When they arrived back at the farmhouse, Mags had already got the cutting gear out of the barn and was busy loading film into a camera. Andy cut the engine and Klein, still feeling a little delicate, climbed out of the passenger’s side, clutching the box of McCulloch’s beer.
Klein held the box unsteadily as it was collapsing under the weight of the glass bottles, while Mags shouted over,
“What did you get from McCulloch? More beer?”
Klein nodded, with a look of disgust on his face, as if he was carrying the remains of something they had run over with the tractor, and Mags smiled broadly and shook her head, laughing, while walking towards them. She peered inside the box, gently pulling back one of the top flaps and said,
“Only twelve? What about the rest of us, son?”
Klein looked puzzled again, and almost despairingly, turned to Andy for an answer, then turned back to Mags and then blurted out,
“But, these are for you both . . . I couldn’t possibly, I mean, I can’t drink all . . .”
Mags laughed and said, reassuringly,
“I’m only kidding!”
“Kidding?” Klein questioned,
“Aye, joking! We don’t expect you to drink them all! We want at least one each!”
Klein just laughed, realising that he was perhaps the subject of more jokes or sarcasm, but didn’t mind, instead enjoying the joviality and friendly atmosphere that he was the recipient of.
He put the box down on the ground beside the van and asked Mags what the camera was for.
“You’re not the only one who likes to take pictures, you know!”
Andy came around to the other side where Klein was and added,
“Oh, aye, Mags likes her camera. All the pictures on the walls in the house are from this very camera – she’s a dab hand!”
“A what?” Klein asked, the language skills failing him yet again.
“A dab hand,” Mags replied,
“It means ’very good. But then, he’s biased,” she added, winding on the film and setting the camera up.
She then cleaned the lens on the front and said,
“Right. Stand there, and I’ll get you both in.”
Andy stood up straight and proud and posed, smiling broadly while Klein smiled half – heartedly.
“Come on, lad!” Andy said, putting his arm around his shoulders and squeezing hard,
“Get a smile on your face, there!”
Klein did as he was told and smiled properly, while Mags lined up the shot. She lined up the camera and took the picture, getting them perfectly in frame and including part of the van and the box of McCulloch’s beer, still sitting at Klein’s feet.
“Right,” announced Mags. “That’s it,” and wound the camera on.
Andy explained to Klein,
“Mags has been really interested in photography for years now.”
Klein replied to Mags,
“You may be interested in the camera in the ’plane, then. Would you like to have it?”.
Mags’ eyes lit up as though she had been given the opportunity of a lifetime and said,
“Oh, don’t sell it, or destroy it. I’d love to see if it would work again. The lens must be huge! I could probably take good photographs of the mainland with it!”
Klein recognised the genuine enthusiasm in Mags to have the camera equipment and said,
“I only destroyed the film. The camera should have survived the crash, after all it was made in Germany! We make quality products, you know!”
Mags smiled at him and said,
“Oh, we know you do! Sometimes you lot make things a little too well!”, referring to their manufacture of machines and instruments that were helping them to fight a war.
Klein then had a thought,
“Maybe you could use the camera somehow, in your hobby?”
“Well, we could always try! It would be interesting to see if it works.”
Andy then suggested,
“Why don’t you come up and help us retrieve it?”
Mags’ smile seemed to reach from ear to ear!
“In the meantime, bring that one with you and you can take pictures of some real work!”, Andy said, with a smile, walking away towards the tractor and the cutting equipment.
Klein helped Andy load up the tractor and trailer with the oxy-acetylene bottles and torches that they were going to use to cut up his ’plane and Mags sat up beside the drivers seat. The three of them drove up to the top field where the camouflaged ’plane lay and they unloaded the bottles and torches. Mags jumped down from the tractor with her camera and walked around the crash site, while Klein started pulling off the branches that were covering the tail. Mags lined up the camera and ran off a couple of shots as Klein stripped the branches away. Soon the tail fin of the ME109 was revealed and the dreaded swastika motif was exposed. Mags took a couple of photographs of the exposed tail fin and managed to get Klein in the frame too, as he took away more branches and other undergrowth covering it. As Klein and Andy revealed more of the rear section, Mags continued to take pictures of the wreck site and asked to have the whole ’plane uncovered to get some pictures of it complete.
