Heinkel He111 T5+EU

Vaasetter, Fair Isle, Shetland













Aircraft Type Photo


BELOW: Flugzeug Heinkel He111


heinkel he111 squadron in flight


Photo: Deutsches Bundesarchiv. Released by the German Federal Archive to the public domain under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany licensing arrangement.





Aircraft Type and Background


Deutsche Luftwaffe Heinkel He111 H-2 / T5+EU


Aircraft Type Nickname: "Pedro" (Condor Legion)


Originally designed as a civil airliner for Lufthansa, the Heinkel He111 was to become the Luftwaffe's main medium bomber. Early types were equipped with BMW or Daimler-Benz engines. Later, however, the He111 H-4 version was equipped with two 1,100hp (820kW) Junkers Jumo 211D engines. Later still, this was changed to type 211F —a 1,350hp liquid-cooled inverted V12 powerplant.


This aircraft could carry a crew of five: pilot, navigator/ bombadier, nose gunner, ventral gunner, & dorsal gunner.


The Heinkel He111 could carry 2,000kgs bombs internally, plus additional munitions in an external bomb rack. It had a top speed of 436km/h (271mph), although this reduced to 405km/h (251.5mph) when the aircraft was fully loaded.


Some of these aircraft were built under licence by the Spanish manufacturer, CASA (EADS-CASA). During the war, these aircraft were equipped with Junkers engines supplied from Germany. Post-war, however, the Spanish-built Heinkels (designated CASA 2.111) were fitted with Rolls-Royce Merlin 500-29 engines.


The engines in the Heinkel featured here are reported elsewhere as being Junkers Jumo types (the usual for this aircraft). However, some doubt remains over the exact type fitted to this particular aircraft..



BELOW: A CASA 2.111 bomber (Spanish-built version of the Heinkel He111) on display. (Museum unknown).


A CASA (Spanish) built Heinkel He111 on display at museum


Photo: 2007 'Bzuk'. Released by the author to the public domain.





Aircraft Accident Details                      


Flight Nickname: 'Weather Willie'. (Applied by local islanders to German weather reconnaissance flights)



Although re-designed as a bomber, the Heinkel He111 featured here was not being used in this capacity, but had been modified and equipped to carry out weather reconnaissance flights.


On the 17th January 1941, this Heinkel took off from its base in Oldenburg, near Bremen, in Germany. It was scheduled to fly as far as the Faroes, passing over the Fair Isle channel on the way. (See also The Last (25th) Flight)


Somewhere between Shetland and Fair Isle, the Heinkel was detected on radar. Very soon, two groups of Hurricane fighters from RAF Sumburgh (now, Sumburgh Airport) took off to intercept the Heinkel. After a short period, the crew of one of the Hurricane groups from No. 3 Squadron RAF spotted the German aircraft and intercepted it at about 2,600m (8,000ft). Firing from behind, the pilots of the Hurricanes first hit the fuselage and then one of the engines of the Heinkel. Two German aircrew were injured in this attack.


With two of the Heinkel crew injured and the aircraft damaged, the pilot, Leutnant Thurz, attempted to head across the North Sea to Norway. Soon, however, one of his engines showed signs of failure. The pilot shut down this engine, but soon the second engine began to fail. Realising that he would need to land immediately, or ditch in the icy sea, he attempted to keep the aircraft aloft until he reached Fair Isle. Ultimately, Leutnant Thurz somehow managed to coax the crippled Heinkel to this small island between Orkney and Shetland, crash-landing his plane on the gentle slopes of Vaasetter. Two of the crew died in this incident (one on impact), but the three others survived—including the pilot, Leutnant Thurz.


The islanders arrived promptly on the scene and detained the German crew until the arrival of the British authorities.


Two days later, on the 19th January 1941, the three Germans prisoners were transferred to Shetland on the Lerwick lifeboat. (Two previous attempts to transfer them by RAF launches and a fishing boat failed when these vessels experienced unfortunate mishaps caused by stormy conditions at the time.)





Aircraft Crew Casualties


The two airmen who died were:

  • Wd. Insp. A. Kr. Leo Gburek,

  • Gefr. Georg Nentwig

Both men were buried in the small parish churchyard at the southern end of Fair Isle.



Those who survived with injuries were:


Leutnant Karl Heinz Thurz (20), Pilot

Feldwebel Josef Wohlfahrt, 1st Wireless Operator

Unteroffizier Bernard Luking, engineer/air gunner


The three surviving air crew became PoW's for the duration of the war.


Heinz Thurz returned to the Fair Isle in the 1980's to visit the crash site. He died in 2006.





Crash Site Photos


BELOW: Approaching Fair Isle by air. This air photo gives some idea of the remoteness and desperation of the crashing Heinkel's plight. If his damaged aircraft had failed to reach this island it would have crashed into the very cold sea below with virtually no hope of rescue in time.


