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Heinrich Schmid's Three Flights to Britain


Daring Secret Flight to Britain and Later Defection


Oberleutnant Heinrich Schmid (there are at least 2 alternative spellings: Schmidt, Schmitt. Apparently, Schmid is the version on the individual's personal logbook and is therefore used here) was the son of the secretary to the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gustav Stresemann. It was alleged in 1974, by the newspaper Bild am Montag, that Schmid had been recruited by British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) as an enemy agent in 1940, and had regularly supplied secret information to Britain through his father, who sent it from his home in Thüringen via a circuitous route to intermediate relay stations in neutral Switzerland and Portugal.

Amazingly it appears that Schmid flew at least twice to the UK in a Dornier 217 bomber to deliver sealed packages to the British Government, once on the night of May 20 1941 when he landed at an airfield in Lincolnshire according to an elaborate prearranged plan for runway lights to be switched on as guidance. The way these flights had been arranged under the noses of the German security services is a matter yet to be disclosed, but apparently all went to plan as Schmid landed successfully, handed the packages to a waiting British officer and then immediately took-off to return to Germany.

Exhaustive efforts are underway to uncover the full story of the Do 217 flights, but even after 75 years the veil of secrecy over some events seemingly remains intact. Various reports say these flights never occurred at all and queries to the British authorities in the past have yielded no information on this point.

Schmitt's Route

Schmid's flight route

On the afternoon of Sunday, May 9, 1943 Schmid was at it again, this time flying a Ju 88 R-1 (flying with 10./NJG3, code D5+EV) and landing at RAF Dyce in Aberdeenshire. This was the first Ju 88 to fall in to Allied hands and proved to be a most valuable capture. This aircraft took off from Aalborg, Westerland, Denmark at 1503 hours and landed at Kristiansand, Norway for refuelling at 1603. It took off again at 1650 for a mission over the Skageraak.

The Ju 88's crew of three were: Oberleutnant Heinrich Schmid (Pilot) (Service No. 69038/10 born 1914-04-01 in Bernburg/Saale), Oberfeldwebel Erich Kantwill (Flight Engineer) (Service No. 60032/9 born 1915-05-26 in Dortmund) and Oberfeldwebel Paul Rosenberger (Wireless Op/Gunner) (Service No. 71038 / - / a born 1913-10-16 in Brünn). Kantwill apparently was not in on the plot but was held at gunpoint. (See Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site)

[2017-08-18: We have recently learned from a forum post by a researcher in Denmark that he has in his possession a copy of Schmid's service record which states his first name as Herbert (not Heinrich) and his birthplace as being Bernburg/Saale, not Nordhausen as we originally stated (Nordhausen seemingly was the address of his next of kin at the time his Service Record was started). We are grateful for the opportunity to add this to our account. It is interesting that different sources frequently consulted for Luftwaffe information have no less than 5 different name combinations for Schmid, and all cite his birthplace as Nordhausen. Additionally there are at least 3 differing descriptions of his aircraft. One might be forgiven for thinking this is part of a deliberate attempt at obfuscation.

It may well be that he began life as Herbert but preferred the name Heinrich later on, because all accounts we have seen use Heinrich. Andy Saunders, for example, in his meticulous book 'Arrival of Eagles' refers to him exclusively as Heinrich Schmitt.]

Schmid and crew

Left: L - R: At Gilze-Rijen: Kantwill - Schmid - Rosenberger - Unknown. Right: Kantwill

Aviation historian Ken West records that these were a 'peacetime' crew of some repute, though Schmid and Rosenberger were loners who did not mix with other fliers. Schmid, despite his length of service, had never shot down an Allied aircraft. It is suggested that he had pro-British sympathies, and, as has already been mentioned, whilst serving with 2/NJG2 he had landed in the UK at Debden (14-15 Feb 41) and in Lincolnshire (20 May 41) on clandestine intelligence missions connected with British intelligence. Some authors claim that both Schmid and Rosenberger had worked for British Intelligence for some time, having flown together since 1940. P. Paus in his book 'The Hell of Hamburg' wrote that with this act, Schmid wanted to shorten the war and help to build a new Germany together with other emigrants - a socialist Germany.

