A Wing and a Prayer

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Chapter 14

Klein and Andy set up the tractor again for another morning’s work just as McCulloch and John Clark came walking up the lane towards the yard. McCulloch introduced Klein to the Smithy and as they shook hands, he said,

“Bloody hell. Everyone thinks you’re dead!”

All three men looked puzzled and Andy replied,

“What do you mean ’everyone thinks . . .’? Who is everyone?”

Clark gestured towards the mainland with a nod and explained,

“I was over in Ayr last week and it was the talk of the town. There were certainly witnesses to this ’plane going down, but there are all sorts of witness accounts of bodies in the sea and evidence that the laddie, here, is dead.”

Andy turned his gaze towards the mainland and muttered,

“Oh, shit.”

McCulloch, looking puzzled and still looking for more clarification said,

“What evidence? How can anyone know? All the evidence is here.”

Clark, with a very matter-of-fact tone replied,

“They trawled a lifevest and a Luftwaffe flying jacket out of the estuary a couple of days ago and identified it as some kind of reconnaissance aircraft, possibly an ME 109 like the one that came down here.”

Andy, closing his eyes and realising that his ‘package’ had turned up again, and that burning the items was the smarter option, cursed his own stupidity and spoke out,

“Aw, bloody hell!” and put his hands up to his head,

“How the hell did that crap turn up?” he added, incredulously.

McCulloch, stifled a laugh, seeing the funny side of Andy’s actions, and replied,

“Well, Andy, it was a lifejacket you threw into the water, after all!” and then turned to Klein and said,

“At least you know it would have worked if you had needed it!”

Klein simply replied,

“Yes - It has a gas cartridge in it that inflates the jacket when immersed in water. Very good design.”

Andy simply responded to himself, more than anyone, with mild cursing, reflecting on the stupidity of his actions,

“Shit, shit and double shit! Chucking a lifejacket in the sea, for christ’s sake! Why didn’t you say it had a bloody self- inflating thing in it?”

Klein turned to McCulloch and Andy and said,

“But this is good, yes? This means that no-one is looking for the pilot, or the ’plane!”

Andy replied, taking his hands off his head again,

“Well, it sounds like it.”

He then turned to Clark and said,

“Keep your ear to the ground, though. The last thing we need now is for someone to start sniffing around or getting suspicious.”

McCulloch added,

“Iain is coming over this afternoon. He called to say that his ‘contacts’ for the metal are getting anxious for it and literally have their cash ready and waiting for us to deliver!”

Clark, looking to earn his cut as quickly as possible, said,

“Right let’s see this pile of scrap that you’ve got and get it loaded up.”

Andy led them in to the barn and Clark gazed around the pile of aluminium parts and cut up sections of the ’plane as though he had come across Aladdin’s cave. He stared in disbelief at the tail section, propped up against the wall of the barn, with its swastika insignia looking bizarrely out of place here, but with its menacing symbolism still evident to all who saw it.

“Bloody hell!” he exclaimed,

“Have you got the whole thing here?”

Andy looked around the barn and replied,

“No. The cockpit is still up there, the undercarriage and bits of the front, too.”

Clark, still incredulous at what he was seeing, turned to Klein and added,

“What the hell were you flying? A bomber?”

Klein simply said,

“No. As you correctly said, an ME109 – a fighter.”

Andy, sniggering at Clark’s reaction and looking over at McCulloch, said,

“A Gustav!”

Clark, turned to Andy and said,

“A what?”

“A Gustav. An Me109, G series fighter. ‘G’ for Gustav. Specially modified to fly long distance,” Andy said, showing off his new -found knowledge of German fighter aircraft as Klein stifled his sniggers, too.

Clark said,

“It looks a lot smaller when it’s a picture in a book!”

Clark walked over to one of the piles of metal and as he picked up the ends of one of the pieces he said,

“Right, well, we’d better make a start to get this melted down, then! I’ll start the furnaces tonight.”

McCulloch then said,

“We’ll take Andy’s van back and maybe you can make the first mould for the false floor from that.”

“Aye, that shouldn’t be too difficult.” Clark replied.

“We’ll take measurements from the van floor and then we can ship them over to Iain without raising too much suspicion.”

McCulloch was still concerned about the weight and the performance of Andy’s van,

“Will the van take it?” he said.

