In March 1983 I read in the English magazine Fly Past, that a group of Irish aviation historians had recently visited the site where a German JU 88 had crashed in southwest Ireland, and who would be very thankful for more information as there was no data about the crew members who had been killed there.
I sent a letter via the publisher to get in touch with them but unfortunately received no answer.
Nevertheless, I found a list of all lost persons in the air force during my visit to the military archives in Freiburg some weeks later. Their ranks and the names of the crew members were listed.
I knew no more at this point in time but I became suddenly interested in three questions:
1. What was a German fighter bomber doing over neutral Ireland in 1943?
2. What was a civilian federal councillor (Bruno Noth) doing on board?
3. What was the cause of the accident, in which a 32 year-old man was killed, whose ultimate destination was to get home safely at the end of the war?
This last question was the first and foremost which led me to start my investigations ...
|Site of crash:
|Ballinacarriga Hill, Ireland, Cork, Beara, Dursey Head approx. 175 m AMSL
|Time of crash:
|07.25h local time, 08.25h German summer time (DSZ), Friday, July 23rd, 1943
|JU 88 D-1, production-no. 430030, markings: D7+DK
|Time of take off:
|05.58h German summer time on 23.7.1943.
|Place of take off:
|Nantes Chateau-Bougnon airport in France.
|Unteroffizier Hans Auschner (Pilot) born 24.11.1920
Regierungsrat Bruno Noth (Meteorological Officer - Observer) born 19.12.1910
Gefreiter Gerhard D�mmler (Radio Operator) born 26.8.1923
Obergefreiter Johannes Kuschidlo (Gunner - Air Mechanic) born 30.4.1921
|8/8 cloud cover from approx. 200 m to 300 m (cloud base) to approx. 800 m (ceiling). Below approx.
200 m there was mist or fog with the visibility between 2000 m to 5000 m. The
visibility over the cloud cover reached 25 km due to the low atmospheric
humidity and the small amount of cloud.
Temperature at ground level: 15 �C
on 800 m above ground: 9 �C
on 1000 m above ground: 12 �C
Weather at the
|See point 7. The visibility however decreased from 1000 m to 2000 m below the base line of the cloud cover in the area of the Irish coast and the base of the cloud cover decreased from 200 m to 50 m above sea level.
|Further specifications :
|The aircraft was shattered completely by the crash: Even though large parts
of the wreckage were found such as the fuselage, wings and two engines, the
cause of the crash could not be given or stated.
The markings of the aircraft couldn't be identified either. Even confirmation of the aircraft's type was not possible on the spot. The bodies of the crew were nearly unmarked; death being instantaneous from internal injuries. Obviously the men were thrown out of the aircraft in the flight direction due to the impact at the top of the hill.
Indication of source:
|Article of "Fly Past", March 1983
|Crash report of the Irish Ministry of Defense, Dublin. Letter of the commander-in-chief from the 10.8.1943 dispatched to the German commander of the air fleet 3 I C. Air report no. 1039 from 23.7.1943
|Rough copy of the casualty list (casualty list of the units from 26.7.1943).
|Air report no. 1039
|Air report no. 1039 and personal reports of the late members and pilots of the unit, H.J. Schulze, Bremen, G. Obermeier, Fischamend, Austria and Herbert K�rber, Bremen.
|Casualty list Wettererkundungsstaffel 2 des Oberbefehlshabers der Luftwaffe; Wekusta 2 Ob.d.L..
|Weather reports by the Meteorological Service of Offenbach and Dublin, Ireland. Radio message from the concerned aircraft D7+DK formed by the Meteorological Officer Noth evident in the air report no. 1039.
|See point 7. The written and personal report of the witness Mr. Michael Murphy, Cahermore, Ireland
|See point 8.
* * * * *
Considerations concerning the cause and the reason of
The aircraft as indicated in point 3 took off on July 23rd, 1943 at 05.58 h (DSZ) from Nantes/France in order to fly weather reconnaissance over North-West Ireland.
On 7� West at approx. 06.55h they descended below the base line of the cloud over the sea and they reported mist or fog.
