Udet: Supplementary Articles

The Times (London, England), February 17, 1931, p.13




                                                Nairobi, Feb. 16

Herr Ernst Udet, the well-known German airman, figured in a curious adventure recently on the Serengetti Plains, where he was taking part in the making of a German film.

Two aeroplanes set out over little-known country to photograph rhinoceros. One machine was forced down and turned turtle, dragging its two occupants 50 yards. Herr Udet, in the second machine, landed to give help; simultaneously a rhinoceros appeared and charged him. Before he was able to go to his companions he had to shoot the rhinoceros at five yards' range. The animal thereupon disappeared into the bush, enabling Herr Udet to transport his companions one at a time to the camp.

The Times (London, England), March 18, 1931, p.15




                                                Nairobi, March 17

The German airman, Herr Ernst Udet, who was flying to Europe after the completion of a film-making expedition in Tanganyika, made a forced landing in the sudd country of the Upper Nile, north of Kongor, near Malakal. He was found by Captain Campbell Black, a Kenya airman who was flying a Puss Moth to Kenya from England.

Captain Black reports that on leaving Khartoum on Sunday he was warned that Herr Udet was overdue, and that Royal Air Force machines were standing by on the usual route. He accordingly kept a look-out for the missing machine, and found Herr Udet on one of the few hard pieces of ground in the center of the sudd. Captain Black had the greatest difficulty in landing beside the German machine, which had come down on account of lack of petrol. He was able to give Herr Udet badly needed supplies of food and water, and also cigarettes. On his arrival at Juba Captain Black reported the details to Khartoum.

Daily Telegraph (London, England), Tuesday, September 20, 1932, p.12









From Our Own Correspondent

                                                Berlin, Monday.

Ernst Udet, the German air hero, who set out a week ago in a fierce storm to search the Greenland coast for the American Flying Family, is safe.

There had been no news of him for four days, and great anxiety was felt, as there is no place to refuel in the region over which he was presumed to be flying. Great rejoicings were caused to-day in Berlin, where Udet is enormously popular, by the report that he had been seen. It is not known whether he has landed, but the film company for whom he is operating in Northern Greenland informed me that they have no anxiety on his behalf.

He appeared this morning above the camp of the expedition and waved to his comrades, A violent storm, however, made it impossible for him to descend, and he flew off towards the landing-place about sixty miles distant, from which he has been working.


He was above his landing-place when he received wireless instructions last Monday to join in the search for the Hutchinson family and crew when they were forced down off the Greenland coast. Shortly afterwards the wireless messages which had been received from him ceased. During the whole time of his absence a heavy story prevailed on the northern coast of Greenland.

Udet, who is of Huguenot ancestry, was one of Germany's most successful aces during the war. He was credited with bringing down sixty-two Allied machines and received the highest Orders in the Kaiser's gift. Since the war he has won world fame by his film flights among mountain-tops and over wildernesses.

Some of his most daring flights were undertaken for the film, "The White Hell of Pitz Palu." The success of this work was the incentive to the film "SOS Iceberg," on which he is now engaged.

The Times (London, England), November 6, 1933, p.12




Early in 1932 Dr. Arnold Fanck, the producer of The White Hell of Pitz Palu, led an expedition to the West Coast of Greenland. The result of his work there is to be seen this week at the Marble Arch Pavilion in S.O.S. Iceberg, a film which tells the story of five men who set out to recover valuable data lost by a scientific expedition. The cast includes Fräulein Leni Riefenstahl, Mr. Rod La Rocque, Mr. Gibson Gowland, and Major Ernst Udet. Other new films this week brings Miss Katherin Hepburn to the Coliseum in Morning Glory and Mr. Spencer Tracy and Miss Colleen Moore to the Tivoli in Power and Glory.


