INTERVIEW WITH GÜNTHER SEEGER 14.11.2008
I would like to ask you some questions about yourself and your involvement with the Battle of Britain. When and where were you born?
I was born on the 9th Sept. 1918 in Offenbach/Main. I grew up in Offenbach. I went to school and left with my Abitur.
What did you do besides going to school?
I met my wife very early and joined a lot of clubs.
When did you get married?
In December 1944 during the war.
Did you joined the Hitler Youth?
Yes, I was in the HJ.
Your father, where did he work?
He was a director of the milk distribution for the Offenbach area. He was earning good money.
Did your father take part in the 1st World War?
Yes, from 1915 – 17. He was in the infantry and fought near Verdun. He never talked much about this time.
Did he survive the war without any injuries?
Yes, no injuries.
Did you have any brothers and sisters?
I had two brothers, one was born 1916 and the younger one in 1921.
Did they both survived the war?
Yes, but my older brother has since died.
What was your upbringing like?
I had a very good childhood. My father built a house for us in 1929 and even in the early 30’s we had enough money to live well.
Did you remember the time when Hitler came to power?
Before 1933 my father said, that if Hitler comes to power there will be a war and we will lose it. I didn’t believe him.
What did you do after you left school?
That was 1937 when I had to do my Arbeitsdienst for ½ year. We all had to do this before we joined the air force, infantry or navy. At this time I mentioned that I wanted to join the air force to become a fighter pilot.
When did you first have the idea of flying? Was that when you joined the HJ?
No, it was before then. I was always interested in aircrafts and flying.
What happened after the Arbeitsdienst?
From Aril 1938 to the end of September 1938 I stayed in Detmold for the Rekruten-training.
How was that training?
It was quite hard but because I was rather sporty I could cope with it.
What did your friends from school do after the Arbeitsdienst?
They mostly became soldiers in the infantry, some joined the navy.
When did you start your AB training?
I was sent to the school in Mönchengladbach in autumn 1938. We practised starts and landings. After 58 starts I was allowed to fly on my own. I was one of the first ones to be able to.
Did you have some training how the flak worked?
Yes, we had some.
Who decided that you could train to become a fighter pilot?
It was my wish and it was granted.
Where did you do your fighter pilot training?
I was sent to Werneuchen near Berlin. The fighter pilot school there was one of the best in Germany.
How long did the training last?
I was there from December 1939 until February 1940.
What happened after the training?
All the fighter pilots were sent to a centre in Merseburg where a selection took place. I came to the JG2 Richthofen and joined the 3rd Staffel under squadron leader Stümpel.
Was it your wish to join this squadron? Were you proud? It was probably the most famous squadron.
I had the feeling that they have chosen me. But later on I joined JG 53.
When did you have to fly your first combat mission?
That was during the French invasion when I was involved in a hit of an aircraft. I gave the claim to the other pilot.
After the invasion of France did you operate over to Dunkirk?
Yes, I was near Dunkirk and we all watched the exodus of hundreds of small and bigger ships back to England. Our command was not to shoot! That was very good. It would have been very wrong to do so.
How long did the exodus last?
Couple of weeks.
Did you ever think about the possibility of a war with England?
We all knew that there were invasion plans.
Where was your airfield?
I was in Belmont-Rocher From 1940 – 41 that was near the Cherbourg area. The leadership stayed in a small castle. The squadron III pilots stayed in a very comfortable villa. It was good.
How many of you?
We were between 12 and 15 pilots. The ground crew stayed near the air field.
Who looked after you?
We had our own cook in our house. He did the breakfast and the evening meal for us. During daytime we had our food near the air field.
Did you have to share a room?
Yes, we shared. We were either two or three in one bedroom.
Were you allowed to drink any alcohol?
No. We had to fly the next day.
What was a normal day like?
We were woken up at sunrise. We had our breakfast and were driven to the air field. That lasted between 10 and 15 mins.
What did you do at the air field?
We played cards or we slept. We had to be there because we might have had to fly. That command could be very sudden.
How was the comradeship within your squadron?
It was very good.
Did you have friends?
Oh yes, I had lots of friends.
What did you do in the evenings?
We played Skat (a German card game). One of my colleagues and I listened to the English radio, which was strictly forbidden. But I just had to listen to it. It was very interesting and I think I was very well informed.
