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Messerschmitt Bf 109 shot down over England

Messerschmitt Bf 109 shot down over England

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Messerschmitt Bf 109: Pt. 1, John R. Beaman, Jr. This work provides a good technical history of the 109, tracing the development of the fighter from the early prototypes up to the 109E, the model used during the Battle of Britain. [see more]

List of surviving Messerschmitt Bf 109s

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a German World War II fighter aircraft. It was one of the first true modern fighters of the era, including such features as an all-metal monocoque construction, a closed canopy, and retractable landing gear. The Bf 109 was the most produced fighter aircraft during World War II, with 30,573 examples built during the war, and the most produced fighter aircraft in history, with a total of 33,984 units produced up to April 1945.

Spain had signed licensing agreements with Messerschmitt in 1942 to produce the Bf 109G-2 and had received tooling and jigs in preparation for starting production, as well as 25 uncompleted fuselage and wing assemblies. Due to priority to the Luftwaffe, Messerschmitt was unable to oversee the start-up of the production line. In addition, Hispano Aviación was also unable to acquire the Daimler-Benz DB 605 engines due to wartime shortages. It was not until 1947 that the factory started to produce complete airframes. As a replacement engine comparable to the DB 605A the Hispano-Suiza 12Z-17 was fitted to these aircraft. Aircraft with this engine were designated HA-1109-K1L (65 being produced). In 1954 Hispano Aviación re-engineered the airframe to accept the Rolls-Royce Merlin 500-45 and produced the HA-1112-M1L. Production of the Hispano Aviación HA-1109 and HA-1112 Buchons ended in 1958 [1] however, Spain continued to use the HA-1112 operationally until late 1967.

In 1946 Czechoslovakia restarted the closed Messerschmitt production line at the Avia Company [2] in Prague using the original jigs and tooling along with a substantial number of uncompleted airframes. From 1946 to 1949 about 550 airframes were completed as Avia S-99s, resembling a Bf 109G-14, and Avia S-199s (Jumo engine, otherwise unchanged). [1] Due to a fire in a warehouse a substantial number of DB 605 engines were lost and as a substitute the Junkers Jumo 211 was found in substantial quantity. Unlike either the original DB 605 or the Rolls-Royce Merlin, the torque of this substitute engine was extremely high resulting in a high fatality rate from these aircraft. [ citation needed ] Production ended in 1948, and the Czechoslovak National Security Guard retired the last of the S-199s in 1957.

Post war, in addition to the Spanish and Czechoslovakian Air Forces, both Finland and Switzerland continued to use the Bf 109 operationally until the late 1950s. The then-new nation of Israel purchased 25 Avia S-199s (23 delivered) when, due to being embargoed, it was unable to acquire aircraft from other sources. The Israel Air Force retired its aircraft in early 1949.

Between 1945 & 1948, most Bf 109s were scrapped or destroyed. Some examples were kept for use as war trophies or technical examples for further studies. For the next 23 years, these were the first generation of Bf 109 survivors.

In 1967, the producers of the movie The Battle of Britain wanted a large and accurate group of aircraft for use onscreen. Fortunately, the Spanish Air Force was starting to retire its HA-1112s and an agreement was reached to use these aircraft. The Commemorative Air Force had also just purchased numerous examples of the HA-1112. These aircraft were also leased for the production of this movie. For the next 35 years, these Spanish Bf 109s were the mainstay for numerous World War II aviation movies and television work, including Hanover Street, Memphis Belle, The Tuskegee Airmen and Piece of Cake to name but a few.

Starting in late 1988, Bf 109s were among numerous crashed examples of World War II aircraft still extant in Russia that were being recovered for restoration. Other examples of the early models of the Bf 109 have been found in crash sites in France and Italy (as well as several aircraft recovered where they had been buried in Germany). These aircraft with known combat histories are the foundation of the current wave of recovered/restored Bf 109s with further discoveries anticipated. As of December 2016 there are 67 known existing Bf 109 airframes.

About twenty of the surviving Bf 109s existent in the 21st century served at one time with the Luftwaffe fighter wing Jagdgeschwader 5, more than with any other Axis military aviation unit of World War II.

Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1 3470

Messerschmitt Bf109, shot down in Kent, on display in the north-west of England.

Earlier this year while trawling through microfilm copies of the Bury Times from the war at the library, I came across this report from November 23 1940 of a Messerschmitt Bf109 being displayed in the town centre to raise money for the Spitfire Fund.

It was a very poor copy but I printed one off in the hope of later identifying the aircraft. There was very little to go off – just the number 2 on the fuselage – and the copy sat for a few months in a file on my computer labelled ‘Mystery 109’

However after scouring endless photos, websites and books, it can now be identified as Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1 WNr 3470 of 8/JG54.

It was shot down by a fighter over Dungeness in Kent. A bullet stopped the engine and the pilot, Uffz. Heinrich Elbers, managed to crash land in a field. His aircraft came to rest in a ditch at Finn Farm, Kingsnorth, Ashford.

