05.09.1940 1./JG 3 Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 Wnr.1985 Lt. Schnabel Location: Banks Farm, Chapfall, near Aldington, Kent, England.
Mission: Attack on Croydon aerodrome, London, England.

Date: 5
th September 1940

Time: 10.10 hours.

Unit: 1 Staffel./Jagdgeschwader 3

Type: Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4


Code: 6 +

Location: Banks Farm, Chapfall, near Aldington, Kent, England.

Pilot: Leutnant. Heinz Schnabel. – Captured slightly wounded.


Started at 08.40 hrs. escorting Dorniers that were attacking Croydon. On return from the attack some Spitfires and a Hurricane split this aircraft off from the formation and shot into the engine. The pilot made a good forced landing but engine mounting broke off at the bulkhead. About fifteen .303 strikes were spread over the fuselage.

Markings: 6 in white, outlined in black. Rudder and wing tips white. Shield: a white worm outlined in black, with a red toungue. Two vertical stripes on rudder. Plate identifies aircraft as constructed by Erla NW werke nr. 1985 dated 23/6/40.

Armament: two MG 17 under engine cowling, two wing cannon guns, one marked 20.02 mm and the other 20.04 mm. Under the latter is “Warning” MG F.F. “M”. Standard 8 mm bulkhead armour plate but no head protection for pilot.

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The two stripes on the tail were scored by the previous pilot. Prior to the war the pilot was a Civil Flying Instructor and was called up into the GAF at the outbreak of war. Operational experience as escort on raids over Portland, Eastchurch and Manchester were amongst his fifteen war flights. During the French Campaign the pilot was wounded at Lille.

The most audacious attempt was made by Lt. Heinz Schnabel and Oblt. Harry Wappler on November 24, 1941. The two Luftwaffe officers were prisoners in Camp No.15 near Penrith, Northumbria (formally the Shap Wells Hotel). Forging papers that identified them as two Dutch officers serving in the RAF, they made their way to the RAF airfield at Kingstown near Carlisle. Without difficulty they entered the station and with the help of a ground mechanic started the engine of a Miles Magister, of which there were fifty parked around the airfield. Taking off, they headed for the sea and Holland, a distance of some 365 miles. Over the North Sea they realized they could not make it (the maximum range of a Magister was 367 miles on full tanks). Rather reluctantly they decided to turn back and landed in a field about five miles north of Great Yarmouth. Back at Camp No. 15 again, the two daring escapees were sentenced to 28 days solitary confinement.

Researched and compiled by Melvin Brownless with special thanks to Nigel Parker and Andy Saunders.
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