Did you receive letters or parcels from your family and friends?
Yes, I had letters from my parents. My father was against the regime and I knew that he was listening to the English radio channels as well. We had to be very careful what to say in those letters. Sometimes I received parcels.
Was there a good relationship between the pilots and the commanders?
Yes, we respected our commanders. We heard about other squadrons where this wasn’t the case.
Did you get anxious or frightened before an attack?
No, not really.
What was the worst what happened to you during this time?
Nothing in particular.
Did you escort mostly the bombers over to England?
Yes, that was our command. Before an attack we listened to British commands and they listened to ours, no doubt. But it was very strange that their planes were often half way over the channel to meet ours. It looked as if the British had been informed. We thought about this and became quite suspicious of a man who paid for our drinks some of the evenings. He always had plenty of money and was around before an operation. We passed our suspicions on to the bureau of espionage and a search in this man’s house took place. They found equipment for sending messages. Apparently, this spy had an airplane in Caen and disappeared.
What did you think about the Spitfires and Hurricanes?
They were good aircrafts but ours were that little bit faster, at least in the middle of 1940. The English and German aircrafts were very similar in their flight ability. The English pilots had one big advantage. Their tanks were normally full and ours nearly empty, so that we often had to fly back in hurry before running out of fuel. Sometimes you had to throw the reserve tank over board. Later on the English planes got better.
Did you ever run out of fuel?
Were you ever hit?
No, that never happened to me during the Battle of Britain.
What happened on the 7th Sept. 1940 when you shot down two spitfires?
We had the command to fly to South England to have a look around. We flew over London and saw the bombers to the east of London. The flak was very heavy.
So we flew higher. On this flight I shot down three spitfires but was only accredited two hits.
What did you think about the weapons on the Me 109?
We had a 2cm canon and normally two MGs. But lots of times even up to five MGs. That was very good. The German planes had a great advantage over the English planes because of the combination of the two different types of weapons.
Were your air field ever attacked by the RAF during the night?
Yes, a few bombs fell on the air strip. The attempts during day time were never successful.
Were there any attacks on your quarters?
No, never. It was peaceful.
Did you ever suffer from nerves?
No, I always trusted my experiences and my judgment.
Did you have a mascot?
Were you superstitious?
No, I was never superstitious. I can remember that there was an air craft with the number thirteen. Lots of the pilots didn’t want to fly it. I didn’t mind. And I think it was my lucky number.
Did you have great losses in your squadron?
We had rare losses. The reason for that was that we never flew alone. We helped and protected each other. Flying on your own was too risky, too dangerous. The younger pilots wanted successes very quickly and very often lost their lives.
Did the replacements come through fairly quickly.
Yes, that wasn’t a problem. It didn’t matter, if you flew with 13 instead of 14 airplanes for a few times.
Did you meet members of the leadership?
Yes, sometimes we had visitors.
Did you think the strategy about the Battle of Britain was good?
Yes, in general it was good. We followed the commands and had our successes.
Did you get enough information, enough news?
We heard what we had to know.
Helmut Wick was your commander for a long time. What did you think about him?
Yes, I knew him right from the beginning of my flying career until he was shot down.
Were you flying with him, that day he was killed?
No. We looked for him for a long time when he didn’t return. We didn’t find anything. The English pilot confirmed the shot down. I thought that Helmut Wick was always flying a little bit too fast and was often ahead of the squadron.
What happened to you at the end of the war?
My squadron was in a forest in the south of Germany. That was in May 1945. We didn’t have any planes. We found food and stayed in the forest for a few days. Then we decided to leave the forest in small groups of three. I cycled home and found my wife.
I was so relieved to be home. My parent’s house in Offenbach had been destroyed in 1943. I started to work as an employee in a business. 1956 I joined the armed forces. Unfortunately I was not able to fly anymore, but I had a higher post in security within the army until I became a pensioner in 1974.
Do you think lots about the war?
I am in a club for pilots. But I am the only one there from the older generation. Although there are a few pilots left from my old squadron.
Did you think that your survival was due to faith, luck and skills?
We always said that God had protected us and we had to thank him for that. But it was always a little bit of a joke because I was never a strong believer.