Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Sturmjäger of JG 300 - Hubert Engst 6./JG 300 - edit

The following images were furnished exclusively for this site via Jean-Yves Lorant, author of the two volume history of JG 300 published by Docavia in France during 2005 - 'Bataille dans le Ciel d'Allemagne'. This series of photos shows Hubert Engst of 6./JG 300 preparing for a spell of cockpit readiness during November 1944. The first photo shows Engst with his wife Elisabeth (and comrade Norbert Graziadei) in front of the pilot's FW 190 Sturmbock 'Yellow 2' W.Nr 682181 and provides a super view of his Lederkombination leather flying suit with the Luftwaffe armband. 

Seen here from left to right, Elisabeth Engst (wife of Hubert Engst), Lt. Norbert Graziadei of 5./JG 300 and Fw. Hubert Engst. Löbnitz airfield, autumn 1944. (Engst via Lorant)

In the third picture below Engst is seen climbing up into the cockpit -note the EZ 42 gyroscopic sight above the instrument panel. Some background info on Hubert Engst might be of interest. The following of Petr Kacha's claims at the Luftwaffe aces web site would appear to any readers of the Lorant/Goyat JG300 history to be highly unlikely - that Engst achieved some twenty victories (there is no evidence for this), that he claimed a Mosquito shot down (no evidence for any Mosquito claim submitted) and that he was awarded the DKiG at the end of the war (he does not appear to have been).

Not unnaturally I will have upset the Czechs and Wolfgang Engst with that ;

Note that Wolfgang furnished his father's personal journal to the authors of the JG 300 history along with other papers and an unpublished magazine article written by Hubert Engst during the mid-1960s for East German magazine "Welt der Flieger - Aerosport" - all that is known of Engst is drawn from these sources. Claims at the end of his text that he witnessed Ta 152s flying out of Ainring at the end of WWII are indication enough that it is wise to be cautious with some veteran statements.

Engst was born on 10 November 1921 in Krauschwitz and completed his flying training at JG 110 at Altenburg in late July 1943 prior to being posted to JG Herrmann in late July 1943. Established expressly to take the war to the British bomber streams, Herrmann's Wilde Sau fighters were based at Rheine and Uffz.Engst flew his first combat mission three hours after his arrival at the unit, claiming his first victory, a RAF Stirling four-engine bomber shot down near Wüppertal. The victory was not recognised as his since Engst had not been 'officially' assigned to a Staffel. Engst's own account of his sortie that night appears in Volume I of the JG 300 history and was extracted from the pilot's personal journal. By June 1944, Feldwebel Engst was serving with 5./JG 300. On 21 June, he claimed two USAAF four-engine bombers shot down, recognised as the 20th and 21st victories of 5./JG 300. In June 1944, Engst was transferred to 6./JG 300. On 24 August 1944, he attacked a formation of USAAF B-24 four-engine bombers over the Neuhaus region (Jindrichuv Hradec area) of Bohemia. Engst shot down one B-24 to record his "sixth victory", but his Fw 190 A-8 (W.Nr. 681 361) 'Yellow 7' was damaged by return fire and he was wounded. Once again this victory was never officially ratified. Engst claimed his second 'double' on 27 September 1944 high over Eisenach - however the first of these was also claimed by a flak unit and there is no official trace whatsoever of the second. On 24 December, Engst was shot-down and wounded in aerial combat near Hersfeld whilst flying Fw 190 A-8 (W.Nr. 682 181) 'Yellow 2'. He parachuted clear with a round in his backside and had the scare of his life as he jumped clear of his blazing Focke-Wulf: the left-hand strap of the parachute harness, damaged by the round that had caught him, snapped under the force of the chute deploying. Suspended under the canopy by a single harness strap, Engst endured a terrifying and agonizingly slow descent....

Engst rejoined his Staffel during 1945 and flew sorties to the end of the war. He describes in his journal the rearguard retreat of II./JG 300 through southern Germany during March and April 1945 - an almost ceaseless round of Tiefangriffe strafing sorties against American tank spearheads. He has harsh words for his superiors including his Kommandeur who rarely flew during this period due to 'sickness'. On 9 April 1945 Engst was shot down by US fighters as described by Ernst Schröder in Volume II of the JG 300 history;

" We set out on a heading for Adlholz tucked in alongside each other, a “Rotte” with Hubert leading. Not far from Bayreuth, while we were progressing through a relatively misty sky at one thousand meters altitude, we were set upon by several P-51 D Mustangs. Hubert had not detected them at all. I saw them first, as often happened in such situations. For some reason unknown to me, my comrade did not hear my warning shout in his earphones and continued calmly on track. I saw a well positioned Mustang open fire on Hubert Engst’s 190 as I peeled off to be able to take up the fight without colliding with my Rottenführer! I straightened up and the 190 and its pursuer re-appeared in my field of vision. Hubert took to his parachute, unharmed, in front of my eyes. For a few seconds the Mustang that had just brought him down was framed in my windscreen. A perfect target but I could hardly open fire... my comrade had just bailed out of his 190 a few hundred meters ahead of me and was swinging in my sights as I bore down on him... not a pleasant position to be in! As far as I know, Hubert got off lightly, since all he lost was his 190 and his personal belongings left in his ship..".

Engst was present at Salzburg Ainring during the first days of May 1945 as the rump of JG 300 was ordered to fall back to Prague - Engst personally witnessed the unit's Fw 190 Doras get airborne for the last Verlegung - airfield transfer - of the war. He erroneously describes in his journal the aircraft he saw taking off from Salzburg on 3 May as the latest Ta 152 fighters ! There is no suggestion anywhere in his papers that he was awarded the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold. With the kind permission of Wolfgang Engst and Jean-Yves Lorant we hope to bring more from Hubert Engst's journal here soon.. it is perhaps worth bearing in mind that although he might not have achieved more than six or seven confirmed aerial victories Engst was nonetheless an ace - a night fighter and heavy bomber killer caught up - like so many of his comrades - in the terrible drama of bloody battles of the summer of 1944 who - unlike many of his comrades - survived to the end of the war, having witnessed some terrible sights and having lost virtually everything.