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Mission: Attack on Coventry Motor Industries.

Date: 9th April 1941

Time: 02.30 a.m.

Unit: 8 Staffel/Kampfgeschwader 55

Type: Heinkel He 111P-4


Code: G1 + LS

Location: Fernhill Cross Roads, Windsor Great Park, Berkshire.

Pilot: Oberfeldwebel. Franz Vonier 58246/234 Born 15.03.1917 - Killed.

Observer: Oberleutnant. Juergen Bartens 58246/202 Born 30.01.1915 - Killed.

Radio/Op: Oberfeldwebel. Fritz Pons 58246/225 Born 08.10.1909 - Captured POW.

Fl/Eng: Feldwebel. Hermann Kuebler 58246/245 Born 11.12.1913 - Captured POW.

He 111P-4 Wnr.2809 being prepared for operations
Heinkel He 111P-4 G1 + LS being prepared for operations. Note Fritz Pon's twin MG15 set up (Hall)


This aircraft was shot down by F/Lt. D. F. W. Darling together with P/O J. S. Davidson in a Defiant nightfighter of No.151
Squadron. Crashed into the grounds of Windsor Great Park.
Over fifty .303 strikes traced in the wreckage. Markings: L in yellow, outlined in red. Shield; three yellow fish, on a black shield on the starboard side of the tail fin. A plate from a component showed Nordeutsche Dornier Works, Licence Heinkel, manufactured 1939.
Engines: DB 601; port engine no. 102011, manufactured 18/10/39. Armament: five MG 15 found and the remains of an external
bomb rack. Eight 50 kg bombs and flares carried.

Extract from F/Lt. Darling's Combat Report;
F/Lt. D. F. W. Darling with P/O J.S. Davidson left Wittering in a Defiant at 01.10 hours with orders to patrol Birmingham at
11,000 feet on fighter night operations. When over Birmingham a Ju 88 (identified incorrectly) was seen about 200 feet above
and flying SW. F/Lt. Darling pulled up underneath and the gunner fired two short bursts into the belly of E/A from starboard
beam as it turned away. No return fire and E/A dived away steeply. The Defiant followed down to 3,800 feet when it was lost
in the mist and smoke over the town. The R/T was satisfactory. 55 rounds were fired and there was one stoppage. Weather was
excellent with nearly full moon. Cloud about 1,000 feet thick at 5,000 feet.

Personal account leading up to the mission and the final moments before the crash by former Ofw. Fritz Pons.
This account sent by Fritz to Melvin Brownless on the 31.05.1990;

You would like to know more about that night in April 1941. Well, ïïïïïï

My unit, No.8 of bomber squadron KG55, was at the airfield of Villacoublay, 5 kilometres from Versailles. We were quartered
in the former priests' seminary along with the 7th Unit. Today it is the accommodation for a French Special Unit - a "security-
force". The building is on the edge of the airfield. At about 5pm on 8.4.41 the flight communications system in the lecture room
that was set up in the transept was switched on.

First Lieutenant Jurgen Bartens (27), the echelon's commander gave the orders for the nights mission: "Weather favourable and we
are going to attack the industrial area of Coventry. Targets ïïïïïï ."I have forgotten the rest. "Coventry?" escaped from my lips.
He could not fail to notice the general astonishment of his crews. Propaganda had led us to believe that all significant industrial
plants in this area had been put out of action for a long time to come by the first attack. Bartens explained to us that the power
station at Coventry had only been immobilised for 3 months and that the factories had now recommenced production.
A second attack was, therefore, essential. Our target was to be the Motor Works. I can still clearly remember that, afternoon and
the effect that this announcement (Coventry again!) had on me: "I felt that the propaganda had lied to me. My spirits seemed to sink
and a sense of antagonism towards this mission somehow grew. Something I have never known before.The aircraft (Heinkel 111) were
loaded with 50kg.high explosive bombs. Altitude set for attack: 4,500m. The KG 100 ("Pathfinders") flew ahead and blazed a trail for
us through the town. (He indicates this path on a street map.) At the end of the trail take bearing (I can't remember the exact co-
ordinates), then after 30 seconds unload over the target area.

