This Week in 1918...Twisted Fate
29 October 1918
On Tuesday morning, 29 October, the 12th launched Lts. Thomas and Follette on a photography mission. Because Jagdgeschwader 1 was in the area and had already made their presence known yesterday, the 12th sent four of its own as escorts . Among those sent to protect Follette and Thomas were Lts. Beauclerck and Patterson.
Now airborne, Beauclerck settled into the #2 position . “Doc” Beauclerck had been flying with squadron since 7 Sept. Today, he piloted Salmson #15  on his seventh combat mission . This was his Observer, Robert Patterson’s, fifth combat mission. Lt. Patterson arrived at the squadron about three weeks after “Doc” .
Patterson readied his guns full aware such peace was a sign of impending attack
At nearly 6,500 feet  the formation of five assembled into a V. Lts Thomas and Follette were out in front  leading the formation East. Crossing behind German lines, they picked up the “archies,” or anti-aircraft fire . The formation continued a couple of miles deeper before turning parallel to the lines. Follette hunched over his camera snapping photos of enemy positions . A few moments later, the “archies” ceased fire .
Seven Fokkers swooped past Patterson about 2,500 feet off his left wing
Patterson readied his guns full aware such peace was a sign of impending attack . Seven Fokkers swooped past Patterson about 2,500 feet off his left wing then circled behind him . The leader, Ltn Joachim von Ziegesar of Jasta 15 , charged his dark blue Fokker right up the middle of the American formation seeking his third victory. Patterson, fired two bursts into the blue Fokker forcing Ziegesar back. Ziegesar banked away, slid behind the #4 ship then dropped under Patterson’s aircraft, exactly where Patterson’s guns couldn’t reach him. Ziegesar fired a short 6 round burst into Patterson’s plane. The short burst was all that was needed.
Patterson felt his plane lurch down banking into a steep diving spiral with the engine at full throttle . Patterson glanced over his shoulder. Doc was slumped forward with his head down and most assuredly gone forever. Patterson possessed no flight controls in his cockpit. If he wanted to live, he would have to gain access to Beauclerk’s cockpit and learn to fly.
Wright witnessed Patterson and Beauclerck’s fall from the sky, their plane in a tight diving spiral with at least one Fokker in hot pursuit
It was no simple task. The pilot’s cockpit lay several feet in front of the Observer’s cockpit . To reach the pilot seat, he must first survive the climb across the fuselage. Patterson, keenly aware of the rapidly approaching ground, unbuckled his safety belt and began the climb. Bitter cold air whipped into a deafening roar. The ground lunged forward. Doc’s cockpit was now just within reach. The cacophony of sight and sound suddenly vanished. Patterson’s world went dark.
Three thousand feet below, performing a reconnaissance mission with his pilot Lt. Smith, Lt.
Burdette Wright, spotted the formation of his comrades. Wright witnessed Patterson and Beauclerck’s fall from the sky, their plane in a tight diving spiral with at least one Fokker in hot pursuit . He watched Patterson’s plane impact the ground. Still in a bank the plane’s lower wing struck first shearing off on impact. The fuselage shot forward bouncing along the ground mostly intact  leading Wright to believe the crash just might be survivable.
...the photos from the mission were unusable.
Above, the remaining Fokkers abandoned the attack as American fighters arrived in the area. Lt Follette and the remainder of the American formation pressed on  Unfortunately, the photos from the mission were unusable. Lt. Paradise, the squadron’s commander, ordered a second attempt. After lunch Thomas and Follette headed back out with two aircraft from the 12th for escort to complete the job . They were again attacked by seven enemy aircraft but completed the mission without further loss.
During this mission Lts. Holden and Breese also in the formation, dropped a message over the area where Beauclerck and Patterson were lost. Their message requested information about the downed aviators . It was about 1330 when they dropped the message .
...at Remicourt, the 12th Aero Squadron, tensely awaited news of Patterson and Beauclerck’s fate.
Lts. Holden and Breese narrowly survived the trip. While returning, ground fire severed Holden’s rudder and elevator control wires . He could only control his plane’s ailerons and engine . Once inside friendly territory, Holden used the Salmson’s engine to guide the plane into a crash landing . Fortunately, neither Holden nor Breese were injured in the crash .
Back at Remicourt, the 12th Aero Squadron, tensely awaited news of Patterson and Beauclerck’s fate. At 1600,  a German Fokker triplane circled the field. American anti-aircraft batteries held their fire understanding this was a messenger. Soon a long red streamer fell from the plane. It was attached to a small can containing the long awaited news.
The German messenger then began a series of aerobatic maneuvers over the field. French anti-aircraft batteries seemingly failed to receive the cease fire message. They opened fire on the German aviator bringing his airshow to an abrupt halt. As the Allies worked to capture the downed German, members of the 12th sprinted across the field to recover the news. Opening the can they discovered the message. It stated: “Pilot killed. Observer wounded, but alive.”
Patterson awoke in a field surrounded by five large Prussian Guards. He picks up the story: “…American shells [were] bursting about fifty yards back of us in a small field. About 20 yards in front of me was the plane all smashed up. My head and face were bandaged up in good shape…I was able to walk to a first aid-station”.
While climbing over the plane to Beauclerk’s cockpit, a bullet struck him unconscious having hit him in the head. The descending turn caused Patterson to fall back into his own cockpit. . Wright believed the way the Salmson struck the ground with the fuselage mostly intact allowed Patterson to survive .
...while recovering from his wounds in a German hospital, Patterson received an unlikely visitor...
Patterson was now a Prisoner of War. His captors informed him his pilot, Lt. Sidney Wentworth Beauclerck Jr. did not survive.  The Germans buried Beauclerck with full military honors. The very next day, advancing American soldiers found a cross with the following inscription: “Here lies an American flyer, Lieut S.W. Beauclerck, Jr. killed 29 Oct 1918.” 
Patterson’s extraordinary experience was about to become even more remarkable. Later while recovering from his wounds in a German hospital, Patterson received an unlikely visitor - Ltn Joachim von Ziegesar, the pilot who shot him down.
TwelfthRecon has no claim to any images in this post. All images were taken from cited sources and are included for non-profit educational use only.
1. Gordon, D. (1979). Montana's Birdmen. Montana the Magazine of Western History, 29(3), 28-41.
2. Gorrell. (n.d.). Gorrell's History of the A.E.F. Air Service
3. Betz, R., & Miller, S. (2015). Sidney Wentworth Beauclerck Jr.of the 12th Aero Squadron. Over the Front,30(1), 47-69.
4. Owers, C. A., Guttman, J., & Davilla, J. J. (2009). Salmson aircraft of World War I. Boulder, CO: Paladin.
5. Notes from the Burdette S Wright Diaries 1918-1919, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air and Space Museum Archives Dulles
6. R. (2006, April 13). Re: Ltn J v Ziegesar of Jasta 15 [Web log comment]. Retrieved November 7, 2018, from http://www.theaerodrome.com/forum/showthread.php?t=25124
7. Letter from Milburn 13 Jun 1974, USAS 12th Aero Squadron. , 1974. George H. Williams, Jr. Collection, . Special Collections and Archives Division, History of Aviation Archives.. https://libarchives.utdallas.edu/repositories/2/archival_objects/12409 Accessed November 07, 2018.
#WWI #12thaerosquadron #centennial #patterson #beauclerck #salmson #Ziegesar #Jasta15