How the Luftwaffe rescued downed airmen in the North African desert — from both sides

Many aircrews in the North African theatre had call to be thankful for the daring exploits of the Wüstennotstaffel, the Luftwaffe’s dedicated desert rescue unit
Heinz Kroseberg in a Caudron 445 cockpit, probably in August 1941.
Heinz Kroseberg in a Caudron 445 cockpit, probably in August 1941. KROSEBERG FAMILY

The scorching desert of northern Egypt and Libya can be a death-trap for any airman forced down in it, as the Luftwaffe quickly came to realise after joining its Italian allies in the North African campaign during early 1941. This realisation led to the creation of one of the more fascinating German flying units to take part in World War Two, the Wüstennotstaffel, or Desert Rescue Squadron.

Led by inspirational Staffelkapitän Heinz Kroseberg, this unique unit served as a ‘jack of all trades’ for Erwin Rommel and the Luftwaffe in North Africa. In its eventful two-year existence, the Wüstennotstaffel gained a fine reputation for getting the job done with its remarkable short take-off and landing aircraft, the Fieseler Fi 156 Storch. It rescued hundreds of Axis and Allied airmen stranded in the desert, evacuated wounded troops, transported soldiers, supplies and commanders, inspected crashed enemy aircraft, undertook battlefield reconnaissance, and helped hunt down Special Air Service and Long Range Desert Group patrols.


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