Messerschmitt Bf 109 shot down by No.54 Sqn, crashes into Byron Avenue, Margate, 24th July 1940

The wreckage of a Messerschmitt Bf 109 flown by 21 year old Lt. Josef Schauff from 8/JG 26 which crashed into Byron Avenue, Margate on 24th July 1940. The pilot bailed out moments before, but he died in the grounds of the Royal School for Deaf Children. Published with permission from “Margate Local & Family History”

No.54 Sqn’s P/O Gray attacks a Bf 109 piloted by Lt Josef Schauff of 8/JG 26 over Margate. The German’s parachute fails to open, his body landing on a local playing field and aircraft crashing in Byron Avenue at 1.05am.

On the 28th July, the funerals of P/O Allen and P/O Finnie of No.54 Sqn (killed on the 24th and 25th respectively), plus Lt Schuaff of the Luftwaffe took place at Margate Cemetery with airmen from Manston as pallbearers and Sqn Ldr Obsborne presiding.

Post from Margate Local & Family History:

As the Battle of Britain was hotting up in the skies over Kent, a German Messerschmitt crashed into Bryon Avenue, Margate (between 70-80).

On 24th July 1940, a 21 year old pilot, Josef Schauff bailed out moments before his plane blasted a crater 15 feet deep in the narrow street. The young pilot’s bid to save his life failed and he died in the grounds of the Royal School for Deaf Children. Today his body lies in a neatly tended grave in Margate Cemetery, alongside other casualties of the conflict.

The crash was well remembered by Len Walsham, who was just 11 years old at the time. He had taken cover in the family shelter in the garden at 10 Vicarage Crescent. German Dornier’s were attacking a convoy off Margate and Spitfires sent from Biggin Hill and other airfields “tangled with the top cover of escorting Messerschmitt’s”.

He said it was obvious one plane had been shot down. The noise got louder and louder, then there was a thump. Len reached the plane within 10 or 15 minutes and saw smoke still pouring out. Police, fire brigade and ARP wardens were already on scene.

Roy Humphrey’s, author of Thanet at War, records the event with the help of Herbert R Evans, a retired divisional officer of Kent Fire Brigade, who recalls the Messerschmitt came down with “an ear splitting shriek to bury itself in Byron Avenue, making a crater some 15 feet deep.

Mr Evans says : “We stood by in case the fuel tank ignited. Then the RAF arrived to take charge. They asked us to recover the cannon guns as they might be a new type. We obliged, clambering down into the wreckage to locate the wing stubs. Despite being fearful that a spark might start a fuel fire, we managed to hack out the guns with our axes”.

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