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The Red Knight of Germany Author: English Date first posted: May Date most recently updated: May Production notes: They have been located where page breaks occurred in the original book.
Obvious spelling or typographical errors have been corrected. Inconsistent spelling of names and inventive spelling is unchanged. Extended quotations and citations are indented such as reports, letters and interviews.
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Men heard the madness and knew it for madness and embraced it, some with fear and some with joy. Kill or be killed. Pink, yellow, and green patches on maps personified themselves. The personifications glared at one another, then snarled, then cursed.
Millions of hearts heard and beat faster. Males strutted; females loved them for it. It was the march beat of tramping feet. It was the sharp staccato of steel-shod hoofs. It was the whir and growl of speeding motors. It was the shriek and roar of troop trains frontward bound. His mother had not raised him to be a soldier.
FRANCIA, the Franks, France, Burgundy, Italy, Germany
She had made him wear curls and dressed him in white pretties. He had looked like a girl, and hated it. Then came killing time--war. He killed a hundred men in individual combat: He became the terror of the battle fronts.
He grinned at grim death in a hundred duels above the clouds. He fought fair, hard, and to kill, and the better his foeman fought to kill him, the better he liked him for it. He matched his life against that of any man. He fought, not with hate, but with love for fighting.
It was his joy, his sport, his passion. To him, to dare and to die was to live. He had the courage to kill and be killed, and war was his hunting licence. He was courageous and knew it, gloried in it, flaunted it with his challenge to the world of his enemies. He made them know him--he put his name on their lips--his name that was unknown, unheard of, when he started the war as a second "looie.
Boys and the youth of a nation made him their idol, cheered him, followed him on the street. He was young and blond, shy and handsome, proud and serious. Girls by the thousands worshipped his picture and filled his mail with letters by the sackful.
One of them he loved. He wanted to make her his wife, but he did not want to make her his widow. He knew he was going to be killed. He won the admiration and respect of his enemies. His instinct and duty it was to kill them; he did. Their duty and instinct it was to kill him; they did. In one of the greatest air battles in the history of the world, he went down, still fighting, still killing.
He died a national hero at the head of his fighting men in the service of his country. He was buried by his enemies with respect and military honours in unstinted recognition of his great courage, his sportsmanship, and his tireless, relentless spirit. His name was Manfred von Richthofen. Into the grisly story of the World War there came a refreshing gleam of the chivalry of old, when the pick of the flower of youth on both sides carried the conflict into the skies.
His life and death, his victories and his defeat, his loves, his hopes, his fears bring a new record to the halls of that same Valhalla in which rest the spirits of Guynemer, Hawker, Ball, McCudden, Immelmann, Lufberry, Quentin Roosevelt, and many others who fought aloft and died below with hearts that held emotions other than hate. Young blood, hot and daring, raced through their veins, even as the winged steeds they rode raced on the wind to conquest or disaster.
Some went down like flaming comets, burned beyond recognition before the charred remains struck the earth thousands of feet below. Some plunged earthward through the blue in drunken staggers as their bullet-riddled bodies slumped forward lifelessly on the controls.
Some fell free from shattered planes at fearsome heights, poured out like the contents of a burst paper bag, and some, hurtling down in formless wrecks, buried themselves in the ground. This was the death that Richthofen dealt out to his adversaries in the air--it was the same death they dealt to him. As he had given to many, so he received.
As he fought, he died. How many did he kill?
The list is long and appalling. It is a string of victories, a chaplet in which the beads of glory and tragedy succeed one another to defeat and the grave. On the day after his eightieth victory--April 21, he died as he dove upon the British flyer selected for his eighty-first victim.
He was twenty-five years old. To his country and the cause it was soon to lose, the loss of Richthofen was great. Ludendorff, when he heard the news, said, "He was worth as much to us as three divisions. The mother lives today in the little town of Schweidnitz in German Silesia--lives in the large, cold, silent rooms and hall of the big white house that once reechoed to the shouts of the boy who wore curls and looked like a girl.
Although Prussian junkers from a fighting stock that won its title of baron far back in the Seventeenth Century, the Richthofen family took little part in subsequent wars.
Some held small government posts, but they always returned to the fields and forests and the country houses they loved. And in the family of Schickfuss, from which came the mother of the famous ace, it was the same. Conservatives to the bone, it was their aim to work hard, respect order, and find their fun in hard riding and hard hunting.
As an officer of a Uhlan regiment, he evidenced a high sense of duty as a soldier, but the greatest record he has left is on the walls of the Schweidnitz home in the shape of four hundred mounted deer heads and stuffed birds, all brought down afield by his gun. He served through the war as a major of reserve, but died shortly after the Armistice. Organization, reputed to be the forte of his country, was not inborn with him.
He was essentially an individualist. The spirit of the hunter, the stalker, was strong within him, and with it ran pride of conquest, the natural outgrowth of strong competitive and combative senses. He felt strongly the same urge that drives the city-bred man to the wilds for relief from the pressure of organized life, to feel once more the discipline of nature instead of that of steel and asphalt and traffic regulations.
The hunt was his life and the trophy was his prize. The hunter must show the prey he ran to earth. Armorial halls festooned with captured standards, or walls studded with antlered or feathered heads, are expressions of the same strain.
And so were the tons of German helmets that two million A. It was no different with the individual air fighters of the World War--the man-birds who hunted in the clouds. Its walls are covered with the linen scalps of fallen foes. The chandelier hanging from the ceiling over the centre table is the rotary motor of a French plane which the ace brought down near Verdun.
Richthofen had it remade with electric bulbs on each cylinder head, and, in order to support the unusual weight, he had to reinforce the rafters in the ceiling, from which it is suspended on chains. The table itself is made from parts of broken propeller blades of all kinds.
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It is the machine gun from an English plane that sent many German flyers to their death. It is the weapon of the first English ace, Major Lanoe Hawker. Hawker was one of the best flyers in the Allied ranks. He had received the Victoria Cross and many decorations, and had a long string of air victories to his credit. Richthofen himself had been decorated and had brought down ten enemy planes. It was a meeting of champions of the air. I must confess that it was a matter of great pride to me to learn that the Englishman I shot down on November 23  was the English equivalent of our great Immelmann.
Of course, I did not know who he was during the fight, but I did know from the masterly manner in which he handled his plane and the pluck with which he flew, that he was a wonderful fellow. It was fine weather when I flew away from our airdrome that day. I was in the best of spirits and keen for the hunt. Flying at an altitude of about ten thousand feet, I observed three English planes.