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This is an account of a German plane shot down while attacking Liverpool

Note: This incident is of special interest as it was the only German aircraft shotOVER
Lancashire to fall on dry land in the County.

HEINKEL He111P-4A, Wk No 2989, WIDNES, 12th MARCH 1941.

Heinkel He111P-4A
War Flight to Birkenhead docks

At 19:23 hours on Wednesday the 12th March 1941, Heinkel He111P-4A Werke No 2989, coded G1+CP of 6/KG55 took off from its base at Avord in France on a bombing raid to Birkenhead.  The whole of II/KG55 was attacking the docks at Birkenhead. Five aircraft of the 6th Staffel took part in the raid, taking of at intervals of 3-4 minutes. 339 Heinkel He111 and Junkers Ju88 aircraft from Air fleet 1,2 and 3 took part in the raid to deliver 270 tons of bombs, 40 parachute flares and 70,000 incendiary bombs on the Mersey ports to exploit Britain’s weakness, the total dependency on shipping bringing in supplies, the raid lasted from 21:00 hours to 03:09 hours. This was acting on Hitler’s directive No 23: Directions for operations against the English war economy, issued on 6th February 1941. “Britain’s continuing resistance was to be broken by cutting off her imports and destroying her ports”. said the Fuehrer. “When attacks against ports have been successful”, stated the directive, “they will be repeated again and again”.

Their planed course took them to Dieppe then onto Birkenhead at not less than 14,000 feet, the actual attack was to be made at 10,500 to 11,500 feet. The return course would have been to Fecamp and onto Avord via Chartres and Vierzon. The target had been located without problem and the visibility was excellent due to full moon and a cloudless night

Aircraft of KG55 carrying heavy bomb loads often followed the pathfinder aircraft of KGr100 on big raids, KG26 pathfinders from Norway were also using the Y-Geraet system which allowed the aircraft to follow a radio signal to the target then the target was to be lit up by incendiary bombs so the main bomber force could locate the target.

The Groupe had moved to Avord from Chartres on the previous day, mainly because the aerodrome at Chartres had become to soft for heavily loaded aircraft to take off, the move was only a temporary one until Chartres had become serviceable again.

By 20:00 hours the radar stations along the south and southeast coasts had started to detect the raid and began to pass back plots on the aircraft coming in, guided by these plots the obsolete Handley Page Harrows of No 93 squadron under the command of Wing Commander John wood Homer attempted to lay an aerial minefield in front of the raiders, each Harrow carried 140 parachute mines codenamed “Pandora”, each with a 2 pound bomb attached to 2,000 feet of piano wire suspended from a small parachute. The mines were released at intervals of 200 feet into the path of the bomber stream and if hit by an aircraft a charge would slide down the wire to explode on contact with the enemy aircraft, on this occasion this unusual weapon scored no success. This tactic seldom involved the use of more than one or two aircraft and brought about the confirmed destruction of six enemy bombers. Flying Officer Hoy in Harrow K6994 was on patrol during this raid for 3 hours and 25 minutes.

After crossing the coast the night fighters went into action, some of these were the radar equipped Beaufighter’s of No 601 squadron and the more conventional Defiant’s of No 264 squadron, the great majority of the bombers managed to get past the coastal night fighters, however the Mersey dock areas were protected by a balloon barrage to prevent pin point attacks from below 6,000 feet, the bombers were then engaged by the 70 or so heavy anti aircraft guns deployed in the Liverpool Gun Defended Area, which were in action that night from 20:48 hours to 03:05 hours firing 3,100 rounds at raiders flying between 6,500 and 22,000 feet, afterwards the returning German aircrews reported that their fire as being “strong and accurate”, immediately in front of and above the gun zone No 96 squadron patrolled in their Defiant’s and Hurricanes. Two of the Defiant’s got into firing positions on the raiders but only to suffer their guns to jam at the critical moment allowing the raiders to escape and return fire from one of the raiders wounded one of the pilots and was only able to land his aircraft with great difficulty.

The He111 would have been over the target area between 21:42 hours and 22:16 hours using flare assisted bombing. After bombing the docks at Birkenhead the He111 was attacked from the rear by a Hurricane of No 96 squadron based at Cranage, the Hurricane was flown by Sergeant Robin McNair. Both engines of the He111 failed and three members of the crew including the pilot, Oberfeldwebel Karl Single, and the Observer/Aircraft Commander, Hauptmann Wolfgang Berlin, bailed out. The remaining crewmembers were killed during the attack and remained in the aircraft.  As the aircraft came down it struck a barrage balloon cable belonging to No 922 squadron, “B” Flight, site No 1 anchored on the works tip of McKechnie Brothers Ltd on Ditton Road. The balloon was being flown at 4,500 feet, at approximately 22:07 hours the He111 was approaching from the West and stuck the balloon cable with its port wing tearing a section off at a height of 3,000 feet, the He111 then slewed around to the North to crash three quarters of a mile away into a ploughed field adjacent to the ICI recreation field, Widnes at 22:10 hours, were it burnt out.

