Sunday, 23 June 2013

Luftwaffe war graves in England - Hawkinge cemetery (Hans-Karl Mayer, Wilhelm Enßlen)

Andy Saunders writing in his book  'Finding the foe' (and After the Battle magazine 151) highlights the work of Joe Potter in establishing the final resting places in south-east England of a number of hitherto unidentified Luftwaffe air crew, work that has enabled the VDK, the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge in German) responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of German war graves in Europe and North Africa, to erect named headstones on German war graves. When the VDK established their prinicpal UK cemetery at Cannock Chase, north of Birmingham, during the 1960s, some 5,000 German war dead were exhumed and re-interred. At the time German servicemen were buried at some 700 different sites all over the UK. However some next-of-kin did not want the original grave disturbed and for this reason all of the following airmen repose in Hawkinge cemetery ( described as 'Folkestone New Cemetery' in Saunders' book and article ) just a stone's throw from the former wartime airfield and buildings that now house the Kent Battle of Britain museum. Among them is the grave of Hans-Karl Mayer (above right), subject of a recent Chris Goss Flypast feature. 

Mayer was awarded the RK during September 1940, but disappeared on a test flight over the Channel during October - he was most probably caught up in a fight with RAF fighters, but according to at least one German-language source had taken off with unloaded magazines. His body was washed up on the beach between Dover and Folkestone and he was subsequently buried in the cemetery at Hawkinge where he still lies, a rare Luftwaffe Ritterkreuzträger still on British soil. 

To the left of Mayer is a rather enigmatic headstone bearing the name 'A. Schenk'. It is now established that this is the grave of Hptm. Wilhelm Enßlen, a Legion Condor veteran and an experienced fighter leader with JG 52 (Kommandeur II./JG 52), shot down and killed by the CO of 92 Squadron Johnny Kent on 2 November 1940. The combat is described at length in Kent's biography 'One of the Few'. In 1982 the wreck of his crashed Me 109 E-4 (WNr. 3784 ) was excavated at Hagueland, Burmarsh, west of Hythe, Kent but even then Enßlen's final resting place was not 'officially' identified until September 2004. According to some sources Enßlen was an eighteen-victory ace, others have only eleven claims for this pilot who was decorated for his service in Spain. The headstone is currently awaiting replacement. Below wedding image of Wilhelm Enßlen from Saunders 'Finding the Foe' (Grub Street, 2010)- extracts from the book relating this story and the work of Joe Potter are available to view via google books courtesy of Casemate

Below; grave of Fw. Otto Runge, - his Me 410 was shot down on 22 January 1944. As a result of the work of Joe Potter his grave now has a named headstone