Ritter Max Von Muller
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Maximilian Muller ( Mueller, Müller ) was born in Rottenburg, Bavaria, on January 1st 1887.
He developed a mechanical interest and decided to enter the army in the recently formed Mechanical Transport Section and volunteered for this corps. He was accepted bur received a severe shock to find himself in No 1 Infantry Regiment. After much protest he was transferred to the regiment of his choice and in the meantime he had been promoted to Unteroffizier rank and underwent a driver's course as well as a mechanic's training.
As a driver he soon gained a reputation for driving the younger officers at furious speeds of up to 35 miles an hour. He had to drive these officers to Schleissheim aerodrome and here watching flights in progress his thoughts turned to joining the aviation branch. By now he had been promoted to sergeant and because of his driving skill he was selected to chauffeur the Bavarian War Minister who desired to see the army manoeuvres in 1913.
This was Muller's chance, every time he opened the door for the Minister he requested a transfer to the aviation service. Although this method of requesting a transfer was most unusual, the sergeant chauffeur had impressed the Minister sufficiently for him to recommend Muller and eventually his posting came and he proceeded to Schleissheim on December 1st 1913.
On the successful completion of his flying instruction he was awarded his military pilot flying badge (left). (Later during the war the successful completion of a pilot training course did not include this award. It was necessary then for a pilot to complete a number of operational flights before he was authorised to wear the badge.)
In May 1914 he was flying with an observer doing experimental exercises in directing artillery fire. In the midst of this work they received orders to return immediately to Schleissheim. In the late evening of August 1st came the explanation. Mobilisation!
Max Muller was drafted to Feldfliegerabteilung 1b under Oberleutnant Erhard. They moved Buehl aerodrome, Saarburg with their six Otto pushers in canvas hangers. Two days later with his observer Oberleutnant Peter, he made his first operational flight. Several flights later on the 18th the motor of his Otto failed and in the resulting crash landing Muller broke both his legs.
In hospital Muller was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd class, and after resting for the shortest possible time, Muller against medical advice returned to the Front. His C.O. would not let him return to operational flying, (he was still using two walking sticks to get around) but allowed him to ferry the Otto replacements the LVG to the aerodrome.
In May 1915 they were replaced by the more powerful LVG C1, this was fitted with a machine gun fitted on a rotatable ring. It was not long before Muller was flying this aircraft, regularly escorting the unit's B class machines.
Hauptmann Rutz his C.O. and usual observer recognised in Muller the ideal "field" pilot and they were responsible for many fine reconnaissance photo's taken by Feldfliegerabteilung 1b in late 1915. An example of their work was the low altitude reconnaissance carried out for the pioneers concerned with the mining of Hill 10 near Fricourt. On December 13th Rutz and Muller left Hervilly aerodrome in an Ago, crossing the line at 3,400 metres. Over the objective they descended to 1,250 metres to expose the plates. Only Muller's determination to descend in the face of heavy fire and the skill of Rutz with the 25cm hand held camera ensured that suitable photographs were obtained. Several previous attempts by other units to secure this information had resulted in failure. Mueller received the Bravery Medal in silver for his part in the operation.
Following a particularly hectic combat, Max, enthused over the early successes of the single seater pilots like Buddecke, Boelcke, Immelmann and von Althaus, applied to his C.O. for a transfer to single-seaters, but Rutz refused to release him since he was one of the key pilots of the unit. Muller had by now completed 160 operational flights over the lines where 60 was the average number that had been carried out by other crews. Mueller's determination again came out and after constant pleading his C.O's resistance wore out and reluctantly Rutz gave in.
Early in May 1916 Max was posted to Kampfeinsitzerstaffel 1 at Mannheim for the Fokker E monoplane course. Over the next 14 days he flew the Fokker and Pfalz E machines, practicing turns, mock air combat and air to ground firing. He was now posted to the largest Kampfeinsitzer Kommando in the 1st Army when he was assigned to Abwehr Kommando Nord at Bertincourt attached to Feldfliegerabteilung 32. In August the assembly of pilots in the various armies' Kampfeinsitzer Kommandos were used as the nuclei for the permanent single seater units named jagdstaffeln. Abwehr Kommando Nord material was absorbed into Jastas 1 and 2, both of which were formed on Bertincourt aerodrome. Offizierstellvertreter Max Muller was posted to Jasta 2 on September 1st 1916, other new arrivals on this day were Leutnant Reimann and Leutnant Manfred von Richthofen from the Eastern Front.
