A little over a month ago, I published a first post about 10./NJG 11 and their history. Since then, a lot of new material has been showing up, much owed to researches like myself that graciously provided access to their own data (e.g. Dom Howard via www.lancasterbombers.net, Alexander Steenbeck via eMail, and a few unnamed but quite important others that prefer to have their involvement kept quiet). My sincere thanks go out to all of them, named and unnamed alike!
Last month, I have said I was about four weeks from releasing – now that new data has pushed things a bit behind but I would like to share a nice and interesting finding from the last days of the war with you. As I promised before, I am trying to draw as much as possible from primary sources and draw conclusions – everyone of you can then judge for yourself, knowing all the information I know.
The one example (which only has surfaced in the past few days as I got around finalizing my chapter on April 1945) teaches us a few things, first and foremost the importance of “personal perception” but also a warning about “premature judgment”. And the fact that “primary sources” still provide the best and most unbiased (although not always correct) account of the events…
The initial Information…
The initial information is a personal account of Jörg Czypionka, former pilot of 10./NJG 11. The story is published in a few books and also in a Prop-Talk issue available here, particularly the section “Final Flights” is of importance for this post.
Depending on where your read the account, information has been added or omitted in one or the other place, depending on the respective editor’s needs. Another sources for the account is “Air Combat Annals” by Thomas McKelvey Cleaver, Pacifica Military History, CA; 2011.
Jörg Czypionka talks about an encounter he had with Hawker Tempest of the Royal Air Force “in the final days of April”. He and another pilot of 10./NJG 111)Addition September 9, 2015: today I know the second pilot has been Karl-Heinz Becker, as per a written statement he once made that I have now been able to review were returning to their base, a highway strip of the Hamburg-Lübeck Autobahn, just south of Reinfeld2)Addition September 9, 2015: Karl-Heinz Becker, who has also described this event, says that Jörg Czypionka and he had been flying an armed reconnaissance mission in the area of Hamburg – Lauenburg – Neumünster, trying to locate allied aircraft strafing German units..
Seeing the Tempest flight ahead, the two jet pilots quickly engaged the RAF fighters, then disengaged and headed towards Lübeck’s main airfield, Blankensee, to not give away the position of the highway strip. Some sources say that Lt. Czypionka claimed one of the Tempests, other sources (including the one cited above) do not include this claim.
When approaching Lübeck-Blankensee, Jörg Czypionka states that “they had been chased by the Tempests” and also met a “welcoming committee of Spitfires” over the airfield. The two jet pilots decided to approach from opposite directions to split the enemy fire and that both Me 262 were damaged on their final approach – which is why he decided to put his aircraft down on the ground with “gear up”, landing on the engine nacelles. Skidding to a hold, he left the aircraft as quickly as possible as the RAF Fighters continued to strafe the field.
…and what to make from it
Starting with the occasional claim that Jörg Czypionka in fact shot down one of the Hawker Tempest, one will quickly find out that there is no evidence of a Tempest lost under the conditions described. Also assuming that it might not have been a Hawker Tempest but a similar looking Hawker Typhoon does not help – no matching loss either. But memory serves Jörg Czypionka well – and I think, we can come as close to a proof as possible.
I had already downloaded all the available “Records of Events” from the UK National Archives. At least those for the Tempest Squadrons – with the help of a comment from Rod Mackenzie in a 12’OClock High Forum, I got the final link to a published source that pointed out the possibly involved Spitfire Squadrons – it saved me a lot of money, otherwise I would have gotten the records of all squadrons from the National Archives.
Turns out that an event very similar to the one described has been picked up in the book “2nd Tactical Air Force – Volume 3″ by Christopher Shores and Chris Thomas. The Spitfire Squadrons involved were the No. 41 Sqn. and No. 130 Sqn. of the RAF, also a Tempest V Unit was involved, No. 486 Sqn.
Let’s first look at the No. 486 Sqn. Data – their Operational Records Book (“Records of Events”) is filed with the National Archives as AIR 27/1934. For April 25, 1945, it lists an early morning sortie, Armed Reconnaissance of eight Hawker Tempest V into the Neustadt – Lübeck – Neumünster area. It also contains a remark “F/O Smith attacked a Me 262 going in to land at Lübeck-Blankensee airfield and destroyed it.”