In a ditch at Finn Farm near Ashford. Photo from Asisbiz

Below Part of Kent, showing Kingsnorth near Ashford and Dungeness

Link to Google maps showing Finn Farm at Kingsnorth, Ashford, Kent.

Unteroffizier Elbers was injured (he was shot in the foot) but survived and was taken prisoner, while his Bf109 was taken on tour around the country to raise money to buy more Spitfires.

The notice placed by the aircraft in the lead photo with the words “For your information” told the people of Bury that the “Messerschmitt 109 is the pride of Germany’s Luftwaffe and is the type now being used over this country in hit and run bombing raids. It carries 4 machine guns, 2 in each wing and 2 firing from cockpit through propeller blades.”

The Bury Times reported that it became necessary to move the aircraft off the street and inside “the new shopping centre of the Bury District Co-operative Society in Market Street… Most amusing of the many comments was that of a woman who asked “Are t’stores selling them now?”

Below Bury Co-Operative store on Market Street, Bury, photographed here in the mid 50s. Although the Co-Op has now gone and other shops have come and gone over the years (Wimpey, Argos, Bon Marche) the original building remains. The National Archives says the “new ‘Emporium’ designed in 1936, but occupied by government offices during the war, and opened as a store in 1952” which seems to contradict the contemporary report of the Bury Times of 1940. Possibly the store was taken over later in the war?

The photos and images below are all of the same aircraft as it toured the north west to raise funds.

On display in Blackpool

And here in Mossley.

The Manchester Evening News later (incorrectly) wrote of this event “EXCITEMENT surrounded Mossley in 1944 when a German Messerschmitt 109 was brought to the town after it was shot down over Liverpool”.

It was put on show at Seel Park as part of the Spitfire Fund – which was started during the second world war to raise money for the war effort – and Mossley raised £71,966. The crowds flocked to the football ground to view the plane and discovered there were many bullet holes in the blades of the propeller, wings and the fuselage.The Home Guard stood nightly watch over the Messerschmitt, while members of the Women’s Voluntary Services manned the turnstiles during the day.”

Raising funds at Newton-le-Willows (Earlestown to be precise – please see comment below by Peter Williams)

…at Warrington

…and here at Altrincham

Another photo at Springbank Park, Altrincham

Councillor Thomas Mann at Crompton

Black 2 on display at Ashton, November 11 1940. Newspaper copy courtesy of Peter G Nield who also identified the two locations above

On display at Shaw in 1940 again courtesy of Peter G Nield. Note the dummy of Hitler hanging above the aircraft in the image top right.

Below Images of Bf109E-1 WNr 3470 used with permission from Asisbiz


1940 Edit

Jagdschwader 3 "Udet" was formed on 1 May 1939 in Bernburg/Saale from JG 231. JG 3 was one of the Luftwaffe's fighter units that took part in the Battle of France. A particularly fruitful period over France occurred from 14 to 17 May 1940. Allied sorties over the area of German advance had attempted to prevent the German armour from crossing the Meuse and sent waves of inadequately protected bombers to do the job. As a result, 90 Allied bombers were shot down and the 14 May became known as the "day of the fighters" within the Luftwaffe. I./JG 3 destroyed seven fighters without loss on this day. On 15 May five were destroyed, again for no losses. On 17 May an entire formation of 13 Bristol Blenheims were shot down by I./JG 3. A total of 19 Allied aircraft were shot down by I./JG 3 alone on that day. [1] The unit claimed some 179 aircraft shot down. Oberleutnant Lothar Keller was top claimant with 10 kills, and I./JG 3 Gruppenkommandeur Maj. Günther Lützow scored 9. I./JG3 was the most successful Gruppe, with 88 enemy aircraft destroyed for ten Bf 109s lost while six pilots were killed and one wounded. [2]

JG 3 later flew intensively in the Battle of Britain. On 21 August 1940, Oberstleutnant Lützow was appointed Kommodore of JG 3. He recorded 8 more victories during the aerial battles over England. Lützow was awarded the Ritterkreuz (Knights Cross) on 18 September. By the end of 1940 its most successful pilots were Oblt. Erwin Neuerberg (11 claims) and Lt Helmut Meckel (9 claims). The Geschwader lost some 51 pilots killed or POW July–December 1940. I Gruppe alone had destroyed exactly 50 enemy machines, but in exchange of 32 Messerschmitts of which 20 were lost to enemy action. Ten pilots were killed or missing while a further 11 were captured. [3]

1941 Edit

The Geschwader took part in Operation Barbarossa from 22 June 1941 onwards, and during the offensive against the Soviets JG 3 claimed its 1,000th aircraft destroyed on 30 August. Lützow became the second Experte to achieve 100 victories when he downed three Russian fighters near Moscow on 24 October. Lützow was then grounded. On 27 June 1941, Hauptmann Gordon Gollob was made Gruppenkommandeur II./JG 3, following the mid-air collision death of Hauptman Lothar Keller. [4] [5] He claimed 18 victories in August and achieved 37 victories in October, including 9 aircraft shot down over the Perekop Isthmus on 18 October and 6 aircraft on 22 October. He was awarded the Eichenlaub (Oak Leaves) on 26 October for 85 victories. He led II./JG 3 until November 1941. In the period 22 June – 5 December 1941, the unit destroyed 1,298 Soviet aircraft in return for 58 losses in aerial combat and losing 10 aircraft on the ground. [6]

