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Old 22nd August 2011, 17:29
Julian Julian is offline
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UK Heinkel He 177 excavation

Hello everyone, sorry this is abit late just been to Portugal and didnt have time to consolidate information before I left. Anyway on Saturday 13th August I finally managed to undertake what I believe is the first organised excavation of a Heinkel He 177 crash site impact point in the UK. I would like to thank everyone who was involved in the early permission obtaining stages, many of you were unable to attend due to other aviation archaeological obligations...but you know who you are. I know Yoxford He 177 has been looked at but it had no main impact point due to disintegration, Hammer Wood He 177 crash site has been searched well over the years but not actually excavated and the Kent Golf Course example which would be a fantastic excavation will undoubtedly be left in situ due to a missing airmen and the uncompromising opinion of the golf course committee. Anyway below is a brief background report to the incident and an excavation report. I hope its of interest the dig will feature on You Tube shortly and I will supply link as soon as possible. Sadly not much was recovered as suspected however its an He 177 I guess.....Kind regards Julian Evan-Hart

Aircraft Heinkel He 177 A-3
Date Tuesday18th- Wednesday19th April 1944 (at night)
Operation Steinbock also known as “The Baby Blitz”
Time.1.03a.m
Unit: 2/KG100
Code 6N+AK
Werke Nummer 332379
Crash Location Near edge of field at Butlers Farm near Ashdon / Little Walden in Essex
Crew
Pilot Feldwebel Heinz. Reis bailed out and captured
Observer Feldwebel. Weinand. Hock bailed out and captured
Bordfunker. Unteroffizier Johannes. Wehr bailed out and captured
Bordschutze (Tail) Obergefreiter. Werner. Heidorn bailed out and captured
Unteroffizier Georg. Speyerer Killed
Obergefreiter Fritz. Kopf Killed

Note some contemporary reports drafted shortly after the incident state that Speyerer and Kopf were killed in the crash. As far as can be established by eye-witness accounts this is not the case with both men’s bodies falling independently with seemingly damaged parachutes.

Combat
Shot down by Flight Lieutenant Stanley Byron Huppert and Pilot Officer John. S. Christie in a Royal Canadian Air Force Mosquito N.F X111 coded MM 456 from No 410 “Cougar” Squadron

Combat Background
On April the 18th the Gruppen Kommandeur of the elite KG 100 unit Hauptmann Von Kalkreuth began to brief five specially selected crews for a mission to bomb the Tower Bridge area of London. The airfield where this briefing took place was Rheine, where KG100 had an overall strength of some twenty Heinkel He 177`s. Rheine was however regarded as temporary base as it could only offer limited repair facilities. Much work such as bombing up the aircraft was actually conducted by the youths of the Reich’s Labour Service. Prior to take off the five Heinkel He 177`s had been lined up in order of take off. Aircraft carrying heavier bomb loads took off first as their rate of climb was much slower. Later on the aircraft of each selected crew lumbered along the runway and took off from between 23.18 and 23.34hrs. Each Heinkel took off with its tail light on; as soon as the aircraft was airborne the pilot turned the light off signifying a clear runway. That night they would form a force of some estimated 95 Luftwaffe aircraft that raided the British mainland. This is an important historical night as it was the last major raid conducted during “Operation Steinbock” and would in effect be the last major raid conducted over Britain during World War Two.. For this raid 6N+AK was carrying a bomb load of twelve 250kg HE bombs and they were to be fuzed in flight. At 00.01 hrs Mosquito MM 456 , coded RA-D crewed by Pilot Flying Officer S.B Huppert and Navigator Pilot Officer J. S. Christie from 410 Squadron took off from Castle Camps airfield. After just a few minutes they were informed of some “Trade” to the North-East, closing in the Mosquito crew received a radar contact at approximately three miles. They were at 18,000 feet and closing fast, some 2000 feet behind target they finally got a visual and at 1000 feet they identified their “trade” as a Heinkel 177. As the enemy aeroplanes approached Cambridge they caused the sirens to begin wailing in that town the authorities unaware that the target was London.. The Mosquito`s four cannon barrels flashed brightly as streams of tracer punctuated 20mm shells streaked away through the chilly air and raced away into the night sky. Almost immediately several strikes were observed on the port wing and engine of their target. Bright white flashes indicated that HE 20mm shells were hitting home and combined with the AP shells were blasting and ripping great sections of airframe away. Some of the impacting shells had actually damaged the hydraulics controlling the massive Fowler flaps of the Heinkel and now several large sections of wing and skinning detached and fluttered back past the attacking Mosquito. The crew of Mosquito MM 456 had fired a total of 110 rounds of Armour Piercing Incendiary and 111 rounds of High Explosive to bring down the intruding bomber. A total of three feet of gun camera cine film was also exposed recording the details of the combat.

