A Wing and a Prayer

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Chapter 23

Iain Menzies and Klein made it over on the ferry without any problems and made their way down towards the coastal town of Ayr, where Iain would help Klein on his long journey towards home. They had to move quite slowly through Ardrossan and the other towns they passed through, as the end of war had produced spontaneous street parties and other celebrations. In normal situations, this was a minor inconvenience, however, with a German fighter pilot on board, it became downright dangerous.

“Oh shit!” exclaimed Iain as he tentatively made his way toward the road where people where milling around.

“Get in the back!” he said to Klein, who didn’t question the command.

“Keep your head down. It’s best no-one sees you, then I don’t have to explain why you can’t speak!”

They weaved their way through the road and Iain sounded his horn jovially and waved at the people celebrating, in a forced display of comradeship. He certainly felt too nervous to feel a part of the celebrations and started to worry about the consequences for them both of Klein blowing his cover at any point in the journey!

They made it through Ardrossan and managed to avoid any more crowded roads as they passed by other towns on the route, although when they got to Prestwick, where the air base was, they met the same rowdy groups in the main street. It took a full thirty minutes to get through, as Iain had to crawl slowly through crowds of people, all waving in the windows, gesturing celebration and wondering why the occupant of the van wasn’t stopping to join in. If Iain was tense and nervous about the experience, Klein was even more so! Roughly drawn banners with cartoon images of Hitler and swastikas drawn the wrong way around, were being burned in the street, and there were even some rough copies of the German flag and improvised

wooden swastikas being burned as well. Klein had every reason to be nervous!

“Not long to go, now, lad! Hang in there!” Iain muttered as they picked their way through the crowds.

“We’ll need to think of a way to get you through crowds like this elsewhere,” said Iain,

“You’re bound to meet this sort of thing all over the place!”

“Maybe I should try and hide in a cattle train or a freight train?” suggested Klein.

Iain blasted his horn at an elderly man who stood still in the road with his back to the car. As Iain approached and stopped, he blasted the horn again, right behind him, and still the man didn’t move!

“Oh, get out the way – stupid old fart!” Iain cursed quietly, just as a younger woman ran out and held the old man by the arm and diverted his attention to the car behind him as she dragged him out of the road. The old man turned, and with a startled look on his face, on seeing Iain’s car, quickly followed the younger woman off the road.

“Or at least clean out your bloody ears!”, Iain scorned, just as quietly as before!

There was a pause of a few seconds before a penny dropped and Iain thought of a plan, smiled at himself smugly and replied,

“I’ve got an idea that may just work for your whole journey.”

“What is it?” enquired Klein as Iain pushed on the gear lever and let out the clutch on to the clear road ahead towards Ayr,

“I’ve got a load of metal printing blocks and text blocks that a commercial printer wanted rid of. I’ll show you what I have in mind when we get to the yard.”

It wasn’t long after leaving Prestwick before they reached Ayr and were safely in Iain’s scrap yard. Most of the celebrating crowds in Ayr had gathered in the park in front of the Sheriff Court buildings, or down by the sea front, so the route to Iain’s yard was entirely incident free.

Klein looked around in fascination at Iain’s house. Outside in the yard, there were all sorts of large items for scrap – everything from cars, to old steam engines, train wheels, anchors, and locomotive boilers. All the items wore an even coat

of reddish rust and looked as if they had been there for years. In Iain’s house, there were many smaller, cleaner items, some of which, Iain was clearly cleaning up and restoring with a view to sell on. As Klein ambled around, picking up items and examining them, Iain ran around, packing a bag for Klein and filling it with provisions and clothes to tide him over until he got home. When he had finished packing the bag, he went into a cupboard and pulled out a large wooden box, which had small drawers in the side and a lid on the top, all lined with green baize. He placed it on a table and Klein sat opposite the box staring at it as if Iain were about to unleash a Genie, or some other magical trick.

“Right” proclaimed Iain as he rummaged through the small drawers,

“Let’s see what we can do here.” and he put on his reading glasses.

