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“Slow but sure”

Event ID: 550

02 April 1918

50.25304237994465, 3.3653950382567883

Source ID: 43

The Red Knight of Germany, the story of Baron von Richthofen, Floyd Gibbons, 1927, 1959 Bantam Books

While the celebrations of these victories were being held in the Staffel messrooms that night, the ace spent the evening in his own hut reading. Manfred had a nerve control that enabled him to suppress the after-tingle of his strenuous air work and concentrate his attention on good novels or scientific works. He favoured geography and astronomy. The leader’s new decoration was both a source of pride and a subject of conversation for the victorious celebrants that night. The Flying Uhlan was the German air hero par excéllence and, as such, their idol. Lubbert, one of his new flyers on Staffel 11, pointed out that it would seem only natural if Manfred, with all his strenuous work and the honours he had gained, had no place in his heart for friends and comradeship.

He declared that he had found the exact opposite true. His leader, he held, was both a kind superior and at the same time a loyal comrade to all his fellow officers. When off duty, he played hockey with them or frequently took a hand at bridge after dinner. Lubbert had gone to him with questions and worries, and always found him sympathetic. As a teacher, he had quickly gained the confidence of his pupils, but he demanded eagerness, enthusiasm, and application in return. He seldom lost his patience over stupid questions, and always had complete control of his temper. His strictness was directed principally in the selection of his pilots. He took all beginners under his close observation, and, if convinced that the applicant was not morally or technically qualified to fight in his squadron, he transferred him to some other unit. He judged his pilots upon their capabilities, and not according to his personal likes or dislikes.

Not only the officers but the enlisted men and mechanics of the squadron felt that these characteristics of their leader were responsible for making him the cool, capable, thinking killing machine he became in an air fight. They believed he had all the qualities necessary to an air fighter: to fly well, to shoot well, to see everything, to keep one’s nerve and to be plucky.

“Slow but sure” was the motto attributed to him, and he was quoted as saying “Better shoot down one plane less than to be shot down one’s self, because then one can be of no more use to one’s country.

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