Hans-Werner Grosse's Glider at Lübeck near
JW 64 By David Whittick
On the 10th February 1945 HMS NAIRANA was on escort duty
to this convoy from Greenock to Murmansk, somewhere to the north-west
of Norway when the convoy was attacked by 40 Junkers 88s. Fatty Goering’s
orders to the crews were “GET THE CARRIER”
Our fighters were sent to intercept and all Swordfish “grounded”
below decks. Having nothing better to do I climbed onto the flight deck
in time to see two Ju 88s, in line astern, appear out of the murk, at
very low altitude. Every ship was firing at them, even across our flight
deck, although they obviously could not see them. The batsman’s
assistant, standing beside me, admiring the courage of these crews suddenly
let out a yelp “I’ve been hit Sir, I’ve been hit”
He had a chunk of shrapnel in his back, sticking out of his leather Irvin
jacket so naturally he had to go to Sick Quarters. By this time the leading
88 was passed us only to be shot down at the head of the convoy.
Over the years I often wondered what had happened to the second aircraft.
Three years ago I heard of an 88 pilot who attended a meeting of ex- Arctic
Convoy Ship’s crews in the north of England. By accident I found
that he had been in this particular attack on the convoy! Again, by accident,
somebody provided me with an address. Cutting a long story short this
was the pilot of the second 88 whose subsequent story of that day was
one of great courage and ability. Briefly, he had managed to reach the
centre of the convoy, where the main escorts were. He could see no carrier
so he attacked a frigate - which very cleverly avoided his torpedoes.
Flying as low as possible over the wave tops to avoid the ship’s
gunfire he hit a larger than normal wavetop, thereby damaging his starboard
propeller. Virtually on one engine he had great difficulty staying airborne,
never mind corkscrewing to avoid the gunfire. He was a long way from base,
Bardufoss, in the north of Norway. The weather was dreadful. The airfield
an extremely difficult one to find especially in the dark. Somehow he
made it. Two years ago we - six members of our squadron - were able to
meet him at a mini reunion of 835 squadron. This year he and his wife
attended our main reunion at Leamington Spa. After dinner he was introduced
to the members. His reply in perfect English produced a standing ovation.
Next morning at our members meeting it was proposed he should be made
an Honorary Member. Unanimous approval was given and two weeks ago I had
the privilege of flying with him in his own glider at Lübeck near
Hamburg. This glider, Eta, is the biggest prototype in the World which
he helped to design....Hans-Werner Grosse, the holder of 48 World records!
And we tried to kill one another!!!
21st August 01
The Story of Hans-Werner Grosse,
former Ju 88 Pilot
You would not believe it but in winter 43-44 I had still some hope that
we might win the war or achieve a stalemate. There was talk about the
Wunderwaffen V1 and V2, Jets and rocket planes would bring an end to the
slaughter of our hometowns. We thought we had an obligation to save Europe
from being overrun by Stalins hordes. War against our " Arian relatives
" in the West was considered a tragedy.
I was achieving one direct hit after the other. But that was in torpedo-school
at Riga, flying straight and level for 20 seconds to let the gyros stabilise.
We did not know what we were in for....on our first moonlight attack in
the mediterranean my squadron lost 6 out of 12 crews. Midair collisions?
Night fighters or just hitting the water while flying at or below 10 m
on our secret weapons (radio altimeters and benzedrine) ? After both invasions
in France only about 15 out of 100 crews were alive and flying. August
44 we were filling up with new volunteers. They had not enough flying
hours to survive poor weather and flying on one engine. October 44 we
transferred to Bardufoss, a tricky airfield with poor approaches and high
mountains. November till January was spent skiing interrupted by missions
without success. We failed to really contact the convoy, but on the way
back we ran into snow, icing and low cloud. Several crews parachuted,
others ran into mountains.
I knew Bodoe from previous experience and landed there in the darkness
on the then short runway that was partly built from logs in the water
- only to find that the girl I was hoping to see was friendly with another
pilot or maybe only a navigator.
It must have been 10/Febr/45 when we got special orders to knock out "
the aircraft carrier ". Goering, whom at that time we called only
the fat one, thought he could bolster morale by sending us 4 bottles of
cognac per crew member. But he produced only headaches and thereby more
losses . We got orders to drop our torpedoes at 500m distance. The more
experienced crews just laughed because the torpedoes need more than that
in the water to be live on contact.
After hours of flying in radio and radar silence we were suddenly engulfed
by unexpected water fountains . Before we saw the ships my neighbour Gunter
Breu was in flames and exploded on impact . I went through low fog and
was right in between the convoy defence. I dropped the torpedoes against
a frigate. But it was turning towards us . We found ourselves flying parallel
and pretty close to what my crew described as a flak-cruiser, maybe it
was Diadem. We were engulfed by showers of light and medium flak. Like
flying in heavy snow. The tracers went up and down like they were shooting
a barrier, but in retrospect it might have been due to the ship rolling
in the heavy sea. In this deadly situation we had a real laugh : my rear
gunners were shooting with their half inch guns at the cruiser and I asked
them whom would you frighten with your marmaladesprayers ? All the time
I flew semi aerobatic evasive actions directed by my crew shouting ‘up’,
‘down’ . Suddenly I hit a wavetop with the righthand prop
and lost 40cm of the 3 bladed wooden props. The engine vibrated so violently
that we could see the horizon through the engine. Always expecting the
engine to break loose we had to make it into cloud to avoid the Wildcats.
No I’m sorry , Stringbags were not our problem at that moment. In
cloud I let the engine idle because I did not trust that after feathering
I could restart it for the neccesary climb over the hills short of Bardufoss
These hours back to base were the longest hours of our lives. Would the
sick engine break loose ? Would the other engine last ? We had foam flying
suits.... But what good were they ? Only adding ten more minutes of misery
in the cold water. Well, we made it into Bardufoss.
After the landing another pilot congratulated me on "my destroyer
" and I told him that I thought it very unlikely that I hit anything
because of the clever action of the ship’s captain . Then he asked
me if I would verify his success ? I am very glad I did not fall for this
trap . So I am almost the only one of the surviving aircrews that did
not have to rewrite his war story after 50 years of pretence or error....
2 cruisers, 2 destroyers, 8 freighters sunk, another 7 freighters so badly
damaged that they probably were lost in the rough sea. That was the special
report from the Fuehrer Hauptquartier, when in fact not one ship was even
But You could help me and give me Your guess : What have the "successful"
crews seen ? Waterbombs, smoke of ships under full power , exploding Ju88
Th.G.I.F. (“Thank God It’s Friday”!!) (As one pilot
to another, the feat of getting that 88 back on one engine in rough weather,
bad visibility, in the dark to a difficult airfield was worthy of the
“Iron Cross First Class” which of course he did not get!!....D.W