Text contributed by Doug Wanstall (email@example.com) Twitter
The picture is of my grandfather, John Wanstall who witnessed the dogfight and the plane belly landing. the reaction on Twitter and facebook has been amazing and shows just how much people care about our history, heritage and the brave souls that protected us.
The wreckage of the Messerschmitt Bf 109E4 (‘White 6’) piloted by Leutnant Heinz Schnabel
Schnabel was captured after his Messerschmitt Bf 109E4 (‘White 6’) was shot down and crash landed in Kent on 5 September 1940 during the Battle of Britain. Schnabel was a member of Jagdgeschwader 3 (1 Staffel (squadron)) and was an ace with six confirmed 'kills' to his name at the time.
"5 September 1940: 1./JG3 Messerschmitt Bf109E-4 (nr.1985). Engine damaged in combat with fighters during escort sortie for Do17s to Croydon and belly-landed on Handen Farm, Chaphill, near Aldington, 10.10 a.m. Possibly one of those attacked by F/L J.T. Webster of No.41 Squadron. FF Lt Heinz Schnabel captured slightly wounded. Aircraft White 6 + 100% write-off."
"Leutnant Heinz Schnabel and Oberleutnant Harry Wappler were two German prisoners of war (PoW) who made a daring, but unsuccessful attempt, to fly from captivity in England to the Netherlands during the Second World War. They managed to hijack a training aircraft and then attempt to fly to the continent, only to turn back due to lack of fuel. They were subsequently caught and later transferred to Canada for the rest of the war." - (info via wikipedia)
(Colorised by Paul Kerestes from Romania)
Further reading taken from: http://www.battleofbritain1940.net/0035.html
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 5th 1940
After a clear night, the morning period all over Britain should be clear with good to excellent visibility and temperatures slightly above average. Cloud was expected to increase over the eastern coast north of East Anglia during the afternoon. The north of England and Scotland should have six tenths cloud cover and was expected to increase during the afternoon although this was to be high cloud with no rain expected. The Channel areas were expected to remain clear and fine for most of the day.
OPERATIONS IN DETAIL:
The day proved to be an ideal day for combat, the weather was clear with only a slight breeze. Conditions for flying were ideal, although Fighter Command were praying for rain and inclement weather. Dowding wanted some breathing space, some respite for the fighter airfields, especially those of 11 Group. Just a few days would relieve the pressure on the British pilots.
Although the directive had gone out that the Luftwaffe were to bomb the British cities, it was no doubt that this day, arrangements were already being made for the annihilation of London and the industrial centres of the Midlands. But in the meantime, the Luftwaffe were resting many of their heavy bombers and quite a number had been moved from airfields further south to more strategic airfields closer to the French coast. For the time being, the Luftwaffe would continue its attacks of RAF airfields and aircraft factories in an effort to wear down Fighter Command.1000hrs: German bombers are detected approaching at two points, one wave crosses the coast between Dover and Folkestone while the other comes in from the Thames Estuary, both formations are from Kesselrings Luftflotte 2. It is estimated that the whole attack is represented by no less that twenty separate small formations.
41 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires) which had spent a considerable amount of time at Catterick had now been moved down to Hornchurch and they were immediately sent to the satellite station at Manston and were despatched to intercept the enemy over the Thames Estuary. 111 Squadron Croydon (Hurricanes) had an early "scramble" and were directed to intercept at Dover. 253 Squadron Kenley (Hurricanes) were also despatched as was 501 Squadron Gravesend (Hurricanes) and 603 Squadron Hornchurch (Spitfires).
The Manston based 41 Squadron immediately make their presence felt. F/L J.T. Webster comes hard down on a Bf109 over South London who was about to engage one of the Hurricanes. A couple of short bursts miss, the Bf109 takes evasive action but F/L Webster weaves and sways keeping the 109 in his gunsight. Another short burst and smoke trails from the Messerschmitt and it glides down finally making a forced landing just outside the village of Adlington Kent. F/L J.T. Webster is also thought to have shot down another Bf109 while over the South London area. The Bf109 (6+) withdrew and losing height and finally made a forced landing near Faversham in Kent. The Bf109 of Oberlt Franz von Werra Gruppe Adjutant of Staab II/JG3 was shot down over Marden in Kent by P/O B.G. Stapleton of 603 Squadron Hornchurch, although it is believed that the Bf109 sustained original damage after being hit by gunfire from the Spitfire of P/O G.H. Bennions of 41 Squadron Hornchurch.
