Major Egmont Prinz zur Lippe-Weissenfeld
Egmont zur Lippe Weissenfeld was born on 14th July, 1918 at Salzburg in Austria. Like many Austrian men of noble blood (The Lippe family founded by Herman zur Lippe in the 10th century is not of royal, but of noble descent. They descend from the Counts of Werl; Herman the first was married to one of Charles the Great’s granddaughters. GRAF HERMANN I. VON WERL born 945 ac, married in 980 ac GERBERGAS VON BURGUND), zur Lippe opted for a military career, joining the Austrian Army at the age of eighteen in 1936. He served first in the Infantry, but wishing to follow in the footsteps of the great flying aces of the First World War, especially of Emmerich Jeszenszky von Kisjeszen, one of his father’s (Alfred Prinz zur Lippe-Weissenfeld) closest friends, he soon applied for pilot training with a view to joining the German Luftwaffe, which he did the following year.
He began his Luftwaffe career as an Army Recce pilot, serving first with II/ZG76. He was transferred to NJG1 on August 4, 1940. It was from this point on that zur Lippe-Weissenfeld was to become one of the premier night fighter pilots of the Luftwaffe. However, it wasn’t until the night of 16-17 November, 1940 that he achieved his first victory, shooting down an RAF bomber.
In March 1941 he was wounded for the first time in an action with enemy bombers and on June 30, 1941 he crashed into the Zuider Zee, following a mid-air collision with an aircraft he was stalking. By July, 1941 Lippe’s score stood at 10 and later in the year, on November 1, he was transferred to NJG2 as a Staffelcaptain. By the end of the year his score was 15.
During the night of 26-27 March 1942 he shot down four RAF bombers, bringing his score to 21. It was for this action he was awarded the Knights Cross.
The pictures below show Lippe with day and night fighter pilots at Hitler’s HQ in Rastenburg, August 1943. Major Prinz zur Lippe-Weissenfeld is 3rd from left and second from left respectively.
On October 1, 1942 [now] Major Prinz zur Lippe-Weissenfeld was transferred to command I/NJG3, and during his time there he posted three more victories. On May 31 he was transferred again, this time to command III/NJG1. A month later his score stood at 45 and as a result of this outstanding record he was awarded the Oak Leaves for his Knights Cross. On the night of September 29/30 Lippe claimed two bombers shot down, both Halifax’s. One of these was piloted by Flying Officer Chet Popplewell whose story is featured here. During the night of December 16-17, 1943 he achieved his final two victories bringing his score to 51.
After a month’s sick leave during January, 1944, zur Lippe was again transferred, this time to command NJG5, effective February 20, 1944. On March 12 he filed a flight plan from Deelen to Laon-Athies to visit his former squadron in Northern Belgium. While crossing the Ardennes in poor weather aboard his new Bf110G-4 C9+CD (WrkN. 720010) his aircraft crashed into unseen high ground. The 25 year old Major Egmont Prinz zur Lippe-Weissenfeld was killed along with his crew, Ofw. Renette and Uffz. Rober.
There is speculation that Lippe’s accident was not the result of poor weather and high ground, but rather it may have been the result of Hitler’s mistrust of the aristocracy. Lippe has two surviving sisters and Mr. Brent Hamre, to whom I am indebted for the inspiration to do this piece, has established contact with one of them, Theodora Prinzessin von Auersperg. The following is excerpted from Brent’s ongoing research papers on Lippe’s career.
“It must be remembered that even before the attempt on Hitler’s life in July 1944 by an Austrian nobleman, Count Von Stauffenberg, after which Hitler had the Count and a host of generals and others thought to be part of the plot executed, it was known he did not trust the so-called aristocracy, including those of royal blood, and objected to these officers being allowed to hold high office or even to remain in the military. Could it be that the loss of Major zur Lippe’s aircraft was caused not by the weather, but by some plot to assassinate him or his passenger?”
zur Lippe-Weissenfeld’s sisters firmly believe that to be the case. Indeed, a friend of theirs, who rather ironically was with British Intelligence during the war working as a Code Breaker, told the sisters that witnesses to the crash of Lippe’s aircraft noted that an explosion occurred in mid-air, tearing one wing off the machine, forcing it to crash and burn. Witnesses went on to report that no anti-aircraft gunfire had been noted at the time of the explosion, nor was it shot down by enemy aircraft. [It is interesting to note however that the weather appears to have been good enough for there to be eye witnesses – Ed.]
“Adolph Hitler had often stated that officers from reigning families were unworthy of being members of the German Wehrmacht. However, Goering, who was in charge of the Luftwaffe, did not wish to lose one of this high-scoring night-fighter Aces. In March 1944, Prinz Egmont was due to take over command of a NJG5 in Holland as the former Commander (and Lippe’s friend), Heinrich Prinz zur Sayn-Wittgenstein had been killed in January 1944.”
