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 and Hungary.
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 book.
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 the wounded.
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 Commander.
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 human being.
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 thoroughbred.
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.