THE members of my family - that of Richthofen - have taken
no very great part in wars until now. The Richthofens have always lived in the
country; indeed, there has scarcely been one of them without a landed estate,
and the few who did not live in the country have, as a rule, entered the State
service. My grandfather and all my ancestors before him had estates about
Breslau and Striegau. Only in the generation of my grandfather it happened that
the first Richthofen. his cousin, became a General.
My mother belongs to the family Von Schickfuss und Neudorf.
Their character resembles that of the Richthofen people. There were a few
soldiers in that family. All the rest were agrarians. The brother of my
great-grandfather Schickfuss fell in 1806. During the Revolution of 1848 one of
the finest castles of a Schickfuss was burnt down. The Schickfuss have, as a
rule, only become Captains of the Reserve.
In the family Schickfuss and in the family Falckenhausen -
my grandmother's maiden name was Falckenhausen - there were two principal
hobbies: horse riding and game shooting. My mother's brother, Alexander
Schickfuss, has done a great deal of game shooting in Africa, Ceylon, Norway
My father is practically the first member of our branch of
the family to become a professional soldier. At an early age he entered the
Corps of Cadets and later joined the 12th Regiment of Uhlans. He was the most
conscientious soldier imaginable. He began to suffer from difficulty of hearing
and had to resign. He got ear trouble because he saved one of his men from
drowning and though he was wet through and through he insisted upon continuing
his duties as if nothing had happened, wet as he was, without taking notice of
the rigor of the weather. The present generation of the Richthofens contains,
of course, many more soldiers. In war every able-bodied Richthofen is of
course, on active service. In the very beginning of the present war I lost six
cousins, and all were in the cavalry.
I was named after my uncle Manfred, who, in peace time, was
adjutant to His Majesty and Commander of the Corps of the Guards. During the
war he has been Commander of a Corps of Cavalry.
My father was in the 1st Regiment of Cuirassiers in Breslau
when I was born on the 2nd of May, 1892. We then lived at Kleinburg. I received
tuition privately until my ninth year. Then I went for a year to school in
Schweidnitz and then I became Cadet in Wahlstatt. The people of Schwiednitz
considered me as one of themselves. Having been prepared for a military career
as a Cadet, I entered the 1st Regiment of Uhlans.
My own adventures and experiences will be found in this
My brother, Lothar, is the other flyingman Richthofen. He
wears the Ordre pour le Merite. My youngest brother is still in the Corps of
Cadets and he is waiting anxiously until he is old enough to go on active
service. My sister, like all the ladies of our family, is occupied in nursing
My Life as a Cadet
As a little boy of eleven I entered the Cadet Corps. I was
not particularly eager to become a Cadet, but my father wished it. So my wishes
were not consulted.
I found it difficult to bear the strict discipline and to
keep order. I did not care very much for the instruction I received. I never
was good at learning things. I did just enough work to pass. In my opinion it
would have been wrong to do more than was just sufficient, so I worked as
little as possible. The consequence was that my teachers did not think overmuch
of me. On the other hand, I was very fond of sport. Particularly I liked
gymnastics, football, and other outdoor amusements. I could do all kinds of
tricks on the horizontal bar. For this I received various prizes from the
I had a tremendous liking for all risky foolery. For
instance, one fine day, with my friend Frankenberg, I climbed the famous
steeple of Wahlstatt by means of the lightning conductor and tied my
handkerchief to the top. I remember exactly how difficult it was to negotiate
the gutters. Ten years later, when I visited my little brother at Wahlstatt, I
saw my handkerchief still tied up high in the air.
My friend Frankenberg was the first victim of the war as far
as I know.
I liked very much better the Institution of Lichterfelde. I
did not feel so isolated from the world and began to live a little more like a
My happiest reminiscences of Lichterfelde are those of the
great sports when my opponent was Prince Frederick Charles. The Prince gained
many first prizes against me both in running and football, as I had not trained
my body as perfectly as he had done.
I Enter the Army. (Easter, 1911)
OF course, I was very impatient to get into the Army.
