the task force. The US Navy fighters were not
in an advantageous position to attack and
did not want to abandon their brothers. Heavy anti-aircraft fire was launched from the
ships of the task force. The 486th Squadron
was closest to the enemy, and Wing Commander Mackie, commander of the entire
British formation, ordered Sheddan to attack
with his squadron. The rest of the Tempests
and escorts continued to the target.
The New Zealand Tempests raced towards
the surface, just above which the attacking
Germans were coming. Sheddan first split
the squadron into four flights and then allowed attacks in pairs. The enemy were heading for the aircraft carriers HMS Habbakuk
and USS Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Kleinkönnig alternated between checking
the position of his enemies, the altimeter and
the speedometer during the descent. The
engine roared and the plane shook. At 3,000
metres, the speedometer needle was approaching 800 kilometres per hour. Torgeir held
on bravely a few hundred metres behind.
Kleinkönnig carefully leveled off but missed
two bombing Gotha‘s that were flying left to
right with torpedoes under their wings. In his
rear-view mirror he noticed that some British colleague had opened fire on them. He
continued towards the ships. The flak fire had
thickened to the point that it was perhaps
walkable. One Haunebu and two Gotha were
violently spinning into the sea after the hits
from ship guns.
Around Kleinkönnig, his own flak was already exploding, and he heard a few bangs as if
a hammer had hit the plane.
„Rabbit 6 to Rabbit 5, there‘s a Messerschmitt
down at 10 o‘clock!“
Indeed! The P.1101 flew the same course. „He
can‘t just be here alone, he‘s covering someone,“ thought Kleinkönnig. „Rabbit 5, I‘m going to attack, watch your surroundings and
watch out for bombers!“
Kleinkönnig already had a target in his sights.
Occasionally it was partially obscured by puffs of flak, but he was quickly approaching the
Messerschmitt from above and its 5 o‘clock.
The German spotted the danger at the last
moment and tried to roll to the right, but it
was too late. The hits of Kleinkönnig‘s guns
tore off his wing and the Messerschmitt jet
disappeared in a tumble in the depths.
„Good show!“ the wingman echoed.
„Rabbit 5 to Rabbit 6, check the area, lest we
end up like that mule.“
Then Kleinkönnig noticed two shadows over
the water, moving in the same direction as
him. At first he thought it was the shadow of
his pair, but then he realized how low the sun
was and looked down on the other side. Two
Haunebu with white and grey camouflage
were flying towards the carriers.
The speedometer needle passed the 800
The Haunebu had torpedoes hanging from
her bottom, Kleinkönnig knew they would
have to slow down and stay on course for the
target in order to drop their cargo. He was
closing fast on both saucers. Flak of smaller
calibers was already firing from nearby ships.
The outlines of the carriers were rapidly increasing in size.
The flying saucers suddenly turned sharply to
the left. Kleinkönnig didn‘t expect that and
pulled Tempest up the climb. He went into
a sharp bank to see what was happening.
Then he realised that the German pilots had
to reduce their speed considerably and there
was no other way to do it than to reduce power and brake in a tight turn.
Both Haunebu‘s performed a 360 degree
INFO Eduard - January 2022
Ens. Eduard „Bunny“ Kleinkönnig, Naval Detachment of No. 486 Squadron
RNZAF, Aircraft Carrier HMS Habbakuk, Antarctica, summer 1946/1947
This machine was flown by the legendary Czech pilot in the international
crew of the aircraft carrier HMS Habbakuk during the battles against the
Luftwaffe over Antarctica in the summer of 1946-1947. The letter K is the individual designation of Kleinkönnig‘s machine. He had his girlfriend painted
on the side of the aircraft. The sharkmouth was added to the aircraft later,
as a reminder of the rescue of Kleinkönnig‘s flight leader. After being shot
down into the sea, he was attacked by killer whales, but Kleinkönnig fought
off the predators. The naval scheme was painted on the unit‘s machines during the voyage to Antarctica. Rabbit skulls were painted on all of the unit‘s
machines in honor of Kleinkönnig. The machine was equipped with missiles
for attacking od enemy jets during take-off.
turn during the break off and re-set course
for the carriers, this time at the correct speed for torpedo drops. Kleinkönnig had not yet
met the Haunebu bombers, but he suspected that they might have at least a rear firing
He wasn‘t wrong, the German machines
went into a slight descent and from their
sterns red tracers with smoke trails began to
converge towards the pair of Tempests.
Torpedoes could be in the water any second.
Kleinkönnig opened fire, and flashes and puffs of smoke began to appear on the surface
of the flying disc. Two geysers of water rose
below, the torpedoes were on their way. The
disk began to leave gray smoke behind it, but
it hadn‘t had enough yet. But Torgeir took
Kleinkönnig targeted the second machine
with fire and when he ran out of ammunition, he came even closer and fired rockets.
The disc exploded in a deafening detonation.
Kleinkönnig looked back to find his wingman
and saw the first flying saucer hit the water.
From the reports on the radio it was clear
that Sheddan, Clostermann, Luukkanen and
others had shot down several torpedo bombers. HMS Habbakuk had taken two hits, but
a layer of pykrete protected the ship. USS
Franklin D. Roosevelt was more severly hit, listing on her side. Her crew managed to right
the tilt, but eventually Rear Admiral Soucek
decided to drive between the ice floes to the
shallow water and make the ship a stationary
base off the part of the coast in Allied hands.
The danger from enemy submarines was too
great on the high seas.
Bunny Lady was inspired by Kleinkönnig‘s girlfriend. His colleagues proposed the painting of carrot as part of the
„nose art“, as a reminder of the distilled
carrot juice produced by Kleinkönnig.
To be continued