Oberlt Franz von Werrra was captured and taken to the authorities and finally transferred to a prisoner of war camp in Canada where he made good his escape by making his way to the USA and finally by boat to Europe where he re-joined his unit and flew again against Fighter Command.
This man is believed by many to be the German ace, Oblt Franz von Werra. The bravado von Werra displayed as a fighter ace among his comrades remained with him as a POW. He proved difficult to hold and made numerous escape attempts.With other prisoners, he was transferred to Canada. In Nova Scotia the prisoners were transported by rail from Halifax to their new camp and en route von Werra forced open a window and jumped from the moving train. This time he was not recaptured and made good his escape by crossing the nearby border into the United States which was still neutral.
He was the only German aviator to escape from British custody and return to fight for his country again.
Concerning the combat which resulted in von Werra's fall into British hands, there is confusion. That he crash landed on 5th September at Winchet Hill is not disputed but other circumstances surrounding the incident are open to question.
After returning to Germany, von Werra eventually became commanding officer of 1/JG 53 on the Russian front. He shot down 13 Russian planes to bring his tally to 21 but on 25 October 1941 the engine of his Bf109 failed and it plunged into the sea near Vlissingen. He was drowned.
Denis Newton A Few of the Few Australian War Memorial Canberra 1990 p157
1030hrs: Croydon was attacked, as was Biggin Hill, Eastchurch, Lympne and North Weald. More damage is sustained, but only Biggin Hill again gives cause for concern. 79 Squadron (Hurricanes) is the only squadron operating from Biggin, 72 Squadron Biggin Hill (Spitfires) is told to remain at Croydon for the time being.
A formation of Do17s and Bf109 escorts come in from the Thames Estuary and head in the direction of South London. Too far to the south to be targeting London, for some reason the target is again that of.....Biggin Hill. 79 Squadron is scrambled and with some miraculous flying breaks up the Dorniers and they drop their bombs well off target.
Most of the mornings raids were confined to the north Kent coast, the aerodromes of Biggin Hill and Croydon with Hornchurch and scattered raids across Essex as far as Harwich. Other areas that came under attack were targets of no importance across mid Kent where it is believed that German bombers dropped their bomb loads at random on the return journey. Biggin Hill is again a shambles and Group Captain Grice states that he now has only one hangar left standing, and even that is nothing but a burnt out shell and the commander issues orders to place explosive charges in it and destroy it at the next raid. 1225hrs: Another huge formation is detected, again coming in from the Thames Estuary. The are at high altitude, some 20,000 feet, and quite a number of formations were so high that the were undetected by both radar and the Observer Corps.
1300hrs: One of the formations is intercepted by 72 Squadron Croydon (Spitfires) it is found that the formation consists of about 50 plus Ju88s and Heinkel 111s escorted by about 100 Bf109s as escorts. The main target is the oil storage tanks at Thameshaven causing serious damage. Giant palls of thick arid black smoke can be seen for miles. 72 Squadron Croydon (Spitfires) is joined by 73 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes), and both squadrons are attacked by a recently arrived formation of Bf109s. Some of the Hurricanes are jumped on by surprise and four of them are shot down with one of the pilots killed. 43 Squadron Tangmere (Hurricanes) operating out of Kenley also mixes it with the Bf109s with only one Bf109 being shot down.
1400hrs: Many of the bomber formations manage to get through Fighter Commands defences although a number of Bf109s were casualties of the afternoon battle. Many of the airfields and towns along the Thames were still cleaning up after the mornings raids when now, almost mid-afternoon they were witnessing German bombers making their way to their targets and the tell tale spirals of fighter dogfighting high above.
1500hrs: The afternoon raid was almost a couple of hours old and still damage was being recorded and aircraft were being shot down, but this last hour of the battle was the most active of the afternoon. Most squadrons were either only recently arrived replacing those that had returned to their bases to refuel and rearm or had been recalled back into the skirmish. 41 Squadron Manston (Spitfires) were now back into the affray, as was 66 Squadron Kenley (Spitfires) that had been called in to relieve squadrons returning to base. One of the squadrons that had been in the thick of the action since just after midday was 72 Squadron Croydon (Spitfires) and they were just about to return to base to refuel and rearm, 73 Squadron Debden (Hurricanes) were despatched to the Essex coast after a formation of Ju88s had been detected, 111 Squadron Croydon and 253 Squadron Kenley, both equipped with Hurricanes became involved in combat over the Thames Estuary.
