September 23, 1917 – German Ace Werner Voss Killed
Pictured – With 48 kills to his name, Voss was a rival with Richthofen for the title of Germany’s greatest ace.
“The Flying Circus” was a name that could strike dread into the heart of British flyers. It is what they called the German fighter wing Jagdgeschwader 1, a combination of Germany’s greatest squadrons. Led by Manfred von Richthofen, the fighter wing also included innumerable other aces, including Werner Voss.
Born in 1887, Voss was a cavalryman at the beginning of the war but transferred to the Imperial German Air Service. Serving under the renowned pilot Oswald Boecke, Voss became a talented pilot in his own right, with 28 victories by May 1917. That year he joined Richthofen fighter wing, where he added 20 more kills to his credit and took command of a squadron, Jasta 10.
Voss set out for his final flight on September 23. Flying over Belgium in his silver triplane, he was attacked by seven Royal Flying Corps Se.5 Scouts, a nimble fighter. The British flyers were from 56 Squadron, which included so many aces that some German pilots wondered if it had been formed specifically to kill Richthofen and his men.
Voss fought one-against-seven with the British for ten minutes, before being shot down by Arthur Rhys-Davids. James McCudden, another British ace, witnessed the fight: “I shall never forget my admiration for that German pilot, who single
handed, fought seven of us for ten minutes. I saw him go into a fairly
steep dive and so I continued to watch, and then saw the triplane hit
the ground and disappear into a thousand fragments, for it seemed to me
that it literally went into powder.”
Rhys-Davids shot down another German ace, Carl Menckhoff, who arrived to try and help Voss. Despite overwhelming odds, the two Germans had almost managed to elude their pursuers. McCudden wrote of Voss: “His flying is wonderful, his courage magnificent and in my opinion he
was the bravest German airman whom it has been my privilege to see.”