Air Aces of World War One

Hauptmann Rudolf Berthold – Germany’s Iron Knight 1891 / 1920 Pt 7

  The Courtrai Hospital lacked the facilities to deal with such a complex injury, however it sufficed to keep him alive. It was three weeks before the wounded Ace was stable  enough to be transferred. On the 31st of October he was shipped back to Germany. His pilots alerted his elder sister, Franziska who was a nursing sister in Victoria Lazarett ( Victoria Hospital ) Berlin. She arranged for her brothers transfer to the Berlin clinic of one of Germany’s pre-eminent surgeons, Dr. August Bier, pioneer of cocaine usage in spinal anaesthesia. Berthold entered the clinic on the 2nd of November 1917, he was there for four months and Dr.Bier laboured to save the mangled arm from amputation. Meantime, counter to Berthold’s wishes, Oberleutnant Ernst Wilhelm Turck assumed Berthold’s dual commands of Jagdstaffel 18 and Jagdgruppe 7. Berthold spent his convalescent leave learning to write with his left hand. He believed “If I can write, I can fly” meantime his right arm remained paralyzed as it slowly healed and he remained dependant on narcotics.

By February, Berthold could get out of bed. In mid-month, he volunteered to return to the command of Jagdgruppe 7. On the 1st of March he reported to the medical office of Flieger- Ersatz – Abtielung 5 ( Replacement Detachment 5 ) in Hanover. He was returned to command of Jagdstaffel 18but denied permission to fly. On the 6th of March 1918, he re-joined his old squadron at its new duty station. Within 2 days, on the 8th of March, he had arranged for Hans-Joachim Buddecke’s transfer to the squadron to lead it in the air.Two days later, Buddecke was killed in action.

On the 16th of March 1918, Rudolf Berthold was transferred to command  Jagdgeschwader II ( Fighter Wing 2 ) to replace Hauptmann Adolf Ritter von Tutschek, who was killed in action the previous day. The new wing had been copied from the pioneering Jagdgeschwader II. It was crucial to the German spring offensive that was due to be launched on the 21st of March. Berthold was in a tenuous and stressful situation. He had suffered the loss of a best friend, left his old familiar squadron, was taking command of a larger unfamiliar and newly-formed unit, and was not on flight status. His solution to his dilemma was to take advantage of a loophole. Customarily a Luftstreitkrafte commander being transferred could swap a small cadre of his old unit in to his newer one. Berthold designated Jagdstaffel 15 the wings Stab Staffel (Command Squadron). Then he effected a wholesale exchange of Jagdstaffel 18 Pilots and aircraft in to Jagdstaffel 15. Jagstaffel 15 Personnel and aircraft then transferred to Jagdstaffel 18. Berthold then departed for Buddecke’s funeral in Berlin on the 22nd of March.

To Be Continued………………..

(C) Damian Grange 2019

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