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Old 23rd October 2018, 21:20
2004nigelf 2004nigelf is offline
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Gunther Bahr

I am try to trace the fate of my 'Uncle' (father's brother) whose Lancaster PB638 P4-O crashed near Michelbach on a raid on Stuttgart on 28th January 1945. (H hour 23:30)

I have found the following information on the internet with regard to Fw Gunther Bahr of 3/NJG 6 who claimed the following two successes on the 28th.

Lancaster 23.32 Stuttgart (25th claim)
Lancaster 23:39 SWS Stuttgart (26th claim)

I have also seen another website which seems to link one of these to a Lancaster crashing in the forest near to Michelbach, which appears to be a possible link.

Does anyone have further information that might shed some light of whether or not Fw Bahr did in fact shoot down my Uncle's Lancaster?

There is also another possible claim for that evening from Ofw Ludwig (or could be Heinrich) Schmidt 2/NJG 6 who claims shooting down a Lancaster at 23:28 at Stuttgart

Just for curiosity Bahr was also credited with downing 7 Lancasters on 21st February between 20:34 and 20:50 (5-8 km WSW Mannheim-Worms). Is this creditable or a fancy piece of German wartime propaganda to boost morale
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Old 24th October 2018, 18:55
VtwinVince VtwinVince is offline
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Re: Gunther Bahr

I knew Bahr personally, and I can confirm that he did in fact have a 'big night' on 21.2.45, and no, this was not a propaganda stunt.
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Old 25th October 2018, 00:03
2004nigelf 2004nigelf is offline
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Re: Gunther Bahr

VtwinVince

Thanks for taking the time to reply to my question. I wonder if you could help me further to solve a 73 year old family mystery.

The quote that I saw was on the website https://www.plane-crashes-heidelberg...bach-sinsheim/. It states when referring to Lancaster PB 638 (E W Fletcher was the Bomb Aimer) shot down on 28th January over Stuttgart (translated through Google translator):

'the Lancaster was in the night attack on Stuttgart and was from OFw. G.Bahr of 1./NJG 6 shot down over Stuttgart. This week has OFw. G.Bahr 2 more Lancaster shot down with his Me110 ID 2Z + IH. The Lancaster crew tried to fly back to England, but crashed in Michelbach in the forest’.

Do you know if this information would have come direct from Gunther himself, either through his flying log, or the NJG 6 ORB (sorry I don't know the German equivalent) or in a conversation?

Carrying out further research today I have found out that Gunther had four claims in the 28th not two.
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Old 25th October 2018, 18:57
VtwinVince VtwinVince is offline
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Re: Gunther Bahr

Going through my records, I have the following from Bahr: 28th victory at 20:34, 29th at 20:37, 30th at 20:39, 31st at 20:42, 32nd at 20:44, 33rd at 20:46 and 34th at 20:50 with crew Feldwebel Arno Rehmer and Unteroffizier Kurt Riediger. All claims in sector WSW of Mannheim within 5-8 kilometres of the city. All claims were shot down directly out of the bomber stream and were acknowledged as confirmed by the war diary of NJG 6.
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Old 25th October 2018, 21:52
2004nigelf 2004nigelf is offline
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Re: Gunther Bahr

VtwinVince

Thanks for taking the time and trouble to reply. Sorry but I think I may have unknowingly misled you.

I think the information you have sent coincides with the attacks on 21st February 1945

My 'Uncle' was shot down on 28th January 1945 over Stuttgart. Do you have Bahr's information for that date.
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Old 26th October 2018, 14:13
RodM RodM is offline
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Re: Gunther Bahr

Here are the details you seek for Bahr, firstly, from a handwritten index of NJG6 Abschussmeldungen [air combat reports]:

23.32h, 4-Mot., [grid square] 'AT' [262nd Abschuss for NJG6, 24th victory for Ofw. Bahr]
23.39h, 4-Mot., NW Objekt [north-west of the target] [261st Abschuss for NJG6, 25th victory for Ofw. Bahr]
23.46h, 4-Mot., [grid square] 'AT 5' [260th Abschuss for NJG6, 26th victory for Ofw. Bahr]
24.00h, 4-Mot., [grid square] 'UQ - UR' [259th Abschuss for NJG6, 27th victory for Ofw. Bahr]

The numbering of the claims is as recorded on the individual combat reports and the Geschwader tally wasn't necessarily in correct date and time order (as can be seen). I suspect the Geschwader tally numbers were assigned in chronological order of the combat reports being finalised.

