Gallant RAF Pilot Who Went Down in the Channel and Perished

Lest We Forget

Almost 100 trained fighter pilots from Czechoslovakia made their way to Great Britain after the Germans invaded their country and volunteered to fight for the RAF. They were among the most aggressive and highest scoring pilots in Fighter Command. On occasion, when out of ammunition, they would ram German aircraft then bale out.

 

 

sgt-rudolf-ptek-and-spitfires-of-602-squadron-w640h480

Rudolf Ptáček, one of the many Czech pilots who had made their way to Great Britain to serve in the Royal Air Force, and the Spitfire he flew. Ptáček was killed in action against the Nazi Luftwaffe in March of 1942 in a fight over the English Channel.

Information below taken from an official RAF report on Rudolf Ptáček who crashed into the English Channel. Originally posted as “missing” he was later posted as “killed in action”.

 No. 602 Squadron Spitfire Vb BM148 W/O. Ptáček

Date: 28th March 1942 (Saturday)

Base: R.A.F. Redhill, Surrey

Location: English Channel, off France

Pilot: W/O (Warrant Officer) Rudolf Ptáček (he was one of the almost 100 Czech pilots serving in Fighter Command) R.A.F.V.R. (Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve)

Missing

REASON FOR LOSS:

shot down by pilots of JG26, over the English Channel. His body was never recovered.

You can find the entire report here:

http://aircrewremembered.com/ptacek-rudolf.html 

 

And the unit that shot him down:

 

Adolf Galland

The photograph shows Galland in the uniform of a Lt. Colonel or Oberstleutnant wearing the  Ritterkreuz, or Knights Cross.

(Photo courtesy of the German National Archive. Curiously, according to the Archive, the photograph was taken by Hitler’s personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffman. Presumably then, Hoffman took the photo after Hitler had presented Galland with the Knights Cross, something Hitler usually did)

 

Jagdgeschwader 26 (Fighter Wing 26) was the most famous German fighter formation of the air war in the West. It was commanded from August 1940 through November of 1941 by the famous Adolf Galland, who was promoted to command the unit at age 28 while only a major. JG 26 compiled a reputation as a deadly foe.

In December 1941, Galland by then a full colonel, was promoted to General Commanding Fighter Pilots or General der Jagdflieger.  He held this position until the end of the war. He is thought to be to the youngest man promoted to general officer of any country in World War Two. He survived the war and died in 1996.

You can find his obituary in the New York Times here: http://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/14/world/adolf-galland-top-aviator-for-the-nazis-is-dead-at-83.html

 

The Other Prince of Darkness

Known in the Luftwaffe as the “other Prince”, night fighter pilot Prince Major Egmont zur Lippe-Weissenfeld shot down 51 British warplanes and held the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves, a distinction held by only 246 Luftwaffe officers. He was killed in a flying accident on 12 March 1944. Unlike Wittgenstein, said by his men to have been very cold and extremely strict, Prince Weissenfeld was a natural leader of men and very well liked.

Since both men flew for Nazi Germany, I regret they were not killed earlier.

(Sources: Princes of Darkness: The Lives of Luftwaffe Night Fighter Aces Heinrich Prinz zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and Egmont Prinz zur Lippe-Weissenfeld by Claire Rose Knott and Nightfighters: Luftwaffe and RAF Air Combat Over Europe 1939-1945 by Colin D. Heaton and Anne Marie Lewis)

The Prince of Darkness

One of Germany’s top night fighter aces, Prince Major Heinrich zu Sayn-Wittgenstein shot down 83 British warplanes and held the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (awarded posthumously), a distinction achieved by only 53 Luftwaffe officers. He was killed in action by an RAF night fighter on 21 May 1944. Writing in Berlin Diaries 1940 to 1945, author Missie Vassiltchiko, a royal White Russian Princess who was close to Wittgenstein, said the Prince often went up in his night fighter with a raincoat thrown over his dinner jacket.

U-Boat Aces: The Knave of Diamonds: U-Boat Commander Albrecht Brandi

See the parts on other U-Boat Aces.

Albrecht Brandi wasn’t a skillful U-Boat Kommandant but he was a highly skilled liar in a society where lying was an art form. Only twenty-seven men in the entire Wehrmacht received the Knights Cross with Oak leaves, Swords, and Diamonds during World War Two, the highest military award in Nazi Germany – with the exception of the Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds awarded to only man, Hans-Ulrich Rudel, the most highly decorated military man in Nazi Germany. Let’s look at a few of the others.

  • Luftwaffe Major Erich Hartmann, the ‘Blond Knight of Germany’, is the highest-scoring fighter ace in history and shot down 352 enemy planes.
  • Luftwaffe Major Walter Nowotny shot down 258 enemy planes.
  • Herr General Major Adelbert Schulz was a frontline combat general, wounded several times, who led his troops to numerous victories, often against impossible odds. He was killed in action on the Eastern Front.

You get the idea. It was a very high bar to get over. Only two U-Boat Kommandants, in fact the only two Kriegsmarine officers to receive the Knights Cross with Oak leaves, Swords, and Diamonds, were Wolfgang Lüth and Albrecht Brandi. What about Otto Kretschmer, the highest scoring ace? No.

What about other Kommandants among the elite 34 men who sank over 100,000 tons of shipping, as verified by historians? Only Wolfgang Lüth, the second ranking ace and true Nazi believer as opposed to Kretschmer who was not. That made the difference.

So Albrecht Brandi wasn’t even on the list of the top 34 U-Boat aces. Let’s take the next 50 Kommandants, those of whom sank over 50,000 tons of shipping, as verified by historians. Presumably Brandi must be on that list. No, he isn’t. Brandi sank only 31,869 tons of shipping as opposed to Kretschmer who sank 273,000 tons and Lüth who sank 225,000 tons.

How in the hell did Brandi manage to be one of the two officers in the entire Kriegsmarine to receive the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds? He lied. Everyone on every side over estimates their success in battle. But Brandi went way beyond overestimation to outright falsehood.

According to historian Jordan Vause, who wrote Lüth’s biography U-Boat Ace: The Story of Wolfgang Lüth, Brandi claimed to have sunk one battleship, two cruisers, several destroyers, and a fleet of merchant ships. But he didn’t. It takes real chutzpah to claim a battleship sunk since the Royal Navy always got ahead of the news by announcing such sinkings before the Germans did. If you claimed to have sunk a Royal Navy battleship, then you had better be right since the sinking would be announced by the Royal Navy itself. Brandi did not sink a battleship.

So Albrecht Brandi, I have to give it to you. In a régime of liars, built on lies, fed on lies, and living on lies, you out lied almost everyone and doing that in the Third Reich is your true achievement in life.