According to Robert Hill in 'The Great Coup'; both Schmid and Rosenberger were motivated by experiences in the Spanish Civil War and abhorrence of Nazi genocide. Schmid was certainly from an anti- Nazi background and had apparently been passing information to the Allies on a regular basis, though all the precise details of his methods are unknown.

A letter from Helmut Fiedler, former ground crew on this aircraft, written July 1998, adds some interesting details; '...on the squadron one often thought why such a long serving crew with the customary awards had made no interceptions and shot nothing down.....Oberleutnant Schmid and Oberfeldwebel Kantwill were friendly with us ground crew. Oberfeldwebel Rosenberger was not liked by the air or ground crew... He was a lone wolf...'

Professor R V Jones in his book 'Most Secret War' records that the crew had been ordered to intercept and shoot down an unarmed civilian BOAC Mosquito courier flight from Leuchars, Scotland to Stockholm in neutral Sweden and this caused Schmid and Rosenberger to decide '...it was time for them to get out of the war'. Whilst this is a possibility, it seems less likely than having undertaken a long period in the service of MI6 under the noses of the Gestapo they had decided that now was the time to get out of Germany and to the safety of Britain. Robert Hill makes extensive mention of the fact that to date the Schmid crew had recorded not a single hit on an Allied bomber and that the pressure was on them to rectify this in order to prove their commitment. He proposes that this particular flight to attack an unarmed plane was, in fact, the final test for Schmid, and that his knowledge of this was the deciding factor in his decision to defect.

Again there is the possibility this defection was a carefully prearranged plan because this time his landfall north of Aberdeen was not faced with attacking British fighters, but was, in fact, met by Spitfires which escorted him all the way into RAF Dyce. However, an account by the RAF pilots involved give a different interpretation. It is, of course, possible the plan was indeed prearranged by British Intelligence but that RAF operational staff at Dyce was kept in ignorance to ensure the arrival of the Ju 88 would not appear to be something other than a lucky event for the British. Many more devious plans by the British were, in fact, brought about, so this possibility cannot be excluded on the evidence to hand.

The plan unfolded in earnest by Rosenberger at 1710 hours sending a bogus message to Night Fighter HQ at Grove, Denmark, saying the aircraft's starboard engine was on fire. Schmid then took the aircraft down to sea level to get below German radar and dropped three life rafts to make the Germans think the plane and crew were lost at sea. This was in the German-designated square Planquadrat 8841 (see explanation of the German grid reference system). He then set a course for Scotland.

The radio station assumed that the aircraft had gone into the sea when no further message was received, and began a search and rescue operation in the area it had triangulated as the crash site.

Luftwaffe search report for Ju 88

Luftwaffe Search Report for Schmid's Ju88

Nothing being found, the aircraft was presumed lost

Schmitt's Ju 88 R-1 on display at Hendon

Schmid's Ju 88 R-1 on display at RAF Museum, Hendon

Schmid by then was near the coast of Scotland.

One account has Schmid circling continually once it passed over Peterhead, knowing that he would eventually be picked up by the radar station at Hillhead and Spitfires would be sent to investigate. Two Spitfire VBs of No.165 (Ceylon) Squadron were indeed scrambled from RAF Dyce with orders to intercept Schmid's Ju 88.

Arthur Roscoe

Flight Lieutenant Arthur Ford 'Art' Roscoe DFC MiD (Left: an American. Later Sqd Ldr, passed away 12 March 2006) was flying as 'Blue 1' in BM515 and Sergeant Ben Scamen MiD (from Canada) was 'Blue 2' in AB921. The Spitfire pilots made contact with the Ju 88 at about 1805 hours 13 miles north west of Aberdeen.

165 Squadron Diary (DoRIS Ref.AC91/8/23) recorded the following about what happened next:

'Arthur Roscoe and Ben Scamen (Right) were scrambled today to investigate a raider plotted due east of Peterhead. The raider turned south and eventually started to orbit as though lost. The section identified the raider as a Ju88 and when Arthur approached, the Hun dropped his undercart shot off Very lights and waggled his wings. Blue 1 waggled his wings in turn and positioned himself in front of the enemy aircraft - Ben Scamen flew above and behind and the procession moved off to Dyce aerodrome where all landed safely causing a major sensation'.

