Interview with Julius Neumann 6.5.2008
Main points from this:
Mr Neumann was a POW for 7 years – couldn’t understand where.
He was released in May 1947.
He thinks that the BoB day should be the 18th Aug. and not the 15th Sept. 1940 because that was the day when the Stukas had their last mission to England. It was the hardest day and the most decisive, he said. Germany suffered heavy losses.
Alfred Price had the idea to write a book and got 150 people together with their stories and ideas. It was a book about the aerial and ground war but only from 1 day.
Every year Mr Neumann meets up with fellow pilots of the air force. 2 years ago
there was a big reunion in Cologne.
He sent off copies of his flight book to Günther Rall because he lost all his.
Looked at lots of photos.
One of the photos was of an aeroplane Nr 3 which he mostly were flying. This picture was from the Luftfahrtmuseum in Hanover and it was with the Berlin bear and the little triangle. But the Nr 3 was just by chance.
Where were you born?
In Harzerrode??? in the Harz mountains.
What did your father do?
He was a lawyer. (he said that, but I think he was probably a barrister, because he worked at the courts)
Was your father in the 1st world war?
How many brothers and sisters do you have?
We were 5 children, 3 boys and 2 girls.
Were you close to your brothers and your sisters?
My youngest brother was killed when he was just 19 years old, in Belgium.
One of my sisters was an actress.
I was the 2nd eldest.
You were a big family.
Where did your father practise Law?
In Dessau until 1942.
Back to his memorabilia.
Talks a lot about his forced landing on the Isle of Wight.
That day he flew Nr 6 because his normal plane had 2 hits 3 days before.
An artist from the island has painted the landing of the 109. He knew exactly where
Mr Neumann came down on the 18th August 1940.
What time of the day did you come down?
13:25 exactly ( that was his answer)
The logbook 14:45 and the start was 11:45.
James, you took some copies of the flight book. (I don’t know, if the times are correct.)
What happened to the wreck?
I saw it burning when I was taken away.
2 home guards came up to me – elderly men and asked me, if I had any souvenirs.
I didn’t come here to bring those.
Did you speak English?
Yes, I learned it at school.
But we can’t go home not bringing a souvenir they said.
I had 2 pairs of sunglasses. My own and the other from the Luftwaffe. I broke that one in half and gave it to them.
They took me to the barracks, then over London to the Lake District. We POW stayed in an old castle at Lake Windermere. There I met bomber pilots and lots of other prisoners. In Dec. we heard that we would be transported to Canada. That happened in January. So we came to a camp near Halifax.
You must have been disappointed? Did you wonder what would happen to you?
Yes, I was very disappointed but I was alive.
Some talk about silk painted yellow to locate shot down crew by the rescue planes.
How did you become a fighter pilot?
I wanted to be an army officer. So in April 1936 I joined the Arbeitsdienst as an officer cadet. I was in the Infantry Regiment 51.
Why did you join that particular regiment?
There was an older pupil in my school who told me about this.
After a year as an officer cadet I joined the officers school in Munich. I was 1 ½ years there and was then transferred to the air force. Göring needed pilots.
You had to be physically and mentally fit and intelligent enough.
So out of the 600, 300 were sent to flight school. They have chosen the most qualified.
Have you been asked to do that?
No, because at the beginning of the army time you had to sign a contract and wherever you were needed you had to go.
Did you have a particular interest in flying as a boy?
No, not really.
I came to the pilot school in Werneuchen, near Berlin.
Did you enjoy flying?
Yes, I was fit enough for it.
After your AB training did you choose to become a fighter pilot?
The instructors could see who was suited for what and you were just selected.
Your character was assessed.
At the fighter pilot school you found the same type of people. Fighter pilots are individualists.
Were you pleased to become a fighter pilot?
When did you finish your fighter pilot training?
In 1939 and I came to Cologne where I joined the JG26.
In 1940 I came to the JG27 in Magdeburg and Döberitz near Berlin. I was the 1st officer of the 2nd group, Staffel 6.
You always enjoyed horse riding. Was that the reason why you wanted to join the army?
Yes, I liked riding and rowing and other sports.
Have you been to Britain before the war?
No, I never had the chance.
When did you get to the Western Front?
We stayed in Brussels and from there we went to France. That was January 1940.
What did you do up to May.
In March 1940 I left France, the West of France – Biaritz?????
That was after the successful invasion. We were able to go home and see our families.
On the 28th June I went back to Cologne, from there to Wunstorf and then to Delmenhorst near Bremen.
What did you do?
Was there some excitement when Britain joined the war?
It was no surprise because we saw all the troops moving to the front.
What were your 1st missions. We escorted U20s and U52s to Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Den Haag.
What happened on your very 1st combat mission?
On that occasion we had to escort bombers to Rotterdam and I shot down a Dutch aeroplane.
Did you only think about fighting the machine?