One of the aircraftsmen recalled at the time the impact of the Heinkel with the balloon cable, “I 856773 Corporal Maddock A. have the honour to report that on 12.3.41 at approximately 22.10 hours, I was in the hut when I heard machine gun fire, about one minute later I heard the sound of an aeroplane which would be flying at approximately 3,500 feet. The engines at this time were running quite smoothly and I dashed outside, to see if I could see the plane. As I got outside the engines were roaring much louder and sounded to be labouring, and the plane suddenly turned in a Northerly direction. On investigation I found that the aeroplane had fouled the balloon cable, and the aeroplane had crashed into a ploughed field about one mile from this site. The lower D.P.L had fired, and was picked up on the field. The aeroplane was an enemy Heinkel Bomber, and was travelling from the West to an Easterly direction”.

Corporal Maddock was the NCO in charge of the site and recalled in 1988, “I was the Corporal in charge of the Balloon Site, it was Site 1 922 squadron R.A.F. Situated on McKechnie Bros., Works Tip, Ditton Rd. On the night in question I witnessed the incident. The air raid was on Liverpool, and heard the machine gun firing, and what seemed moments later a aircraft with one engine on fire, and its noise getting louder was travelling from West to East, and seamed, as though it might crash near me, my reaction was to lie on the ground, when suddenly it changed direction to North and crashed about 50 yrds from Liverpool Rd., Ditton, and on to I think a recreation ground. This was a Heinkel aircraft, which had been caught in our Balloon Cable, causing it to be swung Northwards, away from Widnes town centre, which was closely populated. Thus in my opinion saved life.

The commanding officer of No 922 squadron, Squadron Leader F C Hornsby-Smith  proceeded immediately to the scene of the crash and found that although the Police and Military were on the scene, no attempt had been made to recover bodies or salvage equipment etc, from the wreckage, which was burning. In addition to this about two hundred civilians were standing round in the glare in spite of heavy anti aircraft fire and enemy aircraft overhead. A piquet was rushed out from the sites and all the civilians were cleared from the crash. RAF personnel then recovered the bodies of Ludwinski and Kuznik whom was wearing an Iron cross. In order to prevent damage by fire, certain instruments were removed and handed to the police along with a despatch case, papers, identity discs and effects. A RAF guard was then posted at the site and at 04:30 hours on the 13th March 1941 the wreckage was handed over to the local military authorities. By 09:30 hours the wreckage was being examined by No 922 squadron’s engineering officer and other specialist officers. At 09:00 hours a RAF Salvage officer arrived at No 922 squadron’s headquaters and was given all possible assistance on the clearing of the wrecked enemy plane.

Wolfgang Berlin recalled on a number of occasions after the war the following accounts,

“There was only a little AA fire and not much searchlight activity. The weather was fine and clear and a bright moon was lighting up all of Southern England”. Berlin continued, “If I remember correctly we were flying at about 3,000 metres. After the attack on the docks at Birkenhead we turned for home and shortly afterwards our wireless operator/gunner, Unteroffizeier Xaver Diem, reported on the interphone that a night fighter was coming up from the lower rear. Only seconds later bullets ripped through the Heinkel, this first burst killed our gunner, Feldwebel Heinrich Ludwinski, and flight mechanic/gunner Feldwebel Leonhard Kuznik. The second and third bursts put both our engines out of action so I ordered the radio operator to bale out. However he was unable to open either of the two rear exits because of damage inflicted by the fighter so had to crawl forward along the narrow passage between the bomb chutes to reach the cockpit. I opened the front emergency exit but by this time we were down to about 1,000 metres and rapidly getting lower. We remaining three – pilot, radio operator and me – then got out. As I descended by parachute I could see below me the fenced meadows in the bright moonlight and men running in the direction of my point of landing which was in the middle of a field near a farm house. As soon as I landed the men arrived shouting “Hands Up!” They were members of the Home Guard, but I don’t know how many. Then they guided me to the farmhouse and I was led into the living room where a homely fire was burning. It was very peaceful. The farmer then brought me a piece of buttered toast, so I knew I really was in England! My deep regret is that my schoolboy English was so poor, for I responded with “Thank you so much Madame”! Only the armed guard standing by the door reminded me that a war was going on”.