Ben Scamen

Roscoe's report of the incident records contact made at 1805 hours 13 miles NNW of Aberdeen: 'I was flying Blue 1 when we were scrambled to intercept an 'X' raid said to be 15 miles east of Peterhead traveling west at 0 feet. We were vectored 030 and I flew at very high speed in order to intercept before bandit reached coast. When about half way to Peterhead, we were told the bandit was flying south about 5 miles out to sea. We turned east and flew out to sea for a few minutes and then orbited as bandit was reported due north of us going south. We were then told to come closer in shore and orbit. We were then told bandit was west of us and orbiting so I flew slightly NNW so I could see to port.

I then saw bandit about 1 mile inland on my port bow at about 300-400 feet. I approached from his starboard beam and noticed his wheels were down and he fired numerous red Very lights. I identified it as Ju88. He waggled his wings and I answered him back so I presumed he wished to be led to an Aerodrome. I positioned myself about 400 yards ahead of him and told Blue 2 to fly above and behind and to one side of bandit. The 88 raised his wheels and followed me back to Dyce. Upon reaching the aerodrome he lowered his wheels, fired more red lights, did a short circuit and landed. I followed him around during his complete run-in just out of range. We then pancaked.

The Ju88 landed safely, despite being hit by the airfield's AA guns, at 1820.

No.165 Squadron's ORB (PRO Ref.Air 27/1087) records: 'Blue section were ordered to investigate a raid under Peterhead section control (Flt Lt Crimp). The raider was plotted due east of Peterhead but turned south down the coast eventually orbiting a few miles NNW of Dyce. The fighters were vectored on to him and the aircraft was identified as a Ju88.

The E/A lowered its undercarriage, fired off Very lights and waggled its wings violently on Flt Lt Roscoe's approach. He replied in a similar manner and flew ahead to lead the E/A into Dyce. Blue 1 ordered Blue 2 to fly behind and above the Junkers and the whole party proceeded to Dyce and all landed safely. The pilots are to be congratulated for not opening fire, and so bringing home valuable information for the technical branch, and the Controller for his quick appreciation of the possibilities in handling the situation.'

The Dyce composite combat report of 9 May 1943 repeats the praise for the controller and Spitfire pilots and records that the Dyce airfield AA guns opened up whilst the Ju88 was in the circuit and scored one or two strikes.

Schmid presented Roscoe with his life jacket as a thank-you for not shooting them down, with Roscoe continuing to wear it in preference to the bulky RAF 'Mae West' and in 2012 it was still in excellent condition in the United States with the collection of the WWII Aviation Society Inc, which was then up for sale.

Some evidence of planning was further provided by the unusual presence of military police who surrounded the Ju 88 after landing and kept away all people not party to the plan. The crew surrendered to Group Captain Colquhoun, Commanding Officer RAF Dyce, and was kept under armed guard overnight in the base sick-bay.

Schmid's father was informed of the successful defection by his son in a coded message broadcast by the British secret radio station Gustav Siegfried Eins. The announcement of the code phrase 'May has come' ('Der Mai ist gekommen') was the prearranged signal.

All pretense of secrecy was, however, abandoned the following month when both Schmid and his crew-member Rosenberger broadcast over the British radio. One is left to speculate whether this broadcast had repercussions for their families remaining in Germany.

Ju 88 in RAF colours

Schmid's Ju 88 was soon flown from Dyce to RAE Farnborough by Squadron Leader R A Kalpas, escorted by Beaufighters. Once at Farnborough the aircraft was given RAF markings and the serial number PJ876. (see plane with RAF roundels to left) It was thoroughly tested making 83 flights, totalling 66 hours 55 minutes with the RAE, mostly from Farnborough.

