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Martin Drewes & Bf-110G-4 "G9+WD"

by Marcus V. T. Borges

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Martin Drewes was born on October 20, 1918,  in a small village near Hannover (northwestern Germany) called Lobmachtersen-bei-Braunschweig, a son of a local pharmacist.

As the 30's began to end, Martin Drewes volunteered for the officer's school of the German Army, the famous Wehrmacht, and at the last months of the Panzer course decided to transfer to the Luftwaffe; as this new armed force was in need of potential 'fliegern' (pilots), his request was accepted, and his new training period began during 1939-40.  At this time, the most famous branches (and the most looked for by candidates) of the Luftwaffe were the "Jagd" (fighters) and "Sturzkampfluzeug" (dive bombers) Geschwadern (squadrons), being the Stuka the fastest way to get into the already well developed fray.

Drewes succeeded in getting posted to the Zerstörer (destroyer-a branch of the fighters based upon twin engined fighters, or the so-called 'heavy fighters') Geschwader upon graduation, and was transferred to ZG 76 "Haifish" (Shark) Wing, performing Kriegsmarine shipping patrols in the North Sea and some action in the Middle East. During this time Martin had already got two "Abschüsse" (victories), one of them a Spitfire over the North Sea, and the other a unfortunate Gloster Gladiator during his stay in the desert (1941 Iraqi uprising).

As the main weapon of this arm was the recently depreciated Bf-110C/D, the German High Command considered, upon the initiatives of a gifted Destroyer Arm officer, Wolfgang Falck, and some concerns on the annoying British night raids, which were then in a crescendo, to create a Nightfighter arm, by just transferring most of the Zerstörer units into this new kind of warfare.  Initially, ZG 76 was transformed into NJG 3, and so Drewes saw himself merged into a new type of combat situation.

As time passed by, his night victories increased, and he was transferred to NJG 1,within which he would stay up to the end of the war.  During 1944 he was appointed Kommandeur (commander) of III./NJG 1 (third group of the first nightfighter wing), and that is the point we will focus now.  At this time, Drewes had a Messerschmitt Bf-110G-4 coded G9+WD as his mount for night duties, and it was a totally personalized aircraft, as usual within the squadrons, as to improve chances against an ever varying and growing Allied air offensive.
His aircraft had, just to increase morale of the ground personnel, his updated victory markings painted in the fin, where there were a yellow bordered black "25",and below it the Ritterkreuz (Knight's Cross); besides, there were many white victory bars, each one with a British roundel on its top and a black diagonal below, indicating night victories over British aircraft.  The only decal sheet correctly done for Drewes aircraft is the one, in 1/48th scale, from Pro-Modeller, as all the others    have one or more bad errors...

Besides, this aircraft's "Schräge Musik" (Jazz Musik)-oblique cannons mounted in the cockpit of the fighter to shoot at the British bombers vulnerable belly-was in the then standard side-by-side position, but just behind the pilot's seat, not in front of the "Bordschüetze"(Gunner), which was far more common at this period, according to a fax sent by Erich Vorholt, Drewes armourer at that time, which is still living in Germany.  

The nose carried the factory standard four 7.9mm MG, and not the pair of 30mm cannon (Drewes said to me that he did not like the cannons, and instructed his ground crew to exchange them for the machine guns, because the cannons blasted huge pieces of the bomber-which could seriously damage his fighter, as the shooting distance was never beyond a mere 35 meters!!!).  Things being this way, it is important to, if one wants to make Drewes aircraft, in 1/48th scale, use the Pro-Modeller kit with the Fujimi's four machine guns nose...and to change the "Schräge Musik"  position, not forgetting to not consider the rear side-by-side openings the canopy of the Pro-Modeller kit has for them...use the alternative canopy or a Squadron one!!  The camouflage is the period  tandard RLM 76 overall with tiny AND faded blotches of RLM 75 on upper surfaces, fin/rudder and fuselage sides, with no areas painted in 74, not even around the canopy, so it is another point to look out and to correct older data...the radar set is the indicated by the decal sheet above mentioned.  It is interesting to note that many speculate about Drewes aircraft without proper knowledge, which causes a lot of misinformation...

As to have some interesting insight in another role of the Nachtjagdfliegern (nightfighting pilots),   was talking to Drewes, a true gentleman, at his home when he told me that indeed G9+WD was a ex-nightfighter transformed into a dayfighter zerstörer for intercepting American bomber formations of B-17 and B-24 crossing the Reich in 1943-when escort fighters were rare sights over Germany, with its radar set removed for increased speed, and no belly 20mm twin cannons gun pod as well, for the same reason.  However, he had another a/c for specific nightfighting, G9+MD, complete with the radar set, etc., so he had two available a/c, each for a specific role.  Indeed, only pilots with less than 20 night victories would reinforce the day fighters struggle against the intruders of the Reich airspace, as the others were considered too valuable to be eventually spent in dayfighting with the ever growing menace, at the time, of the allied escort fighters.  

One night, after detecting an unsuspecting Lancaster in the bomber stream, into which he mixed up thanks to Erich Handke (his excellent Bordfunker, or radar-operator, Ritterkreuzträger, or Knight's Cross bearer, in German), he proceed to make the conventional Schräge Musik attack, right from below, spreading the these guns fire from the inboard left engine till the starboard one (a vital area, with fuel tanks half full, so with a lot of fuel vapours to cause a huge explosion if hit...), but in this case, the unaware bomber initiated a right turn, and the 2-3 second shot got itself concentrated on the BOMB BAY, STILL FULL OF ITS DEADLY CARGO!!! The bomber disintegrated, and took Drewes and its crew with it, through an incredible amount of debris, which dilacerated the Bf-110G-4 (G9+MD)...they all had to jump immediately for their lives from the plane's blazing hulk!!! One schrapnel hit the gunner's (Oberfeldwebel Petz) wristwatch, stopping it right at the moment of the explosion: 01:19hs...

After this incident,and the recuperation of he and his crew, Drewes then took old G9+WD back to its more appropriated affairs of nightfighting, and so the story goes...

Martin Drewes finish the war with a grand total of 52 victories, consisting of a Spitfire, a Gladiator,7 day bombers (B-17 and B-24), and 43 British night bombers, most of them the latest Bomber Command weapon, Lancasters.  He was one of a few to receive the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves in the German armed forces.

Captured by the British at the end of the war, he was interrogated by them and told by his interrogator that "those enormous German scores against the RAF were pure fantasy, lies indeed", but Drewes told him to search in the official RAF losses reports how many planes were missing...the answer cost him several months in a British prison camp, subjected to varying degrees of humiliation, until he was liberated and decided to take his chances and immigrate to another country, Brazil.  Arriving in Brazil, working first as pilot and then as a businessman, Martin married a Brazilian woman, Dulce, and they have a son, Klaus, who lives and works in Brazil.

Martin Drewes is now on his eighties, but keeps his mind as sharp as ever, and it was a great living experience for me, a Brazilian Air Force officer, to talk to him and some of his friends, a Dresden attack survivor who as a boy was in the doomed city and now owns an iron industry, and also a former Fallschirmjäger which fought in the Russian, Mediterranean and Home fronts, but was born in Brazil.

I hope some contribution was made here to readers which do want to know a little bit else about the truth behind some WW II aviation myths, propagated through times, but not really verified up to now by historians.

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Marcus V. T. Borges-CaptainBrazilian Air Force

Marcus

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Photos and text © by Marcus V. T. Borges

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