II./JG 3, under the command of Captain Karl-Heinz Krahl was transferred to Comiso on Sicily in January 1942 to bolster JG 53 and the Regia Aeronautica which were carrying out sustained attacks against Malta. At this time the unit was equipped with Bf 109F-4 Trops. At the end of April II Gruppe departed Sicily for a brief stay in Germany before being redeployed to the Eastern front.

1942 Edit

In mid-September, I./JG 3 were ordered back to Germany for rest and refit. However, a number of I. Gruppe pilots remained in Russia serving with III./JG 3. After refitting with Bf 109F-4 fighters, I./JG 3 was ordered to relocate to bases in the Netherlands in December 1941. On 6 January 1942, it became II./JG 1, with a new I. Gruppe being raised.

By early 1942, JG 3 was awarded the honour name "Udet" (after Ernst Udet) and was then often simply referred as "Jagdgeschwader Udet" thereafter. In May 1942, Lützow led most of JG 3 back to Russia and commenced operations in the Kharkiv area. There followed intensive operations through the Crimea, and in the drive towards Stalingrad. Again JG 3 was one of the Luftwaffe's top units, fighting on the Southern Front, reaching 2,000 claims on 28 May 1942. On 12 August, Major Wolf-Dietrich Wilcke was appointed Kommodore of JG 3.

In June 1942 II Gruppe was transferred back to the East, where it joined in the advance on the Stalingrad front, suffering heavy losses. During the Battle of Stalingrad, Stab./JG 3 were based at Pitomnik Airfield, where Wilcke directed all day fighter operations over the city. During the summer offensive of 1942 the Geschwaderstab/JG 3 recorded 137 victories, of which Wilcke claimed 97.

When Russian forces encircled Stalingrad, the Geschwaderstab/JG 3 was transferred to Morozovskaya-Öst, outside the pocket. In mid-November 1942 JG 3 then provided the famous Platzschutzstaffel (airfield defence squadron) which defended the besieged 6th Army in Stalingrad until late 1942. On a rotational basis up to six volunteer pilots drawn from I and II./JG 3 formed a defence Staffel within the rapidly contracting Stalingrad perimeter. Their purpose was to cover the Junkers Ju 52 transports flying supplies into Pitomik airfield and to protect the aircraft while on the ground. Despite often only having 2 or 3 Bf 109's serviceable, in the last 6 weeks of the siege (until mid January) claimed some 130 Soviet aircraft shot down. In return JG 3 lost 90-victory experte Leut. Georg Schentke over the city on 25 December 1942. In mid-January the pilots were ordered to fly out of the pocket and rejoin their parent unit, although some thirty ground crew remaining became prisoners when the city surrendered to the Soviets on 2 February 1943. [7]

1943 Edit

II./JG 3 was relocated to the Kuban bridgehead in February 1943. Oblt. Wolf-Udo Ettel proved the 'star' of JG 3 around this time, claiming 28 kills in March 1943, 36 in April, and 20 in May. Intensive operations around the Kerch peninsula followed in April. In July 1943 II./JG 3 and III./JG 3 at this time were part of Luftlotte 4 and flew in Operation Zitadelle, the tank offensive launched around the Kursk salient. On 5 July 1943 alone, II./JG 3 claimed 77 Soviet aircraft from a total claimed of 432, Oblt. Joachim Kirschner claiming 9 kills and Gruppenkommandeur Hpt. Kurt Brändle claiming 5.

As Allied air operations over Germany increased during mid 1943 each of the gruppen of JG 3 were in turn recalled to Germany to defend the homeland on so called Reichsverteidigung ("Defense of the Reich") duty. I. /JG 3 moved back to Germany in April 1943, but did not go operational until June 1943. Equipped with the new Bf 109G-6 Kanonenboote with two 20mm cannons in underwing gondolas, I./JG 3 were slowly worked up as a 'bomber-killer' unit. This long training period paid dividends as the gruppe started to shoot down impressive numbers of USAAF bombers without the heavy losses incurred by many Jagdgeschwadern thrown into the battle with less preparation. Lt. Franz Schwaiger was by this time I./JG 3's current top scorer with 56 claims.

By late summer 1943 III./JG3 were also flying the Bf 109G-6 and Bf 109G-6/R6. On its return to Germany, the Stab/JG 3 was based at Mönchengladbach. On 4 December 1943 Hpt. Wilhelm Lemke (131 kills) was killed in combat with P-47s of the 352nd Fighter Group.

