The desertian of Heinz Roesch
Heinz Roesch was a mechanic with Seenotgruppe 81 and was to be the only deserter from any of the Seenot units during world war 2. During his desertion he took with him Dornier Do-24T-2 Werk Nr. 3343 CM+RY.
Roesch was no pilot, but did have some 3000 hours of flying, among them a few hundred on the Do-24. He knew what to do and how to do it, but he had never done it before untill that day in 1944. When he was stationed in the Baltic with Seenotkommando Reval he became familiair with Rita who was a voluteer with the German forces. When the time came for the Germans to retreat Roesch had long been transferred to Seenot-Aussenstelle Nest-Hinterpommern. Rita could however not stay at Reval because she would have been killed by the Soviet as she was a colaborator. Late October 1944 a evacuation ship from Reval docked at Nest and among the 100 refugees was Rita. Roesch had by that time thought about escaping to either Spain of Sweden. Finally his decision went for Sweden as Spain meant a long flight overland (and over the warzone) and Sweden was about 100 km away from Nest. He now only needed some help as he could not do it on his own. Normaly the crew of a Do-24 consisted of 6 persons, but at least two were needed to start the engines.
Following is taken from an interview by Goran Lilieback with Roesch and was published in the Swedish magazine "Flyghistorik Monadsblad Nr. 1-2/1980". Roesch does the talking:
I had no pilots license, but if I could start the engines and
at the same time came loose from the boey, it could be done. Without
a doubt the flight was not the problem, the problem was getting
loose from the boey. It was obvies that I need a helper under
these circumstances. Rita volunteered to help me. We decided to
start right away before the war or weather made it impossible.
Inside the Do-24 there is an auxilarary powerunit with a big generator for the powersupply of the electrical system when the boat was on the water, during flight the generators of the middle and right engine supplied the power. The auxilarary powerunit was broken and taken out of the aircraft, this was a handicap. To be sure I took out both battery's and brought them back to land to recharge to full capacity, after this I put them back on board.
But it was not only the preperations for the flight, the girl and her luggage had to be smuggled into the Do-24 without anyone noticing.
One other thing of importance was to get the weatherharts along the flightpath. On the base I was often in the builduig of the flightcontrol. We could overview the entire warsituation on giant maps on the walls. On the map I measured the distance I wanted to fly between thumb and finger and came to about 100 km. As mechanic I had no navigationmaps or other navigational aids, the compass course I had to guess from the maps on the wall.
The surroundings of Karlshamn in the province Blekinge seemed a locigal landingplace. Again using my thumb and finger I came to about 300 km. When I gave the Do-24 a bit more power it could fly 300 km/h. At that rate the flight would last only one hour. I was forced to keep well clear of Bornholm where German fighters were stationed. For me the coursechange would be an advantage, but for my expected followers a disadvantage. Afterall on our base we had an Arado Ar-196 floatplane.
We decided that Rita was to board the plane on the evening of October 30th during total darkness and the take-off was to be at 11:00 on October 31st. Her belongings I had already brought on board during a number of rides.
On the evening of October 30th Rita and I met on the eastside of the enclosed refugee camp as I knew this was the least guarded spot and it was here I hid the dinghy in the reed. We put the dinghy in the water and carfully rowed to the Do-24. Despite the fact I pleaded for total silence Rita kept on taking. I again had to plead for total silence.
In the Do-24 I took her into one of the eight bunks. Se was cold, had wet feet and for terrified. With 20 sigarettes I left her behind. With the dinghy I returned to the baraks. I tried to do as normal as possible, went to the cantine and then to my room.
In the meantime that evening people had decided to practice night take-off, flight and landing with some of the arado Ar-196's. With this activity going on so close to the Do-24 Rita was even more terrified, enclosed in the fuselage, she could not get any sleep. She survived the night and somehow she maneged to use up all the sigarettes by the time I arrived at 09:00 with the recharged batteries, breakfast and something to drink.
