Goodwood & The Great Escape

06th March 2020

Bernard Scheidhauer started training to be a pilot with the RAF in 1941 and completed his training in June 1942. Assigned to 242 Squadron, he took part in the Dieppe Operation in August 1942 and was later transferred to No.131 squadron based at RAF Westhampnett. 

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On 18 November 1942, Lieutenant Bernard Scheidhauer and Lieutenant Henri de Bordas took off from RAF Westhampnett in a Spitfire Mk.Vb’s at 14:10 hours. Their mission was a 'Rhubarb' over Normandy - a name given to flight missions that used low cloud and poor visibility to search for opportunity targets such as railway locomotives, aircraft on the ground and enemy troops. 

They flew just above sea level and crossed the French coast looking for targets, where Scheidhauer’s Spitfire was hit by flak, damaging his fuel line, radio and compass. He became disoriented and headed west instead of north. After crossing a stretch of water, Scheidhauer sighted land that he mistook for the Isle of Wight and picking out a suitable field, he placed his aircraft down in a wheels-up landing, coming to rest in a field of turnips. He had arrived in Jersey, which was occupied and he was captured. His Spitfire was taken and transported back to France, where it was branded with Luftwaffe markings and flew fitted with a Daimler Benz 601 engine.

After his capture, Lieutenant Scheidhauer was transported to France and then onward to Germany, eventually ending up in Stalag Luft III, a Luftwaffe-run prisoner-of-war camp. Then came The Great Escape. On the night of 24 and 25 of March 1944, the audacious attempt took place, as 76 allied prisoners of war made their way out of captivity, towards freedom. The prisoners were paired up and Bernard was paired with Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, who had organised the attempt. All but three of the escapees were recaptured, having been hampered by incorrect papers, bad weather and bad luck. The escape so infuriated Hitler that he ordered 50 of the prisoners to be shot - including Lieutenant Scheidhauer and  Squadron Leader Roger Bushell.

The memory of Scheidhauer lives on as, in 2002, a Jersey newspaper ran an article on the crash which highlighted that his flying helmet was still on the Island and had been used by a farmer whilst driving his tractor! A memorial stone for Scheidhauer has also been erected on the Island to mark Jersey's connection to The Great Escape.

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