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Thread: For Hugh Halliday - Sept 24 '44 C-47

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    Default For Hugh Halliday - Sept 24 '44 C-47

    Hi Hugh:

    Some time ago (two years? - couldn't find the original thread on the old forum...) you asked about the loss of a C-47 on 24 September 1944. Apparently, it was on the way to Sardinia, became lost and went down with the loss of the crew and, if I recall correctly, 20 Canadian ground crew.

    It transpired that we were able to identify the Luftwaffe pilot who shot the transport down - Julius Meimberg. A couple of days ago on a German-language forum I saw a post which indicated that Meimberg had survived the war and published his memoirs (entitled "Feindberührung" - Contact with the Enemy). I asked if the shoot-down of the C-47 was mentioned in the book - a fellow named Jürgen Zapf very kindly scanned in the relevant pages (290 - 291, for what it's worth) and emailed them to me.

    For your info, and for anyone else who might be interested in the incident, I've translated what Meimberg had to say. Jürgen apparently interviewed Meimberg some years ago, and he was still disturbed at what had happened. The event came just after a Generalleutnant Schmid had visited the unit to discuss, in suitably vague terms, the various aspects of shooting at parachutes...



    'For some, it is indescribably difficult, to stay clean during a war which is becoming ever-dirtier. My own test was waiting for me on 24 September 1944.

    On that day our Gruppe deployed us in Staffel strength against fighter-bombers between Metz and Nance. After a cold front had past through, the weather was the characteristic aftermath, with scattered cloud and good visibility. Guenter Seeger and I started West at 12:27 with two Schwarms. Below us glittered the Rhine, we could see Ludwigshafen through gaps in the cloud, and as always my eyes were searching the sky.

    There, in front of a blinding white wall of cloud: a tiny dot, a little higher than us on a parallel course. A twin-motor aircraft ... strange ... the wings look like those of an Fw 58 Wiehe ... but the Weihe is smaller...

    We swing in towards it. Its a type of aircraft which I've never seen before. The machine appears to be unarmed. We're very close now, and suddenly, I'm electrified; I recognise blue-white-red cockades on the fuselage and wings. An Englander! Is he crazy, flying on a sunny day through the middle of Germany - with no escort? I push the throttle forward as I want to try to force him to follow me. However, at that moment, he must have seen us, as he curves towards the wall of clouds, and is clearly attempting to escape us.

    Now I'm sitting behind him and fire a short burst at the starboard motor. I don't want to shoot him down and therefore use just the two machine guns, and not the cannon of my Me 109. The aircraft climbs steeply, rolls on its back and pulls into a dive. It picks up so much speed in the dive, that its structural limits are exceeded when the enemy pilot tries to pull out. One of the wings rips away from the fuselage with a jerk and tumbles to earth like a leaf, while the rest plunges down, with no parachutes blossoming. We follow the steep spiral until the aircraft strikes the ground. I do not feel at all like myself. I give the order to return.

    After landing, we are standing together at debriefing. The usual questions are asked: How was the weather? Where was the Sun? Who saw the enemy first? How did we proceed? How was the victory won?

    "Is it that easy?" asks Oberleutnant Wolfgang Hauffe, bewildered.

    "Yes, it can be that easy." I reply after some thought.

    I cannot get the shoot-down out of my mind. I want to see with my own eyes, what kind of an aircraft it was. A military target, absolutely, and the pilot attempted to escape, although it must have been clear to him that we wanted him to follow us - exactly what the rules say. Under international law I'd done nothing wrong, and yet, something was definitely not right about the whole thing.

    With trepidation I set off with Schröder, my driver. but after a few kilometres the car begins to shudder and there is an unpleasant smell. One of the tyres has gone flat. After the wheel is changed, we continue to drive towards where I believe the crash site to be, but before we arrive, we have a second flat. It no longer makes sense to continue; after the tyre is fixed, we have to go back. The HQ in Lorsch however now has the details; the aircraft I shot down was a Douglas Dakota of the Royal Air Force, a transporter with three crew and 20 passengers in Khaki uniforms. The pilot clearly lost his way, either flying south from England or back home. At the end of a chain of misfortune lies the death of 23 people - people who've left behind parents, fiancees, wives, children. Yes, it gets to me; it gets deep under my skin. I am no longer the man I was in 1940 in the skies above France and England. I have seen too many die and have had to write too many letters of condolence, I was already too acquainted with death to simply push away the emotions from this sortie. That's the way war is; we shrug our shoulders, as if we were discussing a tragedy, and in so doing forgive ourselves. Yes, there might be forgiveness for individual soldiers, who kill or drive others to their deaths, as it was for me, but forgiveness for War - there is no such thing.'

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    Default Dakota Loss

    I am very much obliged for this update and would appreciate knowing a bit more about Meimberg (when born, enlisted in Luftwaffe, general wartime record, postwar employment) for purposes of a short article in the "Observail" (newsletter of the Ottawa Chapter, Canadian Aviation Historical Society).

