BRITISH AIR ACE DESCRIBES HIS LAST TRIP OVER FRANCE
Like Drawing Cork
Bader doesn't mention it here but shortly after being shot down he was hosted by Adolf Galland and some pilot's from JG-26. They talked for hours, Bader even getting to sit in a 109, although Galland politely refused his request to take it for a spin. He did however arrange - through the Red Cross - for a new set of legs to be sent over from England. Galland granted safe passage to the plane dropping the legs over his 'drome but that's not all the Allies dropped. Showing poor "sportsmanship" they dropped bombs as well.
Wanted to Operate
When the artificial leg came off in the plane, I had badly bruised my own bit of leg, which had in a very limited area produced a large swelling like a tennis ball.
The German doctor seemed to want to operate on me.
The last thing I wanted was anybody, particularly a German doctor, playing around with what was left of my legs, since they had been extremely well amputated in the beginning, The thought of this fellow leaving a scar which probably would cause endless trouble in the future loomed largely in my mind.
I suppose I was not exactly normal, because I demanded a letter form and wrote to my wife, asking her to arrange to have me repatriated quickly, since I feared for my legs, or what remained of them.
In my complete ignorance I imagined that my letter would take about three or four days to get home instead of the odd month or two, as in fact was the case.
The amusing thing subsequently about this injury was that it disappeared in two days.
Requests New Leg
A few days later some German pilots game in, to see me. One of them who spoke English told me that they had heard about me but did not believe it until they actually saw me. He then said, "It would never be allowed in the Luftwaffe" — a typical German observation.
I said to this fellow, "For heavens sake, radio a message to England asking them to drop me another right leg," and at the same time would he send out some Luftwaffe bodies to try to find the leg which I had left with my Spitfire.
_______________________ Part 2 __________________________
In the afternoon a German officer turned up with a German soldier, who walked into the room and stood stiffly to attention, holding in his outstretched hand a tin leg that appeared to have "had it."
Leg Is Repaired
The shin was broken and the foot was buckled back up against the shin. More by way of a joke than anything else, I asked the officer could he not get it repaired.
To my considerable, surprise and joy, he said, "Of course," without a trace of a smile.
The next day the same two appeared with my leg in sufficient working order for me to walk on it.
The Germans invariably moved prisoners of war back to Germany before they were physically fit to travel, but of course, not so bad as to make the journey damaging to their health. Therefore, the likelihood of escaping was cut down to nil. I believe I was the only person who escaped from the hospital at St. Omer, not through any cleverness on my part, but because I managed to stay long enough to be able physically to make the attempt.
The first night I very ostentatiously put my clothes on a chair beside my bed, removed my legs and leaned them up against the same chair. I was anxious that the Germans should not think of removing my clothes each night. It did not then occur to me they ever would remove my legs.
The important thing now was to try to contact some helpful French person outside the hospital. This could be done only through the medium of one of the French girls who came up to our room three times a day.
When one must talk quickly and in whispers, it is necessary to know a language fluently. After one shot at this I decided that it was better to commit it to paper.
Promise of Help
This was effective. One girl, Lucille de Backer, brought me back a letter from two persons in St. Omer, M. and Madame Hiecque, who begged me to come and hide with them.
They would help me and send (I think) their son to meet me at the hospital gate.
The only thing I had to do, which sounds easy if you say it quickly, was to get out of the hospital. The mistake I made was of being in too much of a hurry.
Lucille was actually in touch with what she described as "les agents Anglais." She said they were in a small town ten miles away.
Unfortunately, she could not go there until Sunday, her day off, so it was necessary for me to remain in the hospital until at least the following Monday.
Supper With Germans
I had arrived on Saturday, August 9, and on the following Tuesday I was invited by the German wing commander, who had the fighter wing near Wissant (between Calais and Boulogne), to have supper in their mess.
I was taken by car with a German officer who spoke English, and spent a pleasant, if slightly formal, few hours.
The next morning Lucille told me that she would proceed to the town where were "les agents Anglais."
However, my hopes were shattered that same evening when a German came into the room and said: "Tomorrow at 8 o'clock you will leave for Germany."
Now, in a letter which I had received from Madame Hiecque she had stated that her son would be outside the hospital late each night between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m., and that he would stand on the opposite side of the street smoking a cigarette.
There was, of course, a curfew in St. Omer, but the son worked on the railway and was permitted, therefore, to be out at all hours of the night.
Our room in the hospital was on the third floor, approximately 40 feet above the ground.
The entrance to the hospital was by a double-doored gateway, the doors of which were not locked at night.
It was, therefore, only necessary for me to climb out of the window, down to the ground and walk out.
There was nothing but to tie sheets together and hope they would be long and strong enough.
We settled down for the night. Bill Hall, an injured British' pilot who was in the same ward, was awake, and we talked intermittently. At about 1.30 a.m. we started to make a certain amount of deliberate noise, coughing and moving about in bed so that the springs creaked, etc.
I then got up and put on my legs and battle dress. The awkward moment had arrived.
Elephant in Boots
Now, a man on two artificial legs trying to walk quietly on a creaking wooden floor is rather like-an elephant in hobnailed boots trying to do the same thing.
I only had about five small paces from my bed to the window, but the noise I made seemed to be positively shattering.
I flung the sheets out of the window, made an even louder noise getting myself out of the window, and finally having got onto my rope, away I went.
Passing the German doctor's window — I was above his room — I was horrified to find it open, but I sat on his window sill for a few moments to recover.
Finally I arrived with rather a clatter on the stone veranda.
I found the gates open and saw my Frenchman opposite smoking his cigarette.
Started To Giggle
I walked off down the street and he joined me and then took charge. Walking through this strange small town in the middle of the night with a chap whose language I scarcely knew, with my repaired right leg making the most frightful noise, struck me as being just like a scene from a play. I started to giggle.
My friend was extremely sensible, and cautious. Every time we approached a side turning or crossroads, he would shove me up against the wall and go on himself and have a look.
We walked a good long way to a house on the edge of St. Omer. My friend carried me the last 200 yards owing to trouble with my right leg.
The old man and woman who greeted me on arrival were a couple of French peasants. They kissed me warmly and took me upstairs to a large and comfortable double bed.
________________________ Part 3 _________________________
I slept soundly on my first night of freedom in the cottage of M. and Mme. Hiecque outside St. Omer and woke up about seven o'clock.
The old woman went into St. Omer report progress. She came back about an hour later and told me that the Germans were being very stupid, that they had cordoned off a small area round the hospital from which I had escaped and were conducting a house-to-house search.