Then the aircraft climbed and checked the ceiling of the cloud cover giving a position report for 48� 40' North 8� 45' West and then at 07.45 h the atmospheric pressure was checked at a very low level over the sea.
The reading is being recorded at 1023 mbar. This was at 49�North 9�West. The last report of the cloud picture was entered at 8.00 h for 50�North 10�West whilst climbing to 1500 m which was above the cloud cover ceiling. The aircraft's course then was 51�10'North 9�40'West according to the air report and at 08.25 h the aircraft crashed approx. 3 km west of 51� 30'North 10�West on the summit of the Ballinacarriga Hill. The place has the coordinates 51�35'North 10�10'West.
The reasons I believe in transmitting a report just at the time of the impact are:
1) The time of impact stated at Nantes for 08.25h (DSZ) correspondents exactly with the Irish records 07.25 h local time.
2) At Nantes people confirmed that the aircraft did not respond later as 08.29 h.
3) The met. Officer Noth reported in probably his last radio message: "...until field 15W01 = 51� 30'North 10�West ..." At the time of transmission of this message that point had just been reached or must have been reached only minutes before. From this position to the point of impact are only a few minutes of flight time. According to the files of the German Meteorological. Office at Offenburg and according to the declaration of Mr. Schulze this was the fixed point at which the ground atmospheric pressure was checked. So this message must have been transmitted very near to the coast and only minutes prior to the impact or even during the impact. After this transmission perhaps the crew requested the ground radio station's confirmation of the reception or transmitted an additional tactical report; this transmission being interrupted suddenly.
There is every indication to believe this as the content of a letter received from the British Ministry of Defence dated October 15th, 1984 confirming that the war diary of the July 23rd, 1943 tells approx. a possible casualty of a German weather reconnaissance aircraft south of Ireland. The English however first of all received and decoded tactical messages which were important for the events of the day. So the German radio messages were unfortunately not recorded and therefore a file does not exist with the text and the break point of the last message.
* * *
But now to the general situation: The most important persons are the pilot Hans Auschner and the Meteorological. Officer Bruno Noth, the observer. Hans Auschner's career is incomplete and relatively unimportant. What is important though is that Auschner belonged to the long range reconnaissance squadron 101 on the April 5th, 1943 but was transferred to the I./long range reconnaissance group Rahmel in may 1943 and then he was ordered to the weather reconnaissance squadron 2 from the beginning of June 1943. The reconnaissance squadron 101 and the group Rahmel were exercise units where the young pilots made training flights. From here the young pilots were transferred to their operational units to meet the requirements of the squadron leaders. In this way Auschner joined the Wekusta 2 which was based at Nantes/France airport.
The situation of Bruno Noth, the Meteorological. Officer and observer is completely different. His comrades remember him still as a "quiet, considerate man". He was 32 years old and was surely one of the old timers. From the view point of the average aged 20 years old crews perhaps he was an "old man" already. The iron cross he wore when he died was awarded for 20 -30 sorties at least. So he must have had a great deal of experience.
There are so few facts in the files about the other two crew members D�mmler and Kuschidlo that little can be said about their careers.
* * *
Back to the pilot Hans Auschner
The existing air reports reading we can see that he flew following sorties prior to the crash:
|�Route - Destination
Nantes, Biscaya approx. 15� West
aircraft markings D7+BK
Meteorological. Officer Beimgraben
Radio Operator D�mmler
dto., Nantes, approx. 17� West,
aircraft markings D7+GK
Nantes, South-West tip of Ire,
North-West Ire Nantes,
aircraft markings D7+GK
aircraft markings D7+GK
aircraft markings D7+DK
Nantes, Biscaya, approx. 16� West,
aircraft markings D7+FK
aircraft markings D7+HK
Meteorological. Officer Noth
Radio Operator D�mmler
aircraft markings D7+FK
aircraft markings D7+FK
aircraft markings D7+HK
Nantes,South-West tip of Ireland,
51� 35' North 10� 10' West;
aircraft markings D7+DK
* * *
Additional to these sorties Auschner and D�mmler flew the D7+FK over Nantes on July 11th, 1943. This was a test flight following the aircraft's repair, probably after an engine change. The original flight order about this flight was found in the pockets of the dead Hans Auschner on Ballinacarriga Hill. Probably he put the flight order in the pocket of his flight overall on the day of this test flight. He then forgot to remove the order. Normally there was a strict order not to carry important papers in pockets during a sortie. However there is an additional point of interest. The original names of this flight order were changed to Auschner and to the Radio Operator, Gerhard D�mmler. Unfortunately the man who changed the names 45 years ago is not able to remember today the reason of this alteration in particularly as many orders were signed during this period. Today none of the witnesses is able to remember Hans Auschner but they remember Bruno Noth very well.
