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This profile was last updated on 1/1/90  and contains information from public web pages.

Franz Xaver von Werra

Wrong Franz Xaver von Werra?

Employment History

  • German Ace Pilot
    The Marden History Group
  • Able Officer
    II Gruppe
  • Adjudant
    II Gruppe
  • Luftwaffe
  • Commanding Officer
    First Gruppe
  • German Pilot
39 Total References
Web References
Timeline | The History of Marden, 1 Jan 1990 [cached]
Sept 5th - Franz von Werra (German ace pilot) shot down over Marden
Luftwaffe Resource Center - Luftwaffe Aces - A Warbirds Resource Group Site, 27 Mar 2012 [cached]
Werra, Franz Von Luftwaffe Resource Center - Luftwaffe Aces - A Warbirds Resource Group Site
Franz Von Werra
Franz von Werra was born on 13 July 1914, to impoverished Swiss parents in Leuk, a town in the Swiss canton of Valais. Later he and his sister were given into the care of an aristocratic German family.
In 1936, von Werra joined the Luftwaffe. At the beginning of the war, he served in the French campaign with Jagdgeschwader 3. An able officer, he became Adjudant of II Gruppe, JG 3, despite his often boisterous 'playboy' behavior and a degree of self-promotion (he was pictured in the German press with his pet lion Simba he kept as the unit mascot at the aerodrome). He also used the title Baron, although he was not entitled to it.
Von Werra crash-landed in a field, was captured by the unarmed cook of a nearby army unit and eventually sent to the London District Prisoner of War Cage. He was interrogated for two weeks and four days and eventually sent to POW Camp No.1, at Grizedale Hall in the Furness Fells area of Lancashire between Windermere and Coniston Water.
On 7 October he tried to escape for the first time, during a daytime walk outside the camp. At a regular stop, while a fruit cart provided a diversion and other German prisoners covered for him, von Werra slipped over a dry-stone wall into a field. The guards alerted the local farmers and the Home Guard. On the evening of 10 October, two Home Guard soldiers found him sheltering from the rain in a hoggarth (a small stone hut used for storing sheep fodder, that are common in the area), but he quickly escaped and disappeared into the night. On 12 October, he was spotted climbing a fell. The area was surrounded and von Werra was eventually found, almost totally immersed in a muddy depression in the ground. Von Werra was sentenced to 21 days of solitary confinement, and subsequently transferred on 3 November to Camp No 10 in Swanwick, Derbyshire.
Von Werra decided to go it alone. He had taken along his flying suit and decided to masquerade as Captain Van Lott, a Dutch RAF pilot. He claimed to a friendly locomotive driver that he was a downed bomber pilot trying to reach his unit, and asked to be taken to the nearest RAF base. In Codnor Park Station, a local clerk became suspicious, but eventually agreed to arrange his transportation to the RAF aerodrome at Hucknall, near Nottingham. The police also questioned him, but von Werra convinced them he was harmless. At Hucknall, a Squadron Leader Boniface asked for his credentials and he claimed to be based at Dyce near Aberdeen. While Boniface went to check this, von Werra excused himself and ran to the nearest hangar, trying to tell a mechanic that he was cleared for a test flight. Boniface arrived in time to arrest him at gunpoint. He was sent back to Hayes and put under armed guard.
Von Werra made his way over the border to Ogdensburg, New York, U.S.A. and turned himself over to the police. The immigration authorities charged him with entering the country illegally, so von Werra contacted the local German consul. Thus, he came to the attention of the press and told them a very embellished version of his story. While the US and Canadian authorities were negotiating his extradition, the German vice-consul helped him over the border to Mexico. Von Werra proceeded to Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, Rome and finally arrived back in Germany on 18 April 1941.
Von Werra became a hero. Hitler granted him the Ritterkreuz, and he got married. He also commented on the conditions in the German prisoner of war camps, comparing them unfavourably to British ones, which may have led to improvements for British POWs. Von Werra returned to the Luftwaffe and was initially deployed to the Russian front, but later flew fighter patrols over the North Sea.
Franz von Werra was born on ..., 3 May 2007 [cached]
Franz von Werra was born on July 13th, 1914 to a poor Swiss family who placed Franz and his sister into the care of an aristocratic German family.He joined the Luftwaffe in 1936 and at the outbreak of war was flying missions over France as a member of Jagdgeschwader 3.He rose to the rank of Adjudant of II Gruppe, JG3, despite his often boisterous 'playboy' behavior and a degree of self-promotion (he was pictured in the German press with his pet lion Simba he kept as the unit mascot at the aerodrome).
Have you ever heard of Oberleutnant Franz Von Werra?, 10 Mar 2000 [cached]
According to legend, as described in Reader's Digest's True Stories of Great Escapes , (Copyright Reader's Digest Association, 1977) Franz Von Werra was instrumental in improving conditions for Allied POW's in Germany during the war; his book about his incredible escape from Allied prison guards was banned by the German Propaganda Ministry as being too pro-British, and his escape and several other attempted escapes were all conducted in a manner befitting a gentleman and an honorable soldier.
On top of that, he escaped from Canadian authorities into America before America had entered the War, while we were technically not at odds with Germany!
Von Werra was known for wild exaggerations of his exploits, and wild excesses like keeping a pet lion at his aerodrome (Headquarters Staffel of the Second Gruppe of No. 3 Fighter Geschwader). His claim to be a Baron is considered dubious at best. But the truth of his amazing escape is irrefutable.
At the time of his death (he crashed into the sea after engine trouble) he was Commanding Officer of the First Gruppe of No. 53 Fighter Geschwader--the "Ace of Spades" Geschwader, then based in Holland.
A few months ago I posted a question here, asking if anyone could provide me with newspaper clippings from Ogdensburg, New York, in 1941, where he came across the border, or from England, Canada, or Germany, relating to this man's activities. My wish came true! (See below.)
This report/electronic memorial to the exploits of Oberleutnant Franz Von Werra will continue to grow as I collect more information. A nice photo which could be scanned in would be especially appreciated, and of course, a translated (English) version of his book would be extraordinary! Von Werra deserves recognition. When he crossed into America he was not an enemy, he was a hero.
We have been sent some wonderful newspaper clippings about Von Werra from Ogdensburg, NY in January 1941 by the daughter of a doctor involved in the Von Werra case.
AVIATION : Toy Soldier Market, A Leader in Military Figurines, 1 Jan 2014 [cached]
Franz von Werra's Me Bf 109E "Emil"
Franz von Werra's Me Bf 109E "Emil" "The one that got away" Franz Xaver Graf von Werra was a German World War II fighter pilot and flying ace who was shot down over England...
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