Stirling Pilot

This page contains texts of accounts of the last moments of N-Nuts, and the subsequent events.

FROM GRAHAM, THE SON OF HARRY BARNARD.

As quoted to Richard Braun, Historian of Ludwigshafen.

The sole survivor of the aircraft loss was the tail gunner, Harry Barnard, known to the rest of the crew as "Barney". His son, Graham, recounted what his father told him in these words: (comments in brackets are mine - AF).

As they approached Mannheim, they were hit early by Flak. (It now appears that it was the Me110 flown by Heinz-Wolfgang Hoppner) "My father knew the aircraft was in trouble. It was banking over the target. One of the other gunners came through to the rear and told my father that they were the only ones alive on the aircraft. He went through the aircraft, checking this was true. It appeared to him that the pilot ( Andrew) and the co-pilot (presumably David Badcock) had been hit early, and were slumped over the controls - dead. (Unlikely, as the Stirling was not noted for flying well with two bodies leaning forward on the controls!). The other gunner ran to the rear, opened the rear turret (probably the rear exit) and jumped out. (This may have been Adrian Douglas, the wireless Operator/Air Gunner). My father did not see the parachute open. He then saw that the aircraft was only 400ft, approximately from the ground. He jumped clear of the aircraft, pulled his parachute and hit the ground 5 seconds later. As my father said, he was a very lucky man. He started to recover his chute, but within a minute was arrested by a soldier who said to him, 'Nein, nein, Johhny'. My father said the aircraft was in one piece, so it appeared that the bombs had been dropped". ( Accounts from Herr Braun, the Ludwigshafen-Mundenheim historian, say that incendiary cases were found after the crash. N-Nuts had a history of Hang-ups, so this should not be viewed as conclusive)

FROM HARRY BARNARD. Courtesy of E.Martyn, New Zealand Historian and Author.

From a letter written by H Barnard to Mr Alec Holms (father) on 8 Jun 45.

"W/O BARNARD H, C/O 30 GILPIN RD, CLAPTON, LONDON E.5, 8-6-45

Dear Mr Holms,

As you know, I was the rear gunner of the crew, and I am very sorry that it has not been possible for me to write to you before now of the events that took place on that last flight. For owing to the death of my Dear Wife I have had to leave everything until my return, which was on 29.5.45. The only address which I could remember was of "Jock" the skipper, and I wrote to Mr Brown telling all I know and of course it was not possible for them to send any address from England that would be of any help to the enemy. Yes, they tried hard to get the names and addresses of the rest of the crew from me.

"Well I am afraid that I cannot tell you a great deal but this is exactly what happened. We were on our bombing run when a fighter attacked from below, a few seconds afterwards I heard "Alec" call for a fire extinguisher, and a few seconds after that say, "Oh God Jock's had it" and "Alec" gave us the order to bale out. When I reached the main escape hatch, I saw the Wireless Operator and the Engineer bale out but I did not see anything of "Alec" as he would have used the forward escape hatch. And so all that I can say is that Alec was alive and I take it that he baled out, but please remember that we were over the target area. Personally I took a chance and stayed in the aircraft as long as possible hoping for it to clear the Target Area, eventually I baled out at about 1,000 feet and landed on a Gun Post just clear of the Target, and I must say that I was treated decently, and apart from the shortage of food during the last few months and the terrible living conditions, I can't complain.

"Well, I wish that I could have sent you better news, and please accept my sincere sympathy for the loss of a fine son. "Alec" was the oldest one of us, and was very steady and reliable, he was the father of the crew, and we were all good friends and I feel their loss greatly. Cheerio for now, hoping that your other two sons in the services are still well,

Yours sincerely,
H Barnard"

FROM EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS GATHERED BY RICHARD BRAUN.

Identification of a British bomber crashed in the triangle of Rheingonheim railway station, "Dossenbuckel" elevation and Von-Kiefferstrasse on the night of 05/06th September, 1943
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One day, I was again cycling around during the morning. It must have been in late autumn, for the turnips in the fields seemed rather fully grown and the surface of the ground was slightly frozen. Accordingly, I already wore ski-trousers although on that morning, the sun was rising into a clear sky. Moreover, I had my new heavy shoes on, which also indicates that the colder season had arrived. Additionally, those particular shoes of mine prove that it was autumn, 1943, for my parents had bought them for me as a replacement of those lost to the fire on our house on the night of 09/10th August, 1943 and later on that morning which found me on the bicycle again, they still looked rather new. At that time, I was 14 years old.

