April 3, 1945

The night of April 3rd, 1945, to April 4th sees the next nocturnal mission flown by 10./NJG 11. The Morning Report of the Luftwaffeführungsstab Ic reports:

“Against first Mosquito raid on Berlin: 1. J. Div.: 5 Me 262 (Kdo. Welter), 2 for sure, no losses.”[1]Luftwaffenführungsstab Ic, Morning Report 01046/45 (BArch. RL 2-II/389)

The Royal Air Force attacking Berlin decided on a “special” mission for this night – and the Summary of Events of No. 85 Sqn. details it out:

“Attempts, with one or two successes, have recently been made by Hun night fighters, to interfere with the Mosquitos in their nightly raid on BERLIN. It is believed that the Germans are employing single engined aircraft, FW 190’s and ME 109’s with cats’ eye pilots for this purpose. A trap was therefore laid for them tonight. Only a few P.F.F. machines with a strong escort of Mosquito night fighters were sent out. The night fighters maintained Radar silence almost up to BERLIN to give the impression that it was the usual bomber force. There were plenty of searchlights but no enemy aircraft were seen.”[2]The National Archives, AIR 27/706

At least 4 Mosquito Night Fighters of No. 85 Sqn. and 8 Mosquito Night Fighters of No. 157 Sqn. are flying with 4 Mosquitos of No. 139 Sqn. of the Pathfinder Force and 2 Mosquitos of No. 162 Sqn. on what is titled “a Siren Tour to Magdeburg and Berlin”[3]The National Archives, AIR 27/961.

These Mosquitos are leaving their bases as early as 21:30 hrs., dropping their markers in Magdeburg (23:15 hrs.) and Berlin. The bomber force following the “Night Fighter Trap” left their bases roughly an hour later (about 22:45 hrs.) – they reached Berlin at 00:45 hrs.

German forces were able to track the Mosquito force, specifically the first wave, on their inbound route via Zuider Zee – Meppen – Osnabrück – Hannover – Braunschweig – Magdeburg to Berlin[4]Luftwaffenführungsstab Ic, Morning Report 01046/45 (BArch. RL 2-II/389) .

Einflug 1945-04-03The RAF is sending about 100 Mosquitos that night, adding up the spoof raid and main attack. And from the “spoof raid”, one Mosquito is lost that night[5]Middlebrook, Martin et al.; The Bomber Command War Diaries; Page 691.

Karl-Heinz Becker’s Flugbuch does not show an entry for April 3rd, 1945 – so maybe he was not one of the pilots on this mission. But Herbert Altner’s log also shows no entry – and that is interesting because there is a claim documented through an Abschussmeldung, written for the night of April 3rd, 1945, to April 4th.

ASM Altner 1What is interesting is the time – Altner gives 23:40 hrs. on April 3rd, 1945. There is an attached combat report that supports the claim – here, Altner has the same date but a different time – one far too early for the Mosquitos that night.

ASM Altner 1 - AnlageHere, he states that they took off at 20:45 hrs. and that he made contact with a Mosquitos at 21:36 hrs. – this needs to be corrected to 22:45 (take-off time) and 23:36 (attack time) which then corresponds with the Abschussmeldung.

The British Radio Intelligence units have intercepted a transmission, likely for Fliegerkorps IX, which reads:

BT9960Keeping in mind the time issue, the radio intercept confirms the hours of operation to have been 22:45 hrs. to 00:15 hrs. This set the Me 262s up against what Germany considered “the 1st Wave” and the British called “the trap”.

Altner also states that it was not possible to observe the impact since the enemy aircraft disappeared into the clouds. Technically, this is the first (and possibly only documented) victory over a Mosquito in a Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1. But there is a downside to it (or not, depending on whom you ask): Mosquito NT369 from No. 157 Sqn., piloted by F/LT Leland and F/O Thornton, was attacked during the mission and this is what they recorded in their squadron’s Records of Events:

“To BERLIN: On being coned by searchlights over BERLIN, Mosquito was attacked four times by what is believed to be a jet propelled aircraft judging by its closing speed, and the observation of 157 Squadron aircraft ‘T’-

The enemy aircraft obtained two strikes in the engines, neither of which caused serious damage. After violent corkscrew evasive action Mosquito successfully shook off the enemy aircraft and landed safely at base.”[6]The National Archives, AIR 27/1046

Mosquito NT382 – the ‘T’-Aircraft – is flown by F/O Hoy and F/LT Hodge. They recorded the following:

“To BERLIN. Jet propelled aircraft see firing in southern section of target, otherwise uneventful.”[7]The National Archives, AIR 27/1046

Upon returning home, the crew of NT369 filed an Intruder Combat Report further detailing their encounter with the German jet:

“Approaching Berlin on a course of 76°, height 23.000 ft, several cones of searchlights were seen covering the Berlin area. Carrying on on the same course, we passed a number of cones without being illuminated. At the turning point we were picked up by two or three beams. We altered the course on to 190° still held in the beams, which were increasing in number. Immediately after turning, a Monica blip was picked up, range 12/14.000 ft. The range was closed rapidly and when down to 2.000 ft. a steep dive turn to starboard was made. Night tracer and self-destroying ammunition was seen to port and above us, exploding about 1.000 ft. ahead.”[8]The National Archives, AIR 50/36/49

The crew now gained height again and was attacked a second time, when they were picked up again and received a Monica warning. The second attack hit them in the starboard side of the port engine, then, the attacker overshot and went into a port turn. The crew describes the third attack which added to the aircraft damage by hitting the  starboard engine and propeller.

“The enemy aircraft broke off the attack and came in again. The performance was repeated and shells were observed passing high and to starboard, exploding ahead. By this time we had passed through the outer searchlight belt and at the time of the last attack only three lights were exposed on is.

Immediately after the fourth attack the lights doused and we set course for base. The attacks were commenced at 2335 hours and terminated at approximately 2345 hours. The target area was left at 20.000 ft.

In our opinion if we had not been fitted with Monica the chances of evading the enemy aircraft would have been extremely remote, as it would have depended upon initial warning from enemy fire.”[9]The National Archives, AIR 50/36/49

Following the description of the event, it seems highly likely that Herbert Altner and Hans Fryba indeed attacked the Mosquito of F/LT Leland and F/O Thornton – the four attacks, the hits in the engines, the corkscrew moves – it all fits very nicely. Which ultimately would mean that the first nocturnal victory in the Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1… was none.

Still, not all of the British crews returned safely that night – one Mosquito, KB349 of No. 139 Sqn., is lost, her crew now rests on the British War Cemetery in Berlin.

1945-04-03 - KB349There is no proof but a possibility that KB349 has also fallen to the men of 10./NJG 11 – John Foreman lists a claim for Kurt Welter that very night, in addition to Herbert Altner’s claim[10]Foreman, John et al.: Luftwaffe Night Fighter Combat Claims; Page 245. And with five jets up in the skies and the morning report of the Luftwaffeführungsstab Ic indicating two claims, this is a very likely scenario…

References   [ + ]

1, 4. Luftwaffenführungsstab Ic, Morning Report 01046/45 (BArch. RL 2-II/389)
2. The National Archives, AIR 27/706
3. The National Archives, AIR 27/961
5. Middlebrook, Martin et al.; The Bomber Command War Diaries; Page 691
6, 7. The National Archives, AIR 27/1046
8, 9. The National Archives, AIR 50/36/49
10. Foreman, John et al.: Luftwaffe Night Fighter Combat Claims; Page 245
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