The Defending Victoria website was first created in 1997. It is frequently updated.
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 21 APRIL 1918
It was a bright clear day over the front line between Hamel and Villers-Bretonneux.
All of a sudden two planes flew over the Australian trenches. One was an RAF plane,
being chased by a German 'Red Circus' triplane firing bursts of machinegun-fire. The
Australians opened up with rifles and machineguns, and the triplane broke off its
attack, peeling away and up. Seconds later, the German plane plunged into the ground.
The pilot had been shot through the chest by one bullet. It turned out he was Baron
Manfred von Richthofen -- the celebrated 'Red Baron' -- Germany's greatest flying ace,
with as many as 80 'kills' to his name. He was given a fine funeral, complete with a firing
party from No. 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, AIF. He was regarded as a gallant
and worthy foe.
Inevitably, the question arose, who had been responsible for shooting down the German
ace. Many theories have been proposed and debated. Many came to regard Corporal Bill
Gamble, (born at Trentham, Victoria) of the 25th Machinegun Company as that person.
He had fired a withering burst as von Richthofen's plane had passed through his sights.
The crash had happened almost immediately. But Sir Ronald East in his article 'How the
Red Baron Died in 1918' (Royal Historical Society of Victoria Journal, Vol. 55, No. 22,
June 1984) examined all the evidence -- including Gamble's own 1978 unpublished auto-
biography -- and concluded that 'Richthofen's aircraft was so damaged by Gamble's head
on fire that the Baron realised the extremely perilous position he was in and endeavoured
at once to get away back to his own lines. In turning and climbing, he exposed himself to
fire from machine guns and rifles . . . It was a bullet from one of these which struck von
Richthofen under the right armpit, with the bullet coming out of the front of his chest'.
Even if not brought down solely by the Victorian Bill Gamble, it appears certain that the
amazing 'Red Baron' was finally dispatched by an Australian bullet.

The RAAF museum at Point Cook, Victoria, has exhibits about the Red Baron and  some of
his personal effects, including a matchbox.

Australian military aircraft books


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