“I’m not sure, Mags,” Andy said,
“If a ’plane flew over and spotted us, that would be it – finished.”
Mags looked disappointed, and tried to convince Andy,
“We will never get another chance to get a picture like that, though! Come on – how long would it take the three of us to cover it up again?”
Andy looked over at Klein and then looked back at Mags and said,
“Alright – let’s make it quick, though, eh?”
Mags’ face took on a beaming smile and the three of them began quickly stripping off the undergrowth on the ’plane.
Once the aircraft was exposed, they took the tarpaulin off the cockpit and Mags went around the ’plane taking pictures from all sorts of angles. She photographed inside the cockpit, under the engine covers, and even climbed someway up a tree to get some nice shots from above. She went through one roll of film on this alone. She then loaded the camera again and got Klein and Andy to pose in front of it, and took more pictures. When she had finished, they began to cover up the ’plane again. Mags next subjects were of Klein and Andy setting up the torches and preparing to cut the ’plane up.
As Andy chose a suitable area to start from, Klein touched the tail section as though he were holding an old pet and said,
“Goodbye, Gustav - a faithful machine.”
Andy, somewhat surprised at the idea of a Nazi showing sentiment for something other than the totalitarian rule of the Fatherland, said,
“What? Don’t tell me you named the bloody thing?” and stifled a laugh.
Klein realising how ridiculous it sounded, was quick to correct him,
“No, no - the ‘Gustav’ is the name of this particular model. Each variation of the 109 had a designation letter. For example, one of the first ones was 109B – the ‘B’ was for Bertha, then ‘C’ – Caesar, and so on.”
Andy, paused, thoughtfully for a minute as if trying to work out the next sequence,
“ . . .And the rest?” he conceded,
“’D’ for Dora, ‘E’ for Emil, ‘F’ for Friedriech and, this one – ‘G’ for Gustav.”
“Right. Well, Gustav is going to be more useful to you, now, not less!” Andy replied, and then added,
“Good job they haven’t got to ‘H’ yet. I suppose we can all guess who that will be called after!”
With one ‘click’ of the flint lighter, the acetylene torch lit and roared like a rocket with a barely visible, blue flame. Andy adjusted the gas mixture for the right flame for cutting and pulled down his protective visor. The soft aluminium yielded easily to the torch and, very soon, large sections of metal were being cut away indiscriminantely.
Andy and Klein began to work with the torches and Mags took pictures of them cutting off the wooden tail fin and the metal rear wings.
After about two hours, they had the entire tail removed from the ’plane and had it dismantled into smaller pieces. They loaded up the trailer with it and then began stripping more branches away to reveal another part of the rear section of the ’plane. They were careful not to disturb or move the covering again that was on parts of the aircraft that they were not working on, since they wanted to be able to cover it in a hurry. Andy was always acutely aware that the authorities could still investigate the crash, or even a routine flight over by the coastguard, could spot them easily from the air.
After another hours work, they had removed a section of the ’plane that took them closer to the cockpit. This part of the ’plane proved to be the easiest to dismantle as it had very few mechanical or moving parts contained within. There were control cables and the camera equipment and a first aid kit, but otherwise it was a fairly open space within the ’plane. The canister of film was lying beside the camera and the tangled heap of film that Klein had pulled out to destroy his pictures. Mags continued to take pictures of the dismantling and when the camera equipment was removed, she got Klein and Andy to hold it up and pose with it in front of the partially revealed ’plane. The camera equipment was carefully placed in the trailer along with the rest of the precious metal parts and Andy decided that the load was heavy enough for his ageing , home made trailer.
“Right, I think we’d better get this lot back to the barn!” he exclaimed, please with the progress they had made so far.
“We’ll dump this lot and come back and try and get as far as the cockpit before it gets too dark,” Andy suggested.
