The search for 2 German Fighters That Crashed During Operation Bodenplatte – By Marcel Hermes

Karl Grabmair in his FW190 A-8
Karl Grabmair in his FW190 A-8

The search for two crashed German fighters, shot down over Veghel (Netherlands) on January 1st. 1945.

Operation Bodenplatte

On new years day 1945 the German Luftwaffe launched operation “Bodenplatte”. Its goals was to regain air superiority by destroying all allied airfields along the frontline in the Netherlands, Belgium and northern-France. Bodenplatte was supposed to take place on December 16th 1944 to support the German attack in the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge) that started that day.

Due to bad weather the attack was postponed to the morning of January 1st 1945. Around 1000 fighters and bombers participated in the attack.

During this attach a Messerschmitt BG109G-10 and a Fockw Wulf FW190 A-8 crahsed in the vicinity of

Veghel. These fighters were flown by the 24 year old Uffz Karl Bets of the 10/JG and the 21 year old Luit. Karl Grabmair of the 5/JG6. Both pilots were killed during the crash.

The morning of January 1st 1945

Both pilots belonged to JG6 (Jagdgeschwader 6). The objective of JG6 was Volkel Airfield, known to the allies as B-80. There were 78 BF108 and FW190 fighers assigned to this task.

At 08:19h the armada took off from the German airfield Bissel, they were preceded by a number of JU88 who were guiding (lotsen) the airplanes towards the targets.

They flew in a straight line to Spakenburg, there a course of 178 was taken to Veghel. Arriving over Veghel, by following the railroad, they would arrive at Volkel Airfield. In order not to be spotted they flew at low altitude, around 100m.

Map of the attack [Via]

On their way to Veghel JG6 passed over the allied airfield between Heesch and Nistelrode (B-88). Most probably the Luftwaffe did not know this airfield existed. The Spitfires stationed there took off immediately and went on the offensive. Above Veghel intense air to air combat took place in which at least 2 but possibly 3 or 4 German fighters were shot down. The sources differ on the the numbers.

Karl Betz

Unteroffizier Karl Betz was the first Victim. His airplane was most probably shot down by Flight Officers Cameron of the 401 Squadron.

During the aerial engagement JG6 lost its bearings. Heavy black smoke at the horizon was mistaken for Volker airfield which was attacked. It turned out later that they attacked Eindhoven airfield and not Volkel.

Canadian soldiers clean the crash site of Karl Benz

The combat report of Flight Officer Cameron, involved in the aerial engagement over Veghel:

A very hurried take-off of No. 401 Squadron followed and in the scramble most of the pilots were separated. All ten pilots managed to get airborne. FlO Doug Cameron, flying Spitfire Mk IX MJ448, was the first to get in to action: “I took off and turned slightly starboard and sighted two Me 109s on my port side on the deck at 100 feet. I attacked the starboard one from astern, about 10 deg. starboard and 300 yards with a very short burst. I saw an explosion on the fuselage near the cockpit and this aircraft dove straight down towards the deck at less than 50 feet. I immediately turned on the other about 15 deg. starboard, about 200 yds and fired a short burst. I saw a large explosion on the fuselage at behind the cockpit followed by flames.

This aircraft also dove down to port, with flames, at less than 50 feet. I then sighted another Me 109 to starboard. I at once chased him and opened fire at about 400500 yards, from about 30-40 deg. port. I saw a small flash on the rear fuselage, I continued to fire short bursts with no results seen. I then chased to about 200 yards astern and after a fairly long burst (2-3 seconds) saw glycol streaming out. I was out of ammunition and flew very close on his starboard until he crash-landed in a large field approximately two miles north of the aerodrome. This aircraft smoked but was not burning. After two orbits of the crash I took a short cine camera shot of this aircraft. I claim three Me 109s destroyed.

FlO Cameron landed back at his base at 09.30 hrs., only 15 minutes after his take-off1s7 Although
he claimed three Messerschmitts, only two can be identified with some certainty. One of his first
claims must have been the Bf 109 G-I0 ofUffz. Karl Betz of 10.lJG 6. His ‘Black 12’ struck frozen
ground at an acute angle, his drop tank exploded and it disintegrated some three kilometres northwest
of Veghel. Twenty-four year old Uffz. Karl Betz was killed instantly.