The area did not extend anywhere near her house and everything seemed to be all right.
Later in the morning a married daughter came over to visit her. I explained that I was anxious to get in touch with someone who could assist me. I understood her to say that her husband was, in fact, an Englishman who after the last war had become a naturalized Frenchman.
He, however, was working until 6 p.m., and therefore I could not see him until after that hour.
That I never contacted this man was extremely unfortunate, because I know now that one of my pilots, Flight-Lieut. Crowley-Milling (now wing-commander), had been shot down some days after me. He never was picked up by the Germans, was hiding in St. Omer with the deliberate intention of trying to get me out of the hospital and was actually standing watching the Germans do their house-to-house search dressed as a French civilian blacksmith's boy!
Crow1ey-Milling, subsequently having made quite certain in a typically unselfish manner that I actually had been taken to Germany, made his own way back to England. 'En route, he was put into a Spanish concentration camp, where there were a number of other English flyers. The commandant of the concentration camp was a German. Spain of course, was neutral!
In the afternoon Madame Hiecque went back into the town to see how the Germans were getting on. I went into the garden with the old boy.
Gets Spare Leg
We saw a "sweep" come in with some Blenheims and a Spitfire and Hurricane escort. It was this sweep which dropped my spare right leg.
About 7 or 8 p.m., some Germans started hammering on the door.
I went into the garden and the old man hid me in a sort of open tool shed, piling straw and stuff, on top of me.
After a time I heard some German voices in the garden. A fellow came and poked about the straw with a rifle butt, actually hitting me several times, but astonishingly, not discovering me.
Unfortunately, about 15 minutes later; another busy German came along and winkled me out.
I stood up and found a very excited young Luftwaffe soldier with his rifle pointing at me and shouting to about five comrades who appeared from various parts of the garden, two of them armed with Tommy guns. There was a sergeant, who spoke very good English, with a revolver.
Protects Old Couple
As I was escorted through the house, the old lady turned up. I pretended complete non-recognition of the two old people and told the German sergeant that I had come into the garden through the gate in the wall and had hidden in the shed on my own initiative. I added that the old couple knew nothing about it.
He said he understood. However, it was all in vain because by the front door, getting out of a car with a German, was one of the French girls from the hospital kitchen.
She had betrayed my whereabouts to the Germans and brought them to the house.
Subsequently, I learned that she had turned 100 per cent, collaborationist with the Germans and is now in prison.
The Germans took me to their local headquarters in St. Omer. They put me into a room with the doors and windows shut, took away my legs and put two sentries with loaded rifles in the room with me for the night.
Next morning I was taken in an ambulance, escorted by an officer and three armed guards. I was not allowed my legs and we drove to Brussels, where two guards carried me across the square in front of the station. One carried my legs, and the officer strutted along in front. It was one of the most ignominious performances I have had to undergo.
We got into a second-class carriage and took off for Frankfort. We arrived at Frankfort about midnight. Here we were met by a Luftwaffe Feldwebel (sergeant), who spoke English with a strong American accent.
He had lived in the U.S.A. for 17 years and was reputed to have been a sheriff for a time. We drove out to Dulag Luft, four miles from Frankfort - my first prison camp.
________________________ Part 4_________________________
I was taken into a stone building and put into a cell. In the morning a Hun officer who spoke fluent English came in with a Red Cross form. His name was Eberhardt and he had been educated at London University.
He asked me if I would fill in the form, since the Red Cross wished to have it as soon as possible so that they could communicate with my relations.
At the top it had the Red Cross sign and written in English down the left-hand side were the, following: Name, rank, squadron, type of aeroplane you were flying, name of airfield from which you took off, etc. — in other words all the information that the Germans, not the Red Cross, wanted to know.
I glanced at the form, wrote my name, rank and service number on it and gave it back to him.
He started to remonstrate with me, saying that if I only would fill in all the details, my letters would get home much more quickly, etc., so I told him that the information I had given was all I intended to give and what I wanted from him was a bath and my legs.
He said he could do nothing about it, but that he would tell the commandant. In due course the commandant appeared. He spoke English very well.
He also tried to gain information from me about various types of aeroplanes.
The interview ended rather abruptly when he was expressing sorrow that the British and Germans never could seem to fight on the same side, and said, "Of course, we know you call us Jerries," and I replied, "No we don't: We call you Huns."
Asks For Tea, Legs
He rushed from the room with me shouting after him "Send me my legs and some tea."
Ten minutes later an orderly arrived with my legs, a towel and some soap and took me to the bathroom.
When I came back to my room the orderly brought me on a tray English tea with milk and sugar and some bread, butter and jam.
It seemed that the rather small German officer staff at Dulag Luft had cornered quite a lot of the B. E. F. supplies captured in France.
Shortly after this I was taken over into the English side of the camp.
Dulag Luft was a transit camp. All captured air crews were brought here straight away, interrogated by the Germans and kept until there was a sufficient number to be transported to a permanent camp.
It was a pretty comfortable camp on the whole, because there were never very many people there.
Just before I arrived a tunnel had been dug and 18 officers had escaped. All had been recaptured and sent off to one of the permanent camps on the Baltic.
The difficulty in organizing an escape, as I discovered, was the comparatively short time that the majority were likely to stay in the camp and the fact that there was certainly one Englishman, and possibly two, working for the Germans.
There were one or two others who, while not actually traitors, were apathetic in regard to assisting in escape projects.
The German authorities court-martialed the German hospital staff in St. Omer for permitting me to escape and believe it or not, I was sent for as a witness against the staff.
The court-martial took place in Brussels, whither I was taken by a German under-officer who spoke English and a couple of guards.
Warned For Court
The Germans, true to type, came to me and said that the following day I had to go to Brussels for a court-martial. When I asked why I was being court-martialed — because naturally I supposed that I was the victim — I was told that they had no information other than to take me to Brussels.
We got to Brussels in the evening, and I was taken to the civilian jail. I was led down a corridor to a cell. I refused to go in because I said I was not a civilian criminal but a British officer and I wanted accommodation as such.
The Luftwaffe interpreter became very embarrassed and apologetic, but said he had had strict orders that I was not to escape or he would be shot.
I did not finally consent to go into the cell until the N.C.O. in charge of the prison had had a table put in and a cloth on it, had given me a German batman and said that they would leave the door open.
When my German interpreter had got to the state of sweating profusely and being disgustingly subservient, I finally said that I would stay in the cell. He then left.
My German batman came and made the bed, which has a plank off the wall, and made me some tea — that is to say, I provided the tea and he the hot water.
