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    life and death of a glider pilot

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    With this thread I would like to present one of the pieces from my collection, a small legacy belonging towards a former German glider pilot.

    The entry?s in the following Wehrpass (WP) do not look that impressive, not a warhero or very well decorated soldier. But what is then interesting on this apparently normal WP?


    The life and dead of Obergerfreiter Adolf Engel

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    The life and dead of Obergerfreiter Adolf Engel

    * Born : 16.03.1919 ? Raspenau / Reichenberg

    A.Engel was already bussy with glider planes and the gliding sports, he did fly his glider qualifications as a youngster and absolved , A ? Profiency , B ? Profiency and in 1935 the C ? Profiency. From that date on he was allowed to fly civil glider planes.

    In the year 1937 he then did perform a extraordinary deed, he did gather the needed points for the Silver C (Silbernes Leistungsabzeichen f?r Segelflug). At that time this was a very hard to obtain glider proficiency award and only a small few (no more then approx. 2.000 glider pilots from all over the world between 1931 and 1943) did obtain this rare award.

    We do find for A.Engel as 18 year old youngster:

    Silver C : Silberne Leistungsabzeichen f?r Segelflug nr. 500 - 25.08.1937 / Mittweida

    On 01.07.1940 he was drafted into the Wehrmacht and he was placed towards the Luftwaffe glider school located at Braunschweig-Waggum.

    Here the military glider training was started and A.Engel did belong towards the following units:

    01.07.1940 ? 01.09.1940 : Segelflugschule Braunschweig ? Waggum

    02.09.1940 ? 30.04.1941 : 6./ L.L.G. 1 (Luftlandegeschwader)

    From his training days several original pictures are known where A.Engel is portraited. (legacy of a former friend and glider pilot)

    As we can see A.Engel in this first picture, he is the large person in the frontrow / right.

    It is a fact that A.Engel did absolve the training successfully and was attached for a short time towards the 6./L.L.G.1 as a glider pilot.

    And the story does continue.

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    And a second image from the same series during the training, we can recognize A.Engel as the person in the middle who os sitting down and holding his K98 riffle.

    After he successfully ended his training he was now a fully trained glider pilot. He was the transferred at the date of 01.05.1941 towards a new unit, namely the

    :Sonderkommando XI - Leipheim.


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    According towards his WP he only belonged for a short time ( a mere 27 days) towards this unit before he met his faith and was killed in a plane crash.

    On page 34 of his WP we can read the following about the crash:

    durch Fl?gzeugabsturz ohne eigenes Verschulden T?dlich verungl?ckt.

    Or transliterated:

    ? Killed in action within a plane crash without own responsibility.?

    And now the secret on this WP is the following:

    This unit (Sonderkommando XI) was a training and testing unit based at Leipheim. It was directly related to test and establisch the training of the famous Giant glider plane the Me 321

    The known literature does give us the following raport on that day, the 28.05.1941 :

    On the 28 the Mai 1941 the first Gigant (Me 321) crashed in the close vintage of Obertraubling. The Me 321 was towed from 3 Me 110 destroyer planes from Leipheim towards Obertraubling and landed at the airfield of Obertraublling without a problem. After this transport the Watertanks (to provide stability iff not loaded) where filled with 5000 liters water (per tank)

    The start of this towing tug (3 me 111 and the Me 321 glider plane) started at the 1200 meter long grassfield. These starts where helped a bit through launching rockets underneath the wings. This start was successfully and did not provide any problems. The flight on its own went on without any problems. While flying in to land a sudden storm did surprise the plane, this probably did cause a damage on the stearingdevice of the Me 321.

    The result of this damage was that the ?Gigant? did crash into the ground from a height of 120 meter between Barbing and the airfield of Obertraubling.

    The complete crew, existing out of:

    * Glider pilot: Leutnant Otto Br?utigam, Co-Pilot Ingenieur Bernhard Flinsch from the E-Stelle Rechlin, Leutnant Fritz Schwarz, Gefreiter Adolf Engel und Messerschmitt ? Ingenieur Josef Sinz, where killed in this crash at 20.55.

    The famous Hanna Reitsch had the luck on here side on that very day, she was also to be inside the plane. Thorugh some luck she was forced to visit the toilet shortly before the start. The crew was not wanting to wait any longer and the towing tug did start without Hanna Reitsch.

    Directly afterwards the crash a specialized team investigated the crash, consisting out of:

    * prof. Messerschmidt, Dipl.Ing. Fuchs from the RLM andHauptmann Bachmeier from the Abwehrstelle in N?rberg.

    This resulted into the constatation that the Me 321 crashed through the change in weather conditions and bad luck, on 16 juni 1941 the testflights did start again and so the history did continue.

    With this we know directly that the former owner of the WP; Obergefreiter A.Engel was one of the crewmembers who got KIA during this accident.

    As we can see, iff you specialize and do your research properly, a at first hand not so spectacular WP can become a very nice researched piece on a soldiers (tragic) life.

    Thank you for reading + cordial collecting greetings

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    Thank you for the comments, i also have the first hand report on the crash from a glider friend (who sadly passed away 2 years ago) who was also in that unit in those days.

    He reports:

    ? Due to a special occasion there was a moment of complete inactivity on the Airfield, for the gliding world it was a very black day. On the 28 th of april 1941, something bad did happen.

    On that very day, the Me 321 (Gigant) was to be tested for the first time in a flight with a complete load. The weather was mixed, some clouds and the weatherforecast did count with unweatehr in the evening. In the Me 321 3 Watertanks where built in and tightly fixed. (this to test the plane under maximum load capactity).

    A total of 24 Tons was reached, the exact weight was unkown.

    The testing flight was flewn by the testpilot mr. Flinsch, frau Hanna Reitsch could not participate into this flight due to a urgent matter. Other participants in this testflight where Brautigam, Schwarz and Engel (who was a close friend of Flinsch) . All where highly skilled glider pilots and of the best one could find at that time.

    I had a day free and went with a friend towards Regensburg.

    Iff we returned in the evening (at around 22 hours), we where suprised. In the area of the airfield we did see a spot that was fully lighted (and this while it should be dark !!! ). Offcoarse we became curious and went to look what was wrong or did happen.

    We did see a crashed Me 321, in wich rescue workers searched for survivors but did only only find dead body?s.

    What did happen? During this evening flight a unweather did come in. Above the Walhalla near Donaustauf on the northern side of the Donau the large glider did catch a so called ?aufwind?. While preparing to land a piece came loose and destroyed or damaged the tail section. The Me 321 did dive directly towards the ground after this and crashed. A constructionfailure was discovered, however due to this construction failure 5 persons did loose their lives. The exact cause will never be known as there was a lot of speculation around this crash. The crash however had a large impact on the flying activity.

    Cordial greetings,

    Edited by Stijn David
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