Werner Baake (1 November 1918 – 15 July 1964) was a German Luftwaffe night fighter ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Baake claimed 41 nocturnal aerial victories in 195 combat missions. Baake was the 36th most successful night fighter ace of World War II, and of aerial warfare. Baake's total surpassed that of all Allied night fighter pilots.
World War II
Werner Baake was born on 1 November 1918 in Nordhausen. Baake joined the Luftwaffe in 1940 and underwent basic flight and advanced training before undertaking blind flight instruction. After two years of training he was posted to I. Gruppe (1st group) of Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (NJG 1—Night Fighter Wing 1), based at Gilze-Rijen, in the Netherlands on 21 November 1942. The night fighter unit was responsible for the air defence of the region—referred to as Reichsverteidigung (Defence of the Reich) operations.
It took Baake nearly seven months to make a claim, and by the time he did so, he had been promoted to Leutnant (First Lieutenant). At the height of the Battle of the Ruhr, a concerted bomber offensive conducted by RAF Bomber Command, Baake achieved his first success. In the early hours of 2 June 1943, north of Neeroeteren, he claimed a Vickers Wellington bomber shot down at 01:10. Baake remained airborne for nearly two hours before engaging and claiming a Handley-Page Halifax shot down northwest of Gorinchem at 02:43. Baake's third victory was achieved at 00:59 hours on 17 June near "Vechel" (possibly Vechte). This time the enemy bomber was identified as an Avro Lancaster. The machine, ED629, PH-K, was from No. 12 Squadron RAF. All of the crew, including Sergeants, Arthur Charles Aylard, J. Scott, T. Alexander, M. R. Williams, H. J. P. Lackey, J. W. N. Westlake, R. Swain were all killed.
On 22 June Baake claimed a Wellington southwest of Bergeyk at 01:30 and then accounted for Halifax northeast of the town at 01:37. The successes put his total at five for which qualified him for night fighter ace. In the early hours of 23 June Baake claimed three victories—two Lancasters at 00:55 and 1:30 near southeast Utrecht and west of Nijmegen respectively and a Halifax northwest of Utrecht at 01:58. One of the Lancasters, LM-325-U, was flown by Sergeant R. A. Waterhouse who was killed in action. Crewman, Sergeant J. Osborne, Pilot Officer T. Tomkins, Sergeant E Smith, V Sugden and R. Cooper also lost their lives. Sergeant E. A Williams was the sole survivor. At 01:10 on the 25 June 1943, Baake shot down another Wellington at Driel for his 9th victory. Baake achieved his 10th victory at 01:30 on 14 July, northwest of Utrecht. It was last during the RAF's Ruhr offensive. This aircraft was probably Halifax HR720, WP-B, of No. 158 Squadron RAF flown by Flight Sergeant George Robert James Duthie Royal New Zealand Air Force (killed), Sergeants J. N. Hempstead, Flight Engineer (evaded capture), F.D. Granger Navigator (POW) , T. E. F. Carr, bomber aimer, (POW), G. H. King, wireless operator, (POW), J. R. Grey Gunner Royal Australian Air Force (POW) and T. Pinkney, gunner (POW).
At 02:18 on 24 August Bakke claimed a Lancaster southeast of Wittenburg as Bomber Command attacked Berlin and he claimed two Short Stirling bombers on 28 August, west of Augsburg at 02:10 and northwest of Nuremberg at 02:15. One was Stirling III EE492 QS-R from No. 620 Squadron RAF flown by Flight Lieutenant John Francis Nichols. The aircraft came down at Halbersdorf, Mainz. None of the crew survived. On the night of the 31 August another two Halifax bombers were claimed at 23:25 and 23:30 northeast of Lemgo and Neu-Rebstock to bring his tally to 15. In September 1943 claimed four bombers: three Lancasters and a Halifax. One on 1 September at 0:59 near Wustermark, two on 6 September at 00:15 and scoring the last victory for the Luftwaffe that night at 02:00 over Kaiserslautern. At 22:40 north of Quakenbrück On 27 September, Baake achieved his 19th victory.
