Whilst on a reconnaissance mission from the Amy base in France, Alfie Fripp and his fellow Blenheim crewmen were shot down and captured by the Luftwaffe.
Britain had declared war on Nazi Germany on 3 September 1939 and Alfie waited until 13 October 1939 to get shot down… this made him and his crew the first Allied personnel to become PoWs and the reason for the name of the famous group they belong to, the “39ers”.
Alfie’s story of he how he fell into Nazi hands is best told by the man himself…
The intelligence briefing was somewhat sketchy with no mention being made that Munster was a Luftwaffe fighter HQ with three squadrons attached.
We flew to Metz to refuel before crossing the border and aiming to collect a fighter escort into Germany. There were no fighters available so we proceeded to the target solo. Cloud base over the target was about 10,000 feet so we descended below to carry out a line overlap with our f8 camera in the bomb well.
Having carried out the operation, we set course for base but flak started to appear around the aircraft. The pilot decided to head for Britain so we altered course.
With very little cloud cover the Air Gunner soon informed us that an enemy fighter was coming up fast. The first burst came streaming through the aircraft knocking out the rear gun but fortunately not hitting the aft gunner.
The pilot, Flying Officer Casey, then decided to dive into what little cloud cover there was hoping to lose the Messerschmitt ME109 on our tail.
There was no way, however, we were able to avoid the occasional machine gun burst so we went into a steep dive to within tree top height.
After what seemed like an age, smoke was coming into the cockpit from smouldering engine covers stowed in the bomb well. Then we hit a tree top which caused the port engine to fail and the windscreen to shatter and, with it, our hopes of reaching friendly territory.
F/O Casey told the crew to prepare for a crash landing. We landed in a potato field and all the three crew got out with just shock, minor scratches and bruises. Our aircraft, though, was in a mass of flames. The Luftwaffe from an airfield a few miles away, who were spectators to the chase, picked us up.
That evening we began our internment as PoWs at their HQ at Munster where we spent three days being interrogated. We were subject to solitary confinement but were allowed out together for an evening meal under strict supervision. And so by rail to my first PoW camp