“It was about 13:30 hours, and my faithful He111, the G1+CP, had just dropped her bomb load on the target. I was about to close the bomb doors, when all at once there was a terrific crashing and banging in the aircraft and I saw tracer bullets flying past the cockpit left and right. A night fighter had got on to us, nothing to boast of, considering that there was a brilliant full moon. The right engine packed up at once and the left followed suit as the night fighter flew at us for the third time. We were losing height and the right engine began to smoke so I gave the order “ Jump for it”. But only the pilot, the W/T operator and I were able to do so, the mechanic and the rear gunner lay dead at their posts. We discovered later that the former had his spine shattered and the latter had a bullet through the head. We bailed out at about 3,000 feet and I seemed to be hovering over England in complete immobility. I saw the light of the explosion when the Heinkel crashed, and then realised that I should have to be careful if I did not want to be left hanging in a high-tension cable. I curled up my legs and was over it, and a moment later landed with a bump in a field. I stood alone in the moonlight thanking heaven I had once again been spared, and thought of my wife, who would be so long without news of me. Then a young boy approached circumspectly and directly afterwards two older men, who took me along to a nearby farm, were the farmer’s wife offered me tea, which I accepted. I ate a few biscuits with my tea, and with the wrapping I burnt some other papers, which I did not propose that the English should have. Soon the room was filled with Air Raid wardens and Home Guardsmen, who were anxious to gape at a German Airman and to collect souvenirs. But I had nothing to give them.”  

After the remaining crew had been rounded up their morale was considered to be very high and confident and also being 100% security conscious. They were initially interviewed at Widnes Police Station by Pilot Officer Grey, the intelligence Officer at RAF Hooton, and were then taken under escort to Preston. It was noted the crew were of a good type, and there was no display of any “Heil Hitler” stuff.

Of the three of the crew who baled out, Xavier Diem and Karl Single came down in the grounds of Nazareth House becoming entangled in a tree facing the fire watching post at Ditton Hall, before they were cut free they were made to throw down their guns and were arrested by the local police, one of whom Sam Marsh was given a scarf by the pilot as a souvenir. The third, Wolfgang Berlin landed in Ash Lane, close to a barn at Bosco Hall Farm. Tom Pemberton, grandson of local farmer Tom Houghton and along with some Wardens captured him with a shotgun.

The crew were originally taken to Ditton Police station and on their transfer to Widnes main Police station that night some kind of scuffle due to spitting took place outside Ditton Police station with one of their captors throwing a punch at a crewman. They were collected by the military authorities the following day.

Feldwebel Heinrich Ludwinski 67021-138 aged 26 and was born on the 23rd July 1914 in Wattenscheid is buried in block grave No 3, grave No 152 at Cannock German Military Cemetery in Staffordshire.

Feldwebel Leonhard Kuznik 67021-38 aged 27 and was born on the 16th October 1913 in Bottrop is buried in block grave No 3, grave No 153 at Cannock German Military Cemetery in Staffordshire.

They were both buried around 10:30 hours on the 15th March 1941 at Widnes cemetery in an early morning service in the area laid aside for war casualties. The arrangements for were kept quiet and only a few early morning visitors were aware the two crewmen were being buried. Detachments of  No 922 squadron, in the charge of  Squadron Leader F C Hornsby-Smith arrived at the cemetery by lorry, and formed a guard of honour for the RAF tender and escort under the command of Pilot Officer A M Jamieson which bore the two plain oak coffins, upon which was a laurel wreath bearing the national colours of red, black and white. These wreaths, which were bought by the squadron, were carried by Squadron Leader F C Hornsby-Smith and Warrant Officer Martin.

The short simple service around the graveside was conducted by the Rev F W Haworth, a RAF Chaplin from RAF Padgate, the coffins were lowered into their final resting place in view of the guard of honour, the civilian bystanders and a detachment of police in charge of a police superintendent. The wreaths were later placed on top of the burials and bore the simple inscription “Feldwebel ---------, German Air Force. Killed in action, March 12th 1941. RIP”.

Their graves with simple wooden crosses were tended and very well kept by a local lady, Mrs Beswick who had lost her son in the war, the official cause of death that was recorded in the local registrars held at Halton Registrar Office entries number 317 and 318 dated the 17th March 1941 was "Due to War Operations".

Dead body found Twelfth March 1941. Field next to Imperial Chemical Industries Recreation Club. Liverpool Road Widnes U.D.
Leonhard Kuznik
25 years
Residence unknown (German Airforce) 37021/38 Feldwebel
Due to War operations
Certificate received from Ernest W McNorton, Clerk to the Widnes Council
Seventeenth March 1941
W.A.S Forester Registrar
Dead body found Twelfth March 1941. Field next to Imperial Chemical Industries Recreation Club. Liverpool Road Widnes U.D.
Heinrich Ludwinski
27 years
Residence unknown (German Airforce) 37021/138 Feldwebel
Due to War operations
Certificate received from Ernest W McNorton, Clerk to the Widnes Council
Seventeenth March 1941
W.A.S Forester Registrar

They remained buried in Widnes cemetery until they were exhumed and reburied at Cannock German Military Cemetery in Staffordshire in 1962, no trace remains of their presence in Widnes Cemetery.