S.O.S. Iceberg—This film makes a point of introducing "a new start, nature." but as it happens the films have made the Arctic almost as familiar as the face of the most persistently appearing actor. Nevertheless, this is very good of its kinds. The story is not of much importance and describes one of those expeditions whose members are always wandering off on their own, from the noblest motives, into appalling dangers from which the rest of the party have to rescue them. Towards the end rescuers and rescued—the distinction eventually becomes blurred—are widely scattered over the Arctic circle, looking for each other. but all events are extremely exciting, and it is certainly one of those films during which it is soothing, and to the more sensitive even necessary, to reflect that there must be a camera close at hand and presumably other comforts of civilization. During a great part of the time the explorers are stranded on a drifing iceberg which may at any moment capsize, and the suspense is admirably sustained. The scenery is sublime and very skillfully photographed. Aeroplanes are judiciously brought in so that there may be some fine aerial views, a necessary expedient if the landscape is not to seem monotonous. But the finest scene shows a fleet of Eskimo canoes setting out to rescue the explorers. The ordered movement of the innumerable boats, minute among the icebergs, makes a curiously beautiful combination with the static magnificence—not perhaps very suitable in itself as a theme for moving pictures—of the frozen landscape. The acting is conventional but adequate, and Mr. Rod La Rocque, as an explorer in the last stages of collapse, is a romantic and imposing figure.

The Times (London, England), September 21, 1936, p.14





Mr. Thomas Campbel Black, who perished in an air collision at Liverpoole on Saturday at the age of 47, was a highly experienced pilot and the holder of various records.

With Mr. C.W.A. Scott he won for Britain the great air race from England to Australia in October 1934. They accomplished the journey in a De Havilland Comet from Mildenhall to Melbourne in 70 hours and 54 minutes. The fastest flight to Australian ever done before took six days 17 hours and 56 minutes, and that was only to Darwin, which is over 2000 miles nearer than Melbourne. Black and Scott thus won the MacPherson Robertson Cup and £10,000 first prize. Black was preparing for a solo flight to the Cape, and early this month went into training with Len Harvey, former British heavy-weight boxing champion, in order to be perfectly fit to stand the strain.

Born at Brighton in 1889, the son of Alderman H. Milner Black, former Mayor of that town, he was educated at Brighton College and afterwards at the Naval College, Greenwich. He served during the War in the Royal Naval Air Service and also in the Royal Air Force.

Much of his post-War flying was between England and Kenya, where he was a farmer and a pioneer of civil aviation. He made 13 flights between the colony and England, founded Wilson Airways, Limited, in Kenya, and established air routes over that part of Africa. In 1929, accompanied by a mechanic and carrying a woman passenger, he flew from Nairobi to England in eight days, establishing the fastest time for the journey. He acted as temporary pilot to King Edward VIII during his visit as Prince of Wales to East Africa in 1930. He was also private pilot to Lord Furness. In April, 1930, he pioneered the first non-stop flight from Zanzibar to Nairobi in five hours 20 minutes. The journey usually took two days. In this flight he made the first aeroplane landing on the island of Zanzibar, and also lined up by air the capitals of Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, and Zanzibar.

In March, 1931, Black, who was at Malakal, heard that the famous German "ace," Ernst Udet, who was one of Richtofen's "Flying Circus" during the War, was missing somewhere in the Sudan. He set out on an air search and eventually rescued Udet, who was on the verge of starvation when found. In 1931 he set up a new world Puss-Moth record by covering 1,600 miles in a single day. In March, 1935, he married Miss Florence Desmond, the actress, and they flew to Morocco for their honeymoon. At the reception Sir MacPherson Robertson toasted the pair in the gold cup which he had given for the England to Australia race. In 1935 Black registered a new company, Campbell Black (Aviation), Limited, to undertake all kinds of aerial transport, and he and his wife were the two directors. He was awarded the Mansfield Robinson Trophy by the Aero Club of East Africa for the most meritorious flight in each of the years 1929 and 1930. The Royal Aeronautical Society awarded him the Britannia Trophy in 1934 and the British silver medal for outstanding achievements in aeronautical science.