Iain opened the box, took out a wooden block with ridges cut in, and began picking out small metal blocks with raised letters on from the drawers. This was the printing text that he had acquired as scrap and was now going to provide Klein with a reason not to speak to anyone.

Klein leant over on the table and watched with great interest at Iain’s work as each letter was carefully placed on the block.

Iain started to explain as the finished article was checked and inked up, using some Cherry Blossom shoe polish.

“Right,” Iain said, with an air of satisfaction,

“I’ll print this on to a small card, and all you have to do is show it to anyone who speaks to you.”

Iain took the block and pressed it on to a small piece of card, about the size of an open packet of cigarettes.

“There! That comes out great!”

Iain was clearly pleased with the result as much as the idea!

Klein picked up the card and read it out,

I am deaf and mute. Please be patient with me and accept my apologies if I seemed to have ignored you.

Thank you.”

Klein looked up at Iain and said,

“Do you think this will work?”

Iain laughed and replied,

“Hell, yes! No-one has any patience with the deaf around here. As soon as you show that, they won’t hang around to talk as they don’t want the trouble!”

Iain then thought it might be wise to do a German version as well, just in case he needed it when he got to mainland Europe, and asked Klein to translate it.

“Here – write it out in German and I’ll make another one,” he said to Klein, who wrote it out on a piece of paper for Iain to set up on the printing block. After another ten or fifteen minutes, laboriously setting the text up, Iain finished and printed it on to another piece of card, and admired the result. He tried to read it, but soon gave up !

Ich . . .bin . . .taub und . . .stumm. Bitte . . .seien . . . .sie geduldig .

. . .oh, to hell with it – you can read it when you get home!” he said as Klein laughed at his attempts at speaking German.

Iain then peered over his glasses and spotted the time,

“Here, we’d better get a move on. I’ll come with you up to Glasgow and we’ll see about getting you on a train to London, or wherever. I’ll feel better if I see you on that train myself. Come on.”

Klein was glad he would have familiar company, at least for some of the journey. He was apprehensive about what lay ahead, but felt better knowing that the friends he had made were determined to see him alright. Iain, for his part, was finding saying his good-byes a little more difficult than he first thought as he worried and fussed over the arrangements for Klein to leave.

The station in Ayr was only a short drive from Iain’s yard and they had no trouble in obtaining two tickets to Glasgow. Only Iain’s was a return ticket. The train itself was not busy and the journey uneventful, except for an incident when

an elderly lady sat beside them and tried to make conversation with Klein. Iain froze as he watched for a reaction from Klein, however, like a good actor in character, Klein simply smiled and showed the old lady his card. For a brief second, Iain hoped that Klein pulled out the English version! The old lady, looked pitifully at Klein, and said,

“Oh, such a shame. You being a nice young laddie and all.”

She then turned to Iain and said,

“He’s as well being deaf as listening to all that shite we get on the wireless these days!”

Klein was stifling his laughter as it was not the retort he would expect from such a genteel old woman. The elderly woman never said another word until she got off at her stop in Barassie, when she said ‘cheerio’ to Iain, and tapped Klein on the shoulder and waved at him! Klein and Iain were now able to talk freely without anyone picking up on his German accent. When they got to Glasgow Central, however it was a different story. Central Station in Glasgow was a large, rather cold place, with wood panelling everywhere and it’s grand hotel at the main entrance from the roadside. The place was bustling with people, some hurriedly making their way to meet trains bringing home loved ones from the war. Some of the passengers from the trains were walking, others on stretchers or wheelchairs. There was excitement, expectation and of course, much sadness in abundance as relatives waited anxiously at the platform gates. The disembarking passengers, weary with their journey’s and weary with war, shuffled, where once they marched, off the trains, as the fading clouds of steam from the engine revealed this sad mass of humanity. Klein watched this scene and thought of it happening all over Europe, and especially in German cities everywhere, and wondered what he might be returning to. He felt he was watching the dead walking, the clouds of steam adding to the imagination, as these battle-weary, broken servicemen trudged towards the gates. Klein thought that if these were the victors, then what would his own people be like? He always imagined the German military man would march proud in victory, so this vision of the British in victory was a shock indeed to his Prussian imagination.