    For those unfamiliar with the original thread, the following is a summary of notes which themselves were compiled with the help of Henk Welting, Chris Charland, Bruno Le Caplan, Mark Huxtable, and Wally Fydenchuk.

    The story began with my noting the names of several RCAF tradesmen, all of whom had been killed aboard Dakota KG653, identified with No.1 Personnel Despatch Unit, viz:

    ALLEN, Cpl JE, BEACH, LAC LI, BERGEN, LAC OED, BURDEN, LAC RT, CAMPBELL, Cpl WH,
    CHEVRIER, LAC JAR M, COUTURIER, LAC JRM, CUMMING, Cpl J, GATES, LAC FRL, GOOD, LAC, HUGHES, Sgt WF, HUNTER, Cpl HJ, KRISTENSEN, LAC FL, LUNDY, LAC WJS, MACDONALD, LAC DJ, McVIE, AC1 JD, MOREAU, Cpl LH, SARGEANT, Cpl FW, SUTHERLAND, LAC JC, WATSON, LAC HS

    Subsequent research indicated that the aircraft itself was from No.1 Ferry Unit and the aircrew were 119790 F/L R. Korer (pilot), 165184 P/O L.A. Veary (navigator), Aus 776352 Sergeant G. Beckoff (WOPAG). The Parent unit was Doncaster.

    Information gathered after the war (found in at least one RCAF casualty file) included interviews with German officials, notably the Burgomeister of Neu Leiningen, who reported that on 24 September a "two motor transport aircraft" crashed at 1300 hours. The weather was very bad, dark low clouds, heavy rain, thunder and lightning. Several aircraft were heard. Also, they believed they heard machine guns of a fighter. The aircraft was reported has having exploded and burned in mid-air; wreckage and bodies strewn over a large area. A guard was mounted by police at Wattenheim until Luftwaffe police arrived to collect what they could including documents. Some articles of tropical clothing were also recovered.

    The aircraft was one of 15 Dakotas on a special flight from Pershore to India with 300 RCAF personnel as passengers. The weather was cloudy, 8/10s at 1,000 feet and occasional raid. Good tops reported at 1,400 feet. Freezing at 7,000 feet. Moderate icing in cloud. Visibility below cloud was four miles (two miles in rain). No.1 Ferry Unit reported that KG653 with crew of three crew and 20 passengers were on a special flight to Karachi. Took off at 0330 hours, first stop Elmas, Sardinia (next stop Castel Benito), but never arrived.

    The crew obviously lost their way and must have been close to the limit of endurance when it was shot down. The latest posting is both sad and fascinating.

  3. #3
    Chris Scott Guest

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    Fascinating indeed... Could a former C47 driver be permitted a couple of minor obs?

    Being unpressurised and with passengers, one would expect cruise alt to be limited to about 10,000ft, if possible. There's probably no fuel saving by flying higher. This raises the flight-planning question of the most suitable routing from Pershore (between Birmingham and Bristol) to Elmas (Cagliari, on the south coast of Sardinia). Even in peacetime, West Germany (Ludwigshafen is on the Rhine, not far south of Frankfurt) makes no sense, because (a) it's well east of the great circle, and (b) it commits you to crossing the Alps later.

    The most popular route, I think, would be (roughly) via Lyon, Marseilles and Alghero, cruising below 10,000ft. This avoids the Alps (and, in September, the Luftwaffe?) and is virtually a great circle. On that basis, to be where they were implies a track error well in excess of 30 degrees. By the way, Hugh, Pershore-Ludwigshafen is a comparable distance to Pershore-Lyon.

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    Hi Hugh:

    Sorry for the delay in replying. OK, will see what other information I can drum up for you re: Meimberg, shouldn't be too difficult.

    Cheers,

    Mark

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    Default For Hugh Halliday - new contact

    Hugh

    I'm on the wrong thread here - my apologies to all but this is to open contact with Hugh. I encountered your name when researching the death of my father Sqn Ldr Lionel Rees Cohen, OC No 150 Sqn, killed on the way back from Saarbruchen in Wellington III BJ881. He also feature in the threads for landing a Hudson on an Irish beach when out of fuel after an Atlantic ferry on 5 May 1942. I have information which may interest you and I would like to be put in touch with those who were researching the loss of his crew in Pas-de-Calais on the night of 29/30 July 1942. Could you please email me: mikeshaw208@gmail.com

    Many thanks

    Mike Shaw

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    Hello Mike,

    I'm one of the Irish researchers, delighted to make your aquaintance. We are in contact with your fathers former crew mates son from the Irish landing. I'd be delighted to place you in contact. We foudn some recent small newspaper articles about your father and though you probably have them I'd like to send them on.

    I'm going to drop you an email if you don't mind.

    regards

    Dennis Burke
    http://www.skynet.ie/~dan/war/crashes.htm
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

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