This seems to me an indication that Auschner belonged to the unit for only a short period of time and this is confirmed in the files.
* * *
The scheduled points for the checks of the atmospheric pressure were:
1) 49� North 9� West = some 300 km west of Brest. 2) 51,5� North 10,5� West= in sight of the Irish South-West coast 3) 54� North 12� West = some 150 km west of the North-West coast of Ireland, from which point they headed home climbing to a flight level of 3000 m - 5000 m and checking the temperatures, the atmospheric pressure and air wetness. Indeed the actual met points could be different from the above indicated points due to the weather situation or to the order of the weather office or due to the Meteorological Officer's decision.
On the way to the fix points for navigation purposes a bearing was taken on the rotating radio beacons of Brest, La Corunna and Stavanger and/or the radio stations of Rennes, Bordeaux, Droitwich or Cork. But despite this errors in a range of 40 km were possible in a flight lasting up to 8 hours.
In order to eliminate this mistake they liked to fly to the light house " Bull Rock" near the coordinates 51,5� North 10,5� West from where the pilot could see the Irish coast and could demonstrate to the light house keeper the ability and courage of the German flyers as they waggled the wings of the aircraft or by raising and dipping the nose of the heavy aircraft just meters above the surface of the sea.
* * *
On the July 22nd, 1943 one day prior to the crash they flew among others to the same check point where the weather situation was practically the same as one day later. Perhaps the visibility on the 22nd was a little bit better: in any case the aircraft descended to low level under the cloud base as shown on the cloud pattern of the 22nd. The pilot perhaps saw the "Bull" but he did make the weather checks and remained on a low level heading to the north of Ireland probably watching the Irish west coast. Auschner must have known the weather situation as he certainly listened to the radio messages with the ground station operator at Nantes or he talked about the flight with the returning crew or even both.
* * *
On July 23rd, 1943 Auschner took off in the JU 88 D-1, marked D7+DK at 05.58 h from the air field at Nantes in an uncomfortable 15�C for this summer month.
Together with him flew his regular crew since July 8th, 1943: the 32 years old Meteorological. Officer Bruno Noth, the 19 years old Radio Operator Gerhard D�mmler the 22 years old Gunner Johannes Kuschidlo with Auschner himself being 22 years.
First of all Auschner climbed through the cloud cover to 1800 m into the bright sunshine having climbed through light cloud cover at this altitude. He then descended through the cloud cover to sea level. Around the 7th degree of longitude the stratocumulus clouds reached 1700 m - 1800 m.
After a second climb the cloud top was reached at approx. 900 m - 1000 m and they recorded drizzle inside the cloud cover during the second descent. Under the cloud cover they saw haze and fog. The atmospheric pressure ran up to 1023 mbar over sea level at 07.42 h on a fix point 49� North 9� West. The take off time at Nantes is shown as 06.30 hours on the cloud map but this must be a code mistake or a mistake of the radio transmission. The take off time 05.58 hours shown on the pilots report must be the correct one.
Apparently the results of the checks were transmitted to the ground radio station during the 3rd climb through the cloud cover to 1500 m. The last reported position was transmitted on 50� North 10� West at approx. 8.00 h ahead was the Irish coast according to the cloud map. This happened before or during the descent through the cloud cover. Now Auschner must have turned the aircraft to a heading 10� to the right because at 8.20 h the next point was reported east of the 10th degree of longitude. Nantes reported this as a point of dead reckoning on 15W025 = 51� 10' North 9� 40' West. RR Noth reported in his following radio message the coordinates 10� West 51,5� North. Apparently these coordinates were flown over during the minutes between 8.20 h and 8.25 h while the weather report was transmitted.
