website statistics
Mission: Reconnaissance - Plymouth, Devon, England.

Date: 7
th January 1942

Time: 10.50 a.m.

Unit: 4 Staffel./Fernaufklärungsgruppe 123

Type: Messerschmitt Bf 109E-7


Code: 4U + SH (White S)

Location: Mardle Wood, Buckfastleigh, Devon, England.

Pilot: Unteroffizier. Kurt Thuene. 69004/223 – Captured POW. Born 31.01.1920 in Hohenerxleben.

(1) Kurt Thuene
Unteroffizier. Kurt Thuene. (Schlichting/Brownless)


Two Bf 109s, the 4U + RH and 4U + SH, took off from Haupertus at the same time with similar missions. They first circled the aerodrome, climbing to 6,000 feet and then set course for Plymouth. The two aircraft then became separated; the pilot of this aircraft flew over Devonport and then out to sea until he was just off Plymouth, when he turned towards the land and started up the camera to photograph the harbor and town. Having completed this strip he flew on to complete his mission, which included photographing Exeter, and it was on this leg, when flying at 16,000 feet, that the engine stalled. The boost pressure dropped, the engine stopped and oil fumes entered the cockpit. The pilot scuttled the roof to clear the air and, his efforts to re-start the engine being unsuccessful, bailed out from 6,000 feet.

Extract from the war diary of Uffz. Willi Quante. 4./(F)123

06.01.1942: Today the first mission of the year is to be flown. A hastily prepared mission is briefed at Buc at noon and then what? We sit in the barracks and talk and yearn for days gone by.

“A pity”, said Oblt. Rueck, “that the weather has left a black mark on our good record.” But we look forward to the following day. With a “Good night”, Oblt. Rueck departed from us for the evening. For another minute we sit together, Uffz. Thuene, Ogfr. Bingler, Stuhn and Uffz.Quante. And so the first day passes. We went to bed around midnight. We hope that the New Year will bring us great success. Above all we wish that the New Year will bring us great success in the “Rueck” Squadron, flying and working together, and that we can maintain our record of accomplishments to the end of the year.

07.01.1942: We are up early and off. Uffz. Thuene is flying recon to sector “Siegfried” and sector “Richard” by Uffz. Quante. Today’s mission is to Plymouth, 120 kilometers over the water, which requires a drop tank. At 10:58 the two Bf109’s took off.

(2) Karl Rueckcc(3) Rueck command post
Oberleutnant. Karl Rueck at the command post at Paris-Buc. (Brownless)

Oblt. Rueck went to the command post, to track the flight and pass threat fighter warnings. In the meantime it has turned 12:11 hours. At low level the aircraft “R” passed overhead and landed a few minutes later. With anxious hearts, Bingler (Thuene’s mechanic) and photo specialist, Ogfr. Stuhn wait in vain on aircraft “S”, piloted by Uffz. Thuene. After shutting his aircraft down, Uffz. Quante reported to Oblt. Rueck and told him what had happened. “Immediately after taking off I knew something was wrong with my crate (aircraft). After 20 minutes of flying time an indicator light notified me that the drop tank was empty.

At the same time an enemy fighter warning was received that: “Indians (enemy fighters) were in map quadrant Kurfurst-Anton. Continuing the mission with my little remaining fuel was out of the question. I radioed my unfortunate situation to Thuene. I approached his aircraft three times to make clear to him my situation. But Kurt did not let this influence him.

He continued stubbornly on course to the target. In order not to return without photos, I flew a strip of the coast, to the western tip of the Isle of Wight and landed with my last drops of fuel at 12:11.” After two hours had passed, Kurt still had not returned. Oblt. Rueck immediately met with the fighter pilot leader, (Oblt. Schnell) and initiated a search and rescue.

Two Bf 109’s were launched but returned without successful results. Oblt. Rueck attempted to determine Thuene’s whereabouts through reporting station Birte, but again nothing! Only that a German aircraft with bombs was being pursued by English fighters. We can only hope that Thuene has gone into English capitivity. That evening, Oblt. Rueck, Quante, and Stuhn drank a bottle of champagne to Thuene’s health. We were all together in the early evening; only one was missing. Who will fill the space he has left? War costs many victims! We do not despair!

R.A.F. Intelligence reported;

Mardle Wood, 3 miles NW Buckfastleigh, Devon. Y.1289. Two aircraft started at 10.00 hrs. from Maupertus aerodrome on a photo reconnaissance of Plymouth. On reaching the English Coast the pilot flew west towards Exeter but at 16,000 ft. the engine cut out and would not restart so he bailed out at 6,000 ft. The machine dived into the ground at high speed, hitting the bank of a lane, the engine and most of the airframe was entirely buried. This is the first time a single engined aircraft fitted with a camera had been brought down over Great Britain, but it appeared that it was a normal Me 109 E and it carried two MG 17 in the wings but none fitted over the engine. Markings: S in white. Engine: DB601 N. No.22021. New type of blower fitted. Armament: two MG 17's in the wings each with a belt of 500 rounds. Armour: normal fuselage bulkhead found. Photographic equipment: the camera appeared to have been mounted forward of the armoured bulkhead, behind the petrol tank, manufactured by Hersteller, Loschner, Prague-Modrany. Wn. 846L. Double lens 1:5 F = 50 cms. Karl Zeiss Jena 2605952. Wireless: FUG 7. ID: 69004/223, AW: white, Fl.Kdr.Wurzburg, 28/11/41, FP: L 00348 Paris. Pilot: Uffz Kurt Thuene EKII

(4) Mardle Wood 1940 War Revision.
1940 War Revision map showing grid square Y1289 as per the report (Brownless)

Researched and compiled by Melvin Brownless with special thanks to Nigel Parker, Armin Goebel and Fritz Schlichting for their help in constructing this page. December 2014.
The British Library is preserving this site for the future in the UK Web Archive at All Aircrew Remembered on our Remembrance pages, are therefor not just remembered here, but also subsequently remembered and recorded as part of our nation’s history
and heritage at The British Library.