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The investigation and recovery of Junkers Ju 88A-4 Wnr.140099 of 6./KG30

June 1992

by

Mike Croft & Melvin Brownless (Aircrew Remembrance Society)


See here for the loss article: Straube Luftwaffe 1944

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A view from the crash site skywards! Note the gap in the trees where the Junkers passed through.


Melvin Brownless, Mike Croft and Neal Lumley first located the aircraft crash site during September 1991 whilst searching the woodland with metal detectors. The exact crash site was located purely by chance! We had stopped in a small clearing on the side of the hill, when Neal noticed a twisted fragment of aluminium by his feet. Picking the fragment up, it was apparent that this small piece was a part from the aircrafts structure. We decided to scan the area using our normal detectors and we discovered hundreds of small readings, we then turned to our deep seeking Gemini detector and found that on the edge of the site we had very strong 100% signal reading.

It was now time to contact the National Trust (who manage the woodland) to obtain their permission to carry out an excavation at the crash site using a mechanical digger. With permission granted we applied to the MoD for a licence to recover the last remains of this Ju 88. After a short time we had received news from the MoD that a licence to excavate the crash site would be granted. A few weeks later, Licence No. arrived and we arranged with the National Trust to recover the aircraft during the summer of 1992. During the months between the forthcoming excavation Melvin Brownless located the sister of the pilot Uffz Gerhard Straube, still alive and living in Germany. Her letter revealed the following facts;

Dear Mr Melvin Brownless and Mr Udo van der Brock,

I'd like to keep my promise today and drop you a line. Firstly I'd like to express my thanks for the pictures of the German Military Cemetery. My brother, Gerhard Straube was born on the 02.07.1922, the son of a business man, Franz Straube, and his wife, Erna Straube, in Weissenfels. He was a very bright and mentally alert lad and attended the Beditz-Knabenschule (Boys School) in Weissenfels from 1928 - 36. He was a very conscientious and disciplined scholar. He enjoyed building model aircraft (and was in a club), reading good books and drawing. Upon leaving school he started an apprenticeship as a locksmith and precision engineer with the Nollische Werke Company - Nails & Chains, Weissenfels. He completed his apprenticeship with very good marks in 1939.

He volunteered for the armed services and the Luftwaffe in particular and in 1940 went to Straubling for pilot training. Later he transferred to a flight school of Itzehoe near Luebeck. It is from there, I am sorry to say, that raids were probably flown against your country. From what my mother has told me, I know it was my brother's greatest wish to become a pilot. He wanted to get to know other countries and other people. That he had to drop bombs on other countries, towns and people (albeit under orders) was something he had not thought of and it bothered him greatly.

I hope gentlemen, that these recollections have helped a little. I enclose a picture of my brother.

With best wishes,

Antje Stuchly (nee Straube).


Uffz Gerhard Straube     Gerhard Straube
Uffz. Gerhard Straube killed in action . Gerhard's grave at Cannock Chase

With permission to excavate we decided the date for recovery would be sometime during June 1992. The day has come and we arrived at the crash site around 8.00 a.m and awaited the arrival of the JCB digger which we had organized locally. Attending the dig was Melvin Brownless, Mike Croft, Neal Lumley, Matthew Johnson, Des, John Pike plus a representative from the National Trust.

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The team assemble at the crash site, in the foreground is the representative of the National Trust

The JCB arrived safely on site and the dig commenced. At a depth of around six feet we discovered a mass of burnt coiled wire, this turned out to be the remains of a main wheel tyre. The rubber being entirely burnt away! It was difficult to remove all this tangled sharp wire but this had to be done as there was other large pieces of wreckage buried underneath. The dig continued, at eight feet we discovered the main undercarriage assembly deeply embedded in the clay, the condition seemed very good. Various other small burnt pieces of aluminium were discovered in this area. Some of the larger parts still had manufacturers numbers which could still be read, such as; R8-88-540-050 and 8-88-503-1554. These numbers were very useful in identifying which part of the aircraft they had come from. The numbers identified the following; 8 (Airframe), 88 (Aircraft type), 540 (Mainplanes), 050 wing tip. The latter number refers to the mainplane starboard side. We can now presume that this is the starboard side undercarriage assembly, and possibly buried underneath the starboard Jumo 211J engine.

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The starboard undercarriage assembly is recovered. (Now on display in the Wings Remembrance Museum, Balcombe, West Sussex)

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The entombed Jumo 211 motor

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The motor is released from it's resting place

It was not long after the discovery of the undercarriage assembly that we found the remaining entombed Jumo 211J engine. The JCB digger bucket hit the rear of the engine with a resounding thud. The digger driver carefully dug around the engine but at this point the smell of 100 octane aviation fuel/fumes was overpowering. It was only possible to work in the hole for a few minutes at a time. After a few more pieces were found the digger managed to prize free the entombed engine and bring it to the surface baked in clay and oil. The engine was later taken to a local farm where it was pressure washed clean. The exhaust stack was also found complete with a manufacturers label. The excavation was enlarged, other small poignant relics were recovered such as a burnt parachute, navigational equipment and maps, plus EK.II (Iron Cross 2nd Class) citation to gunner, Heinz Wende.

When the Booker Aircraft Museum folded these small parts went to a private museum on the former R. A. F. airfield at Honeybourne. Since then this museum has also folded and the whereabouts of the artifacts are unknown. (We would appreciate any further information on these items — can you assist?)

Straub-recovery-citation   Straub-recovery-Heinz Wende
Citation for Iron Cross 2nd Class awarded to gunner, Heinz Wende pictured right.

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Burnt parachute recovered

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Pages from navigational booklet

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The Junkers Jumo 211J motor during cleaning (Jumo 211 in Mike Croft collection)

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After cleaning!

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Note; Undercarriage assembly, map fragments and other small parts on display in the Wings Remembrance Museum,
Balcombe, West Sussex).

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