In August, 1935, he made an attempt on the Cape record in Mr. C.W.A. Nicholson's De Havilland Comet twin-engined aeroplane. But the oil supply was exhausted and he abandoned the attempt at Cairo. Notwithstanding this, he had again put up a record in that he had flown 2,240 miles in 11 hours 18 minutes, representing an average speed of 109 m.p.h., and had landed at Cairo 20 hours quicker than the previous record. In September, 1935, with Mr. J.H.G. McArthur, he took off from Hatfield in Mr. Nicholson's Comet in another attempt on the record flight to Capetown. In the early stages they made excellent progress, but both engines failed and they came down near Kabushia, in the Sudan, 100 miles north of Khartoum. The machine burst into flames. Black's escape from death was remarkable, for he and his co-pilot, J.H.G. McArthur, came down in the desert by parachute. Black landed safely, but McArthur was unconscious, knocked out by a collision with a tree truck. Friendly natives arrived on camels and the two airmen were taken to the nearest village and entertained by a hospitable Sheikh. Black owed his escape to his wife. He had never used a parachute before, but just before his departure she persuaded him to sacrifice his overcoat for a parachute. He protested at first, but finally consented.

When the Spanish civil war broke out it was reported that Black, who knew Spain well, having sold British machines to flying clubs in the south, went there on a "mystery flight" with two Spanish insurgents. It was stated that he had been commissioned by a secret agency set up in Paris to smuggle exiled insurgent leaders back to Spain.

The funeral will be on Wednesday at Golders Green Crematorium at noon.

The Times (London, England), October 19, 1937, p.18




The leaders of the party of German Air Force officers who have come to England for a week as guests of the Air Council were received by the King yesterday. The party is led by General Milch, Air Minister, who is accompanied by Lieutenant-General Stumpff, Chief of Staff, and Major-General Ernst Udet, Chief of Technical Staff.

Yesterday the German officers were shown the work of Army cooperation units at Odiham. General Milch said that the aerodrome was identical with types of German aerodrome, and that they appreciated the good types of aircraft they had seen, the friendly atmosphere of the place, the men's quarters, and in particular the excellent food and kitchens. To-day the visitors will see bombers at Mildenhall, and later visits will be paid to Cranwell Halton, and certain aircraft factories.

General Milch gave an explanation of the origin and purpose of these friendly visits. One and a half years ago, he said, he was in England inspecting British air construction. He saw Lord Swinton, and it was agreed that discussions and exchanges of visits should take place. This year Air Vice-Marshal Courtney and his staff went to Germany and were shown certain aeroplanes and factories. This was an opportunity to destroy mischievous rumours and to create an atmosphere of comradeship and friendliness. In the summer a return visit was decided upon. It was understood that no secrets would be revealed on either side, but that such visits would promote the spirit of comradeship shown in the War and alleviate all suspicions.

The German officers were entertained at dinner by the Government last night. Lord Swinton, Secretary of State for Air, was in the chair. A list of the guests is published on page 19.

Picture on page 20

The Times (London, England), June 7. 1938, p.11





                                             Berlin, June 6

The Whitsun holidays have brought with them, it is claimed here, two new records for German aircraft.

Major-General Ernst Udet, chief of the Technical Section of the Air Ministry and long celebrated as a pilot, during a test flight yesterday near Rostock in a new Heinkel single-seater fighter, attained a speed of more than 401 miles an hour over a course of 100 kilometres (62 miles). On Saturday the four-engined Junkers machine, well known in Germany under the name of Grosser Dessauer, reached a height of 30,700 ft. with a payload of over 11,000 lb. This, it is stated, exceeds the former record held abroad by more than 900 ft.

The Daily Telegraph (London, England), Wednesday, July 30, 1941, p. [1]









                                             New York, Tuesday

Ernst Udet, general of the Nazi Luftwaffe, and one of Marshal Georing's closest associates, has committeed suicide while under protective arrest by Himmler's Black Guards.

He was detained after making vehement protests against Hitler's folly in invading Russia, thus leaving Germany's western flank seriously vulnerable to the devastating attack of the Royal Air Force.

This news is contained in a secret German report which has come into my hands through diplomatic channels.

The report had been smuggled from Germany by way of Holland by opponents of the Hitler regime. The greatest importance and credence is attached to it by Allied official circles.