When he left, I put the stool on top of the table and got up to look out of the small window to see if there was any possibility of getting out, since I was on the ground floor. However, the bars were too solid. Just when I was standing on top of everything, feeling the bars, my German batman walked in.
He helped me down, put the furniture back in place, and then went out. I went to bed.
In the morning I was taken down to a fairly large house in the town and into a large room, at the end of which the court was sitting, consisting of three officers of general rank (one Luftwaffe and two army) and three other Luftwaffe officers.
At the other end of the room I recognized the St. Omer German hospital staff, whom I had to pass on my way in. I gave them a cheerful greeting, but received frozen stares in reply.
Then I realized it was not I who was being court-martialed, but they!
They brought a chair for me to sit down, but I said I would rather stand. The interpreter then asked me to give my word of honor that I would speak the truth.
I told him that I certainly would not speak the truth, and this seemed to embarrass him. He asked me again, and I again refused and said, "Go on, tell the court what I have said," which he did. The question came back, "Why?" I replied that if they were going to ask me anything about the French I would lie.
Not On Oath
I was told then I would not be asked anything about the French, as they already had been punished. I thereupon said I was quite prepared to tell the truth.
This was translated duly to the court and I received the astonishing reply that it didn't matter anyhow — I needn't give evidence on oath!
I soon discovered that the real job of this court was to try to apportion blame for my escape, so I said that the hospital staff had been very good to me and that in my opinion there was no carelessness on their part. It was easy to be wise after the event, but they could hardly foresee my attempting to escape the way I did.
Matter of Routine
I left the room and a long wait ensued. Then the Luftwaffe general who was president of the court came in to see me with the interpreter alone, when I explained more informally to him what I felt about punishing the hospital staff.
He was very reasonable; and said they had not the slightest intention of doing so and the court-martial was more a matter of routine than anything else.
The party broke up at about 5 o'clock and we went downstairs and out, passing in the hall the senior doctor and a nurse, who gave me a most friendly greeting instead of the previous frozen looks, so it was quite clear they had all got off.
________________________ Part 5_________________________
Lubeck was the worst prison camp I came across in Germany.
There was no Red Cross food and the German ration actually was stolen by the German staff before it ever came to be issued to us. It was about a mile from the port of Lubeck, on top of a sort of sand dune.
The commandant was an unpleasant gentleman who said that he had not got any copies of the Geneva Convention, which he did not know anything about anyhow.
He would not permit letters to be sent to the protecting power for the first month or so because, he said, the senior British officer should wait until the camp had settled and got working.
The senior British officer was an extremely good sapper Lieutenant-Colonel George Young. He had formed his own commando unit in the Middle East, which he led through the Abyssinian campaign and later landed on Crete in the final stages of that debacle, as a result of which he became a prisoner of war.
George Young fought the Germans at Lubeck — as far as it is possible for any senior British officer who is in prison behind barbed wire and has no arms nor, in the Germans eyes, right to fight.
Burn German Mess
The climax came when a British bomber in trouble unloaded a basket of incendiaries on the German officers' mess, outside the camp.
This was very satisfying to the prisoners, since it destroyed the mess. The commandant ordered British troops to help with the repairing of the damage. George Young refused to allow the work on the grounds that it was war work.
The result, however, was the same as far as I can remember — the British troops were made to work by force and George Young was put in the cells.
The Germans made no attempt to keep the Geneva Convention. Indeed, there are authentic cases of German commandants stating (1) that "the Geneva convention was inaugurated by a lot of 'old women' who did not know anything about war" (Commandant Laufen, 1940); and (2) "it was only meant for small wars and could not possibly 'be applied to a world war" as was going on at the time (Commandant Colditz, 1942).
Kept Some Points
The Germans used to keep some points of this convention for the simple reason that they could not avoid it. For example, they gave one a roof over one's head, beds, coal, etc., but in order that you should know that it was their hospitality, they gave insufficient coal, insufficient blankets.
A typical German restriction was that any sort of space where prisoners arranged football pitches or cricket pitches, was bounded invariably on one side by a trip wire. The result was that the ball repeatedly was going into the no-man's land between the trip wire and the main fence round the camp.
No German commandant ever would issue an order to the guards not to shoot at prisoners collecting a ball from this "dead" ground.
A guard would ignore a prisoner fetching a ball four or five times and the sixth time he would fire at him. This actually happened once to my certain knowledge and probably a good many other times — at Oflag VI B.
The astonished and incensed prisoners who had been playing the game went across to the guard who had fired and asked him what he thought he was doing that he should have ignored the incident five times and then decided to fire at the sixth.
The guard replied that he had been waiting until he could get a good shot!
At Lubeck a guard did much the same thing and wounded an Englishman in the thigh from close range. A German sergeant who had watched the incident rushed up and shook the guard by the hand — a very civilized gesture.
Early in October, 1941, the Germans concentrated in one camp all the British officer prisoners then in Germany, with the exception of a few hundred R.A.F. officers.
This camp was Oflag VI B., situated at Dossel, a short distance from Cassel.
There was badly cramped accommodation, primitive and extremely inadequate sanitary conditions and a thoroughly unpleasant German staff.
I was not in this camp long enough to get to know everybody, although I got to know some people very well, in particular some of the officers of the K.R.R. and Rifle Brigade, whom I met again subsequently in Oflag IV C.
I mention these chaps particularly because three of them, Charlie Hopetoun, Phil Pardoe and Martin Gilliat, produced the funniest performance I witnessed in Germany.
The scene was the parade ground and the time 6 p.m., May 9, when parade was ending. For parades the camp was divided into five battalions.
Harger, the German officer in charge of the Army battalion, was known as the Horrible Harger, plus a good deal more which is unprintable.
This HA caused an incident almost every day, some funny and some dangerous, but the British always managed to get a rise out of him.
This evening, a moment before we were dismissed, a terrific noise suddenly occurred. On to our parade ground, literally as the order to dismiss was given, marched Charlie blowing a trumpet, Phil beating a large drum, somehow slung round him, and Martin making the most frightful noise on a large French horn.
We all gathered round and Harger, plus a very small guard only about half the size of his rifle, started trying to catch these three. They were hampered considerably by other prisoners getting in the way.
However, Harger caught up with Charlie and snatched the instrument from his mouth. He turned to give it to the guard and Charlie, took off his glasses and stepped smartly into the crowd so that when Harger turned round to get his name, he had gone.
Hands Over Drum
Meanwhile Phil and Martin, in order to create the maximum diversion, were banging and blowing their instruments literally in the German officer's ear. Harger whipped round on Phil and said, "Give me that drum!" which Phil promptly did. The Hun received this enormous drum; which required two hands to hold.