Now flying an Albatros D1 he scored his first confirmed victory when he brought down an FE2b in flames near Vraucourt. Six days later a BE2c fell to his guns, on November 3rd his third victory came when he forced a Vickers two seater down near Haplincourt. His fourth followed on the 16th, a BE near Flers and on the 27th a Nieuport Scout near Hebuterne was his fifth victory.
Muller still an NCO, was sent to the newly formed Jasta 28, along with Leutnant Ray of Jasta 1, to provide a core of experience for the new pilots of that unit. He next brought down a FE 2d in the British lines as his 6th victory on April 7th in the period known as "Bloody April". The pilot was Capt Mahony-Jones of 20 Sqn RFC (I have his War medal.) The story of Capt George Mahony-Jones is worth telling, they had been on a bombing raid at 1712 and on their return heading for home, after re-crossing the lines, Mahony-Jones looked back and saw one of his crews being engaged by nine German fighters and he immediately turned to assist. The pilot of the other FE was then wounded and force landed just inside the British lines, but by now Mahony-Jones and his gunner, Second Lieutenant W B Moyes, a former 6th Royal Scots officer, were fighting for their lives in the midst of the enemy fighters. At first they seemed to succeed in driving off some of the fighters but finally a burst set their machine on fire and the FE fell in flames, both men being killed. Shortly afterwards, 20 Squadron received a letter from the Headquarters of the 34th Battalion, AIF:
To the Commandant, RFC Bailleul, 8th April 1917.
"The C.O. 34th battalion AIF has asked me to express a deep sense of admiration which was inspired by the gallant flying of an airman, apparently belonging to a Squadron under your command. About 6 pm on the evening of the 7th instant, two of our planes were engaged with nine of the enemy's. One plane was damaged and the other, although retreat looked possible turned and fought. Several of the enemy's planes scattered but unfortunately our plane was hit and immediately burst into flames.
The scene was witnessed by the men of the Battalion from the trenches and the conspired bravery was much spoken of by them and the gallantry is sure to foster a spirit of emulation for our men to strive hard on their parts, to act in the same heroic and self sacrificing manner as this gallant airman. The true bravery of your very fine Corps was thus strikingly brought home to our men."
Adj. 34th Battn.
On April 30th, he brought down an FE at Armentières. By June 18th his total stood at 17 confirmed victories and being the highest scoring pilot in the unit he was given the privilege of using the officer's mess despite his NCO rank. He did not rest on his laurels but went on to run up more victories, scoring two in one day on August 19th and 21st. Probably the proudest day in his life was August 26th when the complete personnel of Jasta 28 were paraded to see him promoted to the rank of Leutnant for bravery in the face of the enemy. This has been recorded as the first such promotion awarded to a regular soldier of the German army. His score now stood at 27 and with officer's rank he must have known that the Pour le Mèrite would follow: it did, on September 3rd 1917, when he became the 29th German aviator to receive this decoration. In addition to the "Blue Max" he already wore the ribbons of the Wuerttemberg Bravery Medal in Gold and the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords.
On 22nd October he caused two Sopwith Pups of 54 Squadron piloted by Second Lieutenant Cowie and Lieutenant Goodbehere to collide, causing the death of Gordon Cowie a former pupil of Rugby School. (I have his medal group and memorial plaque.) These were his 30th and 31st victories, he had left Jasta Boelcke on January 19th 1917, when his victory score stood at five. Re-joining that elite band of air fighters on November 3rd 1917, his score of aerial victories officially confirmed was 31 and he was the most successful German fighter pilot still alive next to Rittmeister Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen. On November 7th he brought down a Spad south-west of St Julien as his 32nd victory.
Muller shoots down his namesake!
I am indebted to Mike Miller the Grandson of 2/Lt Miller for allowing me to use this extract of his Grandfathers diary and notebook.