The handwritten Kriegstagebuch [war diary] of Stab Nachtjagdgeschwader 6 records the same victory claims as:

3.) 2330 Uhr, 1 Lancaster, 5600 m über [over] Stuttgart durch Ofw. Bahr der I./6.
4.) 2337 Uhr, vermutl.
[vermutlich = presumably] Boeing, 5500, über Stuttgart durch Ofw. Bahr der I./6.
5.) 2346 Uhr, 1 vermutl. Boeing, 5400, N Stuttgart durch Ofw. Bahr der I./6.
6.) 0000 Uhr, 1 vermutl. Liberator, 5400, NW Karlsruhe, wahrscheinl. Abschuss
[Wahrscheinliche Abschuss = probable aerial victory] durch Ofw. Bahr.

Günther Bahr recorded the same victory claims in his Flugbuch [flying logbook] as:

23.32h, Avro Lancaster, W. Obj. [west of target]
23.39h, Avro Lancaster, WSW Obj. [west-south-west of target]
23.46h, Avro Lancaster, über Obj. [over target]
24.00h, Avro Lancaster, SO Hagen UQ bis UR [south-east of Hagen in grid squares UQ to UR]

I don't believe Bahr had anything to do with the crash of your uncle's aircraft, regardless of what is written on the internet. In the first edition of the book, The Nachtjagd War Diaries Volume Two: April 1944 - May 1945, I wrote that PB638 was one of several possible aircraft shot down by Bahr at 23.32h. After a decade of more detailed research, I no longer believe this to be the case. Bomber Command lost three aircraft in the target area and another five damaged by night fighters over the target and 20 kilometres north of the target. Also, I disagree with the comment that the NJG6 claims "were acknowledged as confirmed by the war diary of NJG 6" - rather they are simply recorded in the war diary. The Luftwaffe High Command never officially confirmed any 1945 aerial victory claims.

I find the statement, "the Lancaster was in the night attack on Stuttgart and was from OFw. G.Bahr of 1./NJG 6 shot down over Stuttgart. This week has OFw. G.Bahr 2 more Lancaster shot down with his Me110 ID 2Z + IH. The Lancaster crew tried to fly back to England, but crashed in Michelbach in the forest" of extremely dubious validity. The bomber stream approached the target from due north and the closest distance to Allied-controlled territory was due west. I doubt the pilot of PB638 decided the logical course of action was to fly on a reciprocal heading to the bomber stream and continue flying 60 kilometres north of the target on the journey back to England... Sadly, I expect PB638 crashed within five minutes of being attacked.

The activities of Nachtjagdgeschwader 6 are well covered in the surviving documentary record. On this night, they employed seven night fighters between 22.59 - 01.25 hrs and claimed six aircraft shot down.

According to a German High Command report, the Nachtjagdverbände employed 14 night fighters against the Bomber Command attack on Zuffenhausen and claimed 10 aircraft shot down. I have no idea who flew the remaining seven sorties and claimed the additional four aerial victories mentioned by the German High Command - possibly crews from I./NJG11 or II./NJG2.

Your uncle's Lancaster was one of two shot down along the outward route roughly 55 - 60 kilometres north of the target. All six Nachtjagdgeschwader 6 aerial victory claims were localised to the target area, south-west of the target, and one roughly 100 kilometres north-west of the target.

Returning Bomber Command crews reported witnessing the following events in the area where your uncle's Lancaster and the other Lancaster crashed:

23.27h - 49 25 N, 09 00 E - 19,500 ft [position and altitude of aircraft that made the sighting] - "aircraft reported falling in flames".

23.28h - 49 17 N, 08 55 E -18,000 ft - "one Me110 seen attacking a Lancaster a/c that was taking evasive action. Air to air fire seen. Port wing of Lancaster blew up. A/C seen to go down in flames and explode upon hitting the ground".

23.31h - 49 17 N, 09 02 E - 18,000 ft - "1/2 mile east T/E a/c seen firing on Lanc which caught fire. T/E a/c made second attack on Lanc which spiralled down through cloud. No return fire observed from Lanc during either attack".

