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FIGHTING THE RED BARON. Ch.4, 9pm. Friday 4th June.

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Andy in Beds

Oh, and I wrote this on another (aviation) forum yesterday evening.

Yes, there were errors in it but I thought it was a good effort.

What many of us must remember is that we wear the anorak of Great Warism--and it's blinkin' 'ot in this weather.

My wife sat and watched it and found it very informative.

The list of people credited at the end was impressive and I think it showed.

It was (and had to be) simplified in some detail--otherwise we might have spent all night arguing over why Voss almost bettered B flight of 56 Sqn.

My main gripe was why did the makers persist in passing off replicas as the real thing? The 'SE5A' couldn't be anything like a real one--I would imagine and God only knows at this distance in time what a Junkers CL.I was like to fly.

Overall 8/10.

A.

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Jonathan Saunders
I'm a pretty good nickpicker, but I think everybody is being a little hard on the producers here...

Alex,

I agree with what you say. I gave FTRB a thumbs up as I think WW1 documentaries need to be encouraged and all in all, it was good watching in my opinion.

We obviously have to make a lot of allowances for historical accuracy v whats available, and I had no problem with using the SE5a for artillery spotting, thanks for the confirmation that the D1 photo was a DV and I assumed Shaw followed Charles in some regard, but maybe I need to dust off HITHEB again. I didnt even mind the tail-wheel and there was no way they could throw around the Shuttleworth SE5a as they did the replica (loops an all), but I still dont understand why they implied these were original 90+ year old aircraft. Andrew said it was all to do with the final edit, but Im not convinced they filmed the Shuttleworth SE5a, so I dont see how that can be possible. Im not trying to denigrate the programme at all, and I was also surprised by the landing issue - perhaps we just have to accept a little bit of fiction when using an American-owned production company with a US audience inmind.

I dont think the other Alex is an expert on 56 at Squadron level as such, but if you want to know the minutae of the lives of Rhys-Davids and his family, McCudden, Crowe, Maybery, Barlow, Hoidge, Marson and Thais for that matter, Blomfield and no doubt others of 56 of that period, then she is an expert (as you may regard yourself) and I know the majority of her research has been through primary sources - a route of research Im sure you would endorse.

Regards,

Jonathan S

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Pighills

I have just watched it in its entirety on the Channel 4 OD service and have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I knew absolutely nothing about the war in the air, apart from having watched the previous programme on McCudden and Maddox (Aces Falling), and this was, for me, a good second foray into my education on the subject.

With regards to repeating things. It may well be something as simple as informing those who have just joined the programme of some salient points of the programme and not quite as condescending as some of you may think?

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Jonathan Saunders
McCudden and Maddox

Mannock :o

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Rayessex
I knew absolutely nothing about the war in the air, apart from having watched the previous programme on McCudden and Maddox (Aces Falling), and this was, for me, a good second foray into my education on the subject.

Thank you Kim

You put it so much better than I could. You said just what I thunk.

Ray

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Pighills
Mannock :o

Sorry, told you all I didn't know that much - just glad you knew who I really meant :blush: - I wouldn't mind, I googled it to make sure I got the right names, and still transcribed it wrongly :w00t:

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Jonathan Saunders
Sorry, told you all I didn't know that much - just glad you knew who I really meant :blush: - I wouldn't mind, I googled it to make sure I got the right names, and still transcribed it wrongly :w00t:

Actually Kim I didnt mean for my answer to come across abrupt. Mannock wasnt what you would call a traditionalist so Im sure he wouldnt have minded.

Glad to hear you enjoyed both programmes.

Regards,

Jonathan S

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Pighills

It didn't at all Jonathan, really it didn't.

Yes, I enjoyed both programmes thank you and I may have learnt something (even if it was only about mounting the machine guns on the front and having to time it with the propellers, oh and the bloke who invented it was Belgian? but worked for the Germans - well, it's a start isn't it!).

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Andrew Upton
Possibly but a still a bit of an eyebrow raiser if they havent used any clips from the filming of the Shuttleworth SE5a in the final production (are you sure they actually filmed it flying as it seems strange to use some of its precious flying hours for filming and then not using them).

I didnt even mind the tail-wheel and there was no way they could throw around the Shuttleworth SE5a as they did the replica (loops an all), but I still dont understand why they implied these were original 90+ year old aircraft. Andrew said it was all to do with the final edit, but Im not convinced they filmed the Shuttleworth SE5a, so I dont see how that can be possible. Im not trying to denigrate the programme at all, and I was also surprised by the landing issue - perhaps we just have to accept a little bit of fiction when using an American-owned production company with a US audience inmind.

