In the morning, Klein awoke to the feeling that his head had been clamped in a vice and found he could barely open his eyes without a great deal of effort. It felt like he was reliving the impact of his crash all over again, only concentrated on his head! Whatever that beer was made of, it certainly compared to anything that the Munich Oktoberfest could throw at you! He could hear Mags and Andy in the kitchen and knew that he’d have to get up eventually. He sat up and strained to look at his watch which, to his numbed senses, read just after 7.15 am. Mags and Andy, of course, had been up since 5.30am, and had already prepared a breakfast for the young airman, and unlocked the door. Since they didn’t have to tell him they were going to lock him in, they thought it best not to have him find out.
Klein emerged from his room, slowly and trying to not to make any sudden movements, wandered in to the kitchen where Mags was making a huge pot of tea and draining some boiling water out of a pan with boiled eggs in. Klein knew he must have looked in a right state when Andy remarked, with a laugh,
“Well, the Luftwaffe uniform doesn’t look so smart, now, does it?”
Klein simply raised his hand slowly as if to acknowledge Andy without having to say anything and sat down at the kitchen table. He was still sore and bruised from the crash and now he had a hangover to deal with too! Mags put down two, pint glasses of water in front of the airman and two boiled eggs. After draining one of the glasses in one go, Klein made a tentative attempt at the eggs.
“Once you’ve brought yourself back from the dead, we’ll go and see McCulloch. Mags and I have thought of a plan that might be better for everyone in the long run.”
Klein turned to look at Andy while Mags sat opposite Klein at the table.
“A plan? What do you mean?” asked Klein.
“Well, we are in a bit of trouble now after yesterday, what with hiding your ’plane and not alerting the authorities on the mainland that you are here, so . . .”
Mags interrupted her husband . . .
“We’re going to tell everyone outside our own circle, that you are Polish, or Czech, and that you have come to us from a refugee camp on the mainland. That way we don’t get into trouble with the authorities, and you don’t get arrested and kept prisoner of war.”
“ . . .and, of course, we get a shit load of aluminium!” Andy added.
Mags gave Andy a glare that he would have recognised from his days of getting thrown out of her father’s pub.
Klein thought about it and then said,
“But what will I do here? And how long will I have to stay? I have my family back in Germany!”
Mags appreciated the situation that the young airman was in and tried to ease his concerns,
“There is plenty to do here, on the farm. When the war ends, you can go back to your family, and we will find some way of getting you back with the least trouble.”
Klein initially was resistant.
“I can always stick to my original plan. You can help me get to Ireland and I will get back to Germany myself.”
Andy shook his head and said,
“No chance, son. Even if we could get you to Ireland, the authorities there aren’t likely to send you back to Germany, just like that. With no ’plane and no report of the crash, for all they know you could be a spy, especially if you turn up in civvies.”
Klein knew what the consequences of that could be. Andy then continued,
“And besides, if you were on a reconnaissance mission at this stage in the war, you have been missing for long enough now that the German authorities think you are either dead or have
made a deal with us to get your photographs. It has happened before, you know.”
Andy came over and stood behind Mags,
“And I don’t suppose I need to tell you how hard it might be to convince the SS or the Gestapo that you took a wee detour to Arran for a few weeks and simply forgot to bring back your holiday snaps!”
Klein realised that his options were all very limiting and some were downright dangerous.
“The war will definitely be over soon, son,” Mags said,
“Stay here, stay alive and go back to your family when the Nazi’s are deposed.”
Klein stood up and tried to absorb what they were saying to him, visibly confused and more than a little upset.
“How can I stay here? I am needed back home, not just by my family, but my comrades.”
Andy replied, compassionate, but firm,
“Forget the bloody war, son. Don’t you see? It’s better for now that they think you are actually dead! You don’t have any military sympathy back home, now!”
Klein was starting to panic a little,
“You can’t keep me here. I cannot replace your son!” he said in a raised, but distressed voice.
Mags dropped her head and bit her lip hard to stifle the tears that were sure to follow such a reminder of the pain that they both felt since Jim went missing.
As Andy put his arm around her shoulders, she looked up, her eyes filling with tears, and shouted back at Klein,
“You could never replace Jim!”
She stood up and turned to face the window, before looking straight at Klein,
“ I just don’t want to see any more young men fly to their certain deaths when they’ve been given a rare chance to live! You are of no damn use to your family lying in an unmarked grave, or at the bottom of the Channel!”
