Manfred von Richthofen was born on May 2, 1892, in the city of Breslau in Prussia. His family, on both sides came with a strong military background. His mother's family could trace its lineage back to Frederick the Great and his great uncle, also Manfred von Richthofen, was a general commanding an army corps in the First World War. His father, Albrecht, however, never attained a rank higher than major in the cavalry; he was retired early on a military disability pension when he went partially deaf after rescuing one of his men who had fallen in a river during winter. It's been speculated that this early retirement saw the father encourage his eldest son, Manfred, into a military career. It was a way of vicariously living out the dreams of a distinguished military career denied the father by medical disability.
So with a father
behind him, it's not surprising that Manfred von Richthofen first put on a
military uniform at the age of 15 when he entered the prestigious Kadettenstadt
(Cadet Academy). From then on, until he died at the age of 25, he was rarely in
civilian clothes. Richthofen graduated from cadet academy in 1911 and was posted
as an officer candidate for his first choice a prestigious Uhlan regiment, or
lancers. In 1912 he was made Leutnant and posted near his home in Militsch
(now Milicz, Poland).
figure is cast wearing a double-breasted tunic. In the German army, this
was a style permitted only the elite, light cavalry units, Hussars and Uhlans.
And according to World War One buff and Victoria Scale Modellers prez', Will
Hendriks, German pilots in the First World War had no uniform of their own and
so maintained the uniforms of their former army units. According to one
historical source the buttons on these uniforms were either a dulled brass or a
brushed steel. I never could find a picture or reference that gave me a
definitive answer on what Richthofen wore. So,
Other research was needed to determine the color of the two circular cockades on the field cap. These cockades varies according to the home state of the army unit. So in Richthofen's case the upper cockade is in the colors of Imperial Germany: black, white and red. The lower cockade is the colors of Prussia: black, white and black. Incidentally, the military regalia shops were a good source of information on some of these questions.
While the Iron Cross and the large steel pilot's badge presented few problems I ran into a brick wall on the color of the ribbons worn on opposite tucked around one of the tunic buttons. One of the militaria store owners said if I could get a definitive list of all Richthofen's decorations it might be possible to figure out. But I couldn't come across
that anywhere and wasn't able to do that kind of deep research. I opted for painting in the color of two ribbons, one black with white borders and the other red and blue. These colors were depicted in a Time-Life history of aviation series. It's quite likely they are wrong and I'm perfectly willing to be corrected and paint the ribbons over. Any offers out there?
The flying jacket was painted entirely in blue black and then highlighted with
pale blue, a bit too much I think looking at the back. I wanted to give
the leather coat a bit of sheen to suggest leather. I sought advice from
VSM member, Jeff Dick, and he suggested just using buffing the coat gently after
laying down a coat of matte lacquer or finish. Good advice, which
unfortunately I ignored. I tried to lay down acrylic matte finish in
I painted the boots in brown, a mixture of burnt sienna, gold ochre, white and lamp black. For the gloves gripped in one hand I used the same colors but with a touch of bright red. (Incidentally, the hand holding the gloves was the only part painted separately. All the others were fitted together then painted.) The coat was done in blue black and highlighted with a touch of pale blue. The same black and blue combo was used on the peak of the cap.
When it came time to mount the figure on a base I opted for a circular wooden disc with a nice routered edge. Since airfields in the First World War were usually grassed fields I didn't think it necessary to engage in a lot of land-scaping. The grass is static grass painted a number of greens and dry-brushed with tans and yellows. Overall I would have to give this figure a fairly strong recommendation, especially for anybody interested in Great War pilot aces. The likeness in the face is quite accurate and the pose, with the leather flying jacket pulled back gives a good view of some interesting details, like the double-breasted tunic front and the decorations. Well worth it and fun to paint.
Photos and text © by Richard Watts