I hope).

Two things:

1) A New Zealand company called Wingnut Wings has produced a model kit of the Sopwith Pup with a variety of decals, one of which is my father's plane B1795. Their range of models can be accessed on www.wingnutwings.com

2) I suspect that my father leared to fly at the Abu Swier base in Egypt in the early part of 1917. Can anyone give me more information about this base? I have a photograph of an AVRO 504 taken in a desert which I hope is of my father in the cockpit at Abu Swier.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Feathers, thank you for sharing all of this. I am enormously interested in every bit of it (and I accessed the photo without problem or pornography). Very interesting that he thought the triplanes were Sopwith Triplanes. The Fokkers were new to the front at the time so this is an understandable misidentification. There were only two at the front 3 September, both pre-production F.Is; one was Richthofen's, one was Voss's. I have not studied Voss's and/or JG1 sorties for this day, only Richthofen's, but if your father's account is accurate and he was chased by two Fokkers then this suggests Voss was in on the action. However, Richthofen did not list Voss as a witness in his combat report for this action. In any event, most interesting.

Although Richthofen wrote he suspected he chased a "very skillful pilot" (Bird) 3 September, I respectfully disagree he "let Bird go" out of respect for that skill. Giving quarter was not in Richthofen's nature (in his autobiography he claimed to show mercy on a landing opponent but interviews with the crew revealed Richthofen had attacked them down to the ground) and during several of his victories he attacked gliding airplanes all the way to the ground--as he did with Bird, according to the account in post #12. "It was impossible to fly straight for more than a few moments at a time before they got their guns on me and my progress wotards our lines was very slow compared with the height I was losing for my engine was a passenger only. It began to be quite obvious that I should not succeed in regaining our lines as I was now within a few hundred feet of the ground and, looking for a place to put my machine down I found a field in which a German fatigue party were digging trenches. In this I eventually landed hitting I believe a tree in the process: all the while my assailants had kept up a heavy fire whenever they coyld get their guns on me." His engine was out, he was gliding in for a dead-stick landing and MvR (and apparently another or others) fired at him the whole way down.

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Feathers,

I have several questions I'd like to ask you regarding your father, the answers to which might fit well in a book I'm writing about WW1 aviation.

Alas, I cannot contact you in this forum via the personal message, nor can I view your details to see if you posted an email address. If you have the time and are interested in helping, may I please hear from you via email? You may write me at plm_profiles@yahoo.com

Again, at the very least, thank you for sharing what you have already.

JFM

James F Miller

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Holzminden was also where William Leefe Robinson VC was extremely badly treated - his weakened state making him especially susceptible to influenza which led to his sad death shortly after the war's end. Ray Rimmell's superb book 'The Airship VC' has a lot of information on Holzminden and Niemeyer.

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I would like to respond to PFF's kind direction to the aerodrome website and the Eberhardt Mohnike thread. I am not a member of that forum and have no real wish to be, but I have in my possession a still photograph of my father and MvR and other German officers. My mother has written on the reverse of the photo that the others are: Mohnike, Schubert (Jasta 6) and (perhaps) Toxen (Jasta 6). The photograph, incidentally, doesn't appear to be a frame from Fokker's film as the people are in different positions. Nor do I know how she came by this information. Can anyone confirm that it would have been possible for Schubert and Toxen to have been present? Was Jasta 6 billeted in the same area as Jasta 11?

My own personal opinion, judging by Gould-Lee's book, is that my father was not actually a very skilful pilot at all as it seems he managed to write off a couple of other planes! My opinion of MvR's comment about a "very skilful" opponent is that he said it in order to imply that he was even more skilful, and to boost his own position. As to why he spared my father's life, I think it is perhaps because Fokker was following the fight fron the ground and had his camera with him, and that MvR wanted to be filmed with a real live adversary.

I'm still hoping that someone will be able to assist me in the matter of the Abu Sweir base in Egypt and whether it would have been possible for my father to have had some flying training there. Against this argument is the fact that I remember as a small boy that my fathers Flying Log Book still existed and that he went solo after about 8 1/2 hours. This caused me some pleasure as, when I learned to fly, I went solo in 7 1/2 hours. I wish that log book was still extant! I can picture its dull white cover now.

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Yes, it is possible that Robert Tüxen (actual name) and Fritz Schubert were there and they appear present in a few of the still photos. (Is the photo you have the one with MvR looking at the camera and squinting, with Mohnike to the left?) It certainly looks like them. Jasta 6 was part of Jagdgeschwader 1, led by Richthofen and comprised of Jastas 4, 6, 10, and 11, and all Jastas were stationed within the same immediate area. Schubert became JG1’s Technical Officer a few days later.

