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P  O  R  T    C  A  L  L

The Flights to Cherbourg, France

The flights to Cherbourg were conducted singly between the 30th of June and the 6th of July.  The earlier aircraft and pilot assignments were generally repeated with some exceptions, and the only timeline of importance was in making the rendezvous with H.M.S. Reaper

On the 30th of June, Hofmann was assigned the duty of ferrying "V083."  This aircraft was the prototype 50 mm cannon-armed Me 262 that had been flown to Melun by Watson (who named it Happy Hunter II after his son).  The mission turned into a brush with death for the German: along the way, one of the engines began shedding turbine blades, and the resultant vibration caused a tailplane malfunction that placed the jet into an uncontrollable dive. 

Hofmann had no choice but to attempt to bail out during the descent.   He released the canopy and rolled the aircraft on its back.  The jet then pitched violently upward, and Hofmann was thrown clear of the aircraft at a very low altitude.  Although he was traveling at well over 500 miles per hour, he immediately deployed his parachute and blacked out, presumably as a result of the opening shock.  

Hofmann survived the event, though he suffered several contusions and severe bruising from "head to toe."  Strobell visited him in the hospital and was amazed to see the damaged parachute lying in the corner of the hospital room.  Upon striking the ground, Hofmann had groggily retrieved his parachute (according to the usual German practice at the time) and carried it to the hospital with him.  He attributed his survival to the American Irvin Air Chute and told him that no German parachute would have withstood such an extreme test.  As it was, Strobell noted several cut extension lines, torn gores and shredded silk panels ... Hofmann had been lucky.

Roy Brown's flight in # 444 on 5 July was characteristically uneventful:

The day I took off, there was an overcast.  We had been instructed that jet engines were very inefficient at low altitudes and so I flew above the clouds, letting down shortly before reaching Cherbourg. (The jets had German radios but there were no ground stations at their frequencies, so we did not use them.)

After this ferry flight I returned to Melun and waited here for the aircraft to be prepared for the ocean voyage and loaded on the British carrier deck.   I later took photos of loading the aircraft and their storage on deck.

Anspach's experience in # 333 was somewhat less straightforward:

I departed Melun at 0930 hours on 30 June ... with intended destination Cherbourg.  Weather en route was low broken to scattered clouds with a visibility of 10 miles or better.  Because I had no air to ground communications, the flight was intended to be made under the cloud deck.  About 30 minutes out I decided to top the cloud deck -- which was very thin -- with the intent of dropping down through it in ten minutes.  This should have brought me down east of Cherbourg ... however, when I descended I found myself over water with no land in sight.

I made a turn to a heading of 90 degrees knowing this would return me to land in approximately three to five minutes, and the coast should appear.  Upon checking my fuel gauge it indicated that I could make shore, but with little to spare.

At this time an island came into view (Isle of Jersey). I could see a landing field -- it was a very short grass strip.   Being low on fuel I made the decision to land.  I made a left-hand approach turn, and on final, l reduced speed to just above stalling with gear and flaps to full-down position.

There was a church steeple at the approach to the runway. Witnesses stated that as I came over the church, the steeple tip went between my landing gear.  I touched down within the first 200 feet of the runway and immediately started gentle application of the brakes.  I experienced very little difficulty getting the plane stopped before reaching the end. I attributed this to the grass runway slowing me down.  Had it been paved, I would have gone off the end where there was a considerable drop.  Later, I was told the runway was 3800 feet in length with a sheer drop at the departure end of 250 feet down to the sea!

It took about 24 hours for my whereabouts to be known. Messages were communicated from the island to London (fighter operations) and then to Melun to Colonel Watson.  Once my location was known a C-47 with several of the maintenance crew was dispatched to ascertain what had to be done.   A decision had to be made on whether to fly the jet out or have it dismantle and barged to Cherbourg.  If we did the later it was then questionable if we could meet the Reaper's departure schedule.

The length of runway was of great concern -- particularly with the sheer drop at the end.  I made the decision to fly the aircraft out. Barrels of jet fuel had been brought in on the C-47 in anticipation of this event. We had sufficient fuel to make the flight to Cherbourg with little to spare.

The jet was towed to a position allowing for a maximum take-off run. It was refueled and I started both engines.  The takeoff was routine and, amazingly, I did not have to use all the runway.   The drop off at the end caused no problems.  I climbed to 5,000 feet and proceeded to Cherbourg where the landing was uneventful.

 


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