We were to fly as usual to Fecamp where there was a transmitter for the homing beam called "Knickebein"("Dog-leg"?) and then along the
beam to the target.(Explaination of Knickebein: the transmitter concentrates a very narrow on the target, the aircraft aligns
itself with this beam, switches on its course-plotter and flies directly to its target. If you stray to port you hear dots instead of
a hum (a single tone), if you stray to starboard you hear dashes. If you are on course you simply switch the radio on every now and
then as a check.) The exact time of departure has not yet been confirmed. Stand by as from l0 pm. Any questions? None!
Lets go! Break a leg;! (The unfailing ending to any flight announcement from Jurgen Bartens.)

We go to our room. I soon lie on my bed and fall into a deep sleep. "Look! He's still dossing in his cot. They're all waiting for you.
"were the words with which the flight mechanic Hermann Kobler-Manne awoke me. Still groggy with sleep I grab my parachute and bag and
hurry down to the lorry that takes us out to our aeroplane. I'd no time to take the room key to the guards room, so I put it under the

It would have been at about midnight that we learnt our departure time and destination, Coventry. The crews gather in front of their
aircraft. The smokers puff another cigarette and then climb ïaboard. Take-offs went smoothly and we set course for Fecamp. Versailles
lies below us to the right. Shortly after take-off a radio message is transmitted and I have tuned in on it. We are carrying 32 50kg
bombs. Pilot Franz Vonier climbs at a rate of 2m/sec. We fly over Fecamp transmitter at an altitude of 4,000m and then on our new course
to coventry at 4,500m. The night is clear. Soon we hear from Bartens observer over the planes radio. He can see a glowing sky on the
horizon - presumably Coventry in flames. It looks like a sunset. Un mistakable. It becomes ever lighter, more vivid, this "sunset".
It is Coventry. No flak (anti-aircraft batteries), no night-fighters. Bartens thinks that he has identified the target and orders Franz
to change course. Then unload. "Kuebler"(air mechanics in the rear have a good view below) watch where the bombs land." Kuebler watches
and can locate the hits by the flashes of the exploding bombs, which were released in series at lOOm intervals. Kubler, a true Swabian,
speaks only in his Swabian dialect, "Nothings burning. I think they've fallen on a potato patch!" A little put out Bartens countered
indignantly, "You moron!" We all laugh, Bartens as well. It is light as day over the town. There is not another plane to be seen.

