Wednesday 3 October 2012

I./SKG 10 - first Luftwaffe unit in action on D-Day - Wolfgang Zebrowski SKG 10 memoir " Nachts über den Wolken " ( By night above the clouds..)

 There has been surprisingly wide coverage in British newspapers over the past few days on the location and retrieval of wreckage from a 97 Squadron Lancaster found in Normandy, France. The aircraft and her crew were downed on D-Day 6 June 1944 and have been missing in action ever since (although there is some doubt about this - see link below).  A link to the Daily Mail's report and photo coverage appears below. In the meantime I have compiled a brief account of what is known from the German side;

"....They set off in the early hours of D-Day, never to return. The crew of the Lancaster bomber – among the most highly decorated in the RAF – were all killed when their plane was shot down by a German aircraft over Normandy. Their remains have never been found. Now, 68 years later, thanks to the chance discovery of a gold ring, the mystery has been solved......"

Above; Fw 190 G-8s or G-3s of 1. Staffel SKG 10 under the trees at Tours-West during June 1944. 'White 9' was lost with Fw. Nikolaus at the controls on the night of  4-5 July, shot down during an attack against Allied shipping..

While strictly speaking I./SKG 10 was not a fighter or even a night fighter unit, the Fw 190 G-3s and G-8s of the Gruppe were the first Luftwaffe 'fighters' in action over Normandy on 6 June 1944. Gruppenkommandeur  I./SKG 10 was Major Kurt Dahlmann, an experienced officer and pilot who had started his career four years previously with III./KG 4 and who had flown some 160 bombing sorties over England and the Mediterranean prior to being posted to Schnellkampfgeschwader 10 during June 1943. He had been warned early on during the night of 5-6 June that heavy gliders were reported landing in the vicinity of St. and that British parachutists were being landed at Ouistreham, on the Caen canal at the mouth of the Orne. He had immediately ordered a recce as described by Oberfähnrich Wolfgang Zebrowski of 2. Staffel in his post-war memoir entitled   " Nachts über den Wolken " ( By night above the clouds..);

" ..all serviceable aircraft were immediately ordered up to combat transport gliders and tug aircraft reported over Saint-(sic). The night was still dark and visibility rather poor as we took off again (Zebrowski had just landed back safely from an over night bombing raid against the city and port of Portsmouth on the south coast of England..). As we reached the target area I scoured the night sky looking for tell-tale flashes of light from machine-gun fire, constantly changing direction and heading, jinking back and forth - there was no sign whatsoever of any gliders. As my fuel started to run low I turned back and headed for Evreux. We were rather downcast by this lack of success - none of us had seen anything of the enemy.."

It was still dark as another alert came into Gruppe HQ - Allied bombers were reported to be pounding the coast between Carentan and Caen. On this occasion Gkr. Dahlmann instructed the Staffelkapitän of  3./SKG 10, Hauptmann Helmut Eberspacher, to lead four Fw 190s and head out over the sector. Two hours later the four pilots had landed back at Evreux having achieved the first German aerial successes of D-Day - intercepting a formation of Lancasters, four of the RAF four-engined bombers had been shot down, timed at 05:01 to 05:04, the first falling over Isigny and the others towards Carentan, the chase apparently taking place on a westerly heading. Three Lancasters were claimed shot down by Eberspacher himself, the fourth falling to Fw. Eisele.

Gkr. Dahlmann would receive the Ritterkreuz (Knights Cross of the Iron Cross) on 11 June 1944 for the performance of his Gruppe over Normandy following D-Day while Eberspacher was awarded his Ritterkreuz on 24 January 1945 for his performance and successes on 170 Jabo missions on the Western Front. He flew sorties during the Ardennes (Bulge) offensive and against the Remagen bridges and survived the war with some seven victories in total.

Below; pilots of 3./SKG 10 with Staffelkapitän Hptm. Helmut Eberspacher on the far right 

Note that elsewhere -  the Key Aviation forum - the recovery of wreckage from this crash site has raised a number of questions pertaining to the remains of the crew. Nor does it appear that this was the first dig at this crash site..