German Dornier Bomber



German Dornier Bomber
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The German raider
DORNIER 217 Werke No. 5428
On the night of 16 February 1943 Swansea suffered its last major air attack of
World War Two. One of the raiders was Dornier 217 Werke No. 5428 of 4 Staffel
(Squadron) Kampfgeshwader 2 (Bomb group) based at Eindhoven, Holland. Its
crew of four consisted of: Unteroffizier Günther Hübenthal — Pilot; Unteroffizier
Karl Hochmuth — wireless operator; Gefreiter Hans Krause — flight engineer and
Obergefreiter Kurt Brand —
observer. At around 22:00 hrs the
Dornier found its way over
Swansea and was intercepted by a
Beaufighter of 125 Squadron
based at nearby Fairwood
Common. Two pilots who were
airborne that night claimed 5428
as destroyed. Both Flt. Lt. Bill
Jameson and P.O. Harold Newton
claimed in their combat reports to
have shot down the Dornier into
the sea. In the confusion of aerial
combat perhaps both pilots had
contributed to the aircraft’s fate.
The fact is that the Dornier’s port
engine was set on fire and at
22:25 hrs it crashed in flames into
the sea off Port Eynon with no
survivors. Many eyewitnesses on
the ground that night recall seeing
the crippled Dornier heading out
Obergefreiter Kurt Brand’s headstone at the
to sea over the Gower Peninsula
German Military Cemetery, Cannock Chase,
with one of its engines ablaze. Rita
Dornier 217 werke no. 5428 would have carried the fuselage code U5+FM.
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D ornier crewmen
Günther Hübenthal, the Dornier’s pilot,
in pre-war flying kit, top left, and in
uniform, top right. L ike many Luftwaffe
pilots, Günther was a keen glider pilot
in his teenage years. In the 1930s
n g was considered a national sport
in Germany. His brother, Kurt, recalls
that Günther’s ambition wass to become
an airline pilot. (Kürt Hübenthal)
Karl Hochmuth, the wireless operator.
Before joining the Luftwaffe, Karl had
worked at the Dietrich brush factory in
his home town of Stützengrün. His
grr eat passion was playing the violin.
(Siegfried Hochmuth)
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A Dornier 217 about to take-off on a daytime air test. Note the close proximity of
the crew to each other in the front fuselage.
A map of the
route taken by
Dornier 5428
on 16 February
English Channel
(Refuelling stop)
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One of the Dornier’s propeller
blades. The tip is bent back at
an angle of 45 degrees.
Mabbett, the daughter of the village
policeman at Port Eynon, remembers
vividly the sight of the burning
aircraft hitting the sea.
Pilot Officer Newton was awarded
the DFC for his actions of that
night and a short time later left the
squadron. On 25 April1943 the
decomposed body of a German
airman was washed ashore at
Rhossili beach. The remains were
identified as those of Obergefreiter
Kurt Brand, the Dornier’s observer.
His funeral took place a few days
later at St. Hilary’s churchyard,
Killay. Because of the feelings of the
local people at the time, he was
buried in a plot away from the
Allied airmen interred there. In
April 1963 his remains were reinterred at the Military Cemetery,
Cannock Chase, Staffordshire. The
bodies of Hübenthal, Hochmuth
and Krause were never found.
Even after 50 years on the
sea bed this pocket-knife
blade is still ‘ROSTFREI’
as was promised on
h e base of it.
A special moment
In January 2004 a request for
information about Günther
Hübenthal, the Dornier’s pilot, was
placed in a newspaper which
served his home town of Halle, in
eastern Germany. It took only a
few days after the article was
published for a journalist from the
Saale Kurier newspaper, to reveal
that Günther had a brother who
was still alive. Kurt Hübenthal, a
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K urt Hübenthal with, from left to right, his grand-daughter, Susann Winter,
daughter, Maria and the author’s fiancee, Sabina Meehan.
retired opera singer, had often wondered about the circumstances surrounding
his younger brother’s loss. The only details that the family were given, was that
he had failed to return from a mission over Britain, his eighth operational sortie.
After exchanging many letters, painstakingly translated by his grand-daughter,
Susann, a visit was arranged. During my stay with Kurt and his family, I was able
to meet up with Siegfried Hochmuth, brother of Karl Hochmuth, the Dornier’s
The shop in Apolda, once owned by Hans Krause’s father. His name is still visible.
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Author Steven H. Jones with Siegfried Hochmuth, outside the Hochmuth family home.
wireless operator. Before my arrival, Kurt’s daughter, Maria, had been able to
track him down from an address on the back of a crew photograph, which once
belonged to Günther. Like Kurt, Siegfried and his family were only told the basic
information about Karl’s loss. Remarkably, Siegfried still lived in the Hochmuth
family home which was built in 1935. A number of the photographs that
Siegfried showed me of his brother, Karl, were taken outside the very house
which I was now sitting in.
Apolda, the home town of Hans Krause, the flight engineer aboard the Dornier,
was only an hour’s drive from where Kurt now lived. Although we didn’t find
any immediate family there, Maria had again done some ground work before
my arrival and had contacted an elderly lady, who was a distant relative.
Marianne Althaus, aged 92, directed us to a former clothes shop, which had
once been owned by Hans Krause’s father, Franz, whose name was still very
much in evidence over the shop front.
In the final hours of my stay with Kurt Hübenthal, he showed me his brother’s
Luftwaffe ceremonial dagger. In an emotionally charged few moments, he kissed
the dagger and presented it to me as a token of his appreciation for my research
into his brother’s aircraft. It was a very special moment.