At the time this photo was taken, weather conditions were exceptionally good. Flying as he was in mid winter, the Heinkel pilot may not have experienced such favourable weather.


approaching fair isle aboard an islander aircraft


Photo: © 2006 Richard Hobby



BELOW: The inter-island aircraft on final approach. The airstrip is just visible as a brown rectangular patch in the distance.


This photo gives some idea of the view that would be seen by the Heinkel pilot. Having managed to fly his crippled reconnaissance aircraft this far, he must now find a relatively level place to land.


on final approach to fair isle airfield


Photo: © 2006 Richard Hobby



NOTE: Since 2006 when the photos below were taken, most of this wreckage may have been removed from this site and relocated closer to the airfield.



BELOW: An overall view of the remaining wreckage of the Heinkel He111 H-2 (a modified bomber). The tail unit lies in the foreground, while the two engines can just be seen as a small white object on the hillcrest close to the wire fence.


overall view of remaining heinkel he111 wreckage


Photo: © 2006 Richard Hobby



BELOW: The tail section of the He111. Note the triangulated bracing struts for added strength.


tail section of he111


Photo: © 2006 Richard Hobby



BELOW: Tail cone unit, which was joined to the fuselage, with part of the tailplane or empennage.


tail cone section


Photo: © 2006 Richard Hobby



BELOW: Richard Hobby's nephew closely examines some green paint still remaining on the Heinkel's tailplane (cone section).


tail cone section


Photo: © 2006 Richard Hobby



BELOW: The two engines from the He111. These engines are now greatly decayed, having been exposed to sea air for over 60 years.


In the distance, viewed from the centre toward the right of the photo, the road to Fair Isle's modern dirt strip airfield is just visible leading straight up the hill. The building at the upper right of the picture is the 'Airport' building.


the two engines from the he111


Photo: © 2006 Richard Hobby



BELOW: A closer view of the two engines, reduction gear and other components from the Heinkel aircraft.


closer view of heinkel's engines


Photo: © 2006 Richard Hobby





Photo Gallery


At the moment, there are no additional crash site photos in the Photo Gallery.



















Crash Date / Site


Accident Date: 17 Jan 1941


Accident Site:

Fair Isle (60m)

(40km SW of Sumburgh Head, Shetland)


Region: Shetland


Nearest town, village, or croft:

The Croft of Vaasetter or Fair Isle Airstrip


Nearest large town:

None on Fair Isle. Nearest by ferry (via Sumburgh) or aircraft to Lerwick (NNW) on the Shetland mainland.


OS Grid Ref. 63 / NS 297 642


GPS Ref. N/A


Present Condition: Tail cone

 section, two engines, reduction gear and various other small components remained onsite until 2006 (see photos). However, these may now have been removed and relocated closer to the airport.




Aircraft Details



Registration or Serial: Coded T5+EU


Operator: Deutsche Luftwaffe


Operating Base: Oldenburg Air Base (30km W of Bremen); Wettererkundungsstaffel 1 / O.b.d. Luftwaffe. (Long Range Weather Reconnaissance Unit of Luftwaffe High Command)


Base Location: Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, Germany.


Current Airport Status: From 1957 until 2006, used by the Bundeswehr. Released in 2008 for civil use. Site now available for redevelopment.


Current Airport Name: Oldenburg Airport (ICAO: EDWH)


Nearest Major Civil Airport: Bremen Airport




Related Links


Accident Specific Links

Fair Isle Incident at Fair Isle.org.uk (This site provides a detailed report of the incident, together with a report by Leutnant K. H. Thurz)

Leutnant Karl Heinz Thurz' War Journal (Includes details of his last flight)

The Story of Fair Isle's Heinkel at New Statesman


German Language Links


Flugzeugforum (German Aviation Forum)

Luftwaffe (Also in English)


Wettererkundungsstaffel 1 / O.b.d. Luftwaffe (Luftwaffe Weather Reconnaissance Detachments)


Museum Links

Heinkel He 111 at RAF Museum, Hendon (Now, RAF Museum London, Battle of Britain Hall)

Luftwaffenmuseum (Luftwaffe Museum / German & English)

The Virtual Aviation Museum


RAF and Related Links

No. 3 (Fighter) Squadron Association

No. 3 Squadron RAF (modern)

No. 3 Squadron RAF at Wikipedia


Other Links

Heinkel He 111 at Warbird Alley

Heinkel He111 engine on flickr (photographed at Duxford)

Heinkel He111 Specifications at History of War

The Luftwaffe at Wikipedia



Detailed colour photos of Heinkel He 111 type at:

Frederick 2000 Airshow

Mark Bogard's website




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