The Heinkel He111 provided the Luftwaffe with a fast, manoeuvrable medium bomber which it used as a spearhead for the Blitzkrieg tactics so successfully employed during the early campaigns of World War Two. The He111’s defensive shortcomings were harshly demonstrated in 1940 and 1941, but the Germans had little alternative than to continue production of an ageing and inadequate aircraft.
The Heinkel He 111 was designed in 1934. Through development, it was described as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Due to restrictions placed on Germany after the First World War prohibiting bombers, it was presented solely as a civil airliner, although from conception the design was intended to provide the nascent Luftwaffe with a heavy bomber.
The first bomber deliveries were made in 1936 and a number were sent to Spain the following year. By providing support for the Spanish Nationalist forces the Germans could test their new equipment and tactics under operational conditions.
American forces captured this aircraft, on display at RAF London, in May 1945, in the final days of the war. It was flown to Cherbourg on the French coast for shipment to the USA for evaluation. Due to the lack of space on the allocated vesse this did not occur. A three-man American crew of the 56th USAAF Fighter Group took the decision to fly the abandoned aircraft to their base in Boxted, Essex.
At dawn on the morning of 12 September 1945, Major Carter (one of the original American crew) took off from Boxted and landed at RAF North Weald, parked the Heinkel near the watch tower and was immediately collected by Captain Cole, flying a 56th Group’s transport aircraft, and returned to Boxted. It must have been quite a sight for the people at RAF North Weald to suddenly wake up and see a German bomber parked near the watch tower!
It was also used in the Battle of Britain film.
In 1978, it was moved to the RAF Museum in London.