In July 1944, when the Allies invaded Normandy, 23 Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG) had been constructed in Kent, Sussex and Hampshire to provide close air support for the invading troops. However, even this effort was found wanting due to the distances involved and the only recourse was to have the ALGs as near to the frontline as possible. Over the next year or so, Airfield Construction Service made 76 ALGs in Europe to support the Allied air effort. One of these was at Helmond in Noord-Brabant, the Netherlands.
The airfield was defended by 2873 and 2875 LAA Squadrons RAF Regiment, equipped with Bofors 40mm L/60 AA Guns. The Nazi air activity had reduced by this time but had not stopped altogether.
On November 28, 1944, a Messerschmitt Me 262 Strumvogel(Storm bird) of III.Gruppe/KG 51 ‘Edelweiss‘ based at Rheine-Hopsten Air Base near Osnabrück attacked the airfiled at Helmond when the AA guns of 2875 LAA Squadron opened up. The War diary of the regiment records
“Weather very cold indeed and rather overcast. Another Me 262 very unwisely visited the airfield – with fatal results. Squadron guns opened up and the crew of B11 gun was successful in shooting it down. During the evening a personal message of congratulations was received by the squadron commander from the AOC 83 Group.”
This was the first time that AAA had shot down a jet aircraft.
The incident is also mentioned in the book ‘Me 262 bomber and Reconnaissance Units’ by Robert Forsyth though it mentions the day of incident as November 26 and not 28. Forsyth records the loss of two Me 262 on November 26 – the first is of Oberleutnant Lehmann crashed just south of Kirchwistedt, 20 km southeast of Bremerhaven while the second is of Unteroffizier Horst Sanio who was shot down by AA at Helmond.
As the Me 262 continued their raids over Helmond, the RAF Regiments shot down two more in December 1944, this time by the guns of 2873 and 2875 LAA Squadrons RAF Regiment as they defended the airfield from the jets.
It was not that the other AAA regiments did not score against the Me 262. In February 1945, a gun detachment (B.6 ) of 2809 LAA Squadron RAF Regiment shot down a Me 262 over the airfield of Volkel. The Gun detachment was led by Sergeant Pollards.
The Squadron got another confirmed kill later in the month and the Me 262 was not seen over the airfield ever again.
Today, Helmond ALG has been totally lost to the creeping urbanisation. There are no remains of the runway, the site subsumed in the buildings and roads running all over the place.
Volkel however is a busy air base of the Royal Netherlands Air Force though one will be hard pressed to find the spot where the me 262 fell to the gallant AA gunners.
Oliver, Kingsley. Through Adversity. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword, 1997. ISBN 0-9529597-0-4.
Robert Forsyth, Me 262 bomber and Reconnaissance Units, Osprey Publishing
Messerschmitt Me262 http://historicalsocietyofgermanmilitaryhistory.com/german-history-of-world-war-ii/wehrmacht-armed-forces-of-world-war-two/luftwaffe-ww2/luftwaffe-planes-and-bombers/messerschmitt-262/
Martin Waligorski , RAF Airfields in Mainland Europe, 1944-45, http://spitfiresite.com/2010/04/raf-airfields-in-mainland-europe-1944-45.html