Lothar von Richthofen

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Lothar von Richthofen
Richthofenlothar.jpg
Lothar von Richthofen wearing the Pour le Mérite.
Born September 27, 1894
Breslau, Silesia, German Empire
Died July 4, 1922 (aged 27)
Fuhlsbüttel
Buried at Südfriedhof in Wiesbaden
Allegiance German Empire
Service/branch Luftstreitkräfte
Years of service 1914-1918
Rank Oberleutnant
Unit KG 4, Jasta 11
Awards Pour le Mérite, Iron Cross First and Second Class
Relations Manfred von Richthofen (brother), Wolfram von Richthofen (cousin)

Lothar-Siegfried Freiherr von Richthofen (27 September 1894 – 4 July 1922) was a German First World War fighter ace credited with 40 victories. He was a younger brother of top-scoring ace Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) and a distant cousin of Luftwaffe Field Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen.

Early career and Jasta 11[edit]

Like his brother Manfred, Lothar began the war as a cavalry officer with the 4th Dragoon Regiment. In October 1914, while stationed at Attigny, he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class for valour. The following month, his regiment was transferred to the Eastern Front.[citation needed]

Richthofen joined the German Army Air Service (Luftstreitkräfte) in late 1915. He served from January 1916 as an observer with Kasta 23,[citation needed] sometimes observing for Otto Creutzmann[1] and saw action during the Battle of Verdun. He won the Iron Cross 1st Class in December and then began training as a pilot.[citation needed]

His first posting as a pilot was to his brother's Jasta 11 on 6 March 1917. His first victory claim followed on 28 March for an FE 2b of No. 25 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps.

Taking part in the period of German dominance called Bloody April by the British, Lothar had won 15 more victories by the beginning of May. When his brother went on leave, Lothar von Richthofen assumed command of the squadron.

Richthofen and Albert Ball[edit]

During the first week of May 1917, Lothar von Richthofen scored three more victories. On the evening of 7 May near Douai, he led a flight of 5 Albatros D.III's from Jasta 11 that encountered 11 S.E.5s from the "elite" No. 56 Squadron RFC, including the top English ace of the time, Captain Albert Ball, as well as a SPAD S.VII from No. 19 Squadron, and a Sopwith Triplane of No 8 (Naval) Squadron.[citation needed] In a running battle in deteriorating visibility in the middle of a thunderstorm over Bourlon Wood, both sides became scattered. Richthofen engaged in single combat with the British Triplane. At about the same time, Ball was seen by fellow 56 Squadron pilot Cyril Crowe chasing a red Albatros into a thundercloud. Ball lost control of his plane and crashed fatally. Though forced to land his damaged aircraft, Richthofen escaped injury. The British Sopwith Triplane involved in the action returned to base undamaged.[2]

Richthofen posted a claim for shooting down the Sopwith Triplane. However, the propaganda value of Ball's death under the guns of a German pilot was obvious, and the German High Command awarded a victory over Ball to Lothar. The fallacy of the award was readily apparent. The idea that an experienced pilot such as Richthofen would confuse a triplane with a biplane was ludicrous. Leutnant Hailer, a German pilot on the ground who witnessed the crash and was the first German at the crash scene saw no battle damage to Ball's plane. The doctor who autopsied Ball reported massive injuries to Ball from the crash, but no bullet wounds. Nevertheless, the official line was that Lothar von Richthofen shot down Albert Ball.[2] Later research suggests that Ball became disoriented by vertigo, accidentally entering an inverted dive which choked his plane's carburettor and stopped the engine, causing him to crash.[3]

Pour le Mérite[edit]

Richthofen raised his total to 24 by 13 May, when, after shooting down a BE.2, he was wounded in the hip by anti-aircraft fire and crash-landed; his injuries kept him out of combat for five months. On 14 May he was awarded the Pour le Mérite, and he resumed command of Jasta 11 in September 1917. In early 1918 he suffered a severe ear infection and was hospitalised in Berlin.

Returning to his unit in February, he claimed 3 Bristol Fighter F2.Bs on 11 and 12 March, before he was again forced down on 13 March by a Sopwith Camel flown by Captain Augustus Orlebar of No. 73 Squadron. Nursing his crippled Fokker Dr1 Triplane into a landing, Richthofen clipped a high-tension wire and crashed heavily, suffering serious head injuries. He was still recovering when he learned of his brother's death.

Lothar returned to service with Jasta 11 in July 1918. He scored his final victory (a DH-9a) on 12 August 1918, flying a Fokker D.VII. The next day he was again wounded in action against Sopwith Camels, probably by Captain Field E. Kindley of the 148th Aero Squadron USAS.[4] He was promoted to Oberleutnant, and saw no further combat before the war ended in November.

Considering the amount of time Lothar von Richthofen spent on the front and in hospitals, he was one of the most combat efficient and prolific flying aces of the war, perhaps even more so than his brother Manfred. Of his total of 40 confirmed victories, Lothar scored 33 in just three months: 15 in April 1917, 8 in May 1917, and 10 in August 1918.

Orders and Medals[edit]

Prussia / German Empire

Other German States

Other Central Powers

Prussian / Imperial German Badges

Post war[edit]

With the return of peace, Lothar von Richthofen worked briefly on a farm before accepting an industrial position. He married Countess Doris von Keyserlingk in Cammerau in June 1919, fathering a son, Wolf-Manfred (1922–2010) and a daughter, Carmen Viola (1920–1971), before the marriage was dissolved. He then became a commercial pilot, carrying passengers and mail between Berlin and Hamburg. On July 4, 1922 Richthofen died in a crash of his LVG C VI at Fuhlsbüttel due to an engine failure. Also on board were actress Fern Andra and her director Georg Bluen. Both Bluen and Andra survived, Andra spending a year recovering from her injuries.

Lothar von Richthofen was interred next to his father at the Garrison Cemetery in Schweidnitz, but the cemetery was levelled by the Poles when the city was transferred to Poland after World War II. Today the area is a football field, although von Richthofen's headstone still exists.[5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Franks et al 1993 p. 94.
  2. ^ a b Albert Ball, VC. p. 157. 
  3. ^ Albert Ball, VC. pp. 212–213. 
  4. ^ Richthofen; Beyond the Legend of the Red Baron, Peter Kilduff, 1993
  5. ^ Lothar von Richthofen at Findagrave

Regarding personal names: Freiherr is a former title (translated as Baron), which is now legally a part of the last name. The feminine forms are Freifrau and Freiin. Lothar is buried next to his brother Manfred von Richthofen on the Südfriedhof in Wiesbaden.

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  • Franks, Norman; Bailey, Frank W.; Guest, Russell. Above the Lines: The Aces and Fighter Units of the German Air Service, Naval Air Service and Flanders Marine Corps, 1914–1918. Grub Street, 1993. ISBN 0-948817-73-9, ISBN 978-0-948817-73-1.
  • Terry C Treadwell & Alan C Wood, German Knights of the Air
  • Norman Franks & Hal Giblin, Under the Guns of the German Aces
  • Chaz Bowyer, Albert Ball VC

External links[edit]