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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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Nordbayern newspaper
Nordbayern Newspaper Translation

Nordbayern Newspaper

Online News Article Translation from March 26th 2013: “One could have placed a house in the crater”

Today, 68 years ago in the vicinity of Kammerstein a British bomber crashed, eyewitness Georg Rahnhoefer, 83 remembers

Kammerstein/Haag- Today is the 68th anniversary of the shooting down of an English Lancaster bomber over Kammerstein. In the last weeks of the war the aircraft crashed in a field next to state road 466 and exploded in a massive fireball. But what happened to the aircrew? What was done with the wreckage? Many questions remain open to this day.

As a result, one assumes this is due to there being no written documentation. In the last days of the war everything in written form went up in smoke.

At least there are still people like Georg Rahnhofer. The 83 year old from Haag was 15 at the time, on 16 March 1945. As the sirens screamed, shortly after midnight, he jumped out of bed and went to a temporary dugout bunker along with other inhabitants from Haag. He did not have to dress. “At this time we slept in our clothes, as there was an almost nightly air raid alarm”, he recalls. Rahnhofers’ father turned the radio on and large formations of Allied bombers were reported approaching from the direction of Franconia (in Bavaria).

Soon dozens, perhaps hundreds of aircraft appeared in the sky. In Schattenhof there was an anti-aircraft position but it did not fire. The military sent its aircraft to engage the bomber formations in aerial combat. According to Georg Ranhofer two British bombers were shot down over Schwabach. One crashed in Schwabach in the vicinity of Penzendorfer street, and the other not far from Kammerstein in the vicinity of the so called Katzenweihers, on the opposite side of the state road 466.

Because the “Kammersteiner’ Lancaster still had its bomb load on board it exploded upon crashing with tremendous force. “We felt the force of the explosion two kilometers away in Haag”, recounted Georg Ranhofer.

In nearby Kammerstein electrical support towers were torn away and roofs partially laid bare , recalled Heinrich Volkert of Kammerstein, at that time 7 years old. At the crash site there was a massive crater. “So large and so deep, that one could have put a house in it”, said eyewitness Rahnhofer.

Crewmembers Captured

But what happened to the normal seven man aircrew? At least one English flier jumped from the airplane with his parachute and landed uninjured in a field near Haag. Georg Rahnhofer’s father armed with a carbine chased the man. He (Rahnhofer) did not have to go to the war due to his important position with the Schwabian company Schmauser. “Hands Up, Hands Up” my father repeatedly called out in broken English. After a short time the Englishman surrendered and called out “Help, Help.”

The grownups thought long about what they should do with him (the POW), recalls the 83 year old Rahnhofer today. The NSDAP members (Nazi Party) from Schwabach wanted to take him with them. But then the Army came and took him (the POW) away, presumably to a prisoner of war camp. In Schwabach one lost track of (the POW). Up to the time of his transport the man was given hot tea. “The mood was in no way hostile” recalls Georg Rahnhofer.

Shortly after daybreak Rahnhofer saw an aircrew member near the crash site- dead, his face disfigured by the explosion. Several days later in Heidenberg one or two parachutes were found. Did additional aircrew members survive and evade capture as the frontlines drew closer? That remains unclear.

(Photo Caption Reads) 68 years afterwards Voker Bauer, left, brought three eyewitnesses together at the crash site. From the left, Leonhard Heubeck, Georg Rahnhofer and Heinrich Volkert. On the table lie several pieces of wreckage, that remind one of the British bomber.

Scarcely Any Records

In Kammerstein the crash of the aircraft was not even documented on paper. “From this time period we have very little documentation:, complains Leonhard Heubeck, who has for many years tended to the Kammersteiner archives. Like Rahnhofer from Haag, Heubeck who was born in 1935 observed the crash of the bomber as a ten year old. “We were all curious” explained Heubeck. “And we had very little to do at the time since school had been cancelled at the beginning of 1945.” He was able to view the crash site only from a distance. “The SS scared us away.”

What remained of the British Lancaster, was stored in a container in the cellar of Volker Bauer. An old alternator, a piece of plexiglass from a gun turret, bent metal pieces, the lens from a pilot’s glasses. Whenever Bauer plowed the field, he always searched for pieces of wreckage. “The gigantic hole was filled after the war with construction debris and all kinds of things,” assumes (Heubeck).

In Search of Photos

Bauer has not given up hope that a historic photo or two still exists, perhaps stashed away in a Kammersteiner attic that will shed more light on the events of that day. Until that time, he continues to attempt to interview the last remaining eyewitnesses. Eyewitnesses like Georg Rahnhofer.

The then 15 year old came within a hair’s breadth of being sent to war. At the beginning of April 1945 he was to have reported to the military barracks in Schwabach, along with many other children and youths. The last offering of the supposed 1000 year Reich.

After a few days training in Schwabach Rahnhofer and his comrades were sent to Neuberg on the Donau via Roth, Thalmassing, Titting, and Eichstatt. From there, on the morning of 19 April 1945 he fled. Desertion. On foot and as a motorcycle passenger he found his way back home arriving on the 20th of April to a big hug from his mother. Several days previously the Americans had captured Schwabach.

For Rahnhofer and the region the war was over.

Should there exist other documents somewhere, related to the last weeks of the war in Kammerstein, CSU- Municipal Counsel and CSU- Regional Chairman Volker Bauer would be most happy to receive them. His telephone number: (09122) 85400.

Translated for Aircrew Remembered by David Kirby, West Virginia, U.S.A. Page link sent into us by Melanie Herzog. Melanie lives in the village where the aircraft crashed.

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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