9. Staffel Jagdgeschwader 54 "Grünherz"
Feldwebel Paul Drutschmann
Shot down over Waasmunster by pilot Officer Dromlewicz, January
Engine, tail section, cockpit, landing gear...
Pilot baled out at Waasmunster
On the evening of the last day of 1944, the Luftwaffe
had ambitious plans. The next day, New Years' Day 1945, the Luftwaffe
was about to start one of the last major air battles.
The Ardennes offensive got stuck, and the German supreme command decided
that the time was right to destroy, or at least severely damage the Allied
Air Force units.
This action would claim its part in history under the somewhat peculiar
name of "Unternehmen Bodenplatte" (Operation Baseplate).
At the German airfields, the groundcrew worked all night to prepare the
Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs for combat. Every healthy pilot, no matter
what experience he had, had to participate in the event.
Simulation made by Daniël Brackx.
The route went over Rotterdam and the Schelde river. In the surroundings
of Waasmunster, the German formation flew on very low height. The German
pilots were ignorant that they flew right into the Polish 131 Wing.
The latter was stationed at Sint Denijs Westrem, but took off that New
Years' morning at 08.15 with their Spitfires for a routine mission. The
weather was beautiful with a maximum visibility.
As they were flying westbound from Antwerp, the pilots were warned about
the German attack. At almost the same time the Polish pilots made visual
contact with the German Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs. The Spitfires
dived towards the enemy at 09.25 hrs, and Pilot Officer Dromlewicz got
on the tail of Feldwebel Paul Drutschmann's "Weisse 3",
a FW 190 D-9 of the 9. Staffel of the Jagdgeschwader 54 "Grünherz".
After several hits, Paul Drutschmann's engine gave up. Eyewitness Private
Jozef De Munck, at the time 19 years old, was on leave and at home at
that very moment. He recalls:
Pilot Officer Dromlewicz
As I heard the engines and the clatter of machineguns, I ran outside
to see what happened. The Spitfire threw off his fueltank, and attacked
the German fighter. The latter came from over the airfield, and over the
castle of Blauwendaal, but couldn't avoid the Spitfire's machineguns.
When the aircraft was hit, the pilot pulled up his FW and, when he reached
the highest point, he opened the cockpit and baled out. Only seconds later
the parachute opened, and the FW crashed in a marshy land, locally known
as the "Sint-Anna-broek". The pilot himself plunged into the
muddy water of the Durme river. He was very lucky the water level was
very low; he could have drowned. He waded trough the mud, pointing his
pistol at the people that were approaching him.
The local police arrived, but the pilot refused to surrender. I wore my
uniform, and the pilot looked at me. I approached carefully. Then, he
lowered his pistol, and said : "I will follow you, but not those
people", whilst pointing at the police officers. I saluted him, and
he saluted back. Then he handed me over his pistol.
We took him to the bridge on Fons D'Hoe's bicycle. From there we took
him to the town hall. The pilot was soaked, but refused to accept dry
underwear. I offered him a sigaret, but he wouldn't take it because it
was English. I asked him where he was from, but he kept silent for a while
and then replied: "I could have dealt with two of them, but three
was too much..." He referred to the combat which still kept his mind
Paul Drutschmann died in 2000.