During the night of 30 July 1942, Bomber Command organised a large raid on Saarbrucken. Oberleutnant Reinhold Eckardt took off to intercept the bomber stream. He was Staffelkapitän of the 7th Staffel of Nachtjagdgeschwader 3, and at that moment one of the most experienced night fighters of the Luftwaffe. He started his combat career over Poland as a Zerstörerpilot, flew during the Battles of France and England, scoring three arial victories and seventeen on the ground. He was asked to help to build up the night fighter force. As his personal score increased, he received the Ritterkreuz.
During the night of 30 July 1942 he proved for one last time to be an Expert, although the price he paid was too high. He flew that night with Feldwebel Frank, his radio-operator. At 01.20 they intercepted Stirling R9161 of 149 Sqn. Only one of the crew survived the crash, which occurred in the French Ardennes. The German crew flew to the north, cruised the skies south of Brussels, and shot down Lancaster R5782 of 50 Sqn and Halifax R9442 of 102 Sqn. Both crews perished respectively near Braine-le-Comte and Corbais. They were Eckardt's 21st and 22nd victory.
However, during a fourth interception a very attentive tail gunner aimed towards the Messerschmitt. Feldwebel Frank was able to bail out, Reinhold Eckardt left the cabin but was caught with his parachute in the tailplane. The Messerschmitt "D5+AR" pulled the ace towards a sudden death near Kampenhout, Brussels.
BAHA members were able to find out the exact crash location. On August
23 the BAHA recovery team was gathered around the crane which started
to dig. At a depth of only 1,5 a first DB601-engine was found, in reasonably
good condition. Several prop blades were found scattered around in the
crater. The cockpit section proved to contain a wealth of personal items
which the crew left behind. One was a flare pistol, as well as the oxygen
masks and a leather case, which needed more attention after the dig. Finally
a second DB601 was located, however in a very battered condition as it
was this engine which broke the impact.
That weekend, the case was opened. It contained maps, a flight computer,
a French-German dictionary and Fw Franks personal notes - some were still
legible although written with pencil. Two gloves were found in almost
perfect condition, whilst a long piece of cloth proved to be Frank's forage
cap. After a few hours carefully washing and sewing, no one will believe
it was stored at a depth of three meters for more than half a century.