|~ A Regimental Stein and a Story ~
By Ron Heiligenstein, S.C.I. Master Steinologist
This month’s featured stein is a pottery regimental stein originally owned by
Reservist Knorn. The base of the stein is a series of relief stirrups and the
lid is similar to an ulan’s (chapka) helmet. The stein’s unit designation
indicates Knorn served with the Ulan Regiment “Czar Alexander III of Russia”
(West Prussian) No. 1 that was garrisoned at Militsch from 1902 to 1905.
There is an interesting story associated with this regiment. World War One started on August 1st 1914, about nine years after Knorn purchased his stein. On August 2nd 1914, a twenty-two year old first lieutenant led a patrol from the 3rd squadron of West Prussian Ulans over the Prosna River into Russian occupied Poland. Meeting no resistance at the river, the patrol rode on to the Village of Kielce where they awakened the village priest, informing him that war had been declared and his village was occupied by German cavalry.
Four uneventful days passed. During the fifth night the lieutenant was awakened and told there were thirty Russian cossacks in the street directly in front of the church where they were staying. A light drizzle was falling at the time. Outnumbered, the ulans in the dark of night quietly led their horses through a hole in the wall of the churchyard that had previously been made for just such an eventuality. Peeking over the church wall the next morning, the lieutenant saw the cossacks leaving the village. Having fulfilled their mission, to watch for Russian activity, the patrol returned to their garrison town, which being of the 3rd squadron, in 1914 was Ostrowo rather than Militsch.
Upon their return, “the people of Ostrowo thought they were seeing ghosts,” as word had gotten back that the patrol had been slaughtered by the cossacks. And while they were dismounting to the cheers of their companions, seventy miles a way “the lieutenant’s family was accepting condolences in their parlor that looked almost like a botanical garden.” What a relief it must have been when they learned their son was alive. Regardless, within twenty-four hours of arriving back at Ostrowo, this lieutenant and his regiment were on a train heading toward Belgium. But by October 1914 on the Western Front, it had become obvious that ulans would have little or no opportunity to fulfill their traditional role as lancers, as the war had evolved into a battle of attrition in the trenches and barbed wire of northern France.
By the spring of 1915, disgusted with trench warfare, the lieutenant requested a transfer. He was soon transferred to the Military Supply Train, an especially poor assignment for an ambitious young officer. Soon thereafter he wrote his commanding officer: “My Dear Excellency, I have not gone to war to collect cheese and eggs, but for another purpose.” He was soon transferred to the Air Service. The fact that his uncle and namesake was commander of the prestigious Regiment Garde du Corps, certainly didn’t hinder the lieutenant’s request for a transfer.
So who was this young first lieutenant? Are you willing to make a guess?
It was Manfried Freiherr von Richthofen, the Baron von Richthofen, known to us as the Red Baron, and formerly with the West Prussian Ulan Regiment No. 1 that saw some limited activity on the border of Russian occupied Poland during the opening days of World War One.