Somehow, my tour had taken me to the Von-Kiefferstrasse at the southern Ludwigshafen suburb of Rheingonheim where, approximately off the present-day's entrance/exit of OBI Supermarket, I saw an unusually large aircraft undercarriage wheel on the western side of the road. It lay some 60 metres away from that point, flat down in the midst of turnip fields. If my memory does not de¬ceive me, I also noticed a spiral track in the fields where the wheel had run along before it came to rest. Nothing else of an aircraft was visible on the vast area of fields. I alighted from my bicycle with the intention of going on foot through the turnip plants to the aircraft wheel, however, the sun had mean¬while thawed the frozen soil so that even after only a few steps across the field, heavy lumps of mud had built up on the soles of my shoes. As they were the only ones I then possessed, I immediately turned round, determined to inspect the wheel on a better occasion later on. For reasons I can no longer recall, I have never realized that plan.

Nevertheless, there were moments from time to time throughout the subsequent years when my thoughts wandered back to that wheel, making me wonder more and more which aircraft and crew it had once belonged to.

In the fifties, I received a first hint from my former string-quartet colleague, Mr. Eduard Eppelsheim, at that time living at No. 6, Von-Kiefferstrasse, Ludwigshafen-Rheingonheim, in the meantime deceased. One evening, he told me that during the War, he had served with our so-called home-flak, on duty during the night, and that while the September 05/06, 1943 large-scale air raid on our town was going on, their searchlight in the open country west of Von-Kiefferstrasse had caught a four-engined bomber as this, on fire and of a gigantic size, was passing at low level above their emplacement with one of its air gunners firing at the searchlight, before it plunged into the fields some distance away.

After that initial report, about 40 years went by till I was given for the first time a confirmation of it. This came from my former classmate, Egon Zickgraf, originally of Eisenbahn¬strasse, Ludwigshafen-Rheingonheim, now Tiroler Strasse 42, Ludwigshafen-Gartenstadt. He showed me the "Dossenbuckel" as well as the crash site to the north of that elevation, con¬firming that this had been crested by a searchlight position. Furthermore, he related that for a long time after the crash, he and other boys had still played within the crash area with a rusted machine-gun from the crashed bomber.


Another eye-witness of that event, Erwin Ludwig, now of No.12, Kornackerstrasse, Ludwigshafen-Rheingonheim, has given me a similar confirmation. Having read my enquiry in the autumn 1996 issue of the Rheingonheim local newsletter, he told me that few days after the crash, he, a youngster at the time, had been in the fields between "Dossenbuckel" and Von-Kiefferstrasse where besides having seen parts of an aircraft widely scattered around, he had had the following strange experience:- While roaming about, he arrived at a heap of hay or straw within the crash area. When curiously probing that heap with his hands, he felt something soft and warm - like a body - in it. Seized with fright, he ran away immediately. Ever since, he has been wondering if under that hay or straw, there might have been one of the English aircrew.

Again in 1996, I addressed at random an elderly man named Mann¬weiler who runs a small repair shop for lawn-mowers beside the air-raid shelter near Rheingonheim railway station. I asked him whether he knew something of the crash in question. It turned out that he was the nephew of the late 1943 Rheingonheim hearse driver with whom, on one of the days following the crash, he had visited the crash site where he had been able to witness the dead airmen being loaded on his uncle's straw-lined cart for removal.

Another Rheingonheim eye-witness, Jurgen Hirsch of No. 9, Turnerstrasse, Ludwigshafen-Rheingboheim, remembers that when the bomber hit the ground, a strong shaking was felt inside the aforesaid shelter to which he had taken refuge on the night of 05/06th September, 1943. He also remembers that on the following morning, his mother took him out to the crash site where many parts lay scattered about, among them a large undercarriage wheel. When they arrived at the scene, it was just the moment when the dead were being loaded on some vehicle. Although Mr. Hirsch no longer knows the date of the crash, he feels sure that it must have been late in autumn 1943 because the following year, he was evacuated away from Ludwigshafen.

