Leutnant Volkmar von Grone (page 15)

Volkmar von Grone volunteered for Luftwaffe service early in 1939, joining-up that November at the age of 17. His enthusiasm for flying had been sparked off by his uncle, Hauptmann Jürgen von Grone's tales of Great War service as an observer in a Rumpler Taube. This family member's exploits, including the taking of a series of aerial photographs of Paris prior to the Battle of the Marne, led his to the award of the Pour le Mérite on 13 October 1918.

During training, von Grone served a week in prison and was stripped of his officer candidate status after deviating from a cross country flying exercise to buy black market butter. Once qualified he found that there was a surplus of pilots his flying was to be done on behalf of a repair workshop in Grottkau, Silesia (now Grodkow, Poland).

Growing losses on the Eastern Front meant that, with minimal specialised training, von Grone was drafted into an operational unit in Autumn 1942 to fly “night armed reconnaissance” between Leningrad and Lake Ilmen. These were Störkampf operations with the He 46 and Go 145 — in an open cockpit at temperatures of -30ºC. In Autumn 1943, von Grone’s Gruppenkommandeur (himself acting on the instructions of the General der Schlachtflieger) offered him the chance to select a group of pilots to form a new Nachtschlacht unit in Italy. This would become NSG 9.

After a number of his Staffel's CR.42s were lost in the Allied bombing of the FIAT factory, von Grone had at least been able to take over two liaison aircraft which had somehow survived the raid:

The single engined machine [possibly the SAIMAN 202 which 2./NSG 9 marked as E8+ZK] now stood at my personal disposal and in non-operational periods I could make flights hither and yon across Northern Italy for entirely private visits and purposes.

During one of these flights it almost turned out all wrong for me. I was en route between Parma and Verona and I’d settled myself comfortably into low-level flight, so I could navigate by the railway track. The sun was shining and the view was pleasant. Suddenly, coming towards me at the same height and on the opposite course were two English Lightnings [to NSG 9 almost every Allied fighter was a "Lightning"], probably looking to shoot up railway trains and locomotives.

I got a suitable fright because when I turned round I saw that both machines—which were much faster than I was, of course—were turning in to make sure their prize didn’t get away. Since I wasn’t flying at more than 50 m., I throttled back right away and landed my good natured little bird on a meadow which was protected by high growth along its sides, giving good cover. I’d just jumped out of the cockpit to hide myself in the nearest ditch, when the two Lightnings passed overhead, engines thundering, without discovering my hiding place. I’d been lucky and took off for my destination once the air was clear again.


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