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Missing crew of Ju88 shot down 21 August 1940

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My first post, so "Hello" to you all and a request for assistance, please....

This Ju88A1 was shot down by 2 Spitfires of 234 Squadron. It was reported that at the crash scene there were blood stained bandages strewn around and that it appeared the crew had been wounded or otherwise incapacitated by the time it hit the ground near Kings Somborne, Hampshire and burnt out.

The crew are known, rank, Names, Dates of Birth and where born, BUT neither the CWGC nor the VdK know where they are buried.

They do not register in CWGC and VdK show them as "Missing".

I participate in other WW1 and WW2 Forums and am aware that strenuous efforts are frequently made when Allied bomber aircraft are located and their crews identified.

It should also be the same for other Nations?

This has developed into an "itch" I need scratching, I have no relationship to any of this crew, it just seems they were loaded onto an Army truck and that's the last record of them with identities.

I have raised this as a query with CWGC asking if there are 4 "Unknown" German airmen in Cannock Chase on or about that date and await their response.

I thought I'd ask here as apparently the crash is mentioned in Vol 2 Luftwaffe Crash Archives as well as Andy Saunders "Finding the Foe" (Chapter 8)

60024/67 FF Obergefr Gerhard FREUDE 14.10.18 Koslitz, Luben
60024/4 BO Oberlt Max-Dankwart BIRKENSTOCK 16.12.15 Neustettin, Stettin
60024/64 BF Uffz Rudolf SCHULZE 29.9.19 Liegnitz
60024/79 BS Gefr Franz BECKER 18.1.19 Hurth, Koln

Max-Dankwart Birkenstock was the Bomb aimer, Freude was the pilot, Schulze was the radio operator/upper gunner and Becker was the rear gunner (usually in the under fuselage gondola, facing aft) are reported killed. 
Serial number of the plane and individual code (B3+?H) is not known, but if parts of it can be found, there is always chance serial might be found on a component or a part plate. Time and place of crash is given "Kings Somborne 14:15 hrs".

21 August 1940: 1./KG54 Junkers Ju 88 A-1. Shot down by 2 Spitfires (flown by Sqdn Ldr J.S. O’Brien and Pilot Officer R.F.T. "Bob" Doe) of No.234 Squadron, during an armed reconnaissance over southern England. Jettisoned its bombs but crashed in flames and burned out at King’s Somborne at about 2.15 p.m. 
Oberleutnant Max-Dankwart Birkenstock, 
Obergefreiter Gerhard Freude, 
Unteroffizier Rudolf Schulze, and 
Gefreiter Franz Becker all missing. Aircraft 100% write-off.
No prescribed burial of the remains of this crew took place and they now lie in an unconsecrated and unregistered grave close to the spot where they crashed. 
A memorial stone inscribed to 'To 4 Unknown German Airmen Aug 23 1940' was erected alongside a lane on nearby Hoplands Farm."

If any of you can add anything more specific to help me with CWGC or VdK, I'd much appreciate it.

I'd work hard to help identify Allied aircrew in a similar situation, but don't have the knowledge to progress with German aircrew.


Thanks in advance, Kevin

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Dear Kevin,

Probably you have already searched the world wide web so most likely I can't tell more. Maybe @Andrew Arthy could add more? I could only find this information, which you may already have. So strange that their remains just have "disappeared", most likely they are buried as unknown somewhere maybe in Cannock Chase.


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Welcome to HWMF, and it is nice to see a fellow Luftwaffe researcher among us.

I wish I could provide some firm leads on this however, I think you will of already exhausted any that I can suggest.

One small idea though is to seek the 'K' Intelligence report filed after the crash, which would of included details of the crew and their fate.  

Also, Bart's attachment mentions a sizable turn out from the civilian community for the burial of the crew.  To that end, a local newspaper might shed some light.

I hope you are able to find out the location of their burials.


Regards Richard.

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Hello Richard. The turnout was for a DIFFERENT German crew, shot down at Catton, not Kings Somborne.

Regretfully, I am NOT a Luftwaffe researcher, but I hope this will resonate with those here who are.

I don't have much knowledge of "K" Files or where to find them.