They began covering the ’plane again, and stood back to make sure that they had done a good enough job . Once the camouflage was complete, the three of them got back on to the tractor and the farmer started up the tractor while Klein sat on the trailer again with the dismantled parts of his ’plane. As the tractor slowly trundled down the hill, Klein couldn’t help but feel a sense of loss and sadness at the way his aircraft was meeting it’s rather undignified end. Like him, machines like this were destined to ‘die’ in battle, gloriously and with honour, having taken many enemy ’planes with it.
Mags turned around to face Klein as they headed down the hill towards the track that served as a road to the fields and noticed his thoughtful and sad expression.
“What’s wrong, son?” she asked,
Klein snapped out of his stare and replied,
“I don’t know. I am thinking many things, but never imagined that a noble aircraft such as this would end up as scrap metal. It was my aircraft.”
Andy was first to recognise the sentiment felt by the airman and quickly replied,
“It’s better that it has been able to provide us all with something valuable, rather than lying at the bottom of the sea, lost forever. Now, that would be waste, son.”
Andy looked at Mags and winked at her,
“Don’t worry, son. We’ll make sure that your ‘noble’ aircraft continues to look after you, long after it has done it’s service!”
Klein smiled and nodded and looked around him as Andy negotiated the sharp turn from the field on to the road down to the farmhouse.
They parked the tractor inside the barn and Klein and Andy started to unload the sections of metal in neat piles on the barn floor. Mags went back into the house to get some more camera film and then came back to unload the camera from the
109, off the tractor’s trailer. She carefully carried it in to the farmhouse and laid it out on the floor in the wash room, and standing back, struggled to work out how it could be assembled again! While she was doing this, Klein and Andy had unloaded the last of the tail section and it wasn’t long before they were ready for the journey back to the top field. This time they took some other tools, such as spanners, and metal cutting shears as they knew that the next few pieces would be more complex and would require more ingenuity and a lot more care than just wielding a cutting torch!
Andy, Mags and Klein, got back onto the tractor and they made their way back up to the field to continue dismantling the ’plane. As they trundled along the rough farm track that led to the field, Klein warned Andy,
“We must be careful with the next bit. There are three oxygen bottles just behind the cockpit section and the filler for the fuel tank.”
Andy said, jokingly,
“You can do the cutting, then, this time!”
Klein laughed and added,
“We must also be careful with the cockpit because there are still live rounds of ammunition in the magazines for the guns. Oh, and of course, the vapour in the fuel tanks.”
“Bloody hell,” said Andy,
“This is starting to sound a bit dangerous!”
Mags turned to him and said,
“Didn’t you think of all that before you decided to cut it up?”
Andy, now realising that the process could take a while longer than originally anticipated, answered,
“Aye, well, yes, but I thought we could just slice it up with the torches, you know.”
Mags raised her eyes to the sky and shook her head.
“Well, you don’t think about these things, do you?” he replied.
Mags sighed and said,
“Well, you don’t anyway!”
Klein then reassured Andy,
“It will be fine. The oxygen will come away easily and we can unload the magazines when we get to that part of the ’plane – which may be a while, anyway!”
Mags, still unsure, turned to Klein and said,
“And what about the petrol vapours and remaining fuel?”
Klein simply smiled at her and said,
“We can give them to McCulloch to make more of his awful wine with!”
Mags and Andy laughed heartily and Klein felt much more at ease with his situation with each passing hour. He even began to think that their idea was not only the best course of action, for now, but that he may even get to like this new way of life. It was certainly better than a prison camp somewhere, of that there was no dispute. Klein felt a genuine warmth from them and could see the appeal in sitting out the rest of the war on this idyllic island. He only wished he could let his parents know he was alright. Klein began to reflect on this stage of the war and knew that Germany was fighting for survival, and not necessarily from his hosts, but the Russians. As he took in the scenery during the rough ride back to the aircraft, he was finding it harder and harder to justify an escape from this place. He was already growing fond of the idea of settling in a place like this – an island where the day to day rat race was left behind and the pace of life seemed slower and where world politics had little effect.
The tractor trundled up the lane and turned into the field towards the woods, where it bumped and rolled over the rough terrain, making Klein cling on to the sides of the trailer with even more tenacity.