To reach this point Auschner must have turned the aircraft to heading 335� to the left on the dead reckoning point 51� 10' North 9� 40' West. But now the aircraft was approaching the coast line at approx. 8.22 h. At a speed of 380 km/h the approaching time to the impact point would in fact take five minutes.
Ahead of the Irish coast the visibility became poor with a range of only 500 m - 2000 m mainly due to fog below the cloud cover which dropped to 50 m - 200 m. For a time the visibility was less than 500 m due to very dense clouds. Auschner now didn't like to do and couldn't make a new check of atmospheric pressure a little further away from the Irish coast.
His forces' postal letter of 7.4.1943 shows Hans Auschner as an extremely conscientious and respectable young man. Surely his sense of duty considerably forced himself to successfully find the coastline and to meet the navigation point "The Bull". As this was possible the day before � on 22.7.1943 � Hans Auschner had to succeed only one day later � on 23.7.1943 � too.
In his letter of 21.2.1984 Hans-Joachim Schulze wrote: "...visibility below 1000 m. Out of that people could draw a conclusion of a not sufficient precaution leaving the safety level close to the Irish coast." and "These check points could be modified to different coordinates as required due to an exceptional weather situation. This could happen due to an instruction of the crew's meteorologist � Bruno Noth in this case.-"
Further Hans-Joachim Schulze wrote: "Regularly check flights in the presence of a licensed specialist for checking the engines were carried out after the change of an engine. Therefore these check flights were very important for the following operations. Normally new pilots were not ordered to carry out these check flights. Perhaps Hans Auschner's performances regarding the commitment training had been so good that he had nevertheless been ordered to the engine check flight."
Exactly this has been the case!
His performance as a pilot gained great recognition, as for example, during his flight training; the air force invested the expensive instrument flight training where he received the instrument flight permission. And regarding this special permission the air force did not only not order Hans Auschner to any combat unit but also transferred him to the long distance reconnaissance unit. The leaders of the Wekusta 2 Ob.d.L. at Nantes recognized his commitment and good disposition and so several times they brought him in reconnaissance flights to Ireland. All this gave Hans Auschner a high self-confidence and a clear self-esteem. Certainly he absolutely was sure of his point.
Additional to these facts it became clear to him just to be the leader of a little group which developed to homogenous team during the last weeks. Gerhard D�mmler being the youngest one. But even he must have had extraordinary abilities. Working as a wireless operator in a weather reconnaissance plane just at this age surely was a well shown report of his good ability and his particular training. The Luftwaffe applied certain criteria to the crew members then as even today too! Therefore he solved a demanding task within the crew. Also Johannes Kuschidlo has been a well motivated member of the crew. The comrades could rely on him regarding dangerous situations like the attack of an enemy fighter. He was able to consider the attack position of the fighter and effectively defend their JU 88 with the fire of his machine gun.
Reg.-Rat Bruno Noth � aged 32 years as the senior of the crew � was without any doubt regarding his qualifications and integrity. Under all of these circumstances the pilot Hans Auschner had simply to succeed in approaching the coast line. Breaking off his attempt for him would be like a failure towards his comrades and did not come into consideration regarding his self-confidence. So were the dynamics of a group as today we know in our life.
Regarding the poor visibility there Hans Auschner should never have descended lower than the safety level which had been stipulated to the pilots. This Hans-Joachim Schulze clearly confirmed in his letter even if carefully articulated this point.
So he had to find the light house "Bull Rock" as on the previous day. Auschner cut the speed headed to the north-west and watching the Irish coast flying at an altitude of approx. 150 m close to the coast line in order to find the well-known light house.
He could not descend to a lower level due to the 200 m height of the coastal hills. He wasn't able to find the light house at the first attempt due to the poor visibility or perhaps a possible navigation inaccuracy of approx. 40 km range.