The Air Ministry reported the following day, “Last night the moon being full and the weather clear, the enemy attempting his first large scale raid for some time attacked Merseyside in force. On this occasion, however the damage and casualties bore no relation to the scale of the attack and very little was achieved beyond serious damage to a number of private houses”.

But actually this was the heaviest raid of the year on the UK to date, 316 aircraft were estimated to have been over Merseyside that night dropping of 303 high explosive bombs and 1,782 incendiary canisters (36 x 1kg magnesium thermite bombs per canister = 64,152 incendiary bombs). Birkenhead was raided for eight hours, where 180 high explosive bombs, 40 parachute mines and thousands of incendiary bombs were dropped. The Luftwaffe returned again on the 13th causing further damage, this raid and the one previous resulted in 174 people being killed, 432 injured, 168 buildings destroyed and 7,200 damaged, which included Park Station, Our Lady’s Church, St Stephens Hall and the Carnarvon Castle Hotel. Strategically the raid had been a failure as no ships had been sunk although a few small ships and boats adding up to 58,440 tons were damaged. Over 500 fires were reported in the Merseyside area started by the incendiary bombs and the glow could be seen many miles away. Around two thirds of the bombs dropped had fallen well outside the target area.

At least eight other aircraft failed to return from this raid, two were seen to explode in mid air over the Merseyside area and a third, a Ju88 was damaged over Bootle by antiaircraft fire, crashing 100 miles away at Worcestershire after the crew abandoned it over Merseyside whom landed at various points on the Wirral, a further four were brought down by night fighters away from the target area. The RAF put 178 sorties to counter the attack including the Harrow’s and the Blenhiem’s of No 23 squadron sent to France to attack the bombers airfields.

The pilot Oberfeldwebel Karl Single who was born on the 31st July 1914 in Nurtingen had formerly been a fitter with Lufthansa, joining this unit a little more than six months previously in May 1940 as an Oberfeldwebel, having already done his ground training. He had carried out 54 war flights against the UK. After being interrogated he was returned to Lancashire where he was held in the POW camp at Warth Mills, Bury from the 17th March 1941 to the 22nd December 1941, then was transferred to Canada arriving at the Medicine Hat POW camp on the 2nd January 1942 staying here till 1945, being transferred to the Lethbridge Camp until April 1946 when he was returned to England at the POW camp at Quedley staying here till April 1947 then was transferred to the POW camp at Bichester until June 1947,he was finally transferred to Dachau arriving there on the 22nd June 1947 and staying for two days until he was repatriated on the 24th June 1947.

The Observer Hauptmann Wolf Berlin who was born on the 5th April 1914 in Steimke/Altmark, was the Staffelkapitan and had took part in the Polish campaign and got the E.K.I. in France. He had made at least 92 war flights over the UK with the same Geschwader although he had changed his group and had been with the unit from 28th September 1940. A little while after being captured Hauptmann Berlin was escorted away by the police and then transferred under military escort for interrogation by A.I.1. (k) at Cockfosters before proceeding to a POW camp. He was later sent to Canada and was repatriated to Germany in 1947. He was promoted to Major on the 1st April 1943.

The Wireless Operator Unteroffizier Xaver Diem who was born the 28th March 1918 in Sontheim had made at least 48 war flights over the UK being with the unit from 1st July 1939. After being interrogated he was returned to Lancashire where he was held in the POW camp at Warth Mills, Bury from March 1941 until the 20th December 1941, then he was transferred to Canada arriving at the Monteith POW camp on the 1st January 1942, staying here till the 1st April 1944 being transferred to the Medicine Hat POW camp staying here till September 1944, being transferred to the Lethbridge Camp until April 1946 when he was returned to England at the POW camp at Carmarthen till February 1947 when he was repatriated on the 5th February 1947.

It was claimed that this Geschwader had done more operational flying than any other bomber unit in German Air Force, at least 30 war flights had been carried out over London by the time this aircraft was shot down.

The aircraft, which entered service on the 17th May 1940 and had been with the Staffel since before October 1940, the main feature of was the fitting of specially strengthened external bomb racks to take heavy bombs, in contrast to the He111P-4B which carried its bombs internally, the crew stating that 1,400 kilo bombs were quite often carried, sometimes one 1,800 kilo bomb and one 1,000 kilo bomb.

For the next few day’s crowds of locals flocked to the site trying to catch a glimpse of the aircraft through the ICI recreation field railings, unfortunately the cricket square got rather damaged due to the procession of locals across it, much to the annoyance of the grounds men. It had been noted that at the time of the fire the exploding ammunition was ricocheting of this fence. The fence has subsequently been replaced by a concrete panel type one leaving no trace of the events this night.

