Heinkel 111 Crash at Fair Isle
At Gilsetter, east of the airstrip on Fair Isle, are still the remains of the Heinkel 111, which crashed there on the 17th of January 1941.
The Heinkel 111 belonged to "Wettererkundungs Staffel 1 O.b.d." (the long-range weather reconnaissance unit of the Luftwaffe High Command). This unit provided weather reports for Germany, and involved flying out over the North Sea and into the Atlantic, usually via the far North of Scotland. The flights were known as "Weather Willy" to the British, and data sent back was intercepted unwittingly providing free weather forecast.
The plane took off from its base at Oldenburg near Bremen at 8 o'clock in the morning. The crew was: Wetterdienst Insp. A. Kr Leo Gburek, the meteorologist; 1st Wireless Operator, Feldwebel Josef Wohlfahrt; 2nd W/O, George Nentwig; engineer/air gunner, Unteroffizier Bernard Luking: and pilot, Lieutenant Karl Heinz Thurz. (Ironically Thurz was responsible for the design of his units badge, which depicted the south lighthouse on Fair Isle, which was used by the Germans as a main navigation point.)
The flight went on as normal until they suddenly were attacced by two Hurricane Mk1. The Hurricanes, belonging to No.3 Squadron, based at Sumburgh was flown by two commonwealth pilots, Pilot Officer Eddie Berry (RNZAF) and Flight Officer R Watson (RCAF), and they had spotted the Heinkel in a piece of clear airspace on the cloudy day.
The Heinkel tried to escape into the clouds, but it was too late, the plane had already received mortal damage. Both engines stopped, some of the instruments did not work, the undercarriages were hanging down, and two of the men onboard were injuried. The crew thought that they had to face a ditch in the sea, but suddenly Fair Isle appeared in front of them. Thurz saw a field, with something he thought was hedgerows, witch should be possible to land on. The plane came down with rather high speed, the hedgerows turned out to be stone dykes, and it crashed into a stone wall and caught fire. Two crewmen in the tail, George Nentwig and Leo Gburek, was trown out and killed. The pilot and the the two other crewmen managed to get out of the plane alive.