Hauptmann Rudolf Berthold – Germany’s Iron Knight 1891 / 1920 Pt.6
Berthold had an Albatros D.III prepared as his assigned aircraft, It’s guns were tested for synchronisation. It was painted with his personal insignia, a mid blue fuselage with scarlet cowling and his own white winged sword of vengeance either side of the fuselage. all of his squadron mates followed his example, the only difference being the personal insignia. On the 24th of March, Berthold resumed his successful air assaults and was credited with four victories by mid-April. On the 24th of April he engaged a Caudron R.9 until driven back to base with a bullet through his right shin. This wound added more chronic pain to his misery, and caused him to return home to convalesce from 23rd of May to the 15th of June. By now his narcotics addiction was an open secret to his squadron mates.
From reports received, Berthold deduced that his squadron’s performance had declined and believed that this was due to the lack of in-air leadership. In early August he returned to his old training facility in Grossenhain and wrangled a medical certificate from its Doctor. Berthold returned to his unit to await the paperwork, to discover that he was being transferred to Jagdstaffel 18 ( Fighter Squadron 18 in Harelbeke, Belgium on the 12th of August. On the 18th of August he was finally certified to begin flying again. Prior to Berthold’s arrival Jagdstaffel 18 had had little success; their new commander promptly organised training even as they were going on combat missions. Shortly after assuming command, Berthold once again pitched his idea of using fighters en masse; 4th Armee headquarters responded by grouping Jagdstaffelen 18,24, 31 and 36 into an ad hoc Jagdgruppe 7 with Berthold in command. He shot down a Spad on the 21st of August, raising his tally to 13, it was the beginning of a string of aerial victories, during September he scored fourteen more victories bringing his total to 27. On the 2nd of October he scored his 28th victory his final one of the year.
During a dogfight on the 10th of October 1917, a British bullet ricocheted within the cockpit of Berthold’s aircraft and entered his arm at an angle that pulverised his right humerus. Berthold overcame the handicap of half severed ailerons and managed to remain conscious long enough to make a smooth one-handed landing at his home airfield. He passed out after landing, his unconscious body was lifted from his aircraft and rushed 5 kms to the field hospital at Courtrai.
To Be Continued………………
(C) Damian Grange 2018