Now the final preparations for a major decision in my life started. Was it right wat I did? A inner force made me go over the plan minute by minute over and over again while my consience plaged me. I installed the batteries and planned to start the engines at 11:00, the entire base was by then empty for the afternoon break. Besides that the people who took part in the nightflights of the Ar-196's were in bed.
In the Do-24 I again went over the entire plan with Rita and told her wat to do with the buoy line when the engines started. We tried the whole thing a few times theoretically. Before this she had never been in an airplane. I hammered it in that the buoy line had to come clear exactly at the time when the first engine started. The propeller immediately starts to pull and when the buoy line was not loose it was tightened and nobody could get it loose then.
Rita happily cooperated, camouflaged with an on-board cap. From the Bouy the distance to land was about 100 meter. When the first engine started she was to get on the fuselage as soon as possible.
Calmly I went on the wing and removed the tarpaulin from the engines and the coats from the propellers. I then went onto the fuselage, removed the tarpaulin from the gunturrets, everything looking like a routine preperation without any haste. I then waited in the aircraft untill it became 11:00 (summertime) and concentrated on the coming events. 11:00 came, I took a deep sigh and carefully started the fuelflow to the engines, not too little, not too much, so any failure in starting the engines would not be due to fuelproblems. I had to use all my experience. There were three handpumps for the injection of the ether/oil mixture. I then opened the stop valve, pumped up the oilpressure with three other handpumps and looked at the instruments to see if the oilpressure was right.
In the cockpit I had put the gaslevers a little bit open and for all three engines had turned the egnition on. Now I let the starter engines work. After that there was no way back. I used the left and right starter engine, alternating between them every 30 seconds to get the required rpm. When engaging the starter engine there was an intensive screaching of the engines, one could however not identify if the left, right or both starter engines were active.
When the noise was "high" enough and one minute had past, I ignited the left engine. It started. With the switch I changed to the right engine, ignited it, but nothing happened. I jumped in the cockpit and switched the right engine to dump the inside fuel. Back to the engineroom, again tried the engine for 30 seconds, no result. In the meantime we had come loose from the bouy and with the one running engine we were making a shallow turn towards the quay wall. Slowly we were getting closer to the house in which the flightcontrol was placed.
I suspected a magneto to have failed in the starter engine. All three engines had flywheel starters and that was my last possibility. I opened the manhole and opened the ladded that was installed in the right engine covering. I swung myself on the wing and balanced myself to the engine to get into position, all this still while the airplane was floating flightly to the right.
I jerked the propeller back and forth to get more movement in the claw clutch. I tucked away the ladder and quickly got back again to the engine room and again tried to start the right engine.
Because the left engine was running stationary I could not hear if the right starter engine made it's typical screaching noise. Again 30 long seconds waiting and again nothing. Now there was only some 50-60 meter left before the dock. All the time were had been going with the punches of the waves with the left engine vibrating the whole machine.
My loaded pistole I had on a coard around my neck and was hanging on my chest under my flying jacket. I was fully prepared to use it if necisary. When the attempt failed I was to shoot Rita first and then myself. Drastic maybe, but when we were caught there was no doubt that were would both be extecuted after a courtmartial.
Rita pleaded with me to try one more time, despite the hopelesness of the case. We were too close to the dock so it was over. But then the engine ignited. The gaslever was way up on this engine so the aircraft immediatly made a sharp left turn into the wind. I immediatly jumped in the cockpit and took the controls. No obstacles were in our way, were were very close to the dock, but in front of us everything was clear. The middle engine was not started yet, there was no time left for this. I judged the wind coming from south-east and decicded to take-off in a direction of 130 degrees. Now I gave full gas to all three engines and the Do-24 bravely went in the formentioned direction.
Due to the increasing speed the middle propeller turned in the wind and the engine started. I could not see this, as the engine is placed directly above and behind the cockpit, but I did feel it in the controls. A few degrees of trim and a little help of the elevators and the aircraft came loose from the water. From the land all this must have seemed more than a little odd.
