AIRCRAFT ACES 1

Before the noon of November 28, 1940 we transferred to Cherbourg West

As I was the only Gruppe staff pilot there, I phoned my old Schwarm leader and Geschwader commander in one person, Major Wick, who was at the fighter force headquarters, and asked his permission to join his Schwarm. Needless to say, he consented. At an agreed time Helmut flew past above our field, and I took off to join his formation as number 4. The other members were: leader – Geschwaderkommodore Maj. Wick, wingman – JG 2 adjutant Oblt. Leie, second Rotte leader – JG 2 technical officer Oblt. Pflanz, and his wingman – I./JG 2 adjutant Lt. Fiby.

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We kept gaining height until we reached 10,500 m (it was the first time I had gone above 10,000 m) with I. and II./JG 2 as well as one Gruppe of JG 77 following behind. Helmut was flying very fast, causing Rudi Pflanz to continually complain on the radio about his throttle problems. Since Helmut had outdistanced us by almost 1 km, I decided to overtake Rudi, which I did. Now wanting to approach Wick, I suddenly saw him open fire. At the same time I noticed what I identified as a Hurricane falling out of the sky in flames. I flew on, with an intention to fire on another machine. To the right, I could see numerous aircraft leaving vapor trails – assuming they were our boys, I still watched them closely. Meantime, Helmut began an escape, while one of the aircraft above unexpectedly dived in as if to attack me. I saw it was a Spitfire. Could see light being reflected on his leading edges. Turning sharply, I pulled into a dive at him. At the same moment I received Rudi’s warning, “Fibst, watch out. Get away!” Pflanz turned at the Briton, who broke off his charge. That would have allowed me to keep fighting, but I was still going at 600 to 700 km/h. 25 long minutes later, after being suspended alone between the sky and the sea and all there was to be seen were clouds, I reached the base. The Geschwader had scored four kills by Wick, Leie, Seeger and Schuhmann. Casualties – nil.

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At 16.30 hours: another takeoff, a fighter sortie to Southampton. Again, I joined the staff, we climbed to 10,500 m, and fought a battle over the Isle of Wight. While attacking, Pflanz separated from the Schwarm, whereas we dashed at two Spitfires. On seeing us, they fled lower down in mad evasions. We had to stop attacking. Trying to restore formation between 7,000 and 8,000 m, we were suddenly fallen upon by some fifteen machines above. Seeing one turning so as to attack Pflanz, I shouted, “Rudi, machines on your port side and above. Got to move out of here!” While saying this, I pulled my stick sharply to the right and departed the battle site. I lost sight of Rudi and headed home.
We maintained radio contact, confirming to one another we were feeling fine. When I was somewhere halfway across the Channel, I heard that one of the Geschwader aircraft made contact with the sea rescue base – a pilot bailing out had been noticed to the southeast of Wight. At first I took it for Major Wick’s voice, but later it turned out to be Rudi Pflanz’s.
About 20.00 hours I had a phone call and was asked if I had heard Major Wick’s voice on the radio since he had not as yet made a landing anywhere. I went to the Geschwader headquarters, where I found Rudi giving the following report: “When I lost sight of Fibs, I dropped and headed home. I could see two machines in front of me and was flying in their direction. Too late, I found the second one to be the Spitfire that had shot down the Bf 109 whose pilot bailed out. I shot down the Spitfire and its pilot into the sea. Then I contacted the sea rescue.”

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