Auschner was able to disturb his concentration and make the checks over the sea ahead of the coast line. However I think he did not wish to fail in finding"Bull Rock" as this was achieved the day before by a comrade and in addition to this fact he had missed the navigation check point "Bull Rock" if he would have made the checks away from the Irish coast.
On 08.22 h he passed south-west of the Mizen Head at a distance of approx. 9 - 10 km. Of course, Auschner could not notice the Mizen Head due to the reported visibility of 1 - 2 km below the cloud cover. approx. 1 minute later he passed the coordinates 10� West 51�30' North as RR Noth reported this in his radio message which was transmitting at this time.
* * *
The clock in the control column indicated 08.24 h when Auschner and Noth saw the peninsulas, Black Ball Head and White Ball Head on the right hand side at a distance of approx. 1000 m. RR Noth now had on his thigh the map of Southern Irel attached to the wooden knee board which was made especially for the members of his unit at Nantes. Both the board and the map were found later almost undamaged at the crash location. Seconds later they realized the coast was only in a distance of approx. 1000 m ahead, that was approx. 900 m east of the Horn Point but this they did not know.
Auschner managed to turn left in the nick of time to a heading 270� in order to fly parallel to the coast, which was logical, whilst D�mmler transmitted a report or a confirmation. Due to the relatively steep left turn, the right hand wing with its big engine cowling raised and blocked the view of RR Noth on the right hand side of both peninsulas; therefore, it was impossible to carry out a check for orientation. Auschner finished the left turn and put the aircraft into level flight again and flew parallel to the coast at a distance of approx. 100 m on a westerly heading. Together with RR Noth he tried to locate it by sight on the right hand side, but this was nearly impossible. In fact the visibility was limited by the fog and in addition to this water drops and water streaks on the outside of the cockpit glass caused by the fog's humidity marked the vista. Nobody in the aircraft knew where they were exactly at this point in time.
The crew had to fly west parallel to the coast in order to find the light house "Bull Rock" which was the only reliable point of orientation; this was the only thing clear to all of the crew. Seconds later after Auschner finished the turn and put the aircraft into the level flight, he was convinced he would be flying parallel to the coast when the ridge of the Ballinacarriga Hill appeared out of the fog, directly in the flight path at a distance of between 500 - 1000 m.
Auschner's reaction was to pull the control column back and open fully the throttle to both engines. The ridge ahead seemed to be at the same level as the aircraft, so it should have been possible to climb over.
Both men, Auschner and Noth, obviously underestimated the size of the peninsulas which tower into the sea like the fingers of a hand, or, they simply overlooked this matter due to the difficult approach to the coast and the search for points of orientation.
So Auschner opened the throttle fully to both engines and the aircraft started to climb.
However, Auschner could not ascend significantly higher. The bottom surface of the cloud in front of him which completely covered the inclining mountain ridge to his right was perhaps only 30 metres higher than the plane. The pilot would have immediately lost ground visibility and his orientation. Because of the coastal mountain, a subsequent descent was out of the question. A sharp turn to the left would have directed him out to the Atlantic and he would have lost sight of the coast as well. According to Auschner's own diary/log book entry on 29th April 1943, whilst on an extremely low-altitude flight, he had 'taken' a telephone wire from a mast along with him. He was however, absolutely sure of his low-altitude flying abilities. So now he wanted to fly straight on between the upper surface of the inclining mountain ridge on his right and the bottom surface of the dense overlying cloud in an extremely low-altitude flight, and then cross the upper surface of the mountain ridge. And that is exactly what went wrong.
* * *
At 07.24 h local time (08.24 h German summer time) Michael Murphy heard the aircraft approaching. Murphy, together with 2 comrades, daily watched the German aircrafts from their Look Out Post on the top of the Ballinacarriga Hill. Then they reported to Dublin.
Only little earlier the look Out Post for these three men was moved from the Dursey Island to Ballinacarriga Hill on the mainland. That morning the three men waited for the German aircraft to appear once again. But there was nothing to see as the post was at a height of approx. 200 m on the highest point of the hill, above the base of the cloud cover. Also they couldn't see their hands in front of their eyes due to the thick fog.