The wreckage which was guarded by the Army was left as it was for a few days to allow it be examined by the Air Intelligence people and then cleared away within two weeks. After which the local children descended on the site looking for souvenirs, unfortunately very little was to be found apart from a few pieces in the brook at the edge of the field.

The Air Intelligence Report – A.I. (g), investigation into the aircraft remains revealed the following,

The cause of the crash was night fighter action, one strike was found at the bottom of the engine case. The aircraft was totally burnt out on crashing and no plates were recovered. The aircraft also hit balloon cables.

Both engines DB.601/A’s were both buried in the ground and were manufactured by Daimler Benz G.mb.H.

4 MG 15’s were recovered but no cannon. Several pieces of armour 8 mm thick were discovered in the wreckage, one resembling a half bulkhead (from just behind the radio operator/top gun position).

There were no markings or camouflage visible but the No 2989 was stencilled on the tail.

All the instruments were destroyed, one Loft 7c bombsight in bad condition was found and the wireless equipment was apparently standard Fug 10.

Bullet holes were found in the starboard wing and propeller, a length of mangled balloon cable 400 feet long was also found beside the wreckage. The port wing that was missing from the engine nacelle outwards was thought to have fallen into one of the many chemical slurry ponds between the crash site and the balloon site.

Service No
Karl Single
Observer/Aircraft Commander
Wolf Berlin
Wireless Operator
Xaver Diem
Heinrich-Johann Ludwinski
Flight Mechanic/ Gunner (B/M)
Leonhard Kuznik

The 6th Staffel at the time consisted of 9 Pilots, 7 Observers, 9 W/T operators, 8 B/M’s and 11 gunners. The ground crew consisted of 40 in total.

Sergeant Robin McNair of No 96 squadron took of from Cranage at 20:35 hours in Hurricane No V7752, with instructions to patrol the Liverpool area (Cotton South). He was circling the fires over Liverpool at 12,000 feet, when in the bright moonlight he suddenly spotted a He 111 heading southerly direction, he was in fact flying north east at the time, at once he turned towards the He 111 and gave chase. He got to 75 yards behind its tail, and with his sight trained on the dark silhouette, he then gave the He111 two bursts for four seconds. The windscreen of the Hurricane became smothered in oil and enveloped in smoke. He then broke away and noticed the port engine of the He 111 was emitting a great quantity of smoke. The port undercarriage was not only down, but was hanging loose and swaying about, and the He111 was pitching very badly. At about 75 yards again McNair made another attempt, again scoring hits with a four second burst. By now the He 111 was losing height and almost out of control, McNair followed the He111 down keeping it in close range. The He111 was finished off by using the rest of his ammunition in a three second burst on a beam attack from port, at a distance of 50 yards, sending the bomber crashing down. By that stage McNair was at an altitude of only 3,500 feet, dangerously near the balloon barrage, so he gained height quickly and carefully. The total flight time was 2 hours and 40 minutes and he had virtually no fuel left so by carefully nursing the engine and fuel he managed to touch down at Cranage before the engine cut at 23:15 hours, but as he landed his engine stopped, out of fuel and airmen had to push the aircraft of the track, the weather had been perfect and the moon full.

Robin John McNair who was born the 21st May 1918, joined the RAFVR in February 1939 and was called up into the RAF in September 1940. In 1940 during the Battle of Britain McNair was posted to No 249 squadron helping to defend the South East and London with its Hurricanes. He went on to join No 96 squadron flying night operations in the defence of Liverpool. In December 1940 he took part in the disastrous raid on Dieppe, and was later involved in “Death and Glory” operations flying Typhoons over France.

In 1942 he was awarded the DFC by King George VI, a bar was added 2 years later. After the war McNair led one of the first squadrons flying jet fighters.

After leaving the RAF in December 1945 he settled in Ealing and began a career in civil aviation at BEA and retired in 1979, McNair a devout Roman Catholic, worked tirelessly for local and national charities and was heavily involved in the community.

He died on the 18th May 1996 aged 77, leaving a widow Estelle whom he married in 1940, 7 children and 18 grand children, and is buried in a small churchyard nearby the field at Church Norton a short distance from the sea at Selsey from where Typhoons once flew.

In October 1997 it was announced that a Ealing street on the new Toplocks housing estate in Havelock Road, Southall was to be named in McNair's honour, this was one of 6 streets to be named after aeronautical figures, the other five were Brian Trubshaw, Sir Frank Whittle, Sir George Cayley, Alphonso Penard and Wiley Post. The estate with 186 homes and a comunity centre was completed in 1999.

On November 20th 1988 his son Duncan McNair visited Widnes to meet the Mayor of Halton, and talk over the events of that night the 12th March 1941, bringing with him photographs of the He111 and film footage of his father in action.

