The Red Baron

04 Oct 2017

Better known as 'The Red Baron,' Manfred von Richthofen (1892 – 1918) is an enduring symbol of daredevil adventure and the cavalier spirit. To this day regarded as the ‘ace of all aces,’ Richthofen was the top scoring fighter pilot of WWI, and is considered a national hero in his native Germany. Born in Breslau (now Wrocław), his well-to-do family moved to Schweidnitz (Świdnica) in 1901 where the young Richthofen enjoyed a privileged upbringing. Following Prussian tradition, as the eldest son Richthofen was pegged to pursue a military career and enrolled in a cadet academy at age 11. Despite failing to excel academically, young Richthofen was by all accounts a gifted athlete and gymnast, and on graduating he joined the mounted cavalry. In the months leading up to ‘The Great War,’ Richthofen spent his off-days riding horses, twice breaking his collarbone during steeplechases, while his family coped with the scandal created when Emma von Richthofen, a cousin of Manfred’s, left her husband and children to elope with a hitherto unknown writer named DH Lawrence.

Richthofen served as a cavalry scout at the start of WWI, spending much of his time idling in dugouts, frustrated as the war passed him by. Inspired by the sight of the aircraft that occasionally buzzed overhead he applied to join the Imperial Air Service, and after being accepted applied himself with zeal. Quickly making a name for himself by hunting down British observation planes and their armed escorts, after his 16th confirmed kill he was awarded Germany’s highest military honour - the Pour le Merite - and was assigned command of Jasta 11 squadron.


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Over a year ago
He is buried at the Südfriedhof (South Cemetery) in Wiesbaden, my hometown.
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