contacts to a new generation of researchers like Bruno Schmäling, Greg
Van Wyngarden or Eduard's collaborator Jörn Leckscheid.
Getting old, Willi gladly accepted invitations to various commemorative
events. As long as it was possible, occasional meetings of former members
of JG I were organized, but the meetings of Alte Adler (The Old Eagle) were
more frequent. This organization was found in 1927 and after World War II,
it brought together only notable people who worked in aviation before 1919.
Now, of course, this rule is already gone, and membership is decided by the
At a meeting of JG I members in 1960 in Braunschwig, Willi managed to get
the seat of the co-pilot of the Beechcraft Twin Bonanza and was given chance
to pilot it. According to witnesses, he did such a violent flying that his former
colleagues, who were riding as passengers, got sick!
Willi Gabriel was an impulsive, uncontrollable "element" who did not have
too much understanding for tough discipline. He was an individualist and,
according to witnesses, also entertaining companion. He died on July 1, 1968
at the age of 75. It would be interesting to find out how many victories he
would eventually achieve if he was allowed to fly his solo missions. And who
knows if he would survive another fight of one against eight, which he might
get into again. Maybe Göring saved his life when he fired him from the JG I…
1) Many sources state that Gabriel did not achieve his first victory until a month after his arrival
at Jasta 11, and so he did not meet Reinhard's original deadline. This mistake is due to the
erroneous dating of Gabriel's arrival at Jasta 11 on April 15. However, the "Red Baron" died on
April 21, and Reinhard took command of JG I on April 25.
2) Josef Schwendemann achieved a total of seventeen victories.
Alex Imrie via Greg VanWyngarden
3) Disputes over victories were nothing special. Concurrent claims occurred relatively frequently.
In the fierce air battles in a relatively small area, several pilots often fired at one target and
it was not easy to determine whose shot was the fateful in the end. It was mostly up to who
secured a better testimony.
4) The motif of Reinhard's fatal crash during rehearsals of a new type appeared in a modified
form in the movies Pour le Mérite from 1938 and also in the better-known The Blue Max (1966).
5) Richthofen´s Circus; Hunting Squadron I; Greg VanWyngarden, Osprey Publishing Limited 2004
6) The Gabriel brothers also designed P-VI (two-seater biplane training aircraft), P-VII (sports
two-seater parasol aircraft) and sporting aircraft P-VIII. The P-IX project remained only on paper,
and none of the projects was produced.
7) The Mebli Gabriel factory was nationalized on August 16, 1950 by order of the Council of
Ministers. It was located at Aleja 1 Maja 138, Bydgoszcz.
8) Gabriel brothers named their sons after von Richthofen brothers. Walter´s son was Lothar,
Willi´s was Manfred.
9) Alex Imrie; April 29, 1926 – June 4, 2011
Cross & Cockade 1962; Alex Imrie; Die Gebrüder Gabriel
Richthofen´s Circus, Jagdgeschwader I; Greg VanWyngarden, Osprey Publishing Limited 2004
Above the Lines, Norman L. R. Franks, Frank W. Bailey, Russel Guest, Grub Street London, 1993
www.theaerodrome.com; www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de; www.bwfsg.de
Registers of the Berlin and Bydgoszcz
Willi looks quite tired on the photography taken during the WWII years…
Author would like to thank to Greg VanWyngarden for providing
the valuable photos and additional informations.
Register entry of the death of Willi´s son Manfred.
INFO Eduard - February 2021