On 3 November 1943 two Lancasters were shot down near Helmond and Essen at 19:13 and 19:36. One of the Lancasters may have been Lancaster I W4822, of No. 57 Squadron RAF, captained by First Lieutenant Donald R. West, United States Army Air Force. West died with four other crew members. Three were captured. On 18 November Bomber Command began the Berlin Campaign. On 20 December Baake shot down two Lancasters. The aircraft were reported shot down northwest of Liege, Belgium and Eindhoven, at 19:12 and 21:00 respectively—the last success being the last claim submitted by a night fighter pilot on that operation. On 27 January 1944 Baake downed his third and last victim during the Berlin campaign. He recorded a Lancaster shot down at 22:50 southwest of Aachen. In the engagement, Baake's Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4 (G9+ML) was hit by return-fire and Baake parachuted to safety with is crew. Baake claimed his 25th victory as Bomber Command attacked Aachen on the night of the 11/12 April 1944. He claimed a Lancaster west of Haarlem at 23:37. Nine claims were made over Germany that night plus two claims made over England. Bomber Command lost nine.
On the night of the 24/25 April 1944 Munich and Karlsruhe were targeted. Baake achieved two interceptions resulting in the destruction of a Lancaster north of Tilburg at 00:26, and a Halifax west of Gorinchem at 02:18. Baake's 28th victory was attained on 4 May at 00:20 west of Venlo. He shot down a B-17 Flying Fortress piloted by Flight Lieutenant J. G Smith. Smith and one crew member evaded capture but the rest of the crew, including American expatriate and former United States Army Air Force officer, Sergeant W Heubner, were captured. The No. 78 Squadron RAF B-17, M-Mother, was hit by ground fire in the target area but was intercepted and finished off by Baake. On the 6/7 May he shot down another B-17 west of Venlo at 00:09, having claimed a de Havilland Mosquito at 23:25—his first and only victory against that type. The two claims made his personal total 30. Only Baake claimed a Mosquito 6/7 May. Bomber Command records show that one was lost participating in a raid on Leverkusen. The Mosquito was ML958, of No. 109 Squadron RAF. Flight Lieutenant Norman Henry Fredman DFC (navigator) and Harry Bernard Stephens, DFC, were killed when the Mosquito crashed at Melick en Herkenbosch.
On 12th and 23rd May 1944, at 0:42 and 1:14 respectively, Baake shot down a Lancaster to take is total to 32. The former victory was over Lancaster JB733, No. 103 Squadron RAF, which crashed at Hallaar, northeast of Antwerp after Baake fatally damaged it over Huckhofen. Pilot Officer R. Whitley, Sergeant K. L. Ramage, Warrant Officer J. A. Carter RCAF, Flight Sergeant R. B. Webb, Sergeant P. N. Crutchfield, Sergeant J. W. Smith, and Sergeant K. M. Martin were all killed. Baake claimed a Halifax on 17 June 1944 and two Lancasters on 22 June, west of Aachen for his 33rd–35th air victories. On 4 and 6 November 1944 Baake filed single claims for a Lancaster destroyed. On 24 December 1944 Baake claimed another Lancaster over western Germany as Bomber Command targeted rail junctions to disrupt German Army supplies during the German Ardennes Offensive. Baake's last claims came on the evening on the 5 January 1945, when he downed a trio of Halifax bombers—two near Emden and another near Hannover.
Werner Baake did not claim another bomber in the last four months of the war. On night of the 18/19 March 1945, Baake narrowly avoided being killed when was shot down in a Heinkel He 219 by a Mosquito night fighter flown by night fighter ace Walter Gibb, commanding No. 239 Squadron RAF.
After the war
After the war, Baake worked as a pilot for Lufthansa. He was killed on 15 July 1964, when his Boeing 720 D-ABOP crashed near Ansbach. Following a successful barrel roll on the training flight, the crew attempted a second barrel roll. During this unauthorized aerobatic maneuver, the aircraft broke apart due to structural overloading and all three members of the crew were killed.
