70 years ago next month, on the 8th May, the Second World War in Europe came to an end. While air power had become an important factor during the Great War, this was the first major conflict where it had been a key component right from the start.
When thinking about the Second World War aviation, attention will always turn to the Spitfire, Hurricane, Lancaster and many other famous names, but it was a much lower key event which saw the one of the final aerial victories in Europe claimed.
70 years ago today, what is believed to have been one of the last aerial encounters on the western front during the Second World War.
On the 12th April 1945 two American Airmen, Lt Duane Francis and Lt. Bill Martin were on a routine scouting mission in the surrounding area of Berlin in a Piper Cub, when they came upon a Fieseler Storch.
The Americans had a height advantage in this encounter and though not in any way built for air to air combat, they decided to “Engage” the German aircraft. They opened the side doors on their aircraft and pulled out their service revolvers.
After they opened fire from above the Storch soon started taking evasive action. Regular visitors to Old Warden shows in the last few years will know just how slow and manoeuvrable the Storch can be, but then of course, so can the Cub. This battle soon came to an end when the Storch pilot was forced to land.
The Americans landed their Cub close by to the Storch where they were able to administer first aid and capture the German crew.
It is ironic that this, one of the final battles in the European theatre of World War Two sounds more like an early account from 1914, with service revolvers being used and the victor landing alongside their downed opponent.
In fact, if the aircraft types were left unmentioned this combat account could easily have been one of the early encounters of the First World War.
This story will be familiar to many seasoned airshow goers as this encounter used to be reenacted by the historic aircraft collection using a J3 Cub and Criquet, billed as “The Last Dogfight” always an enjoyable act.
Hopefully as the anniversary year goes on I’ll be able to bring more of these short stories to you all.