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Wolfgang Graf von Blücher, the oldest of the three brothers who died on Crete

The Brothers von Blücher (German language: Gebrüder von Blücher) were a trio of German brothers and Fallschirmjäger of the Luftwaffe who fell in combat within hours of the same day on 21 May 1941 during the fierce Battle of Crete.[1] Their struggle and death are symbolic for the bravery of German Wehrmacht soldiers during World War II, and they are still considered heroes by many Germans.

Names[]

  • Wolfgang Henner Peter Lebrecht Graf von Blücher[a] (31 January 1917 in Altengottern, Mühlhausen – 21 May 1941 near Heraklion)[2]
  • Leberecht Wilhelm Konstantin Wolf Axel Graf von Blücher[a] (13 April 1922 in Fincken – 21 May 1941 near Iraklion)[3]
  • Hans-Joachim Gebhard Leberecht Graf von Blücher[a] (23 October 1923 in Fincken – 21 May 1941 near Iraklion)[4]

Drama[]

The Brothers von Blücher were prominent among the German dead, their ancestor was the famous German-Prussian Generalfeldmarschall[c] Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher,[NB 1] a hero of Waterloo.

The first to fall on this warm day in May 1941 was youngster Hans-Joachim Graf von Blücher[a], who was attempting to resupply his brother, Oberleutnant[d] Wolfgang Graf von Blücher,[NB 2] with ammunition when the latter and his platoon were surrounded by members of the British Black Watch. The 17-year-old Hans-Joachim, who had arrived early morning with the second wave of paratroopers on his first active deployment, had commandeered a horse, which he attempted to gallop through British lines. The talented equestrian almost reached his brother's position, and in fact was shot before his brother's very eyes.

"...the Fallschirmjäger running short of ammunition and medical supplies, were amazed to see a rider and horse galloping towards them with boxes of supplies. The soldiers of the Black Watch were similary stunned and only fired at the last moment, hitting both horse and rider. Wolfgang von Blucher asked who the rider was, to be told it was his youngest brother Hans-Joachim, and that he was now dead ... For many years afterwards, a number of poor families living in a shanty village in the area reported seeing a ghostly horse and rider..."[5]

24-year-old platoon commander Wolfgang and his men of the Fallschirmjägerregiment 1, who had arrived with the first wave and hopelessly surrounded, were at last out of ammunition. The rest of their platoon was overrun by British armoured vehicles and killed around midday.

Wolfgang’s younger brother, the 19-year-old Leberecht Graf von Blücher, had also arrived with the second wave. He was reported killed in action on the same day but his body was never recovered.

Tragic note[]

Four weeks later the mother, Gertrud (Freiin Marschall) von Nordheim (widowed Gräfin von Blücher), who had lost her husband in 1924, was informed, that three of her four sons were killed on the same day in the Battle of Crete. Her forth son, Adolf Graf von Blücher, was released from duty and left the German navy (Kriegsmarine), to take care of the agricultural firm at home. Tragically he also died 1944 from a gunshot wound while stalking deer with a large hunting party in the vast forests of Mecklenburg.

In 1974, Wolfgang and Hans-Joachim were reunited in a single grave at the German War Cemetery on a hill behind the airfield at Maleme, Crete, which was newly inaugurated on 6 October in the presence of the brother’s sister Gertrud Freifrau von Ketelhodt and hundreds of guests from Germany.[6] Because Leberecht’s body was never retrieved or identified, his name is on a plaque of honor (German language: Ehrentafel) for the unknown fallen close to the grave of his brothers. Gertrud’s own sons carry the names of her brothers.

Myth[]

For years afterward, Cretan villagers reported seeing a ghostly rider galloping at night down a road near the spot where the young Fallschirmjäger Hans-Joachim Graf von Blücher was shot; yet until they were told the story of the German von Blücher brothers, they had assumed that the ghostly rider was British.[7]

The tragic destiny of the young brothers von Blücher on Crete has become a legend among modern-day Fallschirmjäger recruits of the Bundeswehr.

See also[]

Further reading[]

  • Beevor, Antony (2005). Crete: The Battle and the Resistance. London, England: John Murray (Publishers). ISBN 978-0-7195-6831-2
  • Peter Antill: Crete 1941: Germany's lightning airborne assault, Osprey Publishing (2005), ISBN 978-1841768441

External links[]

Footnotes[]

  • a 1 2 3 4 5 Regarding personal names: Graf is a title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. The female form is Gräfin.
  • b Regarding personal names: Fürst is a title, translated as Prince not a first or middle name. The feminine form is Fürstin.
  • c Generalfeldmarschall = Field Marshal
  • d Oberleutnant = First Lieutenant
  1. Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt; December 16, 1742 – September 12, 1819), later elevated to Fürst[b] von Wahlstatt, was a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall (field marshal) who led his army against Napoleon I at the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig in 1813 and at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 with the Duke of Wellington. He is honoured with a bust in the German Walhalla temple near Regensburg. The honorary citizen of Berlin, Hamburg and Rostock bore the nickname "Marschall Vorwärts" ("Marshal Forwards") because of his approach to warfare. A popular German idiom, "ran wie Blücher" ("charge like Blücher"), meaning that someone is taking very direct and aggressive action, in war or otherwise, refers to Blücher.
  2. Wolfgang Henner Peter Lebrecht Graf von Blücher[a] (31 January 1917 – 21 May 1941) was a highly decorated Oberleutnant der Reserve in the Fallschirmjäger during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Knight's Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Wolfgang Graf von Blücher was one of three brothers who were killed during the Battle of Crete, all three of them on 21 May 1941

References[]

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