Published May 12, 2021
BLAZE OF GLORY
Skinner Bros. Sweep RBF XXXII
Bob Meister said it best after Stephen Dale and Ethan "The Python" Skinner became Red Baron Fight co-champions with just 59 points each. "The Indy Squadron has reached a new low."
Indeed, 59 points is the lowest winning score in the 32-year history of Indy's spring classic, easily undercutting Rick Lacy's 73-point victory in 2013. Ethan became only the third Albatros pilot in history to win RBF and the first since Graham Shepfer in 2003. Research may eventually show that Stephen Dale is the only flyer to have ever won the Silver Goblet after being shot down. And the Skinner brothers are just the second co-champions in the game's history and the first since the epic showdown between Scott Jones and Terry Phillips in 1995.
All this, plus the Silver Military Medal and Military Cross were awarded in the aftermath of the fight. The intriguing and record-setting match-up started like this:
Stephen Dale Skinner, Camel 130 (LT James Sadler, 11/2)
Bob Meister, Camel 130 (2LT Johnny Wilson, 11/0)
A. J. Meister, Albatros DVa 200 hp (VZFW Edward Steel, 9/0)
Ethan "The Python" Skinner, Albatros DIII (LTN Dolf Meinhart, 13/6)
Stephen Skinner, red Fokker Dr I (VZFW Gerald Holzhauser, 13/2)
The game began with Stephen Dale scoring a couple of good bursts on his German opponents before the Red Baron (Stephen) jumped on his tail. The Triplane jammed a gun on its first burst and Stephen Dale performed a tail spin to elude his attacker. The maneuver worked, but Stephen Dale's Camel was now 600 feet below the fight and Bob was left to fend off all three Germans on his own.
Aided by AJ's abominable initiative rolls and Stephen's gun jam, Bob played a Masters level game and his well-flown Camel actually had the Germans reeling for a while. Bob tailed Ethan's Albatros and peppered it several times before latching onto the tail of Stephen's Triplane and putting a critical hit in the right wing (#5/6).
Eventually Bob was able to bring the fight back to Stephen Dale's level. The Brits pulled away from the fight, regrouped and resumed the attack. For the Germans, things were a little better. Stephen had cleared the jam and now had both machine guns functioning on his Triplane. AJ was now rolling 8's and 9's for initiative which, believe it or not, was a vast improvement. And Ethan's Albatros had taken an early beating but still had no critical hits and two working guns.
Combat began again with Stephen's Triplane hanging on the tail of Bob's Camel. Stephen shot three times, missing twice. Those misses would eventually cost him the championship. After a long struggle against the dice, AJ finally had a few shot opportunities. Although the dice didn't favor him on this day, AJ clearly flew his best tournament game ever and was an enormous benefit to the German effort.
By this time the game had become a plodding chess match that reached a climax on Turn 11. Stephen Dale flew in for a top shot on AJ's Albatros DVa and scored six hits. Struggling to match his 70 mph turn speed against his 100 mph opponents, Ethan's best opportunity was a rather poor 200 foot side shot on Stephen Dale's Camel. The Python fired, jammed one gun and scored only a single hit. Neither he nor Stephen Dale could have known that they had both just scored game-winning bursts.
AJ was the only German with a chance to pursue Bob's lone remaining Camel and he did so, firing from 500 feet and scoring three hit factors. All three went into the same area, giving Bob's best Camel pilot 11 hits in his right wing. He was able to outrun the Albatros on the following turn and barely got his battered Camel home for a safe landing.
Stephen Dale's last 6-hit burst gave him his final twelve points toward the championship. Ethan's single bullet found its mark in the forward fuselage of Stephen Dale's Camel, inflicting a critical wound in the pilot's chest (LT James Sadler, 11/2) and giving Ethan solo credit for the only kill in the game. Both players tallied exactly 59 total points. Red Baron Fight rules state that there are no tie-breakers. Every top scoring player is named a full co-champion.
Ethan's pilot, LTN Dolf Meinhart (pronounce MEAN-heart; the pun is intentional), is one of the earliest and most sentimental pilots on Ethan's roster. Meinhart has now reached ace status and become an RBF champion. According to RBF rules, he was awarded an immediate promotion to Hauptmann (Captain) and successfully rolled for Saxony's Silver Medal of the Order for his performance against a flight of Camels with his 70 mph Albatros DIII.
Stephen Dale managed to land his Camel behind British lines and his pilot survived, but the severe injuries will prevent him from ever flying in combat again. He was awarded the Military Cross during his hospital stay. LT James Sadler went down in a blaze of glory, stacking his resume with two (that's two!) RBF championships and the Military Cross in just 11 missions.
