Prelude to disaster 

The background to this story starts in 1942, and takes place in occupied Europe. This is the year where the German army dominated large parts of Europe, ranging from the sand banks of Calais in the west to the outskirts of Stalingrad in the east. The situation are grim and hopeless for Britain as the only Allied Country left in Europe. The invasion of the USSR, gives Britain a well needed break from German bombing and the decisive victory in the Battle of Britain. Most of the German army are now fighting in the east, including the majority of the Luftwaffe.

The losses among the Luftwaffe crews during the Blitzkrieg, then during BoB and finally during the opening phases of Barbarossa, makes its toll. This forces the Luftwaffe to speed up the training of Pilots, and cut back on training, although not yet on a minimum basis like in the last war years.

In Greifswald, the School unit, Grosse Kampffliegerschule 3 are stationed. This unit has a mixed airpark consisting of several different types as He111, Ju W34 and Ju88.[1]  The unit has responsibility for last check out for training Pilots before being relegated to operational units. The training consists of bomb practice and other weapons system. These Planes have often been through hard battles, and have been written off for active duty, and given to School units. The Planes have been given a short overhaul at a factory and the armaments have been removed. The only identification of the new unit was painted back on the tail or where Ground crew felt for it. The factory code was often kept (in CF+VP's instance) 

The rest of the story are very unclear, and can only be told based on some few certain facts [2]

The date is late night/early morning on June 29th 1942.Willi Voss, a married man [4] and one of the students that are on guard at the school, discovers something. He sees light from one of the cockpit in a Ju88A-5 and goes for inspect it further. Inside the Plane he discovers a friend of his. This particular friend has earlier tried to get Willi to desert together with him for unknown reasons. The next things happens quick, he's threatened with a pistol and are set to fly the Plane to UK. [5]


Greifswald Airfield, unknown year. Today very little remains of the Airfield.

Copyright : Luftwaffe Museum Gatow and Fliegerhorste.

 

The alarm is sounded when the Plane takes off. We don't know what kind of air defence Greifswald had, probably it had the standard mix of 20 mm "Vierling" and 37 mm's, including MG's based on tripods throughout the Airfield Perimeter. The surprise is probably complete, since the flak crew's didn't get in any decsive hits on the  Plane.


 
Typical German Light Flak Emplacements with 37mm Flak and MG34.

Copyright: Reichsluftminsterium.


Probably, MG's at the airfield had also been shooting at the Plane. Two bullets holes was later found, one had gone through the gasoline tank, and out! Luckily this was not a tracer bullet! The next bullet was found embedded in the wing compartment between the wings and the fuselage. The bullet were of 7x62 caliber, typical of MG34 or MG42.  

Over the Baltic ocean there are thick fog and making navigation very difficult, one of the Students must have been through some blind navigation, since they managed a while to keep the right course. The bad weather continoues over Denmark. Staying only some few meters in search for landmarks, they're running a high risk flying into something. The reason why they steers north is probably to avoid crossing Northern Germany and Denmark because of the flak contested areas around Kiel and Wihelmshafen, and (unknown to them) using the blind holes of the German radar coverage around the Swedish coast. 

 


The Germans used their network of Radars to follow the Deserters before the Crashlanding

Copyright: "Signal" (1943)

Back on the ground, german radar positions followed the deserters on the screens. The radar station, and center for several Night fighter units, in Grove (Karup), Denmark gives the order to either force the Plane to land, or shot it down before it reaches UK. But the bad weather forced the Germans to cease most of the Flights. 


Map over the actual area. Copyright: "Nordwarts" by Reichsluftministerium, 1940.

At 4:15 CF+VP was in vicinity of Skagen, north in Denmark. The Plane had been tracked from 2:30 to 2:50 over Seeland in Denmark. Order was given to shoot the Plane down, this order was given by Generalmajor Krueger back in Greifswald.[6] It's not certain who was flying the Plane, was it Willi Voss or was he tied to the seat? For unknown reasons,, the Plane changes course to Norway instead of UK. The Norwegian coast at Telemark is sighted. Both Pilots still believe that they had managed to get to UK safe. [7]

When the Plane is over Kilsfjorden, the fuel situation is critical and the RPM of both the engines are decreasing. They begin a short turn over the fjord, and settles for a place not far from the mainland. The back canopy is released as standard procedure during crash landings. 

