The Colonel Farnes Collection

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Date of Auction: 8th May 2019

Sold for £1,900

Estimate: £1,200 - £1,500

The German Luftwaffe Night Fighter’s Salver and Trophy Cups attributed to Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves recipient Leutnant Rudolf Frank, 3rd Night Fighter Wing, who was one of the outstanding German Night-Fighter Aces of the Second World War, with 45 confirmed victories, including five in one day, prior to being killed in action on 27 April 1944

A German Second World War Luftwaffe Night Fighter’s Salver, measuring 225mm in diameter with three legs, engraved ‘ABSCHUSSAELEILIGUNGEN FUR RUDOLF FRANK 1-27’ followed by ‘4.7.41 – 21.1.44’, with either side of the engraving the RAF and Soviet wing insignia, and below the insignia of 1/N.J.G.3 being Frank’s Night Fighter Squadron; together with five German Second World War Luftwaffe Trophy Cups, all marked Abschuss with the appropriate kill number with the date of the kill thus: ‘Abschuss 1, 4.7.41 Wellington,’ ‘Abschuss 4, 26.1.42 Whitley’, ‘Abschuss 7, 14.9.42 Wellington’, ‘Abschuss 14, 4.7.43 Halifax’, ‘Abschuss 23, 18.11.43 Lancaster’, and housed in a later Luftwaffe Honour Goblet box named to the recipient, good condition (5) £1,200-£1,500

Footnote

Rudolf Frank was born in Karlsruhe-Grünwinkel, in what was then the Republic of Baden in the Weimar Republic, on 19 August 1920, and volunteers for the Luftwaffe following the outbreak of the Second World War. Following night-training, he was posted to NachtJagdGeschwader 3 (NJG III, the 3rd Night Fighter Wing) on 5 February 1941. This unit, based at Stuttgart, was equipped with the C-variant of the Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighter, and Frank was paired with Hans-Georg Schierholz as his permanent radio operator.

Frank and Schierholz flew their first operational combat mission on 9 May 1941, without success. Their first victory came on the night of 2-4 July 1941, when they intercepted an R.A.F. Wellington bomber 6 miles north of Oldenburg, and shot it down at 00:54. For this achievement, they were both awarded the Iron Cross Second Class.

By 13 August 1941 Frank had flown over 20 night-fighter missions, and was awarded the Front Flying Cross of the Luftwaffe for Night Fighters in Bronze, and was promoted to Unteroffizier (Sergeant). He was awarded the Iron Cross First Class on 15 April 1942 and, two months later, the Front Flying Cross of the Luftwaffe for Night Fighters in Silver on 18 June of that year. On 30 June 1942, whilst attacking a Wellington bomber on his 64th mission, his aircraft was hit by defensive fire, and he and Schierholz were forced to bail out.

On 28 July 1942 Frank’s group relocated to Rheine in Westphalia, and were re-equipped with the night-fighter variant of the Dornier Do 217. On 14 September 1942 he claimed a Wellington shot down in the vicinity of Osnabrück, but suffering engine problems was forced to make a forced landing himself. He ended 1942 with 7 confirmed victories to his name.

Reverting to the Messerschmitt Bf 110, he claimed his first victory in 1943 on 3 March, when he shot down a Short Stirling out of Delmenhorst. After five more victories in the first half of the year, he claimed his 14th victory when he shot down a Halifax bomber north of Antwerp on 4 July 1943, and for his services was awarded the Luftwaffe Honour Goblet on 9 August 1943.

Converting to the Junkers Ju 88, he claimed a further three victories in August 1943, and having completed his 100th mission was awarded the Front Flying Cross of the Luftwaffe for Night Fighters in Gold on 18 August 1943. He claimed his 20th victory on 24 September 1943, and having added two more victories in quick succession was awarded the German Cross in Gold on 17 October 1943. He was shot down again over Berlin by an R.A.F. intruder night-fighter on Christmas Eve 1943, but managed to bail out unharmed, and finished the year with 26 confirmed victories.

Frank claimed his first victory of 1944, his 27th in total, on 21 January 1944, when he shot down a Lancaster bomber near Magdeburg, and was promoted to Feldwebel (Staff Sergeant) Reverting once more to the Messerschmitt Bf 110 , the following month he achieved ‘Ace-in-a-Day’ status when, between 1:53 and 5:04 a.m., he shot down five Lancaster bombers on their way to attack Leipzig. He claimed another three victories on the night of 25 March, and then on 30-31 March took part in the Luftwaffe’s most successful night of the entire War, when the night-fighter force was credited with the destruction of 132 enemy aircraft, Frank’s personal contribution being a further three: two Lancasters and a Halifax. For his achievements he was promoted Oberfeldwebel (Senior Staff Sergeant), and was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on 6 April 1944. His 44th victory came on 23 April 1944, when he shot down a Stirling on a minelaying operation over Lolland.

On the night of 26-27 April 1944, Frank and Schierholz, together with air mechanic Feldwebel Heinz Schneider, took off in the Messerschmitt Bf 110 from Vechta. Their mission, Frank’s 183rd of the War, was to intercept incoming bombers heading for the Ruhr. Shortly before 2:00 a.m, they spotted and attacked a Lancaster bomber over Eindhoven. The Lancaster, severely hit by cannon fire, exploded, and became Frank’s 45th victory. Debris from the Lancaster tore off the Messerschmitt’s right wing, and Frank lost control of the aircraft. He gave the order to bail out. Schierholz and Schneider parachuted to safety, but Frank failed to get out in time. He was killed when the aircraft crashed at Heeze, 6 miles southeast of Eindhoven.

Frank was posthumously promoted Leutnant, backdated to 1 April 1944, and is buried in the German War Cemetery at Venray, with his crew attending his funeral. He was very popular in N.J.G. III, coming from a modest background, being known for taking his small terrier on flight with him, and married one of the female base staff. He was also known for visiting the surviving crews of aircraft which he had shot down over Holland. For his outstanding services during the Second World War, when he claimed 45 victories, all over the Western Front in the nocturnal defence of the Reich, he was posthumously awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oakleaves.

Note: The Luftwaffe Trophy Cups were normally given to Luftwaffe pilots as individual unofficial trophies on the shooting down of enemy aircraft.

For the recipient’s Luftwaffe 2nd Pattern Officer’s Dagger, see Lot 1362.