Mission Date: 14-08-1940
Aircraft: BF-109 E-3
Markings: White 7
Aerodrome: Marquise East
Status: Performed an emergency landing in a field somewhere between Calais and Wissant. Water radiator perforated, oil gasket blown, governor failure. Once on the ground, air screw was damaged. Otherwise, the plane is intact. Pilot is also intact, save for a slight knock on the head as a result of the landing.
(Scroll down for the tl;dr version)
I still remember what was going through my head that morning. A strange mix of excitement coupled with crippling anxiety.
It was my first real sortie. Forget Flugzeugführerschule, Jagdfliegerschule, Waffenschule, and the rest of the two prior years of training. Mein Gott, this was the real deal! We were battling Tommy in the skies over Britain, and I had to give it my all. If I didn't, it would mean my death.
I had just been attached to II Gruppe, 4th Staffel, of Jagdgeschwader 26 - regrettably, only a day after what everyone was referring to as Adlertag, or "Eagle Day". I wasn't sure if I should have been grateful or disappointed by the fact that I'd missed it. It might have been a good opportunity to prove myself in the eyes of the others. On the other hand, staring at the crate I was supposed to take into the skies the next day, my confidence took a sudden nosedive. This wasn't practice any more. People would be shooting back at me, and I would have to do what all fighter pilots did in the Luftwaffe - kill.
It was approaching noon, and after Adlertag, the men of II Gruppe had another mission - myself included. We were to escort some Stuka dive bombers across the channel. One group would attack Dover harbour, the other Deal. II Gruppe, along with some 110's from Zerstörergeschwader 76, would escort these Stukas to and from their target. Another group of 110s would launch a raid against Manston beforehand, to act as a distraction to the Tommies.
I climbed into the cockpit of my 109, an E-3 variant, and tried to calm myself down. My hands were shaking slightly, and I was already sweating. The sun beating down on us didn't help, either. I went through some scenarios in my head, trying to remember all that I learned in Waffenschule, but I couldn't really concentrate very well. Worried thoughts kept circling around in my head. Fear of being shot down, fear of screwing up somehow. Frankly, I was worried that I wouldn't even be able to manage take-off.
I can remember having a conversation with two other Gefreiters from 4th Staffel: Villiers and Obermann - two of the first pilots I'd gotten to know in my new squadron. They had a little more experience than I did being in Jagdgeschwader 26, and I'd mentioned my concerns to them beforehand, worried that I'd get chewed out by a senior officer if I'd mentioned it to someone like the Gruppenkommandeur or our Staffelkapitän instead.
They'd told me about how they'd been in the same situation before, and that it was something you get used to. With real-world "practice" comes a good fighter pilot. I just had to remember what I'd learned in fighter school, stick to my Rottenführer, and keep my six clear. After a few days, I'd get over the anxiety, they said.
With how I was feeling right at that moment, I wasn't so sure.
I looked ahead of me just in time to spot planes from 6th Staffel taking off, ready to rendezvous with the Stukas. Some time later, 5th Staffel was up next. Eventually it was time for 4th Staffel to take to the skies. All the while, I was prepping my engine, and warming it up. The plane was ready for take-off. I just wasn't sure whether or not I was.
I was to be in Schwarm 1 today, led by Hauptgefreiter Javelina. Obergefreiter Martinjas would follow him as number 2. Gefreiter Villiers would be number 3, as well as my Rottenführer, while I trailed in the back as number 4. We all taxi'd onto the runway, in position for take-off.
Villiers called out, "Three, rolling". I waited a second or two, and then pushed my throttle up, accelerating down the runway. I clung to the stick tightly, beads of sweat rolling down my face already. And we hadn't even seen Tommy yet! I constantly applied some right rudder, making sure to compensate for the engine torque. Despite a few bumps whilst rolling on the ground, the take-off went fairly smoothly. Before I knew it, I was wheel's up. I breathed a sigh of relief, and called out "Four, wheel's up". Raising my gear, I moved in behind the other members of Schwarm 1, and we proceeded to gain some altitude, and rendezvous with the Stukas.
The view from up high was magnificent. I was constantly checking to make sure I was still in formation with the rest of Schwarm 1, and of course checking for Tommy, but when I had the time, I snuck a few glances outside, looking back at the French coast, and out across the English Channel. Aside from the thrills, it was views like this that made flying such a joy. It actually helped take some of the edge off. I was somewhat more relaxed when I was up in the air, and elated that I had even managed to get off the ground without making a fool of myself.
