Nachtjagd III

In July 1940 Patrick Foss was promoted Squadron Leader and he joined 115 Squadron at Marham in Norfolk which was equipped with Wellingtons. ‘At the time’ wrote Foss ‘there were three RAF Groups operating night bombers, mainly against Germany. The Wellingtons were in 3 Group, Whitleys in 4 Group and Hampdens in 5 Group. Other Groups controlled the light bombers, fighters, coastal reconnaissance and so on. All three Groups of night bombers had twin-engined aircraft with crews of between four and six. Bomber Command’s attack plan called for raids each night, if weather allowed, on such ‘military’ targets as oil plants, factories, harbours and railway marshalling yards. When the moon was minimal one Group would fly each night. When there was a moon the three Groups doubled up, which meant we did a raid every other night. A raid was a major operation; a station complement of two thousand or more was needed to launch up to twenty Wellingtons on one night.

‘Aircrews lived a strange life. On our off days, on these comfortable, long-established stations, we lived like country gentlemen in a fair degree of luxury and almost as if the war did not exist. On flying nights, we stole out like cat burglars to venture out, each aircraft singly, over the seas and into enemy territory, where we felt hunted and watched every minute. We flew in a high degree of tension. The sight of shells bursting in the sky ahead, often seen for an hour or more before we reached a target, had a mesmeric effect on me as my imagination leaped around. Highly subjective feelings kept me thinking more about my skin than about the people in the dark far below me. I did not want to die, nor have my courage tested by a shell burst or a fighter’s attack.

‘I realised somehow I had to conquer this deep desire for self-preservation and treat the whole business as a surgeon would an operation. As each trip brought more near-misses by shells or close encounters with fighters, I became more and more conscious of the dangers and I also began to question whether what we were doing was of any real use in the war. This helped me to understand why some men, their fear building up raid after raid, failed to press home attacks on their targets and instead dumped their bombs in the area before turning for home. It meant, of course, that they told lies to the debriefing officers and their aircrew went along with them because they, too, were afraid.

‘It was the responsibility of a flight and squadron commander to know his men and understand the build-up of pressures, raid after raid. Each captain was different and the commander had to judge when each crew should come off operations to allow them to rest and re-think, as well as to train new crews in all that they had experienced. At this time Command had set a tour of 31 trips. The average loss rate was around 25 trips, so every raid over 25 gave a crew the sense they were lucky to be still alive.

‘During World War I men were treated as cowards when they lost their nerve; and some authorities took the same line early in World War II. It proved to be a useless course; it encouraged no one to do better. The desirable way was to get a man to be honest and admit his fears and seek the support of his brother officers. When I did this with men, particularly when I became squadron commander in Malta, it seemed to have a profound effect on them and on me too. I learned that the more afraid the average man is, the more likely he is to push home attacks and take risks, if only to prove he is not afraid. The bravest men, I found, were those who conquered their fear by facing it, not those who had no idea of the danger of what they did.

‘I could see that we lived double lives – our ‘gentlemen’s lives’ and our almost secret nefarious outings to Germany. It was a very personal war. If we did not fight it, no one else would. Almost all of us experienced ‘twitch’ and other symptoms of stress in the eyes, the lips or the bowels. But the stress did not lead us to dump bombs or pull away from attack. It boosted morale in a remarkable way, so long as it was contained by a relationship with each other which was honest and caring. Looking back at the raids we flew in the early days to attack ‘military’ targets, the marshalling yards and factories, I shudder at how amateur we were. The targets for new crews were the big railway yards at Hamm and Soest, on the edge of the Ruhr industrial area – Ham and Eggs was the obvious crew slang for them.10 They were large area targets and not so heavily defended as was the Ruhr area itself. There were planners who believed that bombing a railway yard would cause delays and disruption of communications. My own experience in 1938, before the war, of trial bombings of railway lines at the Army Corps of Transport railway experimental centre had convinced me – and the Army – that damage could be repaired in a few hours and did not cause much delay in a marshalling yard. These attacks were rather artificial, by low-flying Battles, but war experience confirmed that without continuous bombardment the yards were an unproductive target. However, our new crews did gain the experience of flying over Germany, of being shelled and hunted by fighters and of just how difficult it was to identify a military target from a great height in European weather.