As with most fighter units operating over Germany and occupied Europe, JG 3 suffered heavy losses through early 1944 against the increasing numbers of USAAF escort fighters, losing many of its experienced personnel and commanders. Wilcke was shot down and killed by fighters of the 4th Fighter Group. Wilcke's successor as commander of JG 3 was Major Friedrich-Karl "Tutti" Müller, the CO of IV. /JG 3. He was killed in a landing accident at Salzwedel on 29 May 1944.

1944 Edit

With the increased pressure caused by the American bombing raids against targets in Germany through late 1943 and early 1944, a new method of attacking the bombers was proposed for specially armoured fighters to get in as close to the bombers as possible before opening fire, even (as a last resort) deliberately ramming the bomber. A special Staffel was formed to test the tactical viability. Sturmstaffel 1 was the first experimental unit to fly the so-called Sturmböcke (Battering Ram) up-gunned Focke-Wulf Fw 190A aircraft, and was attached to JG 3, following the general demise of the Zerstörergruppen as bomber destroyers earlier in 1944. The Sturmstaffel was expanded into a specialised bomber 'killer' Gruppen, IV./JG 3, led by Hauptmann Wilhelm Moritz. Sturmstaffel 1 was redesignated 11./JG 3 in May 1944.

On 7 July 1944 a force of 1,129 B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Eighth Air Force set out from England to bomb aircraft factories in the Leipzig area and the synthetic oil plants at Boehlen, Leuna-Merseburg and Lützkendorf. This formation was intercepted by a German Gefechtsverband composed of IV.(Sturm) / JG 3 escorted by two Gruppen of Bf l09s from Jagdgeschwader 300 led by Major Walther Dahl. Dahl drove the attack to point-blank range behind the Liberators of the 492nd Bomb Group before opening fire. 492nd Bomb Group was temporarily without fighter cover. Within about a minute the entire squadron of twelve B-24s had been destroyed. The USAAF 2nd Air Division lost 28 Liberators that day, the majority to the Sturmgruppe attack. IV./JG 3 lost nine fighters shot down and three more suffered damage and made crash landings five of the unit's pilots were killed. [8]

II./JG 3 and III./JG 3 were thrown into the Operation Overlord air battles over the Normandy beach-head in June 1944, and, with the other 23 Gruppen committed were decimated by the hordes of Allied fighters present. On 10 August, 10.(Sturm)/JG 3 was renamed 13.(Sturm)/JG 3. On 16 August 1944, 13./JG 3 Staffelkaptän Oblt. Ekkehard Tichy (25 kills) was killed when he rammed a B-17 Tichy had lost an eye a year earlier but had continued flying combat missions. By 5 September 1944, when the Gruppe was withdrawn from the battle, III./JG 3 alone had lost a staggering 56 pilots killed or missing, 23 wounded and 4 POW, while claiming some 54 Allied aircraft shot down. Just the Gruppenkommandeur, 3 Staffelkapitäne and 4 replacement pilots had survived the three months over the invasion front.

On 2 November the two Sturmgruppen of IV./JG 3 and II./JG 4 successfully intercepted American bomber formations near Leipzig. IV./JG 3 attacked the 91st Bomb Group and claimed 13 Fortresses, including two by ramming, while II./JG 4 claimed nine Fortresses from the 457th Bomb Group. The fighter escorts cost JG 3 15 out of their 39 Sturmböcke aircraft, and JG 4 lost 16 out of 22 committed. II./JG 3 on the same day was much less successful when scrambled with other Gruppen to intercept American raids against oil plants in Merseburg. Its Bf 109s ran into the more than 209 P-51 Mustangs of the 20th, 352nd, 359th and 364th Fighter groups which escorted the 1st Bombardment Division. II./JG 3 lost 23 Bf 109s and claimed only three Mustangs and a B-17 shot down. [9] On 5 December 1944, Major Moritz was relieved from command of IV./ JG 3 due to a complete nervous breakdown.

1945 Edit

In November 1944 II./JG 3 was separated from the Geschwader in order to re-equip with the Me 262 jet fighter and become part of the first jet fighter Geschwader, Jagdgeschwader 7. A newly formed II./JG 3 was raised from a former bomber unit at the end of 1944 this new Gruppe was transferred to the East in early 1945 to counter the Soviet air offensive.

During Operation Bodenplatte, the massed attack on Allied airfields on 1 January 1945, Jagdschwader 3 was one of the few German fighter units to carry out their operations successfully despite fielding the smallest German force that day. The 22 Fw 190s committed destroyed 43 Typhoons and Spitfires and damaged 60 more in a 20-minute attack on the 2nd TAF airfield at Eindhoven (JG 3 claimed 116 destroyed). [10] However the loss of 16 pilots was a serious blow to the unit. Six were captured, 6 were killed while four were posted as missing. Six pilots returned, three of them were wounded. [11]

Bf 109 Pilot Franz Stigler (who saluted) & B-17 Pilot Charlie Brown’s (who thus survived)

It was December 20, 1943 and in the freezing air high above Germany, 2nd Lieutenant Charles “Charlie” Brown struggled to keep the mortally damaged American bomber on course.