And if you hit somebody you were glad to see the parachutes.
Was there a sense of confidence?
Did you fly over Dunkirk?
Yes and I saw the British escaping. And we, the pilots thought, this is not a bad thing. Let them go home. We thought that this was the end of the story.
The France invasion was a good example, it lasted only 6 weeks.
Did you think that Britain would come to the peace table?
We all knew that Hitler didn’t want a war with Britain.
What are your memories of Dunkirk?
I could see Dunkirk from miles away. The oil tanks were burning.
Were you nervous before a combat mission?
Yes, I was nervous, that was only natural.
But you started together, did your task and landed together.
Were you superstitious?
Did you have a mascot?
Yes, a little Teddy from my girl friend. She gave me a scarf as well.
That was the thing to do.
Where did you keep your Teddy?
It was hanging in my plane, on the side.
I still have it today. It hangs in my car and it lost all its fur.
Who was your girl friend?
We separated, because 7 years to wait for me was a long time.
On the 4th August I went back to the West and to the Channel. We flew missions, we had to escort the bombers.
Did that come as a surprise to you?
No, because we had newspapers and the radio. We listened to all the speeches. And everybody just asked the question: when will we start?
Where did you stay?
It was Crepeau ???near Caen. There was a grass field as an air strip and in the morning we had to fly to Cherbourg to refuel and wait for the bombers. There was another small air field.
When did you get your briefings?
Either in the evening or in the morning before the mission.
Where you staying in houses, on farms?
There were some private buildings and there were caravans from a circus.
Was it comfortable?
Yes, primitive, but ok.
How did you pass the time between missions?
Firstly I had a nice drink and then go to sleep.
Did you talk amongst yourselves?
Yes, we always talked together. We talked about the things we did that day. That was typical exchanging stories.
Did you write letters home?
Did you go to the near village for a drink in the evening or after a mission?
No, we never did that.
Was the mood confident?
Yes, we were in good spirits. We all thought that we would win the war.
Our squadron had a mascot, a little bear which had been given to us by the zoo director and the mayor of Berlin.
What did you think when you were flying out to Britain?
We had 3 enemies: the Spitfires, the weather and the lack of fuel.
We only had 10 min time to fight and then we had to go back.
Lots of the pilots drowned in the Channel of fuel shortage.
How did you deal with the losses of your comrades?
You just kept up the spirits, because you had to go to do the next mission .
Did you get enough replacements?
Yes, we did.
Can you recall the 1st flight over England?
Nobody liked to fly over the dark water, with the sky full of clouds and no horizon.
Everybody did their best and got on with their jobs.
How many air victories did you have?
We were not trained for air victories.
That wasn’t our aim. We had to escort the Stukas and make sure that they were safe and fulfil the task.
Was that a frustrating job?
That wasn’t the subject. We just had to do our job.
You had to fly quite slowly.
Yes, and the fighter planes weren’t really made for this task, they were unsuitable. We were handicapped and the missions were idiotic. We just couldn’t protect the Stukas efficiently. But we couldn’t just leave the formation to fight. We had to stay with the Stukas.
What did you think about the Luftwaffe commanders?
We didn’t think much about politics. We only thought about the next day.
While you were taking photos of the log book Stefan and Mr. Neumann were talking about some fights and disputes in the POW camp in Canada. Do you need to know this story?
He is quite a story teller!!!!!
What did you do when you came back to Germany?
That was on the 9th May 1947.
First I was in the camp in Munsterlager.
Was it a shock to come back to Germany? Germany had been destroyed.
Yes. My family was in the East.
I did not have a profession.
I didn’t have any money.
But fortunately I had an aunt who lived in Hanover. She was the sister of my father. I stayed with her.
What did you do to earn money?
The British wanted to restart the German economy and in July 1947 was the 1st Industrial Exhibition in Hanover and I was employed as an interpreter, I spoke English, French and Russian. I had work for 3 weeks to greet visitors from other countries.
And did you do for a more permanent position?
I studied economics and got a job with a firm in Hamburg, in the department import and export. It was good for people with language skills.
When I started I wasn’t on the highest level. But later I got promoted and the work was interesting. I was married and I had a daughter.
1955-1956 the Deutsche Bundeswehr was established. I received a postcard from Günther Rall asking, where I was?
Did you go back to the Luftwaffe?
Yes, from 1960 – 63 I was the Luftwaffenattaché.
(I don’t think that I understood all of it)
Did you ever fly again?
Yes. 50 years later we were invited by the Canadians to visit our old camp. We were 40 – 50 people and my wife came as well.
And there I had the chance to fly, one of the bush planes, a water plane. I was the co-pilot but after taking off the pilot said I would be in charge. As a pilot you always look at the horizon first. Then how lies the motor to the horizon and then it was easy. I had not forgotten how to fly and I flew up and down and up again and it was absolutely fantastic.