Gottfried Freiherr von Banfield – Austro – Hungarian Ace 1890 / 1986
At the beginning of World War One, Banfield was posted to fly the Lohner flying boat E.21 allocated to the pre-dreadnought battleship SMS Zrinyi for aerial reconnaissance. He took part in the first aerial actions against Montenegro from the base at Cattaro. Once the Italians entered the war, he was commissioned with building up a larger seaplane station near Trieste, and after its completion was named as its commanding Officer. He retained this command until the wars end. He triumphed in his first air battles against the Italians and their French allies flying a Lohner biplane seaplane in the gulf of Trieste in June 1915, downing a balloon on the 27th. He even came up against his old teacher Jean Louis Conneau better known as Andre Beaumont in September 1915. Experimenting with a monoplane seaplane in 1916, he won many victories and was for a short time the highest scoring among the Austro- Hungarian Aces.
Banfield’s 9 confirmed and 11 unconfirmed victories make him without a doubt Austro – Hungary’s most successful Naval pilot. It was because he flew mainly over the Northern Adriatic and therefore many of his victories went unconfirmed, which accounts for his high tally of unconfirmed kills. For his military service in 1916 he was decorated with the Large Military Merit Medal with Swords.Founded on the Ist of April 1916, this order was for the “highest especially praiseworthy recognition” and was awarded only 30 times, 28 of the awards being to Officers of General’s rank. the other 2 being to crytologist Hermann Pokorny and Banfield himself. On the 17th of August 1917, Banfield was further honoured when he received the Military Order of Maria Theresa. Individuals who received this order who were not members of the nobility were ennobled and received the hereditary title of Freiherr or Baron to their family name. At the time of his death in 1986, at the grand old age of 96 Banfield was the last surviving Knight of the Order of Maria Theresa.
(C) Damian Grange 2019