Tuesday, August 30, 2016


I know that a number of history and military buffs access No Minister.   This is for you.

Many of you will have seen the film or read the book 'The One That Got Away' detailing the exploits of Franz 'Baron' von Werra including his attempt to commandeer an Hawker Hurricane fighter from RAF Hucknall and fly it back to France and his eventual escape from a prison train in Canada and his return to German via South America.    Von Werra never made it past getting into the cockpit.  

Twelve months later two German airmen actually managed to make away with a trainer aircraft and only failed to complete their escape when it was discovered the aircraft was low on fuel forcing them to turn back from over the North Sea.

Leutnant Heinz Schnabel was a fighter pilot while his partner Oberleutnant Harry Wappler flew bombers. In November 1941 they escaped from their prison camp wearing pilot uniforms and in possession of forged papers identifying them as Pilot Officer George David and Flight Lieutenant Harry Graven.   They made their way to
Carlisle where they went to a cinema frequented by airmen from RAF Kingstown and home to the No. 15 Elementary Flying School. 

At the end of the show they mingled with the airmen and, using their false papers, bluffed their way into the Base where they spent the night hiding in a hanger.

Next morning they bullied a RAF 'erk' apprentice to start up a Miles Magister training aircraft for them pictured below ... open cockpit, max speed 228 kph.

Miles Magister.jpg

They took off with the intention of flying to the Irish Republic but were prevented from that by bad weather. They then attempted to fly over the North Sea to Germany but turned back when they discovered the aircraft was low on fuel.   They landed the aircraft in a field where they tried to persuade the local police to get them fuel ... that's where their luck ran out,   By now the whole country was on alert for the hijacked aircraft.

Both pilots were sentenced to 29 days solitary confinement for their escape.   They were later transferred to
Canada where they sat out the war.

The mind boggles that they got so far especially after von Werra's attempt.   Seems that no lessons were learned from that.    This story intrigues me much more than von Werra's escapades. 


JC said...

Douglas Bader had similar thoughts and his Luftwaffe hosts were quite happy to let him sit in the cockpit of a 109 before he was transferred to a POW camp. But in the photo of him sitting in the cockpit he was probably unaware that one of his hosts on the ladder to the cockpit had a pistol in his hand.. they knew a thing or two about him :)


Andrei said...

In 1995 a Russian cargo plane with a crew of 7 was forced to land at Kandahar International Airport then in Taliban control and held hostage for over a year

The Captain of the aircraft convinced his captors that the plane had to be maintained in order to hold its value and thus under guard was able to keep the plane flyable during the time of their captivity - the Taliban had dreams of an airforce and wanted to use it to train pilots - they had one pilot and one Mig that they used to force the plane down at the time

Eventually the crew found an opportunity to overpower their guards, start the planes engines and escape by flying to the UAE

There is a fantastic movie about this of course but its in Russian - if this was an American story it would doubtless star Tom Hanks

Here is the escape courtesy of Youtube