“In order to reach the new Base, he was to fly from Berlin to Holland on March 12th. It was a clear day, with good visibility, and he was accompanied by his faithful radio operator/gunner with whom he always flew. He was ordered to take with him another passenger who would take the place of his radar operator. This man was a high-ranking SS officer.”
According to Lippe-Weissenfeld’s sisters, it was because that officer and their brother Egmont had been marked for elimination, that the aircraft was destroyed over the Ardennes Forest in Belgium.
Whether Lippe was really murdered by the German leadership will not likely be known. But, would Hitler have eliminated one of the best night fighter pilots in the Luftwaffe at the point when the bombing campaign was beginning to have a real impact on the German’s ability to prosecute the war?
MESSERSCHMITT BF 110G-4; Development and Operational Use
In response to the problems with the Me410 development program, and the ability of Lancasters and Halifaxes of the RAF to evade the Bf110E due to its progressive weight increases, the Messerschmitt design team began work on an unexpected further major version, the 110G. As early as 1941 plans had been made to fit the 1,475-hp DB605 to the 110. However, before production of the 110G got underway, the F-4 was produced as the first true night fighter version.
The F-4 was still powered by the DB601 fitted to the 110E, but was loaded with almost a ton of extra weight. In all except the first few, it was armed with the MG151/20 cannon with a total of 650 belt fed rounds. The option of an additional ventral tray containing two 30mm MK108s required the enlargement of the rudders to restore handling, especially in the event of an engine failure.
The cockpit was also enlarged to accommodate a third crewman to operate the radar. From late summer 1942, the FuG 202 Lichenstein BC radar was fitted and with the addition of drop tanks the weight increase over the day fighter/bomber 110F-2 was almost 5,000lbs! Worse, the radar used a large array of antennas which caused a severe drag penalty and worse still, the flame dampers seriously affected engine performance. All this dropped the top speed down to a bare 310mph. The problems with the engines were so bad, valves lasted a mere 20 hours, pistons seized and fires were common, that many crews removed the dampers altogether.
By 1943 RAF Bomber Command’s attacks were on a massive scale, and the US 8th Air Force was mounting increasingly damaging attacks by day. The need for more and better fighters of all kinds was becoming the Luftwaffe’s main priority. At Messerschmitt, the original production lines at Augsburg was augmented by MIAG at Braunschweig and GWF at Gotha and Furth. Strangely, the first DB605 equipped 110G’s off the production line were G-2s!
The first batch of G-4s were armed the same as the F-4s. The rear firing MG151 was replaced with the smaller Mg81Z twin machine gun firing at a combined rate of 3,600 rounds per minute. The extra power of the DB605B-1 engine boosted top speed back to a reasonable 336mph and the drag was reduced considerably with the use of the FuG 212 Lichenstein C-1 radar set, which utilized a much smaller antenna array.
In May, 1943 an armourer in II/NJG5, Ofw Mahle, became intrigued with the upward firing guns on the “special” Do 217J belonging to the Gruppe’s CO, Oblt Rudolf Schoenert. The Gruppe’s 110s had had their MG FF cannon replaced by MG151/20s and the old guns were literally piled up doing nothing. Using parts of the old mountings, Mahle fitted upward firing MG FFs to one of the Bf110s, in what was called a “Schraege Musik” installation, and within days Schoenert scored a kill with it over Berlin. Soon after, the installation became common on Ju88s, but the far smaller room available in the Bf110 meant the only approved installation became one of twin MK108s in the front of the rear cockpit, the designation being Bf110G-4/U1. With the FuG 212 radar the designation was G-4/U5. The U6 sub-type had in addition the FuG 221a Rosendaal-Halbe passive receiver which homed on the Monica tail-warning radar carried by RAF bombers from mid 1943. Later, this was replaced with the FuG 227 Flensburg.
Throughout 1943, the NJG Gruppen were able to keep between 380 and 500 aircraft in the air, most of the Bf110s, with the G-4 rapidly replacing the F-4s. The Germans were beginning to get the upper hand in the night war, but the increasing threat of the American daylight raids led to the disastrous decision to use the night fighters in daylight against the Americans. The losses were almost crippling, and soon thereafter the night fighters were forbidden from daylight operations, especially the key experienced crews.
Radar technology continued to advance, but so did the defenses. In July 1943, in a series of large attacks against Hamburg, the RAF began using “Window”, what is now known as Chaff. The NJG faired badly as their radar was blinded by the millions of foil strips put out by the RAF crews. By the end of the year however, the 110G-4b was in production with the FuG 220 Lichenstein SN-2. This set worked on longer frequencies against which the chaff was useless. The only drawback on the new set, was it required a massive antenna array, called the Hirschgeweih, and had a minimum range of 1,148 ft! The 110s had, therefore to keep their C-1 sets to guide them to their target over the last 1,148 ft. By February, 1944 though, the SN-2 was able to close to 990 ft and many aircraft had the C-1 radar removed.
