Emergency landing in Ter Apel in 1938. Back in time with Jakob Been

Posing together in front of the German Messerschmitt Bf. 108 Typhoon. Photo: J. Dierselhuis

Sometimes pearls of photos pop up, such as the beautiful photo that accompanies this article that I received from Mr. Dierselhuis from Purmerend. And then it’s quite interesting to examine the story behind such a photo.

On this fourth of May, we commemorate the victims of World War II. But already in the years before the war there was already a threat from Adolf Hitler’s Germany. He came to power in the early 1930s and foresaw a large German empire. So the threat got bigger and bigger. Before World War II broke out, Germany annexed Austria as early as 1938 and in 1939 the Germans invaded Poland. Holland did not even have that many planes, so they certainly did not or hardly flew over Ter Apel. So it was also a huge surprise when a plane suddenly landed on a meadow. What had happened?

The roar of an airplane

It was early evening on Wednesday 21 September 1938 around 7.30pm when the inhabitants of Ter Apel were startled by the roar of a small plane. The plane circled close to the houses several times before making an emergency landing in Barnflair. To indicate the exact location: Exactly between the present Polderputten and the border with Germany, close to the leidijken, the pilot put his plane on the ground next to Hanetangerweg.

Lack of fuel or broken compass

It was a German Messerschmitt Bf. 108 Taifun, registration number D-ITGE, the pilot was Oberleutnant (1st Lieutenant) Karl Drewes and he was alone in the small plane. This original sports aircraft was characterized by its speed and climbing ability, and that was also the reason why the aircraft was used for military purposes from 1936. Probably due to lack of fuel, but some media also report due to a broken compass that the pilot landed the plane. What was he doing over Holland?

Espionage flight

There were probably regular spy flights from Germany and this was one such flight. It was only revealed much later that this was in fact the case. Karl Drewes was part of combat squadron 138 ‘Hindenburg’ in 1938. He became a prisoner of war for the English in 1945; by that time he had already risen to the rank of major general and was not released until 1947.

Searched and monitored

Immediately after the landing, many people flocked, especially many young people, because you almost never saw anything like it. The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee was also immediately added under the command of Commander Albertus Jacobus Elings, better known as ‘het oppertje’, because the aircraft had to be searched and guarded.

Soldiers housed in Ter Apel, who were usually stationed in Assen, also arrived quickly. Responsibility was shared by Commander Elings and Captain Van Erp. The soldiers immediately examined the plane, but nothing was found at all: no flight logs or other papers, no photos, nothing at all. Probably not so surprising, a few hundred meters away, just across the border, lay a German lookout post in one of the farms…. It can therefore be assumed that the place of emergency landing was chosen on purpose.

No seizures

The plane was guarded day and night by two soldiers, the picture shows them on both wing ends. It was not a seizure, it did not seem necessary at the time. It would be ensured that the pilot could take off again. Not before said than done. Two days later, help came from Soesterberg, who ensured that the plane could take off again. Friday afternoon, watched by a large crowd of spectators, the German plane honestly and freely took off to return to its base in Oldenburg.

Commies (customs officer) Gerhardus Hendrikus Dierselhuis is right in the middle of the five men. He is flanked by two men from the military police. To the right is probably the German pilot Karl Drewes.

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