As was to happen with the Ju 88 that landed by mistake in 1944 (see Captured Ju 88 Radar Nightfighter on this site) this Ju 88 R-1 was exhaustively studied by British technical and flying personnel and yielded up much vital information on German technologies. It had been fitted with the FuG 202 Lichtenstein BC radar, and was used extensively for radio and radar investigation flights from Farnborough and Hartford Bridge. Schmid had brought along extensive documentation of the systems on the aircraft.

RAF officers inspect Ju 88

RAF officers inspect the Ju 88

Ju 88 being refuelled by RAF

Ju 88 being refuelled by RAF

The British were surprised at the capability of the German radios and radar, thinking up to this time that the British held a significant technical advantage over the Germans. One thing which impressed the British was that the radar array transmitted a narrower beam than the British, the finer resolution thereby produced enabling smaller target movements to be followed. In effect, this significantly increased the effective range of the aircraft provided the target could be located in the first place.

Schmid and Rosenberger co-operated fully with the British. Kantwill did not co-operate and was incarcerated as a PoW. Schmid returned to Germany post-war, flew as a civil pilot for the Triumph lingerie company and then emigrated and disappeared. Rosenberger assumed a new identify and by 1979 ran a hotel and restaurant in Marlborough, Wiltshire in the west of England. Kantwill emigrated to Canada after release since his marriage had broken up during the war, later moving to the US.

Ju 88 in RAF Markings

Ju 88 in RAF markings undergoing flight tests

The story was covered in detail in German newspapers in the 1970s.

A German assessment of the consequences of this defection is as follows.

(1) The British gained the most modern radar and gun equipment of the Germans with this fully equipped night hunter.

(2) They were able to perfect their 'corkscrew' procedure (with which a Lancaster could attempt to shake off a following Ju 88) by flying the Ju 88 against Lancaster formations in simulated battle conditions.

(3) Under Professor RV Jones the British were immediately able to discover the optimal length for the metal foil dropped by British bombers to blind German radars, a process that effectively made the radars more or less useless.

(4) The British were able to quickly build the 'Serrate' receiver with which the radar devices of German night hunters were located by British night fighters. The first reconfigured night hunt by 141 Wing (Wing Commander J.R.Brabham) shot down 23 German night hunters as of June 1943 within a short time as a consequence.

(5) The hitherto high losses of British bomber attacks fell to about 5 to 6 percent per deployment. Air Marshal Harris was now able to effectively undertake massive blows against Hamburg and other cities without unacceptable losses to his Bomber Command squadrons.

(6) Several German sources referenced the massive civilian loss of life that followed Allied bombing of major cities and asked if Schmid and Rosenberger ever had these on their consciences.


History of the Aircraft

JUNKERS Ju88 R-1 W/NR.360043/PJ876/8475M A/C

Mid 42: Possible original construction date as a Ju88 A-1 bomber, license built by Heinkel at Rostock or Oranienburg with the manufacturers radio code CH+MB

Early 43: Likely conversion date to R-1 standard. The Ju88 R-1 entered service early 1943 and was an interim development of the C-6 fighter variant and most were radar fitted for the night fighter role. W/Nr 360043 served with IV/NJG.3, coded D5 + EV.

9 May 43: Took off from Aalborg, Westerland, Denmark at 1503 hours, landing at Kristiansand, Norway for refueling at 1603. Took off again at 1650 for a mission over the Skaageraak. The crew of three were: Flugzeugführer (Pilot) Oberleutnant Heinrich (or Herbert) Schmid (age 29) - son of the one-time secretary to the Weimer Republic's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gustav Streseman. Bordmechaniker (Flight Engineer) Oberfeldwebel (Sgt) Erich Kantwill; Bordfunker (Wireless Op/Gunner) Oberfeldwebel Paul Rosenberger.

This was a valuable coup for the British - the Ju88 was fitted with the latest FuG 202 Liechtenstein BC A.I radar. It was the first of its type to fall into British hands, complete with associated signals documents.

There had been no apparent pre-warning of the detection for the airfield or Spitfire pilots. Roscoe and Scamen were mentioned in dispatches for the capture, although Professor R V Jones attempted, unsuccessfully to have them given the DFC for taking a calculated risk in not shooting down the Ju88.

