A nasty German in Woodville, Part Two, the True Facts

The Luftwaffe’s Gruppe III./KG.4, full name 111 Gruppe/Kampfgeschwader 4 arrived at Leeuwarden in the Netherlands in the middle of January 1941. They would be there until July 31st when they left for the Soviet Union and the Eastern Front:

During the first part of their stay, in one of the hardest winters for years, they spent a lot of time training and then taking part in planned air raids on the cities and ports of Great Britain. They were flying twin engined Heinkel He-111H version bombers, “hard to start greenhouses”, which scared the bejesus out of the locals who lived near the airfield. They were all loaded to the maximum limits with explosives and fuel, and on quite a few occasions, seemed to struggle to climb over the locals’ houses in this birthplace of Mata Hari:

On Tuesday, June 24th 1941 the pilot of one of the Heinkel He-111Hs, Oberleutnant Joachim Schwartz, took off at 23.00 hours, tasked with laying mines in the Mersey Estuary near Liverpool. With him was a crew of three men, Stabsfeldwebel H Glkowski, Obergefreiter Friedrich Ertzinger, the Wireless Operator / Air Gunner, and Feldwebel W Köller.

At 02.30 hrs, somewhere between the Wash and Liverpool, the Heinkel was intercepted on radar and then attacked by a Bristol Beaufighter of 25 Squadron, based at RAF Wittering, squadron codes ZK:

The Beaufighter was flown by Pilot Officer DW Thompson, with Pilot Officer LD Britain acting as the airborne interception radar operator (A1). Pilot Officer Britain picked up the Heinkel almost half way between Sheffield and Nottingham just under approximately 20,000 feet up, and stalked the twin engined bomber for a quarter of an hour. Slowly, slowly, the Beaufighter crew crept up on their prey and then opened fire with their four 20 mm Hispano cannons. Here they are, under the nose of the aircraft. There were also six .303in machine guns, two in the port wing and four in the starboard wing. This made it the most heavily armed British fighter of the war, with a total of ten guns:

The RAF night fighter scored many hits on the hapless Heinkel. The cannon shells and machine gun bullets hit home with the same impact in energy terms as a broadside from a Royal Navy destroyer. The Heinkel’s starboard engine dissolved into flames and stopped working. A few minutes later, the bomber’s undercarriage fell out of its engine nacelles, increasing the plane’s drag enormously:

Immediately the bomber began to lose height rapidly, and as they plunged down to 1,000 feet, the pilot, Oberleutnant Schwartz, gave the order to the crew to bale out. Sadly, by the time he baled out himself, the aircraft was too low and his parachute failed to deploy. Schwartz was killed but his three colleagues, Ertzinger, Glkowski and Köller all escaped safely.

The Heinkel crashed close to the buildings of Edwards Farm in Lullington, a sleepy little village in South Derbyshire, some six miles south west of Woodville. This satellite view shows just how countrified Lullington still is even nowadays, eighty years after the event :

As soon as the Heinkel hit the ground, its bombs immediately exploded, scattering pieces of the plane over an area of some fifteen acres. The Home Guard would later find the tail mounted MG 17 machine gun. The aircraft had also been fitted with two external PVC 1006 bomb racks to increase its weapon carrying capacity.

The three surviving members of the crew, Ertzinger, Glkowski and Köller, landed in fields belonging to Edwards Farm. They were immediately captured and taken prisoner by two Home Guard men, Jack and Geoff Edwards, the brothers who owned the farm where the wreckage of the plane fell :

Ultimately the German aviators were taken to the Police Station at Woodville Tollgate to be locked up until the army could come and pick them up later that day. Here’s the Police Station again:

And what happened to the rest of the men involved ?

On July 31st 1941 the entire 111 Gruppe/Kampfgeschwader 4 was sent to the Eastern Front. It was a lovely place to walk the dog :

Poor Oberleutnant Schwartz received a full military funeral at Fradley Church near the cathedral city of Lichfield on June 27th 1941. He was buried in the lovely English churchyard around the church. Here’s the church:

And here’s his grave :

In recent years, at the Battle of Britain service in September, an officer of the Luftwaffe based at 16 M.U. Stafford has laid a wreath on the grave of the pilot, Oberleutnant Joachim Schwartz. Everybody was very happy to see this, and evinced the hope that it would continue for many years to come.

A number of years after the end of the war, in 1979, Friedrich Ertzinger, the Heinkel’s Wireless Operator / Air Gunner, visited Edwards Farm where he was given a wonderful reception by the two Edwards brothers. These visits continued for a number of years, and all three men enjoyed themselves enormously.

