The Loss of Lancaster JA691

The loss of JA691

Oberleutnant Hans Meissner and his radar operator Josef Krinner were delayed in their takeoff from Schleswig/Jagel and were only halfway to Berlin when they saw the glow of the fires at Peenemünde.

Over 55 years later Herr Krinner kindly repeated his story to me:

"I still remember our operation on the 18th August. I was in contact with Oberleutnant Reidel a fighter control officer and he told us to give up flying towards Berlin and head for Ameise, a Himmelbett box on the East coast of Denmark. After this we had no further radio contact with the ground.
It was a bright moonlit night and the sky was cloudless. After a short time I picked up a lot of contacts on my Lichtenstein radar."

After shooting down Pilot Officer Tomlin in Lancaster JA851, Herr Krinner continues…

"When I reported the shoot down to Jagel, we were flying north. I then picked up another contact. We closed on the target to about 50metres below and behind. Meissner opened fire and we shot it down."

This was Lancaster JA691 with its crew of seven. The nightfighter crew reported that neither bomber opened fire or gave any indication of having spotted them. Neither bomber had been using Window as there was no interference on their radar set.In the early hours of the 18th August, Rasmus Jessen heard the sound of aircraft engines. In the sky he saw what appeared to be fireworks flying through the air.

Shortly after this there was an explosion in the air and he saw three large pieces and many smaller star like objects falling to the ground. He remembers noting that there were no explosions as the debris hit the ground. The next day he visited the crash site and tells the following story.

The morning after I saw two Luftwaffe crew-members (Meissner and Krinner) visit the site of the crashed bomber. The bodies of the crew members were lined up ready to be taken away in a covered wagon. As Meissner stood by the bodies, a member of the small crowd that had gathered stood on one of the dead crew and called him a "British pig." This made Meissner very angry and he spun around and slapped the person about the face."

In the photograph Rasmus is standing where he saw the wreckage of Lancaster JA691.

One can only speculate what the crew's last thoughts might have been. They were very tired from a previous operation but were now well on their way home from an important raid and must have been looking forward to aircrew's breakfast on their return. The impact of 20mm cannon shells on JA691 must have instantly frozen this cosy rêverie. As the broken pieces of bomber and bodies fell to the ground, Bob Slaughter and the rest of the crew had been members of 49Sqn for exactly two months. Herr Krinner concluded his letter to me by saying that they achieved a third victory that night (Wing Commander I J McGhie's Lancaster EE117 of 619 Sqn) and that all three combats had lasted less than 10 minutes. However, flying debris damaged their Me110 and the windshield was covered in oil. They returned to Schleswig and, with some difficulty, managed to land safely.