Knoke's Mosquito

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by mhuxt, Nov 13, 2015.

  1. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    Many of you will have heard of or read Heinz Knoke’s “I Flew for the Fuehrer”. One of the incidents he relates is his victory over a Mosquito on 6 November, 1942. The book was written some years after the war ended, and Knoke was going by memory. Problem with his story is, no Mosquito was lost that day, nor were any even flying in the area. Further problem is, he remembers “his” having been one of two which had been over Berlin that day – that didn’t happen. Mossies made an attempt on Berlin on 19 September ’42, one claiming to have bombed through cloud, then didn’t go back again until the end of January, to disrupt speeches by Goering and Goebbels.

    It’s clear Knoke mixes the story of the January raid with his own encounter, as demonstrated by his recollection of a conversation with Goering later on in the book (see below).

    So, whatever he attacked on 6 November ’42, it wasn’t a Mosquito. So, what was it then? Turns out a Wellington of the Alouette Squadron was attacked in the same area, at the same time, and in the same circumstances Knoke describes. It was on a raid to Wilhelmshaven, and despite the damage inflicted by the Luftwaffe fighters, escaped, went on to bomb, and returned to its base.

    So, in short, Knoke’s “Mosquito” wasn’t a Mosquito, and he didn’t shoot it down.

    I’ve attached the Wellington’s combat report and the relevant excerpts from the book, including Knoke’s exchange with Goering – the speech the latter was to deliver, which was disrupted by Mossies on 30 January 1943, was a combination of “Celebrating 10 Years of the NSDAP in Power” and “The Funeral Oration of 6th Army”. Note that UK and German time were identical on this date – Knoke says he spots the “Mosquito” at 13:47, Wellington reports seeing the fighters at 13:50.

    Wellington’s Report from AIR 50/298

    AIR 50-298.png

    Book excerpts:
    6th November 1942
    1200 : from Division Headquarters comes a report of two Mosquitoes approaching. At the same moment there is a ring at my telephone. Lieutenant Kramer, our Fighter Control Officer at Division, calls to ask if I can fly in the bad weather.
    I reply in the negative. Cloud ceiling is down to 100 feet, and visibility is impossible. I cannot even see across to the other side of the airfield.
    “Sorry Kramer, it cannot be done. Anyway, in this sort of muck the two Tommies will come down on their snouts without our help.”
    For several hours it has been raining – a steady, persistent drizzle. The pilots sit around, playing cards or writing letters home, or lie sleeping on camp-cots in the next room.
    I plot the progress of the Mosquitoes from the position reports as they come in. They actually fly inland over the heart of the Reich. Inside of an hour they are reported to be over Berlin, and our flak opens up on them. Those lads must have guts all right. Weather like this makes flying anything but a picnic.
    The telephone rings again.
    “No. 5 Flight; Lieutenant Knoke here.”
    The call this time is from Colonel Henschel, commanding fighter defences in the North Sea coastal area.
    “How is the weather at your end, Knoke?”
    “Just as bad as it can be, sir. I can only see for a few yards.”
    “Knoke, you will have to fly, and that is all there is to it. I have just had a telephone call from Reich-Marshal Goering. He is in one of his rages. Why are we not in the air? The weather is too bad for us to fly, yet those confounded Tommies can get over Berlin. Do you imagine I would tell that to the Reich-Marshal? Those Mosquitoes are to be shot down at all costs. Do you understand?”
    “Yes, sir.”
    “Which of your pilots are you going to send?”
    “Flight Sergeant Wenneckers and myself, sir.”
    “Very well – and the best of luck to you!”
    “Thank you, sir.”
    Wenneckers and I are the only pilots in the Wing with experience in blind flying. This is not the first time that we have set off together in dirty weather.
    Take-off 1330 hours.
    I can hardly see anything ahead. This blasted rain! Keeping down low, we hurtle over roof-tops, trees and power lines. Radio reception from the ground is good. Lieutenant Kramer directs me.
    The Tommies are heading north-west over the Bremen area. From past experience they may be expected to cross the East Friesian Islands.
    I head for the coast. The weather over the sea is not any better.
    The most recent report gives the position of the Mosquitoes as map reference sector Bertha-Quelle-eight, on course three-one-five. At any moment now we may sight the bastards, if we keep our eyes peeled. If only it would stop raining! We have to concentrate our attention on not running into some obstruction.
    Time: 1347 hours.
    I am unable to see anything at all ahead. It is maddening. Base calls: “You should see them now. Try a little to the left.”
    I do not answer. For a shadow suddenly looms out of the greyness ahead. It is a Mosquito.
    He has spotted me also, and whips around to the left in a vertical bank, almost dipping his wing-tip in the sea. Now he twists round to the right. The he dodges to the left again.
    “No, no, my friend, it is not such a simple matter to shake off Knoke. Every time he turns I fire in front of his nose.
    We are flying low, very low, heading out over the open sea now. My Tommy leaves a faint trail of smoke. At full throttle he follows a steady course of three-two-zero. He moves at such a blasted high speed. But my good Gustav is just able to maintain the pace. I stay on his tail. Wenneckers gradually falls behind. The terrific speed is too high for his plane.
    I want to fire at only the closest possible range, and hence try to close the gap between us. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I draw nearer to my opponent. I shut the radiator flaps, and the range closes to 150 feet. He is squarely in my sights.
    “Fire, Knoke, fire – NOW!”
    I press both firing-buttons. The burst catches him in the left engine. The plane is constructed of wood. The wing goes up in flames at once and shears off at the root. A few seconds later on De Havilland Mosquito vanishes into the depths of the North Sea.
    That was my third.
    Nothing but a sludge of oil is left on the surface. I mop the sweat from my face.