‘My first bombing raid was on Gelsenkirchen in the Ruhr – the target was a factory. When we arrived in the target area thick smoke and layers of cloud made it impossible to identify anything as small as a factory. I was very suspicious of our visual navigation, although I had an excellent navigator and had myself been an experienced navigator in peacetime. Since we left England we had seen nothing to pinpoint our position. We could only release our bombs in the general area and turn for home. The German reaction with anti-aircraft flak and searchlights was strong and accurate. As we flew towards Marham, 300 miles distant, our crew talked about the experience. Our conclusion was that if that was the worst we would meet, we had some chance of surviving our tour of operations. But in my mind was the question whether we had bombed the right town, let alone the specific factory. On this and other raids our great problem was finding and identifying a military target by our available means of navigation – map-reading, calculation and hoping to find some identification near our target. Our weather forecasters had only a general and limited idea of the local conditions 300 miles from the UK. They seemed unable to forecast smog or the height of cloud layers.

‘On this first raid my navigator and I had hoped that we might see the river Rhine and get a fix from that, but we never saw the river. There was one aid on which we came to rely heavily, the German range-type wireless stations, which they switched on to aid their own aircraft. We took bearings with our loop aerial. But these only helped us to get into a four or five mile area around the target. There came a night when we filed into the briefing room before a raid and were horrified to be told that no German radio station was on the air. It would not have surprised me to learn that each of our aircraft hit a different target that night.

‘On my next raid, to an oil processing plant at Wesseling, near Cologne we carried a photo flash bomb with our other bombs so that we could photograph our target. My navigator and I worked out a track to strike the Rhine at its junction with the Moselle. From there we would count the loops in the Rhine until we reached the one on which Wesseling lay. As we approached the Wesseling curve, my bomb aimer lay below me, looking down through the aiming window, directing me by intercom, while the other four crew manned the fore and rear gun turrets and the look-out in the upper astrodome. The second pilot sat beside me, acting as counsellor, lookout and ready to take over the controls, should I be wounded. In order to get a good photograph, the flash bomb had to be dropped at a precise height and the camera, fixed in the aircraft, had to be aimed so that the lens did not pick up the direct light of the flash, when the bomb burst after falling to about one thousand feet above the ground. The flash activated a photo cell which closed the camera shutter. This photography required that the Wellington be flown straight and level on a long run in. Straight and level at a precise height was a delight for German flak gunners!

‘This was another murky night, with a layer of cloud at the height we had planned to drop the flash bomb. We could see a Whitley bomber caught in the beams of searchlights, directly above our target, lit up by the reflection from the clouds as though in bright moonlight. Shells were bursting all round him. We decided to glide in below him, hoping the defences would not pick us up while they concentrated on the Whitley. We arrived over the target without being picked up and let go our bombs and the flash bomb. When the flash went off it seemed as though the defences were blinded for a few seconds. Then all hell was let loose at us. Shells began to burst around us; we could hear the explosions and see the black puffs of smoke. Our rear-gunner called that he thought he saw the lights of a fighter nearby. The searchlights bracketed us and I threw the Wellington into twists and turns to try to throw them off. They did not let go. Any moment could be our last. I sweated with fear as I pulled and twisted the controls. Then I offered up a prayer to be shown what to do.

‘At that moment an extraordinary impression came over me. I seemed to be outside the Wellington, away in the sky. I could see the aircraft in the lights and shell bursts, as though I were a spectator. Then I saw how I might break out of the defences if I made a highly dangerous manoeuvre. As I saw this, I had a feeling of confidence that what I should do was right. Then I was back in the Wellington, frightened and heaving at the controls. I pulled the aircraft up into a big stall turn, fell over and spiralled down towards the earth. Almost at once the lights shut off and we were falling in utter darkness. I eased the aircraft out of the dive to be parallel with the unseen ground. At that moment a single searchlight came on and lay along our track, showing us that we were a few hundred feet above the countryside and lighting up hills ahead of us. The light went out and we climbed to avoid the hills and return to operating height for the flight home.

