Meetings and medals at HQ
Event ID: 564
09 June 1917
Source ID: 33
During Richthofen’s second visit to Bad Kreuznach he met Czar Ferdinand of Bulgaria, who made a special impression on him: “The Czar is a tall, stately gentleman with an angularly hooked eagle-nose and a very intelligent face. Everything he says is substantive. He spoke with me for quite a while, asked me about this and that in aerial combat and I must say that I was astonished at how broad an insight he had gained into my business. Seldom have I found such an awareness among Regular Army officers who are not flyers.”
It was not unusual that the Bulgarian monarch conversed in German. He was born a Prince of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and was elected to rule by the Bulgarian National Assembly in 1887.
At the Kaiser’s official state dinner, Richthofen joined a list of luminaries – including Hindenburg and Ludendorff – who filled two long tables. Richthofen sat at the end of the Kaiser’s table, next to Fürst von Pless, whom he thanked for the recent hunting invitation. The flyer was surprised, however, when the elderly nobleman hinted that he wanted a favour. Richthofen wrote: “He told me that he wanted his son to become a flyer. I find this quite a decision for a Prince like him to let his oldest son take up such a dangerous trade as war…But one thing impressed me about the old gentleman: that at the age of 75 he sat in an aeroplane with Fritz Falkenhayn and flew around the area for an hour and a half. He was so thrilled by it that, after alighting, he pressed 20 Marks into the hand of each mechanic. He would have preferred to take off again. That is a thing that impressed me greatly, for one would find no end of younger gentlemen who are knights without fear or reproach, but who would never be moved to climb into an aeroplane.”
The next day Czar Ferdinand made sure he was not outshone by his distant cousin, Duke Carl Eduard of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who had awarded Manfred von Richthofen the duchy’s Silver Bravery Medal. The Bulgarian monarch presented the pilot with his kingdom’s Bravery Order 4th Class 1st Degree.