A Wing and a Prayer

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Chapter 6

As Klein looked around his crash site, he knew that the authorities would be able to identify everything about him from the excellent condition of his ’plane and the markings and serial numbers, still clearly readable. He felt very helpless at not being able to disguise anything and didn’t have anything that could start a fire to destroy the ’plane. He paced around the wreck and wrenched open the hatch in the fuselage where the camera was mounted - at least had the satisfaction of knowing that he could prevent them ever finding out what he was taking pictures of. He went around to the other side where the tool kit was kept and smashed open the case that held the film and pulled out the roll of film, exposing it and ruining the images contained in it. He instinctively didn’t want the Allies to know where the target was for the next raid, but he also didn’t want the girl who was hanging out her washing to be bombed, either! He actually felt more concerned about her fate than the consequences of the failure of the raid to come. He thought about the impact that had on him now and thought that if the Allied bomber crews ever saw the same thing, then they might not be so compelled to press the trigger to release their deadly bomb load.

Klein then began to get worried as he realised he was completely trapped here. He thought he could maybe hijack, or steal a boat and get across to Ireland and for that he would need to take his service revolver. Since Ireland was neutral, Klein reckoned that he would be treated better, and may even get repatriated back to Germany. He had read about the troubles with the Irish political situation and the struggle for home rule from Britain, so he reckoned that the Irish would be more sympathetic to a German airman fighting a common enemy and help to get him home. He reached inside the cockpit and took the revolver and was just contemplating where to go next, when the sound of a tractor caused him to look up suddenly.

Instinctively, Klein looked around for a suitable hiding place and ran over to some trees nearby for cover. He waited to hear if there was anyone around to investigate the crash and thought about his next move when he eventually saw a lone farmer, in the distance, trekking up the hill towards the ’plane. Instinctively Klein ducked as low as he could and kept his gun at the ready. He was frightened and apprehensive, but thought that the apparently unarmed farmer looked harmless enough and thought about trying to reason with the farmer to let him escape to Ireland. Klein felt very uneasy about having the gun and dreaded the thought of ever having to use it. He never even knew how to reload it and had never fired one before. He never even recollected ever being trained on how to use one. He soon came to his senses. “Don’t be so naive!” Klein thought to himself “He is the enemy. He would probably kill you as soon as look at you, and no-one would ever know, on this remote place.” Klein could hardly hear anything except for his own breathing as he watched the farmer nonchalantly walk towards the wreck, as if he was walking towards one of his tractors, and examine the ’plane. The lack of an explosion prompted Andy MacLaren to take a look up at his top fields, just in case, this plane had landed intact. He knew he would have to report it, but his mind was already racing ahead to an alternative strategy, if the pilot had somehow survived. When Andy arrived at the crash scene he came across a badly damaged, but intact aircraft, just as he suspected. He also noted that the canopy was open and there was no sign of the pilot, nor any trace of injury, such as blood trails from the wreck. Taking a wary look around, he prodded and pulled at parts of the ’plane as if testing the structural integrity of it after the impact and had a good look around at the furrow dug up in the field. He looked around apprehensively, as he had clearly been expecting to find the pilot dead in the cockpit, or at the very least badly injured. Seeing no evidence of this, and noticing the unused parachute on the seat, he deduced the pilot must be hiding somewhere in the trees. He then noticed the broken film container and pulled at the exposed camera film with his boot and then had a closer look in the cockpit. Klein noticed that he was indeed unarmed and re-assessed the threat.

He thought that, if he was seen, then he could produce the gun to frighten the farmer and maybe even get him to help in the escape. Andy looked behind the wreck as if he was more concerned as to the damage done to his field and shook his head and said loudly,

“Aye, you’ve made a right mess here. Bastard!”

Klein froze wondering if the farmer had seen him.

“No,” he thought, “He’s talking to himself.”

Klein struggled with the broad accent, of the farmer, the dialect of which, was unfamiliar. The farmer peered inside the cockpit again and had another walk around the wreck. Then to his astonishment, the farmer turned round and looked straight at the spot in the long grass where Klein lay and said,

“Aye, you can come out, now. I think you’ve done enough damage for one day. Are you hurt, son?”

Klein realised he was cornered and decided to try and put his training into practice by overpowering the enemy. First of all, he had to establish his authority as a pilot of the mighty Luftwaffe and get the sub-ordinate to obey him. Like most things that Klein was discovering about Nazi authority now, it wasn’t always like what he was taught! He stood up as straight and as proudly as his bruised body would allow and in perfect English said,

“I require a boat to Ireland, Englander!” and held out the gun for emphasise that he was serious in his intent. The farmer folded his arms, mildly surprised at being shown a gun, but stood straight and firm and glared at Klein and scorned,

“I don’t have a boat, son, and for your information, I’m not a fucking Englander!”

