Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-7 trop

Yellow 6, W.Nr. 5160, flown by Oberfahnenjunker Hans-Joachim Marseille, 3./JG 27, Ain-el-Gazala/Libya, 23 May 1941

Hans-Joachim Marseille was by this time known as an "Enfant terrible" in the air and on the ground. With a reputation as a rebel he was sporting long hair and digging American jazz music. He had time after time conduct himself irresponsibly in the undertaking of his duties, displayed lack of discipline, was tempestuous, temperamental, unruly and had an inability to fly as a wingman.

This had resulted in the he was ousted from the elite LG 2, commanded by Herbert Ihlefeld. Ending up in JG 52 Marseille didn't last long in the II Gruppe as Hptm. Johannes Steinhoff sent him packing on 24 December. Marseille was transferred once more, this time to JG 27.

Kommandeur of the I. Gruppe Eduard Neumann quickly recognized Marseille's potential as a fighter pilot and took him under his wings. Marseille also got a new wingman appointed to him, Uffz. Rainer Pöttgen, know to be a calm professional team-player pilot.

After participate with his Gruppen in the Yugoslavian campaign dubbed "Marita" he was to end up in North Africa. Here, on 20 April 1941 on an transit flight his Bf 109 experienced engine trouble and he was forced to make and emergency landing at Chela on the road from Tripoli towards Gazala to the East.

Eager to reach his base he promptly stopped a Italian lorry and was lucky to get a lift to an German airbase. Here he was told that there was no transports schedule for another three days and the only transport from here was the Opel Staff car of the paratroop commander Major Ludwig Heilmann.

Marseille went over to the tent of the Major and told him about his predicament. Hellmann impressed by the audacity of the decorated flyer made a deal with Marseille, "If you all me about your experiences during the Battle of Britain I would let you have my car". Marseille told him about his seven abschüsse and some of his romantic conquests while on the channel front. Finally Major Ludwig Heilmann made Marseille to promised him 50 more abschüsse in Africa, which he agree upon before hopping into the Opel Admiral car.

Imagine the astonishment a day later, on 21 April when a Staff car arrived at I./JG 27 base at Ain-el-Gazala and instead of a high ranking officer the fine-limbed Hans-Joachim Marseille climbed out of the back seat. First he greeted his friends and and then promptly reported to his Staffelkapitän Oblt. Gerhard Homuth.

While based at Ain-el-Gazala, Marseille would continue to fly as a maniac, as a one man air-force against the enemy. Entering combat when ever he could without taking any considerations of his own safety. This resulted in that he on many occasions was also on the receiving end in air-combats.

On example occurred on 23 April, two days after his arrival, he manage to claim a Hurricane over Tobruk for his eight abschüsse then he was downed by a French pilot. Sous Lt Denis flying his Hurricane remembered: "I was well-trained and a confirmed fighter. What's more I was considered an elite shot. I knew my job well, and it explains why during my fight with this pilot, presumably Marseille, I was patient enough to act as if I hadn't seen him, wait until the last second and skid, avoiding his bullets which passed very close to my right. I watched them carefully".

Obfhr. Marseille was able to belly land his shot up machine in no mans land counting no less than 30 hits in his Bf 109 E-7. He later comment: "how, as he leaned forward, two bullets passed behind his head, two more going by just in front of his face."

And close to a month later on 21 May, probably flying in this Bf 109 E-7. W.Nr. 5160, Yellow 6, he was lucky to reach his own lines for a belly landing after another clash with Hurricanes over Tobruk, the victim of the same French pilot, Sous Lt Denis of 71 Sqn. RAF.

This is one of the 130 profiles and captions that would be included in the Profile Book No 13, due to be published in 2023.

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