Schmid and Rosenberger co-operated fully with the British. Schmid's safe arrival in the UK was signaled to his father in Germany with the coded message 'May has come' broadcast by the British propaganda radio station 'Gustav Seigfried Eins' and the Luftwaffe learnt of the defection a month later when Schmid and Rosenberger took part in propaganda broadcasts. Kantwill did not co-operate and was incarcerated as a PoW. Schmid returned to Germany post-war, flew as a civil pilot for the Triumph lingerie company and then emigrated and disappeared. Rosenberger assumed a new identify and by 1979 ran a hotel and restaurant in Marlborough, Wilts in the West of England. Kantwill emigrated to Canada after release since his marriage had broken up during the war, later moving to the US. The story was covered in detail in German newspapers in the 1970s.

11 May 43: Professor R V Jones (Assistant Directorate of Scientific Intelligence and an expert on German radar systems) arrived at Dyce to take charge of evaluation of the aircraft and its equipment and asked for it to be hangared to hide it from Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft.

14 May 43: Flown from Dyce to RAE Farnborough by Sqn Ldr R A Kalpas, escorted by Beaufighters. Given temporary markings `B63' Schmid had offered to ferry the aircraft himself but this was refused.

17 May 43: British serial number PJ876 allocated.

18 May 43: Photographed at Farnborough with RAF roundels applied and radar removed - Forever Farnborough (Cooper).

25 May 43: After application of British markings, commenced test programme with the RAE Wireless and Electrical Flight. Made 83 flights totaling 66 hours 55 minutes with the RAE, mostly from Farnborough but on 7 occasions flew to Hartford Bridge and made long flights from there to night to test the radar. These tests were in conjunction with the Fighter Interception Unit and resulted in the issue of Enemy Aircraft Report EA 35/9 in December 1943.

June 43: Flown on various radio trials and radar investigation flights using both Farnborough and Hartford Bridge Flats (Blackbushe).

20 Jun - 13 ~Jul 43: Made 7 night flights during which combat trials were carried out against a Halifax and the results reported in Fighter Interception Unit report no.211, 23 Jul 43 (PRO Ref.Air 40/184) to test radar and aircraft effectiveness. The report commented favorably on the Ju88s handling qualities but criticized poor pilot visibility; Flown by several RAE pilots including Sqn Ldr R J Falk and Sqn Ldr Martindale. Other pilots included Sqn Ldr Christopher Hartley, and Wg Cdr Derek Jackson, the two pilots most closely connected with the tests, Hartley being author of FIU unit report No.211 23 Jul 43, on the aircraft.

Jul 43: Trials ended when aircraft grounded by a blown cylinder head.

8 Sep 43: Flying again after repairs; A&AEE carrying out flame damping exhaust tests at Hartford Bridge.

Mar - Apr 44: Final series of RAE tests conducted to evaluate the effect of `window' (chaff) of varying lengths on the performance of the FuG202 radar. Photo at RAE in Luftwaffe c/s (black-green upper surfaces and light blue under surfaces) and minus radar antennae: Captive Luftwaffe (009336) p.75.

6 May 44: Flown to RAF Collyweston by Flt Lt H J King to join No.1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight, remaining with that unit until its disbandment. radar removed by this time and flying with dark earth/dark green upper surfaces, yellow underside and yellow `prototype' `P' on the fuselage sides.

26 May 44: Joined No.1426 Flights' 'Circus' at RAF Thorney Island to fly over various Allied units during the build-up to D-Day to provide instruction in aircraft recognition, and flew until the invasion of 6 June on these duties.

14 Jun 44: Flown Thorney Island – Holmsley South by Flt Lt Doug Gough (25 minutes, Logbook in DoRIS, X003-8805/002)

15 Jun 44: 35 minute air-air photography flight by Doug Gough.

4 Jul 44: 45 minute air test by Doug Gough.

25 Jul 44: Bombing test for 'Realist'-20 minutes-Gough logbook.

26 Jul 44: First of ten flights by Gough for a film company, mostly with two passengers, continuing until 27 July, including 'Bombing and Photography' on 27 July.

