This article is from the website of Amovate (Association of Residents and Friends of Vale da Telha) which can be found at: www.amovate.com

It was a day that marked a major turning point of the Second World War.  On July 9th 1943 the Allies began the launch of Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily which was the first amphibious assault on Occupied Europe.  The Mediterranean and its approaches were the focus of fierce fighting as 2,590 allied ships gathered around Malta and transport aircraft and gliders from North African bases began inserting troops into Sicily from the British 1st Airborne and US 82nd Airborne Divisions. German airfields in Sicily, Italy and Crete were also being hit, to provide air superiority over the enemy.

But the Germans were fighting back, attacking the ships around Malta and also convoys passing from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean from the air and from U-Boats.  On the same day, for instance, the German U-Boat U-435 was sunk west of Figueira, Portugal, in position 39.48N, 14.22W, by four depth charges from an RAF Wellington of 179 Squadron with the loss of all 48 crewmen.

The fighting spread back along the Portuguese coast, and it was here on the cliffs at Vale da Telha, at 8.52am on July 9th that the crew of one German fighter bomber met their deaths.  The seven Luftwaffe airmen, all of them painfully young when they were killed, are buried—and still remembered—In the graveyard at Aljezur, their countrymen and their foes gathering each year on Remembrance Sunday to respect and honour them.

According to the Luftwaffe’s own historical records, kept by the Aviation History Society, Norway, the Germans’ own records registered the loss of the plane thus:
Luftwaffe Losses Detailed Information
Basic Loss Data:
09.07.1943 III./K.G.40 Unbekannt Zerstörerbeschuß (translates as: Unknown destroyer bombardment)
Luftflotte 3

Aircraft:
Focke-Wulf FW 200 Condor-4 WNr. 0178


Crew:
Feldwebel Nicolaus, Günther (Pilot).
Unteroffizier Weigert, Hans (Co-Pilot).
Unteroffizier Riecke, Werner.
Unteroffizier Beck, Walter (2).
Obergefreiter Herprich, Ernst.Unteroffizier Angermann, Martin.
Feldwebel Bauer, Johann B.

(NB: Feldwebel is the equivalent rank to an RAF Sergeant, Unteroffizier a Corporal and Obergefreiter a Leading Aircraftman).

The Condors were very active at the time in this part of Europe and it is known the Germans had some “watchers” along the Portuguese coast, and probably also in fishing boats, tracking Allied convoys.  Portugal was technically neutral, but its Government was clandestinely pro-Allies although there were Nazi sympathizers among the population.

The best-known such story in Portugal is that of one Portuguese Army sergeant based at the Lighthouse in Cape St. Vicente, which was equipped with a radio from which he contacted the German Embassy in Lisbon.  The Embassy then radioed the information to 1st Kampfgeschwader (Squadron) 40 (1/KG40) which flew Focke-Wulfe Condors from its operational bases at Bordeaux-Merignac and Brest-Langveoc airfield, near Brittany.  The Condor that crashed into the cliffs at Vale Da Telha was one of four from this squadron involved in an air battle after attacking one of several convoys sailing into the Mediterranean.

The RAF had three aircraft on location—two Beaufighters from 248 Squadron (Motto: Il Faut en Finir; It is necessary to make an end to it) whose UK home base was Predannack Airfield, situated near Mullion on Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula, and a Hudson from 233 Squadron, which came from Gibraltar.

And despite Luftwaffe records at the time putting the loss of the Condor down to anti-aircraft fire from a destroyer escort to the convoy, it was actually downed by an RAF Bristol Beaufighter 156 crewed by pilots McLeod & Inglis of 248 Squadron. It is likely that it may have been hugging the Portuguese coastline after being damaged by the Navy vessel.

McLeod & Inglis’ own aircraft, plus another flown by Buckley/Silcox was damaged by a Condor flown by Oberleutenant Johannes Sacher of 9/KG 40 but safely returned to base.  But before that, the Condor piloted by Feldwebel Günther Nicolaus
was hunted down by McLeod & Inglis and crashed into a cliff just south of Atalaia Point, Vale da Telha, where the archaeological ruins are located.

According to reports at the time the crew was trying to make for land in a damaged condition, but did not clear the sea cliffs.
There are German notes on file reporting that one of their Condors claimed the Hudson from 233 Squadron on that day but later information from the RAF suggested the Hudson returned to base, albeit severely damaged. 

There is also a file from the Luftwaffe stating that besides the men lost in Nicolaus’ plane there was also a Luftwaffe man wounded in combat that day, who returned home.  He was named as Gefreiter (Aircraftman 1st class) Rudolf Loy, who had severe injuries in a hand and legs and was sent to a hospital in Bordeaux. But there is no information about the aircraft he was in.

This wasn’t the only time Aljezur had a taste of the war.  US squadron records show that a month earlier, June 3rd 1943, an American P-400 fighter crash-landed in Aljezur, after pilot Richard Savoy reported engine failure.  Records show that the badly damaged plane was ‘interned’ by Portuguese authorities.
THE AIRCRAFT: The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter, often referred to as simply the Beau, is a British long-range heavy fighter modification of the Bristol Aeroplane Company’s earlier Beaufort torpedo bomber design. The name Beaufighter is a portmanteau of “Beaufort” and “fighter.”

Unlike the Beaufort, the Beaufighter, of which 5,928 were built, had a long career and served in almost all theatres of war in the Second World War, first as a night fighter, then as a fighter bomber and eventually replacing the Beaufort as a torpedo bomber.
Bristol Beaufighter is also the name of a car produced by Bristol Cars in the 1980s.

* * * *

The Focke-Wulf Fw200 Condor was a German all-metal four-engine monoplane that originally entered service as an airliner capable of carrying 25 passengers up to 1,860 miles.  Later versions for the Luftwaffe were used as long-range reconnaissance and anti-shipping bomber aircraft as well as transport planes for troops and VIPs. Adolf Hitler used a sumptuously converted Condor as his personal aircraft.  To adapt it for wartime service, hardpoints were added to the wings for bombs, the fuselage was strengthened and extended to create more space, and front, aft and dorsal gun positions were added. Later models were equipped with radar.

Winston Churchill called the Fw 200 the “Scourge of the Atlantic” during the Battle of the Atlantic due to its contribution to the heavy Allied shipping losses.  The Luftwaffe initially used the aircraft to support the Kriegsmarine, making great loops out across the North Sea and, following the fall of France, the Atlantic Ocean.  The aircraft was used for maritime patrols and reconnaissance, searching for Allied convoys and warships that could be reported for targeting by U-boats. The Fw 200 could also carry a 900-kilogram (2,000 lb) bomb load or naval mines to use against shipping.  The attacks were carried out at extremely low altitude in order to “bracket” the target ship with three bombs; this almost guaranteed a hit.

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