When they reached the ’plane, they uncovered some more branches and started work again. The three oxygen bottles, sure enough, unhooked easily from their racks and Andy was soon able to cut away another section of the tail. Soon, they had reached the back of the cockpit and had removed the compass, wireless system and the methanol \ water tank.
The parts were all cut, again, into smaller bits and loaded on to the trailer. Ever conscious of any aircraft flying overhead, Andy
backed the trailer into the trees, providing cover for the gleaming pieces of metal which would look strangely out of place glinting in a barren field!
Once they had reached the back of the cockpit, they realised that the next bit would be much more complicated and would prove to be more difficult to dismantle. After weighing up various options, they decided to dismantle as much as possible, using the spanners and other tools, and only use the cutting torches whenever they reached an inaccessible part, or any stubborn bolts.
Andy was still a bit concerned at the time it would take, as he was anxious to see the rewards of their labours! He was also acutely aware of the fact that the longer the dismantling took, then the higher the chances of it being discovered. Mags, as usual, however, had a more practical suggestion why they should get it dismantled quickly,
“The branches you have used to camouflage it will die off soon and expose everything. It won’t be long before the leaves turn brown and fall off.”
“Shit – I never thought of that!” said Andy.
Klein, however was quick with a suggestion,
“We can dismantle as much as possible from the wings, remove the engine in one piece and then come back for the cockpit section – again in one piece. We can then continue to dismantle these pieces in the barn.”
“I’m not sure if the old trailer will take the weight, though,” Andy said.
Klein, undeterred, continued,
“Since you have the torches, you can strengthen the trailer with parts of the ’plane. You could make up an axle and use the undercarriage wheels!”
Mags thought that this was the best they could do and backed up Klein’s suggestion,
“Why don’t you just do that?” she said,
“After all, you made the trailer. It can’t be that difficult to rig up an axle, surely?”
Andy thought about it for a minute and then said,
“I still can’t get at the wheels on the ’plane, yet, almost until the end. By that time we would have no need for a strengthened trailer as the rest of the parts would have to be removed anyway.”
There was silence for a few minutes as each considered the problem and possible solutions.
Mags came up with the most viable solution,
“Right – why don’t you start cutting the wings up, and get to the wheels. Then, once you have them, you can take them back to the barn and make up an axle with them there.”
“Aye, that’s a good idea. We can then bring the wheels back up with us and sling them under the trailer to help take the weight,” Andy added.
For the next couple of hours, they cut up sections of the wings, stripping away the stressed aluminium outer skin and cutting away the airframe. They cut the control cables and coiled them into neat loops and cut their way down to the wing root, revealing the undercarriage. They carefully dismantled the mountings for the guns and removed one of the 20mm cannon mechanisms, barrel and the ammunition magazine. Andy looked in wonder at the size of the gun as they removed it and said,
“Christ, look at this thing. Our lads don’t have a chance against this, do they?”
Klein was busying undoing the bolts that held the ammunition feeder in position on to the wing and replied remorsefully,
“No, Andy, they don’t. If you are in the sights of this, then it only takes a quick burst and it is all over. They are lethal.”
Klein was grateful, and almost proud of the fact that the weapon was so efficient against the allied aircraft, but was also well aware that it was the weapon that consigned the farmer’s son to an unknown grave. He kept his comments factual, but neutral and left out the national pride that he would undoubtedly have lavished on another German citizen.
“I cannot understand why the British still use the .303 machine gun. They know we have these cannon, yet they still persist
with their Browning ’pea-shooter.” Klein added, referring to the Browning machine guns, fitted as standard to British ’planes.
“They are quite effective in the turrets of the bombers, if we are stupid enough to get close enough, but we have better range with these and can keep a safe distance.”
By the time they got enough of the wing off to access the wheel, it was getting near dark, and time to stop. They loaded up the parts into the trailer and went through the routine of covering up the ’plane again with undergrowth. The branches and bracken that were left over, they scattered to cover the furrow that was now exposed where the rest of the ’plane had been before they dismantled it.
