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Mission: Escort sortie. England

Date: 2
nd November 1940

Time: 08.55 a.m.

Unit: 9 Staffel./Jagdgeschwader 52

Type: Messerschmitt Bf 109E-7


Coded: + 2

Location: Burmarsh Halt near Dymchurch, Kent, England.

Pilot: Hauptmann. Wilhelm Enßlen.53539/1 – Killed. Born 16.10.1911 in Sindelfingen.


This aircraft was shot down by S/L Johnny Kent in a spitfire of No.92 Squadron.

(1) Hptm Wilhelm Ensslen 02.11.40 (Potter)
Wilhelm Enßlen (via Potter).

A.I.2.(g) Report No. 4/114 1940
Me 109. Crashed on 02.11.40 at Dymchurch. Map ref: R.5347. No details of this aircraft can be given. Following fighter action in the neighbourhood this aircraft dived into the ground at high speed and is completely buried. Pilot probably dead in crater. A piece of one shell gun (20 mm) was found, the armament therefore being two shell guns and two MG 17 machine guns.

Note: Contacted Andy Saunders regarding this loss as he had researched the case in detail, as can be seen in his report;

Hptm. Wilhelm Enßlen had taken part in the Spanish Civil War as a fighter pilot and was one of only twenty-eight men awarded the Spanish Cross in Gold with Swords and Diamonds. An experienced fighter leader, the twenty-nine-year-old flier had taken part in the campaigns in Poland and France and had seen the Battle of Britain through, steadily adding to his score of claims. On 2 November 1940, however, he tangled in combat with a Spitfire flown by S/L J A ‘Johnny’ Kent, the Canadian CO of 92 Squadron. Kent describes the combat in graphic detail in his biography One of the Few:

“…The rest of the formation dived for the coast and did not attempt to turn and fight, at least all but one. We chased after the fleeing Germans and I caught up with this one and attacked. I found that I had picked an old hand; instead of just running away he waited until I was very close and then suddenly broke to the right and into the sun. I momentarily lost sight of him but as he continued to turn he moved out of the glare of the sun and a tail chase developed. As we came round full circle he repeated his manoeuvre but this time I pulled my sights through him and, although losing him under the nose of my aircraft, gave a short burst in the hopes that I might get some tracer near enough to him to frighten him into running for home. I misjudged my man, however, and he continued his tactics and apparently had no intention of running at all but finally after the fourth or fifth circle I drew my sights through him again, gave a longish burst and was startled when he suddenly appeared from under my nose and we very nearly collided. I still have a very vivid mental picture of him looking up at me as we flashed past not twenty feet apart. I distinctly remember that he had his goggles up on his helmet and his oxygen mask in place.

“I also recall the gashes along the side of the Messerschmitt where my bullets had struck and the tail of the aircraft with practically no fabric left on it and a control cable streaming back with a small piece of metal whirling around on the end of it. It is one of those pictures of a split-second’s action that remains indelibly imprinted on one’s mind. I did not, in the heat of the moment, fully appreciate the significance of all this and was jubilant when I saw that my opponent was reversing his turn, a fatal move in a fight, and gave him one last burst from ‘fine quarter’ into his left side. A thin trail of grey smoke appeared and the aircraft rolled quite slowly onto its back and started down. I immediately thought that he was getting away and followed him with throttle wide open hoping to catch him as he levelled out.

“The last time I glanced at the airspeed indicator it was registering something like 450mph but still the Me 109 outdistanced me and I finally lost it against the ground. While continuing my dive and waiting to see the grey plan-form of it as it pulled out, I was startled to see a vivid red flash and a great cloud of jet black smoke appear as the machine hit the ground and exploded.“I came down low to see where the aircraft had struck but could see no sign of it, until I noticed some soldiers running across the fields waving to me. Then I saw it. A gaping hole that looked just like a bomb crater and hundreds of little bits scattered around.

“A few days later the Intelligence Officer told me that the pilot had been quite a highly decorated major (sic) but it had not been possible to establish his identity. Apparently I had shot away his controls and he was on the point of baling out when my last burst killed him. This was deduced from the fact that his fighting harness was picked up undone and undamaged and the left half of his tunic was found with six bullet holes in it.”

In his extraordinarily detailed account of this aerial duel, Kent is absolutely correct when he says that he must have picked on “an old hand”, and he is equally correct when he explains that the pilot was highly decorated although it had not been possible to establish his identity. In fact, and although he hadn’t witnessed what had happened when the aircraft disappeared against the countryside below, Wilhelm Enßlenn had apparently abandoned his Messerschmitt and seemingly fallen with an unopened parachute or had somehow dropped out of his harness. Quite what happened is unclear, although it is known that he fell into the sea just beyond the low water mark at Dymchurch.

According to mortuary records he was “rescued” from the sea, which rather implies that he was pulled out alive and died later. However, it seems more likely that he fell dead without an open parachute. What is not debatable, however, is that for some unknown reason his body defied identification and he was ultimately buried at Folkestone (New) Cemetery in Hawkinge under the name A Schenck.
Quite where this name comes from is a mystery, although it is entirely possible that it was a tailor’s name or some-such in a piece of clothing, or maybe the name of a previous owner or even a manufacturer on his parachute harness for example. Either way, no identity disc was discovered and although personal effects were found they clearly did not help put a name to the man. A piece of linking evidence, however, was found when enthusiasts excavated the wreck of a Messerschmitt 109 in 1982 at Hagueland, Burmarsh, just a few yards from the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway track. (Coincidentally, this was just a few fields away from the crash site of Lt. Werner Knittel’s Messerschmitt With the knowledge from RAF air intelligence reports that this crash had happened on 2
nd November 1940, and the fact that the unknown German airman pulled out of the sea just a short distance away had fallen from this aircraft, the discovery of the main aircraft data plate showing it to be a Messerschmitt 109 E-4 with the Werke Nummer 3784 confirmed this to indeed be the aircraft being flown by Hptm. Enßlenn when he was lost. Whilst circumstantial only, and providing insufficient proof that A. Schenk was indeed Wilhelm Enßlenn, it was nonetheless a most valuable piece of the jigsaw.

(2) WN3784dig1
Recovery of Bf 109 Wnr.3784 in 1982 (via Saunders).

(3) WN3784dig
The entombed DB601 engine (Saunders).

(4) WN3784dig3
Recovery of the aircrafts serial number/Werke Nr.3784 (Saunders).

With all the pieces of the puzzle assembled and presented to the German War Graves Service it is heartening that this evidence has now been accepted and a named headstone will be erected to this previous 'missing' pilot. Whilst the headstone is awaiting replacement at time of this book going to print it has at least been officially confirmed that this is indeed Enßlenn’s grave.

(5) Wedding daycc(6) Wilhelm with wife
cccccWilhelm pictured on his wedding day (Potter)cc ccccccccccccccccWilhelm with his wife during happier times (Potter)cccccccccccccccccccccc

His elderly widow, left wondering for nearly seventy years as to what had happened to her man, is content that in her last years she finally knows."

(7) Grave Hawkinge
Folkestone New Cemetery (Hawkinge) Enßlen’s grave under the name Schenk (Net).

Burial detail:
The pilots remains are laid to rest at Folkestone New Cemetery, (Hawkinge) in plot O, grave number 404 under the inscription A. Schenk.

Sources: A.I.2.(g) Report No. 4/114 1940 and WASt Verlustmeldung, Andy Saunders and Joe Potter.

Researched and compiled by Melvin Brownless. Special thanks to Andy Saunders and Joe Potter for the excellent help they have given in preparing this page of remembrance. Updated July 2014.