 
A Ju88 banks over near the French coast. Somewhat similar to how CF+VP maneuvered the last minutes before the crashlanding in Kilsfjorden. Copyright:  ww2images 

They make a low pass over some houses at the beach before touching down on the water, almost crashing into some apple trees. The Pilot made a textbook example of a three point landing on the fjord, without damaging the Plane slightly [8]. The lifeboat is released back in the Plane, but today the big mystery, is what happened to the lifeboat, since none of the eyewitnesses saw this boat. Also a mystery is the existence of the german fighters over Kilsfjorden that day, did they intercept the Plane before the crash landing? [9] 

Aase Heibø and Liv Anna Haslum are cleaning the cottage belonging to Dr. Krohn before the summer vacation. Suddenly they hear a loud noise and looks out of the window. They sees a Plane making a low round over the Fjord and finally ditches down on the water. After the water had calmed down, Aase sees two guys climbing out of the cockpit.

 


The two Women in 1997 and Arne Sandaas in 1998. Copyright: Varden April 1997, and "Telemark i Norsk Luftfartshistorie" by Bjørn Olsen, 1998.  ISBN: 82-7976-002-4.

The women takes a small boat at the cottage [10], and rows as mad out to the Plane to rescue the Pilots. Willi Voss is easily rescued. The other one, who probably couldn't swim, drowns only few meters away from the hands of Aase. 

Back in the cottage, Willi gets dry clothes and warm soup. The Pilot suit is hanged out to dry out, this was to become a faithful decision. Willi get shocked when he hears that he have landed in Norway instead of UK. When the girls tells about the fate to the co-pilot, Willi only replies with something like that the dead has taken a step further, and he [Willi] is finished. The girls noticed that Willi carried with him a brown envolope, that they had also seen him with it, standing on the wing. This brown envelope was most probably thrown into the fireplace, was heated up to warm the wet aviators.  At the same time Arne Sandaas from the neighboring cottage comes in. He has witnessed the whole incident. Arne has a longer conversation with Willi. Sandaas offer Willi to hide him until the war is over. Willi rejects this proposal and says he doesn't have a chance anyway.  

Later a group of german soldiers with an officer [11] discovers the cottage and Pilot's suit. Willi is arrested and Arne Sandaas gets notification about later questioning by the officer. 

Arne Sandaas, as one of the prime witnesses, was later called in for interrogation in Oslo. Sandaas and Sturmbannführer Wegner [12], the guard appointed, was called to Berlin. It was a long and eventful trip for Sandaas [13], as a member of the resistance he made a detailed report for London. When they arrived at the Court Martial at  January, 12. 1943, they were quite surprised to know that Willi Voss had been executed the previous day.

Even today the circumstances around this execution is very sketchy at best.  Today we believe that the deceased was a spy for England [14] and had connections on the rocket base at Penemünde. Willi had also observed a briefcase which the Co-Pilot had brought with him. This particular briefcase was never found in the wreck, most probably the brief case was flushed away when the Plane sank. A map over the location where CF+VP ditched. 


We know also that Willi Voss was married and lived in Cologne. There is a possibility that there are still living relatives after Willi. Today there are little or nothing known about this case. This because the papers from the RKG was moved in 1945 to the state archive in Moscow. 


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[1]  Barry Rosch, Luftwaffe Codes, Markings and Units; 1939 - 1945, (Schiffer books, 1995) ISBN: 088740796X. Also from M. Holms execellent page about Luftwaffe.


[2]  Bjørn Olsen, Telemark i Norsk Luftfartshistorie, (Skau forlag, 1998)  ISBN: 82-7976-002-4. p. 85. When the women gets the clothing they borrowed to Willi Voss back, they discovers a small roll of paper. On the paper some words in gohtic letters was written. This paper was given to the resistance that passed it to a professor in gothic, that deciphered it. It turned out to be a Voss's confession of the defection. He claimed to be forced on this by the unknown co-pilot that was killed. Who this paper was intended to, is not known, neither the fate of the paper after the war. The nationality of the drowned Pilot is not known, but it's almost certain that he was a allied spy with connections to the then top secret Rocket facility at Peneemünde. The drowned Pilot was probably carrying with him documents about the V1/V2 testing, that had its first sucessful tests in early June 1942. The Norwegian Defense Museum has got several replies from Germany regarding the desertion and the Peneemünde connection.


