Biplane fighter aces


Pilot Officer Michael Alexander Craig-Adams, RAF no. 41672

Craig-Adams was from Epsom, Surrey.

He served in 263 Squadron on both Norwegian expeditions.

Early in the morning on 26 April, two Gladiators were quickly readied for flight from Lake Lesjaskog and took off on patrol. No sooner were they in the air than the engine of Pilot Officer Craig-Adams’ Gladiator (N5647) suffered a piston rod seizure and he baled out safely.
N5647 crashed at Litjdalen, Sunndalsøra. The wreckage has been recovered and the serial number was found on the aircraft.

263 Squadron suffered heavily losses and was soon withdrawn back to Great Britain to be re-equipped.
On 21 May, the squadron again landed in Norway. This time at Bardufoss in northern Norway after having flown off from the carrier HMS Furious.

On 22 May, the Gladiators undertook more than 30 sorties.
At 10:25 eight He 111s of II/KG 26, escorted by two Bf 110s, were sent out on a armed reconnaissance and sank the anti-submarine trawler HMS Melbourne in Gratangsbotn.
Pilot Officer Craig-Adams in N5719 reportedly attacked a He 111 east of Salangen. Those on the ground heard machine-ground fire, and then both aircraft crashed, all four members of the German crew baling out. Craig-Adams was reportedly found still strapped in his cockpit, dead, only a few yards from the wreckage of the Heinkel in the mountains. It was presumed that he collided, or deliberately rammed the bomber.
The loss of a He 111 to fighters can’t be verified with German records. However, Luftwaffe records noted a claim for one British fighter shot down in combat, so he may well have been in combat with one bomber.
4./KG 26 lost He 111H-3 1H+OM ( 2520) (Unteroffizir August Riehle (pilot), Feldwebel Karl Heinz Hess (observer), Obergefreiter Josef Kopitz (radio operator) and Rudolf Entrich (air gunner)), which according to the crew was shot down by AA and crashed at Skavlikollen, Salangen.
Unteroffizier Riehle has later retold Norwegian aviation historians that during the day he flew as no. 2 in a “Rotte” bound for attacking British naval units “north” of Narvik. When approaching for the attack they flew low along a steep mountain wall, against which AA fire ricocheted. He had been wounded in his left hand three weeks previously and to help him flying his observer (Feldwebel Hess) helped him with the throttle and trim! After dropping the bombs, the left engine was hit and started burning. They managed to get the fire under control and flew over hilly terrain and believed that they could return to Trondheim on one engine. However, the observer who was about to correct the rudder trim over-corrected and the aircraft turned almost 90o, which Riehel almost not managed to correct and they crash-landed. Riehle was wounded in the head and back but the other three in the crew were unharmed. They started off towards Sweden on foot but after four days, almost in Sweden, they were captured by Norwegian soldiers and taken POWs. They were shipped first to England and later were Riehle and Hess shipped to Canada, both returning to Germany after the war. Riehle is still living in Germany.
A second bomber crashed on return to Vaernes with 45% damage.
Craig-Adams aircraft (identified by serial number found on the wreckage) crashed on Høgfjellet at Sjøvegan. It has now been recovered. No wreckage of any Heinkel has ever been found on or near the site of Craig-Adams' crashed Gladiator.

Craig-Adams was buried at Narvik’s New Cemetery.

At the time of his death Craig-Adams was credited with 1 biplane victory.

Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 22/05/40 1 He 111 (a) Destroyed Gladiator II N5719 E Salangen 263 Squadron

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with He 111s from II/KG 26, which lost one aircraft from 5./KG 26 (reportedly shot down by AA) and got a second damaged.

Fledgling Eagles - Christopher Shores with John Foreman, Christian-Jaques Ehrengardt, Heinrich Weiss and Bjørn Olsen, 1991 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-42-9
Gloster Gladiator Home Page - Alexander Crawford
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Additional information kindly provided by Birger Larsen.

Last modified 31 October 2005