Brown had been wounded in the shoulder, his tail gunner Sergeant Hugh “Ecky” Eckenrode was dead, and several other members of the crew were wounded, some severely.

Their aircraft, B-17F Ye Olde Pub, had been hit twice by flak as it approached its target, the Focke-Wulf plant in the German city of Bremen, forcing the crew to shut down one of the engines and throttle back on another. This had left it lagging behind the main formation of aircraft from the 379th Bombardment Group and groups of German fighters had closed in like sharks sensing blood in the water.

A B-17F of the 99th Bomb Group, with the nearly frameless clear-view bombardier’s nose

Up to fifteen fighters had attacked the bomber and the whole tail section was shot to pieces, the nosecone was missing, the electrical, hydraulic and oxygen systems were damaged, the radio was out and the entrails of the crippled bomber flapped in the slipstream through gaping rents in the fuselage. But B-17s are tough old birds and this one somehow kept on flying despite the damage.

Brown blacked out for a short time due to pain, loss of blood and a lack of oxygen and the bomber spiraled towards the ground. Ironically, this may have persuaded the attacking fighters that it was finished because none followed it down. Brown came to and realized that the B-17 was only a few hundred feet above the ground. He somehow managed to get it back under control and turned west, towards England and safety, two hundred and fifty miles away.

Boeing B-17F Memphis Belle on display in the WWII Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. B-17’s flew in every combat zone during World War II, but its most significant service was over Europe.

Brown wasn’t able to coax the B-17 much above one thousand feet and he was vaguely aware that he had passed close to the perimeter of a German airfield. Soon after he realized that a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter was flying in close formation beside him. It was so close that Brown could see the German pilot as he gestured towards the ground, telling Brown to set the bomber down.

Most of the B-17’s gunners were wounded, only a few guns were still working and none were able to shoot at the enemy fighter alongside. Brown could only look at the German pilot and shake his head. Charlie Brown wasn’t sure if he even had the strength to fly all the way to England, but he certainly wasn’t going to land the bomber in Germany.

Messerschmitt Bf 109 escorting a Ju 87 over the Mediterranean Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-429-0646-31 / Billhardt / CC-BY-SA 3.0

For a short time the Messerschmitt flew beside the bomber. Then it slid away, above and behind. Brown waited for the gunfire that must mean the end of Ye Olde Pub. Nothing happened. He realized to his astonishment that the German fighter was flying escort on the B-17. As they crossed the coastline and flew out over the North Sea the fighter remained on station.

Only when they were well out from the German coast did the fighter slide in again, close to the bomber. Brown looked across – the German pilot looked back at him, raised a gloved hand in salute and then swung his aircraft away, back towards the east.

Brown managed to put Ye Olde Pub on the ground, not at their home base in Cambridgeshire but at an airbase of the 448th Bomb Group near Norfolk in East Anglia. He and all his crew other than the tail gunner survived.

At debriefing, Brown told his story about the German fighter which escorted him. It was decided that this should be kept secret – the notion of an honorable German pilot choosing not to shoot down a damaged American bomber just didn’t fit with the message that the USAAF wanted to give out.

Aerial photograph of Seething Airfield, England.

Charlie Brown survived the war, went home to go to college, and then re-joined the Air Force in 1949. He served until 1965 when he retired as a colonel. He never told people about the German pilot who had escorted him home in December 1943. It wasn’t until much later, in 1986, at a meeting of retired combat pilots called “Gathering of the Eagles” that he first spoke about what had happened.

The response was strong, though some questioned whether the whole incident really happened. Even Brown began to wonder – his memories of that day in 1943 were hazy due to his injuries, exhaustion and the stress of combat. In retrospect, the notion of a German pilot escorting him over Germany and even saluting as he left the bomber heading towards England did seem unlikely. Could he be remembering it all wrong?

Brown decided that he was going to find the German pilot involved, if only to prove that he hadn’t imagined the whole thing. It took four years, but in 1990 Brown finally received a letter from a man named Stigler who was living in Canada. Stigler explained that he had been the pilot of the German fighter who had escorted Ye Olde Pub.

On December 20, 1943, Franz Stigler had been a twenty-seven kill veteran pilot with Jagdgeschwader 27. He had flown against American bombers in his Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 that morning and he was refueling on the ground when Ye Olde Pub passed close by. Although Stigler’s aircraft had been damaged in the earlier combat, he took off intending to shoot down the American bomber.

Bf 109G-6 on display in the Polish Aviation Museum in Kraków Jinxs Bf 109 G-6 (owned by Fundacja Polskie Orły, on loan in the Polish Aviation Museum in Cracow). Photo by Jinxs CC BY-SA 3.0

However, as he closed with the limping aircraft, he could see just how badly it had been hit – he would later say that he had never seen a more severely damaged aircraft still flying. Through the holes in the fuselage he could see the dead tail gunner and other wounded members of the crew.

