Friday, May 20, 2022

Herr Heinkel Comes Calling ...

Heinkel He-111 medium bombers
Flying Officer Reginald Morley was airborne with his squadron well before the sun was up. As they climbed the world lightened until they reached an altitude where the sun was already shining. The earth below was still in shadow. Morley was still shaken by the events of the previous day, but miraculously the woman he cared for had gotten word to him.

She was alive. He had asked her if she was hurt, all she had said was, "I'm all right, I'll heal in time. Just some cuts and bruises."

He had taken her at her word, which had given him a great deal of relief. Now he had to focus on his flying, the RDF station to the north had given them warning that another raid was forming up across the Channel. The controller had ordered the squadron to orbit over The Solent at 10,000 feet.

As they continued to climb and head out over the Isle of Wight, Morley nodded. Already the altimeter was passing 12,500 feet. The squadron commander wanted lots of height when they encountered the Huns. No more getting bounced by Messerschmitts if he could help it. The controller wasn't up here, they were.

"Green Flight, Green Leader, bogies at 12 o'clock, our angels. Look for the fighter escort."

Before anyone could answer, another voice came over the R/T, "Green Flight, this is Yellow Leader, with twelve Spitfires, we'll get the 109s, you chaps go for the bombers."

"Green Flight, WILCO."

Hauptmann Theodor Schenk sat comfortably in his seat keeping his eyes moving in all directions as they approached the English coast. The formation had formed up, gone south, then west, trying to feint the British into thinking that a raid on Bournemouth was coming. As they had flown across the Channel they had gradually slid to the north, their real target was Portsmouth.

His crew were all veterans of Poland and the recent operations in France, this was their first trip to England. Intelligence had indicated that there was a gap in the Englanders' Funkmeß¹, a gap they hoped to exploit to hit RAF airfields in the Portsmouth area.

A call from the aircraft's dorsal gunner alerted them all to the fact that their fighter escort, some 2,500 meters higher than them, were being engaged by English Spitfires.

"All stations, keep your eyes peeled, if the Spits are attacking our escorts, their Hurricanes must be around as well." Schenk sat up and focused. If they were attacked he intended to jink just enough to throw off the enemies' aim but still stay on track for the bomb run.

"Hartmann, you better take your position." Schenk instructed his bomb aimer. Max Hartmann slid forward into the nose of the aircraft and readied his equipment.

Morley was well above the flight of Heinkels, it was time, "Blue Flight, slip into right echelon, then follow me down. I'll take the aircraft on the left, Two take the center, Three, the bird to the right. All right chaps, let's go."

Morley advanced his throttle then bunted the nose to put his Hurricane into a dive. He wanted to pass through the enemy formation with enough speed to throw off their aim and then come around for another pass. If they could break up the formation, that would be mission accomplished in his book.

Gefreiter Heinrich Stüber called out, "Hurricanes, dead astern!" as he began to engage the incoming British aircraft. The Englanders were jinking just enough to mess up his sight picture, but he began firing anyway. He didn't notice the winking along the leading edge of the British aircraft as the pilot triggered the eight .303 machine guns, four to each wing. It wouldn't have mattered if he had.

Stüber sat down hard, he didn't understand why he had lost his grip on his gun. He only sat there a moment before he toppled to the floor of the aircraft. Unconscious and losing blood rapidly, he would die before his crewmates knew he had been hit. But they were in a fight for their lives, a fight Stüber had already lost.

"Blue Lead, Blue Two, sorry Reg, but I've copped it. Engine is smoking, oil is spattering my windscreen and I've got a nasty hole in me. I'm off for home."

As Morley and his surviving wingman arched up and to the left, he caught sight of Teddy Wilson's aircraft. It was indeed smoking and losing altitude.

"Teddy, jump when you get over land. Don't try to ride her down, we can get you a new aircraft, we can't get another Teddy."

"I'll try Reg, but she's starting to burn, I'm going over the side now. Cheers!"

The Heinkel was dying, Schenk had managed to turn her back to France but the left engine was smoking badly, the right seemed to be losing oil pressure and at least two of his crew were hit. He had no idea that Stüber was already dead. But Hartmann lay wounded and bleeding in his bomb aimer's position and the side gunner reported that he too was hit but could still man his guns.

"Kurt, how is the radio?"

Kurt Graebner responded, "I can transmit, but I think the receiver's dead. Can you keep her in the air long enough to get home?"

As Graebner asked that, the right engine coughed and seized up, the oil was gone. "No, transmit a Mayday, I'm going to try and put her down near the rescue buoy off Barfleur, that's as close as I can get to land. If the Seenotdienst can get to us, we'll make it through this."

Max Hartmann stirred, coughing he said, "Provided we survive the crash, Herr Hauptmann."

Graebner nodded, "There is that, there is that."

Morley touched down, Sergeant Roger Friedman's Hurricane behind him and to his right. He wished he could feel the elation he should have felt at badly damaging one Heinkel and shooting down another. Friedman had a kill as well.

As they pulled up to dispersal, Morley noted that, as always, O'Donnell was waiting.