‘Back in the interrogation room at Marham we commented, rather smugly, the Commander-in-Chief calls our bombing ‘gardening’ [not to be confused with minelaying operations which were called ‘Gardening’]. Air Marshal Sir Charles Portal, Chief of Bomber Command, had been invited by our Station Commander to witness a demonstration of dive bombing by a Wellington. Afterwards the C-in-C talked to us about the pin-pointing of targets by night. He said we were digging up the German countryside with our bombs. It was not until 1942 with the introduction of the pathfinder force, which used radar to fix their positions and marked them with fires that the main force bombers could be sure where the area of the target of the night lay. A few minutes after our ‘gardening’ the print of our flash photo revealed a factory in a curve of the Rhine with four bombs bursting on the roof! Unfortunately, when we compared the photo with our detailed map of the target, it in no way fitted. Someone suggested that perhaps the map was wrong. Wearily, we trailed off to bed. Three weeks later a report arrived from the Photo Interpretation Unit. They had identified the place where our bombs had fallen – a tank factory in Cologne, ten miles from our intended target!

‘When the Luftwaffe made their bombing attacks on London in July 1940, the Prime Minister ordered us to attack Berlin. This was the longest trip we had ever attempted in the Wellington, close to our maximum range with full tanks and minimum bomb load. We set off for Berlin with half a gale blowing from the west, low and middle cloud and murk on the ground. We were given strict instructions to turn back after three and three-quarter hours flying, wherever we were, to be sure of returning to Britain against the gale. As I reached three and three-quarter hours we thought we might be in the Berlin area. We had failed to get any fixes on the route and the weather was heavy cloud and total blackness. We glimpsed below us lakes and forests, but never a light or other indication of a city. There was nothing worth bombing and no time for a search. We turned for home and began to plug back against the gale. After an hour or so we saw lights on the ground, which we identified as an airfield working night fighters. We made to bomb them but our bomb releases failed to work. We plugged on and finally, over the North Sea, succeeded in losing our bomb load, saving us some petrol. We landed at Marham with less than thirty minutes of fuel remaining after eight and a half hours in the air. Our other crews returned with similar stories. No one was sure he had hit Berlin. We hoped other stations had had more luck.

‘A few days later, we were ordered to bomb the Channel ports, Calais and Le Havre, our shortest trips ever. They were on brilliant moonlit nights and we could clearly see the lines of barges waiting to carry the German army to invade Britain. From 6,000 feet they looked like match sticks. We had filled every hook with high explosives and fire bombs. The Germans had only deployed light flak guns and these were less accurate at our height. I saw fires break out along the docksides and in the barges, followed by many explosions. On one raid I saw quite clearly water jets being played by fire-fighters – the first time we had seen a result of our attacks. Thanks to the efforts of our fighters, the Germans never achieved the air supremacy over southern England which they needed for a successful invasion. However, the destruction wrought by our bombers on the ports and barges must also have played a part in their decision to call off the invasion. That decision ultimately meant losing the war.

‘In August 1940 we made a long trip towards Magdeburg to attack an aircraft factory at Bernberg. The night was clear and moonlit and I could see the Hartz Mountains where I had visited friends in 1932. We passed near Goslar, the home of Renate, my pre-war girl friend. When we reached our estimated time of arrival we were delighted to see below us a cross of big runways and sheds, but I was not sure that this was our target so put the second pilot in my seat and went down to lie beside the bomb aimer to have a better look. I had been troubled by seeing, five miles to the south, bombs bursting and flak coming up and wondered if that was the right target. As we lay there, trying to decide, suddenly our Wellington went into a steep dive and then we saw our bombs leave and crash through the roofs of the sheds. As we pulled out of the dive, chunks of the roofs flew past us, very close. At once guns opened fire and I could feel strikes on our aircraft. At the same time a force, like a giant hand, seized our Wellington and threw it upwards. Once we were away from the target area the second pilot started making excuses for the attack, saying we were running out of time and he was sure that we had found the right target.

‘I went all around the aircraft to see what damage we had sustained and found nothing that was serious. However, I was very troubled that each of our three compasses seemed to be giving a different reading. We attempted to verify them by the moon, but without moon tables or a sextant we failed. So we averaged the three readings and steered a general westerly direction. Clouds now prevented us from fixing a position. When we expected to reach the coast we saw a coastline and a flashing beacon. In a discussion with the crew, one of them thought the beacon might be on the English coast, so we flew close and fired our recognition signal, a very light giving the colours of the day. It was answered by light flak and we dashed out to sea. In a couple of minutes we passed over a bund and then wave crests. This convinced me we must have crossed a part of the Dutch Zuider Zee and if so we were embarking on a flight of about 150 miles across the North Sea.