Back in 1994, I came across a lady eye-witness who was of parti¬cular significance inasmuch as her knowledge of the incident made it possible to exactly localize the crash site. She was Anneliese Folz, wife of the honey seller at Rheingonheim Preserve and daughter of the late farmer Deuschel, once nick-named "Park¬Bauer" because he had had his farm at No. 15, Hildgundstrasse which runs along the park of Rheingonheim. According to Mrs. Folz, her father was told in the morning after the raid (06th Sept., 1943) that during the preceding night, a bomber had crashed in one of his fields. Still according to her, he immediately went out to the described place, taking her along. She remembered that on that occasion, she indeed saw the fuselage of an aircraft lying there in her father's field. Her recollections of that morning were still so clear that on a land register extract which I handed her, she could plot the place where she had seen the fuselage.

The key to the identification of the crashed aircraft and her crew came, at last, to me from an official list of dead persons which the Ludwigshafen amateur air war historian, Erwin Folz, (not to be confounded with the above-mentioned "Honey Folz" of Rheingonheim Preserve) had picked for me from his private archive. This document is a list drawn up on 13th September, 1943 by the Ludwigshafen Police, featuring 30 so-called "bodies of English airmen" who were recovered in the township from September 06 to 08, 1943 and buried at the Ludwigshafen main cemetery on September 09, 1943. For 6 of these dead men, Rhein¬gonheim is mentioned in the list as the place where they were found and among those who could be identified by the German authorities, there are two also with "Rheingonheim" as a margi¬nal note beside them.
Their names and service numbers are given as D. Guest, 1603378, and A. H. Holms, NZ 421933. In the register of Ludwigshafen main cemetery, they are listed under the serial numbers 21463 and 21464, though only with the remark "town area" as the place where they died. On the other hand, this entry furnishes evidence of the origi¬nal burial of Guest and Holms having taken place at Ludwigshafen main cemetery on 09th September, 1943. From this fact, the con¬clusion can be drawn that the other dead members of the same crew, had first been buried at this central cemetery. However, an entry to this effect could not be traced by me.

The comprehensive report of 13/9/1943 by the Ludwigshafen Chief Constable about the air raid on our town of 05/06th September, 1943, also refers to the crash of the bomber near Von-Kiefferstrasse during that raid. At the same time, this report says that six airmen were found dead while one crew mem¬ber is alleged to have been taken prisoner by Flak soldiers.

With the names and service numbers of the aforesaid two airmen Guest and Holms, the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon/England could then identify the crashed aircraft and the other five members of the crew of seven in total. The comments from this Museum also confirms that indeed six of them perished whereas the seventh crew member survived to become a prisoner-of-war.

At that stage, I was in a position to go about tackling the final chapter of my researches, i.e. securing accounts by eye¬witnesses of the English side. For this purpose, however, I could only expect to receive first-hand information from one source - the above-mentioned survivor who was the rear gunner, Sergeant Harry, George Barnard. During my search for him, I first found the next-of-kin of two of the fallen crew members, i.e. a brother of the wireless operator, Warrant Officer Adrian, Vincent Douglas (New Zealand) and again a brother of the pilot, Flight Sergeant Andrew, Angus Brown (Scotland). It was only then that I succeeded in discovering and contacting Graham Barnard, one of the sons of Sergeant Harry George Barnard. On that occasion, I learnt that the latter had meanwhile deceased. Luckily, however, he had previously told his son, Graham, how he had experienced the crash and these statements are now in my hands as a repetition by Graham Barnard to me. Additionally, Graham Barnard made the following remark:¬ "My father said the aircraft was in one piece so that it would appear that the bombs had been dropped."

Regarding this latter statement and conclusion through Graham Barnard, the following discovery by myself may be of interest:-During the recent years, I have found a relatively large number of burnt down British stick incendiaries and also a few empty shells of liquid incendiaries scattered over the fields stret¬ching out from the crash site to the west and south-west. This fact indicates perhaps that during the last moments before hit¬ting the ground, the aircraft, in a shallow dive, seems to have passed over the fields - and the searchlight on "Dossenbuckel" -on a more or less north-eastern heading and while doing so, lost its bomb load due to technical failures that had been initiated by the flak hit. As by the time of that last stage, all the crew members in the forward section of the aircraft were apparently dead, the bombs cannot have been jettisoned deliberately during those last moments before the ultimate crash.

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