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19 April 2008 @ 09:54 pm
 
TO THE GERMAN FLYING CORPS:
Rittmeister Baron Manfred von Richthofen was killed in aerial combat on April 21st, 1918. He was buried with full military honours.

From the British Royal Air Force


Manfred in 1916:


Manfred, on 21 April 1918, an hour after his death in combat:



(A small tribute, from Hungary with love.)

A small boy lived in the country, long ago,
Who loved to hunt for sportsmanship and fun:
No pheasant, boar, wild bear or doe
Could flee his sharp blue eyes or his gun.

His aim was true, his horsemanship fine;
As he roamed his folks’ woodsy unspoiled heaven.
His father, a proud soldier, made him join
A military academy at eleven.

A mindless obedience to the Fatherland
Was drilled into him, til war began.
He joined the first regiment of the Uhlan
A lancer lieutenant at twenty-one.

Deployed near Russia, away in no man’s land,
A scoutsman too far from the line of fight,
His mission? Serve as quartermaster’s hand,
And by and large no chance to fight in sight.

Like many officers of the cavalry,
His hunting blood was up at the affront.
“I didn’t enlist to collect eggs,” said he,
and promptly was transferred to the front.

At first a petty in-flight observer and an aide
With no hand at the wheel or gunnery:
“I didn’t join the air corps to play peep”, he said,
And trained as war pilot at twenty-three.

He learned to chase his quarry, hit and hide,
And followed every hunter´s golden rule:
To get all the advantage on his side,
and always finish prey off - or be a fool.

His hit squad struck and baffled the enemy,
“Richthofen’s Flying Circus”, the Allied’s bane.
His brother’s yellow Albatros, his own red Fokker III,
Voss’ tan-mauve, and Göring’s blue triplane.

Le Diable Rouge, called him the Brit,
As one by one he shot their aces down:
Hawker, Knight, Farquhar, Raymond, Smith;
The Great War’s highest score at eighty-one.

As Brits’ survival chances dropped to one-third
They set a prize on him, alive or dead:
Their nemesis, their target most preferred,
Until one day they shot him in the head.

Though blinded by his wounds, he did fly back
And landed despite shrapnel in his brain.
“I’m not dead yet and I won’t be land-stuck!”
Three weeks later, he climbed back in his plane.

The Brits were disbelieving and bemused
To have their foe skylarking once again.
The German High Command was not amused:
Their hero was worth more alive than slain.

They told him to quit flying and stay on land,
And keep from now on out of danger’s way.
He ignored orders to take up ground command:
“If others can’t choose not to fight, why should I?”

And although scarred for life, he flew again.
Haunted by headaches, all joy gone sour:
“After each fight I feel nothing but pain,”
He wrote – the Reich’s tragic hero at twenty-four.

On April 21, east-wind, foggy and gray,
He flew too far across the enemy line;
While pursuing a beginner, unseen Archie
Shot him through the heart at twenty-five.

On April 22 the Allied buried him
And mourned him like the best among their own:
Full military honours, and the first ever
Missing Man Formation to be flown.

He never lived to see his Reich surrender,
Or rise again to lose another war:
Unmarred, his fame lives and he’s remembered
Around the world by every flying corps.

----------

I´ll be in Wiesbaden til Monday night, to visit his grave on his 90th deathday.
 
 
 
CKlediablerouge on April 20th, 2008 02:52 am (UTC)
That's a beautiful poem! Did you write it yourself?

And lucky you being able to go to Wiesbaden. I missed out on going there last year. I wonder how many others you will meet?
Resident anarchist batmax_und_moritz on April 22nd, 2008 08:40 am (UTC)
Jawohl... I thought it out in German first but then nearly no one´d understood it here ;)

I met many people - even a few members of "his" JG (now 71) on leave - there were WWII veterans and teens, from several countries; it was awkward and not really all a "formal" ceremony but it was moving in its own improvised way and it felt just right this way - the feeling of being among truly like-minded people, all different but united in our deep respect - and I think Manni´d have liked it better than official bugles from press-hungry folk who don´t really care for him or spare him a thought all these years. It was a kind of spontaneous camaraderie formation among "land rats" - and in spirit, he was somehow there at the lead. I can´t describe it, it sounds weird and you´ll laugh, but it was one of those days you cherish in memory :) BTW, a cemetery employee said his grave has always covered in fresh flowers and wreaths since he was re-buried there.

In ten years´ time, I hope to have got a flying license at last and fly, if not over his grave (inhabited air zone restrictions etc), then over the place he fell near Corbie. And I have to visit Schweidnitz and Breslau.
(Deleted comment)
Resident anarchist batmax_und_moritz on April 22nd, 2008 08:42 am (UTC)
And - did you? :)

Hard to believe it, oh yes. And where he and Voss and the others are concerned, I´ve got this weird feeling of unfulfulment, as if we haven´t heard the last.
Alice Dryden: Husky Airwayshuskyteer on April 21st, 2008 09:49 am (UTC)
Oh, I would love to visit the grave. Thanks for the thoughts!
Resident anarchist batmax_und_moritz on April 22nd, 2008 08:42 am (UTC)
I´m glad I had the chance, but he is and isn´t quite there, if you know what I mean.

You´re welcome :)
mercenaire: яlichtbildner on September 23rd, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC)
so handsome even after death..