The commander of JG27 had told his pilots never to fire at an enemy who was descending on a parachute. While the crew of Ye Olde Pub hadn’t bailed out, they were clearly no longer capable of fighting and Stigler decided that he could not bring himself to attack.

New paint for a Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4 of Jagdgeschwader 27 Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-431-0710-29A / Doege / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Instead, he flew alongside and gestured to Brown to land. Stigler later said that this wasn’t particularly because he wanted Brown to surrender – he simply couldn’t imagine that the crippled aircraft could possibly make it back to England.

When Brown refused, Stigler made an extraordinary decision. Instead of shooting it down he flew close formation with the B-17, hoping that this would deter flak batteries on the coast from firing at it. He flew with the bomber well out over the North Sea until it was clear of German airspace, and then left it to continue towards England.


Stigler never told anyone about what had happened – sparing an American bomber would likely have led to punishment and perhaps even execution, but he often wondered if it had made it back to base. Stigler continued flying fighters throughout the war. In 1953 he emigrated from Germany to Canada where he started a successful business.

When he heard from Charlie Brown in 1990, Stigler confirmed every aspect of his story. Franz Stigler and Charlie Brown were astonished to discover that they had been living less than two hundred miles apart for much of the time since the war – Stigler had settled in Vancouver, British Columbia while Brown was in Seattle, Washington.

The two men became close friends for the rest of their lives, often visiting and talking to other fliers about their shared experience. In 2008 they died within a few months of each other.

There are many stories of courage and heroism from World War II. However, as in the case of the story of Franz Stigler and Charlie Brown, sometimes even during war and in the worst of circumstances, some people can still find within themselves not just courage but also honor, compassion and humanity.

Messerschmitt Bf 109 shot down by No.54 Sqn, crashes into Byron Avenue, Margate, 24th July 1940

The wreckage of a Messerschmitt Bf 109 flown by 21 year old Lt. Josef Schauff from 8/JG 26 which crashed into Byron Avenue, Margate on 24th July 1940. The pilot bailed out moments before, but he died in the grounds of the Royal School for Deaf Children. Published with permission from “Margate Local & Family History”

No.54 Sqn’s P/O Gray attacks a Bf 109 piloted by Lt Josef Schauff of 8/JG 26 over Margate. The German’s parachute fails to open, his body landing on a local playing field and aircraft crashing in Byron Avenue at 1.05am.

On the 28th July, the funerals of P/O Allen and P/O Finnie of No.54 Sqn (killed on the 24th and 25th respectively), plus Lt Schuaff of the Luftwaffe took place at Margate Cemetery with airmen from Manston as pallbearers and Sqn Ldr Obsborne presiding.

As the Battle of Britain was hotting up in the skies over Kent, a German Messerschmitt crashed into Bryon Avenue, Margate (between 70-80).

On 24th July 1940, a 21 year old pilot, Josef Schauff bailed out moments before his plane blasted a crater 15 feet deep in the narrow street. The young pilot’s bid to save his life failed and he died in the grounds of the Royal School for Deaf Children. Today his body lies in a neatly tended grave in Margate Cemetery, alongside other casualties of the conflict.

The crash was well remembered by Len Walsham, who was just 11 years old at the time. He had taken cover in the family shelter in the garden at 10 Vicarage Crescent. German Dornier’s were attacking a convoy off Margate and Spitfires sent from Biggin Hill and other airfields “tangled with the top cover of escorting Messerschmitt’s”.

He said it was obvious one plane had been shot down. The noise got louder and louder, then there was a thump. Len reached the plane within 10 or 15 minutes and saw smoke still pouring out. Police, fire brigade and ARP wardens were already on scene.

Roy Humphrey’s, author of Thanet at War, records the event with the help of Herbert R Evans, a retired divisional officer of Kent Fire Brigade, who recalls the Messerschmitt came down with “an ear splitting shriek to bury itself in Byron Avenue, making a crater some 15 feet deep.

Mr Evans says : “We stood by in case the fuel tank ignited. Then the RAF arrived to take charge. They asked us to recover the cannon guns as they might be a new type. We obliged, clambering down into the wreckage to locate the wing stubs. Despite being fearful that a spark might start a fuel fire, we managed to hack out the guns with our axes”.

6. Douglas Bader

At the outbreak of war in 1939, Douglas Bader set out to re-join the RAF. He had been discharged from the service six years previously after losing both his legs in a flying accident. Bader crashed his aircraft while taking part in an aerobatics display and as a result had lost one leg below the knee and the other leg above the knee. Within six months, he had been fitted with artificial legs and had learned to walk again.

He was able to persuade the RAF to give him a chance to prove that he could still fly operationally and joined No. 19 Squadron at RAF Duxford in early 1940.

Bader was soon made a flight commander of No. 222 Squadron, which took part in the Battle of France in May and June 1940. After these operations, in which Bader shot down several German aircraft, he was posted to command No. 242 Squadron at RAF Coltishall. The squadron had suffered heavy losses in France, but Bader soon improved the morale of the unit through his determined leadership.