5 Sep 44: A&E test by Gough (45 minutes) with Sgt Dowie as passenger.

24 Sep 44: 25 minute demonstration flight by Gough.

21 Jan 45: No.1426 Flight disbanded at Collyweston.

4 May 45: To Enemy Aircraft Flight of Central Fighter Establishment at Tangmere, receiving their code EA-11. Pilot Gough – 45 minutes.

1 Oct 45: Nominal transfer to No.47 MU Sealand, but probably selected for preservation by the Air Historical Branch at Tangmere in July 1946.

Mar - Apr 46: Probable transfer by road to No.47 MU Sealand - recorded in their records May 1946. Stored alongside other AHB aircraft.

circa 48: To GAFEC Stanmore Park, Middx with other AHB aircraft.

Sep 54: Displayed on Horseguards Parade for Battle of Britain Week with several other AHB aircraft. Repainted in German colours but minus radar antennae. British oxygen gear still fitted. See also Die Ju88 (Nowerra - 021395)

Sep 55: Again displayed on Horse Guards

Late 55: Moved from Stanmore Park to No.125 MU Wroughton, Wilts with rest of AHB collection.

1958: With other AHB aircraft to RAF Fulbeck, Lincs.

Jun 60: Noted at RAF Colerne, Wilts 'being restored'

1960: To RAF Biggin Hill, Kent with other AHB aircraft.

Jun 67: To RAF Biggin Hill by road to RAF Henlow, Beds for possible use in Battle of Britain Film, but not used and probably never assembled. Photo on arrival, with serial PJ876 reapplied to rear fuselage

Aug 73: To RAF St. Athan, South Wales ex-Henlow.

Apr 74: Decision taken to restore the aircraft. For account and photos of restoration see Control Column Nov 75 p.147. Initially stripped down to bare metal - photo Control Column Nov 74 p.170. paint stripping found CFE EAF codes EA-11 but German paint had been removed c.1944 from upper surfaces but survived on the underside beneath RAF yellow and the 1950s spurious German scheme of olive green above and pale green below.

Paint stripping, patch repairs and filling were completed and reproduction nose radar antennae fitted. For technical details and list of instruments supplied by RAFM see DoRIS Ref.B2704. Restoration team led by Sgt (later Warrant Officer) K McKenzie, Propulsion Instructor at No.4 SoTT.

9 Jul 75: Roll-out of restored aircraft. Given RAF Maintenance serial 8475M around this time. Also Aircraft Illustrated Jan 78 p.41.

13 Feb 76: Allotted RAF Maintenance Serial 8475M.

14 Aug 78: By road to RAF Museum Hendon for the new Battle of Britain Hall opened that November.

Museum opened 22 Nov 1978. Still on display there.

It currently (2017) is on display at the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon.

Sources: Kracker Luftwaffe Archive on this site, 'The Great Coup' by Robert Hill, IWM, UK National Archives, RAF Museum Hendon Acquisition Records, Bundesarchiv, Gregor Winter, AS Baumgartner, Wikipedia, 'Most Secret War' by Professor RV Jones, 'Hell of Hamburg' by P. Paus, private sources. We did not ourselves refer to Andy Saunder's book 'Arrival of Eagles' during the time this report was prepared, but the reader is pointed to this excellent account of many Luftwaffe aircraft and crews arrivals in Britain.

For such a pivotal event as the capture of a vital piece of German technology, it is surprising that variants still exist for several of the constituent parts of this story. In many cases we still do not know which of the 'facts' are provably true, and which are wrong. And as to motivation, in the absence of a written account by Schmid himself, it is extremely unlikely we will ever know the entirety of his motivations, which were doubtless complex and multi-faceted.

Therefore, the above account can do no more than attempt to draw together as much of the information as we can find. If you can contribute to clarification, we would be grateful to hear from you.



Key Capture of Advanced Ju88 Night Fighter

SY 2017-07-15. Minor corrections 2017-07-31. Photos added 2017-08-02. Birthplace and name corrected 2017-08-18

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Last Modified: 22 October 2017, 18:59