Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Fieseler Fi 103 R-4 Reichenberg piloted V-1 flying bomb - photo call at the Lashenden Air Warfare museum, Headcorn, Kent

It has been an exciting few days for Luftwaffe enthusiasts based in Kent, England. The Dornier Do 17 Z salvage and arrival onshore in Ramsgate harbour has of course received enormous media coverage. Perhaps just as exciting and unfortunately less well publicised was a rare photo call for the Lashenden Air Warfare Museum's superb Fieseler Fi 103 R-4 Reichenberg based at Headcorn, north of Ashford.. 

You may be aware that this unique aircraft was restored by the Auktionshaus für historische Technikon in Germany  and came back to the UK earlier this year. It is not actually due to go on display until a new display hall is built and as such is still in storage. Subject to planning permission and a good summer, it was hoped to have the extension built by August 2013 but the museum still needs to raise £40,000 to complete the hall. The project suffered a setback a while ago with the theft of the steel uprights that were to be used in the construction of the building. However, the aircraft will make an appearance at the Combined Ops Weekend at Headcorn Aerodrome on 17/18 August if the building is not ready by then. According to curator Trevor Matthews this will be the first opportunity to view the restored cockpit, which is more or less complete save for the harness..

In the meantime donations are of course welcomed. You can donate online at the museum's website or by sending a cheque to Lashenden Air Warfare Museum, Headcorn Aerodrome, Shenley Road, Headcorn, Kent TN27 9HX made payable to LAWM. All donations will be acknowledged on a sponsor's wall within the new building.

Pictures reproduced here with the kind permission of LAWM curator Trevor Matthews, seen below in the high-viz jacket doing some of the donkey work. More at the LAWM Facebook page

" .. the Fi 103 R was a piloted FZG -76 V 1 flying bomb test flown by Hanna Reitsch. Modifications include the addition of a four foot (1.2m) belly skid and basic eight-instrument cockpit containing a backless wooden seat and crude headrest. A stick controls the elevators and ailerons, the throttle was made of wood and a button controlled fuel flow. Frightening to fly, surely...."

Michael Bowyer on the RAE German aircraft and Equipment Exhibition, Farnborough, England October 1945

The 'Reichenberg/Leonidas' Staffel was a planned suicide unit set up under the auspices of Otto Skorzeny and attached to KG 200. The Me 328 was initially selected as the aircraft to equip this Staffel but when these aircraft could not be delivered work started on producing a piloted version of the FZG 76/V-1. The conversion work was undertaken by the DFS at Ainring and entailed the provision of a cockpit with instruments and conventional controls. Testing soon showed that the aircraft had to be released from a carrier Heinkel He 111 rather than from the V 1 steam catapult - KG 53 had been air-launching unmanned V-1s against the UK from over the North Sea in similar fashion. In total Fieseler converted some 175 Reichenberg Fi 103s although it would appear that none were used operationally..