While he was trying to push it off on to the guard, Phil mingled with the crowd and the second name was gone.
Meanwhile, Martin and his French horn still were going strong. When he saw the German advancing on him, he slid it down over his body to the ground and just stepped out into the crowd.
The ludicrous sight then was seen of a small guard trying to carry a rifle with fixed bayonet, a French horn, a large drum and a trumpet, with the German officer carrying nothing except a notebook and pencil with no names to write in it, surrounded by about 400 cheering British officers.
Want To Be Alone
The crowd naturally increased as these two moved across the camp to the exit and eventually there was such a mob that the German asked through an interpreter for the senior British officer.
When the latter turned up, the German said he could not make out why all the British officers were surrounding him and that he wished to be alone. So the British officer offered to provide him with a British escort, if he would feel safer, to take him out of the camp,
This, of course, brought the house down. He eventually made the nearest gate.
________________________ Part 6_________________________
One cannot finish with Oflag VI-B without mentioning
what was in my opinion the most brilliant escape conception of this war.
Two of the people closely connected with it were Major Tom Stallard,, of the D.L.I., and Capt. David Walker, of the Black Watch.
Plan Short Circuit
The scheme was to fuse the perimeter lights and searchlights and to make a mass break over the wire.
It was necessary to build scaling ladders to get over the wire, with an extension in the shape of a plank which would fall across the double barbed wire fence so that the fugitives could run up the ladder, across the wire by the plank and jump down the other side to freedom.
It was expected that the lights could be fused only for a very short time and the drill was planned for this. In actual fact, the fusing was a roaring success, since the lights went out and remained out the whole night.
Thirty Get Away
The intended number of officers did not get away, but I believe 30 cleared the wire, of whom three got back to England, Captain Coombe Tennant, Major Arkwright and Major Fuller. Several others got a long way before they were caught. Tom Stallard and Dick Page had a perfect trip until they were discovered hiding during the day on the German-Dutch frontier preparatory to crossing that night.
Like so many escapees, they were discovered by children on a Sunday afternoon.
On May 11, 50 air force officers, including myself, left VI-B for Sagan, in Silesia (Luft III).
Two Attempts Fail
The journey, which took about 36 hours, was marred only by the failure of two attempts to escape. One was by sawing a hole in the floor of a third-class carriage — actually completed in spite of guards being in the carriage and the other a dive out of a window by two officers.
The window-jumpers' last chance came before the hole in the floor was completed and neither attempt came off because the train did not stop again.
Stalag Luft III was a new camp. The Luftwaffe was unpleasant as always.
There were several instances of guards firing into the camp for no reason.
Aided Escape Trials
There were two English-speaking German officers in the camp. They both subsequently traded with the prisoners and assisted escape attempts by providing passport photographs, etc. One, I heard, was shot.
From there, in due course, I passed to Lamsdorf VIII-B, with Flight-Lieut. John Palmer. Lamsdorf was a camp for other ranks, but there was a good British hospital.
It is much easier to escape from a soldiers' camp than from an officers' camp because the soldiers are taken out on working parties.
After I had been there four or five weeks I was told that a working party was required for light work on an airfield at Gleiwitz, on the German-Polish frontier. Johnny and I decided that this was right up our street. The only difficulty was to get out of the camp.
The hut in which Johnny and I were living was next to the one where the working parties were searched.
The arrangement was that the two soldiers whose identity we were going to take would go in and be searched with the working party. The working party would come out in a bunch and congregate outside the door before the Germans formed up and marched them out.
Johnny and I, dressed as soldiers, would be sweeping the path and we would step into the crowd outside the door of the hut.
Our two opposite numbers would step out, take our brooms and continue sweeping.
The whole thing worked like a charm. We formed up and marched out of the camp with the German guards.
Our intention was to obtain an aeroplane and fly to Sweden, 350 Miles. If we decided that this was not possible, we intended to escape into Poland on foot.
When we got to the airfield, we were billeted in huts on the edge of the camp. Two guards patrolled the compound.
Eager To Help
A Palestinian Jew of Polish extraction who was with us, talked to the guards. He discovered that some of them were Polish. They were eager to help us. As our immediate prospects of getting out seemed so good, we thought there was no point in delaying to see if we could get an aeroplane.
We were afraid that any moment the hunt would be up because we had no means of knowing whether the Germans in Lamsdorf had discovered our absence. The Polish guards would not let us out when there were two Poles on duty, since the Germans would suspect collusion and shoot them both. It was necessary to have one Pole and one German guard on duty to cover this.
On Sunday afternoon we had the sad news the Polish contingent was not on duty on Monday and that the first night it could be done was Wednesday.
The weather was marvelous and Monday passed without incident — and most of Tuesday. Then the blow fell, at six p.m. we were all ordered on parade. This was unusual.
The goons ordered us to remove our trousers and while the chaps were perfectly prepared to argue the toss, it only could delay matters and perhaps cause somebody to get hurt. They obviously were looking for me and I gave myself up.
They asked if Johnny was there, too, and he gave himself up.
Johnny and I then were marched away by a German Luftwaffe major and lodged in the German guardroom. The next morning we were taken back to Lamsdorf.
Our arrival back was funny. As Johnny and I walked in at the gates, we saw a lot of goon soldiers with their noses pressed against the windows of their huts.
We were taken into the guardroom and, like a tornado, the German commandant arrived on the scene.
Shakes With Rage
He was absolutely shaking with rage, waving his arms and behaving like a real caricature of a Prussian Johnny and I didn't help matters by starting to giggle. There was a sweating German interpreter with him who told me that the commandant said it me disgraceful for me to escape dressed as a private soldier. It was not the act of an officer and I had caused a great deal of trouble.
I told the interpreter to tell the commandant that I was perfectly entitled to escape how I liked and that anyhow it was my job to cause him trouble.
I don't know if the interpreter told him this literally, but what ever he said I thought the commandant was going to burst a blood vessel. Johnny and I were hurried along to the cells.
Our treatment in the cells good. We not only were given Red Cross food, but I also was given a batman. His name was Alec Ross and he was a Seaforth Highlander. He stayed with me until the bitter end and was absolutely invaluable.
When he had been in the cells nine days, the commandant came to see me with an interpreter and in a formal and pompous fashion, told me that the following morning, I was going to an officer's camp IV-C at Colditz.
I replied, "Ah, you mean the Straafelager" (shooting camp), and he said, "Nein, nein, offizierlager" (officer's internment camp).
In the usual early hours of the morning, Ross and I departed.
