A Wing and a Prayer

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Chapter 8

Andy and the young airman headed out towards the farmers tractor, which had already been fitted with a device on the back that looked like a giant rake. Andy explained to Klein as they climbed on,

“We’ll do a couple of passes behind the ’plane with this thing,” he said, referring to the rake,

“That will tidy up the furrow you made and make it less obvious to any other ’planes passing over that you’ve been.”

Klein nodded slowly understanding the reasoning behind such a move.

“I still think it is strange that no-one has been out looking for you. They must all be convinced that you just hit the water and sank,” Andy said, then adding,

“I hope so, anyway, as we could all do well out of this!”

He started up the tractor and they lurched off, up towards the field where Klein’s ’plane still lay undisturbed.

When they arrived, Andy handed Klein a wood saw and took him over to the outskirts of the woodland. He pointed out the branches that they were going to use to help hide the aircraft.

“Right. Take these ones here, and cut them right into the trunk. Take ones with plenty of leaves and also any from the ground, too, just for colour variation.”

Klein was impressed by the farmer’s knowledge of camouflage,

“How do you know such things?” he asked,

“Like I said, son, there’s a black market out there. You would be amazed at what is hidden on this island!”

Klein looked around at all the bushes and trees in the distance, his imagination fuelled by the idea of what these crafty islanders like the farmer may have hidden here.

As Klein started cutting branches, the farmer began tying the green string in various places on the aircraft. Before Andy covered over the cockpit canopy to keep out the elements, Klein asked Andy to lean in and retrieve a brown canvas parcel

from underneath the seat. The farmer rummaged around the cramped cockpit and pulled out the canvas bag, and studied it before handing it to Klein,

“Here it is,” he said,

“What is it? Your packed lunch, or something?”

Klein laughed and replied,

“No. It is a change of clothes. . . eh, I don’t know the word in English, but. . . ‘normal’ clothes, no?”

“Civilian? Like these?” Andy queried, pulling on his trouser pocket,

“Yes, that’s it. They are for situations like these if I crash and have to mix with the people.”

“Aye, great idea!” said Andy with his familiar sarcastic tone, followed by a laugh,

“Trying to look like one of the locals with a heavy German accent in 1944,” and then proceeded to do a sarcastic, comic impression,

“ – Hello, mine name eez Jorgen Kleen of zee Looftvaffa ! ,”

Andy said, shaking his head, before looking up at Klein,

“You’d blend right in here! Bloody hell!”

Klein never picked up on the sarcasm, of course, and simply thought that Andy was reinforcing what a good idea it was!

Andy then closed the canopy over the cockpit, took the tarpaulin and covered it over, tying it down securely with the string.

Klein came over with some large branches and the farmer tied the ends of them with the string to the aircraft and together they worked to hide the ’plane. After only an hour or so of work, they stood back to admire it.

“Not bad!” Andy exclaimed. “It might just work!”

They then jumped aboard the tractor again and drove back and forth behind the ’plane with the rake turning over the soil and concealing the furrow that was made when Klein crashed.

With the ’plane now hidden, they headed back to the house as darkness was closing in.

Mags had started a fire and had prepared one of the bedrooms for Klein. She was still wary of the situation and had made sure that the lock on the door was working! If Klein escaped from them now, it would present a new risk to them

both - they had harboured him so far, without letting the authorities know and had hidden the ’plane. If Klein simply turned up somewhere else, then any explanation given would implicate them all. All of their actions so far, could get them into serious trouble, but Mags had a plan . . .

She took some of McCullochs home made (and illegal!) beer out from the kitchen ready for Klein and the farmer coming back. The easiest way to ensure a trouble- free night, would be to get the beer flowing and let Klein get drunk enough to sleep through the night with no thoughts of sneaking off anywhere. She knew that Andy could hold this stuff at the best of times, but Klein would have no chance! The powerful home brew would be as good as chloroform – it certainly tasted like it!

