Curator's Choice: A Junkers Ju 87 Stuka aerial stolen by schoolboys during the Battle of Britain

David Coxon interviewed by Richard Moss | 15 September 2014

In his own words: David Coxon, Curator at Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, talks about a Bakelite aerial 'acquired' by schoolboys from a crashed German Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bomber

a black and white photo of a crowd of people looking at an aeroplane
Three boys eye the Stuka Ju 87 dive-bomber shot down by Flying Officer Carl Davis over Tangmere during the Battle of Britain© Courtesy The Trustees of Tangmere Military Aviation Museum
"This is the remains of a radio aerial from a German Stuka Ju 87 dive bomber that was shot down on August 16 by an American pilot called Carl Davies flying for 601 Squadron, the “Millionaires’ Squadron”, based at Tangmere.

August 16 1940 was a day this airfield was heavily bombed very successfully by the Luftwaffe - but they didn’t get away with it scot-free. Nine Stukas were shot down, Carl Davis’ Stuka being one of them.

The two crew members were killed but the aircraft was largely intact when it hit the ground. We have a photograph of children standing in front of the Stuka and there, standing proudly above at the top of that photograph is the aerial.

I suspect what happened overnight was that the Stuka aerial was broken off and taken as a souvenir – perhaps by one of those children in the photo. In 2008 the family turned up here with the remains of that Stuka aerial – it’s the same one – although I didn’t ask too many questions.

a photo of an bakelite object in a display case
The aerial at Tangmere Military Aviation Museum© Photo Richard Moss
It’s made of thick Bakelite and metal and is about 2 and a half feet high. It’s a very substantial thing and probably a very difficult thing to break off; it must have been done overnight when the guard’s back was turned.  

There was a lot of collecting and swapping of souvenirs by boys during the Second World War, shrapnel was popular and readily available, but what a souvenir this would have been.

Carl Davies sadly didn’t survive the Battle of Britain and in September 1940 he was shot down and killed. He is buried in Storrington.

He was probably like a lot of Americans who came via Canada and managed to get a Canadian passport because they felt very strongly that they wished to fight for the Royal Air Force.

They would come across - usually by ship - and join up saying they were Canadian. We could accept Canadians at that time, but because America was not in the war we were not allowed to take Americans.

You sometimes see documents relating to Davies saying he was a South African so he may have used a South African family connection to join up.

His squadron, 601, was an auxiliary squadron set up before the war and most of the pilots were extremely rich and wished to learn to fly these fast aeroplanes. A lot of them had that background, hence the name 'Millionaires Squadron'."

The Stuka aerial can be seen together with other treasures from the Battle of Britain in the Battle of Britain Hall at Tangmere Military Aviation Museum.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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The aerial is from JU87B T6+KL. I have the radiator header tank for this A/c, together with the airframe construction plate,taken by my father. It bears the following nos.:- 10321/619, 8-87.119, 3.40. Hope this is of interest.
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