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Artefact of the Month

A GERMAN PILOT’S LIFE JACKET

Just before 0900 hours on 26 August 1942, two Fw 190 aircraft of 10 (Jabo)/ J26, based at Abbeville, France crossed the Sussex coast at Pevensey Bay. Each of these fighter bombers carried a single SC 250 kilogramme bomb. The lead aircraft was flown by 28 year old Oberfeldwebel Werner Kassa. His wingman was Obergefreiter Wittman and their targets were the factories on the eastern outskirts of the seaside town of Eastbourne.

After crossing the coast at about 200 feet the two aircraft headed for their targets flying close to the Commercial Vehicle Workshops of Caffyns Limited, one of the town’s leading motor garages. On the roof of the building stood a Bren gun position manned by Canadian soldiers of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. As the two aircraft passed close by, Private E G Johnstone opened up with the Bren gun. The aircraft dropped their bombs and were seen to turn hard to the right, towards the open sea. The leading attacking aircraft was then seen to falter, turn upside down and crash into the ground. The other Fw 190 escaped.

The pilot of the lead aircraft, Werner Kassa was killed when he crashed into a ditch bordering on Lottbridge Drove. The Bren gunners claimed the destruction of his aircraft but there still remains doubt as to what caused the crash. Shells from the gun were seen to strike the fighter bomber but it is possible that Kassa may have lost control when making a high speed ‘g’ turn. In such a turn it was known that the operation of the Fw 190’s electronically operated tail trimmer could result in a high speed stall resulting in the aircraft to flick over and dive straight into the ground.

The life jacket shown is the one worn by Werner Kassa that day.

KASSA’ S LIFE JACKET IS DISPLAYED IN A CABINET IN THE MUSEUM’S BATTLE OF BRITAIN HALL.

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