Luftwaffe Fighter Ace Hans-Joseph Marseille.

Hans-Jospeh Marseille (German Federal Archives)

Hans-Joachim Marseille was a German Luftwaffe fighter Ace during WW2 and by the age of 22 was awarded the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. Apart from being well-known in Germany for his impressive successes during aerial combat he was also known for his Bohemian Lifestyle.

On 26 September 1942 (some say 30 September) he was flying in formation over Sidi Abdel Rahman, Kingdom of Egypt in a Messerschmitt Bf 109 when the aircraft developed a serious engine failure and the cockpit rapidly filled with thick smoke and Marseille reported by radio he was bailing out.   After peeling away from the formation to give him room to manoeuvre, eyewitness statements from other pilots reported seeing him using the standard procedure of rolling the aircraft onto its back to make it easier to exit. A subsequent investigation concluded Marseille was disorientated by thick smoke and was unaware his aircraft had entered a deep dive of approximately 70-80 degrees and was travelling at a considerable speed and after bailing out his chest hit the vertical stabilizer of his aircraft which either killed him instantly or rendered him unconscious and was unable to pull the ripcord to open his parachute. His watch stopped at 11:42 am which is the time he struck the ground and a Luftwaffe doctor pronounced him dead on the scene after suffering massive head and other injuries. 

Author: Alan Malcher

Military historian and defence commentator

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