Manfred von Richthofen was a German ace whose reputation is well known and whose story has been told in numerous books and films. In France, von Richthofen was nicknamed the ‘Little Red’ or the ‘Red Devil’. But it is his British nickname that has stood the test of time: the ‘Red Baron’.
A German tactician and fighter
Born in 1892 into an aristocratic Prussian family, he began his military career at the age of just nine and joined the Walhstadt Cadet School. At the age of 19, he joined the Uhlan cavalry regiment. With the static trench warfare marking the end for cavalry units, a side-lined von Richthofen, desperate for action, joined the German Army Air Service and became a fighter pilot in 1915, at the age of 24. During the First World War, aviators were widely feted and admired. After a slow start where he was rated average, Von Richthofen quickly progressed and became a very good pilot, tactician and fighter. As his confirmed ‘kills’ mounted, German military medals and honours were thrown at him.