The Many Resting Places of the Red Baron

by MSO
Australian soldiers with the Red Baron's Fokker Triplane.

Captain Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the “Red Baron” was shot down on April 21, 1918.

Manfred von Richtofen, better known as the Red Baron was the ace-of-aces in World War I and was credited with 80 air combat victories. Flying his bright red Fokker triplane he was well known in the skies above Europe and was respected, admired and feared by his adversaries. Unlike the gruesome battles waged on the ground, fair-play was an unwritten rule among ace pilots and chivalry and camaraderie were well documented between the Allied and German airforces.

Von Richthofen was fatally wounded just after 11 a.m. on April 21, 1918 while flying over the Somme River in France. Credit for the hit was given to Canadian pilot Captain Roy Brown but later investigations claim that he was hit from the ground. Von Richtofen managed to land his plane but died soon after. He was only 25 years of age.

Despite being on the side of the enemies, allied soldiers held him in great respect. A full military funeral for Richthofen was arranged and he was buried in a village cemetery near Amiens the next day.

His body lay in state for a day in an airport hangar. Hundreds of Allied soldiers filed by to pay their respects. Six airmen, who all shared the rank of captain with von Richtofen, were his pallbearers and 14 Australian soldiers acted as his guard of honor firing a salute and reversed arms as a sign of respect. Allied squadrons that were stationed near by left memorial wreaths emblazoned with the words “To Our Gallant and Worthy Foe”.

The night of his funeral Royal Airforce Pilots dropped canisters containing the news of his death and pictures of his funeral over the airbase where von Richthofen was stationed.

But that was to be only the first of his funerals. In the early 1920s, the French built a new military cemetery in Fricourt that was used to hold the remains of German war dead and von Richtohofen’s body was reinterred there. In 1925, Richthofen’s youngest brother had his body removed and reburied¬† in Germany at the Invalidenfriedhof or Invalids’ Cemetery in Berlin. The cemetery, which was founded in 1748 was established to provide a final resting place for war veterans especially high ranking ones. A state funeral was held which was attended by the German President and Chancellor and the entire cabinet.

the grave of Baron manfred von Richthofen in Berlin Germany

The Grave of the Red Baron in Berlin.

Later the German military under Nazi rule held another memorial ceremony for Richthofen and erected a massive new tombstone in his honor.

During the Cold War, the cemetery which was located near the Russian border, was used as an escape route for those people trying to escape Soviet rule. Richthofen’s grave was riddled with many bullets that Russian soldiers fired in an attempt to stop people from fleeing and in 1975, relatives of Richthofen moved his grave to a family plot in the Sudfriedhof or South Cemetery in Wiesbaden, Germany where he is buried next to his brother and sister.

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