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  Klemm L 25 d II "St. Paulus" Registration VH-UUR  

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Mick Leahy c1930s

Aircraft History
Built by Klemm Leichtflugzeugbau GmbH (Klemm Light Aircraft Company) as a model L 25 d II (L25-D11) built in 1933 powered by a Siemens Sh 13 a engine. Constructor Number 796. Registered in Germany as D-EHIV.

Sold to Missions-Verkehrs-Arbeitsgemeinschaft (MIVA) / Missions Transport Association for use in New Guinea. This aircraft was baptized by the Archbishop of Cologne and nicknamed "St. Paulus". Registered as HB-XAL in Switzerland to Father Frederick Zeigler of Einsiedeln, Switzerland.

During 1935, disassembled and shipped overseas to Madang and was reassembled at Alexishafen Airfield (Danip Airfield) for use by the Catholic Mission of the Holy Ghost (Alexishafen Catholic Mission).

Operating in New Guinea, the aircraft had a natural metal finish with a red painted tail with the Swiss flag and registration HB-XAL on the fuselage. The nickname "St. Paulus" was painted painted in black block letters below rear cockpit on both sides of the fuselage. Below the forward cockpit on the right side was MIVA in black block letters. On right side of the nose was the logo of the association a Catholic cross with wings.

On July 9, 1935 aircraft's first flight in New Guinea was from Alexishafen Airfield (Danip Airfield) on a flight over Nake and return. This aircraft operated from Alexishafen Airfield (Danip Airfield) piloted by mission pilots German Willy Schafhausen and Austrian T. S. 'Stan' Johnson flying from the mission to remote outposts to communicate messages, transport supplies or a passenger.

On August 4, 1936 registered in Australia as VH-UUR. The new registration was painted on both sides of the fuselage in black block letters. Later, registered to Madang AT Company to pilot Johnson.

This aircraft suffered an accident (date unknown) on a return flight from Mount Hagen Airfield delivering supplies to Father Ross on a flight bound for Madang Airfield or Alexishafen Airfield (Danip Airfield). Damaged during the landing, this aircraft was repaired over nine months.

On February 2, 1939 took off from Alexishafen Airfield piloted by Willy Schafhausen on a flight via Mondia Pass into the Chimbu Valley before making the first landing at Keglsugl Airfield at an elevation of 8,400' / 2,600m near the Dengagu Catholic Mission in the Chimbu Valley.

Wartime History
On January 21, 1942 took off from Alexishafen Airfield (Danip Airfield) piloted by T. S. 'Stan' Johnson with four disabled children aboard who were under the care of the Alexishafen Catholic Mission on a flight bound for Port Moresby. After take off, this aircraft was spotted by an A6M2 Zero but managed to roll, pitch and turn to evade and escaped landing safely at Mount Hagen Airfield. After refueling, took off on a flight to Daru Airfield to refuel before proceeding to Horn Island Airfield in Australia then onward to Coen Airfield then Cooktown Airfield before landing safely between obstacles at Cairns Airfield. The total flight time was 17 hours. During the initial flight, the Klemm reportedly sustained bullet holes from the Zero.

Postwar
In Australia, this aircraft was impounded as a foreign aircraft and stored at Taringa near Brisbane.

In 1946, released and came into possession of Alex Oliver of Port Maquarie, NSW who operated the aircraft for many years. This Klemm piloted by Oliver crashed into two parked aircraft at the Australian International Air Show at Avalon and at the time was uninsured.

During 1951 Johnson sold the aircraft to Colin B. McLeod of Southport, QLD. In 1953 sold to two years later it was sold to Alex Oliver of Gunnedah, NSW.

During the 1960s the original Siemans engine was replaced by an Continental O-200 four-cylinder horizontally-opposed air-cooled engine delivering 100 hp and mounted without a cowling. During the 1970s painted white with a red stripe and tail number 217.

Today
In 1997, sold to Richard 'Roy' Fox of Gunderman, NSW. This aircraft remains in flying condition painted in the 1942 markings including the Swiss flag on the tail and registration VH-UUR.

During 2009 disassembled and shipped to the United States for that year's EAA Oshkosh Airshow where it flew. Following the airshow, disassembled and shipped back to Australia. Afterwards, this aircraft was under restoration by Matt Webers at Luskintyre Airfield and Aviation Museum and is scheduled to return to flying status by November 2017.

References
AWM “Thursday Island Fortress - December 1941 - September 1942” (AWM52 1/6/8/2 pdf page 13 of 126)
"23 January 1942. Information from Navy that three planes from Moresby would arrive during the day. The planes later arrived but there were five not three; Klemm Swallow [this aircraft VH-UUR], Junkers [G-31go VH-UOW], two Fords [Trimotor VH-UBI and Trimotor VH-UDY], and a Junkers float plane [W-34d VH-UNM] [...]”
Journal of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia " Aviation Operations in New Guinea" by Eric Noble November/December 1973
Geoff Russell Collection No. 10701 Klemm L 25 d II (VH-UUR c/n 796) photo by Geoff Russell, circa 1975
The Incredible Klemm by Pat Studdy-Clift ISBN: 978-0-85905-148-4
Australian Heritage "St. Paulus: a plane of many missions" by Pat Studdy-Clift winter 2010 issue, pages 19-21
"“[...] After sending his family to safety aboard a freighter, Stan [Johnson] remained behind to evacuate disabled children who had been on [RC] Mission’s care. After taking off with four children, Stan was attacked by a Japanese Zero. By desperately rolling, pitching and turning, he managed to shake off the fighter. Stan was one of the last to leave. Alexishafen was bombed and the missionaries were captured by the Japanese. Stan then faced a long exhausting flight from Madang to Mount Hagen, then to Daru, Horn Island, Coen, Cooktown and finally Cairns [...]”.
There And Back "The Incredible Klemm" [Book Review] August 29, 2009 via Wayback Machine October 24, 2009
J-Aircraft "Klemm versus Zero ?" by Lucca Ruffato February 23, 2011
South Pacific Air War Volume 1: The Fall of Rabaul pages 79, 239
Australian Government Civil Aviation Safety Authority - VH-UUR
The Missions 1937 - Klemm L25 VH-UUR (photo)
Thanks to Lucca Ruffato for additional research and analysis.

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Last Updated
January 31, 2018

 

Tech Info
L 25
Swallow
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