On the 17th March 2000 an English Oak tree with plaque was planted on land to the rear of Liverpool Road/Stewards Avenue to remember Robin McNair. The Mayor of Halton, the RAF association and the Ball O’ Ditton Royal British Legion planted the tree and unveiled the plaque near the crash site. The guest of honour at the ceremony was Robin McNair's son Duncan and thanked the town for its tribute to his father, “My Father led a full life”, Duncan said, “They say cats have nine lives but I think my father had a multiple of nine lives. This was one incident he was lucky to live through. He was a man of great humility and that his father attended mass at the nearest church after a battle to say a prayer for his enemies”. Unfortunately less than a month later this memorial was destroyed by vandals.

On the 5th August 2000 his Wife Estelle and Son Duncan visited Middlewich to try and find the house on Westlands Road in which she stayed with her husband for around nine months whilst he was stationed at Cranage. Duncan McNair said “My mother loved coming back to the town as it brought back so many memories for her. In particular, after Dad had shot down a German bomber, the butcher asked if it was her husband who had done it. When she said it was he gave her some extra free sausages.”

           A number of local residents recalled the event,

Mr Alan Foster, who saw the aftermath of the fight said, “My own recollection of the event was the following morning, when I joined a group of like minded boys from the village in souvenir hunting. But after walking across the golf course to see the stricken bomber, the ARP and police had formed a cordon around it”.

Mr Stan Broome, was also among the masses of curious locals to survey the crash scene the next morning, “It was the talk of the town, we didn’t see the plane coming down but the next morning everyone was trying to get a look at it”.

Mr Arthur Johnson, the Liverpool Echo Blitz reporter recorded in his diary for the night of the 12th, “A running fight between one of our planes and a bomber was seen from the corner of Dale Street and Hatton Garden and later it was reported that the raider crashed on the ICI sports ground at Widnes”.

Another wartime eyewitness’s account was “Just as I was leaving home to go on night duty, my attention was attracted by the sound of machine gun fire, which I thought was directed towards flares which had just been dropped. Then travelling alo9ng the plume could be seen tracer bullets from a fighter in hot pursuit. “He’s after him, its one of ours” I cried. My wife and neighbours came and joined me and we all shouted for joy when we saw, at the front of the smoke plume, a ball of fire. Suddenly there was a tremendous explosion and bits and pieces started falling away from the aircraft as it plunged into a recreation ground three miles away”.

Mr T P Condron who was 17 at the time has quite vivid memories of the events that night, “I was stood on our door step with my father and another man, we were watching the planes going over to bomb Liverpool it had been going on for some time, the planes were starting to return home, there had been a lot of antiaircraft fire but it seemed to ease off. It was then we saw machine gun fire up in the sky, it was our aircraft and the German aircraft firing at one another, we saw a small fire appear on one of the aircraft. The aircraft turned and started to come down towards us, it was making a hell of a noise, in no time it appeared just above the houses over the other side of the road heading straight for our house. My father vanished along with his friend, I panicked and ran away from the house to across the road to where there was a wide opening that led to a field that was about 100 yards long, there was a ditch then further on there was a field running adjacent to the ICI Recreation field, to my amazement I saw the aircraft flop into the field and burst into flames, when I had last seen the plane was flying North, when it dropped into the field it was travelling West, so the pilot must have changed course after passing over our house. I carried on running towards the plane, there were other blokes with me when I noticed that there were tracer bullets coming in all directions from the plane, it was the I decided to get away from it. Later on I heard that one of the crew who had parachuted out of the plane had landed in a field near St Michael’s Church at Ditton”.

