Western Scotland, October 5th 1944
Oberleutnent Jorgen Klein was feeling more at ease with the war. He had survived it so far, with few dramas and had taken part in some formidable battles in the skies from his bases, first in France and more recently, in Oldenburg Northern Germany as the gain for territory was being eroded away. He normally flew Junkers 88 twin engine fighter bombers, but today he climbed into a modified Messerschmitt ME109 fighter equipped with long range fuel tanks and took off from his base in Oldenburg, Northern Germany on a tactical reconnaissance trip, to take good photographs for what remained of the Luftwaffe to guide their bombs later that night. Judging by the briefing for releasing the camera, it looked as if it was the shipyards in Clydebank that were to be hit. Klein thought that the raid might be carried out by a squadron of the new Messerschmitt ME262 jet fighter-bombers as a last desperate attempt to reassert what was left of the Luftwaffe on to Britain. There was also a rumour that the ‘V’ weapons programme had moved on a stage further and that guided long- range missiles would be aimed towards new targets in Britain. It would be a psychological victory, indeed, if this was the case, for the new weapons would show Britain that Germany could strike anywhere – Glasgow would be a showcase bombing, being one of the furthest points away from the conflict. It would also warn the Americans that development was fast heading towards missiles that could potentially strike Washington. Klein knew the importance of his mission and hoped he was contributing to the end of the war. Despite the propaganda still being peddled by the Nazi hierarchy, however, Klein knew the Luftwaffe, and
possibly Germany itself, was in serious trouble and the end of the war may not be to his, or his families advantage.
The flight was routine with very little in the way of flak or fighter trouble. His aircraft was a relatively old one, being an ME109G – the ‘G’ being designated ‘Gustav’ as it’s model name. It had been modified to be more economical with fuel, so performance was not what he was used to in an aircraft of this type. It was working well, though, and it had not seen much damage in its combat career so far. Klein was looking forward, one day, to getting to fly the new ME262 jet fighter as he had already been told that he had been selected for advanced training on it. The flight over Central Scotland was uneventful, and even the areas he had been told to watch for, were apathetic when they saw him. A lone aircraft was never worth bothering about, generally, to the ground defences. All he had to do was avoid any air bases, or other military sites and he should have a clear trip. The mission had been planned for some time, but the weather over Central Scotland was not favourable to it, until one week when the meterological staff submitted charts showing a week where there was to be clear, but cold days ahead. Klein took off from Oldenburg on a rare spell of clear, dry weather over most of Northern Europe, which would provide him with good flying conditions and good photographs.
Klein spotted various landmarks and confirmed them on his map that he had from the morning’s briefing. The Glasgow shipyards were easy to spot, with their cranes arching over the river Clyde like a guard of honour. The Polmadie railway works, and even some non-military landmarks such as the Fenwick moors and Glasgow University, were all spotted and recorded for confirmation of the flight plan. Klein made a series of sweeps over the stretch of the Clyde where the major yards operated and also took photographs of some steelworks. The mission was going so well that Klein even managed to get some good pictures of the Rolls Royce works in nearby Hillington. This was risky, though, being so close to Abbotsinch airport, and Klein did not hang about here. For Klein, though this would be a major coup as it was rumoured that the Rolls Royce plant was making Merlin engines for the dreaded
Spitfires and repairing engines for Lancaster bombers and other aircraft being serviced.
Klein was just about to head for home as he banked steeply over the railway marshalling yards beside the Mavors engineering works in Cambuslang, near Glasgow, when he flew down low over the residential area of Eastfield, beside the works. It was an uncharacteristic thing for a pilot like Klein to do, since it was not part of the mission and would be considered a rather wreckless act by his superiors. However Klein felt good today, and the mission had gone so well, that he felt he deserved to let off a bit of steam.
As Klein came out of the turn, he failed to notice that he had lost more height than he intended, probably over estimating the power available to him in this modified aircraft.
“Right,” thought Klein to himself,
“That’s enough fooling around,” and cut inside a path that would take him low over the residential area of Eastfield. Again, this was dangerous, as he was low enough to be at risk of overhead power cables, or even someone having a go at shooting at him with a rifle. Klein had recognised the risk and decided that it would be his last that day.
As he sped downward towards the row of houses, the distinctive, gruff engine note of the fighter, caught the attention of at least one of Eastfield’s residents. A terrified girl below, who was hanging out washing in her parents back garden, froze as she looked up to see Klein’s ‘plane turning and speeding down. She knew that all he had to do was flex his finger on the button that would fire the guns and she would become another statistic in this war. Klein looked down on this vision of normality below as he passed and banked to the side, and waved to the startled girl who smiled in frozen fear and instinctively waved back as he opened the throttles and sped away. Klein laughed as he began to climb steeply to head for home and then thought ruefully wondering if the girl would survive the bombing, which was sure to follow as a result of his photographs. The girls’ house was very close to the yards and might even show up on the photographs that the aircraft would use to find an aiming point. Klein even wished out loud that the
pictures wouldn’t come out, or that the notoriously unpredictable weather in this part of the world would prevent the raid altogether. He then worried – “What if they used the rockets instead of aircraft . . .?”