    Göring asks about the enemy aircraft I have shot down. He is particularly interested in my first Mosquito last year. He well remembers the occasion. In his opinion, the Mosquito aircraft is nothing but an infernal nuisance and pain in the neck. He reiterates this with emphasis. The two which raided Berlin then caused him particular annoyance because he was starting an important public speech at the time, and had been forced to postpone it for two hours on account of the raid.
     
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  2. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    Nice. Wouldn't have pictures of the captured Lancaster he flew would ya?
     
  3. fubar57

    fubar57 Well-Known Member

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    Nice story. I find it odd that the fighters were in the "Vic formation".



    Geo
     
  4. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    Heheh, no. I really don't know much about Lancs at all.
     
  5. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting post!
     
  6. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Good job, I'd say you nailed that one :)

    Relating to discussions elsewhere about Luftwaffe training, I find it interesting that as early as November 1942 Knoke would be saying this:

    "Wenneckers and I are the only pilots in the Wing with experience in blind flying."

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  7. Koopernic

    Koopernic Active Member

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    #7 Koopernic, Nov 14, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2015
    I can't find my copy of the book but Knocke makes clear that the Mosquito's had just disrupted a speech by the Reichsmarshal, whatever the date was. Knocke was a very decent man. If he faked the claim it would not so much have been for his own gain but everyone else's. I'd have done the same thing. A downed mosquito was the consolation for the embarrassment and saved everyone in that area of the Luftwaffe some embarrassment. My recollection is that he claims he was talked in very close to the target by a radar operator, in a fog, ended up in a tail chase and was able to close the gap only by closing his radiators (thereby risking an engine overheat)
     
  8. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Interesting read! Thanks for sharing.
     
  9. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    I'm not saying he faked the whole episode. I'm saying his target recognition was faulty, as is his recollection, written well after the war, of what happened to the aircraft he was attacking. His memory is further faulty in having "mixed" his episode with the Goering speech Mossies, perhaps Goering himself contributed to the confusion. As I posted above, the Goering Speech Mossies flew on 30 January 1943, Knoke's Flugbuch makes it clear he made his claim on 6 November 1942.

    Flugbuch%20HK%2006%2011%201942a.jpg Flugbuch%20HK%2006%2011%201942b.jpg
     
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  10. Koopernic

    Koopernic Active Member

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    Memory is a very strange thing. We tend to subconsciously fill in or repair any gaps by 'interpolating' the gaps. Witnesses to crimes are often very unreliable, going on with what other people say.
    Perhaps only 15% of people are reliable and firm.
     
  11. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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  12. Balljoint

    Balljoint Member

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    If Goering says it was a Mosquito and it’s to be shot down it’s probably best not to argue.
     
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  13. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Actually memory is such a dynamic process that nobody's is 'reliable and firm'.
    I don't believe that Knoke was lying, just as I do believe that the crew of the Wellington honestly thought that they saw a 'vic' of three, rather than a 'rotte' of two German aircraft. It's just the nature of memory. Memories are also modified and change over time, compounding the problem for Knoke writing long after the events.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  14. Elmas

    Elmas Active Member

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    Probably sometimes fighter pilots tend to be very similar to fishermen...
     
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  15. BiffF15

    BiffF15 Well-Known Member

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    No way!

    ��
     
  16. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    When I was in Vietnam, there was more than one time during debriefing that I spoke up and said "that's not the way I remember it, Sir "
    Not exactly a career enhancing statement, not that I cared.

    But after 25 years in racing, and most of that time with a video producer as a sponsor, I got the opportunity to see most of the racing I was involved in on video. Then with Go-pros for about the last 5-6 years.
    I've come to the conclusion that my mind is not, nor anyone else's, a reliable source of accurate information, when in a stressful situation.

    Then if you want to add the element of time between the occurrence and recall, you're just adding to the probability of being inaccurate.
     
  17. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    your mind will play funny tricks. most of the time it will not deviate from your plan even tho you do. we had a minor incident at work several years back. I gave a statement about my movement and what I did during that time. later on I sat down to investigate further and watched the video of me walking into a room and walking out...something I had not included in my statement. my mind had completely erased that as it was not where I had intended to go but was an unexpected side trip that only took a few seconds....and it didn't have anything to do with the outcome but still quite embarrassing.
     
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