In the meantime, S/L Zdzislaw Krasnodebski's 303 Squadron Northolt (Hurricanes) was in action over the south coast even though the squadrons actions was deemed 'questionable' even by AVM Keith Park since they had commenced an impressive record from August 30th when the squadron had made their first claim.
Even the Northolt Commander Group Captain Vincent was a little wary of the number of claims being made by the Poles, and told the base intelligence officer to 'treat the Poles claims very carefully and go through them with a fine tooth comb.' Vincent was beginning to believe that each of the Poles were organising false and fake claims, and when the squadron was despatched to Tilbury and Thameshaven he decided that he, along with S/L Ronald Kellett who had assisted in the formation of the squadron, go up and see the Poles in action for themselves.
What Vincent saw, at 21,000 feet over Thameshaven, astern of the Poles and 1,000 feet below, was a sight he would remember till he died — tier upon tier of glinting, well-drilled Dorniers, two Hurricanes, poised 1,000 feet above, suddenly crash diving into space with near-suicidal impetus, a sudden ripple of agitation running through the mighty horde as the leading Dorniers, foreseeing head-on collision, turned and broke. This was the spearhead. As the bombers scattered, Pole after Pole was diving — holding their fire until twenty yards distant, accepting the awful risk that the last great explosion would destroy them, too. Amazed, Vincent saw planes and parachutes fluttering like charred paper through the sky. Kellett, an Me 109 and Sergeant Kazimierz Wunsche fought only 100 yards apart, the sergeant closing to sixty yards to save Kellett’s life. Flying Officer Waclaw Lapkowski baled out with a broken arm. Polish fighters angrily nosed Vincent’s Hurricane aside, grudging him so much as one chance shot at a crippled bomber. Back at Northolt, fevered with excitement, Vincent sent for the intelligence officer: My God, they are doing it; it isn’t just imagination.’
Richard Collier Eagle Day-The Story of the Battle of Britain Hodder & Staughton 1966 p177
1600hrs: As the German bombers made their way home, Staffels of Bf109s came out across the Channel to provide escort on a day that although it may have seemed impressive, was not all that claimed to be by the Luftwaffe. Thameshaven was the only target which they claimed was a success, and just about the last nail had been hammered home in Biggin Hill's coffin, but other than that any damage done was not to have any effect on Fighter Command. The Hawker factory at Brooklands was hit, but damage was only slight and the casualties were few. Maidstone was hit and demolished a part of one street and the attacks on Detling and Eastchurch were by no means going to affect Fighter Command. For those that were keeping score, it was 23 German planes down for 20 RAF fighters, a fairly even score sheet in reality.
Hitler had ordered "crush" the RAF, it was evident that the RAF was so far uncrushable. Fighter Command was attacking Berlin and lashing out nightly against the German invasion fleet - to the discomfort of the Kriegsmarine which Hitler counted on to transport his invasion troops to England's shores.
Peter Townsend 85 Squadron from his book The Odds Against Us
Will not the British ever learn. Their bombers come and kill innocent German people, and I have given them fair warning. We have told you before, that the nights when the British bombers do not attack our capital, our glorious Luftwaffe has forcibly stopped the British bombers in their tracks and they have had to turn for home. But now, the time is right, the British air force is down to its last reserves, they cry for pity, and I will give them pity for I will wipe London from the face of the earth. I want fire everywhere, thousands of them and then they will unite in one gigantic area of conflagration.
Adolph Hitler September 1940 on deciding that London should be bombed.
The statement of the High Command obviously forced upon it by Hitler himself--he often takes a hand in writing the official army communiqués deliberately perpetrates the lie that Germany has only decided to bomb London as a result of the British first bombing Berlin. And the German people will fall for this, as they fall for almost everything they’re told nowadays. Certainly never before in modern times — since the press, and later the radio, made it theoretically possible for the mass of mankind to learn what was going on in the world — have a great people been so misled, so unscrupulously lied to, as the Germans under this regime.And so tonight the High Command, which all good Germans believe tells only the gospel truth, issued a special communiqué saying that as reprisal for the British raids on Berlin, London was attacked with strong forces for the first time today As a result of this reprisal attack, it says, “one great cloud of smoke tonight stretches from the middle of London to the mouth of the Thames.”
