Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Oblt. Hermann Westdickenberg, Staffelkapitän 2./ NAG 14 - more Bf 109 recce Aufklärer

Above; Oblt. Hermann Westdickenberg at the controls of his G-6/R2 in Romania during 1944 as Staffelkapitän 2./NAG 14. Click on the photo for a full-screen view.  Text and photos via Roba/Westdickenberg exclusively for FalkeEins blog.

Born in Hamm in June 1917, Hermann Westdickenberg (studio portrait below) joined the Heer (army) in 1936 and participated in the Westfeldzug (campaign in the West) serving with 253 I.D in France. According to his own account his exploits in the field in France with his small advance recce troop were noteworthy - for example, first into Roubaix and into Lille, where he accepted the surrender of a large number of French troops south of the city. 253 I.D spent the winter of 1940-41 in France. Westdickenberg flew sorties as a Heer observer - flying in Luftwaffe recce machines. He eventually took the opportunity to join the Luftwaffe in 1941.  Later that year he was posted to Finland at Kemiaervi near the Russian border with 1.(H)/32, an observer in the Hs 126. Although not a pilot, his rank meant that he was in charge of the aircraft. During 1942 he commanded a detachment of three machines based in Petsamo, specialising in aerial photography and artillery spotting.

In January 1943 he was recalled to Germany and trained as a pilot at Brieg and Jüterbog, before finally achieving the relevant Scheine qualifying him as a Bf 109 pilot, specialising in short-range reconnaissance. Subsequently posted to 2./ NAG 14, his unit moved to Romania in April 1944. During the transfer Westdickenberg turned his Bf 109 over at Craiova and had to complete the journey to Bacau by train. Tragedy soon struck - on his very first sortie from Bacau, the Staffelkapitän Hptm. Hans von Hollenleben (below) was killed in an accident.

Oblt Westdickenberg was immediately named as von Hollenleben's successor. By and large though the first few months at Bacau were relatively pleasant for the men of 2./ NAG 14 - there was little activity in the sector aside from Russian preparations for a large offensive. Everything was to change from mid-August with the subsequent opening of the Soviet offensive in the region of Jassy. Romanian resistance collapsed and Soviet superiority was overwhelming. Flying in Rotten the pilots of NAG 14 were forced to join combat - claiming a number of victories - as well as performing recce missions, such was the numerical superiority of the Soviets.  A recce Staffel such as 2./NAG 14 was an autonomous unit with a strength of sixteen aircraft and up to 270 personnel. Westdickenberg had soon made arrangements for his men and aircraft to fall back to Hungary, a decision which led to disagreement with his hierarchy. However given that the unit was still relatively intact there were no additional complications. However in December 1944 he fell ill while his Staffel suffered losses in the vicinity of Budapest. Large numbers of sorties were flown as the Russians encircled the city. Returning to the front Westdickenberg assumed command of 1./ NAG 14 and ended the war flying missions over Czech territory - on 8 May 1945 1./ NAG 14 was still flying at Budweiss. Although surrendering to the Americans Westdickenberg and his men were handed over to the Russians to endure several years of captivity. Westdickenberg returned to Germany in 1949. A resourceful and competent leader, he enjoyed a successful postwar career in business.

Photos via Jean-Louis Roba above and expired ebay auction below

Celebrating the 2,500th sortie of Nah-Aufklärungs-Staffel 2/14 at Bacau, Romania during the summer of 1944. Westdickenberg is second left (hands in pockets).

More recce Aufklärer on this blog

Scenes from I./ NAG 12

'Heimo' Emmerstorfer NAG 12

Henschel Hs 126 winter recce