The Battle of Britain started on 10 July 1940 and Douglas Bader shot down his first German aircraft of the battle the following day. He was an aggressive pilot and over the next few months he destroyed many more aircraft, including two Messerschmitt Bf 109s and a Dornier on 7 September. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Order that month for his combat leadership. His squadron had achieved considerable success against the Luftwaffe, shooting down 10 enemy aircraft on 30 August alone.

Bader was a key supporter of the ‘Big Wing’ tactic, in which dozens of aircraft were made airborne at once to face the Luftwaffe bomber formations. Bader led the ‘Duxford Wing’ against German bombers targeting London and the south east. But it took time for such a large concentration of aircraft to form up and this delay meant it often arrived too late to meet the raiders. The ‘Big Wing’ was a point of great debate, particularly amongst members of the RAF leadership. The success of the strategy in dealing with the Luftwaffe threat was unclear at the time and is still controversial.

Bader was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross in January 1941 for his leadership and was promoted to Wing Commander of the RAF Tangmere Wing in March. He became a prisoner of war in August that year and remained in captivity until 1945. Bader is one of the most famous pilots of the Second World War and a film was later made about his life and career.

The remains of a Messerchmitt Bf 110, shot down during a Battle of Britain dogfight, have been unearthed during a dig at Lulworth in Dorset

An archaeological dig at a Ministry of Defence site near Lulworth in Dorset has uncovered evidence of a German Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighter that was downed by RAF fighters during the Battle of Britain in August 1940.

Large quantities of material, including fragments of propeller, Daimler Benz engines, ammunition, parts of the perspex canopy and other elements were uncovered by a team working at the Lulworth Ranges as part of Operation Nightingale, a groundbreaking initiative that uses field archaeology to aid the recovery of service personnel injured in conflict.

The week-long excavation, organised by the Defence Archaeology Group and assisted by Wessex Archaeology, was codenamed Exercise Adlertag after the Luftwaffe operation to destroy the RAF during World War II. It sought to determine the exact location and extent of the crash site and to recover the remains of the air frame.

Contemporary eye-witness reports tell of the German squadron being intercepted by the RAF off the Dorset Coast and of an aircraft being shot down.

Magnetometry, ground penetrating radar and laser-scan surveys were followed by metal detector searches. Excavations then revealed how the aircraft had crashed directly into the clifftop at a near-vertical angle and had then been engulfed in flames.

The aircraft is believed to have been from V (Z) Lehrgeschwader 1 which was on a mission to attack Portland on August 13 1940.

It is thought to have been either crewed by Lieutenant Günter Beck, who was killed and buried at Portland Royal Naval cemetery, and bordfunker (radio operator) and rear gunner Uffz Karl Hoyer, who is listed as missing, or pilot Fw Hans Datz, who was made Prisoner of War together with bordfunker Uffz Georg Lämmel who was killed and then buried at Portland.

Spent ammunition cases found at the crash site show the rear gunner fired back at the RAF fighters.

Despite being armed with some heavy weaponry, the twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf 110 suffered high losses during the Battle of Britain due to its comparative lack of maneuverability, which made it an easier target for RAF fighter pilots than its Luftwaffe counterpart - the single seat Messerschmitt Bf 109.

Later in the war, the Bf 110 was more successful as a night fighter and as a fighter bomber working in support of ground actions, and despite its poor showing during the Battle of Britain it served with the Luftwaffe throughout the Second World War.

The dig, which took place in late August and was made partly in response to the vulnerable location of the crash site right in the middle of the South West Coastal Path, follows on from work by the group to excavate the remains of a Spitfire from 609 Squadron shot down over Salisbury Plain during a dogfight in October 1940.

“The week proved to be very productive with large quantities of material recovered,” said a Wessex Archaeology spokesperson, adding that the remains would be processed by an "enthusiastic" volunteer team before further analysis can take place.

RECOVERED: Messerschmitt Bf 109F-4 Trop

Messerschmitt Bf109F-4, Werk Nummer 10145, was built in 1942 in Leipzig, Germany. Records show that this aircraft was a Norwegian patrol aircraft which flew the Murmansk sector of Russia and was shot down in World War II by Russian forces.

Bf 109F-4/trop WNr 10145 was coded ‘Yellow 3’ and was shot down in aerial combat with multiple soviet fighters during an escort mission for Ju 88 bomber aircraft on July 19th 1942. According to the report from the Gruppenkommandeur Horst Carganico, 5 aircraft from 6./JG 6 started for this mission, the target being Rosta. About 15 kilometers north of Murmansk. The aircraft flown by Fw. Leopold Knier was crippled by a Soviet P-40 and he bailed out at an altitude of about 3000 meters.