[3]  The exact date should be 29.06.42 as it could be linked to records in BA/MA on that date, provided by the late Per Skaugstad:

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29.06.1942:

"SN Ber. Kdo VIII meldet, dass im PQ 05 Ost 99164 ein Ju 88 abgesturzt ist. 1 Mann der Besatzung wurde von ein Boot der Flak gerettet."

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Also in "German radarstations in Denmark 1942-45" by M. Svejgaard (p. 36) There is a footnote about the tracking of a defecting German Plane in june 1942 by the Radarstation "Seehund" stationed in Zealand (Sjælland) 

 

[4] Willi Voss gave his marriage ring to one of the girls that saved him, the fate of this ring is not known. He also told them that he was from Cologne. 

 

[5]  Why UK was the destination instead of neutral Sweden, which was much closer and easier to navigate to, can explained to Sweden's policy to repatriating deserters back to Germany. This was probably known by Wehrmacht personnel from rumors and by showcases published by OKW to discourage desertion. The policy of returning deserters was not changed after the defeat at Stalingrad. Another reason could have been the probability not have being able to contact British consulate authorities in Sweden, thus jeopardizing the mission.

 

[6] Information obtained from email correspondence with Douglas Hinton, journalist in NASM

 

[7] The route of the Plane is not known exactly, but it must have been flying over Zealand  since it was detected by "Seehund". The Pilots have probably navigated using landmarks on the swedish coast and then turned west in Kattegat/Skagerrak, but this turn was probably too late since they believed the Norwegian coast was Scotland. The question is if the Plane was tracked by German radar's in Norway. But until this date, it's has not been possible to find archive reports about tracking of the Plane. The only interesting that have surfaced has come from the late Per Skaugstad. He hfound reports about a alarm made on the same evening on 29.06.42 :
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"21.30 Uhr Bereich Seekommandant Oslofjord Alarmstrufe Eins gem. Befehl.Terr.Befh. Sudnorwegen."  

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If this alarm has any connections to the crash is not known.
Map that shows the general coverage of Luftwaffe radar over Denmark and parts of northern Germany by 1942, from "German Radarstations in Denmark 1942-44" 

[8] The Magazine Jet&Prop has a theory on this, based on that Willi Voss was degraded before the desertion. They have given him the grade of a Flieger (Private) Since he already had been through 2 1/2 years of training including that Luftwaffe Pilots usually finished the school as Fenrich/Leutnant. This would probably given enough experience to fly the Plane in bad weather and perform a crash-landing on the sea, which was a textbook example. 

[9] According to Guttorm Fjeldstad, eyewitnesses have told about shooting before the crash, this has yet to confirmed with surviving German archives, if they still exist. The bullets found in the Plane can either come from landbased MG's or from a airborne Fighter.

[10] This cottage still stands today.

[11] The origin of these soldiers is not known.

[12] Of What we know about Wegner, that he was in his 40's, came from Stettin and was a Police officer of profession. After the Voss case, he was transfered to Ostmark (Austria) Nothing is known after this.

[13] Sandaas was called to Victoria Terrasse to one Sandaas calls  "Ortskommandant". Here he was informed that the case was to be held in Prague. Some days after, a new message came, moving the case to Berlin and the Reichkriegsgericht. He and Wegner flew to Berlin (Staachen) via Copenhagen with a Lufthansa Ju52 (This could have been the same "Herrman Stache" D-ADQV, that crashed two years later) On the trip back, Sandaas had to take the train through Sweden from Denmark to get back.

[14] A similar case happened one year later in Norway. A german nightfighter pilot, Heinrich Schmitt, defected with a Ju88 and its crew (one was forced) on May 23rd 1943. The Ju88R-1 are now preserved at RAF Hendon. 

[15] The webmaster has contacted the Volksbund regarding the possibility of the existence of Voss's verlustmeldung, but have not got any reply from them yet. Also a request to the Norwegian State Archive (Riksarkivet) was sent in January (2004) regarding Arne Sandaas and the existence of any police records about his connection with Willi Voss. Regretfully some of the archives from Police department in Kragerø from 1931-47 were missing, and nothing came forward.