Andy, wanting to defend the attributes of his faithful little Austin van said,

“Well, load it up and see how it performs. If the load you take is reasonable, then it will be fine when you fit it into the floor, I would think.”

McCulloch conceded,

“Aye, I suppose you’re right. We just won’t overload it, after all it may have to make a few trips!”

Andy then added,

“What about Iain’s van. It’s much bigger and he could take a lot more in one go with that?”

Klein then said,

“It may not look right if herr Menzies comes over often. Maybe he should only come over once or twice. After all, why would a scrap metal merchant come over here regularly? They may think you have metal from the American bombers.”

McCulloch and the others thought about it for a few seconds and said,

“Aye, you’re right. Iain should only make one trip, two at the most. Although the floor of his van should take about the same metal as about six of Andy’s.”

Andy said to McCulloch,

“Can you call him before he comes over, so that he knows exactly what the plan is?”

“Aye. I’ll make sure he knows to bring a van instead of his flat bed truck. We’ll measure it up while some of that stuff is melting for the Austin.”

They loaded up the Austin van with as much of the wing panels and soft aluminium sheets as they could, carefully measuring the suspension heights of the van so that it didn’t look as if it were overloaded. Once they had enough, McCulloch and Clark took the van up to the Smithy and started up the furnaces while Klein and Andy went back up to the wreck to get the rest of the wings and the engine mounts. They worked throughout the day and completed dismantling the wreck as much as they could, leaving most of the cockpit section intact. They took the canopy and windscreen and a lot of smaller, easily detachable parts from the cockpit and as dusk began to fall, they made the regular journey back down the lane with the laden tractor and trailer and stored it all in the barn. Klein and Andy took the perspex canopy sections and carried them down to the bottom of the garden behind some bramble bushes and covered one of their vegetable patches with them.

“I reckon they’ll make fine cloches!” said Andy, pleased with his own inventiveness.

By the time they got back in, Mags had the dinner ready and a message for them,

“John and Gordon called, earlier,” she said,

“The small samples of metal are melting fine and they have Iain with them. They want to make the first run, sometime, the day after tomorrow.”

Klein looked at Andy and they both smiled at each other. Andy said to Klein,

“This calls for a celebration!” and stood up to get some ’B17’s from the cupboard.

The next day, Klein and Andy took the tractor and went up to see Clark and McCulloch who had already made one set of false floors for the Austin van and Iain Menzies’ van. Another set was cooling in the pit in the floor of Clark’s foundry, which amounted to nothing more than a large barn, with a soil floor. They examined the work and were surprised at the effectiveness of the disguise. The floors were both about two inches thick and they had been painted, roughly and given a ‘worn’ look with old engine oil and bits of old carpet and anything else that would cover the joins and break up the shape of the floor.

“That’s actually bloody good, John!” exclaimed Andy.

Clark pointed to the inside of Iain’s van, which was about three times the size of the farmers and they looked inside to see the same result.

“As long as no-one wants to see the spare wheel, or weighs you, then you should be alright,” said Clark as he rubbed his hands on a grimy looking rag, and then warned them,

“And mind now – don’t pick up anything else on the way! The vans are empty, but you’re still fully laden, remember!”

McCulloch said to Iain,

“So, who’s the high paying customer for this stuff?”

Iain laughed and replied,

“I don’t know, exactly, at the moment. I didn’t think to ask! All I know is that the buyer is connected to a company that supplies

metal to an airframe company and they want top grade aluminium. Unfortunately, they still have a business to run and raw material is a bit hard to come by these days!”

There was no metal left from the first load, so while Iain Menzies and McCulloch prepared to go over to the mainland with the vans, Klein and Andy headed back to the farm to deliver some more scrap to Clark.

“We’ll drop some more off and we’ll come over with you,” Andy said.

“You must be kidding!” said McCulloch,

“How are you going to explain him? Tell everyone he is mute?” he said, referring to Klein.

“As soon as he opens his mouth we’ll be screwed!”

Andy had to admit it wasn’t such a good idea after all!

“Aye, maybe you’re right. We’ll load up and bring some more scrap. Are you coming back tomorrow, Iain?”

“Aye – I’ll need to. We can only make one or two journeys a day, anyway, so I’ll just keep going back and forth.”

Klein and Andy bid them good-bye and got back into the tractor and headed back to the barn to get another load.

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