Udet, who was 45, was one of the great German aces in the last war and one of the cleverest aerobatic pilots in the world. As squadron companion of Capt. Hermann Goering in the famous Richthofen Jadgeschwader, he was chief of all the training and reserve organizations in the Nazi Luftwaffe.

He is known to have given the fullest support to Goering during the fateful conferences held in the German Chancellery during the month preceding the attack on Russia, and to have shared the Marshal's disgrace when Hitler decided, in one of his typical outbursts of passionate rage, to override the warnings of his soundest military advisers.

But, while Goering was too big a man to disgrace openly before the people, Udet was punished with Nazi throughness and cruelty.

Watch on Udet

He was deprived of his command, offically stated to be on leave, and, while nominally a free man, was put in open arrest under the surveillance of specifically trustworthy gunmen of Himmler's innermost cabal.

It is not known yet whether Udet knew that a worse fate awaited him, whether he fell a victim to a fit of despair at the increasingly evident failure of the Nazis to win a lightning victory in the East, or whether the salvos of British bombs, biting nightly into the industrial equipment and reserve storage depots of the German military machine, reminded him of his chief's pledge that no British bombs would ever fall on German soil.

Whatever the motive behind his actions, it is known that he shot himself, leaving behind him letters which have, however, immediately been impounded by the Gestapo authorities.

Chief of Research

Suspicion that something is wrong with the German air force grows towards certainty as rumours come through of the fate of the leading personalities in it. The suicide of Gen. Ernst Udet is the latest case.

Udet became chief of the research department of the German Air force when it was being rapidly expanded.

It was as a member of the staff of Gen. Milch—now a field-marshal—that he last visited England in 1937.

He is believed to have been one of the most ardent advocates of the dive bomber.

Udet was a queer mixture of air ace, flying clown and film star.

He was a pilot first, and a leader and organiser second. But it was typical of the German regime that those with personal experience of active work should be nominated for high positions in the air force.

Square built, with a high forehead and a straight mouth, drooping slightly at the corners, Udet was known and liked in many different countries. He was supreme as an exhibition pilot. His aerobatic flying was highly spectacular, and he would perform difficult manoeuvers very close to the ground.

Second Only to Richthofen

His war record in 1914-18 was second only to that of Richthofen, for Udet claimed 62 victories.

He was shot down by a French aircraft in 1918, but made his escape by parachute, which many German pilots wore by that date. He gained the Pour le Mérite decoration towards the end of the war.

In the post-war slump he became an air circus clown, stunting over the crowds in frockcoat and top-hat, false beard and baggy trousers. Later he was a stunt pilot in several film spectacles, notably "The White Hell of Pitz-Palu."

A curious feature of Udet's film career was his absorbing interest in other people's coastlines. Most of the films he helped to make seemed to depend on close-ups of fjords, sounds, and other strategic waterways.

His film camera covered the seaboards of Scandanavia, the Faroes and Greenland with an inquisitiveness only lightly bound to art.


Transcriber's note: Because there's such a long period between this article and the official confirmation in the November 19th issue of The Daily Telegraph I double-checked the full-page date. The date is accurate.

The Daily Telegraph (London, England), Wednesday, November 19, 1941, p.[1]




Berlin yesterday announced the death of Gen. Ernst Udet, Quartermaster of the German Air Force and Goering's right-hand man. The reports of how he met his death were, however, conflicting.

First the official German news agency said that he had died on Monday of wounds received while experimenting with firearms. Later it stated that he was killed while testing a new type of aircraft. Berlin radio, on the other hand, said that Udet had been injured while testing "a new kind of weapon" and died on the way to the hospital.

On July 30 The Daily Telegraph published exclusively a report from New York that Udet had committed suicide while under "protective arrest" following a quarrel with Goering over the policy of invading Russia. Here may be the explanation of the strange Berlin announcement of his death.

Udet was 45. In the war of 1914-18 he was regarded as one of Germany's greatest fighter pilots, second only to Baron von Richthofen, with whose "circus" he flew. Altogether he claimed 62 victories in aerial combat.

