A German Bomber Crew

This page on a German bomber crew is related to Olav Heinemann’s “A Chance Encounter” about the loss of the Moore crew, 97 Squadron, in June 1943. We found the personal link at the end of the article very intriguing, especially as it provides a comparison with the fate of British bomber crews. When it turned out that Olav has some material relating to his grandfather’s service as a member of a German bomber crew, we asked him to send it to us.

Above: Kurt Heinemann (right) with his pilot, von Schwerin. Probably taken by a professional photographer of the Luftwaffe, someone from the Propagandakompanien of the Wehrmacht. Von Schwerin and his crew featured in an article of “Der Adler”, a propaganda periodical of the Luftwaffe, and it may be that the photographs are the same as in that article. With thanks to Olav Heinemann and his brother.


During the war my grandfather, Kurt Heinemann, was part of a bomber crew – furthermore, he also was a navigator. He flew with the Kampfgeschwader 26, which was equipped with Heinkel He111 bombers, and was member of an at-that-time well-known crew, that of Leutnant Albert von Schwerin, who had been awarded the Knight’s Cross in 1940 when taking part in the Battle of Britain.

One day, my grandfather came down with jaundice and the flight surgeon volunteered to step in for him. His aircraft, a He 111 carrying the markings 1H+AH, never returned from the next mission.

From Chris Goss, Knights of the Battle of Britain: Luftwaffe Aircrew awarded the Knight’s Cross in 1940):

“At 2215 hours on 19 November 1940, while engaged in an attack on Birmingham, [von Schwerin’s] Heinkel He 111 H-5, Werk Nummer 3539, coded 1H+AH, hit two balloon cables in quick succession near Barking in Essex.

This collision ripped off the starboard wing and the bomber crashed on Becton Marshes, killing von Schwerin, his Staffelkapitän, Oberleutnant Hunno Philipps (B), Oberfeldwebel Heinz Göhler (BF), Oberfeldwebel Fritz Gundlack (BM) and Stabsarzt Dr Albert Leuchtenberg.

All are buried at Cannock Chase Germany Military Cemetery.”

Kurt Heinemann survived the war.

As can be seen in the photographs above, Kurt had won the Iron Cross, first and second class – the EK 1 is visible on the breast pocket of his uniform, while the ribbon of the EK 2 is visible in a second photograph, attached to a buttonhole of the uniform. Below the EK 1 is the “Beobachterabzeichen”, a badge that identified Kurt as “Beobachter” or observer, the latter being the same term that was used for RAF navigators. This is an enlarged detail of his uniform, and a more detailed view of the same badge.

It is interesting to compare the ornate Beobachterabzeichen to the very simple badge worn by an RAF navigator; below is Dudley Archer’s uniform (582 Squadron), with observer brevet, decorations and Pathfinder badge.