Having had a quick recheck with that in mind, some of the bits I thought were using the original SE5a are actually clearly using the replica, so might just be my mind playing tricks on me and being influenced by the incorrect captioning! <_<

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Jonathan Saunders

Andrew Im really not trying to catch anyone out. I just found it odd that two ex-Red Arrows pilots were talking about the SE5a and the Junkers as if they were original aircraft. I have no idea how close their build was to original spec but obviously the technical and mechanical parts of these aircrafts would be modern and different ie. the cockpit and the engine. If the engine, then the performance, and so on.

I didnt mean to make an issue out of it but its just a case of one comment leads to another, and the mind thinks "that cant be right".

As i said earlier, it must have been a memorable day for you. Not every one gets to play Jimmy McCudden.

Regards,

Jonathan S

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RobL

One of the major areas in which the performance would be out of the SE5a (and the Junkers) is that they're not full-size, the SE5a is 7/8 scale so the weight of the pilot would have a larger effect, the size of the control surfaces and the angles they go through would give different flight performance, as well as having a smaller engine etc etc

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Adrian Roberts

I've just watched the FTBR programme, a day late using the on-demand facility of my cable TV provider. Most of what I wanted to say has already been said by the rest of you, but I'll wade in anyway.

Given that it was intended for a mass audience, who may well have joined after a commercial break so needed to be given a summary of what was going on, and given that the producers were limited by what aeroplanes were available to them, I thought they did a very good job on the whole. Of course even the title of the programme was sensationalised using the term "Red Baron" so as to draw in the mass audience. Lets face it, MVR is the only WW1 Air Fighter of whom most non-enthusiasts have heard - dare I say he has achieved celebrity status? (Of all the WW2 pilots and crew, Douglas Bader is about the only one who most people could name - don't get me started on him; frankly I think I prefer Von Richthofen!).

I wonder if the said mass audience would have felt cheated by the fact that the much-vaunted dog-fight occupied only a few minutes at the end. But it would have been difficult to make that part much longer. The build-up could have been seen as padding. But this is fortuitous for us enthusiasts, as the build-up provided a lot of interest and debate. For instance, it was good that the programme was able to highlight the role of the photo-recce and artillery obs squadrons. I know that SE5as were not used for artillery direction; I'm not sure why they couldn't have used the Bristol Fighter for this. But it was correct that by the end of the war it was the pilot doing the spotting as well as flying; in a two-seater the observer watched for EAs, and Freddie West's account makes it clear that he was using the morse transmitter, not his observer.

They could have made it clear that the duel between MVR and Hawker was not flown using a DrI (Triplane) versus SE5a, but as has been said it is very difficult to find a flying replica DH2 and Albatros outside of New Zealand, and personally I would have winged even more if they had used CGI. But I am not sure why they couldn't have used the Triplane against the SE5a in Mark and Andy's final dog-fight - even in WW1 an SE5a would rarely encounter a Junkers CLI. This CLI is a modern aircraft (a Druine Turbulent or Rollason Condor or something similar) with a WW1 paint job, so it would have taught whoever was flying it very little about WW1 flying.

As for the role of Alexandra Churchill and Jonathan Levine (have I got his name right?) - this is going to sound very patronising, but I am glad to see young people taking an interest in WW1 aviation history! I certainly thought their enthusiasm came through and I couldn't fault many of their facts. I've only just turned 50 myself, but that is well below the average age for Cross and Cockade members and I am already wondering who is going to carry the candle when we are gone. (I have managed to persuade my ten-year old daughter to start reading my old Biggles books - but they carry even more inaccuracies than Channel Four!).

I also appreciated Alexandra and Jonathan's interest in the personalities of these men. As a Psychiatric Nurse this is part of my interest. It is interesting that Alex thought that Albert Ball was not necessarily mature even for a twenty year-old. His bizarre behaviour in his last days suggests that he may have been heading for a psychotic breakdown. And possibly his impetuousness in combat, combined with his tendency to isolate himself, and his moods when he didn't agree with something make me wonder if he had a tendency to obsessiveness, maybe even Asperger's syndrome. Which of course is not to detract from his courage or his integrity; neither does mental illness make you a bad person morally or spiritually.

