WWI flying ace who was deadlier than the infamous Red Baron: Royal Flying Corps Captain claimed 20 kills in three months of flying… now his medals have sold for over £7,000

  • First World War medals of Captain Federick Gillet have fetched £7,000 at auction
  • Capt Gillet claimed 20 kills in three months with the Royal Flying Corps in 1918
  • His success rate was greater than German ‘Red Baron’ Manfred von Richthofen
  • US-born Capt Gillet later returned to America and became a businessman

The medals of a First World War veteran who was deadlier than the legendary Red Baron have sold for over £7,000.

US-born Captain Frederick Gillet was 23 years old when he started operations with the Royal Flying Corps in August 1918 and he claimed 20 kills in just three months of flying.

His tally included three Fokker aircraft in the space of five minutes.

The pilot finished the war in November 1918 with 14 Fokkers, three kite balloons and three Albatross aircraft as his victims, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross with Bar for his ‘great dash and skill’.

Pound for pound, Capt Gillet’s success rate was greater than German ace Manfred von Richthofen – known as the Red Baron – who claimed 80 kills in 19 months before his death in March 1918. 

Capt Gillet was born in Baltimore, US, in 1895 but moved the Britain after being rejected by his home nation’s air force. After the war, he returned to the US and became a businessman – dying in 1969 aged 74. 

Captain Frederick Gillet (1895-1969) started operations with the Royal Flying Corps in August 1918 and claimed 20 kills in just three months of flying

The medals of a First World War flying ace Captain Gillet, who was deadlier than the legendary Red Baron, have sold for over £7,000.

His medals were sold by a private collector with London-based auctioneers Spink & Son, fetching a hammer price of £5,800. With extra fees, the final figure paid by the buyer was £7,200. 

His first victory was the destruction of a kite balloon north of Estaires in France on August 3, 1918.

Had Capt Gillet maintained his strike rate, he would have clocked up 126 kills in that period.

He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for shooting down a kite balloon east of Armentieres, which was being defended by an enemy aircraft. He dived down and fired 200 rounds from 100 yards away, causing it to crash to the ground. 

Capt Gillet then headed towards the balloon, which was being pulled down, and fired 50 rounds into it at close range.

He wrote in his combat report: ‘I dived through the clouds east of Armentieres to attack a kite balloon. As I approached the K.B. I saw an enemy aircraft flying at about 1,500 feet.

‘I opened my throttle and dived on him, firing about 200 rounds at about 100 yards range. The E.A. dived and the observer fired a burst at me. I followed the E.A. down and fired another 150 rounds at very close range. The E.A. crashed into the ground.

‘I then returned west towards the balloon which was being pulled down and fired 50 rounds into it at very close range, dropping two bombs near the winch.

Capt Gillet, who was also awarded a Belgian Croix de Guerre, left the RAF in March 1919 and returned to the US to become a businessman. He died aged 74 in 1969

Capt Gillet’s tally included three Fokker aircraft in the space of five minutes. The pilot finished the war in November 1918 with 14 Fokkers, three kite balloons and three Albatross aircraft as his victims

‘The balloon was hauled down and appeared to be deflating.’

He added a Bar to his DFC for attacking three Fokkers during a low line patrol on November 4, 1918, near Besseghem.

Capt Gillet shot down one of the enemy aircraft and the other two, in the chaos, collided with each other.

It states: ‘A pilot of great dash and skill who, since 3 August 1918 has destroyed twelve hostile aircraft.

‘On 29 September, when on low line patrol, he attacked three Fokkers, driving down one, which fell in flames.’

Capt Gillet, who was also awarded a Belgian Croix de Guerre, left the RAF in March 1919 and returned to the US to become a businessman.

He died aged 74 in 1969.

Marcus Budgen, head of the medal department at Spink & Son, said: ‘The medals of Captain ‘Razors’ Gillet represent one of the finest and most successful American airmen of the Great War.

‘The Red Baron scored 80 kills from September 1916 to March 1918 so at that rate Gillet was quicker.’

His medal group consists of the Distinguished Flying Cross; British War Medal; USA; Victory; Belgian Croix de Guerre.

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