Dornier Do 17Z in the care of technicians.
he re-married and passed away in the late 90s. Ritzel too got married in 1949. He
had a daughter, Gertrud, with his first wife Annemarie. In 1964 they divorced. In 1976
he married Trude. Before the war Ritzel had flown the gliders that’s why he applied
to Luftwaffe. After the war he never flew again due to the hand injury. He became
an engineering designer and is credited with several patents in the field of electronics. He lived in Fulda, central Germany and passed away in 1996.
Do 17 engine maintenance at St.Trond airbase.
survived too but the gunner, Sgt. Maxwell remains missing. The crew of the third
shot down Defiant escaped unharmed.
Fighting on August 26, 1940 continued in the afternoon when Luftwaffe launched
in succession two bomber formations over Britain escorted by a strong fighter
formation. One formation was composed of KG2 and KG3 Do 17s and the second
one of He 111. This day is especially memorable for our Czech and Slovak readers
because on this afternoon, for the very first time, Czechoslovak 310 Squadron flew
a combat mission. Its pilots hit three enemy aircraft while losing two Hurricanes.
Luckily both pilots saved themselves on the parachutes. On this day RAF fared
better in general. It lost 27 fighters but „only“ 6 pilots were killed. On the other side
Luftwaffe lost 41 aircraft.
Landing in the sea
Let’s go back to the main character of our story. Part of the formation attacked
by 264 Squadron Defiants in the afternoon was Do 17Z-2 serial number 1160 built
by Henschel under license. Four men tucked themselves in its cramped compartments at St. Trond airbase not suspicious of their fate never to return. Aircraft
pilot was Feldwebel Willi Effmert coming from Bad Salzuflen, a spa town nearby
Hannover. He was 24 years old and already married. Unteroffizier Hermann Ritzel
was an observer, he was 21 years old Frankfurt native. Radio operator was Uffz.
Helmut Reinhardt, 27 years old coming from Bochum and 21 years old Gefreiter
Heinz Huhn, coming from Lotterfeld in East Prussia (nowadays Loznik in Poland)
was an engineer.The crew later stated that their Dornier had separated from the
During the Defiant attack Dornier received hits into both engines and cockpit. These
caused the crew injuries and damage to power plants out of which one completely seized later. The pilot attempted the emergency landing on Goodwin Sands
shallows 6 kilometers from the shore. Upon touching the sea surface the airplane
flipped and hit the water on its back. Despite this fact and injuries too pilot W. Effmert and observer H. Ritzel (machine gun fire tore 2 of his fingers off) escaped.
Both were recovered by Brits and after the recuperation sent across Atlantic. They
spent rest of the war in a POW camp in Canada. H. Reinhardt and H. Huhn were not
that lucky and did not survive the crash. The body of the first one was recovered
from the sea in Netherlands where he was buried in the German military cemetery
in Yseelsteyn. Huhn’s body was recovered on the other side of the Channel and lies
in the German military cemetery in Cannock Chase, Staffordshire. After the end
of hostilities both surviving crew members returned home from Canada. Effmert
learnt that his wife had been killed during the Allied bomb raid. After several years
Who shot it down?
Couple of years ago British media pointed to P/O Desmond Hughes and his gunner
Sgt. Fred Cash as victors over Dornier Do 17 W.Nr. 1160. The crew claimed two kills
from this combat. Until the end of war Hughes was credited with 18.5 victories to
become one of the most successful RAF night fighters. He passed away in 1992 at
72 years of age.Daily Telegraph however quoted from never published manuscript
of his memoirs and description of August 26, 1940 sortie excludes the possibility of
Hughes attacking Effmert’s Dornier. This is how Hughes remembers his two kills.
„Two small dots on the horizont grew into long slim shapes of Do 17 resembling
pencils. Fred Gash picked second Dornier in the formation and did not miss-his De
Wilde incendiary bullets flashed all over the aircraft but particularly on its engine.
He broke away from the formation, the hatch flew off and two parachutes with
small dark bodies appeared. Stricken aircraft was falling steeper and steeper with
starboard engine in flames“, according to Hughes‘ description. Effmert aircraft is
completely out of question because no one bailed out of it. Hughes and Gash scored the second kill in the chaotic situation right after the first attack. „Fred was
shooting at another Dornier and reported that it exploded“, wrote Hughes. Then
they had to shake off Messerchmitts Bf 109 which engaged them and after that they
returned to the home base unscathed. After landing they located six holes from
enemy bullets. Not even the second kill description matches Effmert’s aircraft fate.
Who is responsible for shooting in down then? Most likely we will never find out but
according to the original 264 Squadron report it was most probably a victim of F/
Lt Colquhoun and P/O Robinson. They claimed Do 17 damage as the aircraft broke
off from the formation and after their attack both engines were smoking. Leaving
the formation and both engines damaged were recorded during Effmert and Ritzel
first interrogation after their capture.
Regardless who dispatched that Dornier into the sea, the wreck rested on the
bottom for several decades unnoticed. It is possible that it was covered with sand
which was later blown away and revealed it again. Some time in 2000 or 2001 it
was discovered by a fisherman whose nets got caught on it. In 2004 he told the
story to amateur scuba diver Bob Peacock who later reported it to authorities.
In September 2008 the first official expedition located the wreck 15 meters deep
Pohľad do kokpitu Do 17Z.
INFO Eduard - March 2021