To give American radio listeners an idea of the kind of propaganda (though I couldn’t label it as such) which the German people are being subjected to now, I read in my broadcast tonight the following quotation from today’s Berlin newspaper, the Biirsen Zeitung: “While the attack of the German air force is made on purely military objectives this fact is recognized by both the British press and radio — the RAF knows nothing better to do than continually attack non-military objectives in Germany. A perfect example of this was the criminal attack on the middle of Berlin last night. In this attack only lodging-houses were hit; not a single military objective.”
The German people have no inkling — because the Nazi press and radio have carefully suppressed the story — that in August alone more than one thousand English civilians were killed by the Luftwaffe's attacks on British "military objectives."
William L. Shirer The Rise of the Third Reich 1940-41 p214
As the darkness of night closes in on the evening of September 5th, British radar tracks a large formation of bombers heading towards the city of London. The night fighters of the RAF are not up to the task of attacking the bombers, the British are not experienced in night fighting. Hundreds of searchlights light up the night sky and the bombers are lit up like small white specks. Anti-aircraft fire follows but the bombers maintain their course.Other formations attack Manchester and Liverpool causing damage, but all cities receive only the one air raid to which by now, most of the residents are getting used to the hit and run tactics of the night attacks. Numerous other towns were placed under a Red Alert and scattered attacks were made by German bomber formations.
But RAF Bomber Command are busy too. On one mission 85 bombers spent two hours over Berlin causing considerable damage, which I daresay did not please the German High Command one bit.
Other targets for Bomber Command were the oil refinery at Stettin, and although they were inconvenienced by some very accurate anti-aircraft fire, the mission was a success.
Because of the attacks being made on the aircraft factories and assembly lines, Keith Park was to take the necessary steps to provide cover for these establishments. Following a recommendation from AVM Hugh Dowding, Park was to give maximum protection possible to the Hawker factories at Kingston and Brooklands, and to the Supermarine works at Southampton. 12 Group was informed, that if 11 Group was to provide additional cover for Weybridge and Brooklands, he would need the support of 12 Group and that they would be called upon at short notice. The same was passed on to 10 Group, that they provide patrols from Brooklands to Croydon whenever there was heavy enemy activity in the area, although Park new that 12 Group was fairly heavily committed by having to cover the Essex and Norfolk coasts where a number of enemy formations had recently been keeping 12 Group busy.
Knowing that 12 Group would hastily respond to his request, AVM Quintin-Brand made available four extra squadrons that could cover the Southampton-Portsmouth area as soon as heavy raids had been detected. Park also brought down 504 Squadron who had been resting at Catterick and posted them to Hendon.
1015hrs: Birling Kent. Spitfire P9432. 19 Squadron Duxford
S/L P.C. Pinkham killed. (Shot down by Bf109 while in combat over Channel. Pilot went down with Aircraft)
1425hrs: Eltham. Spitfire N3093. 72 Squadron Croydon
Sgt M. Gray killed. (Crashed after combat with Bf109s. Aircraft seen to crash into Eltham Park Wood)
1425hrs: Eltham. Spitfire X4013. 72 Squadron Croydon
P/O D.C. Winter killed. (Shot down by Bf109 and tried to abandon aircraft at too low an altitude)
1525hrs: Thames Estuary. Spitfire R6635. 41 Squadron Hornchurch (based at Manston)
F/L J.T. Webster killed. (Collided with P9428. Pilot baled out but killed. Aircraft crashed at Laindon Essex)
1525hrs: Thames Estuary. Spitfire P9428. 41 Squadron Hornchurch (based at Manston)
S/L H.R.L. Hood listed as missing. (Collided with R6635. Aircraft disintegrated over Wickford)
1530hrs: Burnham Essex. Hurricane P3234. 73 Squadron Debden
Sgt A.L. McNey listed as missing. (Shot down by enemy aircraft and crashed at Nth Fambridge)
Crash site has been excavated and although portions of pilots harness and remains of parachute silk were discovered in aircraft remains there was no evidence of a human remains at crash site.
1600hrs: Rochester. Spitfire R6885. 66 Squadron Kenley
F/O P.J.C. King killed. (Shot down by Bf109s. Pilot baled out but parachute failed to open)
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