On the 2nd December Muller shot down a DH 4 A7422, North West of Menin, the pilot of the DH 4 was 2/Lt D Miller of 57 Squadron RFC he was wounded but his observer 2/Lt AHC Hoyles was killed. As Miller is the English equivalent of Muller it would seem that Muller had shot down his namesake!
The following extract from the note book entitled 'Notes on Prison Life' by 2/Lt D Miller, he makes reference to a visit made to him in hospital, whilst recovering from his wounds, by Max Muller. It shows the more compassionate side of him of Muller.
"About the 14th December Lt Muller came to see me. He was very nice and seemed a good sportsman.""On the 23rd I was allowed to get up for the first time, only for half an hour in mid day.
On Christmas eve the ward was decked out in sprigs of fir and silver tinsel (German angel's hair). In the centre stood a big Christmas tree laden with small candles, paper lilies, angel hair and headed with a large silver star. Around the base of the tree were placed the gifts for the ward. About 7.30pm the pastor, doctor and sisters came in. After singing some Christmas songs and the pastor and given a short address, the gifts were handed out. The pastor presented me with Sir William's Scott novel "The Fair Maid of Perth".
The sister Schwester Eingartz gave me a package containing nuts, sweets and fruit, also a packet of writing paper. Lt Muller gave me a book entitled "A Love Episode". On the following day all the decorations remained and our sister photographed the ward. I was promised a print but I left hospital before it came through. I wrote home on Christmas day being allowed to be out of bed for almost 2 hours between playing chess and chatting in German with Lt Gunter Ludiger. The time passed until January 6th until I left hospital."
An ironic twist in this, is that after Muller visited Miller in hospital, although a claim was made by Muller for a Sopwith Camel on the 16th of December, I can find no trace in our records for it. It would appear that after shooting down his namesake, Muller claimed no more victims until his death, shortly after 2/Lt Miller left hospital.
Muller now had two Albatros D Va machines and he normally flew these on alternate patrols. He scored again on November 29th and again on December16th a Sopwith Camel, this turned out to be his final victory. New equipment was now beginning to arrive in the shape of Fokker Dr1 Triplanes and Mueller must have looked ahead with confidence into 1918.
In the war diary of Jagdstaffel Boelcke Max Muller is listed as being Staffelfuehrer following the loss of Lt von Buelow until he fell in action on January 9th 1918, shot down by the observer of an RE 8. His position as leader of this famous unit would no doubt have been made official had he survived. It is said that on the day before his death Muller had lectured the pupil pilots at the Jagdstaffelschule at Valenciennes on how best to destroy the slow artillery observation machine known as the RE 8. The machine that proved his undoing came from 21 Squadron RFC, the first corps squadron to be equipped with the RE 8 and the unit that was generally held to be the finest artillery observation squadron on the Western Front.
On January 9th 1918 Max Muller left the aerodrome at Marke in Albatros D Va 5405/17 leading six other Albatros Scouts and headed for the lines, an RE 8 from 21 Squadron was engaged on a photographic reconnaissance in the Paschendaele area. Muller soon saw this machine and led his unit on to it in a formation attack. The pilot of the RE 8, Captain G Zimmer, saw the seven Albatros Scouts approaching and manoeuvred his machine to allow his observer, Second Lieutenant H Sommerville, to get a good burst into the leading Albatros at very close range. The Albatros, after firing at the RE 8, veered off and began to glide away; then suddenly it burst into flames and fell out of control. The pilots of Jasta Boelcke saw their leader's aircraft fall in flames and as they watched they saw Muller detach himself from the burning machine to fall to his death near the ruins of Moorsledge at 12.50hr. Max Muller died as he would of wished, at the height of his fame flying for his beloved Fatherland.
His deeds were not forgotten and after a further weary 10 months of war, just before the Armistice, it was officially announced that Max Muller had been posthumously awarded the Max Josephs Order, this decoration bringing with it a Knighthood of Bavaria. Max Muller from Rottenburg had received the highest decorations that Prussia and Bavaria could bestow. He would be assured of a place in the history of Germany military aviation and be known as Max Ritter von Muller, the highest scoring Bavarian fighter Pilot in World War 1.