WW2 Air Crash

German Ju 188 crash at Yenston in South Somerset during WW2

 A little known story of a WW2 German air crash in Somerset

General Dwight David Eisenhower and Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery met at The Chalton Hotel in Bournemouth, Dorset

General Dwight David Eisenhower and Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery met at The Chalton Hotel in Bournemouth, Dorset

Early in 1944 Britain is gearing up for top secret action in France precipitating a German response code-named Operation Steinbock; a new campaign of aerial bombardment and increased surveillance of southern England. American GIs arrive to train in preparation for the summer offensive. During May 1944 Monty and Eisenhower are staying at The Charlton Hotel in Bournemouth fine tuning plans for the forth-coming D-Day campaign.[1] All coastal sea ports are on high alert. The local press begins reporting incidents of individuals chastised for straying onto the now prohibited beaches of Dorset. [2]

     

German Junkers Ju 188 combat aircraft

German Junkers Ju 188 combat aircraft

During the night of Sunday/Monday 14th/15th May 1944, a large flight of German Junkers, are flying in from the Channel over the Blackmore Vale en route to Bristol where the docks is the main target. Unbeknown by those taking part, this is the heaviest attack to date. 91 aircraft are dispatched, with 68 sightings over Bristol between 01.50 – 02.25 hrs. The planes carrying ‘163 tonnes of high explosive bombs drop 4.65 tonnes on airfields’ in the Bristol area. 15 German aircraft are shot down over the region. [3]  Two of them over south Somerset.

    

488 Mosquito Squadron based at Zeals Aerodrome in Wiltshire

488 Mosquito Squadron based at Zeals Aerodrome in Wiltshire

488 Mosquito Squadron based at Zeals in Wiltshire are put on high alert.[4] Flying Officer Ray Jeffs, Pilot and Flying Officer Ted Spedding, the navigator of the Mosquito pick up a JU.188, captured by Yeovil’s searchlights. It comes into their sights as it crosses into Somerset. They give chase,[5] shooting the plane down over West Camel. The pilot, Johannes Domske (20) dies. Crewmen Emil Chmillewski (21), wireless operator, Waldemar Jungke (22) and gunner Otto Schott (23) parachute into captivity.[6]

Flight Lieutenant John Hall (left) and Flying Officer ‘Jock’ Cairns (right) Photograph from Mac Hawkins 'Somerset at War.'

Flight Lieutenant John Hall (left) and Flying Officer ‘Jock’ Cairns (right) Photograph from Mac Hawkins ‘Somerset at War.’

The second, occurring on the same evening, is lesser known.[7] Flyers are patrolling the night skies. At 01.11 hrs Flight Lieutenant John A. S. Hall and Flying Officer ‘Jock’ P. Cairns, call sign ‘Dorval 20,’ are directed by Exminster control to fly on a ‘westerly vector’. At 19,000 feet, over Wincanton, the tail-tale signs of a single white-ish exhaust are spotted. The Mosquito in hot pursuit draws astern, ‘opening fire at approximately 100 yards range.’ Many strikes are observed on the ‘fuselage and starboard wing root and engine. A large fire develops illuminating two bombs, one under each inboard wing section.’ During the night bombs are dropped on Wincanton causing one fatality. [8] The continuing chase flies over Templecombe, near Inwood with its distinctive landmark tower. Severely damaged the JU.188 plunges, vertically, in flames and explodes on hitting the ground, 100 yards from Inwood House.[9]

Westminster Bank, South Street, Wincanton, somerset Puffy Bowden 'Wincanton Pleasant Town on the Cale.'

Westminster Bank, South Street, Wincanton, somerset Puffy Bowden ‘Wincanton Pleasant Town on the Cale.’

Amongst the people waking up in Yenston is young Bob Fisher, who sets off on his paper round and cycles up the drive to Inwood. He is one of the first on the scene. Bob is one of the messenger boys organised by Major Stern of Monmouth House. Shortly afterwards he is joined by other members of the gang Barry Rowland, Derek ‘Squeak’ Pearson and Charlie ‘Manno’ Brown. The local ARP Warden chases them away but not before they catch a glimpse of one of the beheaded crew.[10]

Salvaging the wreckage of the Junkers  JU.188 at Inwood  Mac Hawkins 'Somerset at War'.

Salvaging the wreckage of the Junkers JU.188 at Inwood Mac Hawkins ‘Somerset at War’.

The wireless operator of the JU.188 is killed along with one other of the flying crew. There are two survivors and one, Karl Hoyer, who is a bit of a mystery.