As I wrote on the thread, I do not believe MvR spared your father’s life at all because based on his (your father’s) account, MvR fired at him all the way to the ground. I have read in Norman Frank’s book “Under the Guns of the Red Baron” that your father had pranged a few machines but on the day he was attacked by MvR he must have maneuvered wildly enough to avoid being shot down and was thus deemed skillful at avoidance by MvR. Richthofen cared not about a pilot’s skill level; what mattered is the victory. This is corroborated by his (and all fighter pilots’) determination to attack an opponent whilst unseen. Even the greatest pilot in the world can’t defend himself from the attack he never sees coming. Of course, I cannot prove Richthofen's motivations but based on the continuous attack one would think he tried to down him rather than force him to land.

I'm sorry that I cannot help you regarding training in Egypt. The Birds soloed at 8 1/2 and 7 1/2 hours respectively! I soloed at 22, which is where I was expected to in the syllabus. Had I attempted to solo at 8 1/2 hours I would have killed myself on landing or at least pranged the nosewheel. It's amazing to me that so many pilots soloed in taildraggers with so few hours.

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Just joined recently....omg what wonderful interesting reading....im going to enjoy this site. wow!!! seems like MvR was ruthless, but really, lets face it, when ws war ever really a place of chivalry?? We always seem to desperately seek the chivalrous, when what it needs, expects and makes, is killers who refine their art. i was lucky enough to interview several old servicemen in the 1980's, got some interesting reflections from them, when I find the right topic I may relate them. cheers lads

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Now that I look at my photograph more closely, I think it has been printed in reverse, as my father's wings are on the wrong side. He should be on the right of the picture with MvR on the left, shoulder to camera and face half turned , and smiling. Behind his back is tall lean officer with a coat with a dark collar; between MvR and my father are two other officers - the one with the moustache has a decoration ribbon tucked under a button of his tunic.

Sorry I can't scan this, but I don't want to demount the picture from its frame.

I'm very grateful for your comments and struck by the level of detailed knowledge you possess.

The reason I soloed so soon is that I was on a Flying Scholarship (1959 - Tiger Moths) and they wanted a fast throughput.

Rgds

Peter

Yes, it is possible that Robert Tüxen (actual name) and Fritz Schubert were there and they appear present in a few of the still photos. (Is the photo you have the one with MvR looking at the camera and squinting, with Mohnike to the left?) It certainly looks like them. Jasta 6 was part of Jagdgeschwader 1, led by Richthofen and comprised of Jastas 4, 6, 10, and 11, and all Jastas were stationed within the same immediate area. Schubert became JG1's Technical Officer a few days later.

As I wrote on the thread, I do not believe MvR spared your father's life at all because based on his (your father's) account, MvR fired at him all the way to the ground. I have read in Norman Frank's book "Under the Guns of the Red Baron" that your father had pranged a few machines but on the day he was attacked by MvR he must have maneuvered wildly enough to avoid being shot down and was thus deemed skillful at avoidance by MvR. Richthofen cared not about a pilot's skill level; what mattered is the victory. This is corroborated by his (and all fighter pilots') determination to attack an opponent whilst unseen. Even the greatest pilot in the world can't defend himself from the attack he never sees coming. Of course, I cannot prove Richthofen's motivations but based on the continuous attack one would think he tried to down him rather than force him to land.

I'm sorry that I cannot help you regarding training in Egypt. The Birds soloed at 8 1/2 and 7 1/2 hours respectively! I soloed at 22, which is where I was expected to in the syllabus. Had I attempted to solo at 8 1/2 hours I would have killed myself on landing or at least pranged the nosewheel. It's amazing to me that so many pilots soloed in taildraggers with so few hours.

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Sorry I can't scan this, but I don't want to demount the picture from its frame.

Is it possible to take a digital photo of the picture - if framed with glass, there is normally some reflection, but you can usually "move" the reflection around to still get a reasonable photograph.

Regards,

Jonathan S

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I've had the photo of my father with MvR and others scanned and put it on Flickr at the following URL

http://www.flickr.co...s/31173169@N06/

Rgds

Peter Bird

Is it possible to take a digital photo of the picture - if framed with glass, there is normally some reflection, but you can usually "move" the reflection around to still get a reasonable photograph.

Regards,

Jonathan S

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