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Saturday, 13 January 2018

THE RED BARON'S WWI Funeral - & ANZAC Slouch Hats:

Acclaimed as Germany's leading fighter ace with 80 WWI air victories Manfred von Richthofen, The Red Baron died nearly 100 years ago April 21 1918 in a beet field in Vaux-sur-Somme northern France.

The excellent T.V. series 'Apocalypse - World War I' states that he was buried in the New Zealand section of the graveyard with full military honors and a ritual mourning ceremony from Maori troops - as shown in this short silent film clip - but I don't know.

The burial video is Australian War Memorial sourced and I cannot distinguish detail between the BEF ANZAC troops shown - but it is claimed that he was most likely shot-down by Australian anti-aircraft fire .. I'd take that as an indication.

However, there is also a report that von Richthofen managed a controlled crash- landing in that field and was shot by a Canadian soldier as he tried to get out of the plane.  
Australian Slouch Hat.

I understand that all three Nationalities wore the slouch hats (as did Gurkhas)... and further more - the men on active service would have been issued with a variety of replacement equipment 

The symbolic band around the slouch hat is called a 'Puggaree' and comes from the Indian Sikh word for turban - that was worn as insulation from the sun.
The 'puggaree' (hat band) would be a distinguishing feature but I regret that the style also has varied considerably over the time period. The following detailed clarification doesn't help me very much.

"There seems to be some confusion in the some of the comments about who was wearing what style felt hat in the NZEF both prior & during WW1. To clear this up for those who aren't quite sure, most NZEF units that embarked for overseas duty in 1914 were issued with & wore the typical Slouch hat with raised rim to the LH side, hitched with a short leather strap to either a lions head hooked badge or a regimental badge with a hook attached ( now very rare ). The Wellington Infantry reg & some Artillery units were known to have worn the Lemon Squeezer at this early stage of the war. By 1915, several other units were adopting the LS as shown in photo's of NZ troops at Gallipoli. By 1916, general orders required that all sectors of the NZEF ( with the exception of the Mounted Rifles ) would adopt the LS as standard head dress, the MR would continue wearing the Felt hat with a bash fore & aft without a raised rim. Although the are some period photo's showing the LS being worn by MR as well ( unofficially ).
Another point I believe needs to be clarified, is that Australian "manufactured" slouch hats were produced with hooks to hitch the rim. I think you will find that the Australians were also issued with standard British manufactured felt hat with a snap fastener to hitch the rim, as a replacements uniform item for those serving in combat locations. The same type British made felt hats were also supplied to the NZEF as a replacement uniform item, some with snap fasteners, some with hooks, some without. What they ended up with largely depended on what was available at the time & also on the different manufacturing process used by the many military contractors. Many hats were also private purchase items.
Your hat is identical to my Wellington West Coast Reg LS both in the heavy wool felt fabric, triple stitched reinforced rim, grommet vents, snap fastener & plain puggery made from the same felt as the hat. Of the 14 WW1 NZ felt hats in my collection, no two hats are the same. Either the colour varies, they're slightly different shapes, some with vents, some without. Some with chin straps & some without. Different rim reinforcing, the list goes on.
Ultimately, IMO, troops required to wear felt hats as part of the uniform, would wear what ever stores had available at that time providing they conformed to the basic military specification. The wearer would then shape it to suit, either fore & aft bash or LS.
Your hat, like mine, may well have been issued by NZEF stores but is without doubt English made & most likely a surplus run made for the AIF. The AIF had a variety of puggerie's on their slouch hats, including wool putties, plain khaki cotton as well as pleated ETC.
I don't think your hat is specifically an English made felt hat for the NZ Mounted Rifle but rather a standard English made felt hat that was available at the time of issue that would also suit the requirements of the AIF & Brit forces serving in the same location. From other hats I've seen, these felt hats tend to be of late war manufacture & more often than not, were part of the coming home uniform at the end of hostilities.
Regardless, it's still a super example of a very rare felt hat with impeccable NZMR provenance. You can't get much better than that.

Maybe a serious uniform expert will be able to cast light on the uniforms shown in the burial film.

Manfred von Richthofen himself was disinterred and moved a few times so that evidence is unavailable  - and he's now in the family plot in Germany.

Richtofen's  Triplane's Twin "Spandau '08" Machine Guns Are Actually 'Maxims'

The LMG 08/15 (luftgekuhltes Maschinen Gewehr 08/15) was another key MG08 development by Spandau and appeared in 1916. These systems were specifically developed for use in aircraft and were often fitted in pairs firing through a synchronized propeller via an equally revolutionary interrupter gear. This allowed the pilot to fire through his spinning propeller blades without fear of blowing them off in the process.

The Maxim company was purchased outright in 1896 by the British firm Vickers. The famous Vickers Machine Gun was based on the Maxim machine gun and improved the original design by reducing the former's weight and adding a muzzle booster.

 The Vickers version appeared in 1912 and was produced until 1968. Some are still in service with Pakistani, Indian and Nepali forces as reserve weapons.
 (- My 'ex' worked for Vickers in London when we were married in 1968.)
Millbank (formerly Vickers) Tower - London
Great Views From the Top Back Then.

Marty K.