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Seaplane down: Remembering the Heinkel that crashed on Norfolk beach

PUBLISHED: 11:05 24 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:07 24 September 2018

The wreckage of a Heinkel 115 bomber found on Sheringham beach in December, 1939. The lifeboat station can be seen in the background. Picture: HARRY HODGES TANSLEY

The wreckage of a Heinkel 115 bomber found on Sheringham beach in December, 1939. The lifeboat station can be seen in the background. Picture: HARRY HODGES TANSLEY

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The rediscovery of the remains of a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88 bomber on the north Norfolk coast has sparked a renewed interest in such incidents during the Second World War.

A German Heinkel He 115, like the one which crashed on the beach at Sheringham during the Second World War. Picture: PUBLIC DOMAINA German Heinkel He 115, like the one which crashed on the beach at Sheringham during the Second World War. Picture: PUBLIC DOMAIN

Part of the aircraft’s engine was uncovered by Chris Gleadell, of Sheringham, after he stumbled onto them partially exposed by the low tide on the beach west of the town earlier this month.

And local history buff Charles Thirtle said that was not the only German aeroplane to have come down on that part of the shoreline.

Mr Thirtle said a Heinkel He 115 seaplane crashed on December 5, 1939.

He said: “Readers keen on local history may also be interested in the fate of a similar enemy aircraft crash-landing less than a mile along the beach to the east of the Junkers’ location.

“A twin-engined Heinkel 115 bomber, after an offshore mine-laying mission, veered inland clipping one of its wings on a pylon at nearby West Beckham radar station, finally crashing on Sheringham’s west beach, just below the lifeboat station.

“An official guard party from the Royal Norfolk Regiment was summoned to secure the crash site, only to find some locals had been and gone, and so had the plane’s compass and pilot’s seat!”

Mr Thirtle said the plane’s fuel tanks were protected by an unknown rubberised material which “proved to be a productive find” for the aircraft research boffins based in Farnborough.

Unlike the Junkers’ crew, who survived, record show the Heinkel’s three occupants all perished in the crash.

Mr Thirtle added: “The body of the aircraft’s observer, Oberfeldwebel Emil Rodel, was taken to Bircham Newton where he was buried with full military honours.”

He said the body of the pilot, Oberleutnant W Wodtke, washed ashore several days later.

Mr Thirtle said: “He was buried in Sheringham Cemetery, again with full military honours.

“It is important to remember this - still being the time of the ‘Phoney War’ from September 1939 to April 1940, when little was happening on the home front and forces’ enemies still respected each others’ loss of life - soon to be dispelled as the Second World War gathered momentum in Europe and across the world.”

Had the Heinkel crashed above the watermark it would have been the first enemy to crash on British soil in the Second World War.

MORE: ‘I heard this terrific bang’ - First-hand account of when downed Luftwaffe bomber dropped its load

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