‘I checked our fuel gauges and found several were showing nil and others only small amounts of fuel, maybe half an hour’s running, certainly not enough to get us beyond the middle of the North Sea. We seemed bound for an emergency landing at sea, something none of us had rehearsed; indeed, I had no idea even how to activate the dinghies. I doubted whether air/sea rescue boats operated so far out. I asked the crew for their suggestions. One option was to turn back and land on the beach and surrender ourselves. No one would hear of that. So we continued westwards. As we strained our eyes looking for land, we kept seeing it, only to find it was cloud on the water.

‘When I asked the wireless operator to try and get a bearing from the Direction Finding service in England, he told me his wireless was playing up, but he would try. Then he told me he could hear several SOS calls and that meant that the D/F stations would concentrate on them. I insisted he keep trying and he finally received a bearing. I plotted it on the chart; it was almost due north and put us out in the English Channel.

‘I couldn’t believe it. I asked our operator if the bearing could be a false one put out by a German station. They were known to give false bearings to our aircraft in distress. If we were half way across the North Sea and turned north we would go down in the cold sea en route to Iceland. The operator assured me it was a good bearing from an English station. I swallowed my doubts and turned north. The sun was up, but cloud was solid below us. Suddenly there was a gap and I saw a green field. I pulled back the engines and dived for this break. I saw fields dotted with high posts and other antiinvasion obstructions; it must be the south of England. I gingerly opened up our engines again, noting that every fuel gauge registered empty.

‘Suddenly, right ahead, appeared a grass airfield, apparently empty. I dared not circle to look more closely because if we banked our wings the petrol might run away from the outlets and stop the engines. I shut down and went straight in. As we ran across the field I noted large piles of earth dotted about. We came to a halt beside a flying control building with no sign of life. We got out and began to look for someone. We came upon a sandbagged shelter and out of it peered a steel-helmeted RAF figure, a Pilot Officer.

‘What’s this place?’ we asked. ‘This is West Malling’ (in mid-Kent).

‘Funny sort of airfield,’ I commented, ‘full of molehills.’

‘Not moles’ he replied, ‘unexploded bombs; they’ve been going off all through the night.’

‘We jumped down into his hole, telephoned Marham and requested to be re-fuelled.

‘I went and looked over the Wellington and decided it was safe to fly on. A refueller arrived, manned by some very nervous airmen. We had never been refuelled so fast; then they were gone. We learned that on the previous day a big raid by German bombers flying towards London had been met by RAF fighters over West Malling and had dumped their bombs before turning back to France. The airfield had been evacuated, its fighters sent elsewhere. Only this one flying control officer had been left. We rumbled across the airfield to take off, my heart in my mouth, fearing our vibration might set off an explosion.

‘Back in the interrogation room at Marham our plots and timings were carefully analysed. Another crew had claimed to have hit the target factory and set it on fire. It was probably the fire we had seen to the south of us. The other Captain was a very experienced pilot from civil aviation and he was convinced he had hit the right place. We put a bold face on our story, although I had doubts. To complicate matters, the Group Air Vice-Marshal had telephoned to congratulate the station and added, ‘There is an immediate award of a Distinguished Flying Cross in this, please give me the name.’ Both crews were bone weary and it seemed impossible to decide who had hit the right target. The Station Commander invited us to toss a coin and the other Captain won. I was glad of it, especially when, a few days later, he was shot down. His wife had something to show off his gallantry.

‘Operations over Europe became steadily more hazardous week by week as the Germans developed their air defence from the coast to Germany, with permanent sites for radar, searchlights, flak and night fighters with their elaborate control. One night, as we returned from a raid on the Ruhr, our rear-gunner reported that he could see a fighter following us. He had first reported its white downward recognition light (which helped his gunners on the ground.) Then he reported blue and gold lights in the cockpit and he could count two heads. I asked him to keep giving me their distance behind us, estimated with his gunsight, but on no account to fire. I reckoned our firing would give our enemy a pinpoint to aim at and his cannons were much more deadly than our two Vickers guns firing at a head-on fighter. He crept up on us slowly. I turned left, he followed us. I turned right and dived and again he followed us. It was clear he could not see us, but had some device by which he could follow us. Before the war I had exercised with ground operators who listened to aircraft approaching England for air defence purposes and I had helped them to calibrate. In the course of doing this I heard a hint that there were other ways of picking up and fixing aircraft flying in. So I had a suspicion that this German fighter might be carrying similar equipment.

‘As we made our way to the Belgian coast we played a cat and mouse game. I could not throw him off and he did not have enough confidence to open fire. Finally I instructed the rear-gunner to aim and, when the fighter came within 150 yards, to shout. At once I pulled the Wellington up into a high stall. We hung there on the engines and then fell out of the stall, to find that the fighter was about one hundred yards ahead of us. He immediately began hunting around to find us on his screen, but he couldn’t see backwards. At the coast he dived away and we continued on our way to Marham.

‘Our Intelligence people appeared to be very interested in our report of this encounter. One hinted that this was a very early report of German airborne radar in use. The RAF had its own disinformation campaign about radar. Before each sortie bomber aircrews were handed red lozenges – we called them cat’s eyes – and were informed that they were carrots, to help us see better in the dark. After the war, I heard that the Germans, after many interrogations of shot-down crews, had put scientists to work to investigate the powers of the carrot, perhaps to explain their own bomber losses by night over Britain.’

On the other side of the North Sea Nachtjagd pilots began to rack up high scores. Oberfeldwebel Paul Gildner of 3./NJG1 claimed three aircraft over the Netherlands during September 1940. Gildner, born on 1 February 1914 in Nimptsch (Silesia), had volunteered for the Wehrmacht in 1934 as an infantry officer but had transferred to the Luftwaffe. Gildner was already serving as a Oberfeldwebel Zerstörer pilot when war began in September 1939, flying the Messerschmitt Bf 110 with 1/ZG1. Gildner flew intensively during the European campaign in May-June 1940 and also flew sorties during early stages of the Battle of Britain. In August 1940 after training in night flying he was transferred to 4./NJG1). He scored his first Abschuss on 3 September 1940 when he shot down Hampden I P4370 on 144 Squadron (which he identified as a Whitley) and which was detailed to bomb Ludwigshafen. The bomber crashed near Sittard just on the German side of the border with Holland at 0045 hours on the night of the 2nd/3rd when 84 aircraft of RAF Bomber Command attacked a wide variety of targets in Germany, France, Holland and Italy. Pilot Officer R. S. A. Churchill and one crewmember were taken prisoner; the two others were killed. On the night of 18/19th at 2230 hours near Groenlo, Gildner shot down Whitley V P5008 on 58 Squadron, which had been detailed to bomb Hamm. Sergeant Albert Alfred Ellis Crossland and crew were killed. Two hours later, at Zieuwent, Gildner shot down another Whitley, N1425 on 77 Squadron, which was detailed to bomb Soest. Pilot Officer Peter Ernest Eldridge and his crew were killed. After Falck and Streib, Gildner was the third Nachtjagd pilot to be awarded the Ritterkreuz, on 9 July 1941 after his 14th Abschuss.

On the evening of 16 October 1940 Leutnant Ludwig Becker of 4./NJG1 and his bordfunker Unteroffizier Josef Staub claimed Nachtjagd’s first ground radar-directed kill at Oosterwolde. Ludwig Becker was born on 22 August 1911 in Dortmund-Aplerbeck in the Province of Westphalia, a province of the Kingdom of Prussia. Joining the Luftwaffe volunteers in 1934, by 1939 he was a test pilot and a Leutnant in the Luftwaffe reserve. Serving with NJG1, he crashed a Messerschmitt Bf 110 near Winterswijk on 30 August 1940. On what was a perfect moonlight night on the 16th of October flying a Dornier Do 17Z-10 equipped with the experimental ‘Spanner’ night-vision device they were guided onto the tail of a Wellington by Jägerleitoffizier (JLO or fighter-control officer) Leutnant Hermann Diehl of the experimental ‘Freya’ station at Nunspeet in Holland. The Wellington, L7844 KX-I on 311 Czechoslovak Squadron at East Wretham, was being flown by Pilot Officer Bohumil Landa. Becker reported:

‘At about 21.20 I was controlled by Leutnant Diehl at Nunspeet using Freya mit Zusatz and Würzburg, using Morse on the tactical frequency. I was guided very well at the correct height of 3300 metres with constant corrections towards the enemy at his starboard rear and suddenly saw, about 100 metres to my left and above, an aircraft in the moonlight, which on approaching closer I recognized as a Vickers Wellington. I closed in slowly behind him and gave a burst of about five of six seconds, aiming at the fuselage and wing roots. The starboard engine caught fire at once and I drew my machine up above him. For a while the Englishman [sic] continued, rapidly losing height; then the fire went out and I watched him spinning downward and finally crash. I observed no one bailing out. I returned to my standby area.’

The Wellington crashed at 2145 hours near Oosterwolde/Doornspijk. Landa and three crew were killed. Sergeants Emanuel Novotny and Augustin Sestak bailed out safely before their aircraft was completely destroyed in the crash near Oosterwolde at 2145. Landa and three of his crew were found dead in the wreckage the next day. It was Becker’s first Abschuss. Becker, born on 22 August 1911 in Dortmund-Aplerbeck in the Province of Westphalia, a province of the Kingdom of Prussia, had volunteered for the Luftwaffe in 1934 and became a Stuka pilot before joining the Bf 110 Zerstörer and becoming a night fighter pilot in July 1940. Serving with NJG1, he crashed a Messerschmitt Bf 110 near Winterswijk on 30 August 1940. In 1941-42 Becker became one of the leading ‘Experten’ in the Luftwaffe night fighter arm. He shot down forty bombers in 1942 and taught the new and young crews from his experiences. To them Becker ‘The Night Fighting Professor’ was an inspiring fatherly figure. Instrumental in introducing the Lichtenstein AI radar into the night fighter arm in 1941 though most night fighter aircrew were sceptical about it (they liked to rely on the ‘Mk I Eyeball’). Becker had one of the still experimental sets installed in his Do 217Z night fighter at Leeuwarden, 161 kilometres (100 miles) north of Arnheim on the Friesland coast. Guided by the revolutionary radar, his and Nachtjagd’s first AI victory was in the early hours on 9 August 1941 in a Do 215B-5 night fighter version of the Do 215 reconnaissance-bomber when 44 Wellingtons of Bomber Command attacked Hamburg. Becker shot down six RAF night bombers 8/9 August-29/30 September 1941. He was awarded the Knight’s Cross in July 1942 and he then served as a Staffelkapitän in 12./NJG1. By the end of the year, Becker had forty victories to his credit. Becker and his bordfunker Oberfeldwebel Josef Straub (who had taken part in forty victories) were posted missing in action on 26 February 1943 in a Bf 110G-4 while on a daylight sortie intercepting a Boeing B-17 formation over the North Sea and crashing north of Schiermonnikoog in the Netherlands. All his 46 victories were at night.

At midnight on 1/2 October 1940 Leutnant Hans-Georg Mangelsdorf of the 2nd Staffel NJG1 shot down a Whitley V near Hummelo, 21 kilometres east of Arnhem. His victim was P4964 on 78 Squadron at Dishforth which crashed at Sterkrade with the loss of New Zealand Pilot Officer Neville Halsey Andrew and crew. Two weeks later, on the 14/15th, Mangelsdorf was killed during aerial combat with a Hampden on 44 Squadron, crashing eight kilometres west of Gardelegen airfield. I./NJG1 at Venlo, Netherlands in order to more easily intercept the known RAF bomber routes into targets in the Ruhr, claimed five ‘Helle Nachtjagd’ kills. These included Hampden Is X2910 on 44 Squadron piloted by Sergeant Leonard John Burt and X2993 on 50 Squadron flown by South African Pilot Officer Arthur Howell Davies on a bombing operation on Berlin. Burt and two of his crew were killed, one being taken into captivity. Davies and one of his crew were killed, two others being taken prisoner. Three of I./NJG1 ‘s victories were credited to Oberleutnant Streib, a feat which earned him the award of the Ritterkreuz on 6 October with eight victories claimed. He was the first night fighter pilot to be honoured with the Knight’s Cross.

Nachtjagd’s final kills over the Continent during 1940 went to 4./NJG1. Oberleutnant Egmont Prinz zur Lippe Weissenfeld destroyed Wellington IC P9286 on 115 Squadron ten kilometres west of Medemblik on 16/17 November, the aircraft going down in flames at 0205 hours to crash near Winkel, Holland and with the loss of Sergeant Donald Ewart Larkman and crew. Twenty-nine year old Feldwebel Hans Rasper of the same Staffel destroyed Whitley V P5012 on 102 Squadron on 15/16 December ten kilometres northwest of Petten off the Dutch coast at Egmond. Flight Lieutenant Kenneth Thomas Hannah and his crew were killed. Rasper’s bordfunker, Erich Schreiber was killed in 1942. Rasper was taken prisoner on 26/27 April 1945 after he was shot down in Mittelfels, near Cham, by American ack-ack during a strafing run. He had seven Abschüsse. At least nineteen Bomber Command aircraft were destroyed July-December 1940 in the ‘Kammhuber Line’, as the continuous belt of searchlights and radar positions between Schleswig-Holstein and northern France was christened by the British bomber crews. About thirty bombers were brought down by flak during the same period. Apart from organising an effective short-range defensive Nachtjagd, Kammhuber also appreciated the value and effectiveness of ‘Fernnachtjagd’ (long-range night intruding) over Britain but the ‘Intruder’ force was never raised beyond one single Gruppe (I./NJG2) which operated the Ju 88C-6 and Do 17 from Gilze-Rijen in the Netherlands. It never exceeded 21 aircraft but despite this and severe operational losses (21 aircraft alone during 1940) ‘Fernnachtjagd’ made a promising start. The Gruppe’s first intruder victories were two Wellingtons destroyed by Feldwebel Otto Wiese 100 kilometres west of Texel and Georg ‘Gustav’ Schramm over the North Sea on the night of 22/23 July 1940. Weise was killed on 21/22 June 1941, shot down over Peterborough by Beaufighter R2277 on 25 Squadron piloted by Flying Officer J. M. Herrick and he crashed at Deeping St James. By December 1940 claims for another sixteen bombers followed. (By October 1941 the handful of crews in I./NJG2 had claimed more aircraft destroyed than all other Nachtjagd units combined). On 20/21 October 1940 when 139 bombers went to many targets in the occupied countries, Italy and Germany, a Whitley, ‘O-Orange’ on 58 Squadron at Linton-on-Ouse, which crashed on fire, on the slopes of the Cleveland Hills near Ingleby Greenow in Yorkshire, was claimed shot down by Hauptmann Karl Hülshoff commanding I./NJG2, the specialist German intruder unit. Pilot Officer Ernest Henry Brown and two of his crew were killed. Two were injured, one of whom died two days later. Hülshoff claimed the Whitley as a ‘Hereford’. He destroyed four more aircraft over England during 1940-41, adding another seven victories before the end of the war. Hülshoff was awarded the Deutscheskreuz in Gold. He was taken prisoner on 10 March 1941.

Hamburg, the second largest city of the Reich, with a population of just over a million and a half, was one of many targets bombed on 24/25 October when 113 aircraft tried to reach many targets in the Reich. One Wellington was lost on the raid on Hamburg. At Linton-on-Ouse nine Whitley Vs on 102 Squadron were detailed to bomb the Air Ministry Building in the Leipzigstrasse in Berlin. Pilot Officer A. G. Davies took off at 2202 hours and just six minutes later he was shot down in flames near Tholthorpe by 21-year old Feldwebel Hans Hahn of III./NJG2 who claimed it as a ‘Wellington’ for his first victory. Davies was injured and the second pilot and the observer died in the aircraft. Sergeant Angus Stewart Wilson and Pilot Officer Terence Edward Lee died of their injuries on 2 November.

On 28 October Leutnant Heinz Völker flying a Ju 88C-4 attacked two Hampdens on 49 Squadron as they were returning from Hamburg to Lindholme. The first Hampden was damaged but was able to land safely. Völker then attacked a second, which went down in the North Sea half a mile off Skegness with the loss of all Pilot Officer John Raymond Bufton’s crew. Völker scored a total of twelve victories and was awarded the Ritterkreuz. He and his two crew were killed on 22 July 1941 when over Ashwell, Hertfordshire, their Ju 88C-4 collided with a Wellington of 11 OTU. All eight men on the Wimpy were killed.

Victory claims submitted by night-fighter crews in the Reichsverteidigung (Air Defence of Germany) coupled by the long-range intruder operations over the UK and the North Sea grew steadily. During January 1941 eight bombers were destroyed by Nachtjagd. Six were by the intruders of I./NJG2. The two others – Whitley V T4203 on 78 Squadron by 23-year old Oberleutnant Reinhold Eckardt of II./NJG1 on the night of 9/10th, which went down between Millingen and Kekerdom, Holland with the loss of Sergeant Charles Arthur Smith and crew – and Whitley V N1521 on 58 Squadron by Oberleutnant Egmont Prinz zur Lippe-Weissenfeld of 4./NJG1, which crashed near Callantsoog, Holland on the 15/16th. Pilot Officer William Edgar Peers and his crew also died.


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