“Well, that’s not a bad day’s work, there,” Andy said.
“We’ll get the rest of the wings and the wheels tomorrow, then I’ll make up an axle for the engine. I have some lifting gear and a gantry that should take the weight of the engine and the cockpit section, although I’ll need to leave it up there for a few days.”
Once they had loaded up the trailer, they all got back on to the tractor and trundled down the lane again for the last time that day. As they pulled into the barn, Klein and Andy started unloading the metal pieces and stacked them next to the rest. Mags went in to prepare dinner while Klein and Andy unloaded the last of the metal from the trailer and loaded up parts that would facilitate the making of an axle that the undercarriage wheels would fit on to. They also loaded on the gantry and the lifting winch, with which they hoped to raise the Daimler Benz 12 cylinder engine.
As they headed back towards the house, they were discussing the possibilities of getting the engine out before the cockpit section. Andy had been talking about the merits of various engine designs and Klein had been telling him all about the German engines and how good they were.
“Ah, but there is nothing quite like the Merlin,” said Andy.
“The Rolls Royce engine is the finest there is, and they’re made just over the water, there,” he added.
“I know this engine,” said Klein.
“I took a picture of the Hillington works while I was flying over.”
“It’s the finest engine, son. Yours sound all rough and unsynchronised, but the Merlin literally purrs. It’s a masterpiece.”
“You know, the Junkers Jumo, BMW and Daimler Benz engines are three quality engines from Germany. You can only quote ONE good engine from here?”
Andy, now joining in a less than serious debate, replied,
“When you have Rolls Royce making your engines, then you only need one – the best!”
Klein laughed again and said,
“Did you know that the ME109 prototype was originally fitted with a Rolls Royce engine?”
Andy guessed that Klein was just trying to wind him up,
“Aye, right. Why would we sell you lot an engine? Let alone the finest one ever made?”
“No, seriously. Rolls Royce provided the engine for the prototype 109 - It was a Kestrel engine.”
Andy wasn’t sure if he was still being wound up or not, but decided not to pursue the enquiry any further, just in case!
Klein, for his part, didn’t want to go much further with it, since Messerschmitt decided not to use the British engine, since supplies would naturally be disrupted by the potential of war with the country that would make the engine for their most formidable fighter!
“My Gustav’s engine is fuel injection. It’s a much more efficient design and stops the problem of fuel not getting to the engine when in a tight turn. This is how we can chase the enemy in turns because our engines do not slow down because of lack of petrol getting to it,” Klein boasted.
Andy continued the debate,
“A carburettor is much simpler, though. How can you maintain something like fuel injection in the field?”
“It is all mechanical. And it makes the engine easier to start too,” Klein replied.
They went into the farmhouse where the debate on engine design and efficiency carried on as they got into the kitchen and started to wash up for dinner. They got cleaned up while Mags set the table and put out a couple of bottles of McCulloch’s, infamous ‘B17’ beer. Mags , who was, in her own right, mechanically adept, listened to the meaningless debate between the two men arguing like schoolboys and stopped the momentum abruptly by saying,
“It’s all irrelevant, though, isn’t it? Once these jet things come along, then your fancy engines will be consigned to powering the tractor!”
Klein and Andy looked at each other and the farmer said,
“Aw, they’ll never catch on! They’re too fast for any pilot to handle, and too dangerous, too. ”
Klein, having already been introduced to the marvels of the jet age through the ME262 fighter-bomber, did not agree.
“Speed will be the best weapon. Your De Havilland Mosquito is already almost impossible to catch on combustion engines – imagine what it would be like with a jet!”
Mags put out glasses and cutlery as the two men sat down at the table and began to dish out the evening meal.
Dinner tonight was to be fish. Whiting was caught by a local fish and chip shop owner, Sandy Nairn, and as usual, as well as the rations, there was always plenty kept by for the locals! Mags had fried the fish with some sliced potatoes, onions and some herbs and had added some of McCullochs wine to the dish for some extra ‘bite’!
Klein and the farmer both dished out Mags dinner and Andy opened up the bottles of beer before proposing his traditional toast.
