Pre-order delivery estimate: Q2 2022
The Battle of Britain produced so many stories of tense aerial dogfights; victories, losses, close calls and unexpected outcomes. Without a doubt, it is in large part because of these stories and the men behind them that the Battle of Britain has been so fascinating to generations that came afterwards. Our Spitfire Mk.I Vs Bf109E dogfight set depicts one such story, and it was difficult indeed to choose two pilots in two aircraft that fought in an encounter during the summer of 1940.
On September 5th 1940, Pilot Officer Gerald “Stapme” Stapleton of No. 603 Squadron RAF shot down a Bf109E-4 flow by Oberleutnant Franz von Werra, Gruppe Adjutant of Staab II/JG3. Records of the event indicate that P/O Stapleton – most probably flying Spitfire N.3196 “XT-L” – shot down Von Werra flying Bf109E “Black Chevron” over Marden, Kent on the morning of the 5th. He later wrote of the encounter:
“During my dive from altitude I spotted a Spitfire at about 6,000′ diving vertically, half inverted, towards the ground, it’s tail shot away. I then spotted a lone 109 in the same airspace as an RAF pilot descending by parachute. I latched onto the German and pursued him at low-level over the Kent countryside. As I fired short bursts he attempted to shake me off but I could see my tracer striking his aircraft and I closed in. I remember at one stage being concerned that there was a village in my line of fire. He had nowhere to go but down and eventually force-landed in a field. I flew low over the site. The German was soon apprehended, initially by the unarmed cook from the local searchlight battery!”
It is unclear to whom credit is ultimately due for this aerial victory, Australian ace Flight Lieutenant Paterson Hughes of 234 Sqn RAF was awarded half credit posthumously, as there is strong evidence that Von Werra’s aircraft was damaged by Hughes shortly before being pursued by Stapleton. Other sources credit other pilots with a part in the victory. However what is clear is that P/O Stapleton inflicted the damage that ultimately forced Von Werra to crash land in the field, where he was captured.
Von Werra was sent as a POW to Canada, but escaped and incredibly made his way back to Germany to re-join the war. He was killed in action in 1941.