Wilhelm Frankl

Wilhelm Frankl

By Derek Taylor

Born in Hamburg in 1893, Frankl went to the German aviation centre in 
Johannisthal, where he was taking flying lessons from Germany’s first 
female pilot, Melly Beese.

He gained pilots licence number 490 in 1913.

 The synchronised machine gun, firing through the propeller, had not 
been invented early in the war.

Frankl’s first success came using a 
five-shot carbine to down a French plane, for which he was given the 
Iron Cross First Class.

Slowly but surely he built up his number of 
successes until, in 1916, he was one of only eight Aces in the German 
air force and was awarded the coveted Blue Max.

He married and 
converted to Christianity in that year.
In January 1917 he was made a squadron leader and brought his number 
of victories up to 20, downing four enemy aircraft in one day on 6 April.

On 7 April, however, against aircraft of the 48th Squadron of 
the Royal Flying Corps, his lower wing collapsed under the strain and 
he was killed at the age of 24. It was the first day of Pesach.

Deliberately forgotten during the Nazi regime, his war record was recognised again in 1973, when the Luftwaffe named a squadron after him.