Der englische Bomber wurde bereits auf dem Hinflug zum Angriffsziel von einem Nachtjäger angegriffen. Die Lancaster explodierte kurze Zeit später mit der vollen Bombenlast in der Luft und stürzte um 21:35 Uhr im Ortsteil Frotheim der Stadt Espelkamp im Kreis Minden-Lübbecke im Bereich „Auf der Horst“ nieder. Der Heckschütze Sgt Hinde wurde bereits beim Angriff des deutschen Nachtjägers in der Maschine getötet. Die anderen sechs Besatzungsmitglieder retteten sich mit den Fallschirmen. Durch die brennenden Trümmer der Lancaster wurden einige Wohnhäuser nahe der Absturzstelle beschädigt.
Sgt Hinde wurde auf dem „Limmer Friedhof“ der Stadt Hannover beigesetzt.
Startpunkt des Bombereinsatzes war um 18:50 Uhr Ortszeit der Flugplatz Bourn in England und das Angriffsziel war die Stadt Frankfurt/Main.
Sgt P. J. Copus erinnert sich
That night 22nd/23rd March no-one saw the fighter, a Messerschmitt Bf 110, in time. His first attack was probably at the end of a gentle climb from behind and below. The climb reduces the speed differential that the fighter needs to catch the target thereby avoiding the risk of an overshoot or even a collision. This tactic also meant that the bulk of the Lancaster on top of which I was sitting, hid the fighter from my view and even the rear gunner’s view downward is restricted enough to hide the approaching fighter.
In any event that initial attack knocked out the hydraulics which operated the turrets. I was then in the embarrassing position of being able to donothing but watch the ‘110’ flying alongside, straight and level, slightly below us and 200 to 300 yards off our starboard wing. The ‘110’s relative position enabled their gunner, facing aft in the rear of the cockpit to fire bursts from his machine gun with zero deflection into our fuel tanks and number three and four engines.
The results were exactly what one would expect, both engines burst into flames. Some of his rounds, passing within inches of my head shattered my turret at about the same time as our pilot ordered over the intercom ‘Prepare to abandon aircraft’ and then very quickly afterwards ‘Abandon aircraft’. We were on our way down, both starboard engines blazing furiously.
The field in which I had landed was only yards away from a row of houses. Their occupants were on me immediately I landed and I was dragged into one of the houses amid much shouting and bravado. It was widely known that German civilians were not exactly welcoming towards aircrew who fell into their hands and I was very nervous about the whole situation. They shoved me into one corner of a room. My ‚chute had been gathered into an untidy bundle and was dumped beside me. In the other corner were grouped a cross-section of the neighbourhood. They were gesticulating and shouting at me in unintelligible German. Some of the shouting, however, needed no translation! In the circumstances I did not feel at all like a „Terrorflieger“ as the Nazis called R.A.F. bomber crews.
Some young wide-eyed children were among the crowd. As a gesture of goodwill I took some chocolate from my flying-suit pocket and offered it to them. They recoiled hastily, either not knowing what it was or suspecting it was poisoned perhaps. To prove it was safe I ate a little myself and returned the rest to my pocket but the atmosphere was tense and I hoped that some sort of authority had been alerted and would remove me before something unpleasant happened.
Fortunately, the civil police (they were referred to as ‚gendarmes‘) arrived promptly and I was hauled off on foot to the local police station where I was thrown unceremoniously, without food or water, into a damp cell in which the only piece of furniture was a bed. There was not even a blanket. I attempted to sleep but it was extremely cold. In an attempt to keep my feet from freezing I managed to squeeze both into one flying boot.
At some point during the night I was dragged out of the cell and upstairs to an office where I was confronted by the local Bürgermeister (Mayor). There were, he told me, the bodies of several aircrew in the mortuary. If I would tell him the names of my crew he would let me know if any of them were among the dead. I felt unable to cooperate in this ‚kind offer‘ which was, of course, a fairly transparent ruse to get more information out of me. My response was perhaps equally transparent but served well enough to show that I knew what he was up to. The crew I had been flying with, I told him, were completely unknown to me. This offer was refused and I was returned promptly to my cell.
In the morning, after an extremely uncomfortable night, I was brought a cup of ersatz coffee and something unidentifiable to eat. Shortly afterwards I was dragged out of the cell and outside where a horse and cart was waiting. Surprisingly my ‚chute was returned to me and as I flung it into the cart saw Lund, the bombaimer, already aboard. He had a leg wound. As I started to climb up into the cart with him, I was pulled back and told that I must walk along behind thus presenting the entire populace who had turned out to watch, with another opportunity to shout and scream abuse as we plodded slowly through the town.
Der Abschuß der Maschine ging auf das Konto von Oberfeldwebel Wilhelm „Willi“ Glitz, 4./NJG 2. Der Angriff mit seiner Bf 110 erfolgte im Raum der Stadt Minden um 21:30 Uhr in einer Höhe von 5.800 m.
Das 97. Squadron der RAF verlor mit der Lancaster JB731 eine weitere Maschine bei diesem Einsatz, diese stürzte in die Nordsee. Weitere Abschüsse aus der Bomberformation in unserer Region waren die Maschinen mit den Seriennummern → LW580 im Gebiet Bielefeld-Ummeln, → JB599 im Gebiet Lübbecke-Blasheim und → LL647 im Gebiet Harsewinkel-Greffen.
Der Navigator F/S McFadyen versuchte nach der Fallschirmlandung zu Fuß zu entkommen. Er wurde jedoch nach sieben Tagen in der Nähe der Stadt Emsdetten an der Ems von einem Landwirt gefangen genommen.
Typ: Avro Lancaster Mk III s
Kennzeichen: OF + P
Einheit: 97. Squadron RAF Nationalität: Britisch
Pilot – P/O R. E. Cooper (gefangen)
Bordmechaniker – Sgt F. S. Witscher (gefangen)
Navigator – F/Sgt A. McFadyen (gefangen)
Bombenschütze – F/Sgt H. Lunt (gefangen)
Bordfunker – Sgt H. A. Smith (gefangen)
Bordschütze – Sgt P. J. Copus (gefangen)
Heckschütze – F/Sgt R. Hinde (gefallen)
Archiv Kreis Minden-Lübbecke
Augenzeugenbericht Wilhelm Stockmann Frotheim
Martin W Bowman „German Night Fighters Versus Bomber Command 1943-1945“