The last victim

The September morning of April 20, 1918, is still

shrouded in a foggy haze when the cough of an

engine, revved up for the morning engine warmup, cuts through the silence. Another hectic

day of the German spring offensive starts at

Cappy airfield for the JG I and its commanding

officer Manfred von Richthofen. At Val Heureux

airfield, just some 30 miles to the northwest,

members of No. 3 Squadron RAF, led by twentyfour-year-old Major Richard Raymond-Barker,

are carrying out similar procedures. In the

evening, these units will fight an air battle and

Manfred von Richthofen will achieve his last

two victories. One of his victims will be the

commander of the British unit...

Camels of No. 3 Sqn took off from Val Heureux

under the lead of Capt. Douglas Bell, C Flight

leader, although Raymond-Barker was also

on patrol. When the formation was less than

three miles behind the front line, it was spotted

by pilots from Jasta 11. The fight began with

a frontal attack by both formations and at 18:40,

just seconds after the rivals engaged each

other, the main fuel tank of Raymond-Barker´s

Camel exploded after a direct hit. The one who

fired the bullet was none other than the Red

Baron. Three minutes later, von Richthofen

was attacking another opponent. It was Camel

number B7393 . And here we start with our


Lieutenant David Lewis notices his commander´s

plane explodes, but doesn´t have time to watch

his fate. He attacks one of the enemies, but

suddenly splinters fly off of one of his Camel´s

struts. He kicks the pedals, full throttle and

May 2023

sends his aircraft into a steep-bank turn. He

finds himself facing the red Dreidecker that fired

at him. He tries to escape with even more violent

maneuvering, and at one point manages to get

the red machine in his gunsight. He knows all

too well who he´s dealing with, and after some

of his bullets hit the fuselage of the opponent´s

aircraft, he wonders how great it would be if he,

a rookie who´s only been at the front for three

weeks, was the one to shoot down the famous

ace. But the fortunes are to change. The enemy

is an all-too-experienced pilot. He escapes and

within seconds the hunter is the prey. One of

Red Baron´s bullets shatters the compass,

another miraculously misses David´s head, hits

his aviation goggles and knocks them off. Just

as miraculously, another bullet gets through

his pant leg, but only grazes the pilot himself.

Then a few bullets hit the fuel tank. Even so, it´s

a stroke of luck anyway, as only a small reserve

tank is hit. Instead of a devastating explosion, it

“only” catches fire and Lewis immediately dives

his Camel. He plummets to the ground as flames

consume the fuselage´s canvas covering. It´s

a race against time to get to the ground before

the fire destroys the controls! A hard emergency

“landing” at around 60 mph rips the poor Camel

apart and the impact throws David out of the

cockpit. He briefly loses consciousness and

when he regains it, he lies motionless for

a moment. Perhaps he´s reluctant to believe

he´s alive. He gets up and is astonished to find

that, apart from minor burns, he is unharmed.

A miracle! Less than 50 yards away, the

wreckage of the Raymond-Barker´s Camel is

Text: Richard Plos

Illustration: Adam Tooby

burning. David runs towards it, but the heat of

the flames won´t let him near the wreckage.

The body of his CO is not inside and will never

be found ... Then a red Dr.I flies over the grim

scene and waves. Is Manfred von Richthofen

honoring his victims, or is he trying to attract

the attention of the nearby German soldiers

for future verification of his victories? We don´t

know. He himself cannot know that the man on

the ground was his last victim, nor would he

ever know that he was a barely twenty-year-old

David Greswolde “Tommy” Lewis from Southern

Rhodesia. A native of Bulawayo who, as soon

as his age allowed, made his way to the UK

and joined the ranks of the RFC. He graduated

from pilot school in April 1917, was promoted

to officer rank in June and served with

No. 78 (HD) Squadron before being transferred to

No. 3 Squadron at the end of March 1918. After

being shot down over enemy territory, he spent

the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp

at Graudenz (now Grudziądz, Poland) and then

returned to Southern Rhodesia. He farmed and

also worked in government administration and

died on August 10, 1978, outliving his conqueror,

who died the day after their duel, by more than

sixty years...

Adam Tooby´s boxart captures the moment after

Lewis´s Camel was hit. The young pilot turns his

burning machine into a steep dive as the Red

Baron watches his victim. The Dr. I of Werner

Steinhäuser, who also took part in the battle on

April 20, can be seen in the background hunting

another Camel. His Dreidecker is also part of

the markings offered in the box.

INFO Eduard