Crash site of Ju88 4U + BL, 1km SW of Drum Ddu, Wales

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Ju88 4U + BL

Geoff Charles’ 1940 photo merged with one taken 15/04/2015.

Various sources give the location of this crash site as being at Hafoty’r Bwlch or Afon Clywedog but the location is approximately at grid reference SH 9235 1618. I can’t be absolutely sure I found the precise spot as trying to line up the photos as viewed on an iPhone in bright sunlight wasn’t easy. But someone with more time and printed copies might be able to nail the exact crash site and the above grid ref will be a good starting point.

Oberleutnant Hans Kauter, Beobachter (Observer)
Leutnant Erich Böhle, Flugzeug Böhlehrer (Pilot)
Unteroffizier Gotthard Leisler, Bordfunker (Wireless Operator)
Feldwebel Walter Kobold, Bördschütze (Gunner)

Note; In his 1985 book (see Sources below) Edward Doylerush refers to there being a fifth survivor of this crash, an unnamed Gestapo officer. This detail is repeated on some internet sources without further clarification. However, in his 1999 book, Mr Doylerush makes no mention of it, nor does Nigel Parker in his recent and thorough Luftwaffe Crash Archive series, nor do Bamford & Collier.

Below left; Leutnant Erich Böhle right; Oberleutnant Hans Kauter (photos from E Doylerush, see Sources)

07 September 1940

Junkers 88 4U + BL took off from Buc airfield, 13 miles south west of Paris on a photo reconnaissance mission over Liverpool. The crew had been undertaking such missions to Liverpool over the previous days. On this occasion however they were sighted at 20,000 feet over Hoylake by a Royal Observer Corps spotter who raised the alarm.

Sergeant Lionel Sanderson Pilkington (aged 21, a native of Hull and already a veteran of the Battle of France) of 7 Operational Training Unit was in a MK IB Spitfire and instructing a pupil pilot when he heard the message about the enemy aircraft. He ordered the student pilot back to RAF Hawarden (which is just across the Welsh border near Chester) and climbed to find the Luftwaffe aircraft. Sgt Pilkington chased the Ju88 towards mid-Wales.

Below; Map showing Hoylake where the Ju88 was first spotted, and the crash site in Wales. Map from iTraveluk.


The pilot of the German aircraft, Ltn Böhle said later, “I heard a cry on the intercom, ‘Spitfire! Spitfire!’ and turned the Junkers to escape into the clouds. In this moment we got a heavy blow and the port motor was shot out of action…”

Sgt Pilkington had opened fire from a range of 450 yards, closing to 100 yards. His shots hit the Ju88’s fuselage as well as the port engine. Fw Kobold returned fire, hitting the Spitfire’s port wing. Sgt Pilkington’s last view of the Luftwaffe aircraft was of it streaming smoke from the damaged engine as the aircraft dived for cloud cover at 5,000 feet.

Ltn Böhle continued; “It was very difficult to hold the aircraft with only the force of one engine. Expecting soon a landing, I ordered to let out all the fuel… All this happened in seconds.” Losing altitude all the time, and descending blind through thick cloud, the pilot “saw a little bit of ground, clouds all round, no space for landing.”

The starboard wing struck the top of a hill called Drum Ddu and the aircraft pancake crashed on the side of the hill, whereupon the pilot was knocked unconscious. Fortunately (and possibly because of the pilot’s instruction to empty the fuel tanks) there was no fire. Even so, this was a rare event, the crews of aircraft which crash on high ground having descended through cloud rarely survive.

Obltn Kauter, himself injured from the crash, managed to inflate the emergency life raft and then helped his wounded comrades from the wrecked Ju88 and into it.

The crash happened at 1330. Obltn Kauter then began the arduous journey to raise the alarm. He followed the stream visible in the lead photo and by early evening he had made the four mile walk to the first sign of civilisation, the farmhouse at Gelli-ddolen whereupon he asked the occupants, Idwal and Jane Jones for help.

Below; the now ruined farmhouse at Gelli-ddolen where Obltn Kauter raised the alarm.


The crew were all treated at Machynlleth hospital and were later transferred to PoW camps in Canada. In 1985, Hans Kauter returned to the scene of his ordeal to thank those who had helped him and his crew.

Sgt Pilkington however, did not survive the war. Just a year later, on September 20 1941, and by then promoted to Flight Lieutenant, Lionel Pilkington was shot down and killed by Messerschmitt Bf109s over Hazebrouk, France. He had been due to marry his fiancée, Barbara Walker just 6 days hence.