Aerial victory credits
Baake was credited with 41 nocturnal aerial victories claimed in 195 combat missions. His 41 aerial victory claims include 37 four-engined bombers and one Mosquito.
|Chronicle of aerial victories|
|Victory||Date||Time||Type||Location||Serial No./Squadron No.|
|– 1./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 –|
|1||12 June 1943||01:10||Wellington||1 km (0.62 mi) northeast of Neeroeteren|
|2||12 June 1943||02:43||Halifax||5 km (3.1 mi) north Gorinchem|
|3||17 June 1943||00:59||Lancaster||Vechel||ED629|
|4||22 June 1943||01:30||Wellington||3 km (1.9 mi) southwest Bergeyk||HZ520|
|5||22 June 1943||01:37||Halifax||5 km (3.1 mi) north northeast Bergeyk|
|6||23 June 1943||00:55||Lancaster||15 km (9.3 mi) east southeast Utrecht|
|7||23 June 1943||01:38||Lancaster||3 km (1.9 mi) west Nijmegen||LM325|
|8||23 June 1943||1:58||Halifax||6 km (3.7 mi) northwest Utrecht|
|9||25 June 1943||01:10||Wellington||Driel|
|10||14 July 1943||01:30||Halifax||3 km (1.9 mi) northwest Utrecht|
|11||24 August 1943||02:18||Lancaster||southeast Wittenberg|
|12||28 August 1943||02:10||Stirling||20 km (12 mi) northwest Nuremberg|
|13||28 August 1943||02:15||Stirling||20 km (12 mi) northwest Nuremberg|
|– 3./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 –|
|14||31 August 1943||23:25||Halifax||northeast Lemgo|
|15||31 August 1943||23:30||Halifax||Neu-Rebstock|
|16||1 September 1943||00:59||Lancaster||Wustermark|
|17||6 September 1943||00:15||Halifax||8 km (5.0 mi) east Germersheim|
|18||6 September 1943||2:00||Lancaster||5 km (3.1 mi) east Kaiserslautern|
|19||27 September 1943||22:40||Lancaster||4 km (2.5 mi) north Quakenbrück|
|20||3 November 1943||19:13||Lancaster||east Antwerp|
|21||3 November 1943||19:36||Lancaster||north Hasselt|
|22||20 December 1943||19:00||Lancaster||northeast Liege|
|23||20 December 1943||21:00||Halifax||northwest Eindhoven|
|24||27 January 1944||22:50||Lancaster||16 km (9.9 mi) southwest Aachen|
|– 2./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 –|
|25||11 April 1944||23:37||Lancaster||100 km (62 mi) west Haarlem|
|26||25 April 1944||00:26||Lancaster||north of Loop op Zand-Tilburh|
|27||25 April 1944||02:18||Halifax||west Gorinchem|
|28||4 May 1944||00:20||B-17||50 km (31 mi) west Venlo|
|29||6 May 1944||23:35||Mosquito||1 km (0.62 mi) northeast Melick en Herkenbosch||ML958|
|30||7 May 1944||00:09||B-17||west Venlo|
|31||12 May 1944||00:42||Lancaster||28 km (17 mi) northeast Huckhofen||JB733|
|32||23 May 1944||01:14||Lancaster||southwest Neerpelt|
|33||17 June 1944||01:10||Halifax||Eindhoven|
|34||22 June 1944||01:22||Lancaster||west Aachen|
|35||22 June 1944||01:46||Lancaster||west Aachen|
|– Stab I./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 –|
|36||4 November 1944||19:36||Halifax||8 km (5.0 mi) northwest Mettingen|
|37||6 November 1944||19:23||Lancaster||12 km (7.5 mi) southeast Doetinchem|
|38||24 December 1944||18:50||Lancaster|
|39||5 January 1945||19:05||Halifax||50 km (31 mi) north Emden|
|40||5 January 1945||19:12||Halifax||80 km (50 mi) north Emden|
|41||5 January 1945||19:44||Halifax||50 km (31 mi) west Hanover|
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe
- Iron Cross (1939) 2nd and 1st Class
- Honour Goblet of the Luftwaffe (Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe) on 6 September 1943 as Leutnant and pilot
- German Cross in Gold on 16 January 1944 as Oberleutnant in the 3./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 27 July 1944 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of the 2./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1
- Patzwall 2008, p. 184.
- Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 20.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 197.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 119.