1.       Uffz. – Unteroffizier – Corporal Hilmar Korf, wireless operator was born on 29th August 1922 and died on 15th May 1944 aged 21 years. His death was registered at Wincanton and he is interred on 22nd May at Haycombe Cemetery, Bath. Grave No: 51V231H

2.       Gefr. – Gefreitor –Gerhard Buttner, Aircraftman First Class was born in 1923 and interred at Haycombe Cemetery on 22nd May 1944 aged 21 years. Grave No: 39A232H.

3.       Uffz. – Unteroffizier –- Corporal Karl Hoyer, Bordscheitze – Gunner – unconfirmed for sure whether died or POW.

4.       Uffz. – Unteroffizier –- Corporal Karl Fritsch – Survivor – POW

  1. Lt. – Lieutenant – Gerhard Wentz – Pilot – Survivor – POW. Gerhard Wentz parachutes out of the plane and is ‘caught walking from the Henstridge direction towards Templecombe bridge by the Home Guard.’[11]

The graves of Gerhard Buttner and Hilmar Korf located at Haycombe Cemetery, Bath. Photograph by Caroline Rowland

The graves of Gerhard Buttner and Hilmar Korf located at Haycombe Cemetery, Bath. Photograph by Caroline Rowland

Two of the crew, still alive, are taken prisoner and sent to a Prisoner of War Camp. There are two local German Working Camps, one at Motcombe Park, Dorset, the other at Barwick Park, near Yeovil. Both initially housing Italian prisoners from the Western Desert Campaign and later German prisoners after the Battle of Normandy. [12]

May 1944. JU.188-2 (3E+LK) of 2/KG 6 which was brought down by a Mosquito from 488 Squadron Mac Hawkins 'Thanks for the Memory.'

May 1944. JU.188-2 (3E+LK) of 2/KG 6 which was brought down by a Mosquito from 488 Squadron
Mac Hawkins ‘Thanks for the Memory.’

Where is the crash site in 2015? Caroline Rowland

Yenston, Somerset.Where is the crash site in 2015? Caroline Rowland

 In presenting this account you can see from the sources it is made up of primary and secondary sources and eye witness accounts. There are areas which need further verification.

  1. The same source photograph of the JU.188 appears to be kept in two different archives: Yeovilton and the Public Record Office. Is this the bomber shot down by the Mosquito?
  2. On the premise the flight report is accurate there are only two bombs. Puffy Bowden writes of three stick bombs landing in Wincanton on 14th/15th May. Mac Hawkins links the Inwood crash with the Wincanton raid.

What do you think?

Having been commissioned to carry out this research, it is proving to be an exciting and challenging project. We have been presented with an opportunity to research a past event, known to only a handful of living witnesses, combined with some real-time detective work to find physical evidence to verify the story. The team would like to thank Mr Richard de Pelet for giving permission to search for the crash site.

Help us locate living relatives of the airmen.

Copyright Caroline Rowland January 2015. 

You are welcome to reproduce research information contained here. We would ask  that you credit the author and website http://www.warmemorialsww1.co.uk

The research is ongoing and we would be pleased to hear from you:

(a) if you have any information or photographs about Henstridge during the wartime

(b) to receive proposals for further commissions

You can contact:

Colin Biddiscombe 07855695717

Pat Woods 01963 363259

Email pat.wood58@hotmail.co.uk

Caroline Rowland 01963 371795

Email carolinerowlandww1@gmail.com

 NOTES:

[1]Rodney Legg ‘Wartime Dorset’

[2] Western Daily Press reports from February – June 1944

[3]John Penny ‘The Luftwaffe and Bristol Bombings’ 1998

[4] Records, blurred over time, can be straightened out here, differentiating between two incidents over the Blackmore Vale; one at West Camel, the other at Yenston.

[5] Rodney Legg ‘D-Day Dorset’

[6] Ibid

[7]John Penny ‘The Luftwaffe and Bristol Bombings’ 1998

[8] Puffy Bowden ‘Wincanton Pleasant Town on the Cale’ and Mac Hawkins ‘Somerset at War’. Puffy Bowden writes of three stick bombs dropping, one of which landed in South Street killing the Bank Manager’s daughter. In ‘Somerset at War’ Mac Hawkins suggests this could be the same plane which did eventually crash at Inwood. Query whether this was the same plane and same raid?

[9] Original flight log for 14/15th May 1944

[10] Witness accounts from Charlie ‘Manno’ Brown, the only surviving member of the Messenger Boys. Jack Mills of Henstridge

[11] Mac Hawkins ‘Thanks for the Memory’

[12] Robert J C Thomas ‘Prisoner of War Camps 1939 – 1948’

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