Family appeal for information on plane crash

Darlingfield 2015.
Darlingfield 2015.
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A fresh appeal for information about the last days of a German air force crew killed near Earlston during the Second World War has been issued by the grandson of one of those killed.

On the night of March 24, 1943, pilot Paul Rogge, 32, and his three crew members died when their Junkers plane crashed at Darlingfield during a mission to attack Edinburgh.

His crew consisted of observer Ernst Glueck, 22; radio operator Karl Brinkmann, 21; and gunner Werner Walter, 20, whose body was never found.

The cause of the crash, at 12.30am, is uncertain as despite three witnesses hearing firing in the air and the Junkers Ju 88A-14 aircraft flying low, there were no reports of interception and no bulletholes were found on its wreckage.

A police report from the time said: “At about 0.10 hours, when in the Market Place, I heard a burst of machine-gun fire right up overhead.

“I heard a roar of aircraft increasing to a high pitch.

Darlingfield 2015.

Darlingfield 2015.

“I heard a second short burst of machine-gun fire and this was immediately followed by the abrupt cessation of the high-pitched roar.

“There was a great flash of light, followed by a dull thud.

“At about 0.30 hours, we received a report of small fires in a field, described as like a stick of incendiary bomb burning.

“We located the site, and reaching this field, we discovered a German aircraft.

“It had apparently dived straight into the ground, and parts of it were still burning in a deep crater with parts strewn over a wide area.”

The pilot left behind a wife Gusti, 23, and their two young daughters, Siegrun and Irmtrud, and now his grandson Henning Hiestermann, 42, is appealing to Borderers for any information on the last moments of the crew’s lives.

Henning, of Rhauderfehn, Germany, and his mother Irmtrud, 74, visited the Borders two years ago to attend the unveiling of a small memorial at Fogo Church, where the three crew members’ bodies found were initially buried before they were interred at the German military cemetery at Cannock Chase, Staffordshire.

The memorial ceremony, led by the Rev Julie Wood, was attended by members of the community and representatives of the Aircrew Remembrance Society.

Their visit occurred after an Earlston-based researcher and blogger Susan Donaldson, investigated the case and contacted the society and Hawick Heritage Hub for information about the crash.

Her research can be read at www.auldearlston.blogspot.co.uk

Henning told the Southern: “The reason to research the story of my grandfather was my mother’s great desire to find out more about the death of her father.

“When he died, she was only six months old, and unfortunately, she never had the opportunity to meet him.

“Whether there are any documents or even photographs of the funeral at Fogo would be particularly very interesting for my mother, aunt and rest of our family.”

Susan added: “The Auld Earlston Group was delighted to help Henning in his search for more information on the wartime plane crash in 1943 that killed his grandfather.

“It was a pleasure to meet him last year, to be with him at the crash site for the unveiling of a plaque was a moving experience.

“The autumn afternoon was beautiful, sunny and crisp, as we stood in the field, surrounded by the peaceful Borders countryside that 73 years earlier had witnessed a tragedy of war.”