by the superior command first and also the local AA gunners had to be informed because by
then they would have proved their rather intimidating efficiency. The AA batteries crew recognized the aircraft by their silhouette since the
national markings were often invisible due to the
sunlight. Therefore, it was really important that
the AA gunners were informed about the flight
activity of a “friendly” Camel. The aircraft silhouette was crucial for the fighter pilots as well.
At some flight attitudes or against the sunlight
they were unable to recognize the national markings either. Every flight with a captured airplane
from the unit close to the frontlines was rather
risky and the idea of flying combat missions,
even leading them in a captured Camel looks rather improbable.
Not a single combat report of the British pilots who participated in the dogfight on May 16
mentioned any Camel with German crosses.
Such an aircraft would not have escaped their
attention for sure. In total eight pilots from Jasta
23b engaged in combat with fifteen opponents
from 64 Squadron which was by the way all this
Jasta could muster at that time. Both formations clashed between Arras and Douai at 10:30
and the fight lasted approximately half an hour.
It was a typical melee with many isolated du-
els when it was difficult or rather impossible to
maintain the situational awareness. The British
reported combat with twelve instead of eight Albatrosses and claimed nine (!) kills. The British
reports are abundant with testimonies about the
enemies in uncontrollable spins, smoking and
crashing; in fact, on that day Jasta 23b lost only
one pilot, Heinrich Kullmer. He crashed after
his wing collapsed and it was unclear if it was
due to enemy fire or excessive load during the
combat maneuvers. Kullmer’s Albatros crashed
on the German side of the front line, near Sailly-en-Ostrevent and after the enemy aircraft withdrew Kissenberth landed at the wreck to find
out if Kullmer, one of the most popular Jasta 23b
members, survived. Sadly, he was dead.
Kissenberth himself claimed one S.E.5a shot
down. It was Lt. S.B. Reece aircraft who managed to perform the emergency landing with his
S.E.5a (C1859) on the friendly side of the the front
between Tilloy and Neuville Vitasse. As mentioned above, it is highly doubtful that Kissenberth
achieved this victory flying the captured Camel.
What is certain though is that two weeks later, on
May 29 Kissenberth had a serious accident.
Shortly after the take off the Camel’s engine failed and Kissenberth suffered the wounds which
did not allow him to return to combat flying.
He continued to serve though as a commander of
Schleissheim Pilot School. He did not enjoy peacetime for long, on August 3, 1919, he was killed
in a mountain climbing accident in Bavarian Alps.
The crashed Camel B7184, manufactured by Clayton & Shuttleworth company and delivered on
December 12, 1917, was completely destroyed
and its career of serving two masters ended.
By the way, it was in the inventory of his original
unit, No.3 (N) Squadron RNAS, for nine days only
and served much longer with the enemy.
My thanks to Simon Youens, Jorn Leckscheid
and Jan Bobek for their advice, opinion, and reference to the relevant sources.
Peter Kilduff: Black Fokker Leader; Carl Degelow, The First
World War´z Last Airfighter Knight, Grub Street Publishing
Roger Gunn: Raymond Collishaw and the Black Flight;
Dundurn Toronto, ISBN-13:9781459706606
Bruno Schmäling, Winfried Bock: Royal Bavarian Jagdstaffel
23, Aeronaut Books, ISBN-13:978-1935881636
Trevor Henshaw: The Sky Their Battlefield II, Expanded Edition, Grub Street Publishing, ISBN-13: 978-1898697305
Sopwith Camel B7184 as it appeared during its “service” with
Jasta 23b. The Bavarians seem to have liked the blue decorations, so they decided to keep them. The cockades on the upper
wings were overpainted with white paint and completely deleted
from the doped linen of the lower surfaces.
INFO Eduard - January 2022