What I did not know by then was that the right engine problems were caused by a collector which was cut. But at the last moment, when our lives depended on it, the engine sprung to life, despite the break in the collector. The collector must have moved into the right position due to the breaking of the waves or the vibration of the left engine.
That was all behind us then. Up we went, direcly into the coulds.
After take-off I started a slow righthand turn using the artificial horizon. Rita in the controlroom was to start the electrical circuit. She was to put all things back into place as they had been removed to save as much energy as possible. After this all the electrical instruments on the dashboard started to work.
Carefully I put the nose down to get out of the clouds and to get sight of the cround. I was afraid to get out above the coulds as I had no radio-operator or direction finder on board.
As I was alone in the cockpit I was forced to handle all the controls myself and watch all the dials, a job normaly for the mechanic.
I already pulled back on the gaslever and adjusted the propeller for cruisecontrol. To do this I had to let go of the controls as the switches were placed on the ceiling and at the same time I had to watch the dials on the dashboard for the readings. The propellers of the Do-24 adjusted slowly and took about 15-20 seconds, so for reading the instruments was no time as I was only airborne for 1 minute.
Just as I was getting out of the clouds Rita came into the cockpit, emotionaly shaken by the alarmbell. I had little time for her as I was watching out not to hit the ground as we were still decending. I leveled off just above the treetops. When I had things under control I told her to place the last fuse so the artificial horizon would work. Strickly speaking this was no longer needed as I could now use the normal horizon. Our course at this time was 360, due north.
After we crossed the land in this low altitude I started to climb 10 meter as we reached the open water. When reaching the water we passed a local lifeguard who waved at us and just like a normal situation I waved back at him. When we reached the open sea I adjusted the altitude to 10 meter and I started to adjust the propeller settings as I now had more time on my hands. I synchronised the rpm, trimmed the machine and set out a course.
The general course was 335 degrees, but to stay clear of Bornholm I flew a course of 360 degrees for 20 minutes, then 350 degrees for 20 minutes and finally a course of 300 degrees.
Rita had taken place next to me in the cockpit. She immediately started to feed me from the emergency rations. That was strickly forbidden, except in an emergency to open them. We smoked, drank, ate chocolate and were releived.
Rita removed all my ingisnia from my uniform, coat and cap. Everything went into the sea, along with my militairy papers.
We passed two Danish fisherboats, later followed by a single one, which was almost certainly Swedish. The crew waved at us, we flew so low that we had to hop over the boat and when leaving I wagged the wings as a greating.
It never entered my mind that Arado Ar-196A's from Nest could follow me. They were faster than the Do-24 and as I later learned there were actualy three Ar-196A's in pursuit, taking of about 15 minutes behind me. If they were flying the same course they could have arrived 5 minutes ahead of me at my intended landingspot. They could however never guess my course and to my good fortune the visibility and cloudcover was poor. The fighters from Bornholm had vener even started.
The Do-24 flew like a dream, and after one hour of flying we started to look out for land, the visibility was getting a bit better. We were of course very happy when the land became visible through the haze. My calculations came to a fuelconsumption in the last hour of 600 liter, so we had ampel reserve to find a suitable landingplace.
So far the story of Roesch. There was no happy end for him, there was no love affair with Rita and she shortly afterwards married another man in Sweden. Roesch did however have some luck as he was the only German soldier in Sweden that was not handed over to the Russians after the war ended. This was only because he had knowledge of the Seenotdienst. He remained in service with the Swedish Air Force up to 1950. The Swedish government bought the Do-24 for 250000 Kronen from the Germans and put it into service as F 2-90 with squadron F2 of the Royal Swedish Air Force, stationed at Hagernas in the same role as when it left Germany, search and rescue. Until 1951 the Do-24 fulfilled this role, by then the lack of spares grounded the aircraft.