29.04.1943 4./F 123 Messerschmitt Bf 109G-4 Wnr.14764 Fw. Quante Location: In Sea, 25 – 30 miles NW of Fecamp, France.
Mission: Reconnaissance south of the Isle of Wight, England.

Date: 29th April 1943

Unit: 4 Staffel./Fernaufklärungsgruppe 123

Type: Messerschmitt Bf 109G-4


Code: 3 +

Location: In Sea, 25 – 30 miles NW of Fecamp, France.

Pilot: Feldwebel. Willi Quante. 69004/221 - Killed. Born 14.11.1921 in Rauxel.


This pilot together with Leutnant. Ernst Sensbach were flying on a course 30 miles SSE, off Selsey at zero feet when intercepted by two Typhoon IB’s of No. 486 (NZ) Squadron. P/O Frank “Spud” Murphy flying as yellow 2 and F/O A. H. Smith in Yellow 1. Both Messerschmitts were lost to the guns of these two pilots with no survivors.

General Report:

F/O Smith, Yellow 1, and P/O Murphy, Yellow 2, airborne 1900 hours. Scrambled in one and a half minutes, on the approach of enemy aircraft over the Channel. After crossing English coast, Yellow Section were warned of the presence of Bandits 30 miles ahead (South) at 2,000 feet, and later Blackgang informed them that the Bandits were then only 6 miles away, travelling NE. At this time Yellow Section were approximately 30 miles SSE off Selsey at zero feet, flying in line abreast.

They saw two aircraft about 5 miles away in line abreast, travelling east, with the starboard aircraft lagging slightly and right down on the deck. Yellow Section turned to port to get behind the objective aircraft and closed to about one and a half miles. The enemy aircraft apparently saw our Section, turned south, climbed to 500 feet and dived down again with a thin stream of black smoke flowing back.

Yellow Section closed in line astern, recognised two Me 109’s (F or G), F/O Smith chasing the port aircraft and P/O Murphy the other, which was still lagging and enabled him to engage before Yellow 1. As he opened fire from 350 yards, dead astern, his reflector sight failed. Fortunately, as the e/a was flyingso low that its slipstream left a wake on the water, Yellow 2 was able to aim by splash, and observed strikes on wing roots and starboard side of fuselage, until the e/a became enveloped in spray. When closing to about 75 yards, his ammunition ran out and he broke to starboard, saw a puff, and then a long stream of glycol smoke pour out of the e/a. It veered gently to port in front of Yellow 1 (see below). Yellow 2 crossed above and throttled back, flying astern of the Hun for about 8 miles, taking a cine film and watching Yellow 1 attacking the other e/a. The glycol smoke stopped and a cloud of smoke and flame burst from both sides of the engine cowling. The e/a slowed to about 130 m.p.h. the port wing dipped into the sea and the aircraft did a half cart-wheel over and disappeared, leaving a pool of yellowish green in colour. Yellow 2 orbited twice but could se no sign of pilot or wreckage.

F/O Smith closed to about 1,000 yards on his aircraft which brought him almost into line abreast with the “109” attacked by Yellow 2, the glycol pouring from under the wing. As it edged to port and crossed between him and his objective about 300 yards ahead, he fired a short burst seeing strikes on fuselage, wing roots and around cockpit, resulting immediately in an explosion in the fuselage and a cloud of white smoke. Yellow 1 jinked slightly to starboard to dodge flying debris and attacked again from 100 yards on the starboard quarter, but saw no result, overshot slightly as the e/a was rapidly losing speed and pulled up starboard to make a further attack which proved unnecessary as the e/a bounced on the water and dived in.Both our pilots gave mayday for the Huns and returned to Ford on Blackgang vectors as the visibility in rain had dropped to about 400 yards.

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Willi Quante in the cockpit of his Bf109 (via Quante).

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Willi's grave (via Jolie).

H a n e b u t t, Joachim-

30 April 1943

Captain and Squadron Commander

Dear Mr. Quante!

Unfortunately I must inform you of the sorrowful news that your son, Sergeant First Class Will Quante, failed to return yesterday, on 29 April 43 from a mission against the enemy. He was surprised by attacking English fighters. In the ensuing air combat he and his section partner, Lieutenant Sensbach were shot down,according to available English reports.

This loss is even heavier for us, as your son was one of the most successful and dashing pilots of the squadron, who brilliantly displayed his knowledge and experience during the course of 100 missions flown against the enemy. I personally lost a dear Comrade, who through his fresh, and consistently unpretentious and fervent manner grew especially close to my heart. Permit me to share with you that your son was destined for to become an officer.

