At 2.31am, on 27th August, 1940, a burning, crewless Heinkel He111 hit the ground, ploughed it’s way across Queen’s Park, Caterham, and into the rear garden of 21 Manor Avenue, where it exploded, partially destroying the bungalow, which belonged to a retired schoolmaster and his wife.
The Heinkel He 111H-2, (Werke/Nr.5367, coded V4+CD) of Stab III./Kampfgeschwader 1, had set off from an aerodrome near Montdidier at 23.40hrs to bomb factories in the Coventry area, under the command of Major Willibald Fansela.
From the early stages of the sortie, their starboard engine was running rough and over the target the port engine died, possibly due to anti-aircraft fire. Now reliant on the faltering starboard engine, the bomber began to lose height, and was caught in searchlights, so the crew dropped their load of 20 x 50kg bombs blindly and limped homeward.
Finally, over Surrey at 2300ft, Fansela ordered his crew to bale out, and the Heinkel fell, unguided, towards Queen’s Park…
Sgt. Longman of the 148th Anti-Aircraft Battery delivered the final blow, though the aircraft was already damaged. (In my notes, I have them manning the 3″ guns at RAF Kenley, at this time).
All crew members of the Heinkel survived baling out and were taken Prisoner of War and interrogated.
- Pilot: Feldwebel. F Meyer – Captured unhurt. POW
- Observer: Major. Willibald Fanelsa (Gruppenkommandeur) – Captured unhurt. He was sent to Grizedale Hall, the only Officers’ PoW camp in Britain, where he and two others formed the ‘Altestenrat’, (a kind of council of elders which also acted as an escape committee).
- Flight Engineer: Oberfeldwebel. A Vetter – Captured unhurt. POW.
- Radio Operator: Oberfeldwebel. E Braunsburger Captured unhurt. POW.
- Gunner: Gefreiter. G Zimpel Captured unhurt. POW.
One member of the crew who had baled out near Kenley airfield wandered into a house and then left rather quickly when he found RAF coats hanging in the hall! It was Grove House, in Salmons Lane, then requisitioned for WAAF’s quarters.
Another 17 year old crew member suffered a broken leg and was treated by Dr. Lewis who remarked that the lad was in a state of complete terror.