Lifstan Way Bomber Crash

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The RAF fighters seized the opportunity to swoop in and attack the now vulnerable bombers, who had yet to jettison their bomb- loads. Two of the Spitfires, picked out one of the bombers, they were taking it in turns to fire at the aircraft, its port engine had been hit, rendering the cooling system useless, the fighters started attacking the starboard wing which then caught fire. Despite the continued attack by the RAF fighters the German bomber was able to continue on its course towards Southend-on-Sea. Spotting the melee, several Hurricane fighters patrolling the Thames Estuary joined the fight. The aircraft was seen to circle Southend a number of times, one of the Hurricanes flew in and opened fire, a shell from one of its cannons struck the elevator of the damaged bomber destroying it, this rendered the aircraft un-flyable, the aircraft then turned and dived into the ground. The German aircraft crashed into a field above Lifstan Way where it broke up upon impact. A police sergeant and eight constables were sent to the scene. Upon arrival they found the aircraft had been totally destroyed, and the fire brigade attending to a number of fires. Officers from PB6 (Police Box 6) Southchurch, also arrived on scene, it was found that three of the crew members were dead in the debris. Adolf Saam was found wearing an identity disk, within the pocket of Otto Fischer’s uniform was a civilian identity card with his photo attached, the third body was assumed to be that of Ernst Erhard Von Kuenheim. It was also reported that two parachutes had been seen coming from the German aircraft before the crash, one had come down close to the seafront with another landing on Thorpe Bay golf course. Wolf Roseler landed on Thorpe Bay Golf Course and was arrested by Sgt Thorogood and Special Inspector Walker, Roseler did not resist, he stated that he had thrown is handgun away whilst descending on his parachute, a search of him found no weapon, he was handed over to the military who took him to the Shoebury Garrison where he was held overnight. Helmut Gall had landed on the foreshore just east of the pier, he was immediately taken into custody by military personnel and was taken to the Royal Terrace headquarters. Whilst detained he received first aid, and was given a meal and bed for the night. The following morning Wolf Roseler was escorted by armed guard to the Royal Terrace Headquarters, where the two airmen were reunited, after thanking the Army for the first aid, the two German airmen were handed over to Military Police and taken to Southend Central railway station where they boarded a train to London. Roseler and Gall would see out the rest of the war in a Prisoner of War Camp in Canada.
Upon impact the aircraft broke into several pieces, the tail section ended up wedged in some trees, with the rest of the debris spread over a wide area, much ended up spread across Lifstan Way and on the embankment. It was initially assumed that the bomber had already dropped its deadly payload as other bombers had been seen to release the bombs they had been carrying, however, it was quickly discovered that the payload of six 250kg high explosive bombs were found scattered across the crash site, the police immediately created a 200ft exclusion zone around the site. Officers were positioned at the junction of Lifstan Way/Woodgrange Drive at the southern end and at the White Horse public house at the northern end, trains were also halted between Southend East and Thorpe Bay stations. Once the live bombs and ammunition had been removed, the clean up teams went in to remove the larger pieces of wreckage, also the Medical Officer of the Health Department had the task of removing the dead bodies to the mortuary at the hospital. Thankfully there was no damage to houses or the railway line, a number of trees were damaged and a council fence running along the boundary of the crash site was flattened. The Dead Crew The crew members that had been lost were later laid to rest with full military honours at the Cannock Chase German Military Cemetery, Staffordshire: Ernst Erhard Von Kuenheim: Plot 1, Row 4, Grave 107. Otto Fischer: Plot 1 Row 4 Grave 106. Adolf Saam: Plot 1 Row 4 Grave 108. The Site Today Today there is no evidence of the crash, the side of field at the top of the hill alongside the railway line where the initial impact took place is a children’s play park, the embankment on the other side of Lifstan Way which saw most of the wreckage, is now a housing estate. Surviving Artefacts At the time it was difficult for the authorities to clear every piece of wreckage from the scene. Most of the larger components were removed from the site including the tail section, engines and guns, many smaller parts were left on site. Reports say someone took the tail-wheel away, whilst school kids would scour the site for weeks looking for anything they could to add to their collections. It is known that the Southend Museum Service hold some parts of the wreckage for their collection. When Nick Skinner was at the helm of Southend Timeline he was lucky enough to be given some of the few known surviving parts by the family of the boy who collected them , they are unidentifiable as to what part of the aircraft they originate from, they are a small but still a very important part of Southend’s history.
A single MG15 round, exploded by fire after the crash.
Three photos of parts of the aircraft that were recovered from the crash site.
The Heinkel He 111 crash The aircraft that crashed was one of up to 40 aircraft that left Vitry-en-Artois Airfield in France on a high explosive and incendiary bombing mission to the De Havilland and Handley Page aircraft works at Bricket Wood close to Hatfield, these bombers had an escort of about 30 fighters flying defensive cover. As the formation approached the UK from the east it was intercepted by RAF Spitfire Mk1’s of the 222 Squadron operating out of RAF Hornchurch at around 13,000ft whilst in a “Vic” formation. The formation of German bombers and fighters had to divert from its intended target area, and head towards a secondary target, it was at this point that the German escort fighters had to abandon the bombers as they were nearing the limit of their fuel to safely return to their home bases.
Lifstan Way Area of Crash Site
30th August 1940
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