Klein stood motionless for a few seconds to ponder this retort. He had been told in training that the civilian English were very polite and genteel and would be impressed by the discipline and superiority of a German airman, submitting to them with a natural respect. This person in front of him was anything but! All Klein could think to say was,

“What are you then, if not an Englander?”

“You are in Scotland, son, the ‘Englanders’ here are Scots.”

“It’s the same thing” said Klein meekly with a questioning tone in his voice. The farmer laughed and said,

“Aye, son, just like the Germans and Austrians are the same!” as he continued to stare at Klein with his arms folded and looking less than submissive!

Klein was aware that the gun he was holding was shaking and that his inward sense of superiority was clearly not having any effect on the farmer. The farmer realized that Klein was stuck here and offered him a way out to save some of his pride. Nonchalantly and with no concern at all for Klein and his gun, the farmer turned towards the wreck, walking around it, and looking up at the route that he must have come from, he said,

“Still - you must be a bloody good pilot to have got this thing down in one piece here.”

Klein sighed and lowered the gun as he looked towards the route he had come down and the farmer continued,

“I watched you coming around and hit those ducks – after that I thought you were a goner – and then I watched as you came down here. I reckoned by the noise of the ’plane hitting the deck, that I would be picking up bits of you for days to come. I was sure you had gone into the trees, or even the sea..”

Klein was still thinking of how to escape this place and said,

“I need to get to Ireland and to try and get back to my Unit. It is my duty.” The farmer laughed and, pointing out to the face on his watch said, sarcastically,

“What time do you want to get back for? Is there a dinner party waiting for you when you get back? In case you haven’t noticed son, you’re on an island 20 miles or so off the coast of Scotland, and a good bit further the other way to Ireland. Either way, you’re not going anywhere without help, and if you try and make it alone, you won’t last a minute. You might be a damn fine pilot but I doubt that you’re as good a sailor.”

The farmer turned towards the sea and pointed over to the Ayrshire coast and continued,

“Over that way is crawling with servicemen on leave, Coastguard patrols, Police and all sorts in authority looking for

your body, if nothing else,” the farmer then turned and pointed out to Ireland,

“ . . .and out that way is Kintyre, then the Irish Sea, and then Northern Ireland – which is part of Britain.”

The farmer continued to map out the bleak prospects for Klein and his escape plans.

“In that sea, if you don’t know the currents and how to sail them, you’ll end up in bloody Antarctica. Now, let’s face it son, as far as your ‘Unit’ is concerned, you’re either dead or captured – either way you are ‘missing in action’, presumed dead. Your war is effectively at an end.”

The farmer sat down on the edge of the cockpit of the plane, folded his arms and added,

“Which, if you want my opinion makes you a very lucky bastard indeed.” The farmer then ran his hand along the cockpit edge.

Klein realized he was trapped for sure and quickly worked out that even once the bullets in his gun were finished he would still be in the same predicament. He really didn’t relish the idea of sailing himself – one of the reasons for not considering joining the Navy was his inability to keep any meal down while on the water, and if he couldn’t get anyone to take him to Ireland, then he would still be in the same situation as he knew he was not the type of person who could shoot anyone. An element of extreme trust would be required as anyone taking him to Ireland could easily hand him over to the British as Klein had no idea where North and South Ireland had definable borders. Klein lowered his arm, walked over to the farmer and handed him the gun and said,

“Then you must take me to the authorities, although as a member of the Luftwaffe, I demand the full protocol of the Geneva Convention.”

The farmer paused and looked at the standard issue pistol and slowly took the gun and laughed again and said,

“You’re a laugh, you are - Geneva Convention my arse. There isn’t even any Police on this island, never mind anyone from the Geneva Convention or whatever, and gun or no gun, I’m

damned sure I’m getting into a boat with you to take you over to the mainland.”

The farmer stood up, tossed the gun carelessly into the cockpit again, folded his arms and then said,

“Do you really want to go back to the war and maybe get killed next time?”

Klein was surprised that anyone should even contemplate that question when there was honour to be had and your country to fight for and stammered,

“Heroes die in battle – if that is the way, then that is my sacrifice for the Fatherland.”

The farmer scorned,

“Oh, don’t give me all that patriotic shite. For a minute, there, I thought you were an intelligent lad. You obviously bashed your head in the crash harder than you first thought.”

The farmer stood up straight and turned away from Klein briefly before continuing his tirade,

“You’re a statistic, son, either here or in Germany, no matter whose side you’re on, and don’t you forget it.”

Klein stood like a schoolboy being scorned at by a strict headmaster, slightly surprised at the farmers tirade. The farmer then muttered, with a slight snigger,

“Fucking sacrifice, by christ,” bowing and shaking his head, before looking up at Klein, and then in a more reasonable volume and softer tone, said,

“Come on, we’d better get you down to the house and get you fixed up. You’re bleeding.”

