- Gottfried von Banfield
Gottfried Freiherr von Banfield (6 February 1890 in Castelnuovo, Austro-Hungary – 23 September 1986 in
Trieste) was the most successful Austro-Hungariannaval aeroplane pilot in the First World War. [This article is translated from German wikipedia, with additions from the French and Italian wikipedia.] He was known as the 'Eagle of Trieste' and was the last person in history to wear the Military Order of Maria Theresa.
Of Norman origin, the Banfields were an Irish family in the 16th century. The ancestor Thomas, an officer in the
British army, while in Bavariamarried an Austriannoblewoman. He took part in the Crimean Warand died after the taking of Sevastopol. His son Richard Banfield, born in Viennain 1836 and educated in Austria, chose for Austrian citizenship, became an officer of the k.u.k. Kriegsmarine and took part in the Battle of Lissa as one of the commanders on Wilhelm von Tegetthoff's flagship, the "Erzherzog Ferdinand Max". [This paragraph translated from Italian Wikipedia.]
Gottfried von Banfield was born in 1890 in Castelnuovo situated in the Bay of Cattaro the homeport of an Austrian fleet . His father held English citizenship, but the boy Gottfried took Austrian nationality.
He attended the Military secondary-school in
Sankt Pölten, and the Naval academy in Fiume: on 17 June 1909 he emerged as cadet. In May 1912 he was promoted to frigate-Lieutenant. One month later he began pilot training in the flying school in Wiener Neustadt, and in August he obtained his flying licence. Enthused with aviation like his elder brother, who had already become a well-known aviator, he was chosen to be among the first pilots of the Austrian navy, and went off to perfect his training at the Donnet-Lévèquepilot school in France, where his trainer was the company's chief pilot, the naval lieutenant Jean-Louis Conneau, a pilot famous at the time for having won many air contests under the pseudonym of "Beaumont". On the Pola Naval Air base of Santa Caterina island he trained in seaplanes. As a result of a forced landing in 1913 he injured a bone so badly that he was not airborne again until the outbreak of war.
At the start of the
First World Warwas posted to fly the Lohner flying boat E.21 allocated to the pre-dreadnought battleship SMS Zrinyi. He took part in the first aerial actions against Montenegrofrom the base of Cattaro. In the period following he worked as a test pilot and instructor at the airfield on the island of Santa Catarina off Pola. Once the Italiansentered the war he was commissioned with building up a larger sea-plane station near Trieste, and after its completion was named as its commanding officer. He retained this role until the end of the war. He won his first air-battles in a Lohner biplane seaplane against the Italians and their French allies in the gulf of Trieste in the month of June 1915, even coming up against his old teacher Jean-Louis Conneau (better known as André Beaumont) in September 1915. Experimenting with a monoplane seaplane early in 1916, he won many victories and for a time held first place among the Austrian aces. He was wounded in combat in 1918.
Decorations and military tally
Banfield is (with 9 confirmed and 11 (?15) unconfirmed air-kills) the most successful Austro-Hungarian naval airplane fighter, and holds a place among the most successful flying aces of Austro-Hungary. It was because he made most of his expeditions over the northern
Adriatic, and therefore many of his attributed air-victories could not be confirmed, that accounts for his high tally of unconfirmed air-conquests. For his military services he was awarded on 17 August 1917 the Military Order of Maria Theresa and was both the last person to bear this order, and became the last living Knight of the Military Order of Maria Theresa. From this honour he took the name 'Freiherr', meaning 'Baron', an hereditary entitlement of the order.
Il Barone at Trieste
After the First World War the city of Trieste was annexed by Italy, and Gottfried was for a time imprisoned by the occupation police. He then in 1920 emigrated to England to the country of his ancestors, taking up British nationality again. He was married to the Contessa Maria Tripcovich of Trieste (d. 1976). The family made a home in
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK (?perhaps chosen as the English equivalent of his birthplace "Castelnuovo"), where their son Raphael Douglas, known to the world as the composer Raffaello de Banfield Tripcovich, was born in 1922. In 1926, Gottfried took Italian nationality and returned to Trieste to become Director of the Diodato Tripcovich and Co. Trieste Shipping-Company, which he took over from his father-in-law. The Trieste company ships then sailed under the Italian flag. He became a fixed celebrity of the city, being called 'Our Baron', 'Il nostro Barone'. Honorary Consul of France at Trieste, he was decorated with the Legion d'Honneurin 1977. He died in Trieste in 1986, aged 96.
A military tribute
As a memorial the 1990 graduating year's class of the Theresa Military academy in Wiener-Neustadt, the greater number of whom had begun their foundation military service in the year of Banfield's death, called itself the 'Banfield Class.'
* Christopher Chant, Mark Rolfe: Austro Hungarian Aces of World War I (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces), 2002.
* Martin O'Connor: Air Aces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1914-1918, Flying Machines Press,US. 2000.
* Short biography in English [http://www.theaerodrome.com/aces/austrhun/banfield.php]
* Diodato Tripcovich Company [http://www.tripcovich.com/history.htm]
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