Stirling EF399

 

This report of the Stirling-crash is written by Coen Cornelissen, Dutch investigator of the Airwar in the eastern part of the Netherlands.

He is the author of the books (in Dutch language):

Huzaren van de nacht (Hussars of the night) ISBN 90-6693-100-0
Van Grasmat tot Fliegerhorst (From Grassmatt to [German] Airbase) ISBN 906693090x

Assignment

During the night between 22 and 23 June 1943, the bombardiers on the British Bomber Command had Mulheim as a target. The RAF sent a force of 557 aeroplanes to the city, consisting of 242 Lancasters, 155 Halifaxes, 93 Stirlings, 55 Wellingtons, and 12 Mosquito Bombers.

The attack is a great success. The centre, as well as the nortern area of Mulheim is turned into ash, as well as the eastern areas of Oberhausen.
578 people were killed and 1174 wounded. This caused 27 schools, 17 churches and 6 hospitals, among other institutions, to be packed full with people. This one bomb raid caused at least 64% of the city to be destroyed….
Bombercommand lost 6,3% of her force; 35 aeroplanes in total.

Stirling EF399 AA-O

One of the aeroplanes that was left smouldering on Twents land was the Short Stirling Mark I, Number EF399.  As call sign, the bomber was marked with the letters AA-O. “AA” were the letters that showed that the plane carried Squadron No. 75 and the “O” was the individual, unique call sign.
The machine was part of the 75 (NZ) Squadron (NZ=New Zealand) and left the Newmarket airport on 22 June at 23.37 (English time).

During the flight home, the other Squadron members received a message from the Stirling AA-O. The navigator Flight Sergeant Donald E. Martin reported that the aeroplane was seriously hit by Flak (Flugzeugabwehrkanone).
Nevertheless, the aeroplane was still air worthy. But because the aeroplane was flying substantially slower, it was an easy target for nightfighters.

At 02.47 and at a height of 4.300 metres, the machine was shot upon by a Messerschmitt Bf. 110 nightfighter, caught fire, and crashed. The machine, up until that moment, was still under control of the pilot. He still managed to give the command “Abandon Aircraft”, with which – at the last moment – 2 of the crew jumped overboard.
The bomber was already so low at that point, that these two people, with unopened parachutes, fell to the ground nearby the wreckage. At the last moment, the tail of the burning aircraft broke off.  This was probably the reason why it was no longer possible to make an emergency landing, because practically immediatley afterwards, the machine crashed into the ground…

The crew

The crew was made up as follows:

Pilot:                       Flight Sergeant Kenneth Alfred Burbidge from Byfleet, Surrey, NZ.
                              Age 22, Military Number:  412200, RNZAF
                              Grave: General Cemetery Markelo, plot 4, row c, grave number 13.

Flight Engineer:       Sergeant George Lockey, Military Number:  1142645, RAF
                              Grave: General Cemetery Markelo, plot 4, row c, grave number 15.

Navigator:               Flight Sergeant Kenneth Walter Frederick Wilcockson from      
                              Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand                                 
                              Age 34, Military Number:  42314, RNZAF
                              Grave: General Cemetery Markelo, plot 4, row c, grave number 17.

Bomb Commander Flight Sergeant Andrew James McEwin from Waiuta, Nelson, NZ.
                            Age 25, Military Number:  4170770, RNZAF
                            Grave: General Cemetery Markelo, plot 4, row c, grave number 14.

Wire Operator/Gunner Flight Sergeant Donald Ernest Martin, Otahuhu, Auckland, NZ
                              Age 26, Military Number:  413872, RNZAF
                              Grave: General Cemetery Markelo, plot 4, row c, grave number 16.

Forward Gunner (nose) Sergeant Gibson Cameron from Perth, Scotland,
                          Age 23, Military Number:  1304742, RAF 
                          Grave: General Cemetery Markelo, plot 4, row c, shared grave 11-12.

Tail Gunner Sergeant Kenneth Fazackerley Shaw from Prestwich, Lancashire, 
                          Age 22, Military Number:  1132866, RAF
                          Grave: General Cemetery Markelo, plot 4, row c, shared grave 11-12.

The crash

As already reported, the AA-O was shot down at 02.47. The bomber flew from the south (from the Twenthe canal) towards the north direction Markelo. Above the Markelose hill the machine made a sharp turn to the right. Just before the aeroplane made this turn, the two men described earlier, jumped overboard.
Due to the rough turn the tail broke off (probably causing the shortened flight). After this the plan dove sharply, coming from a north-northwest direction, flying towards a south-east direction. The Stirling made contact with the ground, and slid – bouncing and jerking – off the Markelose hill. The machine lifted it self up just once, and then landed with a crashing thud in a field on the Roosdoms road, owned by the Vedders family.
The crash caused a small crater in the ground.

