Eduard Ritter von Schleich

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Eduard Ritter von Schleich
Schleich wearing his Pour le Mérite on his neck.
Nickname(s) "The Black Knight"
Born (1888-08-09)9 August 1888
Died 15 November 1947(1947-11-15) (aged 59)
Dießen am Ammersee, Bavaria
Allegiance German Empire
Service/branch Infantry, Luftstreitkräfte, Luftwaffe
Years of service 1909–1919, 1935–1944
Rank Lieutenant General
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-Maria Joseph Ritter von Schleich (August 9, 1888 – November 15, 1947), born Schleich, was a high scoring Bavarian flying ace of the First World War. He was credited with 35 aerial victories at the end of the war. During the Second World War he served in the Luftwaffe as a general.

Early life[edit]

Born in Munich, Bavaria, the son of an artist, Schleich's family soon moved to the spa city of Bad Tölz. After he left school Schleich decided to enroll in the Bavarian Army's cadet program and in 1909 was commissioned into the 11th Bavarian Infantry Regiment. Before the outbreak of the First World War, Schleich was plagued by medical problems and was released from active duty. He volunteered again and on 25 August 1914 was badly wounded in the Battle of Lorraine.

First World War[edit]

While Schleich was recovering from his wounds of August 1914 he decided to volunteer for 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. In October 1915 he joined FA 2b, 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, while still in the air he had his crewman bandage his wound and then completed his assignment. He was decorated with the Iron Cross First Class for this action. The wound meant he did not see further active 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 Schleich within a month the Jasta had downed 36 enemy aircraft, 19 of them credited to Schleich personally.

When Leutnant Erich Limpert, his best friend on the Jasta, 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 in October 1917 Schleich was reassigned to command Jasta 32, with his tally of kills then at 25.

He was awarded the Pour le Mérite Order in December 1917, and after a spell commanding Jastaschule 1, on 15 March 1918 he took command of Jagdgruppe Nr. 8, a collection of Jastas 23, 34 and 35, and in the last month of the war he commanded Jasta 21. By the war's end his score was 35.

Schleich in his Albatros aircraft as leader of JASta 21

Post war[edit]

Schleich was briefly hospitalised in Bad Reichenhall, regaining his strength after many years of combat. In 1919, he was posted as an 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 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, Schleich became a liaison officer with the Army Peace Commission, responsible for the implementation of the Armistice terms.

Demobilised in December 1921, 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, Schleich returned to military service with the rank of 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.

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 the Second World War.

Second World War[edit]

As a Generalmajor, Schleich became the commander of the fighter pilot school (Jagdfliegerschule 5) at Vienna-Schwechat, Austria, in December 1939. In late 1940 he was sent to Romania as part of the Luftwaffe Mission, assisting in the organization and training of the Romanian Air Force.

In mid-1941 Schleich then became Commander of the Occupation Forces in Denmark, spending nearly two and one-half years there.

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 he arrived. Placed onto the reserve list in mid-November, Schleich eventually retired as a Generalleutnant.

Arrested by British forces after the war, he died in custody on 15 November 1947, aged 59 years, from a heart condition. Schleich was buried in Diessen am Ammersee, near Munich.



  • 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

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of Jagdgeschwader 26 Schlageter
November 1, 1938 – December 9, 1939
Succeeded by
Major Hans Hugo Witt
Preceded by
Commanding General of the Luftwaffe in Denmark
June 12, 1941 – May 1, 1944
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Andreas Nielsen
Preceded by
General Josef Kammhuber
Commanding General of the Luftwaffe in Norway
October 10, 1944 – November 15, 1944
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Ernst-August Roth