This Day In History: The German Ace Voss Is Shot Down (1917)

On this day in 1917,  at the height of World War One the German fighter  ace Werner Voss is shot down and killed. He dies after aerial combat or  a dogfight with British pilots in the skies over Belgium.

Voss was originally a member of the cavalry, however, he had an interest in mechanical things and soon became fascinated with the airplane. At the outbreak of the war, he asked to be transferred to the newly established German Air Service. He was attached to a squadron of fighter planes and he served alongside Manfred Von Richthofen, the famous Red Baron, the best known flying ace of the war or possibly of all time. Soon Voss was to prove a brilliant flyer and was seen by many as only second to the Red Baron. He soon began to shoot down British and French planes and by 1917 he had shot down at least 28 planes.  As a result, he was awarded his country’s highest award. Voss became a well-known figure in Germany who followed the actions of the country’s flying aces, very closely.

Voss’ squadron in 1916

The Red Baron had a high opinion of Voss and he asked him to join his newly formed squadron, this was to become known as the Flying Circus. Wth this squadron, Voss became an even better fighter pilot and soon he had shot down another thirteen or possibly fourteen Allied planes. However, his luck was to run out. The Allies were beginning to slowly gain control of the skies and they were increasingly effective against the German Air Service.

On this day in 1917, Voss became involved in a dogfight with planes from the famed 56th squadron, one of the best in the British Air Service.  He and other flyers from the Flying Circus squadron became involved in a dogfight with British planes, including the leading British aces James McCudden and Arthur Rhys Davids—above the trenches in Belgium.  The British had more planes than the Germans and after a series of brilliant maneuvers, Voss was forced to retreat.  For some 10 minutes, he was able to evade the British in his Fokker triplane but he was overtaken by  British planes. He was on his own and outnumbered.  He singlehandedly fought six or seven British planes all flown by top fighter pilots for approximately ten minutes. His flying skills greatly impressed the enemy pilots.  However,  he was shot down by one of the British fighters and he plane went into a steep dive and his Fokker Tri-plane was seen hitting the ground and exploding in a ball of fire.

The attack was generally credited to Rhys Davids, who in the same dogfight was later to also shot down another  German pilot when he tried to come to Voss’ aid. This dogfight was one of the best known of the war. Voss was celebrated as a great flyer by both the Allies and the Germans.