A Combat Report, filed by F/O K. A. Smith, is also available (AIR 50/160) which I provide a copy here.
- it confirms the attack of two Me 262 on the Tempest V unit.
- it confirms the chase of the adversaries to Lübeck-Blankensee.
- it indicates the involvement of Spitfires in the incident.
- it confirms the fact that the RAF Pilots continued to strafe after the Me 262’s had “landed” in Blankensee.
- it even confirms the ground contact of the aircraft fuselage (or engine nacelles) – although the Tempest Pilot did not catch the fact that the Me 262 Pilot might have pulled the wheels up again (or this describes the attack on the second Me 262 which was not flown by Czypionka).
All in all, this is a good account – but it gets even better: the records of No. 41 Sqn. (one of the two Spitfire Squadrons involved) shows the following entires in the “Records of Events” (AIR 27/426):
This unit was also on an “Armed Reconnaissance” mission into the area – Parchim – Wismar – Neumünster. Their account of picking up the two Me 262’s near “Bad Oldesloe” (which is in the immediate vicinity of the highway strip 10./NJG 11 was located at in these days) and the subsequent chase to the Lübeck Blankensee airfield indicate they have been involved in the same event than the No. 486 Sqn. Tempests – and even the times match! Their pilots confirm the other part of Jörg Czypionka’s account:
- landing from two opposite ends of the runway.
- being attacked while landing.
Their “Summary of Events” (Also AIR 27/426) even assumes that the damage to one of the Me 262 was caused by the fright of the pilot while landing – Czypionka clearly indicates his decision to land with “gear up” was made due to the unknown damage received by the aircraft while being attacked.
But this is not the end of the story – the Spitfires of No. 130 Sqn. also got involved (although only briefly) into the fight – their pilots, F/Lt. Stowe and W/O Ockenden jointly claim a Me 262 landing at Lübeck-Blankensee as “probably destroyed” (AIR 50/52)
Their “Summary of Events” (AIR 27/938) also indicates that the pilot “left the aircraft half way down the runway” – although they claim to have seen him doing so by parachute. Again, time and location are a match.
Of course, everyone is free to draw their own conclusions of the data presented – mine is as follows:
- Jörg Czypionka indicates an attack on RAF Tempest near the Reinfeld Autobahn highway strip when returning in the morning from a nocturnal mission around end of April 1945.
- He probably claims one Tempest shot down but that is reciting secondary sources that said he does so.
- He describes the chase to Lübeck-Blankensee, the opposing landing directions of the two jets and the fact that they had been shot up by the strafing RAF Pilots.
- He describes his immediate “evacuation” from the aircraft once he had come to a hold – because the airfield and aircraft where continuously strafed by the RAF Pilots.
The original sources of the RAF Squadrons, available from the National Archives, Kew, UK, and specified by reference here, support the following:
- on April 25, 1945, in the early morning hours, a flight of Tempest V of No. 486 Sqn. was attacked by two Me 262 jets which then tried to escape to Lübeck-Blankensee.
- the Tempest flight as well as two Spitfire units engaged the two jets while they approached the airfield and strafed them after they touched down.
- The Spitfire pilots describe the landing approach as “from opposite directions of the runway”
- The general assessment is that one of the Me 262 “skidded to a hold” in the middle of the landing area with the pilot escaping the aircraft quickly.
Now that is the case and supporting data I have to present – you all may now draw your own conclusions. With respect to the probable claim of a Tempest: the involved units, particularly the records of No. 486 Sqn. show that no Tempest V was lost in this occasion – but there is no statement if one was damaged.
The 10./NJG 11 Script
Now back to my original promise to publish my findings “towards the end of September”. You can see the quality of data flowing in – and I have been promised some more. But I’d rather delay a bit and verify my information than issue it now. But I can confirm: there is not much to be done at this point and I will present the whole case in the not to distant future…
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Addition September 9, 2015: today I know the second pilot has been Karl-Heinz Becker, as per a written statement he once made that I have now been able to review|
|2.||↑||Addition September 9, 2015: Karl-Heinz Becker, who has also described this event, says that Jörg Czypionka and he had been flying an armed reconnaissance mission in the area of Hamburg – Lauenburg – Neumünster, trying to locate allied aircraft strafing German units.|