My first objective is to try and establish what became of this crew after being removed from the wreckage. The local vicar offered to have them buried in the Churchyard, but it seems they were taken "away" by Army truck and that seems tpo be the last known about them. I find it difficult to believe they were hastily buried either near the wreckage or elsewhere without proper burial rites. We hadn't got to the stage of "terrorflieger" etc to dispose of them without a Christian burial "somewhere". My hope is that due to misidentification of the date (given in some accounts as 23rd August) and some references to it being an He111 (even the painting with Bob Doe flying over the wreck could be taken as either type).

That's why I have contacted the CWGC, to check if any Unknowns of 21/22 August exist in Cannock which could be these "lost" airmen.

I have Googled pretty much everything I can find on this and it's just that so much has been done for identification of Allied aircrew that it seems only right that the same effort is expended for other aircrew, even if enemy at the time.

Kings Somborne appears to have adopted the "forgive" aspect and also embraced the "forget" side too.

The photo shown is said to include the RAF pilots and others who are walking away on the far left, and Bob Doe recalled that he didn't like seeing the result. Shooting down an aircraft seemed impersonal, seeing the crew was much more of an impact.

Some correspondence was received in Kings Somborne after the War, so it seems somehow a link to crew and crash site had been made, but the details of who and when are now lost to time. I'm hoping that the VdK files mioght contain something more helpful now there are more pieces of the jigsaw in play.

Thanks both for your replies.

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Sorry I mis-read Bart's attachment, of course it relates to a different aircraft crash to the one which you are interested in.

The Air Intelligence report A.I.1.(k) are available from Kew Gardens although, I expect this was looked at in the making of the Luftwaffe Crash Archive.

Hopefully, the VdK will provide some information that you are looking for.


Regards Richard.

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Apologies, new here and couldn't find an "Edit" option on my previous post.

There "may" be good news from the CWGC as they do seem to have 4 unidentified German dead but for 22nd August, NOT 21st.

Checks are being made that they are recorded as aircrew and if they are in consecutive unidentified plots, which would reinforce that they were one crew.

Awaiting further updates and it is possible that by the time these men reached Cannock they may have been recorded as the Date of ARRIVAL, not WHEN they died, the day before.... 

If this was easy, it would have been resolved long ago, this is where the challenge is, to find 4 Unknowns and confirm they are the crew of this aircraft.

Any help you here can bring to ensure this is corrected is appreciated.

PS: Some of you may know of the "In From The Cold" project which has successfully identified over 1,000 men (mainly WW1) who previously had no Known Grave. They are assisting and this is likely their very first "assist" for Axis airmen!

Please keep any comments coming, it's your forum!

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UPDATE: CWGC have 4 unidentified German dead buried in Block 9 Grave 48 at Cannock Chase with Date of Death 22nd August 1940.

There doesn't seem to be any German aircraft crew unidentified on that date.

The Ju88 crashed 21 August at Kings Somborne. The 4 dead in Cannock were transferred from Grave O74 in Chartham Cemetery in Kent on 22nd August 1940.

Circumstantially these 4 seem to be the same, the crew from the Ju88, but I cannot find a reason why they would have been taken to Chartham from Hampshire.

There was a War Hospital there, so it COULD be that it was used as a collecting point for Luftwaffe dead, BUT I don't know for certain.


What we do have is 4 missing Luftwaffe aircrew killed on 21 August, 4 buried in Chartham on 22nd August and then to Cannock.

There doesn't seem to be any other unidentified German multi man crew for 21 or 22 August and previous enquiries appear to have failed due to using the incorrect Memorial Stone date of 23 August.

Can anyone help join the dots? 

Appreciate your help in unravelling this

Regards, Kevin

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Didn`t the Chartham Cemetery in Kent keep a burial list with whom they buried for the period of 1940? There could be interesting information on this list. I know for a cemetery here in Flanders that the list contained a name, date of death and, or burial, dog tag, circumstance of death (sometimes) even the unit. Thought it was under German rule, so it could be for this reason it was so detailed. However I doubt that other cemeteries wouldn't also create such lists.

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Hmmm.... replied to this last night, Bart but lost in space!

I have already contacted Chartham Parish Council who are responsible for the cemetery according to their website, but no response yet, not surprising as this will mean going through records 76 years old....

