This is an unbelievably-gorgeous, framed recreation of Bavaria’s rampant lion against its blue and white flag, a symbol that adorned von Schleich’s airplanes. Eduard Ritter von Schleich was born in 1888, making one of WW I’s older fighter pilots. He was very successful pilot who survived the war with thirty-five victories. He was awarded both the Orden Pour le Mérite and Bavaria’s highest military honor, the Knight’s Cross of the Military Max Joseph Order. Von Schleich not only commanded jastas, but also headed Jagdgeschwader Nr 4b (one of only four WW I fighter groups). After the war, he was involved in a number of aviation-related jobs, including flying for the Bavarian Police and Lufthansa. In the 1930’s he joined the Nazi Party, and even flew Adolf Hitler on his 1932 campaign trail. After the Nazis came to power in 1933, he continued to work within the party. When the Luftwaffe was created, he was immediately made a major. His rise was steady. As an oberst he commanded JG Nr 26 prior to WW II. This famous Jagdgeschwader was later commanded by Adolf Galland (1912-1996), and flew against England during the Battle of Britain.
Von Schleich had long suffered from ill health, even during WW I. While he commanded all Norway’s and Denmark’s Luftwaffe forces his health declined even more, so that he retired in November 1944. At WW II’s end, he was questioned by the Allies, as were all high-ranking Luftwaffe officers. He died of the ill health in 1947.
Our offering today is an actual piece of canvas on which von Schleich’s personal emblem has been painted. It is a recreation of the actual design that graced von Schleich’s planes. [Von Schleich was well known for flying an Albatros D. V. and a Fokker D. VII, both of which carried the design. For much of his career he flew a colorful Albatros D. V. When a close friend was killed in combat, however, von Schleich had his Albatros D. V. painted black to honor him. He carried the same color scheme forward when he converted to the Fokker D. VII. From that, he earned the sobriquet “The Black Knight” or the “Black Knight of Germany.” In both cases, his planes displayed his personal emblem, a red lion rampant from the Bavarian Coat-of-Arms]. The red lion’s claws are unsheathed. The lion bears a gold crown and rules over a blue and white checkerboard design that represents Bavaria’s flag. It is enclosed within a red-trimmed circle, and measures 22 ½” in diameter. The circular emblem is painted on a black piece of canvas. On the black canvas beneath the emblem, the words “Hauptmann Eduard Ritter von Schleich” appear in blue German script.
This was purchased in the 1990’s from a major WW I aviation museum located in rural Alabama (I cannot remember the museum’s name nor that of the Alabama town), which was closing due to the owner and his wife’s deaths in an air crash. The museum’s amazing collection had many reproduction aircraft from all of WW I’s combatant nations. They even had several of the airplanes used in filming The Blue Max. Items like this reproduction were simply pinned up on the walls. I was fortunate enough to acquire it. As you will note from our photos, the black background, which measures 30″ x 32,” was not perfectly cut. It gives the piece a certain “torn from the airplane’s side” look.
I had the fabric custom-framed. The simple but crisp-looking frame does not detract from the fabric, which measures 33 ½” x 36.” It has hung on the wall of my office for many years, but it is time to move it along to a new home. The new owner must promise to give it a good home where it can receive the respect and honor it deserves!