Iain had gone to get Klein’s ticket to London, and then on to a connection to Dover, when he noticed that the queue ahead of him was predominantly made up of German speaking people. These people were the German refugees trapped here from as far back as 1939, when they were incarcerated or simply trapped tourists when war was declared. Some of them had even managed to flee Germany when the war started, and Iain suspected that some were Jewish – the Rabbi’s, at any rate, were unmistakable in their appearance. This made Iain even less comfortable with Klein’s true identity on the journey and hoped that the little ‘deaf’ card he made, would work. He took a note to himself to warn Klein not to make conversation with ANY German national on the train, no matter how much of a kinship he felt with his countrymen. Who knows what would happen to him if these Jewish people found out he was a Nazi airman! They may not be in the mood to take the time to discover that he had no sympathy towards Hitler!

Klein was standing watching the activity in the station with his bag when Iain returned with the ticket.

“Here you go,” he said, handing Klein the ticket and an A4 sized buff coloured envelope.

“I got you a First Class ticket. It’s hellish expensive, but you get a compartment to yourself, and therefore you are less likely to come into contact with anyone. You won’t be bothered with anyone wanting to talk, so there’s less risk.”

Klein nodded and Iain continued,

“It’s good for the connection to Dover, too, so all you have to do is follow everyone else and the signs for the Dover train. After that, try and blend in with everyone – the more chaos in the embarkation on to the boat, the better – you get right in there.”

Iain then pointed out the envelope to Klein.

“And you’ll need this. All the German nationals and refugees are carrying this – it must have their papers in, or something. As long as you have one you’ll at least blend in with everyone else. I can’t see them checking everyone’s as they go aboard, somehow.”

Iain then warned Klein about the journey.

“Now, look. As long as you keep your mouth shout and show everyone the deaf card, you should be o.k. The only person you might encounter is the ticket inspector, so just show your ticket, and if he asks you anything, just show the card – o.k?”

Klein nodded and replied, “Yes – I understand.”

Iain continued,

“And be careful – your train is loaded with German refugees and other displaced Europeans, many of them Jewish, so don’t get all patriotic and start gabbing to them as if they are your best friends. After what your lot did to them, I don’t think they’ll be too pleased to meet you!”

Klein protested at being included as part of the atrocities that were now coming to light against the Jewish people in Europe.

“Aye, sorry – but you know what I mean. The swastika you flew on your ’plane is enough for them to associate you with all that has gone before, whether you were involved or not.”

Klein conceded that an explanation would not be wise and promised to keep quiet, before a puzzled look came over his face again,

“What do you mean ‘ga-bb-ing’ – what is ‘gabbing’?”

“You know - talking,” Iain translated.

Klein gave a big sigh and replied,

“If I stay here for one hundred years I do not think I will ever get to know this language.”

There was only a short time left before the train was due to leave and Iain gave Klein his final instructions for the journey.

“Right, it’s nearly time, son. Remember your card, and if you need to tell anyone who you are, just say you are a Polish farmhand, or something, trapped here in 1939.”

Klein nodded,

“Yes – farmhand – Polish. Yes, I can do this. A farmhand is what I am now!”

Ian continued,

“And when you get over to Europe, then you can be a German farmhand or whatever you want to be and mingle with the refugees.”

Klein nodded again and smiled,

“Ah yes, German farmhand I can do better!”

“Right. Good,” Iain affirmed, and put his hand out for Klein to shake,

“Good luck, son. Have a good journey and I hope all is well when you get home.”

Klein took Iain’s hand and shook it vigorously, holding back his emotion as it finally dawned on him that this was it – it was time to leave for ever.

“Thank you for everything your people have done for me. I don’t know what I would have done without you all, you have shown so much kindness and comradeship. I will never forget this time.”

The harsh screech of a steam whistle and the last flurry of passengers running by, told Klein it was time to get on the train.

Iain grasped Klein’s hand tighter and said,

“Go on, son. Go find your family.”

Klein smiled, let go, and turned into the fog and steam on the platform and climbed aboard the train.

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