Immediately after passing my examination I came forward and was placed in the
1st Regiment of Uhlans, "Emperor Alexander 111." I had selected that regiment.
It was garrisoned in my beloved Silesia and I had some acquaintances and
relations there, who advised me to join it.
I had a colossal liking for the service with my regiment. It
is the finest thing for a young soldier to be a cavalry man.
I can say only little about the time which I passed at the
War Academy. My experience there reminds me too much of the Corps of Cadets and
consequently my reminiscences are not over agreeable.
I remember that once one of my teachers bought a very fat
mare, an amiable animal, whose only fault was that she was rather old. She was
supposed to be fifteen years old. She had rather stout legs, but she jumped
splendidly. I rode her frequently, and her name was Biffy.
About a year later, when I joined the regiment, my Captain,
von Tr----, who was very fond of sport, told me that he had bought a funny
little mare, a fat beast, who jumped very nicely. We all were very interested
to make the acquaintance of the fat jumping horse who bore the strange name
Biffy. I had quite forgotten the old mare of my teacher at the War Academy. One
fine morning, the animal arrived and I was astonished to find that the ancient
Biffy was now standing as an eight-year-old in the Captain's stable. In the
meantime, she had changed her master repeatedly, and had much risen in value.
My teacher had bought her for $375., as a fifteen-year-old, and von Tr- had
bought her a year later, as an eight-year-old, for $850. She won no more prizes
for jumping, in spite of her renewed youth, but she changed her master once
more and was killed in action in the beginning of the war.
I Become an Officer. (Autumn, 1912)
AT last I was given the epaulettes. It was a glorious
feeling, the finest I have ever experienced when people called me Lieutenant.
My father bought me a beautiful mare called Santuzza. It was
a marvelous animal, as hard as nails. She kept her place in the procession like
a lamb. In course of time I discovered that she possessed a great talent for
jumping and I made up my mind to train her. She jumped incredible heights.
In this enterprise I got much sympathy and co-operation from
my comrade von Wedel who won many a prize with his charger, Fandango.
We two trained our horses for a jumping competition and a
steeplechase in Breslau. Fandango did gloriously. Santuzza also did well by
taking a great deal of trouble. I hoped to achieve something with her. On the
day before she was to be put on the train I wished once more to jump all the
obstacles in our training ground. In doing so we slipped. Santuzza hurt her
shoulder and I broke my collar-bone.
I expected that my dear fat mare, Santuzza, would also be a
quick runner and was extremely surprised when she was beaten by Wedel's
Another time I had the good fortune to ride a very fine
horse at a Sports Meeting at Breslau. My horse did extremely well and I had
hopes of succeeding. After a run of about half the course I approached the last
obstacle. At a long distance I saw that the obstacle in front was bound to be
something extraordinary because a great crowd was watching near it. I said to
myself: "Keep your spirits up. You are sure to get into trouble!' I approached
the obstacle, going full speed. The people about waved to me and shouted that I
should not go so fast, but I neither heard nor saw. My horse jumped over and on
the other side there was a steep slope with the river Weistritz in front.
Before I could say knife the horse, having jumped, fell with a gigantic leap
into the river and horse and rider disappeared. Of course, I was thrown over
the head of the animal. Felix got out of the river on the one side and I on the
other. When I came back, the weighing people were surprised that I had put on
ten pounds instead of losing two pounds as usual. Happily no one noticed that I
was wet through and through.
I had also a very good charger. The unfortunate beast had
learned to do everything-running, steeplechasing, jumping, army service. There
was nothing that the poor beast had not learned. Its name was Blume and I had
some pleasant successes with him. The last prize I got riding that horse was
when I rode for the Kaiser Prize in 1913. I was the only one who got over the
whole course without a single slip. In doing so I had an experience which
cannot easily be repeated. In galloping over a piece of heath land, I suddenly
stood on my head. The horse had stepped into a rabbit hole and in my fall I
broke my collar-bone. Notwithstanding the breakage. I rode another forty miles
without making a mistake and arrived keeping good time.
LAST CHAPTER °