Truth Really is Stranger than Fiction

As a novelist I would never write a scene like this because it wouldn’t seem believable but truth really is stranger than fiction:

RAF Bomber Command only bombed by night. Obviously this was done so the night would cloak them.

Liechtenstein Airborne Interception Radar was invented by the Germans and installed in their night fighters to detect RAF bombers. It was very effective and deadly to RAF bombers. Night fighters were guided to the bombers by ground controllers. Once the night fighters were relatively close, they picked up the bomber with their on-board radar and attacked the bomber, usually firing from a position astern and slightly below the RAF plane.

The British absolutely had to get their hands on one of the radar sets to discover how it worked so they could produce counter measures.

The problem: the radar sets were only installed in German night fighters which circled above German cities during night time bombing raids by RAF Bomber Command. Obtaining one was impossible. After all, a German night fighter equipped with the Liechtenstein Airborne Interception Radar, was not going to defect to the British and land at an RAF Airforce base or something wild and fantastic like that.

9 May 1943: The 3 man crew of a German R1 Ju 88 night fighter equipped with the Liechtenstein radar defected to Great Britain with their aircraft, which they landed at the RAF station in Aberdeen, Scotland. The story is absolutely true, the plane is on display at a British museum. But there are several versions. The one told in the Wikipedia entry below says the Ju 88 was escorted through British airspace by RAF Spitfires. This assumes that the Brits had foreknowledge of what the pilots planned to do, which would have been incredibly stupid for the pilots. Although based in Norway where there was an effective underground movement, they would hardly have trusted German pilots. How would the pilots have identified the members of the underground?

Also, RAF Beaufighters, which carried a two man crew, were used by the RAF as night fighters – not Spitfires.

Another version, which I like better, has the Ju 88 slipping through the British radar and night fighter net, landing at the RAF field as described, and nothing happens because no one sees them. They have landed at a day fighter base and everyone except the duty officer and a corporal’s guard are asleep. The Germans taxi up to the Operations hut. Nothing. They cut the engines. The chief pilot climbs out, drops to the tarmac, walks up to the Operations hut and bangs on the door. In a few moments his knock is answered by one very surprised (and half-asleep) RAF duty officer.

Wikipedia Ju 88

One of the first aircraft from the R-1 series that went into service (Werknummer 360043) was involved in one of the most significant defections which the Luftwaffe suffered. On 9 May 1943, this night fighter, which was stationed with 10./NJG 3 in Norway, flew to the RAF Station at Dyce (now Aberdeen Airport) with its entire crew and complete electronic equipment on board. The fact that Spitfire fighters escorted it towards the end of its flight could indicate that its arrival had been expected. It was immediately transferred to Farnborough Airfield, received RAF markings (PJ876), and was tested in great detail. The preserved aircraft is on exhibit at the RAF Museum. The Luftwaffe only learnt of this defection the following month when members of the crew, pilot Oberleutnant Heinrich Schmitt and Oberfeldwebels Paul Rosenberger and Erich Kantwill, made broadcasts on British radio.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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