When Alan Hobbs flew his plane over Skinners in July 1915 the war in the air was reaching a critical turning point. Until the late spring planes on both sides had largely been used for reconnaissance. The planes had recently been armed with machine guns but they were largely used for defence. Then in May, Fokker introduced the very first "fighter plane" with the invention of the front facing, propeller-synchronised machine gun. The first of these Fokker Eindeckers was delivered to the 24 year old pilot Max Immelmann pictured below, and he claimed his first aerial victory on August 1st. Despite the machine gun fire these battles remained very gentlemanly. The opposing British pilot Lieutenant William Reid fought back valiantly, flying with his left hand and firing a pistol with his right. Nonetheless, Immelmann's machine gun took effect. Reid suffered four wounds in his left arm, and his airplane's engine quit, causing a crash landing. The unarmed Immelmann landed nearby, and approached Reid; they shook hands and Immelmann said to the British pilot "You are my prisoner." and pulled Reid out of the wreckage and rendered first aid. By the end of September Immelmann had claimed 5 more victories in the air to become the first German ace. As summer turned to Autumn, Alan Hobbs would have been very aware of this new menace whenever he took to the skies. On the 15th December, 1915, Alan Hobbs took off from 3 Squadron's airbase in Auchel for a long reconnaissance flight behind enemy lines with his observer / gunner Charles Tudor-Jones. It was to be their last flight. As Max Immelmann described afterwards: “When we were still 500-600 metres apart he [the gunner Tudor-James] opened furious fire on me but the distance was too great for him to succeed.. Then I began to shoot … there were only 50 metres between us …I saw the enemy observer fiddling with his gun. Probably it had jammed. I had to use the moment. I let off 150 rounds. Suddenly the enemy monoplane reared up, the propeller pointing skyward. Then it turned over on its right wing and whirled down in a nose dive” A contemporary French account recorded the event as follows: “On Wednesday 15th December, at 8.30 in the morning, we witnessed a sad spectacle as an aerial combat took place at 200 metres altitude. A German plane, the latest model, armed with machine guns was pursuing a French aircraft which had been given to the army by the town of Beauvais, crewed by two English officers. The battle, which started over Douai, came to an end over Raismes since the German plane, which was very powerful, easily caught up with the French plane whose observer shot several times fell and landed in a tree on the boulevard near the level-crossing at Raismes station. The plane went into a spin and crashed between two properties, not far from the town square. As they fell, the Priest, who was watching this aerial combat, gave absolution to these brave men. The pilot was found in the wreck 500m from his comrade". Barely a week after celebrating his 21st birthday, Alan Hobbs was dead - the 7th victim of Germany's most deadly flying ace.
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