Ehle, Walter, born 28-04-1913 in Windhuk, Namibia, was a German Luftwaffe night fighter ace and recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Walter Ehle claimed 39 aerial victories, 35 of them at night. He was a member of the Condor Legion
in July 1936 during the civil war in Spain, under General Field Marchal Hugo Sperrle. By the end of 1936, 7.000 Germans were in Spain. At the start of World War II Ehle flew with 3./Zerstörergeschwader 1, nickname Wespe or Wasp under command of Major Arved Crüger and was credited with three daylight kills before the unit was redesignated 3./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (NJG 1) under Gunther Radusch and he became a night fighter in the Messerschmitt BF 110. Radusch died age 75, on 29-11-1988 in Nordstrand and Major Arved Crüger and his crew on 22-03-1942, age 30, appear to have been shot down by Royal Navy AA fire while attacking shipping en route to Malta. By 1940 it was clear the Bf 110 twin engine fighter was more suitable for night defense duties, and in mid 1940 Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 was formed from a cadre of experienced Zerstörer, Destroyer, crews.
Based at Deelen, the Netherlands, the unit were part of the 1st Night Fighter Division under Oberst Josef Kammhuber. With little technical equipment or training, interceptions of night flying RAF bombers were sporadic through the year, although by October the first Himmelbett, skydivers, zones were in place to aid the aircrews with radar guidance and radio assistance from the ground. Ehle was one of the longest serving Gruppenkommandeur in the Luftwaffe, leading II./NJG 1 from October 1940 until his death in November 1943. He was succeeded by Oberstleutnant Eckart–Wilhelm von Bonin , who would survive the war and would die at the age of 72 on 11-01-1992 in Hamburg. Ehle’s sixth night victory was a Bristol Blenheim shot down on 02-06-1942, and he had 16 victories in total by the end of 1942. By the end of the war it was the most successful night fighter unit and had claimed some 2.311 victories by day and night, for some 676 aircrew killed in action.
Death and burial ground of Ehle, Walter.
On 18-11-1943 Walter Ehle’s Bf-110 crashed in a field near Horpmaal, because of technical problems around 20.20 o’clock and about 10 km from their airport in Brustum. As he was landing his airfield lights were extinguished; his aircraft crashed and he and his crew, Oberfeldwebel, Ludwig Leidenbach, Bordfunker, radio/wireless operator and Unteroffizier, Heinz Derlitzky, Bordschütze, aerial gunner, perished. Both buried on Lommel cemetery in Block 21.
Major Ehle was awarded the Knight’s Cross on 29 August after 31 victories and at the time of his death he was credited with 39. He shot down a total of 38 enemy aircraft of which 35 were at night. Ehle was first buried in a fieldgrave and his old friend, Geschwaderkommodore of the NJG/1, Major Werner Streib gave a last honor speech. He is buried now in Block 21 on the Lommel German Cemetery in Belgium.