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Who shot down Billy Johns?

Captain W.E.Johns
Captain W.E.Johns
This is a report on the shooting down of 2e lieutenant Billy Johns, 55th Squadron R.A.F., on the 16th of September 1918 at 13:30 hours pm.
It states my personal view on this issue which I formed after I gathered information from all over the world!

Report

On Monday, the 16th of September 1918 at 12:20 hours pm, 12 DH 4 bombers of 55th Squadron were taking off from Azelot Aerodrome in France to begin their mission: Their target was the Linz Works and railway yards near Mannheim in Germany.
Captain Fox commanded a formation of 6 DH 4 bombers and Captain Mackay commanded the other formation of DH 4 bombers.
The six bombers commanded by Captain Fox failed to rendezvous with Captain MacKay’s Bombers and Captain Fox formation returned to Azelot without reaching their target. Captain MacKay’s formation, with Bill Johns DH4 in fifth position, continued their mission towards their target.
They crossed the lines at Raon l’Etape and proceeded over Saverne west of Hagenau (Haguenau) and then by Landau to Mannheim.

Bill Johns however was running into problems. Near Saverne his plane was hit by an anti aircraft shell which hit the main fuel tank.
Bill noticed about two miles behind him a full squadron of enemy fighters, which he recognized to be Fokker DVII fighters, Germany’s best fighter plane. He switched over to his reserve fuel tank and tried to climb to 21000 feet to get beyond the Fokker’s height capabilities. To lose weight he dropped his bombs. It appears that John’s plane did dot gain more height because the Fokker’s came within firing range. The fight started. About this fight you can read more in “By Jove Biggles.”


Fokker DVII
Fokker DVII
De Havilland DH 4
De Havilland DH 4
Johns DH4 crash-landed near the village Alteckendorf. His observer, 2nd lieutenant AE Amey was killed during the dogfight in the air.


In Memory of
In Memory of
Second Lieutenant A E AMEY
55th Sqdn., Royal Air Force
who died on Monday, 16th September 1918.

SARRALBE MILITARY CEMETERY
Remembered with honour
SARRALBE MILITARY CEMETERY, Moselle, France.

In the perpetual care of
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

From this point I’ll start my investigations to this air combat and its consequences, which are full of contradictions on either English/Johns or German reports.
I am very graceful to everybody all over the world who have been helping me on this issue. Without their personal knowledge I would have never achieved this.

Map (click to enlarge)

Map (click to enlarge)

The contradictions

While the German Fokker’s attacked Bill Johns he noticed a second drama that nearby German fighters shot down a De Havilland DH 9 in flames in a similar attack.
Later, German pilots told Johns, that the pilots of the DH9 were sergeants but no names were given because their bodies had been burned beyond identification.

Two DH9 were claimed that same day in that general area. Lieutenant Stephan shot a DH9 near Gremersheim and Sergeant Metzger shot a DH9 near Landau. Both Germans belonged to Jasta 70. There is no time of the crash on both kills available.
It is very unlikely that Bill Johns could have seen one of these DH9’s because of the distance.

Later Bill Jones stated that the famous German Air Ace Ernst Udet shot him down. Udet was on leave the 16th and returned to his squadron, Jasta 4, first on 19th of September 1918. Jasta 4 was also operating from the aerodrome Busigny-Escaufourt in North West France!


1


Oberleutnant Ernst Udet. German Air Ace with 62 kills in WW 1
Bill Johns used Udet as example for his Erich von Stalhein creation in his books later on.

Who really shot down Bill Johns?
Lieutenant Georg Weiner claimed the shot down. The CO of Jasta 3, which operated from the Gross Tanchen aerodrome with Fokker DVII fighter planes, was officially accredited with the kill over the village of Alteckendorf which is only a few kilometres away from the Village of Ettendorf were Bill Johns later that day was locked up in a schoolhouse cellar for the night.


2


Leutnant Georg Weiner. German Air Ace with 9 kills in WW I

The archivesAnother German Pilot had also claimed the kill. This was Sergeant Emil Prime (In some books called Eduard) from Jasta 78B who also flew a Fokker DVII which operated from Buhl aerodrome.
He and Weiner, and maybe other pilots, must have visited Bill Johns in the schoolhouse.
Johns later stated that the officer, who had shot him down, wore the Bleu Max medal around his neck.
The archives and sources up to now show no record of Weiner that he was awarded with the Bleu Max. (Pour le Mérite)
Officially the Germans reported that the plane was a DH 9 with serial number F5712 but there was no such DH9 with that serial number. The serial number belonged to a DH4.

Officially Leutnant Weiner shot Bill Johns but there will be always the possibility that Johns was shot down by both Weiner and Prime.
Why Bill Johns mentioned the crashing of a DH9 at his starboard will be insoluble. The two mentioned DH9’s crashed about 60/70 kilometres to port behind him. He could never have noticed that from his position.
Bill Johns ended up in a P.O.W. camp till the end of the Great War.

 

 

All illustrations on these crash-report pages do reside or have at one time or another resided in the author or friends' personal collections. This page and the photos in particular are for the information of collectors and no copyright infringements are intended.

 

All material ©2002-04 Ed van Driel
Started Nov 26th 2002 by Ed van Driel
Re-designed mid 2003 onwards by www.greylizard.net

 

   
           
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