________________________ Part 7_________________________
We arrived at Oflag IV-C, at Colditz, after dark. Its position is approximately 28 miles southeast of Leipzig.
As we walked out of the station, we looked up the hill and saw the castle, floodlit and very imposing, about 150 feet above our heads.
The original part of this castle was built by Augustus the Strong several hundred years ago. I don't know anything about Augustus the Strong, except that he was reputed to have had 356 illegitimate children living in or around Colditz.
The prisoners lived around a closed courtyard, the area of which was 42 yards by 22 yards. The walls were about 60 feet high. The outer walls dropped straight down to the riverside and on the other side into a wooded slope which formed one side of a steep wooded quarry.
Looking at it from the west, the castle appeared to be set in the side of a hill. It was a typical fortress of the Middle Ages, the walls being incredibly thick. All the windows had thick iron in them.
The German treatment of prisoners in Colditz was better than in any other camp I had been in. But overshadowing everything else was the extreme confinement imposed on us.
The Germans were firmly convinced that all the prisoners were criminal types and, therefore; highly dangerous. As a result; they were inclined to get excited and shoot off their guns. The amazing thing was that nobody was killed.
When I arrived, there were approximately 200 French, 16 Belgians, 50 Dutch, 50 Poles and 80 Britons in the camp. The morale was terrific.
There were two outstanding personalities among the British, both of whom had spent nearly all their captivity at Colditz — Captain Dick Howe, of the Royal Tank Corps, and Major W. Anderson, a sapper.
Dick knew every nook of the castle and was brilliant at organizing other people's escapes. He could turn his hand to forging, photography, the making of keys — in fact anything.
Andy was a practical sapper. He could make anything with his hands and it was amazing to see him carving, with an ordinary penknife, a German official stamp from a piece of wood.
From the point of view of a practical escaper, Lieut. Mike Sinclair, Rifle Brigade, was in a class by himself. He made five escape attempts from IV-C.
On the first occasion he was taken in Cologne just after a heavy R.A.F. raid. He was dressed in R.A.F. uniform made into a civilian suit and, I believe, just made the police station ahead of an infuriated crowd.
The second time he was taken on the Swiss frontier, the third on the German-Dutch frontier. On the fourth he was shot and wounded in the grounds of the castle and on the fifth occasion, in broad daylight, was killed.
In the summer of 1943, the camp became entirely British and prisoners from one of the large southern camps turned up, among whom were a number of old friends from VI-B.
These officers had escaped by tunnel from their camp and had been recaptured. I don't know the details of the tunnel, but it was a remarkable engineering feat, being constructed in the one part of the camp which the Germans considered impossible. It was dug uphill.
At that time, it was the all-time record for numbers getting out in one escape and the repercussions were interesting.
The Germans turned out the whole of their Home Guard for a considerable area around the camp. There were amusing stories about the chaps walking along quite confidently and suddenly, being held up by an old civilian with a duck gun.
Many laughable incidents occurred when these escapees were collected in villages round about. They all had considerable quantities of British Red Cross food, chocolate, etc., such as the Germans had not seen for many years. In many cases they were entertained hospitably, while awaiting transport, by the locals, who brewed them tea and fried them eggs.
The prisoners were determined that no food should get back into the hands of the camp authorities, so they distributed it among the villagers.
There were wonderful scenes of children and villagers following the lorry conveying the prisoners, the British throwing all perishable foodstuffs for them to pick up. The camp authorities were incensed about this but could do nothing,
For a number of days these officers were shut in a sort of dungeon outside their camp and the Germans were extremely spiteful and unpleasant.
For instance, Jack Fawcus, the steeplechase jockey, who, in spite of ill-health, had insisted on taking part in this escape, was refused medical treatment. By the time he arrived at Colditz, he was in a bad way.
A Frenchman made one very amusing escape attempt. There was a German civilian electrician who frequently came into the camp.
His name was Willie. The prisoners got to know him well. He was the most terrific racketeer. He would bring in eggs, bottles of wine, petrol for lighters and all the normal sort of stuff we couldn't get, in exchange for cigarettes.
He always wore a cap in which he would put an incredible number of cigarettes and walk out with the whole lot on his head, looking quite normal.
He always was dressed in blue overalls. A Frenchman came to the conclusion that he could make himself look exactly like Willie, which he proceeded to do. One day, about an hour after Willie had come into the camp, the Frenchman walked out.
He had the most shocking luck because, as he was walking across the outer courtyard, a German soldier, mistaking him for Willie, stopped him and asked him if he had repaired the lighter he had given him.
This, of course, gave the show away because the Frenchman was no German scholar and as he opened his mouth, he was caught.
________________________ Part 8_________________________
One completely successful escape worth relating was made by four British officers, Major Littledale, Lieut.-Cmdr. Stevens, R.N.V.R.; Capt. Reid, R.A.S.C., and Flight-Lieut. Wardell, a Canadian in the R.A.F.
Sawed Window Bar
The windows of the kitchen we used looked out on one side into the outer courtyard, which was the German side of the castle. This kitchen was locked normally about
During the day the officers concerned had sawed a bar in one of the windows to permit them to climb out of the window into the courtyard.
Their intention was to walk across this courtyard into the German-occupied part of the castle on the other side and then get through an unbarred window on the far side into, the moat. This was, in fact, not a moat, but a banked ditch, beyond which there was no obstruction to their exit.
They arranged to do this at night, the difficulty being that the outer courtyard was floodlit. But they could get across the floodlit area into some bushes on the other side before attempting to get into the German wing.
There was a sentry walking up and down the floodlit part, but they reckoned that they could cross this floodlit strip when his back was turned, since the width to cover was only about seven yards.
It was tricky, however, because they could not see the sentry, owing to a protruding part of the building. It was necessary, therefore, to arrange a method of signaling.
It was decided that music was the best method. So George Young and Andy played the concertina and oboe together in my room, the window of which was in a suitable position.
The arrangement was that while the music was being played, it was all clear. When it stopped, the guard was looking, or vice-versa, I have forgotten.
George and Andy kicked up the most frightful row nightly for some time before the event took place so as to pet the guards used to the noise.
Works Like Charm
On that night, everything worked like a charm, although, it was agony to the few people watching to see these chaps, one by one, going across the floodlit court yard slowly and praying that the guard would not turn round.
I have not heard the other end of the story, but we all thought that - largely through the resourcefulness of Pat Reid, who, should he take up house-breaking as a profession will be quite unsurpassed - they forced their way into the German wing.
Pat had to pick a door lock to get in, within earshot of the guard and with the possibility of being seen by stray goons coming back after being out for the evening.