Crash site investigation
Several years ago I made two visits to the actual impact point that had been revealed to me by several local persons. Many once molten globules of alloy, fractured Perspex, and exploded 13mm cases and some much corroded shells were seen in the plough soil. I also managed to find a section of cockpit instrument face. Many 13mm shell cases were head stamped DVU which is the stamp for the munitions section at the factory of F. Schichau GmbH who had a factory at Elbing. F. Schichau GmbH was an engineering works and shipyard business who had a subsidiary ship yard at Danzig which produced 94 U Boats for the Kriegsmarine. Elbing was located in the former German Empire but is now the town of Elblag in Northern Poland. Schichau as a company survived the war and afterwards repaired trams, locomotives and agricultural machinery. However after a long period of survival the company merged into Schichau Seebeck Shipyard Company which went bankrupt in 1996. A successor company arose SSW Schichau Seebeck Shipyard but on 31st July 2009 this too closed down. Numerous electrical components, bits of engine casing and several corroded tappets were also located. It is rumoured that many years ago someone found one of the fired German 20mm shell casings from the combat several fields away and that a propeller blade was rumoured to have been taken and was still held locally. Another rumour was there was still an engine buried at the site, which does seem unlikely in the event of this being an unusual type, even the smallest scrap could have revealed some new technology……but one never knows.