McCulloch had always taken a keen interest in the brewing process, and until the start of the war had always used this interest to the benefit of the brewery. He had aspirations that one day he would independently own a chain of pubs both here and on the mainland, but like so many dreams, they were put on hold in September 1939. He had come up with a recipe for his own brew, a few years ago, using some of the breweries ingredients and sold the idea to the brewery as a ‘local’ real ale. They happily let him run small batches of it for the islanders consumption only for trial purposes and kept the rights to it’s wider manufacture. They liked McCulloch’s attitude and input into, what was, one of their smaller operations in the West of Scotland. Now that the brewery was not supplying the beer, McCulloch started making his own for his customers, using the brewery’s equipment and, cheekily, even some of their ingredients! The brewery, of course, was never informed of this venture – neither were the Inland Revenue or the people at Custom’s and Excise! ‘They’re really very busy these days – I think they’d appreciate it,’ was always McCulloch’s sarcastic reasoning when asked about it! The major difference in the beer was, that McCulloch’s brewing process was a good bit more potent than the beer that UK Customs and Excise would allow!

Mags heard the tractor coming back down the lane and heard the engine clattering to a halt outside the barn.

As Andy came in with Klein trailing behind, he noticed the fire and the beers sitting waiting and said,

“Ah, see? She’s a good wee soul is our Mags! Look at that – a fire and a beer. What more could we want at this time?”

“I’ve made up the room for Jorgen,” Mags explained,

“After all, there aren’t going to be many hotels that will be too keen to take you!”

Klein smiled and thanked her again.

They all sat down around the fire with the radio on and, beer in hand, they started discussing everything from music to childhood, and from travel to what the future might be like.

Mags made sure she was ready, in advance, with the second bottle of McCulloch’s brew as she noticed a very tired, bruised and weakening Klein succumb to the day’s events.

The conversation was interrupted by a news bulletin on the radio to announce another advance by the allied armies in Europe and reports that the war was taking a definite turn for the better for the allies. The Russians were advancing from the East and it seemed inevitable that victory would soon be with the Allies.

Klein looked decidedly uneasy at this news, as Andy and Mags might have expected.

“That news might not be as bad as you first think, you know,” Andy said.

“Propaganda,” said Klein, shrugging his shoulders,

“I have been brought up with it for years. At this moment there are thousands of Germans listening to a similar programme telling them that the allies are being driven out of Europe.”

Andy was mildly startled by the idea that the BBC and others would tell lies to the British people and report inaccurate information. In his, and many others minds, it was the Nazi’s that did the lies and the propaganda – we always told the truth!

Klein laughed and made his point further,

“It’s all lies, Andy! They all tell us lies! I was told that I was photographing the site where evil people lived – people who would prefer to see Europe overrun by Bolsheviks than Prussian efficiency. Instead, I photographed scenes such as a young girl in a garden hanging out linen. She had no gun. She had no

bombs. I was told that I was shooting down ‘Das terrorfliegers - terror bombers’. Instead I was killing young men like myself, because we have simply been told to. I wonder, now, what other lies we are told to get us to fight.”

Klein was clearly getting upset as the enormity of the tasks given to him over the last few years began to dawn on him.

“I thought I was fighting for a nation that was the home of the master race, the home of brave leaders and honour – the ‘thousand year Reich’ for the benefit of mankind, yet my Fuhrer is nowhere to be seen now, and there is no guidance for the German people on what to do next.”

Then, he added meekly,

“I thought I was born into the winning side, in everything I did. I now realise I was wrong . . .”

Klein finished his second beer, quicker than Mags thought, but instinctively brought out a third.

Andy simply said to Klein,

“I know son. We all think we’re on the winning side, but in reality none of us are. We’re all losers in this game. You, at least, are lucky. You are alive. It is up to your generation, now, to see to it that these things never happen again. That’s your responsibility now, and it’s become ours to make sure that you get that opportunity, now that we’ve lost Jim.”

The third beer was drunk in relative silence before Klein started to nod off.

“Right, let’s get you to your room,” Andy said, and lifted Klein out of the chair, almost dragging the semi-conscious airman to the room that Mags had prepared. They lay him on the bed and Mags quietly closed the door and drew the bolt over, locking him in.

