Saving a German Pilot

A wartime childhood, part three

St Margaret's Church Hunningham
Anne Langley

Another extract from Julie Barnett’s childhood memories (Warwickshire County Record Office CR 3913/1)

‘One day we were in the playground [of Hunningham School], when we heard a strange noise overhead. We looked up and saw a German aeroplane, with black crosses under its wings, flying overhead, and clouds of black smoke billowing from its tail end. The plane [a Heinkel] was obviously in trouble, belly flopping into a nearby field and landing with its tail pointing high up into the air… We went right up to the plane and could see the pilot pushing back the canopy above him. He managed to climb out of the cockpit and fall on to one of the wings. Then he slithered off the wing and landed in a heap on the ground. His clothes were on fire and he was screaming, so we went to help him and rolled him in the grass to put out the flames…I pushed his goggles over his forehead to make sure his eyes were not damaged…His face was raw and swollen; it was covered with blood and his nose looked broken. We dabbed his face with a handkerchief, and placed our cardigans under his head as he lay on the ground, groaning. Eventually he managed to stand and we helped him as he started walking towards the school. He was unsteady on his feet but we got him about fifty yards from the plane when it flared up and burst into flames. Luckily it did not explode.’

Prisoner of war

[The Headmaster] ‘Mr Helm…helped the man into the school where he was given hot tea to drink and allowed to rest. Mr Helm phoned the police…and they arrived with a military ambulance and two armed soldiers who took the man to Warneford Hospital where his injuries were treated. He was transferred…to a Burns Unit and then to a Prisoner of War Camp…and when hostilities had ended, was repatriated to Germany.’

Post-war return

‘He didn’t stay there very long, but returned to Hunningham where he lived in a caravan with a local girl and married her. Some of the children who had helped him were invited to the wedding at St Margaret’s Church, Hunningham. At that time I was a chorister at Wappenbury Church and sang in the choir at his wedding. He was a nice man and I could never think of him as an enemy. He got a job working on a farm and got on well with the people in the local community… It was an episode in our lives that we never spoke about, mainly because of the need for national security. In those days, the slogan “Careless talk costs lives” was accepted as a fact and Mr Helm told us children to never talk about the crash and if anyone asked us about it to say, “I don’t know” ’.

Part four continues here.

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