23.31h - 49 15 N, 09 10 E - 20,000 ft - "A/C 5 miles stbd hit by H/F crashed on ground".

Regards

Rod

Last edited by RodM; 26th October 2018 at 14:54.
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Old 26th October 2018, 21:42
2004nigelf 2004nigelf is offline
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Re: Gunther Bahr

RodM
First of all can I thank you for taking the time and trouble to post such a long and comprehensive reply. It is obvious that you have done a lot of research and have a lot of knowledge/expertise on this subject.

As a relative novice at researching RAF in WW2 one of the things I have quickly learnt is that there is a large community of experts out there that are willing to help.

Its amazing that within a few days of finding an initial potential link to my Uncle and Bahr I have now got what is a pretty good idea of what his fate was all those years ago.

You mention two Lancasters crashing close to each other, do you know the number of the second Lancaster

Do you think being shot down was the likely cause of the crash? I suppose there are a few options, shot down, flack, aircraft crash or aircraft failure?

You quote reports from returning crews, are these held at National Archives? If so do you know the catalogue number(s).

I have a copy of the operation orders and the Group 1 and 153 sqd ORBs. The only Group that appears to have sent Lancasters (145 in total) to Stuttgart was Group 1. They report three losses with PB638 being from 153 sqd. Therefore if two Lancasters went down before the target then Bahr's claim of four Lancaster's over target/past target is either excessive or he mistook the identity of some of the aircraft he claims.
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Old 27th October 2018, 02:10
RodM RodM is offline
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Re: Gunther Bahr

Hi Nigel,

firstly, No. 8 (Pathfinder Force) Group also sent Lancasters to Zuffenhausen and lost two. No. 1 Group lost three Lancasters, No. 6 (RCAF) Group lost three Halifaxes, and No. 4 Group wrote off one Halifax (it was one of seven bombers damaged by night fighters).

The TNA file with reports from returning crews is AIR 14/3227 - it contains (very rare) Group Forms Z for January 1945, which provide summaries of what returning crews witnessed and/or experienced.

I said two Lancasters crashed on the outward route - my mistake - it was one Lancaster and one Halifax.

I would not read too much into the aircraft type identities given for aerial victory claims. The fact Bahr wrote "Avro Lancaster" in his Flugbuch is not proof positive he shot down four Lancasters.

Perhaps I can describe a sequence of events surrounding your uncle's aircraft crash:

The bomber stream approached Zuffenhausen from the north. The prescribed route took them westward to a point 9.5 km SE of Zweibrücken, then westward to a point 6.7 km NNW of Bad Rappenau (leg 3 of the route), before turning south towards Zuffenhausen (leg 4 of the route).

The first air combats and aircraft losses occurred along leg 3 of the route.

The gunners of 103 Sqn Lancaster RA500 fired at an "Me410" attacking a Lancaster at 23.20 hrs, 24 km SSE of Speyer. "Almost immediately" afterward, a Ju88 attacked RA500 and damaged it with four 20-mm cannon shell hits.

The crew of a 51 Squadron Halifax reported "two short bursts of tracer fired from dead astern below. No fighter seen. No return fire" at 23.34 hrs, 16 km ENE of Speyer.

426 Squadron Halifax crashed near the Mingolsheim railway station circa 23.28 - 23.35 hrs. Surviving crew members stated a night fighter shot down their aircraft. Additionally, pilot W/C F.C. Carling-Kelly RCAF stated: "The aircraft was shot up in the air at 2328 hours on 28th January, 1945, six minutes from the target".

103 Squadron Lancaster PB638 crashed into a forest 1/2 km NNE of Michelbach. Because there were no survivors, I don't know the cause of loss at this time. I suspect a night fighter attack is the most likely cause, but this is conjecture and not based on evidence.

The next air combats occurred along leg 4 of the route, after the bombers turned southward. 576 Squadron Lancaster NG273 suffered damage from two 13-mm bullet hits at 23.36.5 hrs and 153 Squadron Lancaster suffered damage from seven 13-mm bullet hits at 23.38 hrs. Both attacks occurred over Besigheim, 19 km N of Zuffenhausen.

A large number of air combats occurred over Zuffenhausen between 23.30 - 23.42 hrs and four bombers suffered damage during night fighter attacks. Six bombers crashed along the homeward route and another was written off after landing in France.

