Lieutenant Peter MacFarlane on 10 August 1918 was part of an RAF 32 Squadron offensive patrol of 40 aircraft, when he was shot down whilst escorting 12 bombers of RAF 27 and RAF49 Squadrons to attack Péronne railway station, 50 km east of Amiens. Lieutenant Peter MacFarlane was flying a Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a, aircraft, C8838 from his squadron airfield at Warlincourt-lès-Pas, Letiště, La Bellevue Aerodrome [1916-1919]. La Bellevue Aerodrome is 38 km north of Amiens.
The most probable account of what happened to Lieutenant MacFarlane was that between 11.30am – 11.45am on 10 August 1918 three RAF 32 squadron S.E.5a’s of the lowest flight escorting the bombers, were attacked by nine German Fokker aircraft. Some of the RAF 32 Squadron S.E.5a’s covering above the bombers were brought down into the dogfight resulting in four Fokkers being shot down out of control.
One of the pilots involved in the dogfight, a Lieutenant Donaldson (US) had to evade the attention of four more Fokker’s and about his combat wrote: ‘Pilot observed Lieutenant MacFarlane fire at one EA (Enemy Aircraft), and saw it fall side by side with EA shot by pilot at 10,000ft.’
An opinion is that the enemy aircraft had been fighting with the S.E.5a of Lieutenant MacFarlane and was at the same time shot at by Lieutenant Donaldson – his report further reads, ‘Pilot observed 9 Fokker Biplanes, at 13000 feet, over PERONNE, at 11.30 am dive on 3 SE5a. Pilot coming to their assistance, fired 150 rounds into first EA at close range, EA turned over on its back, and went down in a flat spin, and was observed to spin, out of control, about 10000 feet…’
It appears that Lieutenant MacFarlane engaged and fired at an enemy aircraft and was subsequently shot down by that aircraft (Berthold). Lieutenant Donaldson then shot down the enemy aircraft. The enemy aircraft was a Fokker D.VII, painted with a scarlet engine cowling and a royal blue fuselage with a winged sword emblem. It was flown by the German flying ace (44 victories) and commander of Jagdgeschwader II (Fighter Wing 2), Hauptmann Oskar Gustav Rudolf Berthold (24 March 1891 – 15 March 1920) Pour le Mérite; Iron Cross: 2nd class; Iron Cross: 1st class.
On 10 August, Berthold led 12 of his pilots into battle and claimed he shot down a Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a fighter for his 43rd victory (Lieutenant MacFarlane) and an Airco DH.9 bomber for his 44th. When he tried to pull away from the Airco DH.9 at 800 meters (2,625 ft) altitude, his controls came loose in his hand. His attempt to use a parachute failed because it required the use of both hands. His Fokker D.VII crashed into a house in Ablaincourt-Pressoir (40 km west of Amiens) with such force that its engine fell into the cellar. German infantrymen plucked him from the rubble and rushed him to hospital. His right arm was rebroken at its previous fracture. Rudolf Berthold would never fly again.
Berthold was earlier hit in the arm by a ricocheting British bullet on 10 October 1917. This should have meant the amputation of his arm, but his sister Franziska arranged specialist care and after months of being bedridden he returned to command one of the world’s first air combat fighter wings in February 1918. Berthold spent his convalescent leave learning to write with his left hand. He believed, “If I can write, I can fly.” His right arm remained paralyzed, painful and he was dependent on narcotics in order to continue flying.
Peter MacFarlane was the son of Daniel and Isabella MacFarlane of Nether Obney, Bankfoot. McFarlane was appointed as a Civil Service assistant clerk on 14 October 1912. He was 23 years old when he was killed and is commemorated at the Arras Flying Memorial, Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery, Boulevard du General de Gaulle in the Pas de Calais, France and on a memorial plaque of the Scottish Insurance Commision (Scotland Office) in Edinburgh.
On an offensive patrol over Fimes on 25 July the Squadron engaged 7 enemy aircraft (probably from Jasta 27) part of a larger formation at different heights. Lt. Callender claimed a Fokker DVII destroyed and Capt. Green, Lt. Donaldson, Lt. MacFalane, Lt. Trusler and Lt. MacBean each claimed Fokker DVII’s out of control. Lt. Struben was missing after this combat and later confirmed as a POW.
The S.E.5 was described as a nimble fighter and the ‘Spitfire’ of World War One. It was one of the fastest (138 mph) aircraft of the war, while being both stable and relatively manoeuvrable. Together with the Sopwith Camel, the S.E.5 was instrumental in regaining allied air superiority in mid-1917 and maintaining it for the rest of the war.
Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a, aircraft, C8838 was accepted for allotment to the Expeditionary Force at Brooklands Aircraft Acceptance Park on 25 May 1918. It was allocated to RFC 32 Squadron on 28 June 1918. It appears to have had an engine failure with its engine, a Wolseley W.4a Viper liquid-cooled 8 -cylinder V-engine 203 hp (149.3 KW) No. 2167 two days later and was flying with engine no. 2487 when it was struck off charge on 10 August 1918.
In February 1919, Berthold then put out a call for volunteers to form a Freikorps militia to stave off communist insurrectionists. Freikorps were irregular German and other European military volunteer units, or paramilitaries. The Freikorps also fought against communists and Bolsheviks in Eastern Europe, most notably East Prussia, Latvia, Silesia, and Poland. On 13 March 1920, Berthold and his men took part in the Kapp Putsch, an attempted coup against the German national government. By late afternoon ammunition was running low, Berthold called a truce and tried to negotiate safe passage for his men. He exited a back door of a Hamburg schoolhouse they occupied and a mob overpowered Berthold. His handgun was taken from him and used to shoot him twice in the head and four times in the body as the mob mauled him. Two of his old flying comrades who lived in Hamburg rushed to the hospital. They stayed with Berthold’s body until his sister Franziska arrived from Berlin. Berthold’s Pour le Merite, Iron Cross First Class, and Pilot’s Badge were retrieved from a rubbish dump before she arrived.
The German air service introduced in the summer of 1918, becoming the world’s first air service to introduce a standard parachute to airman. Out of the first 70 German airmen to bail out, around a third died, mostly caused by the chute or ripcord becoming entangled in the airframe of their spinning aircraft.
A parachute saved the life of the German flying ace Ernest Udet on 29 June 1918. He returned to flying later that day and chocked up another 27 victories before the end of the war. The RAF started issuing parachutes to airmen in September 1918.