Whatever Happened to Matthias Massmann?

Today, I came across this interesting photo of a Messerschmitt Bf 109E4B that was said to have been downed during the Battle of Britain sometime around September 1940. Being an aviation nut, as well as generally insatiably curious, I wondered what happened to the pilot and how the plane ended up in that particular hanger. Thus began a deep dive into the bowels of the internet that, truth be told, I probably spent too much time on.

But, I was rewarded with some information on this particular aircraft and her pilot.

Crash Report
Crash Report from the British Air Ministry dated 12 SEP 1940

This particular Messerschmitt Bf 109 was flown by a 28-year-old by the name of Matthias Massmann.

I found this bit of information on a German website, and it is presented here, translated into English:

Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4/B 7.JG3 (W6+I) Matthias Massmann WNr 6316 salvaged wreck at RAF Farnborough shot down 9th Sep 1940 Battle of Britain 1940. British war records report yellow rudder and prop and fitted with dive and horizontal bomb gear for 4 bombs report states crashed at Rosemary Farm, Kildown 9 Mile east of Turnbridge Wells and yet another report Uffz Matthias Massmann’s White 6+I, W.Nr. 6316, originally down at Cooper’s Field, Flimwell, near Hawkhurst, Kent, on Sept. 9, 1940


More On The Aircraft, Translated From German, Written During the War Years

While in flight, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a formidable adversary, but its ground handling was notoriously challenging. Contrastingly, the Allies designed their aircraft to be manageable for even a beginner pilot, enabling them to quickly deploy new recruits into combat. This strategy was pivotal during the Battle of Britain and contributed significantly to the Allies’ victory. As the Luftwaffe incurred increasing pilot losses, the accident rate surged, depleting both material and human resources.

The diminutive rudder of the Bf 109 struggled to counteract the powerful propeller slipstream during the initial phase of takeoff, causing a lateral drift that placed immense stress on the opposite wheel. When this stress exceeded a certain threshold, the landing gear would buckle and collapse. Seasoned pilots found the drift manageable, but novices often lost control, resulting in aircraft losses during takeoff.

The aircraft’s pronounced ground angle, a result of its lengthy landing gear legs, severely hampered forward visibility, a situation worsened by the canopy’s sideways opening. Consequently, pilots had to zigzag while taxiing, placing additional strain on the already stressed undercarriage. Ground accidents, especially among inexperienced pilots, became commonplace as the war progressed and training periods shortened. Notably, at least 10% of all Bf 109s were lost in takeoff and landing accidents, with 1,500 occurring between 1939 and 1941 alone. The introduction of a fixed, elevated tailwheel in the later G-10, G-14, and K-series models helped mitigate this issue to some extent.

From the outset, the Bf 109 was designed with easy access to its engine, onboard weapons, and other systems to facilitate maintenance in rudimentary forward airfields. The entire engine cowling consisted of large panels secured with toggle latches, allowing quick removal. A sizable panel beneath the wing center could be detached to access the L-shaped main fuel tank, partially located under the cockpit floor and extending behind the rear cockpit bulkhead. Additional panels provided convenient access to the cooling and electrical systems. The engine was mounted on two robust, magnesium alloy Y-legs anchored to the firewall with quick-release screws. Main pipe connections were color-coded and centrally located, and electrical components were connected to junction boxes on the firewall. This design enabled the entire engine to be removed or installed as a single unit in just a few minutes.