Even if the French Air Force, Armée de Láir was handicapped due to outdated organization, conservative tactical thinking, and equipment inferior to that of the Luftwaffe the French pilots had a stamina which could not easily be broken. Even if they were up against all odds, they put up a brave fight until the bitter end.
Like Captain Robert Williame of GC I/2 piloting the obsolescent MS.406. However this fighter was by no means ineffective in combat, as on 8 June he claimed to have shot down two Bf 109Es during the morning hours followed up by shooting down another two Junkers Ju 87 Stukas that afternoon.
To this should also be added two more enemy aircraft downed (a Me-109 and a Ju-87) shared with his fellow unit members, bringing his total to seven official victories.
Until June, 1940, the eleven French groupes de chasse, (Fighter Groups) equipped with the Morane-Saulnier 406 fighter had shot down 191 German aircraft, against 400 of their own pilots being killed in the same combats.
On this day, 6 December 1939, Leutnant Berthel took off from the air base Hangelar near Bonn in this aircraft, "Red 1". His mission took him over the Franco-German border and he returned less than an hour later, waggling the wings of his Messerschmitt, thus indicating that he had achieved the first aerial victory of his unit, JG 52.
JG 52 was by this time far from a crack unit, but was later to emerge as the most successful Jagdgeschwader of the entire war, claiming no less than 11 000 Abschusse.
Lt. Heinz Barthel would fly his last combat mission over the British Isle on 15 September. After being accredited with a total of six confirmed victories he collided with an Hurricane during a dog-fight, forcing him to leave his crippled Bf 109 E-4 by parachute, he than was promptly taken prisoner.
This, the first kill of the Geschwader was an event that was well documented by the Germans. The photos taken includes pictures of the burning LeO 451 on the ground, its crew receiving first aid after being captured. Further pictures showed when Lt. Berthel has landed and was congratulated by personnel from I. Gruppe. Then followed pictures of the "black men" painted on the white abshussbalken on the tailplane, just one of many photos his "historical" machine.
Note that Berthels Bf 109 Emil had been polished by the "black men" all for higher preformance.
One could only conclude
as a profile artist, that for once I had an abundance of photos
of this Messerschmitt enable me to make an accurate profile.