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Thread: Mystery crash site in Baveria

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    Default Mystery crash site in Baveria

    A couple of weeks ago we had some visitors from Germany in the RAF Hornchurch Heritage Centre, one of whom, Hans Grassl, was asking for ways to discover the identification of an aircraft that crashed near his home in 1945.

    With no names or specific crash date I was unable to assist, biut have pointed him at a few places to ask the real experts. He is unable to post here yet as he is not a member so I am doing that on his behalf. I have some photos of the aircraft parts mentioned below if people want to see them.

    Here are the details of what he knows so far. Can anyone here help identify the aircraft?

    -------------------

    My name is Hans and, as a teacher interested in history and a private pilot, I am doing a little bit of hobby research on a British bomber that crashed very close to my home in the winter of 1944/45. I first heard of the story from elder locals. Then, this summer, two rusty propeller hubs were found at the crash site in the trunk of a tree and the local newspaper covered the story and repeated an older article (of 2011) on the crash.

    The eyewitnesses story

    An article in the “Kötztinger Zeitung” from July 23rd 2011 quotes eyewitnesses: In a night in the late winter of 1944/45 a four-engine British bomber flying low in fog crashed on a mountain called “Bärenriegel”. According to the eyewitnesses, it was a formation of two bombers of which only one crashed. The crash site in a remote mountain forest in an altitude of about 1100 m above MSL was not discovered before spring 1945, when shepherds wanted to drive cattle up to mountain pastures. They found 6 crewmembers killed and already in a state of decay. Personal things like watches were missing which proved the shepherds that scavengers had been here before. In the following months a lot of looting was going on and things like parachutes (silk), boots but also aluminium plates and all sorts of useful things were taken away. According to the eyewitnesses the aeroplane was an Avro Lancaster. There were no bombs found but great amounts of machine gun ammunition. In the autumn of 1945 the American occupation authority ordered the wreck to be dismantled by commissioned workers and to be transported down from the mountain. The parts were put in interim storage in Lohberghütte and then loaded to three-axle-trucks and taken away.

    The temporary grave and exhumation

    According to church records of the parish of Lohberg which I could examine, strangely the bodies of the deceased crewmen were not taken down from the mountain before August 1946. Then a private person initiated to collect the bones in a wooden box and to bury them in the cemetery of Lohberg. From there they were exhumed and taken away “by an American” on September 11th 1957 (!). There is no report of identity tags being recovered.

    The crash site

    The exact coordinates of the crash site are 49°08’N 13°04'E. I have visited it and myself found some rusted steel parts with aluminium sheets riveted to them. The flight direction before the crash must have been roughly south when the airplane crashed into rising terrain.

    Previous research

    I am in contact with a society of Bavarian aeroplane historians (http://www.bayflughist.de/). Especially one of their members, Herr Georg Eimannsberger, had done quite a lot of research on the “Bomber of Bärenriegel” between 2010 and 2014. Unfortunately he died two years ago and his archive was discarded by the heirs. One of his colleagues, Herr Günter Braun, could inform me on some results of Eimannsberger which he could remember: Among other sources Eimannsberger had searched the books of W.R. Chorley, RAF Bomber Command losses. In the end he did not find out the registration or the identity of the crew of the “Bomber of Bärenriegel”.

    Special duties squadron?

    Günter Braun’s (Eimannsberger’s) thesis is that the “Bomber of Bärenriegel” might not have been an ordinary bomber but an aeroplane on a special duties mission, maybe on a mission supporting Czechoslovak partisans . The fact that of the “Bomber of Bärenriegel” was probably underway on its own supports this thesis. (The earlier mentioned retold story of “two bombers” might be a mistake: People might have mixed up the story of the “second bomber” with another aeroplane crash which happened in the 1930ies nearby the crash site of 1945.)
    The fact that the plane was heading south just before it crashed supports this thesis, too: Two “Special Duties Service” squadrons operating also in Czechoslovakia and Poland were based in Brindisi (Italy) and partly using Handley Page Halifax II and V. The Halifax can by amateurs easily be mistaken as a Lancaster and it has the same engines, Rolls Royce Merlin XX, which is important. Why, I will explain later (Headline: “The crankshaft”).
    So I checked the Operations Record Books of the “Special Duties Service” squadrons 148 and 301 (Polish) which are completely available online in The National Archives (Kew). I have evidence that both squadrons flew partisan support and “nickelling” (dropping leaflets) missions among other targets to Czechoslovakia and Poland with Halifax II and V. The problem: I didn’t find a matching missing plane from October 1944 to May 1945 in the Operation Record Books of the two squadrons.

    The crankshaft

    The reason for the above mentioned article in the “Kötztinger Zeitung” was the discovery of a crankshaft at the crash site by a local hobby archaeologist. This crankshaft is still in the possession of the finder who lives close to me. So I could photograph, examine and measure the crankshaft. I could compare the photos and measurements with sources in the internet and with similar engines in the RAF museum in Hendon. I’m almost certain that the crankshaft is from a Rolly Royce Merlin. I even found engraved/ hammered numbers on the crankshaft.

    About four weeks ago I sent an email with photos of the crankshaft to the Rolls Royce Heritage Trust (heritage.trust@rolls-royce.com). I haven’t got an answer yet.

    I hope I didn’t get on your nerves with my detailed account. But I wanted to outline what I already know, which I must admit is not much. Apart from the mentioned facts I have tried to search the archives of https://aircrewremembered.com/ and the archive https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/ with various combinations of search keywords but without result.

    Maybe you could give me an advice how I could go on with my research.

    Maybe you know somebody who could help me with the numbers on the crankshaft.

    I would be happy to find out more about the mission, the plane and the crew after such a long time. This could be the first step to honouring in some appropriate way the young men who gave their lives for freedom.

    Thank you in advance and best regards, greetings from Lam/ Bavaria

    Hans Grassl

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Mystery crash site in Baveria

    Mike

    the crash site, based on the location of the burials seems to be close to the Czech border. Perhaps the theory of a drop from a special duty squadron could tie in. I have looked through the ORB for 148 and can't find a match, I would suggest having a look at the 37 Squadron ORB, I know that they were operating out of Italy conducting both bombing raids and drops to partisans etc. I take it that there is nothing to aid with identifying the remains when they were moved in 1946. It may of course not be an RAF aircraft at all and could be an American aircraft operating in support of OSS operations. Im guessing that MREU didn't go to the area in the immediate post war years, possibly suggesting that this isn't a British aircraft. Perhaps the 856th Bomber Squadron, one of the 'Carpetbagger' Squadrons operating out of Brindisi might be a possibility.

    I will try and have a look through the 37 Squadron ORB later today when I have a bit more time, but this is going to be very difficult without a more detailed timeline.

    Regards

    Daz
    Last edited by 78SqnHistory; 26th November 2023 at 11:52.

  3. The Following User Says Thank You to 78SqnHistory For This Useful Post:

    Mike4898 (26th November 2023)

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    Default Re: Mystery crash site in Baveria

    Daz,

    Thanks for this.

    The map co-ordinates for the crash site put it very close to the modern Czech border, in a heavily forested area (Google Maps is your friend). The parts recovered from the site suggest it is an RAF aircraft, but this is not conclusive.

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    Default Re: Mystery crash site in Baveria

    Update on this, it looks like the aircraft has been identified as a Lancaster from part of the wreckage recovered (via the Facebook Bomber Command History Forum group).



    Apparently a Lanc specific part of the landing gear.
    Last edited by Mike4898; 27th November 2023 at 13:46. Reason: Added photo

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