Saturday, February 1, 2014

Who downed the Red Baron?

An interesting post from our November 2013 Newsletter by Kathie Rieth

The name ‘BUIE, R’ is on the St Ives Public School Honour Board that hangs on the wall in the corridor outside the KHS rooms. This must be Robert Buie, who is reputed to have been one of the two men who shot down the Red Baron.

Born in 1893, a son of James and Jane Buie, he enlisted on 27 October 1916 and embarked on HMAT
Anchises on 24 January 1917 with the 10th Reinforcements, 1st Pioneer Battalion, disembarking at Devonport in late March. He entered the Pioneer Training Battalion at Fovant, later transferring to the 14th Field Artillery Brigade as Gunner, and was serving in France by the end of 1917.

In April 1918 he and fellow gunner William John Evans were recommended for the Meritorious Service Medal. The recommendation stated: ‘On 21.4.1918 these Gunners were on duty with Lewis Guns at the 53rd Battery, Australian Field Artillery on the hills north of Corbie. At about 11 a.m. two aeroplanes flying at a low height approached the Battery position. These were discovered to be a British Sopwith Camel closely pursued by a hostile single seater red triplane. As soon as the British plane had passed the line of fire both these gunners opened fire at close range at the hostile machine. Splinters were immediately seen to fly from the latter which crashed about 800 yards from the guns. It was then discovered that the enemy pilot was dead and was identified as Baron Mannheim von Richthofen. The fire from these Lewis guns it is considered undoubtedly saved the British plane. The prompt action and accurate fire of these two gunners are worthy of special recognition.’

The award, however, was ‘Not recommended for decoration in King’s Birthday Honours Gazette.’ Although it appears clear from the contemporary account that Buie and Evans were successful in downing the Baron, others later claimed credit.

In July 1918 Buie fell ill and was evacuated to England. Diagnosed with myocarditis, he returned to Australia per Somali, arriving home in February 1919. He was discharged from the AIF on 7 September 1919.

His movements after the war are not clear. An online account, written by family, states that he was plagued by ill health and financial problems. He returned to his former occupation, fishing the waters of the Hawkesbury. He died in April 1964 and was buried at Brooklyn Cemetery.

Kathie Rieth

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