Date: 22nd April 1944
Unit: 6 Staffel/Kampfgeschwader 51
Type: Messerschmitt Me 410A-1
Code: 9K + HP
Location: Hall Farm, Ashby St. Mary, near Loddon, Norfolk.
Pilot: Oberleutnant. Klaus Kruger - Killed (Missing) Born 29.09.1919.
Radio/Op: Feldwebel. Michael Reichardt - Killed (Missing)
REASON FOR LOSS:
After crossing the English coast following a formation of U.S.A.A.F. bombers back from operations, it attacked a Liberator at a height of 3,000 ft. but return fire by the rear gunner from one of the bombers shot it down and it dived into the ground at speed, exploded, scattering wreckage over 15 acres. One of the crew was carrying a large sum of Dutch money.
Lt Klaus Kruger +. (Remains did not merit burial). Fw M Reichardt +. (No known grave).
From Bob Collis; Author (Former Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum).
The basic info is that this Me 410 was shot down by return fire from a USAAF B-24 Liberator bomber in darkness at 2210 hours, during the infamous night of Saturday 22 April 1944, when a small number of Me 410s got in amongst the returning B-24s coming back from a late afternoon mission to Hamm and created mayhem. 9 B-24s were shot down and 5 more were either wrecked or burnt out on the ground as they attempted to land. Over 60 USAAF airmen were killed.
Memories from Locke Wilde, son of Vincent Wilde, Gunner, 458th BG (H).
“On one memorable mission, an Me-410 twin-engine night fighter attacked them from the right beam. This happened over East Anglia in England, as the 458th was in the marshaling area preparing to land. In anticipation of this, the tail turret gunner had removed his gun breeches to help him get ready to go into town. When the German shot down the bomber next to them and began his run on our "ancestors" plane, the tail gunner started yelling at Wilde (The Armorer) to help him reassemble his guns! My father had to tell him he was otherwise occupied! Anyway…the German missed and either Brumble or Wilde…or both, there is some question on this, did not.
My father told me he was terrified and so excited that he simply held the spade trigger of his .50cal Browning down and hosed the German fighter, apparently killing the pilot. A few years ago, I learned from another source that your grandfather also claimed the same fighter. I have no idea who in fact was responsible for killing the German pilot and downing the aircraft. I don’t think it matters much now anyway.” (Locke Wilde, son of Vincent Wilde; 458th BG (H)).
Recommended reading is "Night of the Intruders" by Ian McLachlan (PSL, 1994).
More from Bob Collis;
In a nutshell the aircraft was totally destroyed and pieces were widely strewn. The crew, Oblt. Klaus Kruger and Fw. Michael Reichardt were both killed in the crash and their remains were also widely scattered to the point little was actually found to identify and bury. Subsequently the crew were listed as "missing" and have no known graves.
The crash was partly excavated by hand by a group of ROC men from the Gt Yarmouth area in October 1971.
The first major dig was carried out in Sept 1979 by the N&SAM (my former museum). Finds included an MG 131 barrel, 20mm cannon tube, and a rather battered DB 603 engine. I was present throughout the dig and can assure you not one item recognizable as human remains emerged from the excavation.
A second (unlicensed) recovery by the N&SAM took place in Sept 1989 (exactly 10 years later). Finds included a 20 mm MG 151 cannon, and numerous pieces of engine casing and valves. The latter brought us to the conclusion that the 2nd engine (or whatever was left of it after the crash) had been removed at the time. Again I was there during the entire operation. Apart from one item which may have been part of the heel of a flying boot, there was no trace whatsoever of crew items. The soil here is very hard, with clay and flints below, and having seen the fragmented remains of the other engine, I imagine the bodies were simply shredded and strewn over the field. To give you some idea of the severity of the crash, a USAAF Intelligence Officer from Seething who visited said he had never seen an aircraft so completely torn to pieces - "Even the tail unit was reduced to pieces the size of a coffee cup". ADI(K) found enough fragments to ID the crew as Kruger and Reichardt, so there was no question of the identity of the Me 410 involved.
From Chris Johnson;
Ron Cain, together with several other local lads including my father in law were soon on the scene and gathered what "booty" they could. I believe Ron found and hid the machine-guns for later retrieval but the Police or Home Guard found them. Father in law, Norman Lutkin, found the iron cross or Deutche's Kreuz and an epaulette. Over the years the latter has been lost. I'm not sure if it's in Seething Control Tower museum after being "loaned out". Norman remembers finding the thumb of one of the crew and other body parts. These were gathered up by the Home Guard in hessian sacks using their bayonets much the same as a park keeper picking up litter. Other body parts were kicked into rabbit holes.
Selection of relics recovered from the crash site of the Me 410. (Collis)
MG 151 Cannon parts (20 mm) and signal flare gun together with flare (Collis)
Daimler Benz DB605 engine. (Collis)
Deutsche Kreuz (German Cross in Gold) picked up at time of the crash. (Johnson)
Burial detail: No known graves.
Researched and compiled by Melvin Brownless A. R. Society. With special thanks to Bob Collis, Mike Harrison and Chris Johnson for all their help in preparing this page. Updated May 2013.