Mr Peter Gilhooley, who was on leave from his anti aircraft gun unit in Scotland recalled the events of that night, "I had come home on leave on the 11th March and on the night of the 12th which was a very clear night I had stayed up top during the raid to watch it being used to this kind of thing, I noticed that the guns had started to stop firing and this meant a night fighter was approaching, I was looking up Oxford Street and saw the aircraft firing at each other circling the town towards Ditton, the starboard engine was blazing and I could see swastika markings on the aircraft, the aircraft stuck a barrage balloon cable next  to the offices of McKechnie Brothers Ltd on Ditton Road tearing part of the wing off and it then plunged down, cart wheeling across the field next to the ICI Recreation field with wreckage flying everywhere and nearly hitting the houses at the bottom of Green Lane, during this time I had jumped on a bicycle and road to the scene of the crash and was one of the first on the scene along with an Officer and three gunners from the heavy anti aircraft gun site at Heath Road who asked who I was, and as I was a fellow gunner on leave I was asked to help keep the crowds back as the ammunition was going off and flying in all directions, the following day I saw the crew being collected from Widnes Police station in a Army truck".
This unit was  “P” site No 334 Battery of No 107 HAA Regiment RA, who recorded in their war diary that an aeroplane had crashed in flames near their site. “Q site” No 334 Battery of No 107 HAA Regiment RA recorded in their war diary that an aeroplane crashed in flames at a distance of 3 miles bearing 240°.
No 922 squadron were originally claiming the victory as theirs for No 1 site, however the presence of a bullet found in one of the engine casings during the investigation for the Air Intelligence Report – A.I. (g), confirmed that the aircraft was brought down by night fighter action, therefore Sergeant McNair was duly awarded the victory. No 1 site of No 922 squadron obtained one of the propeller blades as a trophy for their flight hut and were also photographed with their trophy.
No 96 squadron were involved in other actions with enemy aircraft that night and the ORB details the night's action in detail,
“Eighteen trips hunting for the enemy and the result – no large numbers of enemy aircraft blazing on the ground, but just a drawing of enemy blood in "probable’s", and a squadron with tails well up and a few gun sights and gun muzzles that had spat forth fire at the enemy machines. There was great enemy activity over Liverpool and several of our aircraft were in action for the first time. FO Vesely was the first in action, having taken off in Defiant N1803 at 2155 with Sgt. Heycock to patrol Cotton East at 15000'. He saw a He111 above on the port side and told the air gunner, but the guns failed to fire. He kept the Defiant in formation with the German aircraft and flew alongside and slightly below expecting the air gunner would get the guns to fire. The pilot of the Heinkel dived, followed by F/O Vesely, who manoeuvred to get on to the starboard side. He flew in formation again but the side gunner of the German bomber got in two bursts. Pilot felt that he had been hit in the chest, shoulders and left arm. He lost consciousness and when he came to found the Defiant falling in a spin; however, he managed to recover and return to land despite his injuries.'”
This combat had taken place under a full moon and in perfect weather. Flying Officer Vesely's return to Cranage was quite remarkable. He had received serious injuries yet was able to make a perfect landing without the aid of the airfield's floodlight. He was, immediately despatched to hospital.
Other No 96 squadron crews saw action that same night. Sergeant’s Taylor and Broughton took off in Defiant T3954 at 23:55 hours to patrol the Cotton South line at 12,000 feet. While they were being vectored to the patrol line the air gunner saw a He111K “slightly crossing” the Defiant's track, port to starboard. Guns were brought to bear but after six rounds were fired the guns jammed, Taylor gave chase giving the engine “every ounce of boost”. The German dived steeply preventing Taylor from getting below it. The bomber returned fire missing the fighter and then started violent evasive action. Taylor doggedly pursued the bomber down to 1,000 feet.
Here, both went into cloud. Broughton, undaunted, continued but realising he was in the Welsh hills he climbed. It was a good move for he missed the hilltops by 60 to 70 feet. The New Zealand crew returned to base after a “fast and furious chase, which saw the engine temperature up to 120 degrees and oil to 100 degrees”. Despite only firing six shells, Taylor logged his encounter as a probable.
Sergeant's Ralls and Waddicar in Defiant N3374 also sighted an enemy aircraft but were unable to enter into combat being unable to chase due to the cloud conditions and the speed of the enemy.

With thanks

Dick Baker, Russell Brown, Halton Borough Council, Tony Sheridan, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Widnes Library, Public Record Office, Mr T P Condron, Widnes & Runcorn World, Mrs H Moffat, Mrs Florence Marsh, Mrs Lilian Brereton, Mr O'Callahan, Ena, Mr Oaks, Mr Starkey, Nick Wotherspoon, Mr P Gilhooley, Mr Duncan McNair, Helmut Terbeck, German Red Cross, Bundesarchiv, Deutsche Dienststelle, German War Graves Commission, David Ransome, Lionel Quinlan,


Blitz by After the Battle, Douglas Bader – Fight for the Sky, Halton Borough Council press releases 05/11/1998 & 15/03/200, Daily Mail 07/10/1997, Ealing Recorder 09/10/1997, The Gazette 10/10/1997, Widnes Weekly News 14/03/1941 & 21/03/1941 & 23/03/2000, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, A.I. (g) Report 162/4, No 96 squadron ORB, No 96 squadron combat reports, A.I.1. (k) Report 81/1941, Air Pictorial November 1975, Bombers over Merseyside, The Liverpool Echo September 1979, Widnes & Runcorn World 10/08/2000, Widnes & Runcorn World 06/03/2000, Widnes Borough Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages 1941, Aeroplane Monthly December 1996, Roof over Britain, The British Bomber since 1914, British aircraft of WW2, 96 Squadron at Cranage 1940-1941,No 93 squadron ORB, Fighter Command report on collision by enemy aircraft with balloon cable, No 107 HAA Regiment RA war diary, No 334 HAA Battery RA War Diary, No 922 squadron ORB, Air Enthusiast-six, KG55 – Photographic History, Luftwaffe personnel records, German Red Cross ID cards, AA Command, Merseyside at War, Letter by Corporal Maddock 1988,

Ó Mark S Gaskell - 15 October 2012


Wow Scousemouse that is one very comprehensive account of wartime activity....Is this one of your interests..?. I have had a quick scan through it. and it was sad those bodies were removed from Widnes Cemetery ,, I will have to put a bit of time to one side , grab a cup of coffee and some bickies and give that some serious reading....Ta for that..very good post.

brainbox wrote:
Wow Scousemouse that is one very comprehensive account of wartime activity....Is this one of your interests..?. I have had a quick scan through it. and it was sad those bodies were removed from Widnes Cemetery ,, I will have to put a bit of time to one side , grab a cup of coffee and some bickies and give that some serious reading....Ta for that..very good post.