I have attached a map plot of events during the Zuffenhausen raid in the area where your uncle's Lancaster crashed. The four sightings of aircraft shot down/crashing are plotted, bearing in mind the locations are crew estimates of their own locations at the time of the sighting.

Regards

Rod
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 45-01-28-29 - Zuffenhausen.jpg (217.1 KB, 18 views)

Last edited by RodM; 27th October 2018 at 02:42. Reason: added map as attachmentment
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Old 27th October 2018, 05:51
RodM RodM is offline
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Re: Gunther Bahr

Hi Nigel,

further to my previous post, here is a narrative summary of the combats endured by the crew of 103 Squadron Lancaster RA500, taken from the East Kirkby Station ORB (AIR 28/256):

Flying in moonlight with many other aircraft of the bomber stream clearly visible the trip was uneventful until shortly before passing through the Karlsruhe-Mannheim gap. At this position (4914/0809 2320 hours, 19,000 feet) a Halifax was seen approximately 500 yards starboard beam with an Me.410 dead astern closing in to attack. The Halifax appeared quite unaware of its position, took no evasive action and made no reply to a long burst from the Me.410 which apparently entered its wing. Our Rear Gunner opened fire on the Me.410 at 400 yards and was followed by the M/U/G at 300 yards, the latter firing manually owing to an electrical failure in the Mid Upper turret. Hits were observed in the mainplane of the Me.410. The Halifax turned to port with the Me.410 still following and passed under our aircraft. Almost immediately the M/U/G reported a Ju.88 on the starboard quarter closing in from 1000 yards. The Ju.88 opened fire at 600 yards and both gunners fired (mid upper again manually). The Ju.88 broke away port quarter down and then was in again from port quarter again opening fire at 600 yards scoring hits on the cabin (one cannon shell passed diagonally across the cabin behind the pilot's head) the port main plane (holding the port inner tank) and the port inner engine. Oil pressure on this engine dropped to 35 and strong petrol fumes indicated the probability of a tank having been hit. Two more approaches were made by the Ju.88 but it was eventually evaded and the turn made on to the last leg down to the target where the marking was already seen to have started. The port inner engine was now running extremely rough but the oil pressure had remained within limits at 35 so the engine was not feathered. However, shortly afterwards it went into fully fine pitch. An attempt to feather had no effect and the engine was switched off but continued to windmill.

Nachtjagdgeschwader 6 flew under the control of 7. Jagddivision. I suspect [but have no direct proof] that night fighters under the control of Jagdabschnittsführer Mittelrhein [airfields at Mainz-Finthen, Rhein-Main, Zellhausen, and Biblis] made the attacks around Speyer.

Ofw. Bahr took off from Groß-Sachsenheim airfield [16 km NW of Zuffenhausen] in Bf110 2Z+IH at 23.05 hrs. It is a question whether or not he could have climbed up to 18,000 - 20,000 feet and shot down bombers around Speyer (at least 50 km away from the airfield) in the space of 25 minutes.

Planquadrat [Luftwaffe grid square measuring 38 x 28 kms] "AR", mentioned in some of Bahr's combat reports was roughly bounded by the area encompassing 49 00 N, 09 00 E - 49 00 N, 09 30 E - 48 45 N, 09 30 E - 48 45 N, 09 00 E.

Halifax NP768 crashed in Planquadrat "US 1" - roughly 36 km NW of the top, left-hand corner of Planquadrat "AR". Lancaster PB638 crashed in Planquadrat "TS 3" - roughly 43 km N of the top, left-hand corner of Planquadrat "AR".

Regards

Rod
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Old 28th October 2018, 00:41
2004nigelf 2004nigelf is offline
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Re: Gunther Bahr

Hi Rod
Thanks again for all the information you have sent.

As mentioned before I am new to this but after being to the National Archives last week (photographing a significant number of documents) and your responses I have got a good start in researching my Uncles war service from the day he joined his local Air Training Corps in March 1941 (aged 17) until his 29th and final operation in January 1945 (aged 21).

Ultimately (and this might be a year or two away) I intend to publish a blog on the internet. I would like to include some of the information you have given me. Would you be happy for me to do this? If so how would you like me to reference it?
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