continued …

Sperling was kept on the ground by the constant presence of Allied fighters on the 22nd. T9+AH did attempt a take-off but was hit, suffering severe damage to its fuselage and one engine it was then listed as unserviceable in every report up to and including that of 2 March). Squadron Leader Art Sager of No. 443 Sqn. RCAF took 13 Spitfire Mk IX and XVIs of the Squadron on a sweep of the Münster-Rheine area. As told in the Squadron’s Operations Record Book:

report

Sager's own combat report takes up the story at 09.30 GMT:

sager1

Sager took his Spitfire LF Mk. XVI (SM467) down to between 50 and 100 feet (15–30 m):

sager2

As well as the damage to the Arado, there was one casualty among the German personnel. January the 23rd proved no better when five take-offs were attempted without success. While being towed back to its blast pen around midday, T9+KH (W.Nr. 140349) was strafed and burned out. This was almost certainly the “Me 262” claimed on the ground at Rheine by F/L Dick Audet of No. 411 Squadron (RCAF) a in Spitfire LF IXE (RR201):

audet

No further operations from Rheine were possible that day, thanks to the presence of Allied fighters. The wreck of T9+KH was later dressed up as a decoy and found in that state when Rheine was captured by british troops on 2 April. This may well have been the single Ar 234 that RAF reconnaissance aircraft had photographed at the end of one of Rheine’s runways on 23, 24 and 30 March.

NOTE: It appears that the code KH was not used again but the Kommando had operated at least two machines with this marking. One had been scheduled for a test flight in Oranienburg on 2 August 1944 but was some time before a KH joined Kdo. Sperling, first appearing on a return of 29 October. This particular machine was almost certainly W.Nr. 140151 which appears in the well known set of photographs taken at Rheine in November/December.

It is not obvious when 140151 might have been replaced by 140349, there is a KH in every subsequent strength return I have but it may be significant that it is unserviceable from 4–9 November inclusive whereas any other unserviceability is for single days. Perhaps this was serious enough to prompt a replacement?

The General der Aufklärungsflieger noted that 1.(F)/123’s ground echelon had arrived in Rheine on 23 January. The day’s events can hardly have encouraged them.

Günther Gniesmer (T9+CH) made it into the air at 13.30 hrs. on 26 January and landed 52 minutes later. His target had been “Position 2A” and he made four attempts to reach it, past ubiquitous Allied fighters, but even so he could get no pictures because of the weather. A few minutes of radio traffic from a “possible jet” were picked up from 14.09 in the area Teuge – Wesel – Lingen). A 91-minute reconnaissance sortie from 14.42 hrs. covered the Rhein from Emmerich to Duisburg and reported several ferries; Bletchley Park thought that this was probably flown by 1.(F)/123. Coverage of England was also ordered but was precluded by the weather.

continued on next page …

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