The airplane flown by Betz, after being hit, struck the top of a tree at the western outskirts of Veghel, continued on for a couple of 100 meters and then crashed in a field.

The Grave of Karl Betz [Via]

According to eye witness accounts, Betz tried to get out of the stricken airplane but only succeeded at the last moment before his plane hit the ground. He was beyond help and died quickly.  He was given a temporary burial near the railroad, after which he was reburied at Ysselsteyn German Cemetery, plot AV-30.

Karl Grabmair

Karl Grabmair in his FW190 A-8
Karl Grabmair in his FW190 A-8

Luitenant Karl Grabmair was most probably shot down by Flight Luitenant Don Gordon. He returned early to base because of engine trouble.

Flight Lieutenant Don Gordon [Via]

His report combat:

F/Lt. Don Gordon was returning early with a rough engine and F/Lt. R.C. Smith was some distance behind him returning with an unserviceable drop tank. F/Lt. Gordon was at 7,000 feet over base when he saw AA fire and thought a jet aircraft was below, so he dived down to investigate: “I saw 50 plus 109s and 190s on the deck flying south. I picked out the nearest 190 and gave him a half second burst from 60 deg. starboard from 200 yards. I saw no strikes but the enemy aircraft flicked to port and went right into the deck exploding. I picked another 190 which was just ahead and to port of the previous enemy aircraft. I gave him a three second burst from line astern, range 300 yards. I saw many strikes on the fuselage and wing roots. He threw out black smoke, flew straight and level for about 5 seconds then nosed over into the deck exploding. I claim two Fw 190s destroyed”.

Only one loss can be linked to F/Lt. Gordon’s claims and that is ‘White 7’ flown by Lt. Karl Grabmair of 5/JG 6. Lt. Grabmair was killed when his aircraft crashed south-east of Zijtaart, a few kilometres south-east of Veghel. He was buried in a fieldgrave near the wreck of his Focke-Wulf. FILt. Gordon was then hit from behind and wounded in the back of the head and back. He was forced to crash-land near Uden.

He clambered gingerly out of his machine, only to be greeted by an enthusiastic Dutch woman who ran up, clapped him heartily on the back and said: “Happy NewYear! “

Grabmairs airplane crashed on the east side of Veghel. He got out of his plane but lacking altitude his parachute didn’t open, he died on hitting the ground. Grabmair was buried temporarily nar the wreckage, he as later reburied at Ysselsteyn German Cemetery, plot AV-139.

May 5th 2009

Because there was so much confusion regarding the crash site the BF109G-10 of Karl Betz, I searched for the crash site using a metal detector.

Eyewitness accounts and other sources led to a crash site behind the Zwanenburg estate, between Veghel and Dinther.

After permission by the owner I started my research. The owner told me that in the 1980s a man from Veghel had already searched for the location and this person found bits of aluminium near a ditch. Before long Marcel found bits of airplane, confirming the location. After which I did a thorough search of the area. The point of impact was marked by a concentration of aluminium, Plexiglas, reinforced glass and iron.

The next day I was able to search the grounds again, the owner kindly postponed plowing the field for a day!
In total I found over 80 Kg of aluminium and iron. Some of the artifacts found are worth mentioning and contributed to the identification of the plane.

  • Parachute harness ID
  • Lever from the cockpit to operate the windscreen wipers
  • Rubber fuel pipe with coupling
  • Cockpit instrument
  • Spark plugs
  • Flare
  • Electrical equipment housing

With these artifacts it is now become certain that a BF109-G10 had been found. There is now very little doubt that this is the crash site of Karl Betz.

Fuel pipe and coupling
Fuel pipe and coupling
Glass and cockpit instrument
Glass and cockpit instrument
Cockpit lever to operate windscreen wipers
Cockpit lever to operate windscreen wipers
Parachute ID
Parachute harness ID

The search for the crash site of the Focke Wolf 190, flown by Grabmair is still ongoing.

Sources used:
Manrho en Pultz/Bodenplatte
Documentatiegroep Volkel
Various Eye witnesses

Written by Marcel Hermes, originally for the Heemkundekring Vechele.
Reproduced with permission on War History Online

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