As mentioned above, at 07.24 h the three men heard Auschner's aircraft coming through the fog and then suddenly heard the engines given full power as Auschner opened the throttle wide. At this moment Michael Murphy remembered thinking: "Be careful boys, beware of the fog."
But at approx. 180 m over sea level the right wing touched the top of the ridge, which rises to the right side and cut the sward approx. 20 cm deep breaking off the wing. The aircraft then slewed to the right striking the ground and breaking off the left wing, at the same time throwing all of the crew out of the aircraft in the direction of flight.
The aircraft's fuselage then tumbled, exploding and burning in the flight's direction down the other side of the hillside where it came to rest approx. 20 m to the side of the four dead German flyers. The fuselage was apparently stopped by a small stone crop.
As already told, Michael Murphy and his two comrades found the four Germans approx. 100 m down the slope lying within a 100 m diameter some 20 m away from the burning parts of the fuselage. When Michael Murphy laid the four men their hands were still warm. He will never forget the four good looking men in blue uniforms, with yellow neckties and clean white shirts.
Three of them were tall, very young with fair hair and one was a little man with dark hair and dark complexion -the Meteorological. Officer Bruno Noth!
* * *
Apparently failure to remember a basic rule led to their disaster: the relation of speed to range to climbing rate.
If we were to calculate events today: Auschner gave the speed as perhaps 380 km/h at a flight level of approx. 150 m. The visibility was some 1000 m which the aircraft flew in approx. 10 seconds.
So there remained 10 seconds of reaction and climbing time:
|Time over all
|./. hill seen (reaction time)
|./. to fully open the throttle
|./. engines run up to full power and to pull the control column
|./. moving elevators go into climbing position, compression builds up, aircraft climbing
The aircraft had a climbing rate of approx. 3 m/sec, so had she only climbed 1 m before the range was flown through.
* * *
Due to the weather conditions it was a hopeless undertaking for Auschner to find the light house by sight on the coast line, flying only 190 m over sea level and being close to the 200 m high hills. The efforts could have been successful despite this. During my visit I realized the aircraft only needed a maximum 3 m of air screw circle to clear the top of the hill only 1 or 2 seconds of climbing rate!!!
Due to the poor visibility Auschner saw the obstacle very late and probably underestimated the height of the ridge by some meters. His only escape was to fly a steep turn to the left but this he apparently did not consider. He therefore tried to climb over the ridge, which to him seemed possible but failed with tragic consequences. So, poor visibility, the underestimation of the ridge's height and a lot of bad luck led to this tragic accident which cost the lives of three young men and a meteorologist in the prime of life, plus the loss of one of many (easy replaceable) JU 88s of the Deutsches Reich.
Despite an extensive investigation relatives of the victims could not be found.
* * * * * * *
My thanks for their kind support and help goes to the following persons and institutions:
A. Auweiler, Leverkusen
Bibliothek f�r Zeitgeschichte, Stuttgart
Botschaft von Ireland, Bonn
Dr. O. Branicki, M�nster
Bundesarchiv Koblenz, Aachen und Freiburg
Department of Defence, Dublin/Ireland
Deutsche Dienststelle (WAst), Berlin
Deutscher Wetterdienst, Offenbach/Main
Greg Dooley, Limerick/Ireland
H. Fassbender, Solingen
W. Glenz, Haan
H. K�rber, Bremen
Les Kilbourne, Kirby Muxloe/England
Tony Kearns, Dublin/Ireland
Reverent Michael Maher, Allihies/Ireland
Meteorological Service, Dublin/Ireland
Ministry of Defence, London/England
Michael Murphy, Cahermore/Ireland
H.J. Nowarra, Babenhausen
G. Obermeier, Fischamend/�sterreich
John Ryan, Limerick/Ireland
H.-J. Schulze, Bremen
Sternwarte Bochum, Bochum
Dr. M. Teich, Offenbach/Maiin
Michael Turner, Chesham, England
Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgr�berf�rsorge, Kassel
F. Zimmermann, Aachen
edition, april 1997
revised March 2011
Merscheider Str. 120
D 42699 Solingen/Germany