Killer Capture


It should have been an intelligence coup, but instead it led to the demise of a great RFC pilot. Chris Goss unravels the circumstances of the capturing of an Albatros D.V in 1917

In the late afternoon of July 16, 1917, two Albatros D.Vs of Jasta 4 took off from Roupy and attacked the balloons of the 38 Kite Balloon Squadron near Kemmel in the Ypres/Poperinge area. The aircraft were flown by Vizefeldwebels Kurt Wüsthoff and Ernst Clausnitzer.

Wüsthoff managed to shoot down one balloon, but the Germans were then intercepted by three Spads of 23 Squadron, which had taken off from La Lovie, between Poperinge and Proven. Second Lieutenant David Langlands succeeded in overtaking the D.Vs and prevented one of the raiders from crossing back over the lines by forcing it to fly west.

The aircraft made frequent attempts to escape, but Langlands shadowed it closely and continued firing until its pilot, Clausnitzer, gave in. Landing behind British lines southeast of Poperinghe between 1635hrs and 1735hrs, he was taken prisoner. A 23 Squadron aircraft later dropped a message at Roupy explaining that Clausnitzer had been captured unwounded.

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