The words rang true with Klein and he felt genuinely sorry for upsetting these two people who had shown him so much kindness and compassion since he came.
Klein sat back down again at the table and ran his fingers through his hair as he held his head in his hands. He looked up at Mags and simply said,
“I am sorry. I am not ungrateful for all you have done for me, and I do not mean to upset you, but I am in a foreign land, an enemy land, and I just want to go back home to my family and my country.”
“We know, son. We know.”
Mags added, in her usual quieter voice,
“You are not in an enemy land as long as you stay here. We can assure you of that.”
Klein smiled and broke the atmosphere by saying,
“You will have to teach me much about work on a farm. There was not much opportunity to learn about cows and crops in the Luftwaffe.”
Mags sniggered and said to him,
“Well you are learning sarcasm from him, quick enough, so who knows what you will learn?”
Klein smiled as Andy said to him,
“I’ll go and get McCulloch. Go up to the field where your ’plane is and meet us there. I’ll be about half an hour.”
Andy then stopped and turned back,
“And cover up the flying gear and the Luftwaffe outfit, for now! Even better, now would be a good time to put your civvies on – where are they?”
Mags turned her head towards the utility room and said,
“In there. I gave them a wash through last night.”
Andy shook his head slightly and smiled,
“Oh, well. I guess you’ll just need to cover it up with this then,” and took one of his own coats off the hook on the back of the kitchen door and handed it to Klein.
When breakfast was finished, Andy went down to Whiting bay to see McCulloch and decided to bring him up to the farm first. He thought he would reveal the ’plane to him and then tell him all about Klein. He knew it would be easy enough to get their friends and neighbours on the scam. They were a
good bunch of people – always ready to spot an opportunity but always for the good of each other and would never do anything to harm anyone. In many ways it was this self -sufficiency that had got them all through the war so far and if nothing else it had made an already close community even closer. Andy took his small Austin van and headed for Gordon McCulloch’s house. The little van ran on a variety of home-concocted fuels, had no back window and the rear doors were covered in small dents as if someone had gone over it with a small hammer. It didn’t look pretty, but it ran like a finely tuned machine and was practical transport.
The pub was part of the house and sat at a right angle to the main house, with a modest garden to the side. McCulloch lived here with his wife, Anne, who had a keen interest in the garden and grew vegetables on a reasonably large plot and some fruit in the greenhouse. In times like this, the fruit and vegetables were valuable currency, and along with McCulloch’s beer and wine, made them wealthy people on the island!
When Andy arrived, McCulloch was in the garden, hoeing one of Anne’s vegetable plots.
“Morning Andy!” he shouted, as Andy headed up the driveway.
“Morning Gordon,” replied Andy, “Not bad, is it?” he added, referring to the cold but sunny day.
McCulloch stopped what he was doing and leant on the hoe as Andy approached.
“What’s happening?” said McCulloch as Andy approached.
“Well, I have something that you might be interested in,” said Andy.
McCulloch was intrigued,
“Oh?” he said with mock inquisition,
“Sounds like you have been up to something. Anything that we can get involved in?”
“Oh, I would think so!” replied Andy,
“There is a bit of a risk attached, but I reckon it could worth it.”
“What kind of a risk?” McCulloch cautiously asked.
Most of the deals and scams that were created here were only risky if they had come from the mainland or the military. The biggest risks they had taken so far (apart from the petrol tank
from the crashed B17 bomber that McCulloch now had buried behind the pub and piped in through the house!) were still relatively low key compared to what went on in the cities.
“Come on and I’ll show you,” Andy said and led McCulloch down the driveway and back to his van.
As they drove back up the farm road towards the field where Klein was waiting beside the hidden ’plane, McCulloch mentioned the crash as he had seen Klein in trouble too, and started to describe what he heard about it.
“I heard the engine first,” he began,
“And thought it had to be Gerry – bloody rough sound, not like a Merlin. Anyway, I knew he was in bother without seeing him come down. I wondered where he ended up, or even what he was doing here in the first place. I didn’t hear him crash or hit the sea, but I guessed he must have done.”
Andy said nothing as they approached the spot where the plane was hidden. He stopped the van and they both got out and the farmer beckoned McCulloch to follow him. In the distance McCulloch could see Klein standing by the crash site, beginning to remove the branches before revealing the aircraft.
