Eduard Ritter von Schleich
|Eduard Ritter von Schleich|
Eduard Ritter von Schleich with the Pour le Mérite at his neck
|Nickname(s)||"The Black Knight"|
9 August 1888|
|Died||15 November 1947
|Service/branch||Infantry, Luftstreitkräfte, Luftwaffe|
|Years of service||1909 – 1919, 1935 – 1944|
|Unit||FA 2, Jasta 21, 32, JG IV, JGR 8, SS 28|
|Awards||Pour le Mérite, Iron Cross 1st & 2nd Class, Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Max-Joseph|
Eduard Ritter von Schleich (August 9, 1888 – November 15, 1947), né Eduard-Maria Joseph Schleich was a high scoring Bavarian flying ace of World War I. He was credited with 35 aerial victories at the end of the war. During World War II, he served in the Luftwaffe as a general.
Born in Munich, Bavaria to an artist his family soon moved to the spa city of Bad Tölz. After he finished school Schleich decided to enroll to a cadet program in the Bavarian Army and eventually earned a commission with the 11th Bavarian Infantry Regiment in 1909. Prior to the outbreak of World War I, Schleich was plagued with medical problems and released from active duty. He volunteered again and on 25 August 1914 was badly wounded in the Battle of Lorraine.
World War I
While he was recovering from his wounds he decided to volunteer in the Royal Bavarian Air Service, and was accepted for training as an observer. After service with FEA 1 on two seaters, he applied for pilot training and qualified in September 1915, he joined FA 2b in October 1915, and in January 1916 during an observation flight, Schleich was wounded in the arm by an exploding anti-aircraft shell. Instead of returning to base, Schleich had his crewman bandage his wound while still in the air and then continued to complete his assignment. He was decorated with the Iron Cross First Class for this action.
The wound meant he did not see further service until September, when he assumed command of Fliegerschule 1. He joined Jasta 21 in May 1917, and commanded the unit from June onwards. Prior to his leadership, Jasta 21 had a lacklustre combat record and low morale, but under Oberleutnant von Schleich within a month the Jasta had downed 36 enemy aircraft, 19 credited to Schleich personally.
When his best friend on the Jasta, Leutnant Erich Limpert was killed in a dogfight, Schleich ordered his plane to be painted all black. This black plane soon led to Schleich being dubbed 'The Black Knight'.
Ongoing Prussian and Bavarian political arguments over a non-prussian commanding a Prussian fighter unit caused a new Bavarian Jasta to be formed and Schleich was reassigned to command Jasta 32 in October 1917, with his tally at 25.
He was awarded the Order Pour le Mérite in December, and after a spell commanding Jastaschule 1, on 15 March he took command of Jagdgruppe Nr. 8, a collection of Jastas 23, 34 and 35, in the last month of the war he commanded Jasta 21. By the war's end his score was 35.
Von Schleich was briefly hospitalised in Bad Reichenhall regaining his strength after many years of combat. In 1919, he was assigned to as Inspector with the Bavarian Air Service, an aviation unit of the Bavarian State Police.
In April 1919, The German Communist Party forcibly gained control of Munich, and von Schleich was marked for immediate arrest and trial. Government troops were able to oust the Communists the following month, returning Bavaria once again to the Weimar Republic.
After a short stint as a pilot with the Bavarian Police, von Schleich became a liaison officer with the Army Peace Commission, responsible for the implementation of the Armistice terms.
Demobilised in December 1921, von Schleich worked as a peat farmer, and later as a Lufthansa airline pilot. Leaving the airlines in 1929, he started a flying club in Munich. He joined the Nazi Party in 1931, and at the same time became a member of the SS-Fliegerstaffel, a paramilitary flying organization. He was given control of the Hitler Youth flying programmes, and promoted to General. With the creation of the Luftwaffe in 1935, von Schleich returned to military service as a Major overseeing the training of air reserve units and of dive-bombing pilots.
He was then assigned to command the new Jagdgeschwader 234 in 1937. Von Schleich was promoted to Oberst and assigned to Jagdgeschwader 132 ‘Schlageter’, tasked with defending the western frontier of Germany. Re-designated in 1939 as Jagdgeschwader 26, the wing saw only limited service during the initial phases of World War II.
World War II
As a Generalmajor von Schleich became the commander of the fighter pilot school (Jagdfliegerschule 5) at Wien-Schwechat, Austria in December 1939. In late 1940 when he was sent to Romania to the Luftwaffe Mission, assisting in the organization and training of the Romanian Air Force.
In mid 1941 Von Schleich then became Commander of the Occupation Forces in Denmark, spending nearly two and one-half years there.
Von Schleich’s final assignment was Luftwaffe Ground Forces Commander in Norway, a post he held until late 1944. The regional command was disbanded in September, nine months after von Schleich arrived. Placed onto the reserve list in mid-November, von Schleich eventually retired as a Generalleutnant.
Held by British forces after the war, he died in custody on 15 November 1947, aged 59 years, from a heart condition. Von Schleich was buried in Diessen am Ammersee, near Munich.
- Iron Cross of 1914, 1st and 2nd class (4 December 1917)
- Order Pour le Mérite (5 December 1917)
- Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Max Joseph (14 June 1918)
- Whiteside, Darren J. (2007). Rampant Lion: The Life of Eduard Ritter von Schleich, Germany's 'Black Knight' of WWI. Warren, Michigan: A & S Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9791946-1-0. Library of Congress Control Number: 2007903331
|Commander of Jagdgeschwader 26 Schlageter
November 1, 1938 – December 9, 1939
Major Hans Hugo Witt
|Commanding General of the Luftwaffe in Denmark
June 12, 1941 – May 1, 1944
Generalmajor Andreas Nielsen
General Josef Kammhuber
|Commanding General of the Luftwaffe in Norway
October 10, 1944 – November 15, 1944
Generalleutnant Ernst-August Roth