March 23, 1945

On March 23rd, 1945, Lt. Herbert Altner takes the newly delivered Me 262 B-1a/U1, the “to-be ‘Rote 12′” for additional flights around Berlin-Staaken for a total of four flights.

Altner-3

During the night, the Royal Air Force attacks Wesel with about 195 Lancasters and 19 Mosquitos, 65 Mosquitos are en-route to Berlin[1]Middlebrook, Martin et al.; The Bomber Command War Diaries; Page 687. Their route: via the Zuider Zee to Cloppenburg – Nienburg/Weser – Braunschweig – Brandenburg an der Havel to Berlin[2]Mehner, Kurt (Hrsg.): Die geheimen Tagesberichte der Deutschen Wehrmachtführung; Page 318.

Einflug 1945-03-23

The men of 10./NJG 11 are also active – the morning report of the Luftwaffeführungsstab Ic for March 24th, 1945, details:

“Against Mosquito Raid on Berlin: 1. J. Div.: 3 Me 262 (Kdo Welter), 2 for sure, 1 probable. No losses.”[3]Mehner, Kurt (Hrsg.): Die geheimen Tagesberichte der Deutschen Wehrmachtführung; Page 318

Karl-Heinz Becker was one of the three Flugzeugführer[4]engl.: Pilot, Kurt Welter the second one. The third one is current unconfirmed. The first claim of the night goes to Karl-Heinz Becker – this claim also confirms Welter as second man “in the air”:

1945-03-23 - ASM 3+4 Becker

Karl-Heinz Becker claims a Mosquito at 23:50 hrs. at 15 Ost Süd GG-2, naming Kurt Welter as aerial witness. He indicates an attack from the rear, slightly below the Mosquito, firing about 30 rounds from two of the 3cm cannons of the Me 262. He states that the Mosquito disintegrates in mid-air.

Immediately after the first attack, the second one follows: Karl-Heinz Becker provides the details in the combat report:

“After my first victory [of the night] at 23:50 hrs., I immediately picked up a second one. I turned and got into position slightly below and behind him, a bit to the right. From about 150 meters, I opened fire and hit him in the right wing, in the area of the engine. Developing a good smoke trail and a light fire, the aircraft rolled over the left wing into a steep spiral dive. I saw five spirals, then the aircraft hit the ground with a mighty fire. Location according to Egon-Messung was FG8 at 23:53 hrs.”

Kurt Welter confirms at least one of the two victories (I assume the first one as he is listed as witness there).

1945-03-23 - ASM 4 Becker - Anhang

Karl-Heinz Becker’s comrades Ofw. Gustav Richardz and Uffz. Walter Müller (both also 10./NJG 11) confirm the second one from the ground, stating they had been at the Oranienburg Airfield at the time.

1945-03-23 - ASM 4 Becker - Zeugen

A third victory is not documented but the two mentioned earlier are files as 20th and 21st Victory of the unit, Becker’s next claim (for the night of March 24th, 1945) will show as 23rd Claim of the unit which means that one claim, the 22nd, is not documented.

The Royal Air Force is losing two Mosquitos from this mission – one is lost in the Berlin area, the other one over the Netherlands.

First, F/L Searles and F/L Berrisford are lost over Berlin in Mosquito KB390 – they belonged to No. 139 Sqn., the Pathfinder force.

1945-03-23 - KB390It is very likely that this aircraft is one of the two that Karl-Heinz Becker claims victories for – one of the closer matches when trying to match up claims vs. losses in this scenario.

The second Mosquito, KB367, is lost over the Netherlands, her crew – F/L Day and F/L Treby are killed. It is unknown if this loss occurred on the inbound leg or when flying home – I do suspect the latter due to the geographical location but cannot proof it.

1945-03-23 - KB367A third Mosquito, PF481 of No. 692 Sqn. is listed as “damaged by enemy fighters” in the Summary of Aircraft Damaged on Operations[5]Summaries of Aircraft Damaged on Operations – Dec 1942 – May 1945 (AIR 14/3460); Page 429 – this Mosquito is categorized with a “1d” indicator, showing that the damage assessment was made as “One 20mm bullet” (see here). The only problem with that: PF481 did not fly for No. 692 Sqn. (at least not according to the Squadron’s Records of Events listing. This instead mentions MM133 as being slightly damaged and “hit in the main plane and main spar”[6]The National Archives, AIR 27/2216.

References   [ + ]

1. Middlebrook, Martin et al.; The Bomber Command War Diaries; Page 687
2, 3. Mehner, Kurt (Hrsg.): Die geheimen Tagesberichte der Deutschen Wehrmachtführung; Page 318
4. engl.: Pilot
5. Summaries of Aircraft Damaged on Operations – Dec 1942 – May 1945 (AIR 14/3460); Page 429
6. The National Archives, AIR 27/2216
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