Richthofen’s Cavalry Fight at Virton



Around the 22nd of August, Lt. Manfred von Richthofen with 15 Uhlans advanced into a woods near Virton, Belgium and when they got the other side of the woods, fell into a French ambush.

According to his account in his autobiography (pages 53-56), the horses of two of his Uhlans leaped the barricade blocking the path and and rode towards the French because the horses were in panic of the sound of all the gunfire.

His orderly’s horse was shot and fell down, trapping the orderly beneath it.

Richthofen and the rest of the Uhlans retreated back through the woods. The orderly returned two days later minus one of his boots, which was trapped under the horse. Richthofen claimed that there were about 100 rifles opposing them and they were firing from 50 to 100 yards. The orderly claims that “At least two squadrons of French cuirassiers had issued from the forest in order to plunder the fallen horses and brave Uhlans.”

This sentence gets my attention, as it tends to indicate that there were additional Prussian casualties besides the two men and horses who jumped the barricade and the orderly’s horse. As Richthofen’s autobiography was probably censored, it is possible that any reports of German killed might have been removed. Yet the sentence “…plunder the fallen horses and brave Uhlans” strongly indicates that there were indeed additional losses among the Uhlans and their horses that were not detailed in this book.

Has anyone examined this engagement in depth, checked the unit records, etc. and determined what actually occurred and what were the losses?

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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  1. Reasonable to be skeptical, but the two “brave” Uhlans who went along for the ride when their two “brave” horses bolted toward the French does fit with the plural implied by Uhlans. Two is enough for plural. It’s interesting that Manfred didn’t disguise the fact that he abandoned his orderly. Fits with Manfred not “putting a spin” on taking a priest as a hostage or reporting about civilians “going to the wall.” All in a day’s warfare for Manfred. Overall, did he have a history of engaging in personal PR?

    • Except the two squadrons of French cuirassiers came out “…to plunder the fallen horses and brave Uhlans.” So the first two Uhlan’s horses lept the barricade and disappeared off toward the French, never to be seen again. So who were the “fallen horses and brave Uhlans” left there besides his orderly?

      It is unusual that in the opening pages of his book he details three war crimes and him being ambushed.

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