The Last (25th) Flight

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January 17,1941

Heinkel 111 H-2 ,T5+EU

Take off was scheduled for 0800 hrs from the usual base at Oldenburg near Bremen in Heinkel 111 H-2 ,T5+EU . Snow squalls were expected. Flight crew consisted of Wetterdienst Insp. A. Kr Leo Gburek, the meteorologist; 1st Wireless Operator, Feldwebel Josef Wohlfahrt; 2nd W/O, George Nentwig;  engineer/air gunner, Unteroffizier Bernard Luking: and  pilot, Lieutenant Karl Heinz Thurz. The flight would range as far as the Faeroe Islands. Normally ,any flight conducted near to Shetland was at wave height to avoid radar. However on this fateful day the plane had to maintain a height of 8000ft  due to the deteriorating weather. That winter had been the worst since 1881, 

All was uneventful until two war weary Hurricane Mk1 from No3 squadron appeared line astern of the hapless Heinkel. Heinz later remarked ,

"We now looked around in astonishment. Two Hurricanes came up surprisingly and started shooting. The first of the two Hurricanes fired his bullets towards our ship piercing our fuselage from behind leaving the cockpit shining reddish, a fascinating scene "

The RAF fighters were based at Sumburgh in the Shetland Isles. Flown by two commonwealth pilots, Pilot Officer Eddie Berry (RNZAF) and Flight Officer R Watson (RCAF) they had found the Heinkel in a clear piece of airspace, which was all the more remarkable as towering cumuli nimbus clouds were forming all around. Four good bursts were made into the Heinkel. The first badly injured the dorsal gunner  Georg Nentwig had been making a valiant attempt at defence. Second and third set the port engine alight as well as injuring  Bernard Luking in the legs. The last peppered the tail. Gun cameras have captured the final moments of other He111's. A  typical feature  was the involuntary lowering of landing gear. This is what happened to Thurz's plane. Turning back to Sumburgh the Hurricanes landed at 1120.Ironically perhaps, P/O Berry was not destined to survive the war. He was killed in the Dieppe debacle of 1942.