Friday 8 August 2014

I./ JG 300 Borkheide, October 1944

A line-up of JG 300 Bf 109 G-14/AS fighters including W.Nr. 16. ... "Rote 1" of 2. Staffel seen at Borkheide during October 1944....and below "Rote 5", expired Ebay auction via Marc-André Haldimann's photostream on flickr, and bottom, 'Red 5' via J-Y Lorant.

Borkheide was an isolated village some thirty miles or so south of Berlin, the 'airfield' an open expanse of what the pilots described as a "heath-land" of sandy soil, grassy tufts and felled pine fir stumps. It was surrounded by pines on three sides, in theory difficult to spot from the air - and by marauding P-51s. The pilots and ground crews of I./JG 300 'lived' in underground log bunkers - a "foretaste of the coffin" according to one pilot- and spent most of their days at cockpit readiness.

Ofhr. Friedrich-Wilhelm Schenk (2. Staffel) recalled;

 " Borkheide, autumn 1944. The order to go to cockpit readiness had come through twenty minutes previously. A deathly silence descended over the field. The pilots found themselves alone with their thoughts, seated at the controls of their Messerschmitts... Our life expectancy was no more than two hours. Two hours during which our lives hung in the balance; we were on a knife edge, either about to survive to see the dawn of another day or to die a horribly violent death. If you have never lived through that type of situation you could only with difficulty comprehend its intensity... A suffocating feeling of powerlessness, inner turmoil, intense fear and silent resignation. Above our heads the sky was unashamedly blue. Two fitters stood on the wing leading edge, ready to wind up the heavy inertia starter of the Daimler-Benz engine. They spoke in low voices if they spoke at all. To break the tension someone uttered a word of encouragement or cracked an unnecessary joke. Then, a Kettenkrad ran down the line of aircraft carrying our Adjutant Oblt. Noschinski, or the Technical Officer, Oblt. Dudak, or our “Doc”, staff-surgeon Dr. Ditgens, or the Signals Officer Lt. Käppeler. There was a word for each pilot, the offer of a cup of coffee, mineral water or some cake. Could they refuse anything to men who they perhaps would never see alive again, who perhaps had only two hours to live?..."

(extracted from Jean-Yves Lorant's " Bataille dans le Ciel d'Allemagne " and translated by this blog author..)

On 2 November 1944 around fifteen P-51s of the 355th FG - the 'Steeple Morden Strafers' - discovered the 'airfield' at Borkheide and gave it a working over, flying strafing passes for up to ten minutes. This attack resulted in virtually half the entire aircraft complement of I./ JG 300 going up in flames - at least nineteen Bf 109s with fuel tanks and magazines recently replenished for a sortie were destroyed on the ground. At Jagddivsion HQ the entire incident reeked of incompetence and following a visit and interview by Generalleutnant Beppo Schmid, CO of I. Jagdkorps, accompanied by Kommodore Dahl, Kommandeur Hptm. Stamp only narrowly avoided disciplinary sanctions..

More from 'Timo' Schenk on this blog