Pilot Officer LD Britain survived the war. You may remember that he was the airborne interception radar operator in the successful Beaufighter.

Pilot Officer David William Thompson, a mere 22 years old and the pilot of that successful Beaufighter, did not survive the conflict. Indeed, when he shot down that Heinkel over Lullington, he had only fourteen more days to live. On July 8th 1941, piloting a Bristol Beaufighter If, serial number, T4629, for an unknown reason, he plunged into the ground near Wittering. His airborne interception radar operator, Flight Sergeant Richard George Crossman, was also killed instantly.

David William Thompson was the son of the Reverend Hamlet George Thompson and of Dora Muriel Thompson (née Watney), of Little Munden Rectory in Hertfordshire. David was buried in Wittering (All Saints) Churchyard.

Richard George Crossman was the son of Richard Berkley Crossman and Clara Priscilla Crossman and the husband of Mary Crossman, who all hailed from Watford. Richard is buried in Watford Cemetery:

His grave bears the inscription “Cherished memories, loved by all who knew him”.

 

 

 

17 Comments

Filed under Aviation, History, Politics, Russia

17 responses to “A nasty German in Woodville, Part Two, the True Facts

  1. Sad story but not without hope. When I read stories like this I am always reminded of the monkey hangers of Hartlepool.

  2. David Neale

    All so very sad. In other circumstances, all of those young men would have become busom friends, enjoying a few beers together. Introduce a few ambitious politicians into the mix, and …

    • I think that you’re probably right. There was actually an occasion in 1940 when a Luftwaffe pilot was sitting in a pub in Kent waiting to be picked up by the army, and a group of British pilots sat and drank with him, thinking that his accented English meant that he was a Czech.
      The problem, as you say, was that virtually all of the German people chose to follow their political leaders into the third aggressive war of conquest that they had started in Europe in the past seventy years. I still don’t really understand their motivations.

      • Chris Waller

        A fascinating story and one which exemplifies the insanity, the futility and the tragedy of war. I used to know a woman whose father was in the SS. He was given a simple choice: “Jojn the SS or you and your family go to a concentration camp”. It’s a brave soul who says, “No”. This is an interesting book:-

        https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17290707-the-nazi-and-the-psychiatrist

        Kelley concluded that the senior Nazis that he studied were, to all intents and purposes, normal people. He found Goering charming, as he did Speer. Perhaps that tells us something we would prefer not to know about the human condition.

      • Having recently read a book called “Soldaten” by two German academics, I shall be writing some posts about what they had to say about the Holocaust, the SS, the Wehrmacht, US forces in Vietnam and Iraq, all of their evidence taken from primary sources. I think you’ll enjoy the conclusion they reach. It is not a million miles from your last sentence.

  3. Sad story, but my heart goes out to that poor dog.

    • You are absolutely right. Nobody ever seems to care about, or even notice, the animals who suffer so much for our human stupidity, although, to their credit, lots of men did bring their pet dog back with them when they returned home in 1945.
      I’m just reading a book about the British fighting in the Russian Civil War in 1918-1920. Temperatures fell to -70 Fahrenheit (that’s -57 Centigrade) , any food or drink carried by the troops was a solid block of ice when they arrived at their destination and when you took your greatcoat off, it would stand up frozen next to you. That sounds pretty cold for that poor dog!

    • And counting just a couple more blog posts, that could be the village’s total history completely exhausted !
      Woodville was only founded in 1840 at the start of the Industrial Revolution and has seen no major events that I know of, except for the occasional Luftwaffe pilot and a tragically large toll of deaths in World War I and a few more in World War II. John Hurt’s Dad was the local vicar in the 1930s, but there are no more famous people after that.
      I suppose there must be lots of villages like that, even among the older ones. Quiet places with something significant every fifty or a hundred years.

  4. It’s nice to hear so many stores of friendship and camaraderie between enemies after the war had finished. Visits to those who helped them, or just to lay flowers at a graveside is a heartwarming gesture and one that should be Carried on for a a long as is humanly possible. Thoroughly well researched and enjoyable reading John.

    • Thank you very much for your kind words. It is indeed a heartwarming gesture to put flowers on a grave and by this gesture either to offer reconciliation or to thank the person for their sacrifice.
      I am fairly certain that in a lot of schools in northern France and Holland, children are offered the chance to become what you could call “grave monitors” who look after an Allied grave, keep it weed free and put flowers on it at the appropriate time. In the case of at least two people who have contacted me, they have gone on to do this in their adult lives.

      • I had heard about this particularly in Holland, where allied graves are cherished and looked after by school children and adults alike. We over here could learn a thing or two from our European neighbours!

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