Photo of Obergefreiter Johannes Flath
04 January 1920 in Zöblitz ((Marienberg/Chemnitz)
15.04.39-09.07.39 4. Flg. Ausb. Btl. 26 Heiligenhafen
10.07.39-11.01.40 Ln. ???
12.01.40-03.04.40 Bordfliegerstaffel 5/196
a. 16.03.40-26.04.40 Kreuzer Königsberg
04.04.40-30.04.45 Bordfliegerstaffel 1/196 Wilhelmshaven
b. 15.10.40-09.07.41 Kreuzer Prinz Eugen
c. 03.02.42-31.05.42 Kreuzer Prinz Eugen
d. 15.05.43-20.06.43 Kreuzer Admiral Scheer
e. 16.06.44-12.10.44 Kreuzer Admiral Scheer
f. 06.01.45-16.04.45 Kreuzer Admiral Scheer
Page 12 from Flath's Wehrpas.
15.10.37 Reichsjugend Sportabzeichen No.156722 (National Youth Sports Badge)
13.10.38 Reichssportabzeichen in Bronze (Reich Sports Badge in Bronze)
11.11.40 Kriegsverdienstkreuz 2. Klasse mit Schwerten (War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords)
27.03.42 Flotten-Kreigsabzeichen (High Seas Fleet War Badge)
05.06.42 Eiserne Kreuz 2. Klasse (Iron Cross 2nd Class)
10.02.44 Golden kordel zum Armelbätigkeitsabzeichen (Specialty arm badge with gold cord)
Photo from Flath's Leistlungsbuch
showing him as a member of
the Hitler Youth.. ca. 20 September 1937
Photo from Flath's Wehrpas. ca. 22 June 1938
Gefreiter Johannes Flath is posted to the Cruiser Königsberg. During this period of the Phoney War, the Königsberg was used for minelaying in the North sea and Baltic patrols.
8-9 April 1940
German forces invade Norway. In the early morning of the 9th German naval force landed troops in Bergen harbour, support being given by the two cruisers Königsberg and Köln, the gunnery training ship Bremse together with torpedo-boats, E-boats and armed trawlers. The Norwegian harbour defences were hampered by fog, and confused by the fact that the German force approached flying British flags. However the Kvarvan battery guarding the entrance to the harbour did score hits on the Königsberg, Bremse and the E-boat tender Carl Peters. The Königsberg's engines were damaged and two of her 3.7 cm anti aircraft gun positions put out of action, her fire-fighting mains and auxiliary power were also damaged. This did not stop her guns helping to silence the Norwegian coastal batteries around Bergen. The following day a reconnaissance flight by the RAF revealed the two cruisers to still be in harbour and a strike by Bomber Command was launched the same day. Two squadrons (one of Hampdens the other of Wellingtons) attacked at about 1800 hrs and dropped thirty 500 lb bombs but not a single hit was achieved.
The Königsberg was unfit to sail and so was moored alongside the Skoltegrund Mole with her stern towards the harbour entrance so that two of her three triple 5.9 inch turrets and her port torpedo tubes could engage any Royal Navy ship that attempted to enter. With radio equipped spotters on the hills west of Bergen the Konigsberg could also have employed her guns to bring plunging fire onto any ships approaching Bergen up the channel from the South, between the coastline and the archipelago of offshore islands. Only the front half of the cruiser was alongside the mole, perhaps to make use of the cruiser's Arado floatplane easier, or perhaps to allow the use of the crane at the end of the mole to help with repairs. The cruisers position would also have allowed her to be run astern and sunk as a blockship to seal off the inner harbour in the event of a British assault.
10 April 1940
On the morning of the 10th the RAF launched a dawn attack on Bergen harbour, 800 Sqdn provided 5 aircraft and 7 crews while 803 Sqdn provided 11 aircraft and 9 crews. . They arrived over Bergen at 7.20 (British time), approaching from the South East at 12,000 ft. After an initial observation of the German vessels in the harbour the RAF Skuas circled around and attacked out of the sun which had now dawned from behind the peaks of the Floyen and the Ulriken their attack was made from prow to stern. They dropped their 500 lb bombs, most bombs being released between 1,500 to 3,000 foot above the Königsberg, but one aircraft made a second run down to 200 foot before releasing. The Germans had 15 minutes warning of the approach of the dive bombers but of the cruiser's impressive anti-aircraft armoury only two 2cm guns on the prow of the ship opened fire on the Skuas, and they were firing almost blind, into the rising sun. They started firing as the first Skua passed 8,000 feet. The 3.7cm flak batteries amidships of the Königsberg had been destroyed by the Norwegian harbour defences and the heavy 88mm flak guns at the rear of the ship could not be bought to bear to fire forward over the main structure of the ship and the cranes and building on the mole. The front 3.7 cm flak batteries of the Königsberg also may also have been obstructed by the ship's structure and the large building on the mole. It seems that the very first bomb hit to the Königsberg killed all electrical power on the ship rendering the 88mm guns in their power operated turrets useless and also making the 3.7 cm guns slow to aim on manual power alone.
The RAF attack caused no less than 5 and maybe 6 bomb strikes to the Königsberg and another bomb exploded close astern causing extensive damage. Post action reports indicate that a couple of these "hits" may have been bombs that first struck the mole and then bounced sideways through the side of the ship before exploding.
By this time the Königsberg was sinking by the bows with flames rising from her. The damage caused by the bombs did not sink the ship directly, rather it was the inability of her crew to control the fires without the equipment damaged by the Norwegian shore batteries. Flooding caused by the bombing could not be controlled because the Königsberg's pumps were out of action due to the loss of electrical power. Magazines had to be deliberately flooded to stop the threat of fire reaching them. Despite the brave efforts of the crew to save her the Königsberg turned onto her port side (away from the mole) and sank some 2 hrs 45 mins after the RAF attack. A portion of the Königsberg's stern was left protruding from the water. 18 of the crew were killed and 23 injured in the bombing attack (3 crewmen had been killed and 18 wounded by the Norwegian coastal defence guns on the 8th April). Whether he was onboard or ashore at the time of the attack Gefrieter Flath escpaed the ordeal unharmed.
A series of stills showing the sinking of the Königsberg.
A Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen Arado 196A-3 of Bordfliegerstaffel 1/196. ca. May 1941
Flath shown wearing his High Seas Fleet Badge.