THIS week will mark 80 years since a German aircraft was shot down over Lyme Bay during the Second World War, watched by many on Lyme Regis seafront.
The Heinkel 111 aircraft was shot down by an RAF Spitfire on August 14 1940, killing three men with a further two captured after being rescued from the water.
The Heinkel 111 of 8 Staffel/Kampfgeschwader 27 took off from Rennes, France, at 6.10pm along with two others. Their target was to be RAF Sealand in North Wales.
The crew were all experienced except for the beam-gunner, Unteroffizier Heinrich Schrage, who had been volunteered into the job.
The pilot, Feldwebel Oskar Dubral, and three others – radio operator Feldwebel Walter Gietz, flight engineer Feldwebel Franz Knoblich, and observer/navigator Feldwebel Anton Wiesmeier – made up the full battle compliment.
Their formation was attacked in Lyme Bay by 213 Squadron of the Royal Air Force based at Exeter. At 7.30pm the bomber was shot down by Pilot Officer Harold Atkinson. It crashed into the sea half a mile south east of Broad Ledge, off Lyme Regis.
Two of the crew members were captured unhurt by an RAF air sea rescue launch out of Lyme. The three other members of the crew were killed; two were buried in Lyme Regis cemetery, being exhumed in the 1970s and moved to the German Military Cemetery at Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, and the third remains with the aircraft.
The clipping above from Pulman’s Weekly News describes how the German airmen were shot down in Lyme Bay, describing it as a “brilliant action by the RAF watched by hundreds of people out for an evening walk on the seafront”.
Eyewitness Mr A. E. Lane, who was playing bowls on the seafront at the time, was quoted saying: “I had said for a long time I would like to see a scrap, but this didn’t last very long. Only two bursts of gunfire and down she came. We all stood and cheered on the bowling green.”
Another witness, Mrs E. A. James, described it as “a wonderful piece of work and very thrilling”.
One of the German airmen who survived the attack was supposedly overheard saying ‘Spitfires, too good” in broken English as he was brought ashore.
The German aircrew were as follows:
Franz Knoblich, Feldwebel, German Luftwaffe Service No. 62693.41 – born April 4 1915 in Germany and died August 14 1940 in Lyme Bay, killed and initially buried in Lyme after his body was washed ashore on Chesil Beach two weeks later.
Now buried in the German Military Cemetery, Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, plot 6, row 18, grave 369.
Heinrich Schrage, Unteroffizier, German Luftwaffe Service No. 62693.48 – born June 26 1917 in Germany and died August 14 1940 in Lyme Bay of wounds shortly after being rescued by a boat.
He was initially buried in Lyme Regis and now buried in the German Military Cemetery, Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, plot 6, row 18, grave 358.
Anton Wiesmeier, Feldwebel, German Luftwaffe Service No. 62693.48 – born June 6 (year unknown) in Herrsching, Germany, and died August 14 1940 in Lyme Bay. His body was not recovered from the aircraft and he is commemorated on the war memorial in Herrsching, Bavaria.
Oskar Dubral, Feldwebel, German Luftwaffe – taken Prisoner of War and landed at the Cobb. He was placed in Lyme Police Station before being sent to London for interrogation. He spent the remainder of the war in a Prisoner of War camp in Canada and was repatriated after the war.
He worked for Lufthansa at Frankfurt airport becoming their representative in London between 1959-69. Moving back to Bonn, he died in January 1983.
Walter Gietz, Feldwebel, German Luftwaffe – in March 1938 he served with the Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War with 2 Staffel/Kampfgruppe K/88. Taken Prisoner of War and landed at the Cobb, he was placed in Lyme Police Station before being sent to London for interrogation.
He spent the remainder of the war in a Prisoner of War camp in Canada and was repatriated after the war. He worked as a clerk for the British Government in Kiel.
With thanks to Vernon Rattenbury for the above research