06.09.1939 1./ZG1 Messerschmitt Bf 110C-1 Wnr. (not known) Maj. Hammes Location: Poland.
Mission: Escort sortie.

Date: 6
th September 1939

Unit: 1 Staffel./Zerstörergeschwader 1

Type: Messerschmitt Bf 110C-1

Werke/Nr. (not known).

Coded: 2N + IH

Location: Poland.

Pilot: Major. Karl Hammes (Staffelkapitän) - Killed.

Radio/Op: Oberfeldwebel. Walter Steffen - Captured.


On the morning of the 6th September 1939 aircrew of 1./ZG1 were detailed to fly an escort mission for Ju 87 "Stukas".

The German aircraft came under attack from Polish P.11c fighters and during this combat Major. Hammes Bf110 recieved hits and was seen to go down in a shallow glide. Although effecting a good belly landing Major. Hammes died of wounds sustained and was originally laid to rest in a field grave next to his aircraft. Radio operator Ofw. Steffen was also wounded and taken into captivity by the Poles, returning to Germany when the Polish campaign was concluded.

Karl Hammes (25 March 1896 – 6 September 1939) was a German operatic baritone , also a fighter pilot in the First and Second World Wars.
He worked at the Bayreuth Festival, in Berlin, Cologne, Salzburg and Vienna, among others
Hammes was born in Zell. After graduating from high school in 1916, Hammes began training as a fighter pilot in the Jagdstaffel 11. He ended the First World War in the rank of major.

Afterwards he studied voice at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln. He made his stage debut at the Cologne Opera in 1925. From 1927, he was a member of the Kroll Opera House in Berlin, where Otto Klemperer conducted. Also in 1927, Hammes appeared at the Bayreuth Festival as Amfortas in Parsifal and as Gunther in the Götterdämmerung.
From 1929 to 1935, he was a member of the Vienna State Opera, with appearances at the Salzburg Festival, where he performed the title role in Mozart's Don Giovanni from 1929 to 1931. From 1935, Hammes was a regular guest at the Berlin State Opera from 1935. He was appointed a Kammersänger.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Hammes was again drafted, as commander. He was involved in the bombing of Warsaw, and was shot down. Hammes died in Warsaw on the 6th September 1939, at the age of 43.

Hammes made only few recordings. He appears as Harlekino in a complete recording of Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss, recorded for Funk-Stunde Berlin on 11 June 1935, and as Don Giovanni in a recording of the Reichsrundfunk of 27 March 1936 (as Don Giovanni). Hammes also took part in two films including Königswalzer.

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A youthful Karl. (Net).

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Older Karl Kammes. (Net).

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A general view of Karl’s Messerschmitt Bf 110C-1 at crash site. (Net).

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06.09.1939 Bf110C-1 2N+IH Major Karl Hammes 1ZG1 x4
Major. Hammes Bf 110 pictured in relatively good condition after the landing,

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06.09.1939 Bf110C-1 2N+IH Major Karl Hammes 1ZG1 x5
Another view of the cockpit area (Archive)

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Sentries guard the field grave of Karl Hammes. (Net).

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Field grave of Major. Hammes
The original field grave of Major. Karl Hammes (Vasco).

Burial details:

None found on German (VDK) website.

Researched and compiled by Melvin Brownless A.R. Society with thanks to John Vasco and Wikipedia, July 2012.
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