Who's Who - Max Immelmann

Max Immelmann Max Immelmann (1883-1916) was Germany's first air ace of the First World War, scoring seventeen victories until his death in 1916.

Immelmann was actually born in South Africa but chose to renounce his British nationality while studying medicine in Germany.  Having thereafter joined the German Army he resigned his commission in 1912 in order to work as an engineer.

With the outbreak of war in August 1914 Immelmann was (as he expected) recalled to active duty.  He quickly requested a transfer to the Flying Corps, taking and passing his examination in March 1915.  The following month he was promoted Lieutenant.

His initial experiences as an airman were not glamorous however, operating as a reconnaissance pilot near Lille in France.  In short order however Immelmann established a reputation as an effective fighter pilot: in Germany (and France, but unlike Britain) successful fighter pilots gained wide public renown and acclaim.

Thus the 'Eagle of Lille' (as German newspapers dubbed him) achieved promotion to First Lieutenant in September 1915.  He was responsible for developing a dogfight manoeuvre whose name - the Immelmann Turn - remains to this day, comprised of a simultaneous loop and roll design to allow him to dive back at a pursuing airman.  It became standard practice during the remainder of the war.

With seventeen (some attribute just fifteen) 'kills' to his name - and the Pour le Merite awarded by the Kaiser on 12 January 1916 - Immelmann was shot down by British pilot George McCubbin on 18 June 1916 near Lens.

Such was the shock of his death (which was at first attributed to other causes) that Kaiser Wilhelm II grounded his fellow airman (and rival) Oswald Boelcke for a month to avoid the loss of two aces in short order.

A 'Base Rat' was a soldier perpetually at the base, typically in conditions of comfort and safety.

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