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Mission: Attack on London, England.

Date: 20th January 1943

Unit: 4 Staffel./Kampfgeschwader 2

Type: Dornier Do 217E-4


Coded: U5 + AM

Location: In Sea, South of Dungeness, Kent, England.

Pilot: Feldwebel.Leopold Heiden. 57359/37 – Missing. Born 18.08.1919 in Wiener-Neustadt.

Observer: Feldwebel. Fritz Aigner. 57359/1 – Missing. Born 07.03.1920 in Untergiersbach.

Radio/Op: Unteroffizier. Anton Schotthöfer. 57359/33 – Missing. Born 28.12.1919 in Waldsee/Pfalz.

Gunner: Feldwebel. Otto Strassner. 62734/69 – Killed. Born 10.11.1921 in Aich/Oberpfalz.


This aircraft took off from Eindhoven at 20.18 hours for a bombing attack on London. Radio contact was lost and the Dornier & crew failed to return. Believed that shot down by either W/C J. R. D. Braham DSO, DFC and Bar and F/O W. J. (Sticks) Gregory DFC & DFM in a Beaufighter of No.141 Squadron or possibly that claimed by F/L Davidson in a Beaufighter of the Fighter Interception Unit.

The personal combat report of W/C Braham & F/O Gregory reads as follows:

"I took off from Ford 2250 hours, after patrolling under sector and G.C.I. was eventually handed over to Wartling (Controllor: F/L Hemingway) who told me to patrol at 10,000 feet. Immediately afterwards, at 2330 hours, I was told of a customer at 15,000 feet flying North. I climbed to that height and, after 2 or 3 corrections in azimuth, closed to 2 miles behind enemy aircraft which was still travelling North towards Beachy Head at 200 m.p.h., my own A.S.I. being 220 m.p.h. At 2 miles range my operator obtained a contact above and a little to starboard. Closing in slowly from South to North and after many corrections in azimuth and elevation, I obtained a visual of enemy aircraft at 2,500 feet range. I closed to 1,500 feet and when some 15 miles South of Eastbourne, recognised enemy aircraft as a Do 217. He was still flying steadily north at 200 m.p.h. at 15,000 feet. I was immediately behind him A.S.I. 220. As I closed in still further, he suddenly saw me and opened fire from his top turret not very accurately, at the same time jinking violently in turns, dives and climbs.

I went after him and at 2359 hours gave him a 3 seconds deflection burst of cannon and MG from slightly above and 20 degrees astern from 1,000 feet closing to 900 feet.

There were many strikes on enemy aircraft's fuselage and return fire was silenced. Enemy aircraft continued to jink as before but even more violently as we chased him for approximately 15 minutes. Throughout this period and from beginning to end, my operator maintained the contact. As opportunity presented itself, I gave 3 more deflection bursts of cannon and MG, each of about 3 seconds anf closing from 900 feet to 600 feet.

The first of these bursts was from below and 20/30 degrees astern and resulted in many strikes on fuselage were soon followed by smoke. The last burst from slightly above 20/30 degrees astern, was delivered at about 0015 hours when we were well over the coast at Dungeness at 15,000 feet, flying South East and resulted in the enemy aircraft diving straight down with smoke pouring from it. At first I thought it would crash on land, but later realised it was diving out to sea. I dived after it and my operator followed it on his weapon down to 700 feet where it disappeared and I saw a large splash in the sea 2/3,000 feet ahead of us.

We orbitted the position where enemy aircraft had dived into the sea, and although we could see no pieces of wreckage, there was a great spreading swirl of water there. I climbed to 10,000 feet and Wartling Control offered me another customer. All my cannon was expended except the inner and outer port cannons which had jammed after 20 and 15 rounds respectively, so I searched round for a while, relying upon my remaining MG ammunition. We could obtain no contact, so we returned to base 0055 hours..."

(1) Braham & Gregory
W/C Braham and F/O “Sticks” Gregory pictured a little later in the war with their Mosquito (IWM)

“Time for a smoke” L to R; Anton Schotthöfer, Leopold Heiden, Fritz Aigner and Otto Strassner.


(4) Aigner, Heiden, Schotthoefer, Strassner
“Ready for flight”

Observer; Fw. Aigner, Pilot; Fw. Heiden, Radio/Op; Uffz. Schotthöfer and Gunner; Fw. Strassner. (Hall)

(5) Fritz Aigner & Leopold Heiden
Observer, Aigner with his pilot Heiden at the controls of a Do 217. (Hall)

Researched and compiled by Melvin Brownless, with special thanks to Steven Hall. (Sept 2013)