Below; Sgt Pilkington (photo from Bamford & Collier, see Sources)

Below; the scene looking north, then and now



Below; the scene looking east. The most obvious differences being the Forestry Commission plantations and the absence of a German bomber on the side of the hill.




Michael Ashcroft, Heroes of the Skies, 2012
Joe Bamford & Ron Collier, Eyes of the Night, 2005
Edward Doylerush, No Landing Place, 1985
Edward Doylerush, No Landing Place – Volume 2, 1999
Nigel Parker, Luftwaffe Crash Archive – Volume 3, 2013

The photos of the crashed Ju88 were taken by photojournalist Geoff Charles (1909 – 2002). See here for more of Mr Charles’ wartime photos of Wales.

11 comments on “Crash site of Ju88 4U + BL, 1km SW of Drum Ddu, Wales
  1. neal smith says:

    the photos are not being displayed for some reason

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Neal, over Xmas my site was hacked and though there was no harm done and nothing lost, the way the material was reimported by my host buggered things up. I am gradually going through every post re-inputting the code for the photos. Anyway I have added them all now to this narrative, and re-done some of the text which was also messed up in places.

  2. Lowri Davies says:

    I’m so pleased to find your site. My grandmother, Jane Jones, was the first to meet Hans after he followed the stream down the mountain. She was in the kitchen at Gelli Ddolen making Damson Jam and had no idea that he was German until the doctor came along later and opened his coat. Apparently his English was excellent. Hans returned to see my grandparents in the 80’s and I remember taking in a copy of the Cambrian News newspaper to school as Taid (my grandfather) and Hans were on the front cover. I was very proud! The BBC recorded Taid and Nain’s (my grandmother) versions of events. We have the transcripts, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to find the actual recordings. Thank you so much for the additional information, a fascinating read.

    • Ian D B says:

      Great additional details Lowri, thank you for commenting. Glad you found this page.

    • John wess says:

      5 very possible I witnessed this incident, I was a 12 year old lad evacuated to llanarmon Yn Ial and watched the Ju88 with Spitfire close on his tail . The pair turned to cross theClwyd hills when I lost sight of them. local gossip next day suggested the Ju was brought down in the next valley. Ie vale of Clwyd but it appears that it flew on further.The spitfire would have been a Mark1and armed with with machine guns rather than cannon as suggested in some reports. I am not able to verify the extant date of this sighting but all the other facts would indicate that this must have been the Ju88 which crashed at Drum Ddu

  3. Duncan Stuart says:

    Does anyone have details of a German plane which was shot down over Rhyl in 1944, it came down and ditched just off the beach in shallow water near the Rhyl pier. I watched the whole incident, and the two crew were marched up the beach within 10 feet of me. May have been an ME. 110, the crashed plane was placed on the Rhyl promenade with barbed wire around it, and the Spitfire was brought there and stood alongside it and was the first plane I ever sat in the pilot was a Sergeant pilot and I sat on his knee in the cockpit. Obviously a public morale boosting effort. Would love to know who the pilot was, Spitfire May have been from Hawarden or possibly Hooton Park. my guess is the German was on a photo recon of Liverpool after the bombing.

  4. Jim Burton says:

    Just come across this interesting site. At Easter 1967 my friend Denis & I walked up the side of Conwy mountain after getting the train from Manchester & walking through the town. I can still remember at or near the top we came across a very large Radial engine lying there. I don’t recall seeing any other wreckage near it. As i have always had an interest in Aviation now & then I still wonder where it came from ? I know it’s late in the day but…you never know thanks Jim

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Jim,

      Wasn’t this, was it? It’s on the western slopes of Llwtmor, up from Swallow Falls. This is an RAF crash site, but there’s another Luftwaffe crash site on the other side of the hill.
      Blackburn Botha L6202

  5. Philip Morgan says:

    I have a book “Llyfr y Ganrif” (Book of the Century) which details what are considered noteworthy event in Wales between 1900 and 1999 – in Welsh.

    For the year 1940 there is an article “Gelyn yn y Gegin” (Enemy in the Kitchen)
    which gives an account of this event – the pilot managing to struggle 4 miles to the Jones household. According to the article, the German pilot had been a student at Cambridge University and spoke fluent English – to the extent that nobody initially guessed his nationality, and he was warmly welcomed!

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