Southend Timeline

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The Lifstan Way Bomber Crash

30th August 1940

The aircraft one of up to 40 aircraft that left Vitry-en-Artois Airfield in France on a high explosive and incendiary bombing mission to the De Havilland and Handley Page aircraft works at Bricket Wood close to Hatfield, northwest of the London area, these bombers had an escort of about 30 fighters flying defensive cover. 

As the formation approached the UK from the east it was intercepted by RAF Spitfire Mk1’s of 222 Squadron operating out of RAF Hornchurch at around 13,000ft whilst in a “Vic” formation.

The formation of German bombers and fighters had to divert from its intended target area, and head towards a secondary target, it was at this point that the German escort fighters had to abandon the bombers as they were nearing the limit of their fuel to safely return to their home bases.

The RAF fighters seized the opportunity to swoop in and attack the now vulnerable bombers, who had yet to jettison their bombloads.

Two of the Spitfires, picked out one of the bombers, they were taking it in turns to fire upon the aircraft, its port engine had been hit, rendering the cooling system useless, the fighters started attacking the starboard wing which then caught fire.

Despite the continued attack by the RAF fighters the German bomber was able to continue on its course towards Southend on Sea.

Seeing the melee, several Hurricane fighters patrolling the Thames Estuary joined the fight.

The aircraft was then seen to circle Southend a number of times, as one of the Hurricanes dove in and opened fire a shell from one of its cannons struck the elevator of the damaged bomber destroying it, this resulted in the aircraft becoming unflyable so the surviving crew members bailed out, the aircraft then turned and dived into the ground.

The aircraft crashed into a filed above Lifstan Way where it was ripped apart by the force of the impact.

A police sergeant and eight constables were rapidly sent to the scene.

Upon arrival they found the aircraft had been totally destroyed, with a number of fires burning across the site, with the fire brigade on scene started to tackle them.

Officers from PB6 (Police Box 6) Southchurch, also arrived on scene, it was found that three of the crew members were dead within the debris area.

Adolf Saam was found wearing an identity disk, within a pocket of Otto Fischer’s uniform as a civilian identity card with his photo attached, the third body was assumed to be that of Ernst Erhard Von Kuenheim.

It was then reported that two parachutes had been seen coming from the aircraft, one had come down close to the seafront with another landing on Thorpe Bay golf course.

Wolf Roseler landed on Thorpe Bay Golf Course he was arrested by Sgt Thorogood & Special Inspector Walker, the German airman did not resist and immediately gave up his papers and a first aid kit, he stated that he had thrown is handgun away whilst descending on his parachute a search of him found no weapon, he was handed over to the military who took him to the Shoebury Garrison where he was held overnight. 

Helmut Gall had landed on the foreshore just east of the pier, he was immediately taken into custody by military personnel and was taken to the Royal Terrace headquarters.

Whilst being detained there he received first aid and his paper taken, he was given a meal and bed for the night.

ABOVE: The presumed crash direction of the aircraft, the initial impact was in the filed to the right, where the children's playground now is, Dalmatia Road is the first road on the right.

After the first impact the aircraft broke into several pieces the tail section ended up wedged by trees, with the forward momentum of the aircraft spreading debris over a wide area, much ended up spread across Lifstan Way and on the embankment. (Google Earth Image) 

The following morning Wolf Roseler was escorted by armed guard to the Royal Terrace Headquaters, where to two airmen were reunited, after thanking the Army for the first aid and courteous service they had received the two German airmen were handed over to Military Police and taken to Southend Central railway station where they boarded a train to London.

Gall and Roseler would see out the rest of the war in a Prisoner of War Camp in Canada. 

Back at the wreck site it was initially assumed that the bomber had already jettisoned its deadly payload as the other bombers had been seen to release the bombs they had been carrying, however it was quickly discovered that the payload of six 250kg high explosive bombs were found scattered across the crash site, upon finding the explosives the police set immediately created a 200ft exclusion zone around the site.

With the wreckage littering Lifstan Way the police used rope to close the footpaths and positioned officers at the junction of Lifstan Way/Woodgrange Drive at the southern end and at the White Horse public house at the northern end, trains were also halted between Southend East and Thorpe Bay stations. 

Once the live bombs and ammunition had been removed from the site, the clean up teams were able to remove the larger pieces of wreckage, with the Medical Officer of the Health Department removing the bodies to the mortuary at the hospital.

With the bodies, bombs, ammunition and the largest parts of the wreckage removed, the police cordon was lifted, and the trains started running again.

What with the high force impact of the crash, much of the aircraft had been smashed into small fragments with much of the debris being scattered over a large area, local school children were gathering small parts of the wreckage for weeks after the crash. 

Thankfully there was no damage to houses or the railway line, a number of trees were damaged and a council fence running along the boundary of the crash site was flattened.

The Crew. 

The cew members that had been lost were later laid to rest with full military honours at the Cannock Chase German Military Cemetery, Staffordshire:

Ernst Erhard Von Kuenheim: Plot 1, Row 4, Grave 107

Otto Fischer: Plot 1 Row 4 Grave 106

Adolf Saam: Plot 1 Row 4 Grave 108

The site today

Today there is no evidence of the crash having taken place,  the side of field at the top of the hill alongside the railway line where the initial impact took place is a children’s play park, the embankment on the other side of Liftsans Way saw much of the wreckage pile up, parts were also scattered on the field at the top, this has now become a housing estate. 

Surviving Artefacts

What with the aircraft being virtually totally destroyed and spread over a large area, it was difficult for the authorities to clear every piece of wreckage from the scene.

Whilst many remaining major components were removed from the site including the tail section, engines and guns, many smaller parts of the aircraft’s debris was left on site.

Reports say someone took the tailwheel away, whilst school kids were scouring the site for weeks after looking for anything they could add to their collections. 

It will never really be know just what survives, however...

It is known that the Southend Museum Service have some components in their collection.

The Southend Timeline was lucky enough to be given some of the few known surviving parts, they are unidentifiable as to where from the aircraft they originally came from, but for historical reasons they are a small but very important part of Southend’s history.

A single MG15 round, corroded through age and exploded by he fire after the crash.

Three photos of unidentifiable parts, that were recovered from the crash site in the days after the bomber fell to earth.

They were donated to the Southend Timeline by the family of the boy who collected them up. 

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