Sometimes, we get the strangest calls to the offices of Britain at War and this week it was about a Messerschmitt 109 downed over Sussex during November 1940.
Andy Saunders, our Editor, lives in East Sussex and had a call from a lady asking if he knew anything about a Messerschmitt 109 which had landed in the village of Udimore. As it happens, he did.
The scene of the incident was just a few miles from his home and, many years ago, he had researched this 1940 episode and gathered details and photographs relating to it. The reason for the query, however, was that the caller lived in a house opposite the spot where the Messerschmitt came to grief and she had just had an unexpected visit from a Swiss gentleman who had picked up a German fighter-pilots log book at a flea market in Germany.
When he researched the back story he discovered that the pilot, Heinz Wolf, had crashed at Udimore on 28 November 1940 and he had come to England, with the log book, to complete the circle of his research.
Heinz Wolf, of 2./JG26, had run out of fuel on a combat mission over England and had to make a forced-landing after realising that he would not get back across the Channel. Selecting a field in which to make a wheels-up landing at Udimore, his Messerschmitt careered into the back garden of Stock’s Cottage where it demolished the outside lavatory and slewed sideways close to the cottage wall.
An elderly lady, then living in the cottage, called out to her husband to say: ‘Fred! There’s a Messerschmitt in the lavatory!’ Her husband, hard of hearing and unable to distinguish what she had said, responded: ‘Never mind dear, I’ll flush it away later!’
Directly opposite was the village shop and Post Office, and the proprietor raced across the road brandishing a large meat knife – confronting Heinz Wolf as he stepped out onto the wing.
The shopkeeper, a Mr Field, shouted ‘You are my prisoner now!’ just as Wolf, surveying the demolished lavatory, remarked: ‘Oh dear! I seem to have come out of the s**t into the s**t!’ Unamused, Mr Field marched the German pilot back across the road and locked him in his shop until the arrival of a Major Birch, 147th Light Artillery, RA. Mr Field, however, was unwilling to hand over his prisoner until he had been given a receipt for ‘One German Pilot’.
How the paperwork belonging to Heinz Wolf ended up in a German flea market is unclear, but it is assumed that he is long since deceased.
Remarkably, the Messerschmitt 109 (Werke Nummer 1289, Red 2) is preserved in the Saxonwold Museum, South Africa, and by a strange twist of fate a BA airline pilot who lived next door to Stock’s Cottage recently found himself at a loose end when between flights and decided to visit the museum. He couldn’t quite believe his eyes when he saw the Messerschmitt and read the description of its history!