On 16 April, the Flugzeugabsteurzearbeitsgruppe met in Schwanheim to investigate the crash
of a British "Short Stirling"  bomber on 6 September 1943. Preliminary site work in February
suggested  the cockpit and an engine might have remained underground, after the tail section
and larger debris were removed for scrap metal after the crash. Excavation revealed several
large armor plates (with paint still intact) and four buckets of smaller debris including a
speedometer frame, oil lines, a cable harness, bullets, and British coins.
Uncovering History: A 1943 "Short Stirling" Crash   
                                Excavation
The crowd of approximately 50 people
watched as the bulldozer carefully dug into
several sites. Each pile of dirt was then
searched with a metal detector for multiple
small pieces of debris. The plane nearly took
off the church steeple on its descent,
touching a wing in the adjacent cemetery and
then cartwheeling into the open strip of land.
The theory now is that the plane bounced
instead of boring into the ground.  
Pilot Tom Wilkinson was one of
four fatalities in the crash who were
buried in the Schwanheim  
cemetery and later moved to a
British military cemetery. One
crewman may have tried to bail out
at low altitude, and his body wasn't
located until spring of 1944 in a
forest 2 km away from the crash
site. One survivor, now 93 years
old and living in New Zealand, was
initially taken for dead and wrapped
in a parachute for burial. He let out
a groan and was taken to a hospital
where he lay unconscious for 19
days. The other two survivors, now
deceased, were taken as POWs.
Thanks to Innsheim resident Toni Strizinger for sharing his knowledge and personal
experiences as a child during the air war. "It wasn't an easy time here then", he said. In his
village alone, five aircraft crashes occurred. "The British bombed us at night, and you couldn't
sleep. They were good, and their crews were well-trained. We kept a complete blackout but
they found us anyway."  He reported that 40,000 crashes occurred in Germany during the war.
The paint was still bright on the three heavy
armor plates, one with a serial number. The
Schwanheim fire department assisted with
cleaning the debris.  
The Stirlings, England's first
bombers, weren't used after
1943 because their altitude
limitation made them an easy
target.
The "Aircrash Working Group" or Flugzeugabstuerzearbeitsgruppe provided crash information,
photos, and newspaper articles at the site.  The photo shows group leader Uwe Benkel at
lower left with some of the crash recovery crew on the Schwanheim site. More recoveries are
planned this summer, and anyone interested is welcome to attend.  Watch this site for more
information, or contact
Uwe Benkel to take part in the group activities.
School Essay by Eugene
Klein Volkschule, Hauenstein
7th Class 1943

                               Last Night

At 12:30 AM I heard the first hum of motors. We knew
immediately that enemy planes were heading our direction,
and a few minutes later they were over our village flying
from east to west.  After a short time our night fighters came
out.  Over the Rauberg hill you could see the signal lights. In
a few places a spray of shots was visible against the sky,
which was lit up.  At about 0130 you could see a parachute
in the beam of light over the Staufel hill. A short time
afterward, a fiery monster came over our village from the
direction of Spirkelbach, turned toward Schwanheim, and
crashed into the ground. Immediately everything was lit up in
a fiery glow, and a mushroom cloud went high into the sky.  
Just after that, the entire event played out again north of the
village and the sky was illuminated for a moment by a bright
glow as a second air pirate was done for. The entire village
was in chaos, particularly in Turnstrasse where a crew
member of the crashed plane landed with a parachute. After
a short time he was taken as a prisoner and bound over to the
police station.  An enemy plane crashed at Schwanheim.
A 1943 school report (right) on
the crash was displayed at the
recovery site, as were relics from
the February preliminary site
scan.