There is not currently all that much known about the details of
Wilhelm Hagen’s service with Küstenfliegergruppe 606, but he did
receive not only the Ehrenpokal for “actions above and beyond
the call of duty” in air combat, but also the Deutsches Kreuz in
Gold (January 30th, 1942). He is one of five flyers from this unit
that are known to have received this award. This speaks to the
fact that this was an extraordinary pilot, which he proved during
his return flight from Liverpool. Towards the end of 1940, there
were discussions about whether or not to return Major Hahn’s unit
to the Kriegsmarine, or to leave it as a Luftwaffe unit. Ultimately,
the decision made was consistent with the latter. The Luftwaffe
also considered rearming Küstenfliegergruppe with the He 111.
Hahn was adamantly opposed to the idea, and the naval commanders supported him on this. In February, 1941, his unit began converting to the Ju 88. This was accompanied by a new designation,
Kampfgruppe (Bomb Group) 606, but in subsequent loss reports,
the unit was referred to as it was prior to the new designation.
In October, 1940, Hahn’s unit went back to patrolling over water and attacking surface vessels. For example, on the 17th of
that month, they recorded a hit against an enemy destroyer du- Victoria Cross awarded on January 13, 1942 to submarine
ring a clash of German and British ships. The tasks undertaken by commander, Malta. Left to right: Lieut F Ruck-Keene;
the unit would remain basically the same through most of 1941, Lieut Cdr Wanklyn, VC, DSO, RN; Lieut J R Drummond,
by which time the unit had sunk several tens of thousands of tons RN and Sub Lieut J H Norman, RNVR. Heine´s U-303
was sunk by Drummond. Photo: IWM
of transport shipping.
At the end of November, 1941, KGr. 606 was moved to Catania
on the island of Sicily. The date of December 7th was significant
for two direct hits against enemy destroyer and a sunk merchant
vessel northwest of Benghazi.
From the beginning of 1942, combat operations often took KGr.
606 over Malta, and several of her crews were shot down by Hurricanes and Beaufighters or antiaircraft units. Among the tasks
of the German crews was also the dropping of SD-2 ‘Butterfly’
bombs, a weapon that was hell on the civilian population of Malta.
Stfw. Hagen failed to return from a raid on an ‘unsinkable’
aircraft carrier. This was on April 19th, 1942, interestingly enough, on a day when the RAF was not able to put up a single fighter against the bombers. Over 270 bombers in some ten waves
dropped over 430 tons of bombs on Malta. The main target of the
raid were antiaircraft batteries , which killed several tens of men,
but also killed were many inhabitants and the fatalities totaled
some seventy people.
The defenders brought down two Ju 88s. The first was Ju 88 Drummond´s submarine HMSM Sickle. Photo: IWM
A-4 (W. Nr. 3641) “3Z+KN” of 5./KG 77 of Lt. Horst Rosenfeldt.
He was able to bail out of the stricken bomber along with his
radio operator, Obgfr. Rudolf Krizek, but another two members exercise south of Toulon. She got into the sights of the British
did not survive.
submarine HMSM Sickle, commanded by Lt. J. R. Drummond, DSC,
The second aircraft lost was Ju 88 A-4 (W. Nr. 1526) “7T+BH” of RN. The resulting explosion and sinking, which lasted somewhere
1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 606. Hagen’s entire crew went missing, including ob- around a half a minute, took the lives of twenty crew members,
but another 28, including Heine, were rescued, which was a bit
server Fw. Heinz Uecker, Radio Operator Ofw. Ludwig Bachmann
and Flight Engineer Ernst Althammer. The defenders reported of a miracle.
seeing a bomber take a direct hit and disintegrate in midair over
Heine took command of U-403 (Type VIIC) from Kptlt. HeinzGrand Harbour. Willi Hagen was posthumously promoted to Ober- -Ehlert Clausen in mid June, 1943, and took the sub southwesterly
into the Atlantic a month later. In the middle of the ocean, he met
up with U-43 (Type X) on July 30th to take on fuel. Unfortunately, convoy GUS-10, which included the escort Carrier USS Santee,
was passing through the area. Both of the subs were attacked
first by LTJG Edward van Vranken with a Wildcat, followed by an
Avenger crewed by LTJG Robert F. Richmond. U-43 was hit with
The future pilot and submarine commander was born on Octo- a Mk.24 FIDO torpedo, and the entire crew of Oblt. Hans-Joachim
ber 30th, 1915 in Kiel. He joined the military in April, 1934, and Schwantke was lost. U-403 was able to escape both depth charges
five years later, he achieved the rank of Oberleutnant zur See and a second torpedo. Heine then took the sub southeasterly, on
and was assigned as an observer in the aerial operations. After a heading towards the coast of Africa. The voyage ended at Dakar.
leaving Küstenfliegergruppe 606, he was trained in the subma- First, the sub was attacked on August 17, by a No. 200 Squadron
rine force, and in March, 1942, he was promoted to Kapitänle- RAF, Hudson flown by F/O Philip Horbat, which was escorting Conutnant, followed by being given command of U-303 (Type VIIC) voy SL135. Twelve seconds after submerging, the British dropped
in July. He undertook training with his crew through to the end four depth charges, after which an oil slick was observed. The
of 1942, and over the first half of 1943, they undertook two patrols. convoy escort duty was then taken over by a Sunderland of anoOn February 23rd, 1943, he managed to sink the American merchant ther unit, while another two No.200 Squadron Hudsons joined
vessel ‘Expositor’ (Convoy ON-166), but it came down to being in the search for U-403. The surface of the ocean yielded further
a mercy kill. Initially, the ship was struck by U-606, and most of oil slicks.
the crew were rescued by the corvette HMCS Trillium (K 172),
The next day, U-403 was sunk by a Wellington Mk.XIII (HZ697)
which tried unsuccessfully to sink the damaged ship.
of 2. Flottille de Bombardement of the French naval air force.
As opposed to a list of other subs, Heine’s crew recorded no The crew of Lieutenant de vaisseau Ernest Bigo with pilot Premiloss of personnel during tours on non-combat duty. That would, er-maitre Chevant dropped six depth charges on the sub. All 49
however, change on May 21st, 1943, when U-303 was on a training crewmen, including Karl-Franz Heine, perished.