“To the end of the war!” he said, raising his bottle.
Klein and Mags raised their bottles and Klein added,
“Whoever wins,” and smiled at Mags.
“Aye, just remember your friends if you lot win and Hitler passes by this way!”
Klein laughed and added,
“If he does, then we had better get his ’plane back together again. It is German property we have destroyed. I don’t think he will be too happy!”
Mags served the vegetables, and as they ate and another round of B17’s were opened, Klein said to Andy,
“You don’t have to lock me in tonight. I’m not going to go anywhere.”
Mags looked almost horrified that Klein had known he was locked in. She thought he was so drunk that he wouldn’t have known! Andy looked at Mags and was about to deny locking the door at all, when she stepped in,
“We thought it for the best. You were talking about leaving and trying to get to Ireland. If you had just got up and left, then we’d all be in real trouble, son.”
“Trust us son – if you want to get back to your family again, then this is the best way, really.”
Klein looked less remorseful than he had been before when this subject was raised,
“I do trust you, and I do like it here. I just want this whole thing to be over so that I can go back to my family and my country.”
Mags sighed and added,
“It won’t be long before the war is over, I’m sure. As soon as it is safe, we’ll get you back to your family. It won’t be easy, and we’ve no idea how we will do it, but we’ll get you back – don’t worry.”
Klein smiled, more out of politeness, than belief that such an idea would practically work. He still couldn’t see a way out and was torn between the emotions of wanting to stay, and the need to get back to his family.
Mags then asked,
“How did you know you were locked in? I thought you were out for the count all night.”
Klein sniggered and replied,
“I had to go to the toilet and couldn’t get out, so I knew I had been locked in.”
Andy and Mags had all sorts of thoughts as to what Klein actually did when he couldn’t manage to get to the bathroom . . .
“I really needed to go, so I just climbed out of the window and went over to the shed, there.”
Mags and Andy laughed at the absurdity of locking the door, but forgetting about the window and appreciating Klein’s decision not to try and leave!
The short silence after the laughter subsided was broken by the rattle of cutlery on plates as they started to eat, Klein in particular, loved fish and this recipe was clearly worth remembering!
Andy took his first bite and nodded,
“Mmm, the wine cooks better doesn’t it?”
“It’s one of his better vintages!”
Klein was more interested in where the fish came from,
“Do you catch the fish yourself?” he asked.
“We get it from Sandy – Sandy Nairn. He has a chippy on the main street. He can get you anything – crab, lobster, cod, even squid and mussels – you name it.” Mags replied.
“What is ’chippy?” Klein enquired.
“A ‘chippy’ is a shop that sells fried fish and chips – you’ll need to try some, son, it’s the food of the gods!” replied Andy.
Mags, changing the subject slightly, to a potentially more positive time, asked,
“What do you want to do when the war is over, Jorgen?”
Klein smiled and revealed his plans for peace time,
“I want to finish my time in the Luftwaffe and then, become a pilot for Lufthansa. I think there will be more demand for air travel after the war. If people can travel easily, like this, then perhaps they will understand their neighbours better and not fear them or fight with them.”
“Aye, well, you wouldn’t get me up there! I’ll stick to ground travel, it’s much safer!”
Klein laughed and added,
“It really is very safe, you know.”
Andy had started a debate and was not convinced about the safety aspect of flying through air,
“Safe? With nothing holding you up? As soon as that engine dies, so do you!”
“But I am here. My engine ‘died’ and yet I was able to land here, safely.”
He then added, jokingly,
“If we hadn’t cut up Gustav, I would show you!”
Mags then chipped in,
“Oh, aye, now that I would like a picture of – him sitting on your lap while you go hurtling around the Clyde coast! I’d pay to see that!”
Andy then added,
“Aye, I’d have to change my trousers after a flight in that thing!”
Klein was still struggling with some of the language,
“Change your trousers? Why?” he repeated slowly,
Mags answered for him,
“Because he would shit himself, that’s why!”
“After the war, I will take you up in an aircraft, maybe not a Gustav, and I’ll show you how fantastic it is!”
