A special exhibition about the aerial bombardment of Rotterdam by the German Luftwaffe (German Air Force) 75 years ago was set up in cooperation between the Museum Rotterdam, the Rotterdam City Archives, and the Museum of Military History (MHM) on the Berlin-Gatow airfield. The exhibition displays the events of May 1940 from different perspectives.
The large-scale Casa C-2.111B, which is a Spanish licensed production of the Heinkel He 111 H 16, is the central object of this exhibition. The Heinkel He 111 was a twin-engine, cantilever low-wing all-metal aircraft. It had been designed as a fast commercial aircraft and during World War II served as the standard bomber of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe). The contract for the licensed production of the Heinkel He 111 was concluded by Spain in 1939. The Spanish Air Force used these aircraft until the end of the 1960s.
In 1969, the Spanish government donated a Casa to the German Air Force Museum in Uetersen/Appen. When the aircraft was handed over, it was no longer airworthy, and it featured a German camouflage paint scheme with Spanish national insignia. Probably in the early 1970s, the aircraft received the German aircraft registration G1 + AD and was presented in the exhibition in Uetersen/Appen until 1993. After the museum had moved from Uetersen to Berlin in 1994/1995, the aircraft initially had to be stored in the museum depot, due to its size. Also, the aircraft had sustained numerous deformations on the transport from Uetersen/Appen to Berlin.
In 2014, the Casa was restored for the exhibition project “De Aanval” in Rotterdam. Preliminary examinations of the paint revealed that, below the top layer, there were several layers of coloured coating from earlier operations. The restauration measures were therefore aimed at securing the original object. After the aircraft had been cleaned, deformations were reshaped back to their original shape. The paint had peeled off from the canvas and the fuselage on numerous places, giving an uneven, spotty overall impression. The colour of these spots was adjusted to match the last original coating. In order to be able to present the aircraft in a height of approximately three metres, the Kern Engineering Office constructed a three-piece stand. The attachment points for the pillars are the partition sections of the wings, as well as the tailwheel.
The cockpit instruments of the Casa were painted with radioactive fluorescent paint, enabling the pilot to read the scale even in the dark. These radioactive instruments which, from today’s perspective, require authorisation, were removed for transport, shipped separately and re-installed again in Rotterdam.
Another focus of attention was on the transport, which was to be carried out causing as little damage as possible to the aircraft. In preparation for transport, the wings, propellers, ailerons, as well as the entire tail section were removed and packed into crates. Each wing had its separate transport rack. The fuselage remained unprotected and was thus the largest and most vulnerable item to be shipped. The favourable location of the exhibition hall in the port of Rotterdam (Waalhaven) enabled a slow and low-vibration transport by ship. From the museum in Berlin-Gatow to the port in Wustermark, the aircraft was transported in four tours of semitrailers and one tour of a drop-bed semitrailer for the fuselage. The aircraft “travelled” by ship from Wustermark to Rotterdam.
Since even the large entrance door of the exhibition hall in Rotterdam was too small for the aircraft, the restoration department assembled the aircraft directly in the exhibition hall, utilizing a 70-ton crane.
The exhibition in Rotterdam is open to the public from 30 April to 25 October 2015.
(1) The Casa on exhibition in Rotterdam, Rob Noordhoek, Rotterdam Museum
(2) The Casa disassembled on a transport lorry at Berlin-Gatow airfield, Ralf Heldenmaier, MHM-Gatow
(3) Loading of the aircraft at Havel-Port Wustermark, Ralf Heldenmaier, MHM-Gatow