Andy initially protested,

“Awe, that’s a bit much, now, surely, Mags? He’s not exactly going to run off during the night is he?”

Mags replied,

“It’s for his security as well as ours.”

“How do you mean?” asked Andy.

“Come in here,” Mags shook her head and beckoned Andy towards the living room.

Andy sat down and Mags started to explain their predicament.

“We are harbouring a fugitive, Nazi airman. We haven’t told the authorities, and you have spent most of the evening hiding the ’plane for personal profit. How do you think that looks to the Police or the War Office?”

Andy looked puzzled, not having thought of any consequences before,

“Well, you can’t turn down an opportunity of getting good aluminium just like that, you know.”

Mags rolled her eyes and continued,

“It’s not about getting some dodgy aluminium. If he escapes from us and turns up in Ireland, or anywhere else for that matter, questions will be asked as to how and why he got there and we will be done for aiding and abetting the enemy! If he appears in his civvies, then he’ll look like a spy and before they shoot him, he’ll tell anyone who will listen of his little adventure with two farmers on Arran! Either way we are all in shit street for this!”

Andy’s’ expression changed as he understood how it might look to an outsider.

“I never really thought of it like that,” he said,

“What will we do, now, then?”

Mags couldn’t think of many options open to them.

“Well, since most of our friends have little secrets that they wouldn’t want anyone in authority to know, including McCulloch, I guess we’re safe enough on the island. What happens beyond that, though, is anyone’s guess. Jorgen has family back home, so he can’t stay here forever, after the war. At some point he will be discovered here.”

Andy replied,

“I know, but I can’t stand the thought of him getting back to Germany, and to maybe end up being killed, either by his own kind, or by us. I don’t care what he says about propaganda – we’re winning this thing and it’s only a matter of time before Germany collapses. I couldn’t live with myself knowing that we were responsible for sending him back and ending up like Jim. He’s determined to get back, and I don’t think he’ll be as lucky

next time. I just can’t do it, Mags. He’s stranded, and we need to help him, now.”

Although Mags reasoning was right, and that her husband knew it, she could see the dilemma that Klein was in. Despite the insignia and the swastikas on his uniform, they had already grown quite fond of the young airman and saw many qualities in him that they missed about their lost son, Jim. He was part of a generation caught up in the patriotic rallying of a nation on the way up, led by a charismatic character who knew exactly how to stir up a crowd and blame others for the plight that their country was in. They could see that Klein wasn’t a born Nazi, and that he feared the regime just as much as anyone else on the allied side did.

“We could certainly use another pair of hands around here. We could always say he is a relative, staying for a while?” Andy suggested.

Mags replied sarcastically,

“Oh, yeah, and say what?” she said, mockingly,

“This is Jorgen – he’s an old relative just dropped in from Nazi Germany for a visit after bombing the shit out of us and he’s just staying with us until the war is over!”

Andy felt a bit foolish, but persisted,

“We could say he is Polish - Or Czech? Most people around here wouldn’t know the difference between their accents and his German one. We could say that we have taken him on as labour from the refugee camps, or something.”

Mags was just about to dismiss that idea as being another daft one, but then paused to think about it. Maybe it wasn’t such a daft idea after all! As they knew, most of their friends and neighbours on the island had skeletons in their cupboards, so they could know the truth and help in the deception for the authorities on the mainland. There is no way that the rest of the islanders would like the authorities to come poking around in their own affairs as they all enjoyed ways of defying authority, and they were all loyal people, to their own kind, anyway. Arran would be a good place to keep a secret like this. The ending of the war would require a rethink on the situation, but that could be dealt with when the time came.

“O.k,” said Mags,

“Let’s try that in the meantime. It may not come to that for a while, yet, anyway. We’ll get McCulloch in the morning. After all, how else can you possibly explain having an intact German fighter ’plane on your land, and an endless supply of aluminium and parachute silk!”

Andy looked up at Mags incredulously,

“Of Course! The parachute! I forgot about that! He never baled out, so that will still be in the cockpit. That will be worth a fair bit on it’s own!”

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