The Regina Coin Club (RCC) recently announced the Pour le Mérite order (or “For Merit” order, known during the First World War as the “Blue Max”) awarded to German fighter ace Lothar von Richthofen would be displayed at its Fall Show and Sale at the Turvey Centre near Regina, Sask. on Oct. 17-18.
Richthofen was the younger brother of the famed Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen, who has since become one of the most widely recognized fighter pilots of all time .
The younger Richthofen joined the German Imperial Army as a cavalry officer three years before the beginning of the First World War. He fought at several battles in France, where he was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class, and joined the German Army Air Service in 1915, becoming an observer with the Jasta 23 squadron and later training to become a pilot. He was awarded the Iron Cross First Class in December 1916. A few months later, he was assigned to his brother’s Jasta 11 squadron, with which he shot down 20 Allied planes during his first few weeks of service.
After shooting down 24 Allied planes, he was awarded the German order of merit, the Pour le Mérite, which was the highest award issued during the First World War. Because of its blue enamel and the fact the first recipient was named Max Immelmann, the medal has been referred to as the Blue Max. The reason this German order of merit has a French name is because most of Europe’s royalty used French as the common language.
Richthofen was severely wounded from anti-aircraft fire in May 1917 and didn’t return to action until September. By war’s end, he had shot down a total of 40 Allied planes.
Following the war, Richthofen became a commercial pilot, carrying mail and passengers between Berlin and Hamburg.
Richthofen eventually died on July 4, 1922, after his plane’s engine failed.
FROM GERMANY TO CANADA
“How the medal came to Canada is another story that’s worth telling,” said George Manz, RCC president, who added Jeffrey Hoare Auctions sold the medal earlier this year.
The auction house quoted a letter issued shortly before Bruce Beatty’s death. It reads: “First, with respect to the Blue Max, I received the medal from Lothar’s best friend, Esser Lubbert. In 1963, I was invited to the Richthofen Squadron Reunion in Baden-Baden, Germany. As part of the invitation, I was asked to bring along and display some of my medal collection at the reunion. At some point during the reunion, Lubbert suggested that we go to a restaurant to have a bite to eat. During our get-together, Lubbert commented on how impressed he was with my medal collection. He then went on to offer Lothar von Richthofen’s Blue Max to me for my collection and expressed how pleased he would be if I were to accept it and include it in my collection. According to Lubbert, before Lothar von Richthofen died, he gave his Blue Max to his friend which is how it came into Lubbert’s possession.”
Beatty, who became famous for designing the Order of Canada, had “one of the best military medal collections in the world,” said Manz.