Andy took another drink from his bottle and said, rather less seriously,
“I’ll look forward to that, I’m sure!”
When dinner was finished, they all retired into the living room, and as usual they listened to the latest events in the war on the radio. The news featured reports on direct hits on synthetic oil plants in Germany and successful strikes by bomber command on the V1 and V2 rocket sites. With each week, the reports were more and more encouraging to the idea that the war would be over sooner rather than later.
Once the programme of music continued, Mags said,
“I can’t imagine what it must be like living in London, with those things raining down without warning.”
Klein had only ever seen the ‘doodlebugs’ in Nazi propaganda films, but expressed his dislike of them.
“They are not good weapons of war. There is no pilot, no skill, and no honour in combat. No-one risks themselves to kill others – that is not war. I hope I am safe here to say that they are a coward’s weapon. There is no risk involved to the operator.”
Andy, taken slightly aback by this latest revelation form the perceived, all-Aryan Nazi pilot, replied,
“You’re safe to say it, son. I’m not sure they would let you say it back home, mind!”
Klein, now starting to feel the effects of his second ‘B17’ again, opened up on his political views and replied,
“Yes, I am beginning to realise that perhaps our Fuhrer does not have the interests of the German people at heart, after all. My country is fighting for its existence and he has been hiding in Berlin all this time. Where are his speeches? Where are his words of inspiration? We should know not to expect total dedication to Germany from an Austrian!”
Mags was puzzled, thinking that the two nations were basically one, anyway, and said as much.
“In history, yes, we are very close,” continued Klein,
“But there are many differences in us. Only a true German can lead Germany, and an Austrian, can only lead Austria. Do you not feel the same between Englanders and Scottish? You are similar, but then again, different.”
“Oh, aye. I mean some folks here are quite happy with being ‘British’, but there are a lot here that would rather we were out on our own,” Andy replied.
“Like Ireland?” Klein asked,
“Aye, Southern Ireland – Eire. A Republic,” Andy replied.
“What are these ‘two’ Irelands?” Klein questioned.
“Aye – North and South. The South is a separate country and the North is governed by Britain – it’s a bit complicated, and it causes some problems, politically. If you had done a disappearing act, you would have ended up in the North, for sure, which is under British rule. You would save yourself a lot of time and sea-sick pills just heading over to Glasgow on the ferry to get caught!” Andy replied.
Not one for political conversations at the best of times, Andy, decided to lighten the mood a little,
“Well, if you want to lead Germany, we’ll vote for you! Won’t we, Mags?”
Klein laughed and said, in his slightly drunken state,
“Yes. That is a good idea. I shall be Chancellor and you, Andy, can be in charge of the Luftwaffe! I know you would like that!” Klein said, pointing at the farmer.
“That will be right!” Andy replied sarcastically, as Klein turned to Mags and said, pointing,
“And you! You can be in charge of armaments – but not shotguns, of course!”
“Thanks very much!” replied Mags,
“The only shooting I would ever let her do is with the camera. Don’t you remember your first encounter with Mags and the shotgun?”
“Yes. Good point. Perhaps, then, in charge of official photography instead!”
“That’s better,” replied Mags, she then looked almost disappointedly at the young airman and added,
“Although, ironically, it sounds like the first thing you would prepare for is another war,” she added.
Klein paused for a minute and said,
“Who knows, once the Russians move further and further into Europe. Maybe we have to fight them next.”
“But the Russians are our allies – they’ll be o.k. Stalin seems a bit shady, but the Russki’s are o.k,” said Andy.
“They’ve had a hard time in this war, too.”
Klein replied, incredulously,
“The Bolsheviks hate Germans. We are politically opposite. They will stop at nothing to have every German wiped off the map. They are also so opposed to capitalism that no country in Europe is safe from their desire to create a communist world. You would lose everything you have to them.”
Klein paused and then added, in a rather more sinister tone of voice,
“Do not underestimate herr Stalin. He is every bit as bad as Hitler, if you like your way of freedom and culture. He will want to destroy you just as much as he wants to destroy us. He will not stop at Poland and Germany. He will take over Europe – and Britain.”
