The Western Front, 1918: He was the Fatherland’s highest scoring ace—and the shame of the Imperial German Flying Corps. Why? Because he was an abject coward of epic proportions. His name: Feigsieg Freiherr von Treppenwitz—the Yellow Baron.
The young aristocrat entered the service during the Fokker Scourge of 1915. He immediately realized he had no stomach for aerial combat. An avid botanist and collector of carnivorous plants—as so ably portrayed by Peter Lorre in Fritz Lang’s Das unendliche Ende des gelben Kampffliegers (1930)—the baron reasoned that it was safer to attract prey than to pursue it. So he had the single Spandau of his Fokker E. III mounted backwards. He’d flee a dogfight and then “target” any pursuers, who obligingly lined themselves up in his gunsights.
He flew standard Fokkers, doped yellow, with their rudders inverted to clear the field of fire, a modification which Anthony Fokker himself contemptuously called “the turn tail”. By 1918, the baron was flying a strutless triplane, an alternate reality hybrid of the experimental V4 and the Dr. III. He had his personal carpenter reinforce the craft with the “von Treppenwitz strut”: an actual set of wooden stairs (Ger. Treppen) that supported the upper wing and twin Spandaus. Ventral struts supported an extra set of landing gear to keep the turned tail from dragging.
His official tally of victories is still disputed, although it was undoubtedly higher than Manfred von Richtofen’s eighty. Von Treppenwitz was also responsible for a still classified number of friendly fire casualties. Fledgling German pilots would rush to his aid and get caught in the crossfire. Since he inadvertently targeted engines instead of pilots, a surprising number of his victims survived forced landings and flew again. Nevertheless, this did not redound to his credit.
No one escapes justice, however. On April 1, 1918, von Treppenwitz fled into an isolated cloud. There he encountered one of those time warps so beloved by habitués of The Twilight Zone. Narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with a Fokker Eindecker--himself from 1915--he shot himself in the backs en passant. Such was the infinite and bounded end of the Yellow Knight of Germany.
The models are from Revell of Germany, built straight out of box with the modifications mentioned in the back story. I separated silver DMC embroidery floss into its three component strands to get the rigging for the Eindecker and used Plastruct HO stairs for the von Treppenwitz struts.
Image: Rear view
Image: Top view(s)
Image: Bottom view (Eindecker)