Yes plus astronomy, photography, wild life, metrology, have two tescopes an eight inch reflector and a four inch refractor ,I have COPD now so its diff for me to set them up,photography takes up more of my time now, as i can manage with cameras more. I also like or liked walking but i don't  do so much of that either now Crying or Very sad

Sorry to hear about your COPD Scousemouse. Must be hard for you.
You have a wide variety of interests there, great stuff.

Barbie wrote:
Sorry to hear about your COPD Scousemouse. Must be hard for you.
You have a wide variety of interests there, great stuff.

Thanks barb don't have it as bad as some people , i can do everything for my self with out outside help, more than most people with it can

Great post S.M.!

Albert dock,post blitz damage!( notice the clock tower)

Church st,where "Primark" is now!1941.

Church st.1940.

Cook st. 1941.

The museum.1940


Such an interesting post scousemouse thanks ,,Jan x

Great photo's mojo ,, love the first one,,,Jan x

I know lots of people were killed during the wars and that is the saddest thing of all, but I think how sad that our history and architecture was blungeoned in this way.

1942  Sad

The Cooperative Mill's runway over the canal is damaged. December 1940

Try This

I'm sorry to hear about the COPD. Scousemouse. hope you're managing o.k.   great having you here...

Nice Pics MOJO. the first one is a cracker...I can see that.Shots 2 & 3 are  Church street were Littlewoods was later built  , now Primark. Why wasnt all the Artefacts from the Museum put into safe storage for the duration of the Bombing.....It was a Nap that those buildings would cop a Bomb or Two...

Barbie , I totally agree about the sadness felt over the destruction of so many Architecturally beautiful buildings in WW2.......The Loss of the Custom house , is the greatest loss, and that could have been saved.

Scousemouse sorry to hear about your COPD, you certainly have much to keep you busy.

MOJO fantastic photos!

This is Castle st. Victoria monument in the distance.

Lewis's,which was later,completely rebuilt.

Same area,Ranelagh st.

The overhead,which was repaired,and up and running again,soon after!

Imagine one of these landing in your back garden! (or anywhere else,for that matter! Shocked )

photo's courtesy of the Lutwaffe. Wink

That was the first time the earth moved for her that night..... Shocked

Great wartime pics MOJO ..  I have some on my P.C. i will sort some and put them here.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
Barbie wrote:
That was the first time the earth moved for her that night..... Shocked

--ha ha Barbie......I have seen this pic once before and the caption I put up was         ' Bulky Bobs  will never take that  ' !    Razz

Laughing  Laughing

..a few more.

Water st. prepared!? 1939.


...Fontenoy garden's.

..and Exchange Flags/Town hall area?

great wartime images here.. thanks all.. I will definitely add some later..




That's a good one Jan, of the city ablaze!

Mr.Churchill in Lime st.

Lord st.1941.

Castle st.1941.

Durning rd. school.1940.

Paradise st.1940.

The Strand/Mann Island.

Mr.C' again,this time in Water st!


Great photos Mojo...Churchill, what a guy.

Brilliant photo's mojo ,, never seen those but that   last churchill one great that ,,

Terrible what our families went through ,,,Jan x

Good selection of pics MOJO....I think the one marked as Castle St. is in fact Sth Castle Street..thanks for posting...this is building into a very nice Archive of Wartime City images.


That's a big one,Jan! Embarassed

Great photos MOJO and Jan!

Not seen that one before it unlabelled ?

No I'm affraid not but it's in with a load of pics on Bootle,,,,,Jan x

I have just Found that one in the Mersey Blitz Magazine Jan, and it just says ' Unexploded landmine', so it must  have been recorded as simply' Bootle area.'

Thanks BB ,, I'll keep it as Bootle,,,jan xx

Liverpool at war 1941

Part 1 Liverpool at war

A couple more...unidentified!

This one's Church st.



oops hahaha



brainerd st parachute or land mine

Yer could sell that for scrap!!!!!!!!! Rolling Eyes

Jan wrote:
brainerd st parachute or land mine

Thanks for the Video link and for this Pic Jan.....This is one I haven't seen before tonight.. What a Close thing that must have been for residents of those houses Forum Index -> Liverpool and Merseyside History & Nostalgia
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