Within five days, all four were in Switzerland. Ronnie Littledale was killed later in France after the invasion. His prison life was one long series of escapes, during which he had the most astonishing good luck, although, until his final success, he invariably was brought back.
Example of Luck
One example of his luck is worth mentioning. He had escaped from Posen in company with Mike Sinclair. They had been caught somewhere in Poland or one of the Balkan countries and were being brought to Colditz by train.
They decided to have a shot at jumping off the train, which they did when it was stationary. Mike Sinclair hurt his ankle jumping off and was unable to get very far before being caught.
Meanwhile, Ronnie jumped up between two carriages and was standing on the buffers, hoping that they would not see him, so that when they gave up looking and the train started, he could get off and carry on.
The officials came along the train looking quite casually in between the carriages and underneath them. As they came to the spot where Ronnie was, the train lets out a puff of steam which obscured him completely from their view as they went past.
Boy To Rescue
When Ronnie got off the train, he found his way to a local goon village and got into conversation with a small boy, who, when it was mentioned that Ronnie was an escaping British officer, said, "But my mother helps people like you," and took him along.
I cannot vouch for the truth of this part of the story, but Ronnie remained away for some months, being caught eventually in Prague after the murder of Heydrich when the Germans were making a special scrutiny of everybody's papers, Ronnie never having any papers, anyhow.
In time more old friends turned up in the shape of Lieut-Colonel "Tubby" Broomhall (well known in sapper circles), Captain Hector Christie (Gordons) and Captain Lawrence Pope.
These three had affected a particularly amusing escape from the same camp as the sixty-five tunnelers, which again misfired through bad luck.
Posed As General
Broomhall was dressed as a German general in correct uniform; complete with a broad red stripe down his breeches abroad a suitable number of decorations on his tunic. Pope, who spoke fluent German, was dressed as a German Captain, the general's aide de camp.
Hector Christie was, I think, a civilian building surveyor, the impression created being that of a General examining the camp with a view to possible improvement or otherwise.
They were relying on the General's rank being sufficient to cow the guard, whom they had to pass to get out.
It not only accomplished this with considerable success and no trouble, but unfortunately, it did worse because the guard, obviously hoping to impress the commandant with his keenness, telephoned the commandant's office and informed him that the general had just left.
This naturally caused the balloons to go up. The three British officers were caught not far away. I believe the sight of "Tubby" Broomhall surreptitiously getting rid of various goon decorations on the way back, so as not to offend the Germans, was funny.
________________________ Part 9_________________________
We were fortunate in Oflag IV-C at Colditz in having a radio set. With secrecy and care we were able to get the English news bulletin each day.
There was a very elaborate system of security while the news bulletin was being taken, and the Germans never found out.
The last week or so we were getting bulletins all the time. We understood also that the German guards were listening in to the London news.
In January, 1942, Peter Dollar arrived at Colditz. He had been removed from another camp for putting up a rude notice. He spent 30 days in the cells and was then sent to Colditz.
The reason behind this sentence was typically German. A report had reached them that some German officer prisoners of war had been mishandled in a ship conveying them from the Middle East to South Africa.
The Germans ordered that the British camp containing the largest number of senior officers should be singled out for reprisal. They removed all badges of rank from every officer, all their belongings except the clothes they stood up in, all soap, razors, toothbrushes, washing material, etc., and all orderlies.
This remained in force for one month, and was extremely uncomfortable for those concerned.
Courts-martial were fairly common at Colditz, and Peter Dollar was concerned in a very amusing one. The organization of the camp demanded that a British officer should be in charge of the parcels coming into the camp. These were listed by the Germans and distributed by the British parcels officer on specific days.
This officer, who chose other officers to assist him, worked very efficiently. The German officer in charge of this section did his best to make everything as awkward as possible and he was thoroughly inefficient.
One day Peter lost his temper and told him that he was not only useless but raving mad, which an interpreter translated as meaning that the German was "dumb" and "crazy." Later, Peter was court-martialed on a charge of insulting a German officer.
The amusing thing about this court-martial was that the German lawyer who defended the British at Colditz, and who had been a prisoner in British hands in World War I, was extremely pro-British. He produced evidence from German professors of English at Leipzig University that in English the words "dumb" and "crazy" constituted no insult.
The charge was dismissed, with the proviso that the commandant could punish Peter summarily. Being a Hun, he did so, and Peter did ten days in the cells.
We were lucky in having the German lawyer, who genuinely did his best for us. Also in having a British officer, Alan Campbell, a barrister in private life, who had a copy of the German military code and used to prepare the cases.
An officer due for a court-martial had every obstruction put in his way in preparing his defence. When he visited his lawyer it had to be in the presence of a German interpreter and a member of the German security staff.
Every letter written to his lawyer went through the German kommandantur. In other words, every argument of the defence was seen and noted by the prosecution before the case came to trial.
There were, I think, 22 courts-martial of British officers at Colditz. Every one except two got away with local punishment, thanks chiefly to Alan Campbell.
One man escaped as he was being brought to court-martial. The scene in court when the prisoner was found to be missing was, I believe, without parallel. Especially when it was learned that his escort were directed all over the camp by the British.
They said he had gone to the barber's to have his hair cut to look smart for the court. At the barber's they were told he had gone to the tailor's to have his uniform pressed to look smart for the court, and so on round the camp.
The court was extremely angry, and in his absence, fondly imagining that he would be recaptured, sentenced him to a term in the cells.
The officer who held the record for the number of courts-martial, I think, was Flight-Lieut. Peter Tunstall, R.A.F. He had had five with the sixth pending when the war finished. He got away with local punishments every time. He was very hostile to the Germans, and they were after his blood.
This officer had rather an original turn of mind. Having had one square deal at his first court martial in Leipzig, he invariably told the members of the court that he was very pleased to see them again, since they were the only people who ever gave him any justice. That always went down very well indeed.
________________________ Part 10_________________________
In 1943, after the other nations had left, Colditz settled down to being a British camp. There was one regrettable feature — no newly captured prisoners came in, so we were not up to date with current, home gossip.
Got Some News
On the other hand, we got bad boys from other camps that had seen recently captured prisoners, and therefore we did get a good deal of news second-hand.
In August, 1943, our football and cinema were finally stopped after they had been going for a short time.
The reason for this was typically German. There had been, introduced into Oflag IV-C a class of prisoner known as a "Prominent Prisoner." These were officers related to well-known public figures in England.
Presumably, in the event of things going wrong, the Germans thought they could use these chaps for bartering. They were specially guarded and were not allowed to leave the yard of the castle.