Morley sat in the cockpit for a few moments as the engine shut down. After a bit, all he could hear was the ticking of the hot engine in front of him. O'Donnell knew enough to wait for Morley to collect himself.

"Any word on Teddy?" Morley asked, hoping against hope that his downed wingman was alive.

O'Donnell shook his head, "Mr. Wilson went into the Channel, Sir. His chute was spotted but an offshore wind pushed him further out to sea. By the time the rescue boat got to him, he'd drowned."

"Damn it." Morley sat a moment longer, then climbed onto the wing of the aircraft, with O'Donnell's help.

He stood there, looking to the east, towards the Channel. He would have to write a letter to Teddy's Mum and Dad. They'd already lost one son in France, now this. He looked at O'Donnell, "I hope you've improved the contents of that flask Chiefy."

O'Donnell nodded and handed it to his pilot, "Whiskey, Sir. Traded with a fellow I know over at our sister squadron."

"Nothing vital I trust?"

"Of course not Sir, just a few typewriter ribbons that I nicked from the Station Commander's office."

Morley managed a smile.

Schenk's Heinkel made it to the rescue buoy, two men out of his crew survived the water landing. Schenk did not.

Final tally for the day: Four Heinkels shot down, three returned to France with dead and wounded crewmembers aboard. Two of the escorting Bf-109s were shot down to one Spitfire damaged.

Teddy Wilson was the only loss among the Hurricane crews.

¹ Radio-measuring, what the Germans called radar.


  1. Since RAF crews that went down in the Channel also made for the German buoys, the buoys were visited by MTBs, and MGBs of the RN. I hope a Motor Gunboat got to Schenk's crew first, as that way they would be far more likely to survive the war.

    1. At this stage of the battle there wasn't much rescuing of RAF crews who went into the Channel. That must have been later in the war.

  2. Another great installment, Sarge. One can feel the weariness Morely is experiencing.
    Minor note, tell the verdammt spell check that " Heinkels" is meant to be plural/multiple and save the apostrophe for later.
    Boat Guy

    1. There are tales of pilots taxiing in, the aircraft stopping, the ground crew going out and finding the pilot fast asleep. The pace was grueling.

      (How did that apostrophe get past the editor? I must have been nodding off. ...)

    2. I'm sure the crew chief needed and took a nap when his kite was away. Naps are good.

  3. O'Donnell's certainly proving resourceful, providing everything his pilot needs to keep going.

    1. Being former ground crew, I always thought those guys didn't get enough recognition in all the stories/books/films I've read and seen.

      So O'Donnell is going to be around and be very useful.

    2. Crusty Old TV Tech here. A good crew chief is worth his weight in gold. The more he thinks of the bird as "his", the better for the aircrew. And that flask...of course, in Blighty, the high end trading hooch would have come from north of Hadrian's Wall! Resourcefulness is an invauable trait in an NCO, especially of the midnight requisition kind.

    3. Dougie Bader always fought tooth and nail for his ground crew.

    4. In my experience with Brits overseas and in the Isles "whiskey" means the water of life from the north. We colonials are thought quaint at best using the redundant "Scotch" in front of the word.
      And yes, I know the Irish have been known to distill some mighty fine whiskey too, though not quite in Campletown's league.
      Boat Guy

    5. HD - Yes, yes he did. Truth be told, I'm not a big Bader fan, he was far too close to Leigh-Mallory for my tastes. The whole "Big Wing" theory tarnished his reputation in my book.

    6. BG - When I use the term "whiskey" I am one of those for whom the term means something distilled north of Hadrian's Wall. 😁

    7. Keith Park had it all in one sock. And then did Malta. Damn good man.

    8. Keith Park is one of my heroes. As is Hugh Dowding.

    9. I believe Leigh-Mallory, realizing the hero worship of the press of Bader, manipulated him.

    10. No doubt, that would be so like Leigh-Mallory.

  4. Thrust and parry....butcher's bill starts to really add up. The Germans are starting to learn that a tactical air force makes for a poor strategic air force. Reggie survives another sortie.

    1. It's a hard lesson and also highlights the Nazis' poor planning.

  5. “gap in the Englanders' Funkmeß”
    This is a result of the damage from inflicted from the raid in yesterday’s installment, yes?

  6. “….Once more to the bouy dear Shenk, once more….” (With apologies to The Bard)😉

    1. That’s me,Hogday, aka’Anon’

    2. HD #2 - You're another victim of Google changing the way they do things. Disgraceful, making you comment as Any Mouse ...

  7. "Bunted", Now (like Obi-wan Kenobi) is a word I haven't heard in many a year. And used correctly I might add. Well Done!

  8. As I read the constant back and forth, the only thing that comes to mind was the incredible waste of it all - as Nylon12 wrote, a tactical air force is not a strategic air force.

    Even in the civilian world, support staff make the world go around. The wise person always makes sure to have them in their corner. I cannot count the times folks in Facilities, Purchasing, or Shipping and Receiving have made my work life work much more smoothly.

    1. Support staff can also make one's life a living Hell. Been on both sides of that equation.


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