Afterwards he became an air circus clown at Hollywood, but soon after the Nazis came into power, he was recalled by Goering to help build up the new Luftwaffe.

The Times (London, England), November 19, 1941, p.[4]



                                             GERMAN FRONTIER, NOV. 18

General Ernst Udet, Germany's most famous air ace, with a record of 62 "air victories" in the last War, who since the outbreak of the present war has been Göring's right-hand man on the home front as Chief of the Luftwaffe Ordnance Department, died in hospital yesterday. According to one report he was killed accidentally "while experimenting with firearms," while another states he had met death owing to injuries received while testing a secret aeroplane. A state funeral has been ordered, and in recognition of his services it was stated in Berlin that a fighter squadron is to be named after him.

After the conclusion of the last War, when Germany had no air force, Udet distinguished himself in trick-flying, using a private one-seater machine. Among his most notable achievements were his landings on the Zugspitz, Germany's highest mountain, and on Mont Blanc. He made remarkable intercontinental flights to Africa, America, and Greenland.

Udet's death inflicts the heaviest blow which the Luftwaffe has suffered during the war. As chief of the technical department of the Reich Air Ministry he was a most potent force in the development of the Luftwaffe. No successor of equal ability is in sight at the moment.

The Daily Telegraph (London, England), Monday, November 24, 1941, p.[5]




By Our Air Correspondent

The death in an air accident of the German ace, Col. Moelders, will probably be associated with the recent deaths in mysterious circumstances of Gen. Ernst Udet, Quartermaster of the Luftwaffe, and of Franz von Werra.

It is obvious that there is trouble brewing in the Luftwaffe. Mr. Churchill's two recent statements, that the Germans were suffering from serious shortage in the air and that Britain had attained 'plane parity with Germany were pointers.

Whether the death of the three Nazi officers is connected with the waning power of the Luftwaffe has not yet emerged.

Moelders was married only a fortnight before his death, according to a Rome radio announcement yesterday.

The Times (London, England), September 20, 1955, p.3


In Berlin this evening Miss Peggy Ashcroft, Sir John Gielgud, and their Stratford company will give the first of two performances of King Lear and on Friday the first of two of Much Ado About Nothing. These will be part of the Berlin Festival, which opened on Saturday and will go on until October 4.

There will be other, foreign companies of course, among them the company from the Théâtre de l'Atelier, Paris, in M. Anouilh's Les Rendezvous de Senlis, one from the Scala, Milan, in Lucia di Lammermoor, and the Singalese Temple Dancers; but the visitor in search particularly of plays may well be of the opinion that the Germans themselves have prepared the most promising programme. One item which will be awaited with lively interest is the new play by Mr. Carl Zuckmayer. Six years ago his best known play since the war, The Devil's General, had an immense success in Berlin. That was based more or less on Ernst Udet, a German hero of the 1914-18 War who lived to become a Nazi general. The new play, which is entitled The Cold Light, is said to be based on the trial at the Old Bailey of Klaus Fuchs, although it may be expected that Mr. Zuckmayer will find for it some dramatic form that is particularly his own.

The Times (London, England), August 12, 1978, p. 12

Remembering the
Red Baron

The last man to be shot down by the famous 1914-18 War air ace, Baron Manfred von Richthofen, died this week in Rhodesia. Fighter Pilot David, "Tommy" Lewis was shot down on April 20, 1918, the 80th victim of the baron, and his death recalls the legendary career of the baron who was himself shot down and killed in action near Bertangles, France, the following day.

In Britain the baron was and is known as the Red Baron, usually prefixed by the adjectives "bloody" or "jolly" according to taste; to the French he was implacably le diable rouge; to his German compatriots he was der rote Kampfflieger, a name which the Prussian propaganda machine attached to him and which became the title of his published account of aerial combat, but to his comrades he was simply der Rittmeister, the cavalry rank of captain to which he was promoted in April, 1917, long after he had ceased to be a cavalryman.