Mags thought this was a bit of a harsh and generalistic view of a country that was allied to Britain, despite their political systems being totally different.
“Oh, I don’t think they will go that far!” she said, adding,
“They just want peace, too, like the rest of us.”
“We shall see. Then maybe I will have to pretend to be Swedish instead of Polish!” replied Klein.
Andy decided to focus on a future, that was more profitable and make plans for tomorrows’ dismantling work.
“Tomorrow we’ll get the rest of the wings done and build up an axle for the undercarriage wheels. After that we should get the engine out and leave the cockpit section until the end,” he said.
Andy then drew out a rough idea of how he could get the wheels to sit under the trailer. After he and Klein settled on a suitable design, the young airmen decided he was going to his bed.
Mags and her husband cleared up the rest of the dinner dishes and went to sit in the living room. As they passed by the room where Klein lay sleeping, Mags instinctively went to lock the door, but stopped and looked at Andy instead. He slowly shook his head and said,
“Don’t. I’m sure it will be fine. He won’t go anywhere, now.”
“I hope so,” said Mags,
“Otherwise we will have a lot of explaining to do. And many years in jail in which to do it.”
“And anyway . . .” added, Andy,
“I bet you forgot about the window !”
“Damn!” Mags sniggered.
They sat in front of the dwindling fire and after a long silence, Mags said,
“He reminds me a lot of Jim, you know.”
Andy looked at her and frowned in puzzlement,
“Yes,” replied Mags.
Andy struggled to see the similarity, and rhymed off his reasons on his fingers,
“How? He’s German, for a start. He’s older . . .”
“Oh aye, by about 6 months!” Mags interrupted,
“ . . .He’s . . .He’s . . .nothing like him!” the farmer reasoned.
“Aye, but he’s kind hearted, he’s scared, he’s vulnerable, he’s fighting because he’s been told to,” Mags voice then trailed away slightly,
“And he’s a lost son who nearly died in a ’plane. . .”
Andy took another sip of his beer and said,
“Aye, and that is definitely where the similarity ends. He only nearly died in a ’plane.”
There was an awkward silence for a few seconds while they both stared into the fire as if trying to imagine the last scene from the bomber that Jim’s crew must have seen before Mags suggested,
“Do you really think that Jim is dead?”
Andy, worried that Mags was clinging on to a false hope, said,
“I don’t know, love. I’d like to think that he got out somehow and has made his way to Sweden or Switzerland or something and it will just take time for him to get back. I’d even be happy if he was a prisoner of war somewhere,” he then added, pessimistically,
“But they did have witnesses from his own crew to say the ’plane exploded before he, the bomb aimer and the navigator got out, so, I doubt it. Even the Red Cross would have turned up something by now. No - I can’t see how he could have survived . . .”
Mags, still clinging on to her false hopes, added,
“Jorgen’s family are probably thinking the same thing, and yet we have him here – alive and well.”
Andy leant over and put his hand on Mags knee as a comfort,
“It’s like we’re being tested to the limit for our resolve,” she said.
“We lose a son, and yet seem to gain another, but from the enemy side. It would be a cruel joke if it wasn’t for real.”
Andy put his empty beer bottle down and replied,
“Aye, we’ve been tested alright. At least we can do right by the lad, as we would do for Jim. We need to make sure he is kept safe until we can get him back to Germany, somehow, after the war. He is showing us a completely different type of German – not one that is drip fed to us through the media. I feel we have a duty to look after him.”
Mags smiled and replied,
“Me too. The maternal instincts are kicking in again!”
Andy then said,
“Come on,” and held out his hand as he stood up,
“Let’s hit the sack. We’ve got a another day at the scrapyard tomorrow!”
Unbeknown to Mags and the farmer, Klein was lying awake and had heard their conversation. He knew for sure now that he was in no danger here, and felt genuine concern at their grief and thought about his parents going through the same thing. He decided there and then that he would do all he could to treat them like family, and maybe they could all help each other through the war, emotionally.
He smiled to himself as he heard them walk past his door and put out the last of the lights, before turning over to sleep.