A UNIQUE collection of lost First World War negatives depicting the short life of German fighter ace The Red Baron have been unearthed in a shoe box at a car boot sale in Ford.
The 88-strong archive of black and white negatives were discovered at Ford Market by Barry Pickthall, owner of the PPL Photo Agency, based in Walberton.
The original negatives record not only Baron Von Richthofen’s flying career, but the planes and portraits of many of his American, British, French and German adversaries and comrades, including Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest son of American President Theodore Roose velt, who was shot down and killed in a dog fight over France on Bastille Day, July 14, 1918.
Mr Pickthall said when he stumbled across the photos at the market, he was ‘quietly excited’. He said: “This was a very fortunate find. We are always looking out for old pictures for PPL’s ‘Pictures of Yesteryear’ archive.
“The negatives and contact prints came in a shoebox containing old prints of Sussex scenes.
“It was not until we looked at the negatives under a magnifying glass that we began to realise the magnitude of this find.
“It has taken us several months of hard work to get the negatives scanned, restored and research the comprehensive captions.”
This newly-found Von Richthofen archive includes rare pictures of British, French and German planes, and other air aces from both sides including, Major Lance George Hawker, American Captain Edward Vernon Rickenbacker and Frenchman Georges Marie Ludovic Jules Guynemer.
“This collection of negatives almost certainly came from a house clearance where the pictures had been stored away for many years,” added Mr Pickthall. “The find is all the more significant because July 28 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.”
Baron Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen was only 25 when he was killed in aerial combat. In his short two-year career as a fighter pilot, he became the top air ace of that war with 80 air combat victories to his credit.
Originally a cavalryman, he transferred to the German Army Air Service in 1915 and became one of the first members of the Jasta II fighter squadron in 1916.
Known as The Red Baron for his preference for red painted aircraft, Von Richthofen’s first confirmed victory was scored over Cambrai on September 17, 1916.
The Baron met his own death on April 21, 1918, while flying over Morlancourt Ridge near the River Somme.
For a special picture feature of some of the unearthed Red Baron’s photos, see next week’s Littlehampton Gazette (Thursday, May 22).