Biggin Hill yields a remarkable find – but from which Me109 did it come from?
This might sound like the stuff dreams are made of for collectors of Battle of Britain relics, but about 30 years ago a young 8 year old girl and resident of Biggin Hill was out playing with friends in woods near the former RAF aerodrome. The youngsters had a metal detector with them and after finding the usual bottle tops and other metal scraps, they suddenly had a high pitched note wail from their detector.
Digging into the loose soil, the young girl soon hit upon something unlike anything she had seen before. She gleefully headed back home to show off her find, but never really discovered what it was she had found except that it was probably from an old aircraft. The strange find ended up being boxed and largely forgotten in the loft of the family home.
During a visit to the Museum in 2007 this same young girl now a little more grown up, recognised something in a display very similar to what she had unearthed all those years ago. Told that it was the broken off stick-top from a control column, Museum staff were delighted recently to kindly receive the stick-top found at Biggin Hill 30 years ago for display in the Museum. But that is only the start to the story.
The stick-top was readily identified to be from a Messerschmitt Me109E. It hadn’t been sawn off from the control column, but had ‘snapped’ off with some force as a result of a devastating crash. In consideration of where the stick-top was unearthed, and as far as is known, there were four Me109’s that crashed in the vicinity of RAF Biggin Hill during the period of the Battle of Britain, and in date order these were:-
30th August 1940:- Two Me109’s from II Gruppe, Jagdgeschwader 54 flown by Leutnant R. Ziegler and Oberleutnant H. Rath collided over Biggin Hill. Ziegler baled out and his aircraft crashed at Oxted, and Rath also baled out as his aircraft broke up, which then came down in the area to the south-west of the aerodrome. [The Wealden Aviation Archaeological Group excavated an aircraft in 1976 that was possibly Rath’s Me109.]
9th September 1940:- Feldwebel Martin Honisch of 1 Staffel, Jagdgeschwader 53 was shot down and baled out. His aircraft crashed at Cherry Tree Farm [near the Old Jail Inn] to the south-east of the airfield. [Some relics from this Me109 were donated by an RAF Fitter serving at Biggin Hill in 1940 to the Kent Battle of Britain Museum at Hawkinge.]
15th September 1940:- Oberleutnant Julius Haase, the Staffelkapitän of 3 Staffel, Jagdgeschwader 53 was shot down and baled out, but his parachute failed him. His aircraft came down in Mollards Wood to the south of the runway. [Recovery of this Me109 took place in 1969, and the DB601 engine and other relics were recovered and are believed to be ‘stored’ at Halstead.]
2nd October 1940:- Oberleutnant Siegfried Stronk of 8 Staffel, Jagdgeschwader 53 was killed when he crashed after combat into a house on Sutherland Avenue in Biggin Hill to the south of the aerodrome. [A wing radiator from this Me109 is at the Hawkinge Museum.]
Investigation and continued research is on-going to try and confirm from which Me109 crash the stick-top came from.
If you have any Battle of Britain related items you would be willing to loan or donate for display to the Museum, then please do get in touch. Kindly see the ‘Contact’ page.