Heinz Vinke

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Heinz Vinke
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-533-0006-14, Pilot mit Ritterkreuz und Schwimmweste.jpg
Born 22 May 1920
Died 26 February 1944(1944-02-26) (aged 23)
over the North Sea near Dunkirk, France
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Years of service 1938–44
Rank Oberfeldwebel
Unit NJG 1

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Heinz Vinke (22 May 1920 – 26 February 1944) was a Luftwaffe night fighter ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. He and his crew were shot down and killed in action on 26 February 1944, while on a search and rescue mission over the English Channel. He shot down 54 enemy aircraft, all at night. Vinke was the eighteenth most successful night fighter pilot in the history of aerial warfare.[1]


This gun sequence, taken from F/O. George Hardy's aircraft, shows the Messerschmitt's starboard engine exploding, shortly before it dived to its destruction in the English Channel.

Vinke was born on 22 May 1920 in Barby, in the Province of Saxony, a Free State of Prussia, the son of a fish merchant. He joined the Luftwaffe in 1938, where he was trained as a Zerstörer (destroyer) pilot.[2] Holding the rank of Unteroffizier, he was posted to the 4. Staffel (4th squadron) of Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (NJG 1—1st Night Fighter Wing) in early 1941.[Note 1] On the night of 24/25 July 1941, his first combat mission, Vinke crashed the aircraft, injuring his back. Following a period of convalescence, he was assigned to 5. Staffel (5th squadron) of Nachtjagdgeschwader 2 (NJG 2—2nd Night Fighter Wing), this unit was later redesignated to 11./NJG 1.[3]

While serving with NJG 2 over Northern Europe, he claimed his first air victory was on 27 February 1942, a Armstrong Whitworth Whitley 22 kilometres (14 mi) north-east of Leeuwarden.[4] The aircraft was the Royal Air Force (RAF) Whitley Z9280 from No. 77 Squadron which crashed at 22:58 at Driesum. Four members of the crew, including Squadron Leader Leslie Hugh William Parkin (DFC), were killed in action and one man was taken prisoner of war.[5] His next claim was filed on the night of 3/4 June 1942 when he shot down a Short Stirling at 02:16 over the Zuiderzee.[6] The aircraft was Stirling I W7474 HA-K from No. 218 Squadron on a bombing mission to Bremen. All seven members of the crew, including Pilot Officer James Garscadden and Pilot Officer John Richard Webber, were killed in action.[5] The same month, on 25/26 June at 00:42 again over the Zuiderzee, he claimed a Handley Page Halifax shot down.[7] His fourth victory was over a Vickers Wellington shot down on 28 June 1942 at 00:54 east of Enkhuizen.[8] Vinke became an ace when he shot down his fifth opponent, Wellington bomber, on the night of 27/28 August 1942 at 02:32.[9] A Stirling claimed at 02:26 on the night of 22/23 June 1943 approximately 8 kilometres (5 miles) east of "Eosterland" (possibly Osterland) was the 27th aerial victory he was credited with.[10] Three nights later, on 25/26 June at 02:47, he claimed his 28th victory over a Avro Lancaster bomber approximately 50 kilometres (31 miles) west of Den Helder.[11]

On 17/18 August 1943, Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command targeted Peenemünde and the V-weapons test centre. Five Bristol Beaufighter night fighters of No. 141 Squadron, under the command of Wing Commander Bob Braham, intercepted five Messerschmitt Bf 110s from IV. Gruppe (4th group) of NJG 1, and Feldwebel (Sergeant) Georg Kraft (14 victories) and Feldwebel Vinke (at the time with 20 claims) were both shot down by Braham near Schiermonnikoog. Feldwebel Vinke was the only one of his crew to survive.[12] Following the death of his former crew Feldwebel Karl Schödel and Unteroffizier Johann Gaa, Vinke teamed up with Unteroffizier Rudolf Dunger.[13]

Vinke claimed eight confirmed night kills during 1942, twenty-nine in 1943 and seventeen during early 1944 before he was killed in action. He was decorated with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 19 September 1943 for twenty-seven claims. The presentation was made by Generalmajor Joachim-Friedrich Huth.[2] On 19/20 February 1944, Vinke claimed three aerial victories, two Lancasters and one Halifax bomber. His first claim of the night, a Lancaster, occurred at 01:46 in sector "BM-77", the second Lancaster was claimed at 01:57 in sector "BM-78", and the Halifax was claimed to be shot down at 02:13 in sector "CX-62".[14][Note 2]

Oberfeldwebel (Master Sergeant) Vinke was shot down and killed while flying Messerschmitt Bf 110 G-4 (Werknummer 740136—factory number) of 11./NJG 1 on 26 February 1944, while on a search and rescue mission over the English Channel. The victors were two Hawker Typhoons of No. 198 Squadron RAF, flown by F/L. Cheval L'Allemand and F/O. George Hardy. His crew of Unteroffizier Rudolf Dunger and Unteroffizier Rudolf Walter were also killed.[5] On 25 April 1944, he was posthumously awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). Vinke was credited with 54 aerial victories, all of them at night, claimed in approximately 150 combat missions operations.[3]



  1. ^ For an explanation of the meaning of Luftwaffe unit designation see Organisation of the Luftwaffe during World War II.
  2. ^ Victory claims were also logged in a Planquadrat (grid reference), for example "BM-77". The grid map was composed of rectangles measuring 15 minutes of latitude by 30 minutes of longitude, an area of about 360 square miles (930 km2).[15]




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