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Mission: Escort sortie for ErproGr.210

Date: 27th September 1940

Time: 11.45 a.m.

Unit: 3 Staffel./Zerstoerergeschwader 26

Type: Messerschmitt Bf 110C-4


Coded: U8 + GL

Location: Haydon Farm, Radstock, Somerset.

Pilot: Leutnant. Joachim Koepsell - Baled out - captured.

Radio/Op: Unteroffizier. Johann Schmidt 53585/63 - Killed. Born 04.09.1919.


Engaged head-on and petrol tank set on fire during escort sortie for ErproGr210 raid on Yate. Probably that attacked by Sgt H. D. B. Jones of No. 504 Squadron but also possibly that claimed by F/O T. H. T. Forshaw of No. 609 Squadron. Abandoned aircraft crashed and burned out. Lt Koepsell baled out and captured unhurt, landing at Terry Hill, near Mells. Uffz Schmidt fell dead near Kilmersdon Colliery railway with unopened Parachute.

Pasted Graphic
Lt. Joachim Koepsell (Koepsell)

Personal account of Joachim Koepsell (1992)

It was wonderful, cloudless weather when we started from Cherbourg. As we approached the target and started our dive with the fighter-bombers we saw an English fighter squadron below, climbing towards us on an opposite course. We pulled up into a climbing turn to position for an attack on them, zooming to gain height quickly before starting down upon them, and at this point I had to change my position, moving from the right to the left of my formation. We continued our turn but as I looked around I saw, much to my surprise, that they were coming at us head-on at the same height. I believed our speed in the dive should have given us the better rate of climb, but the British fighters climbed faster than I anticipated. I had made a serious mistake and the enemy aircraft were quickly upon us. Then everything seemed to happen very quickly.

My aircraft was badly damaged in this first encounter, the starboard forward petrol tank caught fire, my windscreen was shot up and from my comrade Schmidt, in the back, I heard a rattle from his throat over the intercom. A feeling of great calm came over me; I was still alive but in my mirror I could see blood running down over my face. The state of my aircraft ruled out any chance of getting home or even making a forced landing. The forward petrol tank was now burning fiercely while the large tank situated behind it could explode at any moment.

Shortly before the attack I had pumped it dry, but I knew it still contained petrol vapour. I no longer had any communication with Schmidt in the rear cockpit, but I caught sight of him slumped behind our inflatable rubber dinghy. With the certainty that a successful forced landing was no longer possible I decided to try to catapult him out of the rear cockpit, through the open canopy, by rapid pitching movements induced by fore and aft movements on the control column. I was hoping his straps were undone and that he would be able to open his parachute when he was clear of the aircraft. I then opened my own canopy roof exit, pulled myself up out of the seat and went out of the machine, pulling the ripcord after a delay of about five seconds. I then found myself hanging from my parachute at a height of about 3,000 feet: looking down the English landscape looked unfamiliar but quite charming and from schooldays there came to mind a photograph I had seen in a geography book with the caption; Typical English Parkland. This idyllic memory was quickly gone as acute anxiety took over. A Hurricane came flying towards me and passed very close; I feared for my life as it appeared to be getting into a position to fire. I let my head hang to one side to imitate a dead airman, perhaps thereby sending away a possibly angry flier, for I was not shot at. Nor indeed, was I shot at by a second British pilot. I was not wearing the usual buff- coloured flying suit and perhaps my blue-grey combination was mistaken for RAF uniform.

Nearing the ground I could see that I was approaching some overhead wires so I pulled on my canopy lines to control my descent. This was partly successful, but in the end I finished up over a wood and finally landed in a tree. After crashing through some branches I came to rest some twelve to fifteen feet above the ground. Almost immediatly I was greeted with a loud shout from someone, with orders to throw down my pistol. I did not comply with this request as I was too shaken at finding myself hanging in my parachute harness some distance above the ground. I was also not fully recovered from the shock of my recent encounter with a Hurricane. Looking down I could see what I assumed was a Home Guard Officer. He and his men were armed with a variety of guns. I asked him to release me quickly and take me to my aircraft and my comrade Schmidt. I was taken down, but my requests were refused. However, I later learned from the doctor of the unit that Unteroffizier. Schmidt had left the machine all right but that he must have been knocked out or killed before leaving. He landed with an unopened parachute close to the aircrafts dinghy. I also learned that my aircraft had exploded shortly before hitting the ground.

RAF Intelligence A.I.(g) reported the following;

Me 110 C-4 Wnr.3352 (U8+GL) 3/ZG 26 Haydon Farm, nr Radstock, Somerset.

While on its return flight, this aircraft and a Hurricane attacked each other simultaneously head on both firing. The starboard fuel tank of the Messerschmitt caught fire and the wireless operator was killed. The pilot bailed out, the aircraft turned over and the dead gunner fell out, before the aircraft dived into the ground. Markings: G in yellow.

Pasted Graphic 1
Unteroffizier. Johann Schmidt killed in action

Pasted Graphic 2
Burial detail: Johann Schmidt now lies at the Deutsche Soldatenfriedhof Cannock Chase: Block 6 Grave 10.

Researched and compiled by Melvin Brownless AR Society, special thanks to Joachim Koepsell. (Updated May 2013).