Consequently, when the Germans said that we could go out, but not these officers, we refused, and we never went again.
Subsequently, the Germans permitted the prominent prisoners to go out on parole walks. They were taken out with an equivalent number of guards with loaded rifles plus an under-officer with a tommy gun.
About this same time the Germans permitted me to go out on parole walks, since I could not exercise myself in the castle owing to the nature of the courtyard. When I insisted on taking an English officer out with me they agreed, provided it was the same officer all the time.
Thus were inaugurated the twice-weekly walks which Peter-Dollar and I took, and which towards the end of the war, became extremely useful for reasons that will become apparent later on.
The parole business at first infuriated us because we disliked the idea of giving our word of honor not to escape and then being sent out with an armed guard.
At first there were only three prominent prisoners. Charlie Hopetoun, Giles Romilly and Michael Alexander. Later on came John Elphinstone, George Lascelles, Doig Haig, de Hamel and, towards the end, John Winant.
It was a very nerve-racking business for these prisoners, because, although they all appeared to regard it as a joke, it must have been extremely worrying to anybody to feel that he was potential purchasing power for the goons.
These prisoners were perpetually reminded of their special category by having to be locked up in their rooms before the other prisoners and by having guards stationed permanently outside their doors who were liable to switch the light on and look in at any hour of the night.
When Rommel's armies were drawn up at El Alamein, Rommel had come back to Berlin to see Hitler on a sort of line-shooting tour.
In a speech in Berlin he said how vastly superior the Germans were to the British, that the key to Egypt was in German hands and that what they had they would hold.
Rommel was a fine general and the morale of the German troops under his command, I believe, was very high. It was a pity, however, that he made this statement, because like so many boastful utterances which frequently recoil on the heads of those who make them, it came home to roost.
Rap at Rommel
When the German papers admitted the fall of Tunis, we stuck up in the courtyard a large notice in German: "Was wir haben halten wir fest" — Rommel, June, 1942 (?). ("What we have we hold.")
In 1944, we really started to see the R.A.F. and the Americans doing their stuff in our area. Leipzig got heavily bombed several times and so did Chemnitz, Plauen, Leuna and Borna (oil centers), and several places within sound of Colditz.
This was tremendously interesting for us and we used to man the windows at night watching the firework displays.
The Germans were full of Goebels' propaganda about the British and American "murder flyers" going for German women and children and not for militarily important targets.
Day after day, the German communiqués said terror attacks were made on various German towns, causing considerable damage to dwelling quarters, hospitals, churches, etc.
We used to remind the German guards of utterances by Nazi leaders in respect of London in 1940, Coventry, etc. We also referred them to the bombing of Rotterdam, Belgrade, Warsaw, which usually shut them up.
One day when Peter and I were out for a walk, we were looking up at formations of Fortresses in the sky.
One of the guards asked why we were bombing civilians, to which we replied that we were not, but that if they were in military areas it could not be helped.
Besides, we added, did he not remember that Goering had said, in 1939, that no enemy aircraft would fly over Germany, and we asked him where were the German fighters.
________________________ Part 11_________________________
On, I think it was, Saturday, April 14, 1945, a message was brought in by the Germans that we were to evacuate the fortress prison at Colditz.
Refuse to Move
Lieut.-Col. Willie Todd, on our behalf, told the commandant that we refused to move. We had ascertained from the guards that they would do just whatever we wanted.
However, the situation did not become acute, because the commandant packed in, merely saying that if the local commander decided to use the castle as a strong-point he would move us out a short distance, where we could be released by Allied troops when they turned up.
On Sunday morning, in a clear sky, American Thunderbolts appeared and started shooting up the railway, German transport and the odd tanks around the place. We watched with extreme good humor.
The castle was on a hill almost immediately on the east bank of the River Mulde, with most of the village of Colditz at the bottom of the hill on the river bank.
Hear Noise of Battle
Soon we heard the noise of battle away to the north and saw columns of smoke in the Leipzig direction. We heard a certain amount of noise due west of us, which was the direction from which, we were expecting relief.
The aeroplanes went away and things remained pretty quiet.
There was a bridge over the river below the castle. We saw the German Home Guard and a few soldiers mining this bridge, ready to blow it up.
After lunch we saw some gun flashes on the south edge of a large wood about two miles away over the other side of the river. Then we heard some armored vehicles moving about.
Some of us went to the top part of the castle, where we could see a battle between American and German tanks about two miles away.
It was not a very big battle, but it was a remarkable thing to have a ringside seat.
Peter Dollar and I rushed up.
I went into one room and he went up a ladder into the attic above.
There was a village which we both knew. Most of the houses were in flames.
The next thing I saw was a blinding flash in front of my face and I finished up flat on my back with the plaster falling on me. I raced down into the courtyard and sheltered in the room which I reckoned was furthest from the battle. This room belonged to Brigadier Davis, of the Ulster Rifles.
I was not surprised subsequently to see a hole in the top corner of the window at which I had been standing. A tank shell had struck the castle wall.
Peter, who had been standing exactly above me with only the thickness of the floor between us, also had been flung on the floor and had lost his glasses.
Only one person was hurt by this shell, a Frenchman, who got a splinter, in the leg.
The point which we had all overlooked was that the tanks were firing at each other on the rising ground on the other side of the river about 2,000 yards away. It was likely that a miss would hit the castle.
We heard that one had gone through the middle of a window in the German quarters and badly damaged a German sergeant. After this, Colonel Todd ordered everybody to remain on the ground floor
The tank battle did not last long. I believe the Germans withdrew across the river and the only thing of interest as far as we were concerned was their persistent efforts to blow the bridge in Colditz.
They made one shot which produced a large bang and a small hole in one side of the bridge. Then they spent a considerable time shooting their anti-tank weapons trying to explode the other charge in the bridge. They did not succeed.
Eventually the noise of battle died down and in typical prisoner of war fashion, we all sat around, bored, and indeed rather querulous because the Americans did not seem to be going to relieve us that day after all.
The Germans told us that the Americans were round the back of the castle.
Order Shirts Down
There were a few odd shirts belonging to prisoners of war hanging out of the windows. We got a message from the German commander that if we did not take down these white flags, he would shell the castle. They came down.
After nightfall the Americans brought up a howitzer on the other side of the river and shelled the village and the German positions behind the castle.
It was amusing sitting in the castle, hearing the dull noise of the howitzer firing followed by a whistle as the shell passed exactly over the castle and then the thud as it struck the ground on the other side.
In the, morning under a blue sky with the sun shining, we saw the village agleam with white sheets, flags, etc., and a good deal of damage from the American shelling.