Finally, a bit of obsessiveness of my own here: what was the twin-engined bomber shown in front view, early in the programme? Its rotary or radial engines and cowling style suggest a Caudron, but it looked too large, and its undercarriage too modern, for a G.IV. An R4 possibly, or something else entirely?

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Ghost

I cringe when I see re-enactors on television, absolute .......s, totally unnecessary, so this program was a huge let down for me. As for using the term Red Baron to grab a wider audiance, that will have failed. If this mass audiance think the boiling point of water may be 76 deg f (National lottery draw game show last night) then there is not much chance that they will have a clue who MVR was.

I used to work at shuttleworth when a school boy, and so know a tiny bit about those aircraft featured in the program, the switching between real and replica aircraft passed straight over my head, did not bother me at all, but being led to believe that the pilots were red arrows team members, when it emerged that they were ex RAF was a a bit of a con job.

I don't know who Mr Levine was, but personally I much preffered his style to that of Snow and Snow, he oused enthusiasm. Alexandra on the other hand, although being knowledgable about the men, did not have the presenter enthusiasm required to lift the program out of the doldrums, not her fault, thats not her vocation. The real RAF man analysing the aerial photos brought a spark of light, but was short lived.

Like all these modern progs, the key words seem to be if, could, and danger, especially could, but it never materialises.

Hated the reminders, hated the ground crew re-enactors, hated the wanabe flying re-enactors, and hated the ...VG dog fights. Would have liked to have seen the Hucks starter on the 504k instead of that man. Enjoyed just watching the planes fly.

Alan

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Rockdoc

I quite enjoyed it. I was irritated by the restatement of the aims of the programme after every ad-break but I don't have the broad knowledge to be upset by errors in planes or uniforms used by the re-enactors so none of that disturbed my watching. I was extremely surprised, though, by the impression given that artillery observation was done at 1,000 ft. In Salonika, the AA Section War Diaries very rarely record anything under 8,000 ft, even when the enemy was spotting. At 1,000 ft I would have expected that the Archie would have been very effective indeed and small-arms fire would come into play, too. After all, when planes were spotting they had a course that was repetitive and, therefore, predictable. Low altitudes mean that the flight-time of the shell is short, even with WW1 muzzle-velocities, so there was even less opportunity for the pilot to fly using avoiding tactics to put the AA gunners off.

Keith

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Andy in Beds
Would have liked to have seen the Hucks starter on the 504k instead of that man. Enjoyed just watching the planes fly.

The Hucks starter would have been incorrect for The Great War period.

The two individuals prepping the AVRO 504K were Jean Munn and Andy Preslent.

Jean is the current chief engineer at The Collection and Andy has probably done more towards the preservation of early aviation in Gt Britain than any other single person.

It was the inclusion of little details like that which raised the programme for me.

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MikB

I watched about half-an-hour of it but found it too patronising and, frankly, dumbed-down to continue. There was no attempt to represent the fantastic rate of aircraft development from the boxkites of 1914 to the Snipes and D.VIIIs of 1918. The Red Baron/Hawker duel was flown with aircraft a full technical generation earlier than those shown. I thought it gave too little real information, and with cavalier accuracy.

Regards,

MikB

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alex revell

Jonathan,

In Ball''s time in 56, H N Charles was the only engineering officer. He was followed by F M Thomas on 4 June, for eight days, then G H Greene, also on 4 June, who served until May 1918. Then it was Fitzgerald, Henderson and Dunk. The only Shaw in the sqdn was a Sgt A Shaw. The reported 'conversation' with Ball, doesn't sound at all like Ball. Not his style. I don't know where the report comes from, but I suspect the IWM audio tapes. There are lots of people out there who are only too eager to attempt to grab a bit of fame for themselves by claiming to have known famous people or to have served in a famous sqdn. You'd be surprised at the number of 'pilots' who came out of the woodwork, when HITEB was being researched, who claimed to have served in 56 and flown with Ball and McCudden etc. Mostly from the USA, I'm sorry to say. When asked for details, because no record of them or their time in the sqdn could be found, I never heard from them again. The IWM tapes I feel should always be treated with a certain amount of caution. Even the tape of H N Charles they have is slightly different in some details from what he told/confided in me. People always like to tell things which show them in a different/better light. I suppose it's human nature. Much as I loved Cecil Lewis, he wasn't above stretching the truth, just a little. One of the old 56 ground crew once said to me. 'Mr Lewis was always a bit of a showman.' For instance, Cecil wasn't the last to see Ball alive. That is evident from the combat reports of May 7. When I interviewed Billy Crowe he was man enough to admit that he didn't, as he said in his CR, follow Ball into the cloud. 'Bloody stupid' was the term he used. Having met quite a number of ex 56 pilots, I've a pretty good idea of how they thought and operated on the human side of things. Always an eye opener.