"lets do one last turn!" says Bartens to Franz. He, Bartens, has to radio out a short weather report and description of the situation.
The turn is over and he has soon got his message encoded using the tables based on systems of three and I can then transmit it to Villa-
coublay. We are on our way back. Coventry is already 3 or 4 minutes behind us. I'm sitting with my back to the direction of travel and
have a good view to the rear. At the same altitude, a little to the right, still a long way off, I spot a plane that seems to be following
us. On the right wing a strange round navigation light. Unusual. Immediately I tell everyone what I can see and add: "Nightfighter!"
Bartens:"He can't see us. Don't shoot!" The drama begins to take its course. The fighter closes in rapidly. Suddenly the navigation light
can no longer be seen - at the time this tactic of English night fighters was totally new to me. Doing a runner, raising the speed to escape
from the fighter, was inadvisable for the moment, as a fighter was crossing our path about 500m below. The air mechanic on the side machine-
gun also had a good view of the fighter by now. "It is a Night Fighter that is attacking us", says Kuebler in his characteristic Swabian.
"Don't fire! Don't fire! He can't see us!" (still unbelievable today) shouts Bartens into his EV Radio. The fighter is on our level, about
200m to the left. We both have him in our sights and he's a sitting duck. But so are we for him. "Don't fire! from Bartens. Kuebler: "Sir!
ïïïïï I can see the nose lights from the turret - machine guns ïïï (I will elaborate here) The fighter is turning right and setting itself
up to attack. A burst of fire shot through the starboard engine, tail unit and rear section. What had he hit? He was a good shot.
I learnt his name years ago, but can't recall it at present. He lived in London, but ignores any attempt to establish contact. The first
burst of fire knocked out the propeller on the starboard engine and that would hinder any eventual return journey - reduced to a single
engine. The fuse and wiring box behind the pilots seat was shot to bits. Some contacts were made, others broken, so our navigation lights
flashed and our siren wailed. The lines out to the propeller were severed. The second burst hit the oil cooler on the starboard engine and
one bullet went through the sole of my right foot and ripped it open. The spilt oil caused a trail of smoke, so the attacker must have
supposed we were on fire. But we weren't. Franz switched off the engine and hurried down into the protective cloud below. Kubler crept
forward to help with the transition into single≠ engine flight and Bartens came to me to bind my wound. I was furious with him and had
difficulty in controlling myself. He was aware of his mistake and seemed very down (crestfallen). From up front I could hear the bad news
about the propellor. Our range was immediately clear. We must bail out, rapidly- P.O.W. dark thoughts overwhelmed me. Bartens was back in
the cockpit and Kuebler in the rear. We begin to jettison as much as possible. There isn't much point to it. Franz, the pilot, tells Bartens
that he can scarcely control the plane. He is inevitably and increasingly losing power due to the non-functioning propellor.

The end can be seen. I hear Bartens saying repeatedly, "Franz, think of the P.O.W.camps." A fair while went by. I was between the bomb shafts
and was trying to loosen even the "locking plates", the cradles, for the bombs, so that they too could be jettisoned. I couldn't manage it
and went aft and switched on the E.V. "Manne", the diminutive for Kuebler, "We've got to get out!" "They can see lights on a landing strip
and want to go down." I hear him say."They're off their heads!" I say before I can stop myself. I get up onto my seat and look down.
Too late. I can still actually see some signalling lights on the open ground. "Franz, how fast are we going?" I asked. His answer, the last,
"145!" At this speed we dropped the nose. I pushed my machine-gun to the left, so that I could .perhaps get out of the fuselage. Far too late.
I am already staring at large trees. It is clear that we are going to crash and I scream ìFranz! Switch the fuel off!î He must have done it,
for suddenly there was just a rushing sound. In my minds eye I could see a young spruce wood that was going to save us.
This vision had some basis on reality. I shout ìFranz, aim for the woods!î but there was no more aiming. I could hear cracking and splintering,
then nothing. Just quiet. I must have been stunned for a few seconds, because I don't know how I got all the injuries. Only when I came to was
I able to see and feel what had happened. Almost simultaneously came the waves of self-reproach: Why had I ïïï Why had we behaved so stupidly?
Even today I haven't got over it and feel partly responsible for what happened.

Fritz Pons 1990.

Franz Vonier & Fritz Pons
Pilot, Oberfeldwebel. Franz Vonier with his good friend & comrade Fritz Pons (Pons).

He 111 Kuebler & Vonier
Feldwebel. Hermann Kuebler together with Franz Vonier in the cockpit of a He 111 (Hall).

He 111 Pons & Bartens
Fritz Pons sits on the wing while Juergen Bartens hangs out of the Heinkel cockpit (Hall).

Crash site on right of track
Crash relics found
The crash site of Vonier's Heinkel lay on the right hand side of the ride. Below some small parts of the Heinkel were found
during the cutting and cultivation of the wooded area.

Grave of Vonier & Bartens
The last resting place of Franz Vonier and Juergen Bartens who now rest together at Brookwood Military Cemetery (King).

Burial details: Brookwood Military Cemetery near Woking, Berkshire.

Researched by Melvin Brownless, with thanks to Steven Hall, Fritz Pons, Clive Ellis, Mike Croft and David King for
contributing to this page of remembrance. (March 2013)