Rest assured, Mr. Quante and family of my deepest and sincerest condolences.

One of the Most Successful Days

In the preceding nights, German fighting units had been over the island and repaid many times over the cowardly attacks by the RAF against German cities. The last act of reprisal was aimed, among others, at the fashionable English town of Bath.

The order for aerial shots of the effect of German acts of reprisal to be produced had arrived yesterday evening. Oberleutnant.Rueck and Unteroffizier. Quante immediately discussed the exact implementation of the undertaking. Oberleutnant. B and Leutnant. St even arrived with Messerschmitt Bf 110’s, so that, if successful, the photos could immediately be flown back in the quickest possible way. The pilots now climb into the machines and start. Quickly gaining height, they head towards the enemy. The sky is cloudless. But the English are on the ball. Here and there, even at higher altitude, English fighters appear. We won’t let the pair of planes change our plans. The pictures have to be taken. Even now flying over the coast the situation would become serious. Fourteen Spitfires wanted to do away with the two of them. They continue undeterred. The Tommies hadn’t expected such boldness. They appear to be visibly surprised. They hang to the left and right of the two Me 109’s like a swarm of bees. A distance of a thousand metres separates them. Meanwhile the entire English south coast has been alarmed. Now both the pilots know for sure that their pursuers aren’t the only ones waiting for them. Still they are absolutely determined to carry out the order. They fly on unwaveringly.

They approach the gleaming roofs of Bath. By then it could be recognised with the naked eye that the fighting units had aimed well. Individual spots are still smoking. In the meantime, the whole expanse of rubble has been captured on film. Then its on to the harbour city which is situated nearby. They fly over this target too. The swarm of Spitfires is still hanging behind the two Me 109’s. More have appeared. How would the two pilots avoid this encirclement? The situation has started to become damn serious. They then take the sudden decision to evade the attack with a bold downward turn. „Back the same way?“ asks Unteroffizier. Quante by radio. He is given a short “Ja” in response. Both laugh, despite the serious position they find themselves in. They have done the main thing. It is now a question of getting the valuable booty home at all costs, in spite of the pack of pursuers. The Isle of Wight is passed. Once more it is a tough fight. In the distance several swarms of Spitfires appear again. But the two Me 109’s are able to escape and land at their home base a little while later without further incident. The eyes of the pilots shine with joy. They are greeted with enthusiasm.

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Oblt. Rueck and Uffz. Quante arrive back at Buc in the Staffel’s courier Bf 110. Every body is eager to welcome them back after the successful mission to Bath. (Brownless)

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Willi Quante is congratulated with flowers by the Staffelkapitän Armin Goebel (Brownless)

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Oblt. Rueck is carried from the aircraftby the ground crews (Brownless)

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Flowers and Champagne for the two flyers (Brownless)

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Left to Right - Willi Quante, Armin Goebel and Karl “Charly” Rueck.

01.05.1942 Oberkommando of the Armed Forces Reports:

On the 29
th April 1942 Oberleutnant. Rueck and Unteroffizier. Quante of a long-distance reconnaissance Squadron have excelled themselves by displaying exceptional boldness in successfully carrying out important reconnaissance orders against Great Britain.

A proud day of success

When the bold operation by the two pilots is later mentioned in the Armed Forces report, the Tommies give vent to their powerless rage by lashing out at the pilots with a vile barrage of abuse: they use the term „Nazi bandits“ to describe the two bold pilots who, with determination and despite all the British fighters on the south coast being alerted, had successfully completed their order.

The analysis of the films, however, faultlessly reveals that the act of reprisal had hit home. Over 400,000 square metres of built-up land had been flattened and a further 80 houses had been destroyed.

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The City of Bath photographed by Rueck and Quante on the 29.04.1942 (Brownless)

Burial details:

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Willi's body was washed ashore near Wissekerke /Insel Nord Beveland, Netherlands. Now rests in the Deutsche Soldatenfriedhof Ijsselsteijn, Netherlands.

Leutnant. Ernst Sensbach remains missing with his Messerschmitt Bf 109G-4 Wnr.14773 in the sea, he has no known grave.

Researched and updated by Melvin Brownless. With special thanks to Herr Quante (brother of Willi), Armin Goebel. Jan Jolie and Wendi von Well for translation of German documents. March 2015

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