The story of Knier is interesting, but it is questionable if his story was true – or if he just made it up to, say, get away from the Eastern Front…

After being captured by the Soviets he was returned to the German lines and came back to his unit on July 27th 1942. There was some speculation that he returned as a Soviet spy. Knier was one of a few German pilots that were in fact returned from Soviet captivity. The idea was to make captured German pilots as spies for the Soviets, but it is not believed that they got to stay at the Northern front very long after their return.

He was shot down by a Soviet Jak-1 of 20. IAP VVS SF (JLt. Nuzhin) near lake Retinskoe, on the western side of Kola bay. This means that he had reasonably good opportunities to escape and get home. Such a trip would easily take 10 days (he came back 27 July). There is no mention of him being captured in the Soviet records and, more important, there is no interrogation report on him in the Soviet archives.

This is in contrast to the case with Fw. Josef Kaiser of 8./JG 5. He was shot down by AA over the Murmansk frontline on 26.12.42. He then voluntered as Soviet agent and was disembarked by Russian plane 31.05.43 at Nautsi. He reported himself to German troops 05.06.43.

For Kaiser the time span is more realistic for agent training – and there is an interrogation report on him in the Russian archives.

Knier had 5 victories in JG 5 and at least 1 in 3/JG 27 (a 4-engined bomber) and then went to JV44, Adolf Galland’s famous Me262 fighter group.
The aircraft wreck remained in Northern Russia until it was recovered by Warbird Recovery in the winter of 1994. All remaining pieces were shipped to the Warbird Recovery facility in Broomfield, Colorado.

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 aircraft was so successful that when production of the Bf 109 ceased in 1956, over 35,000 had been built. The performance of the Bf 109 was equal to the Spitfire and superior to the Hurricane. There is now only one flying original Bf 109 in the world.

Warbird Recovery has begun restoring this aircraft to original flying condition with Legend Flyers in Everett, WA.

Knier’s claims with JG 5-
Date Unit Claim Number
15May42 6./JG 5 Hurricane 1st
28May42 5./JG 5 Pe-2 2nd
01Jun42 5./JG 5 DB-3 3rd
23Jun42 6./JG 5 Hurricane 4th
07Jul42 6./JG 5 Hurricane 5th
13Jul42 6./JG 5 Airacobra 6th
Source: Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe Teil 9/III – Prien/Stemmer/Rodeike/Bock.
Special thanks to Dave McDonald and friends

Construction-All metal stressed-skin
Engine-One 1,475hp Daimler-Benz DB605A liquid cooled inverted V12
Armament-One 20mm MG151 engine mounted cannon with 150 rounds
Two 7.9mm MG17 fuselage mounted machine guns with 500 rounds per gun
Performance-Maximum speed 398mph (640kph)
Service ceiling 39,370 (12,000m)
Range 340 miles (540km)
Wingspan-32ft. 6 1/2 in.
Length-29ft 7 1/2in.
Height-8ft 2 1/2in.
Weight empty-5,687lb.
Weight loaded-6,834lb.

Messerschmitt Bf 109E 1190

Display at IWM Duxford recreating the scene in the photo below. This is how wrecked aircraft should be displayed in museums.

30th September 1940. Messerschmitt Bf109 1190, flown by Unteroffizier Horst Perez, was shot down by a Sptifire over Beachy Head. He was supposed to be escorting a bombing raid on London but failed to meet up with the bombers.

There are a few details regarding this German fighter and its pilot on a plaque by the display. But a spot of digging around reveals how, possibly, this Bf 109 came to be recovered in such good shape.

Uffz Perez crash landed his aircraft in the late afternoon of what turned out ot be the last day of the Luftwaffe’s big daylight air raids on London. There were two such attacks on London that day but the growing confidence of the RAF – and the drop in morale of the Luftwaffe airmen – resulted in both raids turning back before they could reach London. It marked a turning point in the battle.

Whether Uffz Perez genuinely couldn’t find the attacking bomber stream, I don’t know. But his Bf109 wasn’t shot down – according to the Air Ministry report at the time, there were no bullets found in the wreck. Air ace Sgt Donald Kingaby of 92 Squadron was credited with ‘damaging’ the plane and that there was an engine failure during the dogfight. It is possible though, that Uffz Perez, an inexperienced pilot up against the flying elite, lost his nerve and landed when he could have fought on. The report noted Uffz Perez “was not sure of himself” and was asking questions about his friends whom he had recently lost.

Whatever the cause of his crash landing, he met with a hostile reception. Upon climbing from the cockpit he was shot in the hand and jaw by an over enthusiastic member of the Home Guard. Uffz Perez surrendered to a P.C. Walter Hyde and was taken prisoner.

Such a reaction by those on the ground was perhaps understandable just a few days before in Kent, what remains the last fight against foreign intruders on British soil took place at the ‘The Battle of Graveney Marsh’, a grand name for an exchange between some British soldiers and the machine gun armed crew of a downed Junkers 88 which resulted in one German airman being shot in the foot… and then they all went for a pint in the pub.

For photos and more about the Battle of Graveny Marsh, please see this news story.

Watch the video: RC Messerschmitt Bf 109 crash (May 2022).