“Who’s your guest?” McCulloch asked as they got closer.
“Oh, aye, I’ve got some help in for the winter,” replied Andy.
“Oh don’t tell me he’s part of this ‘risk’ of yours, is he?” said McCulloch,
“Are you kidnapping slave labour, now!”
Andy laughed and as they approached the hidden ’plane, Klein simply smiled at McCulloch as he nodded towards him and McCulloch acknowledged it with a brisk “Morning!” to Klein.
McCulloch could clearly see that something was hidden under the undergrowth and said,
“Well you’ve obviously found and hidden something big – what is it?”
Andy and Klein stripped away some of the branches, revealing a dark green painted wing tip, which revealed the sinister looking black cross markings of a Luftwaffe, Messerschmitt 109G, fighter aircraft.
McCulloch couldn’t believe what he was seeing, as he quickly realised that an aircraft was buried under the pile of
branches and brushwood. He was trying to take in the fact that the aircraft that he heard in trouble yesterday was now here, in front of him, when Andy spoke,
“How much do you think we’ll get for this, then?” he said with a big grin on his face.
“Bloody hell, Andy!”
McCulloch said as he bent down to touch the wing as if he needed convincing it was real and not a figment of his imagination. Then, McCulloch’s opportunist instinct kicked in,
“Is there any petrol in it?”
Andy laughed and replied,
“No, unfortunately. He was on drop tanks, which he got rid of before he belly- landed here. Mind you, if there had been petrol in it, I guess it would have exploded, with him in it!”
Thinking, for a brief time that the pilot may be dead on the island and that Andy might have hastily buried him, McCulloch walked around to the front of the ’plane, stared at the wingtip again and asked, with a worried tone to his voice,
“Where’s the pilot, Andy?”
Andy noticed that McCulloch’s focal point of interest was now trained on the young, silent guest who had helped uncover it. The farmer jumped in,
“Let me introduce Uberleut . . .Ober . . .oh, christ – Jorgen Klein of the Luftwaffe!”
Klein stepped forward as if he was being introduced at a formal function and simply said, smiling,
“Please to meet you Herr McCulloch,” getting the pronunciation of the ‘ch’ in his name correct.
McCulloch slowly stood up, absolutely dumbstruck – the instinctive clicking of Klein’s heels together, at the greeting, further added to the sense of surreality at what McCulloch was seeing!
McCulloch never changed the expression on his face as he instinctively shook Klein’s hand slowly, and at the same time turned to the farmer and said,
“You have got to be kidding, right?”
Andy laughed and said,
“He will have some ‘issues’, shall we say, getting home, and when he gets there, he may have some awkward explaining to do to his friendly Gestapo or Waffen SS, as to where his photographs are, so I suggested we keep him here until the war is over. In the meantime we can make a killing on the huge amount of aluminium that is hiding under here!”
McCulloch let go of Klein’s hand and turned to Andy,
“You must be out of your bloody mind! The damn war could last forever! Sooner or later, his existence will be discovered!”
Andy pointed over to the cockpit section, ignoring McCulloch’s concerns, and said,
“And because he didn’t bale out, there is a complete and undamaged parachute in there, too!”
Andy was talking as if he had buried treasure under the branches. McCulloch wasn’t entirely convinced that the farmer had slept off the effects of his special home brew from the fuel tank of the Fortress bomber!
“Does Mags know about this?” McCulloch said, hoping that she could talk some sense into him,
“Yes, of course! You should have seen her face when I came strolling up the path with him in tow. She came out with the shotgun! I thought he was going to shit himself!”
McCulloch’s facial expression had changed now to a furrowed look of disbelief as if he was still trying to take all this in.
“I can imagine!” said McCulloch,
“Shotguns and Mags are generally a bad combination! But of course, YOU were perfectly calm about it all, I suppose!”
McCulloch was referring to a time past when Mags was carrying the shotgun for Andy, one day, and she lifted it up to change hands when she accidentally touched the trigger and discharged it. The resulting shot, narrowly missed her husband by inches but took out the back window in the Austin van that was sitting at the end of the lane. After that, Mags, took very little to do with the gun, much to everyone’s relief!
McCulloch began walking around the wreck, with Klein standing silently beside it as if he were a car salesman watching a client admiring this year’s new model.
“What are you going to do with it?” McCulloch said.
