Sunday 4 February 2024

Hptm. Wilhelm Schmitter RK and his II./KG 40 Do 217 E & Me 410 V./KG 2 - Bundesarchiv photo report


Two recent posts have covered Do 217 'pirate' bombing raids and Me 410 intruder ops over England. Here is one pilot who flew both these missions. 

I was reminded (thank you Delmar!) that KG 2 was not the only Do 217 unit sending out lone 'pirate' missions against factory and industrial targets in southern England during early 1943. A closer reading of Chris Goss' Dornier Do 217 titles (Osprey Combat Aircraft No. 139 or the Crecy Classic volume) would have told me as much of course. This image - labelled by the ECPA-D only as ' KG 2 Eindhoven or Soesterberg, March 1943 '  shows the same aircraft that can be seen on p 38 of the Classic title  - ie a KG 40 machine, possibly flown by Oblt. Wilhelm Schmitter of the Stab II./KG 40, seen taxying in at Soesterberg. The pilot at the controls may be Schmitter in his 'F8+BC' with the decorated tailfin.

Below; another  view of a KG 40 Do 217 E taxying in. Note the unit code 'F8+ ??' appears in small letters at the base of the port tail fin. There are no codes on the fuselage. Note white outline Balkenkreuz (the Osprey title shows this as dark grey?)

A Bundesarchiv search turned up several more images (again, thank you Delmar!) - simply and not very helpfully labelled, " Belgien/Nordfrankreich.- Ritterkreuzträger vor Flugzeug Dornier Do 217" This is Schmitter wearing his Ritterkreuz awarded for some 170 bombing missions in front of his overall pale blue-grey 76 Do 217 E-4. Photo dates from early 1943. 

A pre-war pilot who flew as a Seeaufklärer before becoming a bomber pilot, Schmitter was awarded the Ritterkreuz in September 1942 and promoted to Hptm. in March 1943 and appointed StaKa of 5./KG 40. Later that month II./KG 40 converted onto the Me 410 and became V./KG 2. Schmitter was shot down over the UK on the night of 8 November 1943 and received a posthumous Eichenlaub and promotion to Major.

Below; Schmitter (left) in front of his Do 217 with his veteran crew, Uffz. Wagner (BO), Fw. Krohn (BM) and Fw. Heinz Gräber (BF) seen far right. Between 14 February 1942 and 16 July 1942 Schmitter flew over 45 bombing raids against England, hitting targets in Southampton, Birmingham, Norwich, Middlesborough, Sunderland and most notably Leamington Spa, when he was injured by return fire. In the period 31 May - 6 June Schmitter hit (my home town of) Canterbury on three night raids - these were part of the Luftwaffe's terror bombing campaign, the so-called 'Baedeker offensive' - short, sharp attacks on towns and cities better known for their cathedrals and other historic buildings than for any military or war industry connection. The damage inflicted and the story of these night attacks still forms part of the official Canterbury city guided tour - it is said that a Luftwaffe pilot deliberately avoided dropping his bombs on the cathedral (today a Unesco world heritage site).

Just over one year later, on the night of 10/11 August 1943  - II./KG 40 having been redesignated V./KG 2 - Schmitter, as Staffelkapitän of  15./KG 2 briefly based in Vendeville and then Epinoy, flew his first sortie over England at the controls of  a Me 410 ('U5+AJ'). This was a so-called 'Störangriff' or 'nuisance' bombing raid aimed at airfields around Cambridge. Schmitter's radioman was his Dornier BF Ofw. Heinz Gräber.( above right). Barely a fortnight later (on the night of 23-24 August) Schmitter's Me 410 was badly shot-up by RAF night fighters somewhere off the coast of East Anglia. The pilot managed to keep the machine (Me 410 A-1, 420214, 'U5+CF') in the air with both engines apparently on fire before the crew eventually had to bail out, coming down in the North Sea some eight miles off the coast of Belgium. After 90 minutes in the water both men were rescued by a Kriegsmarine vessel from Zeebrugge. Gräber had sustained serious injuries (leg amputation) but later received a Ritterkreuz. During the sortie and over the King's Lynn area (40 miles north of Cambridge) Schmitter had shot down a 97 Sqd Lancaster returning from a raid on Berlin. He was credited with his 4th victory.

The full story of Schmitter's career and his subsequent demise (KIA 8 November 1943, shot down by an RAF Mosquito near Eastbourne) is brilliantly told on the aufhimmelzuhause web site here 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for visiting the Luftwaffe Blog. We welcome your comments.