Klein put his fingers up to a minor cut on his head and rubbed away a small streak of blood. He sighed and followed the farmer meekly, feeling rather helpless and bewildered.

The two men made their way down the hill and towards the farmer’s house, with the farmer striding along, confidently, in front. Klein was finding the rough terrain difficult as he was aching all over from the crash and winced in pain on the occasions that he slipped and fell. The cut on his head was bleeding periodically and his legs were struggling to hold him. The farmer, in each case was quick to help him up again and ensure he was steady on his feet again. As they approached a

high point in the fields, towards the main road, they stopped for a rest on a ridge of rocks overlooking the farmer’s house and the estuary. The farmer gave out a sigh as he sat down on the boulders, while Klein slowly sat on a boulder nearby, his face contorting slightly at the anticipation of pain from his many bruises.

“That’s our house down there,” he said, pointing down to the modest, single storey farmhouse, from which curled a fine wisp of grey smoke from the chimney.

“I guess that’s where you were trying to land – that’s the mainland over there. Bloody ironic, really, considering there is an airfield over there, too!” he added. Klein thought better of contradicting the farmer by telling him his actual intended landing site, but was simply grateful, now, that he got down at all, and in one piece.

The farmer took out a packet of Senior Service and offered one to the young airman, who took it gratefully with a nod to the farmer.

“. . . Although they would have blown you out of the sky if you had tried it!” he added, with a very matter-of-fact tone.

Klein was not a regular smoker, but thought it only polite to accept whatever he was offered! They lit up and the airman took his first tentative drag and immediately coughed and gasped as the harsh smoke hit his lungs. Klein’s face, now contorted in disgust at the taste of the unorthodox blend of tobacco’s, was a source of great amusement for his captor! The farmer laughed and said,

“It may say Senior Service on the packet but most of them are my own roll-ups with a mixture of tobaccos from various sources, shall we say!”

He took an exaggerated long drag on the cigarette and blew the smoke up into the air, and laughed at Klein,

“There is a war on you know, son!”

Klein managed a snigger and replied,

“I wouldn’t believe it, looking around here. It is a very beautiful place,” as he stubbed out the cigarette on the boulder.

“Aye, it is, son,” said the farmer.

“But the war hits us here just as much as anywhere else.”

There was silence for a few seconds as if both men were contemplating the last five years of carnage. The farmer then broke the silence,

“What’s your name, son?”

“Jorgen,” replied Klein, and then, realising he perhaps shouldn’t be too friendly, snapped back into his ‘official’ role,

“Oberleutnent Jorgen Wolfgang Klein of the Luftwaffe.”

The farmer smiled wryly and held his hand out.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll just stick to Jorgen – remember, Uber-whatever- you –called- it – is irrelevant, here, I’m Andy; Farmer Andy MacLaren – which is significant here! ”

Klein shook the farmers hand vigorously and the farmer then said,

“So how did you get into the Luftwaffe?”

Klein looked out over the estuary, still rolling the remains of his cigarette between his fingers and in his good, but sometimes improvised English, replied,

“It was always my dream to fly. My father took me to an airshow in Bremen when I was thirteen years and I just dreamed of being a pilot. The aircraft that were being displayed were, of course, all civilian, as we were not allowed to build military aircraft according to the Versailles Treaty, but I longed to fly a fighter – especially a Spitfire, can you believe?”

Andy interrupted,

“Aye, but they were military ’planes, though, weren’t they? Crafty bastards, right under that silly prick, Chamberlain’s nose!”

The farmer took another drag of his cigarette and made a mocking impersonation of Chamberlain,

“I have in my hand, a piece of paper . . .Aye, more like ’I have in my hand - a piece of shite . . .!”

Klein continued,

“When the Spanish civil war started, I was anxious to join up and be part of the Condor legion. They were my heroes, my mentors. It was such an inspirational time for us all as we watched the Fuhrer build Germany back up again. I eventually got my chance to join the Luftwaffe in 1940 and after training,

was originally assigned to a bomber unit, in Heinkels. I disliked flying in a crew, but found that I could fly the Heinkel easily and took many chances to get out of trouble with it. My flying ability was noticed and I was removed from the bombers and sent to a fighter unit, first on 109 fighters, and then Junkers 88 fighter bombers. So far I have been very lucky in battle. I missed the London blitz by months when I joined up.”

“Believe me, son,” the farmer said, stubbing out the small cigarette on a rock,

“You are even luckier now. Do you have a family back home?”

Klein replied,

“Yes. A Mother and Father. I can’t imagine what they will think when they get a letter from my unit telling them I am missing. They will think I am dead.”