Salvage

After the plane had come to rest, the area turned into a sea of fire. The wreckage and the widely spread parts, lay burning for hours. The next morning, the Germans moved the bodies of the crew into a row next to the wreckage.

A “Bergungs Kommando” from the “Zerlegerbetrieb Utrecht” cleaned the mess up days later. They were a sort of metal disposal company, who collected plane wreckages and scrapped them. Germans, as well as a number of Belgians from Vlaanderen worked in this company.
In March 1994 a local investigation was carried out, including the use of a depth seeker. The search came up with no results. With a normal metal detector, only a few, unimportant pieces of the aircraft could be found.

The crew were buried on 25 June 1943. At first, only the remains of the Sergeants Burbidge, McEwin and Wilcockson were indentified.
With this information, it is almost certain that two of these officers were the men who sprung from the aeroplane before it crashed. The left over crew were found in the wreckage and were very mutilated.
Therefore it was not until 1946, 1947 that they could be identified. This information was worked out by using military notebooks, identificationtags and military numbers, which were found on watches, jewellery and clothes.

The winner

The Stirling was shot at by Hauptmann (Captain) Egmont Prinz zur Lippe-Weissenfeld. The attack for Weissenfeld was his 42nd nightly triumph.
Hmpt. Zur Lippe-Weissenfeld worked at the Fliegerhorst Twenthe as Gruppenkommandeur of the IIIe Nachtjagdgruppe of the Nachtjagdgeschwader 1. Otherwise known as III./NJG 1. Weissenfeld was commander of this Squadron resident in the Stab III./NJG 1.

Prinz zur Lippe-Weissenfeld was born on 14 July 1918 in Salzburg (Austria). Although he had noble blood, the Weissenfeld’s were no relation to ZKH Prins Bernhard.
This information was unfortunatley published incorrectly in the past.
Weissenfeld was a real ace. As was indicated by the many victories that can be attributed to the nightfight experts. Weissenfeld had, at the time of his death, reached 51 “Abschusse”. The AA-O was one of these… On board his Messerschmitt, Weissenfeld was assisted by Oberfeldwebel Rennette. This was the “Bordfunker”, who, among other things, looked after the Lichtenstein SN-2 radar.

Egmont Prinz zurLippe-Weissenfeld received the Ridderkruis (the highest medal in Germany) on 16 April 1942. On 2 August 1943 he recieved the additional Eikenloof (Oak Leaves).
The heavily decorated officer crashed on 12 March 1944 by St. Hubert in the Belgian Ardennen. Weissenfeld left from Parchim, on his way to the French Laon/Athies, to say goodbye to his old group, the III./NJG 1. During the flight, the aeroplane was hit by bad weather, which caused the commander to fly in to a hill. The cause was put down to ice on the wings and bad vision.
His grave can be found in the German War Cemetery IJsselsteyn in Limburg.

The dogfight

The dogfight went as followed. After Weissenfeld’s MesserschmittBf. 110 took of from Twente, it flew to the “Nachtjagdraum 4D” (all of West Europe was separated into imaginary fighting sectors). Here Weissenfeld and Rennette made contact with the “Jagerleitoffizier” (the combatcommandingofficer) of the nightfight sector. This was Oberfeldwebel Dreffkorn, who himself was situated in a combat post. This was the ground radar station in the Vinkenveldriet by Denekamp.
From there, the combat commandingofficer oversaw on a large map, all incoming radar reports. This showed all incoming enemy aircraft. Soon, Ofw. Dreffkorn saw an “enemy spot”. The details of the altitude, direction, etc were given in the form of a combatcommand, that was sent by radio to the waiting nightfighter crew. Weissenfeld then flew into the giving direction. Radio operator Rennette used the SN-2 radar.
After the bomber was discoverd, the duo attacked from back- and underside (“Von Hinten-unten Angriff”). They aimed at one of the airfoils. On this were the motors as well as the fuel tanks. An attack from the forward gunner did the rest (2 x 20mm fowardcannons and 4x 7.9mm machine guns).
For III./NJG 1, this was the 169th victory in total.

This report is written by Coen Cornelissen, Dutch investigator of the Airwar in the eastern part of the Netherlands.

He is the author of the books (in Dutch language):

Huzaren van de nacht (Hussars of the night) ISBN 90-6693-100-0
Van Grasmat tot Fliegerhorst (Fromgrassmatt to [German] Airbase) ISBN 906693090x

Additional information:

The complete life story of Egmont Prinz zur Lippe-Weissenfeld has been desrcibed in the book Princes of Darkness, ISBN 978 1 9032233 95 6, written by Claire Rose Knott.

Herin inter alea is described, that Prince Egmont’s sisters Princess Theodora and Princess Sophie really believe, that Hitler caused her brother’s death. After the unsuccesfull attempt on his life, Hitler regarded the nobility as unreliable and it was not allowed that they holded high military posts any longuer. 
Later on more information will follow on this website. 

Oktober 2012, Benny Schreurs