Friday 15 December 2023

Uffz. Willi Drude (7./JG 77) by his son Wolfgang Drude


On 15 December, 1944, Uffz. Wilhelm-Karl 'Willi' Drude (7./JG 77) was one of a group of pilots transferred from JG 77 to JG 5. He had been with JG 77 only a matter of weeks having just completed his fighter pilot's training in 1./EJG Süd (Strausberg) during November 1944. On 26 December, during the transfer flight to Norway, Drude headed out over the North Sea and landed at Dyce (Scotland). He was one of the few deserters from JG 77.

Drude was flying Me 109 G-14 'Yellow 15' (WNr. 463224) and had (probably simulated) engine trouble before take off from Aalborg airfield. He was thus airborne later than the rest of the formation. He seized the opportunity to fly alone to the UK, reported that he was ditching his aircraft, and arrived at Dyce airfield in Scotland later that day. Indicating he was going to land by waggling his wings, he then approached the runway, bounced a few times, and survived without injury when the aircraft flipped onto its back. He was recovered from the aircraft by British airmen on the scene, and taken prisoner.

Drude was born in Bremen in 1922 and had joined an army unit in 1940 as a mechanic and not started pilot training until late 1943. He died at the age of 81 in Grants Pass, Oregon in September 2003.

His only son Wolfgang Drude tells his story with several detail differences;

".. Dad told me everyone knew the war was lost and they were now just being used for canon fodder. I remember him telling me he had been stationed in Paris, France when he got caught coming back on base with a suitcase full of nylons and cigs. So basically he was black marketeering. That little stunt got him a transfer to the Russian Front, so most of his photos were from there. In November of 1944 his JG was stationed at an airfield in Eggersdorf, Germany. It's just SE of Berlin and that airstrip still exists today. It was at this airstrip that I believe the last photos of him were taken. I googled it and actually found it. The same forest in the background on the photo is also still there. The airstrip also has a bar/ pub, or Kneipe as it's known in German called "Die fliegende Kiste" (The flying crate), 'Kiste' (or 'crate') of course being the German slang pilots used to call their planes. I got in touch with the owner via email and he was totally unaware that a fighter squadron had been stationed there for a brief time during the war. It's now mainly used by small planes and gliders. From there his Staffel was transferred to Stavanger/Sola in Norway. It's located on the south-western most side of Norway right by the North Sea. It was from here that dad flew his last combat mission. Engine failure caused him to make an emergency landing over enemy territory. Dad spent the next 18 months in an English POW camp after which he came back to Germany. I'm his only son and was born in Bottrop, Germany in 1949. It's about 6 km from the city of Essen in the Ruhr area..."

"..Dad had 4 other brothers who were in the Wehrmacht, but none were pilots. All survived the war but one went missing after it ended. His name was Karl Drude and he sent a card home from just outside Berlin saying he'd be home in just a few days. He never arrived, was never heard from again and was the youngest of them all. Dad figured he was snatched up by the Russians and sent to his doom in one of their work camps. I named my first son after him, so now there's a 2nd Karl Drude who also lives here in Boise, Idaho...."

"...I wonder if any of those other pilots in his JG survived. When the opportunity arose several years after the war, we all migrated to Sydney Australia. Back then (1953), Australia was in dire need of trades people and would pay for the trip out there. You in turn had to stay there for a minimum of 5 years to pay them back by just being there. Dad jumped on that opportunity and was the only one of his brothers to migrate to a foreign country. It would be interesting to find out if POW Camp 7 was in Scotland, because I recall dad mentioning the city or town of Liverpool. Again, if he defected, I'm surprised he was able to collect his military pension from Berlin for all those years once he retired..."