The Excavation 13th August 2011
This took place at 10.30 on the morning of Saturday 13th August 2011. Last week Dave and I had completed a detector survey and marked out a quadrant enclosing the highest concentration of metallic finds. This quadrant was approximately 45 metres in length by 35 metres in width. The digger driver began to scrape away the top soil layer and apart from a few odd corroded fragments of airframe, globules of once molten metal and steel components little was located. Initially we excavated a trench 2 metres wide from South to North for about 17 metres in the marked out quadrant, starting in an area where metal; detection had revealed a concentration of metal targets. The excavated soil was placed to the west of the first trench and was carefully sorted through by metal detecting and visual appreciation. However apart from a few globules of once molten alloy again little was noted. We bisected this first trench in its middle from the East (only about 5 metres in length as no artefacts or soil disturbance was noted) and over the other side of the original trench running West the trenches now forming a large cross shape. It was then decided to recommence at the South section of the original trench and clear a large triangular area to the South West. However little else was initially revealed and then the ground showed signs of disturbance the hard clay showing areas of disturbance in-filled with top soil, it was more friable and clear evidence of burning was seen with vitrified clay and carbon inclusions. This was seen at a depth of 10 inches, taking this deeper into the subsoil clay revealed evidence of impact in the form of ash, blue crystalline aluminium oxide and several pieces of Plexiglas. This deposit was quite mixed up and contained 9 corroded 13mm cannon shells and interestingly many broken (exploded in heat) badly corroded 13mm casings that were made of steel. Previously copper alloy 13mm casings have been located here. A small sondage was opened that revealed a large piece of Plexiglas and some small electrical components, initial checks revealed airframe and fragments going downwards. Clearly a heavy section of the aeroplane had impacted here. Rammed into the clay to the side of this were some larger sections of compressed airframe, bearing grey and black paint. Also removed from here was an 8 inch riveted strip of alloy still bearing the coarse granular matt black distemper paint applied for Luftwaffe night operations. Several bakelite control cable trim wheels were located one bearing a company logo and the serial number.............
Other airframe sections consisted of thin two ply aluminium airframe riveted with flush head rivets, possibly originating from the lower gondola region. Also located were three sections of very thick Plexiglas 11mm in width. As the small sondage was deepened a 20cm x 15cm thin (2mm) section of perfectly preserved black coloured rubber was located, possibly originating from a fuel tank lining. This artefact is all the more impressive in its survival given the incredible heat subjection of associated surrounding artefacts. Much of the airframe from this area was badly fire damaged and had corroded over the subsequent years, much of it being covered in a calcareous layer of calcium based concretion. One piece of Plexiglas showed signs of burning and had bubble formations in the brownish discoloured burned areas. Also found were two 2.5mm thick shards of orange coloured Plexiglas, possibly associated with some type of night time optical enhancement apparatus. One small 30mm twisted section from an exploded brass 13mm shell case was also found. In the area of the sondage many corroded steel components were located, small gearing cogs all associated with the engine. One large section of once molten engine casing was also located here. Lining wartime photographs up with the excavation it was clear that we had located the impact point of the Starboard engine. At final depth of some 2 feet a circular steel item was located centrally perforated and badly corroded, after this the subsoil was clean. We attempted to locate the impact point of the Port engine but this looking at photographs was clearly much shallower than the Starboard engine. Consequently it was revealed that nearly seven decades of agricultural activity had ploughed away any traces of the impact in the top soil relating to the Port engine. In the area between the Starboard engine impact site and the absent Port engine one could be seen numerous corroded areas of alloy and minor steel components all of these areas were excavated but the soil went clean at a depth of 12 inches. In several areas the original wartime impact crater layer could be seen as a thin band of carbonised clay and ash.
Conclusion.
Wartime photographs indicated that this was largely a surface burn out type of impact, so the possibility of recovering large items or large quantities of related artefacts was never going to be the case. Although I positively hung on to the possibility that a single propeller blade or broken tip may have punched into the ground and remain in situ...sadly this was not to be. However this is the first ever organised excavation of a UK crashed Heinkel He 177 and for that issue alone deserves some merit, as it’s also likely to be the only excavation of this type in British Aviation archaeology. The artefacts recovered will be cleaned and conserved and will feature in magazines, books on You Tube, the Internet, the excavation will be featured in several local newspapers as well as serve as hands on artefacts for talks and presentations. All research will be made available to any interested parties. It is hoped that when local people see the research undertaken by whatever form of media, perhaps some of the older generation may stop and look saying “Blimey I remember that” so indeed the activities of aviation archaeologists make history truly a living event and who knows perhaps for a few hours will enable a once mighty and graceful German aeroplane to turn into a Phoenix and truly “fly once again from the ashes”
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Old 24th August 2011, 11:33
Marcel van Heijkop Marcel van Heijkop is offline
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Re: UK Heinkel He 177 excavation

Hi Julian,

Thanks for sharing the story with us. Very impressive to see what it actually means on the ground when an aircraft comes down. Good to read the full and often human story behind all those aircraft crashes (some of which are only described in a few sober sentences) mentioned in Battle of Britain Then & Now and The Last Blitz.

Looking forward to read more about your excavations. Best regards,

Marcel
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Old 1st September 2011, 20:26
Julian Julian is offline
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Re: UK Heinkel He 177 excavation

No problem Marcel alwyas keen to share info...if anyone is interested there is a short film on YouTube on the link


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS3P-AqEZqY

Kind regards Julian
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Old 4th October 2011, 19:25
Julian Julian is offline
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Re: UK Heinkel He 177 excavation

Just to let those of you who may be interested know...there will be a feature article on this Heinkel He 177 and the dig appearing in Novembers issue of Britain at War magazine available later this month...cheers Jules
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