Whilst there seems to be no other group of Luftwaffe dead, I need to clarify that the 4 known in King's Somborne are the same 4 buried in Chartham on 22nd August, a date carried forward into CWGC records as their Date of Death, not burial, the day AFTER they were shot down.

Why would an Army unit (presumably based nearby) transport them all the way to Chartham in Kent, some 250 km away?

I know the Battle of Britain was raging in the skies over Kent especially, so was Chartham military hospital used as a collection point for Luftwaffe dead?

That's the missing piece - why Chartham?

I have also raised this with the V D K to see if they have any further information, again, waiting....

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Hopefully these aircrew will be given the decent burial they deserve.

I look for further updates on this, and again, hopefully the pieces will come together.

A sad tale.

May they RIP.



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My belief is that these airmen HAVE been given decent burials, just that theirs currently have no Known Names.

I have no reason to believe they were buried elsewhere, the trail seems to lead from Hampshire to Chartham.

Certainly those in Chartham are the same as now in Cannock Chase, so where did the Chartham 4 come from, with no identifications?

I think it can be accepted that if they died on 21st, they would not be buried until 22nd if they were taken to Chartham from Hampshire, but I cannot find any sensible reason why the 4 from King;s Somborne would have been taken all the way to Chartham in Kent. If I can find that link, then it would seem to confirm that theses 4 are one and the same.

If I do make progress, be sure I will update on here!

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I am local to the crash site and have some knowledge through relatives that attended the site on the day of the crash. 

I have also used a metal detector on the site and recovered parts of the aircraft.

Previous accounts indicate that the bomb load had been dropped or jettisoned. However, it is clear that the aircraft was extremely fragmented and from witness accounts, the crew also.

My Grandmother described the site of part of a jaw and teeth being kicked in the grass by a local man. Others describe the search over a wide area by military personel.

The amount of bomb shrapnel that I found in the field further away from the impact would attest to at least one bomb still being aboard when the aircraft crashed. 

This would also explain the absence of large assemblies in the photo.

The aircraft was at relatively low level when it was engaged and lower still when it became uncontrollable for whatever reason. It did not hit the ground at terminal velocity and witnesses describe a loud bang from at least a mile from the impact.

The blood soaked bandages are not corroborated and crew garments may have appeared thus in tattered form.

The space inside a Ju88 does not not lend itself to administering first aid and given the need to evade after dropping a bomb load, would have been low in priority and simply impossible once fighters had been spotted preparing to engage.  

Navigating out of Southern England, again at low level, with fighters swarming everywhere would require the entire crew at their stations. Had the aircraft been crippled, there was no evidence for it in the combat report regarding engine smoke or a feathered prop.

It seems likely that the crew remains would not have been collected in individual containers. Sacks for what little that could be found. Identification later and any association of parts with recovered tags would have been almost impossible.

The landowner was approached at some point after the war regarding a memorial stone beside the crash site, to what were then unknown airman, but apparently refused. Hence the memorial being far away from the crash site.

This is indicative of a strong anti Nazi feeling in this particular village. Several locals recall an Me109 straifing civilians in fields a short distance away. Fortunately none were injured on this occasion.

Many local family's lost loved one's in both Wars. The local airfield was bombed. Livestock were killed by stray bombs dropping in fields nearby and of course Portsmouth and Southampton lit the skies at this distance and when they were attacked.

Little attention would have been payed to the remains of the crew by this community. The field was quickly raiked over and any remaining metal fragments picked up by souvenir hunters or turned in by the plough.

The amount of small fragments are still cursed by dectorists today who are looking for more ancient treasures. But I still have Luftwaffe paint on alloy and a serial numbered part in my collection in tribute to a brave crew and real part of a dramatic moment in history.

I look forward to any further information on the burial of this crew. I too am puzzled by the gap in recording. Even at the height of this battle records are shown to be extraordinarily well kept.

The lorry going to Kent? Could it just have been on its way anyway, on another duty? The burial the next day surely without identification. And local feeling in the village would have almost certainly put the parish churches off any offer of a burial nearby. If transport was available the remains of these four young men were leaving today.

Good luck with your research.








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I still can't find the crew of the 110 here in Germany with a date ,time, and unit. I know that feeling. Perhaps when I have more time.....

Good luck with your quest as is said they are all equal in death.


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