Red Baron Fight XXXII
May 8, 2021
Meister's home, Thorntown IN
Stephen Dale Skinner (Camel 130) 59 points
Ethan Skinner (Albatros DIII) 59
Stephen Skinner (red Fokker Dr I) 43
Bob Meister (Camel 130) 39
A. J. Meister (Albatros DVa) 33
Meister Pilot Reaches Milestone
Ace Update and Gaming Report for May 8, 2021
The first of three games pitted three Sopwith Pups (Stephen Dale, A. J. and Bob) against two German Albatrosses (Ethan, Stephen). The Pups were outgunned but managed to fight the Albs to a draw until late in the game when Stephen's DVa pilot, VZFW Albert Hesselink (7/2), fired on the tail of Stephen Dale's Pup from 450 feet. Despite a gun jam, the German scored two hits. One of them was an instantly fatal abdomen wound that gave Hesselink his second career victory.
The day's second game was Red Baron Fight XXXII as described above.
The third and final game matched two 160 hp Fokker DVII's (Ethan, A. J.) and a Pfalz DIIIa (Stephen) against a pair of 140 hp Camels (Bob, Stephen Dale). Anxious to get his first experienced pilot, Bob again flew his Camel star, 2LT Johnny Wilson. Sandwiched by Stephen and Ethan on the first turn, Wilson (Bob) took three hits to his engine but avoided any critical damage. On the following turn he took another five hits from AJ's Fokker with two more of them going into the engine. While rolling his criticals Bob was forced admit, "I'm not gonna lie, I may have evacuated my bowels just a little bit" although he once again escaped critical damage.
Stephen Dale's 9-mission Belgian Camel pilot flew top cover, intervening twice and taking a head-on exchange to protect the best pilot on Bob's roster and the best pilot he's ever had in Dawn Patrol. "I've lost so many aces on their 12th mission," Stephen Dale said after the game, "Bob's not going to die on my watch."
And he didn't. Bob nursed his shot-up engine back to base for a safe landing and now has his first-ever Dawn Patrol Ace/Experienced pilot. Congratulations!
Video: Dozens of German Helmets, POW Artifacts Found in Spectacular Discovery
New House Rule on Kill Confirmations
We've seen this before. It's not common, but it does occasionally happen. AJ Meister's German pilot lost a sure victory credit because he did not commit an atrocity. This time, AJ was escorting a gliding Sopwith Camel down behind enemy lines. But in this instance there was an intervening cloud bank that allowed the Camel to restart its engine and make it home unchallenged.
Shooting at burning and gliding airplanes is considered an atrocity within the Indianapolis-based gaming group. Others may hold different views (and that's okay), but that is the ruling at Indy. This occasionally results in a player being penalized for failing to fire on a gliding airplane. A solution was proposed and adopted by a 5-0 vote during gaming on May 8, 2021. The new rule reads:
- Claimants may add +50% to the final calculation on the Kill Confirmation Chart when a gliding plane escapes into the clouds under the following circumstances, 1) the claimant fired on the gliding plane on the turn before its engine stopped, 2) the claimant "escorted" the gliding plane to the clouds, which is defined as follows: ending in a firing position within 700' of the gliding plane on the turn prior to its entry into the clouds. Declaring or taking the shot is not necessary to receive the bonus. This rule is not retroactive.
Book Review: British Fighter Aircraft in World War I, Design Construction and Innovation
by Mark C. Wilkins
Available here from Casemate Publishing
Go buy this book right now. It is rare that ISD gives an instant five-star rating to any new volume, but Mark C. Wilkins' "British Fighter Aircraft in World War I" is a rare book.
There are certainly more detailed tomes available on the topic, but nothing matches Wilkins' fact-filled overview of every major fighter in the RFC/RNAS/RAF. This book does it all. It covers fighter development and conceptualization, factory photos and war-era advertisements, interviews with modern restoration experts and testimony from pilots and officers long dead.
The photos are reproduced with extraordinary quality and detail. Most featured aircraft are portrayed with both original black and white photos from the early 20th century and the same aircraft in color today. Original blueprints abound as well as descriptions of surviving aircraft still in existence. It even has a full chapter on the engines that powered these amazing machines.
You won't get tired of reading this book. Just when you feel that the information on one airplane has been exhausted, Wilkins starts a new chapter on yet another famous airplane that you've been anxious to read about. You can't put it down. I read the entire book in one sitting the day after ISD's review copy arrived. This is unique since we feature most of the major new World War I releases from numerous publishers. I'm always behind on my reading, but I blew through this one in a day.
The book comes in hard cover format. Every page is top quality, acid-free stock. This book even smells like a new book should. I rarely rave about a new release, but this book is one of the most enjoyable intellectual pursuits I've received from a book in quite some time. Like I said... go buy this book. It is forty bucks well spent.