the jaw-dropping art of Christophe GIBELIN
“Spectacular crash at Byoritsu oil refinery, Formosa, was photographed by a B-25 of the 5th AF 345th Bomb Group on 26 May 1945 just as it released its string of parafrags. North American B-25 No.192 was hit by flak from a camouflaged battery and trails smoke. A gaping hole is visible on the pilot’s side.” (via)
“With a bandaged eye - wounded a few days earlier in a small accident - the Hungarian Bf 109 pilot János Suttai Koppány of 3/1. Közelfelderítő század is posing next to one of the Il-2s of 237 ShAP which were shot down at dawn on 5 July 1943..” (via)
One of the constant issues to haunt the participants of the Second World War in the air was that of non-combat accidents.
One heartbreaking example that has always stood out for me are the deaths of Free French Air Force pilot Pierrot Degail and Acting Flight Lieutenant Douglas Walker of the Royal Air Force, seventy years ago on December 14th 1942.
Whilst on a training mission, Degail’s Supermarine Spitfire crashed on Cadair Berwyn, a mountain in North Wales. Walker was sent to search for Degail in a Westland Lysander, and crashed a few hundred yards from the Spitfire. Both pilots perished near their aircraft. (via)
“…One of our Belgian comrades’ Spitfires exploded in mid-air during an aerobatics practice. Two of our R.A.F. friends came into collision and were killed before our eyes. Then Pierrot Degail, one of the six Frenchman on the course, crashed one misty evening into an ice-covered hill-top. It took two days to reach the debris through the snow. His body was found in a kneeling position, his head in his arms, like a sleeping child, by the side of his Spitfire. Both his legs were broken and, unable to move, he must have died of cold during the night.”
“A huge number of broken and destroyed Soviet planes. The airfield in Minsk was occupied by the German forces in the beginning of July 1941.” (via)
“”Return after combat” it said on the back of these two pictures. the exhausted face and the wet hair shows that it, as always, was a matter of life or death. Summer 1940” (via)
(The pilot, Gustav “Micky” Sprick, recorded nine victories during the Battle of Britain. He died in June 1941 - the right wing of his aircraft separating during a dogfight with Royal Air Force fighters over France)
“On board a No 240 Squadron Catalina at Stranraer, March 1941. A WOp/AG (wireless operator/air gunner) poses with his twin Vickers ‘K’ guns at the starboard blister hatch, while being serenaded by the banjulele-playing navigator!” (via)
“April 15 was Osterkamp’s birthday…and he invited me to come over. As a present I packed a huge basket of lobsters with the necessary bottles of champagne into my ME-109F and took off, with Oberfeldwebel Westphal piloting the companion plane. Again it was too tempting not to make a little detour on the way and to pay a visit to England.
Soon I spotted a single Spitfire. After a wild chase fate decided in my favour. My tough opponent crashed in flames in a little village west of Dover. A few moments later we saw a flight of Spitfires climbing ahead of us. One of them lagged behind the formation. I approached him unnoticed and shot him to smithereens from a very short distance. We flew right on close to the formation, where I shot down a third Spitfire, which I nearly rammed. I was unable to observe the crash.
Westphal was now in a good firing position but suddenly all his guns jammed. Now it was time to bolt as the Spitfires waded in on us. Throttle full open in a power dive down to the Channel! We were heavily attacked. Westphal was noticeably faster than I. Something was wrong with my crate.
As I came in to land at Le Touquet the ground staff waved frantically and fired red light signals. At last Iunderstood their gestures: I had nearly made an involuntary crash landing. When I worked the
mechanism to let down the undercarriage it did not go down but retracted instead. It must have been down the whole time. I must have touched the button with my knee during the action over England. I remembered that I had had to do some readjusting and that the flying properties of the plane had definitely changed.
Lobster and champagne bottles were safe. Hunter’s luck! Together with the report of the Spitfires I handed the birthday present to Osterkamp…”