Andy sniffed and began to look more than a little uncomfortable at the mention of telegrammes - something that Klein picked up on. Without looking at Klein, the farmer said,

“It’ll be hard for them at first. They’ll be o.k, though. I’m sure they are strong people. They’ll be carrying on with their lives as normal and within a week they will get a telegramme.”

Andy was gazing downward now.

“. . . It will tell them how brave and heroic their son was in his duty and how he gave uncompromisingly for his comrades and his country and that they should be proud that he made a significant contribution to the war effort.”

Klein felt that the farmer was speaking from experience as his words and tone were different to the ones he used in conversation.

“It sounds as if you have seen a telegramme such as this.”

Andy seemed to snap out of his recollection,

“Aye, son, I have; I’m afraid to say I have.”

Klein felt very humbled and sensed the farmer’s anguish and struggled for anything else to say as he guessed that the farmer may have a son or daughter somewhere, lost, in the war. After a minute or so, he finally broke the awkward silence.

“Is your son or daughter missing?”

Andy’s eyes began to well up a little as he replied,

“Aye, my son, Jim. He is. He was only 22. He always said in his letters that he hated it when he thought about the consequences of what he was doing, but it was a necessary job to stop Hitler taking over the world.”

Klein noticed the change in the farmer’s tone and added,

“You do not know for certain he is dead, but you talk in the past?” Klein replied.

“Oh, he’s dead, alright,” Andy said,

“It was only a matter of time. If you survive 6 weeks in a bomber, you’re considered immortal.” Klein butted in, “He was bomber crew?” and pondered the similarities to himself already. The farmer continued without answering Klein,

“We know that at least one of his crew managed to bail out and make it behind Allied lines and confirmed that his ’plane went down in flames. Apparently something hit them from underneath and the thing just fell out the sky. They knew it had to be an enemy ’plane, obviously, but had no real idea what hit them, really.”

Klein paused to think of the times that he had shot down bombers many times before and never spared a thought for the fact that anyone could be inside – he shot at aircraft – not men. He was also familiar with the way in which the farmers son must have been killed, having carried out similar attacks himself when he flew twin engined fighters.

“Schrage musik,” Klein muttered.

“Eh?” questioned the farmer.

“Schrage musik - it’s the name for two upward pointing guns fitted on ME110 and JU88 aircraft.”

Klein demonstrated, as he spoke, with both his index fingers together, pointing them in an upwards position.

“We simply pass under the aircraft where we cannot be seen and fill it’s underside with cannon fire, where the fuel tanks are – always deadly.”

Andy turned to Klein and said ruefully,

“Well it may be musik to your bloody ears, son, but it was the last symphony my boy ever heard.”

Klein, not picking up on the sarcasm of the statement tried to explain,

“Schrage musik, means ‘jazz music’. Hitler always said that jazz is undisciplined, improvised, or ‘slanting’ and has no place in German society or culture – the name remained after an airman thought it was a rather improvised weapon, just as jazz is improvised music, yes?”

Andy stood up again,

“As much as I’d like to stand around and debate the meaning of German music and culture and how it relates to blowing kids out the sky, we still have to get you back to the house until we decide what to do with you.”

Although Klein spoke excellent English, he struggled with some of the things the farmer said, and guessed that maybe he wouldn’t like the meaning of some of the words and phrases used, if he pushed for an explanation on their meaning! He decided on these occasions not to push his luck!

As they progressed down the hill and on to the lane, Klein asked the farmer,

“Is your son a pilot too?”

“Was,” the farmer corrected him.

Klein replied, with much more assurance than he had before,

“I prefer ‘is’ – it’s more optimistic. I survived, so could he. It is possible.”

Andy, walking slightly ahead of the limping airman turned as he walked and said, without any aggression in his voice,

“Are you a bloody philosopher now?”

Klein replied,

“No, but I have hope. I always have hope – without that we have nothing and no end to the war.”

Andy replied,

“Well you don’t have much else, but hope at this point, that’s for sure!”

Klein stopped walking, then said,

“I am not sure of the word in English, but do all Scots speak like you, with these words which seem to be a joke, but in the end no-one is laughing?”

“Sarcastic!” the farmer said.

Klein repeated it slowly,

“Sar – kas – tic - ah, no, I have never heard that before. And all these other words too. What is this ‘fu-cking’?”

Andy stopped too and suddenly laughed out loud uncontrollably at the awkward sounding phrasing as Klein tried to repeat the word in his strong accent. Klein looked puzzled at the farmer’s reaction.

“Well, it’s very vulgar - just don’t ever say it in front of your mother when you get back !”

Klein smiled and caught up with the farmer as they approached the track up to the farmhouse yard and stopped in front of him.

“You say ‘when you get back’ and now talk like I do, with some hope. Maybe you see some things my way, after all?”

Andy paused and smiled and said,

“Come on – let’s frighten the wife!”

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