Franz von Werra
Hauptmann

Franz von Werra

    Franz von Werra was born on 13 July 1914 at Leuk in the Berner Oberland region of Switzerland. Von Werra was appointed Adjutant on the staff of II./JG 3, on its formation at Zerbst on 1 February 1940. He participated in the French campaign, initially based at Phillippeville in France, and claimed his first victory on 20 May 1940, when he shot down a RAF Hurricane near Arras. On 22 May, Leutnant von Werra scrambled when three French Breguet 690 twin-engine bombers appeared over the airfield. He succeeded in shooting down two of them, the second near Albert, southwest of Cambrai after a lengthy 20-minute chase. By the conclusion of the French campaign von Werra had four victories to his credit. On 28 August 1940, von Werra gained a measure of notoriety when he returned from a mission over England claiming nine RAF Hurricane fighters shot down over Kent. Although there were no witnesses his success was recognised and much propaganda made of his feat. It would appear that four victories were confirmed as von Werra’s fifth through eighth aerial victories and the remainder credited as ground victories. On 5 September, von Werra participated in a bomber escort mission to the area south of London. The formation encountered RAF Spitfire fighters and in the subsequent aerial combat, von Werra’s Bf 109 E-4 (W.Nr. 1480) “Black <” received hits from friendly fire. He attempted to fly home alone but was pursued by a Spitfire and forced down near Marden. Von Werra was captured and imprisoned in England. He twice attempted to escape, on 7 October and 20 December, but was recaptured both times. After his second failed escape attempt, von Werra was sent to a prison camp in Canada. He managed to escape on 21 January 1941 and made his way through the USA, Mexico, South America and Spain to reach Germany on 18 April. Von Werra was the only German prisoner of war held by the British to successfully escape and return to his homeland. Oberleutnant von Werra was awarded the Ritterkreuz on 14 December 1940 for eight aerial victories and five aircraft destroyed on the ground.

Hauptmann Franz von Werra, Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 53, after returning from a sortie. Katwijk, October 1941.
Hauptmann Franz von Werra, Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 53, after returning from a sortie. Katwijk, October 1941.

    On 1 July 1941, von Werra was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 53 based on the Eastern front. He recorded 13 victories in this theatre, including his 20th and 21st victories on 31 July. From 7 August 1941, I./JG 53 began withdrawing from Russia to Germany for rest and re-equipment. By late September, the Gruppe had re-equipped with the new Bf 109 F-4 fighter and relocated to Katwijk in the Netherlands. Von Werra took off in Bf 109 F-4 (W.Nr. 7285) on a practice flight on 25 October 1941. He suffered engine failure, crashed into the sea north of Vlissingen and was killed.
    Franz von Werra was credited with 21 victories. He recorded 13 victories over the Eastern front.
 
No
Date
Time
Unit
A/c Type
Location
1
20.5.1940
16:29
Stab II./JG 3 Hurricane 15km E Arras
2
22.5.1940
12:36
Stab II./JG 3 Breguet 690 Saudemont
3
22.5.1940
12:52
Stab II./JG 3 Breguet 690 Cambrai
4
22.5.1940
14:26
Stab II./JG 3 Potez 63 SW Cambrai
5
25.8.1940
17:10
Stab II./JG 3 Spitfire 3km W Rochester
6
25.8.1940
-
Stab II./JG 3 Hurricane -
7
25.8.1940
-
Stab II./JG 3 Hurricane -
8
25.8.1940
-
Stab II./JG 3 Hurricane -
9
6.7.1941
-
I./JG 53 SB-2 -
10
8.7.1941
17:10
I./JG 53 DB-3 -
11
11.7.1941
-
I./JG 53 E/a -
12
11.7.1941
-
I./JG 53 E/a -
13
12.7.1941
10:32
I./JG 53 SB-3 -
14
17.7.1941
17:50
I./JG 53 I-15 -
15
18.7.1941
12:05
I./JG 53 SB-3 -
16
23.7.1941
-
I./JG 53 E/a -
17
23.7.1941
-
I./JG 53 E/a -
18
26.7.1941
10:53
I./JG 53 SB-3 -
19
29.7.1941
17:05
I./JG 53 SB-3 -
20
31.7.1941
15:05
I./JG 53 Pe-2 -
21
31.7.1941
15:08
I./JG 53 Il-2 -
 
Victories : 21
Awards : Ritterkreuz (14 December 1940)
Units : JG 3, JG 53

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