Klein sped out towards the coast in order to confuse anyone tracking him and to make a wider turn for a coastal run home when he spotted a flock of ducks or geese that suddenly appeared right in his path. He was already committed to the turn and could not avoid them, despite some evasive action on his part. Suddenly, there was a loud bang and the ’plane lurched violently to one side. The engine started to cough and splutter and lose revs and Klein began to fight with the controls as the aircraft became unpredictable and difficult to keep in the air. This was not the way that Luftwaffe pilots were to die, he thought as he came to the conclusion that one of the birds had smashed into the air intake to the engine.
The aircraft was losing power and height fast and Klein had decided that he either had to crash land or bale out. He managed to get the ’plane back into reasonably level and controlled flight, but the engine was clearly having problems keeping him in the air as it spluttered and coughed as if only half the cylinders were running. He quickly rejected the idea of baling out in the cold Clyde estuary, since he was far too low now, and the thought of trying to land at Prestwick Airport nearby, was also rejected fairly quickly, as he did not have the time, nor the height to make the turn back. Trying to line up an approach to a hostile air base would be suicide, he thought, as they would be unlikely to let him land. He reckoned he would be shot down long before the final approach to the runway. In the short space of time he had left in the air, he decided to try and put the ’plane down in one of the fields on the land looming up below him. Had he known that the Island of Arran was also a graveyard to the wreckage of several B17 Flying Fortress bombers, he might have gone for one of the beaches in either Troon, Ayr or Prestwick on the mainland. Klein struggled to line up the ’plane for a crash landing, as he tried to line up a potential site on the other side of some woodland. The area, he mistakenly reasoned, was the Kintyre peninsula and therefore it
would be remote enough that he may be able to escape easier from it, perhaps even over to Ireland. His chosen landing site was a small farm with fields that looked fairly flat, before the land started to rise up and form the hills that eventually led to a mountain. Klein knew he had no chance of clearing the mountain, now in his path, or even turning away from it, should this attempt fail. He was far too low to bale out, and had been for some time in this flight, so he knew he had to get it right first time.
On the shore, on the Ayrshire coast, a few witnesses, including the MacLaren’s watched Klein’s aircraft, clearly in trouble, and seeing the dreaded swastika on the tail fin, took little interest in it as it would be in the estuary soon and of no further concern to them. If the pilot wasn’t killed on impact, then he would soon be picked up by the authorities. They would read about it in the local paper later, no doubt and life would go on. They were not to see the skilful way, however, in which Klein dropped from the sky and belly-landed the aircraft, on Arran, almost intact. Most of those in authority on the mainland, who saw the aircraft come down, also assumed that Klein’s ’plane was heading for the sea, and even the Naval rescue station based at Prestwick, were lethargic in their attitude to fishing a lone German corpse out of the sea.
Klein had crash landed aircraft like this on many occasions when they ran out of fuel during attacks on the RAF or USAAF bombers over France. Belly landing on fields and beaches was commonplace as the dogfights and attacks used tremendous amounts of fuel from the plane’s tanks. It was one of the achillies heels of an otherwise formidable aircraft, that it had relatively small tanks and high fuel consumption. Klein knew exactly what to do to control his ’plane into a reasonably smooth glide towards the fields that were on a gentle slope. Klein managed to line up the ailing 109 fighter for an approach, jettisoning the long range fuel tanks in the sea, keeping the wheels up and simply cutting the dying engine estimating when he had got a reasonably good airspeed. He was still travelling too fast for a good belly landing, and put the flaps down hard and opened the radiator covers fully, to try and lose speed
quicker. He came down closer and closer to the edge of the woodland and heard a loud ‘swish’ as the tail wheel just clipped the last of the trees, pulling several branches away with it and slowing the aircraft down even more. Klein skilfully guided the ’plane down as it lurched downward and crashed into the field, with a violent thump, sending dust, stones, soil and debris from the ’plane flying into the air as it bounced along, bending the propellor blades back and tearing the cooling ducts from under the wings. The sound of grinding and tearing metal was broken only by the crashes of stones and debris being flung from the ’plane as it skidded and bounced along the dry fields. Klein was violently thrown forward when the ’plane finally came to a halt, burying its nose in a dyke, right on the edge of more woodland. He was severely shaken with a few bruises and minor cuts, but otherwise he was uninjured.
He took a minute or so to gather his senses, with only the sound of clicking metal as it cooled and could smell aviation fuel as the remaining vapours evaporated from his empty, ruptured tanks. Fearing a fire, Klein very quickly and instinctively released his harness and struggled to lift the heavy canopy cover clear from the cockpit and pulled himself out. He was battered and bruised and had a cut on his head where it struck the instrument panel in the impact and although he was sore all over, he hadn’t sustained any serious injury. The harness had dug into his shoulders, making his arms ache, although he was lucky not have dislocated anything. He knew that for all the flying skill he possessed, he had been extremely lucky, however, he now had to make an escape. In his large knee pocket, he took out, and studied the map of the area he had and looked for the mountain ahead as his main landmark. The Kintyre peninsula didn’t seem to have such a mountain on this map and Klein studied the terrain more closely. Klein noticed, however, that the island next to it did have such a mountain. He also noticed that the Prestwick air field and the towns of Ayr and Troon were all in the exact location he would expect them to be if he were on this island, and not Kintyre. It was at this moment as he looked around at the landscape around him, that Klein realised that escape, now, could be extremely difficult as
he had misjudged his landmarks and he appeared to have actually landed on the Isle of Arran. When he lined up his approach, he was sure he was landing on Kintyre alongside Arran, however this understandable, but significant, error of judgement effectively changed the course of Klein’s future in a way that he could never have imagined.