This was the peak of the NJG force. The night fighter force continued to be effective right up to the end of the war, however their advantage was slowly eroded by the combined effects of the improvement in RAF technology, the crippling effects on oil supply of the bombing campaign, and the employment of Mosquitos and Beaufighters ahead and among the bombers to hunt the hunters.
PROMODELER 1/48 BF110G-4
Beautifully molded, this kit was a pleasure from start to finish. Well engineered, well produced, it was more than I expected and was the kit that made me a believer in the ProModeler line. The kit comes with about a hundred and ten parts, of which seven are clear. The builder has the option of open or closed canopy. The molding on my example was fairly crisp, with only minor flash to deal with. The decals were a disappointment being out of register and virtually unusable but the instruction booklet is good, with colour callouts and photographs to illustrate the logically planned assembly sequence.
Begins with the cockpit of course! If you’ve read any other of the feature or full build articles on this site, you’ll know I began with painting all the interior parts the appropriate colour, in this case RLM66 and then dry brushed with RLM74. I picked out some details with a silver pencil and used colour to represent the real thing. Below is the result on the panel, and the rear compartment.
Construction then continues with closing the fuselage halves, assembling the engine nacelles and attaching them to the wings, and attaching the tail assembly. If I sound like I’m glossing over this part, you’re right, I built the kit so long ago I’m finding it hard to remember if there were any problems. The only issue I recall was needing some filler at the wing/fuselage join on the underside. Aside from that, I don’t remember having too many problems. Just before painting I attached the canopy and windshield parts and masked them completely, I was going to try something other than masking for the canopy framing.
Painting and Decals
RLM76 all other this one. To my knowledge, no pictures exist of Lippe in this aircraft, though the specifics of it’s code and WrkN are well documented. I chose to go with the most common of the night fighter schemes, that being all over RLM76 with a mottle of RLM74 over the upper surfaces.
I used ModelMaster Acrylic for the 76, spraying it on in thin even coats until I had a good solid base to work on. Next, I mottled the 74 in a haphazard fashion until the mottling was even and fairly dense. When this was all dry, I made up a mix of very dilute 76 and over sprayed the entire model with it until the 74 was faded down by about 15% and the overall effect appeared seamless. This was a very quick painting session, I think I did it all in one day, certainly all in one weekend.
After allowing the paint to dry sufficiently, I went to work with the Future in preparation for decaling. As I mentioned earlier, the kit decals were virtually unusable, but I was able to find pretty much all I needed in the spares box. The only decals I didn’t have were the codes and WrkN., which I made with a laser printer, photocopier and clear decal film. Decaling was completed without event, but I still had one more decaling job to do after all the markings had been applied. When I had applied the RLM76, I had also applied it to some clear decal film that I had previously sprayed with RLM66. Now that this was well cured, I cut very thin strips and used it to “paint” the canopy frames. I’ve used this method with some success a couple of times now, and will continue to use it. I use Future to glue the decal down on the frames and it works very well.
Weathering and Completion
With all decaling complete, and the sealing coat of Future dry I applied a wash of [I now think] too light burnt umber, sealed that and applied the Dullcote. I added the wing fuel tanks and undercarriage with no problem. I attached and erroneously painted the antenna mast RLM76 (it should have been painted brown to represent the wood finish the real ones were) and used stretched sprue for the aerial wires. The last item to go on was the radar antenna array which I attached with CA glue (it only took about 23 attempts!).
As a final touch I applied some exhaust staining and generally dirtied up the finish with pastels.
Extremely well thought out, engineered and produced, I’d recommend this kit to virtually anyone who wants to build a Bf110. The only criticism to be leveled is the appalling quality of the decals.
Sources, References and Further Reading:
Brent Hamre; who will appear as a source again in a future piece about his cousin who was one of Lippe’s victims in September, 1943.
Kate Brettell; who contacted me with the information regarding her Uncle, FL/t. R. Turtle
Diego de Figueroa – Zur Lippe-Weissenfeld’s nephew who contacted me with corrections and suggestions for the biographical text.
Zur Lippe-Weissenfeld Biography supplied by The Luftwaffe Fighter Pilots Association.
“Fighters of World War Two” – Edited by David Donald, published by Grange Books. ISBN: 1-84013-150-0
The Luftwaffe, 1933 – 1945 – Michael Holm’s excellent site.
Except where noted otherwise, I sourced all images and photos from the internet and are all used under fair-use. Unfortunately my notes are incomplete as to sources; I will be happy to add more as they become apparent.
I make no claim of original work in this article except for the photos of the models and text describing their construction and painting. The materials supplied by Brent Hamre are reproduced exactly as he gave them to me and are published under his original permission.
Any copyrighted material will be remove or credited forthwith upon request by its owner.