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Prinz Friedrich Karl von Preußen, 1870


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»An die Soldaten der zweiten Armee!

Ihr betretet französischen Boden. Der Kaiser Napoleon hat ohne allen Grund an Deutschland den Krieg erklärt, er und seine Armee sind unsere Feinde. Das französische Volk ist nicht gefragt worden, ob es mit seinen deutschen Nachbarn einen blutigen Krieg führen wolle, ein Grund zur Feindschaft ist nicht vorhanden. Seid dessen eingedenk den friedlichen Bewohnern Frankreichs gegenüber, zeigt ihnen, daß in unserem Jahrhundert zwei Kulturvölker selbst im Kriege untereinander die Gebote der Menschlichkeit nicht vergessen, denkt stets daran, wie eure Eltern in der Heimat es empfinden würden, wenn ein Feind, was Gott verhüte, unsere Provinzen überschwemmte. Zeigt den Franzosen, daß das deutsche Volk nicht nur groß und tapfer, sondern auch gesittet und edelmütig dem Feinde gegenübersteht.«

Friedrich Karl von Preußen, 1870

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Prinz Friedrich Karl von Preußen, 1893-1917

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Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia was forced to land his green Albatros D1 after being attacked by a Royal Flying Corps aircraft in March 1917. His subsequent shooting and capture sparked a war of words between two Australian units, both of which took credit for his capture.

Prince Tassilo Wilhelm Humbert Leopold Friedrich Karl of Prussia (usually known as Prince Friedrich Karl or Frederick Charles) was born on 6 April 1893. He was an all-round sportsman, competing in football, tennis, and athletics. He took part in English tennis tournaments under the pseudonym F Karl, and was an accomplished rider, winning a bronze medal for show jumping with the German men's equestrian team at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.

During the First World War, Prince Friedrich commanded and flew with Fliegerabteillung (Artillerie) 258, an artillery observation unit. He was not allowed to join a fighter squadron but did manage to fly with one, Jasta 2 (also called Jasta Boelcke) on occasion. On 21 March he was flying with Jasta 2 near Lagnicourt, over the Australian lines when he became separated from the other aircraft in the squadron. He was attacked by Lieutenant Charles Edward Murray Pickthorn, a pilot with 32 Squadron Royal Flying Corps. Although his engine was shot through and he was wounded in the foot he managed to land in no man's land about 200 metres in front of the Australian front line.

Prince Friedrich tried to run across no man’s land to the German lines, but unfortunately for him, members of B Squadron, 13th Light Horse Regiment were patrolling on foot in the area, and men of the 26th Infantry Battalion were in forward posts nearby. Realising they could not catch him, the Australians opened fire. He was shot in the back and fell into a shallow trench before being captured and taken away by stretcher for treatment.

Both the 13th Light Horse Regiment and the 26th Infantry Battalion laid claim to capturing the prince and even today there is no agreement on who shot and captured Prince Friedrich Karl.

The 13th Light Horse Regiment claimed that Sergeant Robert Henry Tuff was responsible. Tuff recorded his experiences in letters to his family, which were later published in Australian newspapers. Tuff claimed he shot the fleeing German in the back before following him out into no man’s land. Although other Australians were still firing, Tuff continued to advance and found the German lying in a shallow trench.

Tuff remained with him until a stretcher arrived and took a statement where the German revealed his identity. While they waited, Tuff recalled Prince Friedrich gripping his hand tightly due to the pain and that the prince feared being further wounded by shells bursting nearby. When the stretcher arrived, Tuff handed the prince over to a major from the 26th Battalion and returned to his patrol.

In 1919 Tuff was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his work during the Bapaume operations in March 1917 and his work in September 1918. The former includes the period when the prince was wounded. Firmly believing he shot and captured the prince, and recognising its potential significance, Tuff handed his rifle in to the Australian War Records Section in December 1917 so that it could be added to the National Collection. In the late 1920s he donated a photograph of Prince Friedrich he acquired as a reminder of the events of the day.

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Concerned that the 13th Light Horse was receiving the glory for capturing a German prince, the 26th Battalion sent their account of events to Australian official war correspondent C.E.W. Bean. They claimed that Corporal Edward Powell had shot the prince and that Private Clare Hall had captured him. Interestingly, while Tuff makes no mention of another soldier remaining with him and the prince while waiting for the stretcher, Hall’s account does mention an unnamed light horseman being present through much of the event (Tuff), although Hall is adamant that he reached the prince first and captured him, not “the light horseman”.

After greeting the wounded German, Hall took his hat and gloves and, when Tuff arrived, left the prince in his care while Hall walked a few metres away to “pump ship” (urinate). Hall did not believe Tuff when he said the prisoner was a prince and replied that "No matter what he is, he is a Fritz & the S.bs. [stretcher bearers] are coming & will take him in if worthwhile", which they eventually did.

The 26th Battalion’s account gained currency with Bean and he used it when writing about the event in the Australian official histories of the war.

Prince Friedrich’s aircraft was dragged back behind a small copse during the evening and the next day was handed to 32nd Squadron Royal Flying Corps, who dismantled it and took it away. Although badly wounded, the prince was courteous and friendly throughout his captivity and the general opinion of the medical staff and Tuff was that he was a "good sort". This opinion was repeated in the press when the news of his capture was reported.

The prince was initially treated for his wounds at a British casualty clearing station at Edgehill, where he was operated on by the 5th Army Consulting Surgeon, Sidney Maynard Smith. He appeared to be healing but a week later suffered a secondary haemorrhage from his kidney and was operated on again and later evacuated to Rouen to continue recovering.

However, he did not recover and on his 24th birthday on 6 April 1917, Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia died of his wounds at the military hospital at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray and was buried nearby. Attempts were soon made from Germany, via a neutral nation (possibly Spain, as the Spanish king was keeping Prince Friedrich’s family updated on his condition), to return his remains to Germany. This was deemed impossible at the time, but was one of the issues raised during the Armistice Commission’s negotiations in 1919. His body was later exhumed and reburied at the family cemetery at Schloss Glienicke, Potsdam, where it remains today.

Sources, various via AWM - Australian War Memorial:
14 May 2018 by Dianne Rutherford

https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/blog/Prince-Friedrich

 

 

 

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