trained 800 pilots during his instructor career, and, at the end of the war,

52-year-old Willi even flew the Ju 88 and Me 210 night fighters.

It is interesting that Gabriel came into conflict with the authorities including

the SS several times during the war years. The reason was not ideological,

but rather materialistic, as he reportedly sent several Ju-52s to Germany

with unspecified contraband. It was very close several times and even the

mighty Hermann Göring himself had to save Willi from bigger troubles. Yes, it

was the same Göring who fired him from JG I, and who didn't get to like him

any more later. But the unwritten law of the old guard of JG I ordered them

to keep together and was superior to everything else. Göring may have also

intervened earlier, in 1936, when Willi was accused of attack on the state and

the party. The accusation was based on denunciation from four of his colleagues and the reason was supposed to be an unspecified conversation about

Leni Riefenstahl and her relationship with Adolf Hitler.

At the end of second world war, Willi Gabriel fell into British captivity, and

the Britons asked him for help with the training of RAF pilots to convert on

captured German aircraft. Willi refused this "honor" and so he was released

on August 25, 1945. He returned home to Berlin but only to mourn. His brother Walter died during the Russian shelling of Genthin, where he escaped

from his native Bromberg to avoid the progressing Red Army. Even worse loss

for Willi was the death of his son Manfred.8) He shot himself in Berlin in front

of approaching Russian soldiers on May 1, 1945. His body was found on Gasteiner straße. Two weeks later, Manfred would turn 19. By the way, the guy

was able to fly with the aircraft at the age of twelve…

Alex Imrie via Greg VanWyngarden


Výhružná póza i grimasa. Gabriel se snažil působit na fotografiích nebezpečně…

Valuable helper

A rest during the movie making of the Pour le Mérite…

…and during the work on the D.III 88. It is the same Fokker Dr.I.

Alex Imrie via Greg VanWyngarden

Shortly after returning home, Willi volunteered as a pilot for the air bridge

supplying West Berlin, but his offer was turned down. Luftwaffe pilots were

not sought after… Coincidentally, he met someone who was flying the air

bridge, the British pilot Alex Imrie, who became one of the founders of post-war aerial research focused on the First World War. Willi and Alex became

friends, and, as Bruno Schmäling writes in his book Jasta Colors, Willi was

so close friend, Alex invited him to his wedding. In 1962, Cross & Cockade

magazine published an extensive article, which Alex wrote based on Willi's

narration. This article also draws on it.

Willi Gabriel opened many doors to Alex in his efforts to contact former German First World War pilots, helping to preserve valuable information, photographs, and documents. After the imperial military archive in Potsdam was

destroyed during one of the bombing raids, private albums and memories

were the only thing left… Alex Imrie 9) then passed on his knowledge and

INFO Eduard - February 2021