Von Richthofen was born on May 2, 1892, into a minor Prussian aristocratic family which had large estates in Silesia and a military tradition which he inherited without question. After the usual cadet school and war academy education, he was commissioned in 1912 in the 1st Uhlan Cavalry Regiment of the Prussian Army, and it was with this regiment, of which he remained a nominal member until his death, that he saw action in Russia on the outbreak of the war in August 1914, and later in the invasion of Belgium and France.

As the war settled down to the immobility of trench warfare, Richthofen's restless spirit longed for a more active form of combat, and in May 1915 he secured a posting to the Imperial Air Service. Although Richthofen qualified as a fighter pilot in December 1915, it was not until August 1916, when he joined the newly formed Jagdstaffel 2 (Fighter Squadron 2) under the command of the air ace, Oswald Boelcke, that his effective career as a leader of air combatants began.

Shortly after Boelcke's death three months later Richthofen became second-in-command of Jasta 2, and in January, 1917, he was given commend of his own squadron Jasta 11, but much more to his satisfaction was the award of the medal Pour le Mérite, the delicate light blue cross worn at the throat, which was normally given to all air combatants who shot down 16 enemy planes and survived.

Now came the high period of Richthofen's career. In the company of some of the finest German fighter pilots of the First World War such as his brother Lothar, Kurt Wolff, Karl Allmenroeder and, later Werner Voss, Richthofen accounted for a growing toll of Allied planes—92 in March and April 1917 alone, of which Richthofen shot down 31.

To ensure that he and his comrades were readily recognized by friend and foe alike, the planes of Jasta 11 were painted scarlet apart from the white blaze on wings and fuselage, which bore the German black cross. In May Jastas 4, 6, 10 and 11 were grouped together to form the first fighter wing (Jagdgeschwader 1) of the Imperial Air Service, under Richthofen's command, and from then until the end of the war the four squadrons, which their highly individual choices of colour and decoration for their planes, were known and respected on the Allied side as Richthofen's Flying Circus.

Until August, 1917, Jasta 11, which Richthofen still led personally, had been equipped only with the fast and highly manoeuvrable biplane, the Albatross, Marks I, II and III, but in that month Jasta 11 received its first two Fokker Triplanes, one of which was flown by Richthofen and the other by Werner Voss. This was the plane Richthofen had awaited for two years: a fast, agile, forward-firing gun platform, a 23 foot 7 inch wingspan, 19 feet long, capable of 122 mph and carrying two medium Spandau machine guns. It could climb more steeply than any other plane in service, could dive like a hawk and had as tight a turning circle as any other fighter plane. In it Richthofen pushed his score of Allied planes shot down to 80, 20 more than his nearest rival, Ernst Udet, and twice that of Oswald Boelcke.

But Richthofen had had more than his fair expectation of survival in the bloody climate of 1917 and 1918. On the morning of Sunday, April 21, 1918, Jasta 11 engaged three fights of Sopwith Camels of 290 Squadron, RAF, near their aerodrome at Berangles, and while chasing one of them at a height of 100 feet, Richthofen was caught in a hail of heavy machine gun fire from the ground. One bullet entered his right side below the ribs, pierced his heart and emerged beneath his left shoulder. He was dead when his plane came down on the Allied side of the front line, its fuselage riddled with machine gun fire, but otherwise intact.

Richthofen has been seen in many different lights over the years. In the 1930s the Nazi propaganda machine made him into a latter-day young Siegfriend, who on the day of the wolf, stepped out of this life into Valhalla, sword in hand. Sixty years on we can judge him more soberly and more objectively. That he was a great figther no-one would deny; that he was chivalrous, and did not pursue an enemy to the death if he could destroy the plane without doing so, the RAF and RFC conceded; that he was a loyal comrade, a good friend and an inspired leader was the unanimous opinion of all with whom he served.

He achieved the ambition he set himself of being Germany's foremost air fighter, and it is as a professional of the highest rank, who dedicated himself with unwavering self discipline to fulfilling what he saw as his duty, that he is now best remembered.

Robert R. Pennington
The author is Professor of Commercial Law at the University of Birmingham.

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Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks