As the burning torch expires

The crash of a  British bomber at Michelau Neuhausen 1943

 Part 1

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The following translation of the article in German by Norbert Vollmann follows as closely as possible the original story.

Norbert himself sent me the story in English translated by a computer programme and I have, I hope, helped to make it in places, a little more understandable.

 

A Lancaster III bomber similar to the above crashes on the night of 27/28th February 1943 at Neuhausen, which today belongs to the area of Michelau in Steigerwald.

The aircraft was part of an RAF attack on Nuremberg and all seven crew members lost their lives.

Reproduction-Picture Vollmann

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Bombing of Nuremberg

The strategic meaning

Nuremberg was bombed in the second world war again and again for different reasons by the Allies. The city was the centre of NAZI-party conventions and at the time played only a minor role but the British and Americans had more important goals to settle.

On one hand there were two intersecting railway tracks which were very important for the German warfare, the connection of  the Ruhr (Basin) to Vienna and south Eastern Europe and the route from Berlin and central Germany to Italy.

The switchgear station Gebersdorf of the Bayernwerk AG was of the most important for the supply of the Third Reich. It connected power plants in the East and the South with the network of the RWE (Rheinisch Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk = powerhouse) in western Germany.

Then on the other hand, the allied point of view was that the Nuremberg industry had a considerable meaning for the production of U-boat-engines (submarine engines), combat tanks, armoured vehicles, trucks and other military vehicles, in the production of accessories for the construction of vehicles and aircraft, furthermore in the manufacture of electric motors, floodlights, weapons and ammunition. In this, the names of firms like MAN, Siemens, Triumph and  Zündapp stand out.

 

The dead of Neuhausen

6 British and one Canadian

Aboard the British Lancaster bomber which crashed on the 28th August 1943 near Neuhausen, were six British crew members and Sergeant Edward Kelloway (Photo), a Canadian. He was the navigator in the crew.

Reproduction-Picture Vollmann

These are the seven crew members of the Royal Air Force Lancaster which crashed during the air attack on Nuremberg on 27./28. August 1943 at Michelau-Neuhausen:

Pilot - Leonard Wilson Aspden (22) from Letchworth (Hertfordshire).

Flight Engineer -  Kenneth Jack Bevis (22) from Weymouth (Dorsetshire).

Navigator -  Edward Kelloway (20) from Port Arthur, Ontario (Canada).

Bombardier - Graham King (26) from Watford (Hertfordshire).

Radio operator -  Ronald Williams Dobbins (23) from Wolverley (Worcestershire).

The mid-up gunner  - Eric Wilfred Clayton (36) from Hull, Yorkshire.

Tail gunner Norman -  Alfred Pinxton Chew (35) frombPinner (Middlesex).

King, Clayton and Chew were married and left behind them wife's and children.  Especially tragic was that  the crews usual tail gunner, Sergeant Butler was replaced temporary by Chew.  Chew dies, Butler survives the war.

The crew's other successful operations were among others against Wuppertal, Cologne, Gelsenkirchen, Hamburg, Essen, Mannheim and on the 23/24. August 1943 against Berlin before the crew of Leonard Aspden were killed in action on the 27/28.August 1943 during the attack on Nuremberg

 

As the burning torch expires

The crash of the British bomber at Michelau-Neuhausen 1943 (part 1 of 2)

By Norbert Vollmann

It is the night of the 27/28 August 1943. The Second World War is in full progress. The British Air Force readies itself to a large attack on Nuremberg. 674 bombers are preparing themselves on this Friday at different bases distributed over the whole east of England to take their destructive freight into the evening sky.

In Wickenby, the Lancaster flown by Leonard Aspden of the 12 Squadron RAF is starting its journey and with the other bombers in the attack formation, there is a long way to go into enemy territory and back.

But for Aspden and his crew, there will be no return flight. Over Neuhausen near Michelau, the Royal Air Force bomber becomes to the seven crew members of that night, a flying coffin.

The Lancaster III with the serial number DV187 and the Code PH-A takes off exactly at 21.28pm at its Wickenby base on the east coast.  The high explosive load of the aircraft is consisting of 4,3 tons of incendiary bombs, including a feared 1,8 tonne "cookie".

At Beachy Head in the vicinity of Eastbourne the group with 349 Lancaster-, 221 Halifax- and 104 Stirling-bombers is leaving the British Isles, crossing the Channel and flying diagonally through France, before it turns to the East towards Germany.  After a last turn south in front of Nuremberg to the north the attackers take their final course on the city.

The German Air Force are already alerted to the danger and are at their highest combat readiness including the 1st Squadron of Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 (NJG, nightfighter squadron) which is stationed at this time south of Brussels in Florennes, Belgium.

Around 0.26am, the new squadron captain, Oberleutnant (Flying officer/1st Lieutenant) Ludwig Meister, starts on the air base, both engines of his Messerschmitt (Me) Bf 110 G-4 (the abbreviation Bf stands for the manufacturer Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG, Bavarian airplane work). Also on board, Hannes Forke, the navigator and radio operator, and the flight mechanic Toni Werzinski.  Hannes Forke writes into his diary,  "After two days of quiet, the 'wild sow' goes stalking again." (the "wild sow" is the attack tactic of the German Air Force).

In contrast to the previous air raid on Nuremberg on the 10/11th August, the local air protection leader in Nuremberg is informed very early of the air raid through the Luftschutz-Warnkommando (anti aircraft alarm command) that the bomber group are heading for the city. The air protection and other air protection units now fully warned of the impending air raid sound the air raid warning sirens and by 0.53am, the wailing of the sirens could be heard.

The Me 110 with the mark 3C + TJ,  piloted by Oberleutnant Meister is in the meantime crossing the Rhine at Ludwigshafen and passing Mannheim. Flak from the ground fire and floodlight activities are already showing the presence of the "Tommy's".  

In the Schwäbisch-Hall area the moment has come. Meister and his crew shoot down the Lancaster ED627 belonging to  207 squadron RAF.  The airplane crashes at about 1.35am with a full load of bombs near Hohenberg between Geislingen and Wolpertshausen to the ground. Pilot Arthur Marcus Fitzgerald and his crew lose their lives.  It is the crew’s 13th operation and the destruction of their aircraft is credited to Ludwig Meister by the Luftgau-commission.

About 1am the first enemy aircraft are sighted over Nuremberg. The nightmare will last over one and a half hours before the last of the attackers leave. The sky is cloudless, the night because of the new moon is however extremely dark. Over the town the attackers are leaving, running from the fire of the FLAK-batteries and the German anti-aircraft defence.

The Luftwaffe pilots are courageously attacking the British. The searchlights are trying again and again to “cone” the enemy bombers to make them easy victims for the FLAK-batteries and German fighters.

Oberleutnant Meister is almost at Nuremberg when he suddenly see's in the light from the fires of a blazing Nuremberg, at the same height of his fighter, the silhouette of a four-engine bomber flying directly towards the direction of his aircraft. Only due to a lightening quick reaction of the 23 year old pilot was the imminent head on collision of both aircraft avoided. This dangerous situation now being over, the next challenge awaited the crew.

Meister sees that one Lancaster, is being ”coned” by searchlights is “spiralling wildly around in the night sky” to get out of the deadly light. From a height of 5000 to 6000 meters, the German night hunter pounces on his victim from above and shoots the Lancaster until it set on fire. Ludwig Meister, “There upon the job was done for me. I had to hurry in order to get out of the cone of searchlights as all guns were still blazing up with Flak”

Hannes Forke describes the downing of this crew in his diary as follows: “Suddenly we see the second “Tommy” in the light of the searchlights. Approaching, shooting and then falling 2000 meters at the same time, and all in one action. As we look up, we see that the “Tommy” is burning very fiercely and at 1.57am our second success. . . I’ve never experienced before in my life the number of “Tommies” falling down like on that day.”

And Forke was quite right, in the areas near to Neuhausen where that bomber fell, more bombers were crashing not far away between Prölsdorf and Halbersdorf, at Füttersee, at Schwarzenau and at Iphofen-Hellmitzheim.

 

Most of the wreckage belonging to the aircraft which crashed on the night of 27/28th August 1943 fell into a green field near the road to Prüßberg just before Neuhausen.

© Photo Norbert Vollmann

On board the burning Lancaster all hell breaks out at this time. But somehow, the pilot manages to bring the plane under control again, Pursued by the German fighter planes, he now fly’s away heading west.  The crew onboard are unable to get the fire under control and start to throw anything inflammable out of the aircraft. So the people will later find singed covers and sleeping bags thrown out of the aircraft between the villages of Untersteinbach and Obersteinbach. In the mean time the plane is burning the length of its entire body like a flaming torch. On board, ammunition is already exploding. Heading from the village of Geusfeld over the Zabelstein (note: the name of a woody hill), the aircraft is racing towards the little villages of Neuhausen and Prüßberg.  The aircraft turns again near the forest although there are different opinions about that. The fact is that already above on the Zabelstein-plateau over the "Haussteig" (name of a section in the forest), a larger explosion on board happens. The first parts of the plane falls to the ground. However the bomber is flying forward and is now threatening to fall on the village of Neuhausen.  Anna Reinhart, born 1911, nee Kram, is watching at Neuhausen through the window several planes coming over the Zabelstein. With one of her two small children on the arm, she is runs down the stairway to look out of the front door….

 

 Click HERE for part 2

© Norbert Vollmann 2006-2007