Soon a couple of Americans walked into the camp. It was a great moment. I think the majority of us found it difficult to realize that we were about to be freed.
Wandering around, I was told that there was a real live American girl in the courtyard. We found the girl, Lee Carson — a newspaper correspondent.
She asked me if I would like to come away in a newspaper correspondent's jeep back to headquarters. I was keen to get back to an American fighter airfield to have a last crack at the Germans. The correspondents said they might be able to arrange this.
So we drove off out through the village in the direction of Leipzig.
We found First Army Headquarters in the evening in a university building in Naunberg. It was comfortable. The Americans, with their usual organizing ability, had got everything laid on.
Here I met a British liaison officer, Captain Peter Stileman. Soon I realized the futility of trying to get in touch with an American fighter squadron.
Peter Stileman gave me an armored car and a driver took me twenty-five miles back to the advanced air transport landing ground where there was a continuous stream of Dakotas bringing up supplies to the forward troops.
A silver Beechcraft plane landed with two U.S. Army pilots and three American nurses, who were being brought forward. One of the three pilots, Lieut. Joe Clamow, said he would take me back to Paris.
We landed on a strip in the forest of St. Germain on the western edge of Paris and went up to the American mess, which was in a house in the forest.
It was a most attractive place and the American officers not made me feel at home, but comfortable as well.
It says a great deal for their hospitality and tact that a man who had been a prisoner of war for three and a half years could be made to feel un-self-conscious even though he had arrived among a number of complete strangers in a rather grubby old R.A.F. battle dress. Their hospitality knew no bounds.
They even offered to fly me over to England and fetch my wife and then fly us both to Cannes.
I telephoned my wife from Paris. She was very surprised to hear me. I went to bed feeling on top of the world.
________________________ Part 12_________________________
I got in touch with R.A.F. headquarters at Rheims, where I was delighted to hear an old friend, Tubby Murmagen, in whose squadron I had been a flight lieutenant in 1940. He was now an air commodore.
Back To England
He arranged for an R.A.F. plane to take me back to England.
I went to Buc airfield, where I found Tubby looking exactly the same as ever; he swore that I was the same. He had flown over to Rheims in a Spitfire and I very nearly managed to get it from him to fly myself back to England.
However, I went back as a passenger in a twin-engined R.A.F. plane with a Polish pilot and an English navigator.
We crossed the English coast at Little-Hampton, which gave me a warm glow, because it was the area over which I had flown frequently in the summer of 1941.
I could see the airfield where I was stationed in those days, and from which I took off on my last operation on August 9, 1941. It was pleasant to see it again.
I often was asked by army friends in prison what I thought of the fantastic claims made by German fighters in the war. Some claimed as many as 100 victories. The British best at that time (1944) was 35 to 40.
I have spoken since with well-known German fighter pilots (now resident in Britain) and there is little doubt that what a number of us suspected was true — the German fighter force was not as big as a lot of people thought.
The German fighter pilot in a number of cases began his experience over Spain in the civil war, flew in Poland in 1939, over France in 1940, England in 1940, France again in 1941 and then went to the Russian front in 1941.
On each of those fronts he had a better aeroplane, more experience and greater numbers than his opponent. Whether in 1941 he had greater numbers than our Russian ally, I do not know. Certainly he had the experience.
Germany's leading fighting pilot by June, 1941, I think, claimed 70 victories, of which 40 were from the Spanish war. Undoubtedly, he knocked a few down over Poland in 1939. He then went to France in 1940 where he himself was shot down and became a prisoner.
When France packed up in June, the then French authorities gave him and some 300 other German pilots and crews back to the Germans. These experienced aircrews were used in August and September 1940, against England.
In June and July 1941, this pilot went to the Russian front where he built up some more victories, until he finally was promoted above active flying rank with his score at about 130. He was killed subsequently in an air transport accident. [Daddy Molders –ed]
I am deliberately not mentioning the names of German pilots, although I do know them, because I have no wish to belittle a nation which has proved itself to possess brave and competent fighting men, even though they were fighting for such an evil ideology. [some Germans had earned Bader's respect before the war was even over -ed]
The British system of claiming was very different. We did not have air "victories" just a genuine "confirmed" or "probable" or "damaged."
In 1941 when we got fed up with German fighter pilots showing too strong a desire to live to fight another day, we introduced a "frightened."
This new category originated, from my wing. The first time a "frightened" appeared in a combat report, the Intelligence chaps asked what on earth was meant by "three frightened."
We told them and added that we thought it was rather funny. Evidently we were the only ones who thought so and it was suggested that we should refrain.
We got our own back.
A few days later over France we were coming away from the target when we sighted a lone ME-109. Four of us went after him.
Fight over France
The section consisted of Cocky Dundas, Johnnie Johnson, Sergeant Smith and myself. The Hun dived as we were on his flank and he saw us coming.
He pulled out after a short dive and I pulled out short to cut him off. But I was going very fast and wasn't too careful.
I blacked myself out for a moment and never saw the Hun again. We got together and flew back home.
When we landed Cocky and the others came up to me and said, "By Jove, that was Jolly good shooting," and I said, "What?"
They said, "Well, you must have been 300 yards away when that Hun baled out."
I told them I hadn't fired my guns and none of them had either. We rushed for a combat report form and wrote it down quickly: "One ME-109F frightened. Confirmed, seen by three pilots."
We had to have our laugh and I know the boys at the other end laughed too.
German aircraft frequently used to discharge white and black smoke to give the impression of being shot up. This used to deceive inexperienced pilots. This smoke trick did not last long and was spotted readily by an experienced pilot because the smoke started in too great volume.
When you hit the cooling system of a liquid-cooled engine, white smoke comes out in a thin trickle, increasing in volume as the damage spreads. With the bogus device, it started with a rush.
In other cases, when fighting above cloud, or in bad visibility under cloud, an enemy who is seen on fire going into cloud is a reasonably certain "confirmed," but often the crew will have gotten the fire under control and staggered home.
After all, many of our bombers got home badly damaged.
Yet you can hardly accuse the fighter pilot of making a bogus claim when the last time he saw the enemy bomber, it was nicely alight and due to blow up any moment.
I think our claims were as nearly accurate as is possible, but, with the best will in the world, there is quite a margin for error.
--- Bader ---
--- British Aces ---
--- Canadian Aces ---
Thanks go out to
On these pages I use Hugh Halliday's extensive research which includes info from numerous sources; newspaper articles via the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC); the Google News Archives; the London Gazette Archives and other sources both published and private.
Some content on this site is probably the property of acesofww2.com unless otherwise noted.