“Well, I reckoned if we cut it up, into small bits, and sold it on the mainland, like we did with the Anderson shelters we got. We could do it in runs so as not to create too many ripples.”
Andy recalled the start of the war when everyone was issued with the small, domestic bomb shelters that people were supposed to bury in the garden to protect against air raids. On Arran, they weighed up the slim chances of being directly bombed, got in touch with a scrap metal dealer they knew in Ayr, and promptly collected them all and cut them up! This was to be the start of many opportunities that would not pass them by! McCulloch remembered that incident as having very little risk as it was only Government issue, thin steel. An entire German aircraft was a totally different scenario!
“Aye, there’s just a slight difference between the two! It could be seen as an arms deal, Andy!” McCulloch exclaimed, as he leant down to peer inside the branches where the cockpit was protected by the tarpaulin sheet.
McCulloch was mentally working out how much something like this could net them and working out the logistics of transporting bits of German fighter ’plane over to the mainland right under the noses of the authorities. Then of course, there was the small matter of what to do with Klein.
“And what about Baron Von Richtoffen, here?”
Klein looked puzzled at the comparison, but in his innocent lack of understanding for the humour and irony, took it as a compliment, being compared to the most famous German fighter ace and smiled broadly.
“He can stay with us, until such time as it is safe to go back.”
McCulloch stayed silent as he stood up again and continued around the front of the wreck.
Andy, still trying to sell the idea to McCulloch continued,
“Come on, Gordon. There hasn’t even been any ’planes over here since it happened. They couldn’t care less. No-one is
looking for this. They obviously think that he crashed in the sea..”
McCulloch was slowly starting to see the potential of getting away with it, as Andy carried on,
“There was a boat came out last night in a half-arsed attempt at looking for a body, but they didn’t even hang about. Probably too much bloody paperwork for them!”
McCulloch was, by now, peering through the branches at the bent propeller blades sticking through, looking down the barrel of the lethal 20mm cannon muzzle in the nose cone.
“Well, come to think of it, no-one called me to ask if I’d even seen it coming down,” McCulloch confirmed, “And I’m sure they would have been over here like a shot if they had seen it.”
“There – see what I mean?” Andy said, raising his arms as if to help prove his point.
McCulloch took another walk around, and then finally said,
“Alright. We’ll probably all end up getting our arses dragged into jail for the rest of our lives, but let’s give it a go.”
“Can you contact Iain and let him know?” Andy said.
“Aye, I’ll try and get a hold of him tonight. We’ll need to move pretty fast - the longer it’s here in this state, the more likely we are to get caught with it.”
Iain Menzies was a scrap metal dealer in Ayr. He was to be the recipient and ‘metal launderer’ of the B17’s that crashed on Arran, before the scam was foiled by the efficiency of the Americans, who were anxious to clean up after them when things went wrong! The fuel tank that McCulloch obtained was the only large item that went astray, and even then, the Americans were never away from the place, searching and asking around. It was only due to the rather ‘guarded’ nature of the islanders closing rank, that they never retrieved it. By this time, McCulloch and his wife, Anne, had buried the tank and covered it with a shed. The locals placed much more importance on their favourite publican being able to make his own beer and wine in it before the importance of helping the Americans find their scrap metal!
Andy turned to Klein and said to him,
“We’ll make a start on this just now. We’ll take McCulloch back, come back here for the tractor and the cutting gear, and then dismantle our pensions!”
Klein covered the aircraft back up again and the three men headed back to the van. Klein jumped into the back while McCulloch and Andy got on and the old tractor coughed into life, emitting a strange smell from the exhaust that Klein couldn’t quite place, but was familiar nevertheless.
They drove back to McCulloch’s place and dropped him off, and before bidding them good-bye for now, McCulloch, said,
“Hang on a minute,” and went into the house.
When he returned, he had a cardboard box in his hands, which had around twelve bottles of his own beer, cheekily labelled ‘B17’ in pencil on the plain white label.
“There you go – just an appetiser for tonight!”
Klein felt his stomach recoil at the memory of his last encounter with the beer, which was just as potent and as crude as it’s namesake!
Andy, on the other hand, looked gleefully inside the box and exclaimed,
“Aw, cheers, Gordon! The lad loved these last night!”
Klein mentally disagreed with that statement, but couldn’t fault the sentiment behind the gift. He thanked McCulloch along with Andy, as he struggled with the little vans crash gearbox and they lurched down the driveway.