Going back to the programme. Yes, it was wrong in so many general things, but it was made for the general public. To get it absolutely right - just the aeroplane side of things - they would have to have had DH2s, Fokker EIIIs, BE2cs, Albatros DIIIs, etc etc. Very expensive. The whole thing - aeroplane type, height, time over the target etc - about spotting for the artillery was incorrect, but they had to work with what they had and what they were told. I thought, regretfully, that it tended to trivialise things, which is a common fault of nearly all documentaries, but my wife didn't feel that.

Everytime I see a documentary about a time when I was actually living, or even there, I'm always shouting at the screen 'Rubbish. It wasn't like that at all.' I always remember the experience of a friend of mine who answered a request for people who had been evacuated in the war to tell their stories. Because he was one of the many who was treated well and had a good time, he was told, 'Sorry, we're only interested in those that weren't.'

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trenchtrotter

I enjoyed it very much. As one who only seems to focus on the ground war it was refreshing and gave me some new knowledge and enthusiasm to get a book on the air war and read up...any recommendations to start me off?

Regards

TT

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John Adams

Saggitarius Rising by Cecil Lewis or Wind in the Wires by Duncan Grinnell-Milne.

H

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tomstorrow
I enjoyed it very much. As one who only seems to focus on the ground war it was refreshing and gave me some new knowledge and enthusiasm to get a book on the air war and read up...any recommendations to start me off?

Regards

TT

TT,

Like you, I've mainly been a "ground" man so far, but I've just finished reading Winged Victory by V M Yeates, which was excellent - a novel apparently based on Yeates' own experiences. Sagittarius Rising - mentioned above - is also very good.

I've got the C4 prog recorded on Sky+ and am looking forward to watching it, despite the rather mixed reviews above.

Happy reading!

Tom

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Jonathan Saunders
Everytime I see a documentary about a time when I was actually living, or even there, I'm always shouting at the screen 'Rubbish. It wasn't like that at all.' I always remember the experience of a friend of mine who answered a request for people who had been evacuated in the war to tell their stories. Because he was one of the many who was treated well and had a good time, he was told, 'Sorry, we're only interested in those that weren't.'

Alex thanks for your further comments. I remember a question on this forum many years ago along the lines of if you could have an evening meal with a group of individuals from WW1 who would they be. I think my answer was my GGfr but for a long time Ive thought about that question and how I'd settle for a game of "ping pong" with 56. Of course you were lucky enough to have spoken to many of these gallant men.

I am not adverse to shouting rubbish at the tv myself and I may have done on Friday once or twice, but overall WW1 documentaries are a very poor second to WW2, so I am grateful for what we are given, and i thought FTRB did much more good than wrong.

Regards,

Jonathan S

P.S. At least I was able to see some real WW1 aircraft flying at Old Warden today. Its a great place to watch planes.

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RobL
I enjoyed it very much. As one who only seems to focus on the ground war it was refreshing and gave me some new knowledge and enthusiasm to get a book on the air war and read up...any recommendations to start me off?

Regards

TT

The Peter Hart series - Somme Success, Bloody April and Aces Falling, a superb trio. Plenty of first hand accounts still out there, 'Flying Minnows' by Vivian Voss who flew Bristol Fighters with 48 and 88 is one of my favourites, as are 'Green Balls', 'Down the Flare Path' and 'Rovers of the Night Sky'

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alex revell

I hasten to correct any misunderstanding which may have been caused by my remarks about Alexandra in my post No.48. They were not intended to criticise or denigrate her work in any way. There were merely the rather wry comment by an old researcher. I thought the smilie after the comments would have shown that. My apologies for any upset or misunderstanding.

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Andrew Hesketh

Alex, I don't think the smilie appeared. Nevertheless, I always think highly of people who hold their hand up and apologise, even if any upset was inadvertently caused.

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Steven Broomfield

Alex types (IIRC) : ) at the end of the post.

I will also say that, having seen that Ms Churchill wasn't paid and was a first-timer (and I'd even met her, though my appalling memory for names managed to erase that from the memory banks), I will actually withdraw any ill-chosen comments on my behalf. Good luck to her and maybe this will be the start of a career on which I can look back and say how wrong I was.

I still think it was a disappointing programme, though. :whistle:

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