Eventually, we had made it across the Channel, admittedly a bit late to escort the Stukas there. We hoped to meet them on the way back, instead.
There was no time for glorious views, here. My eyes were glued to the skies around me, in search of the Tommies. Some distance East of Dover, we came in contact with what appeared to be a Spitfire, diving down on us from a furball some ways away. The scoundrel dived in from out of nowhere, it seemed! Before I knew it, he was spraying lead in Villiers' direction. The bastard had already done a number on my Rottenführer.
"I'm done! Bailing out!," called out Villiers. His plane disappeared somewhere below me. I can only assume that he made it out safely - but if he did, he was probably captured by the Tommies. I cursed quietly, disappointed that I didn't do enough to help as his wingman, and kept my eyes open for the Spitfire that had taken a dive. By now, Javelina and Martinjas had broken off, and we were dogfighting.
I tried to keep a visual on the Tommy, but amidst the panic, and my heightening anxiety, I lost track of him a few times. Eventually, Javelina and Martinjas pulled away, and I followed. What happened exactly is a bit of a blur, but I can only assume that the Spitfire was either destroyed, or fled. Either way, I was still alive.
In all of the excitement, however, I neglected to pay attention to my gauges. After our little skirmish, I ended up perforating my water radiator, and had to return to base. I cursed a little louder this time, banging my fist against the side of my cockpit. I then cursed even louder, since my hand now ached.
I was disappointed that I wouldn't be around to give Tommy a bit more of a thrashing. On the other hand, I was also slightly relieved. It was an excuse to return to base, and I wouldn't find myself plummeting to the ground in a massive fireball.
I bid adieu to Javelina and Martinjas, prayed that Villiers had bailed out safely, and turned towards France, making my way across the English Channel. I'd had plenty of altitude to make it back to France safely. By the time I was feet dry, my oil gasket had blown, and oil was splattered across my windscreen. The plane's engine was shaking like mad, and I have to say, it gave me a bit of a headache. The relief I'd had earlier was gone, and anxiety crept back in, as I worried whether or not I could even land this thing safely. Or whether or not it would suddenly spontaneously explode somehow.
Glancing around me, I eventually spotted a large clearing nearby. I might have been somewhere between Calais and Wissant, but in my panic, I couldn't really tell. I focused on keeping my plane steady, and coasting slowly down towards the field. Before I touched the ground, I quickly remembered to pull the emergency gear extension handle back, but by that point it was a bit late. I felt a big bump, and I banged my head against the top of my cockpit, as the plane "landed" in the field, and began skidding across the grass, slowing to a stop. The propeller had caught the ground, and the air screw was ruined.
The plane eventually creaked slowly to a stop... and then everything was silent. I sat there in the cockpit, grasping the flightstick firmly, eyes wide. I was a bit shaken by the whole ordeal (and a little disoriented from that bump to the head - not to mention the headache). Looking out around me, stunned, I slowly opened my canopy up, and leaned back in my seat with a sigh. For a second, I marvelled in the fact that I was still alive. I hadn't gotten any kills, but mein Gott, I was still alive! And I'd even brought my crate back to France! Aside from the engine (and perhaps the gears), the plane was more-or-less intact. I certainly had a story to write home about, now! (I considered maybe omitting the bit with the emergency landing, to spare mother the heart-attack).
I had noticed a couple of airfields nearby in my descent. I was hopeful in the fact that they spotted me as I went down, and would have sent crews out to retrieve me and the aircraft. At the time, I didn't feel any need to even step out of my plane. For what felt like an eternity, I simply sat there, head tilted back, trying to ignore the ache in my head as I stared up at the blue, cloudy sky. Birds chirped around me, the wind whistled through the tall grass, and it was a moment of peace and calm amidst the turmoil. I simply sat there, taking it all in, waiting for retrieval to arrive from the nearby airfields...
tl;dr version: Was number 4 of Schwarm 1. Took off along with Javelina, Martinjas and Villiers. Gained altitude, flew across the channel, arrived late to escort Stukas to the target, but hoped to rendezvous on the way back. Flew underneath a furball, and was engaged by one Spitfire, which shot down Villiers. A brief dogfight ensued, Spitfire is assumed to have been shot down or have fled. Blew my radiator after the skirmish, and had to rtb. Performed an emergency landing in a field somewhere between Calais and Wissant. No kills, no enemy planes damaged.
Last edited by Malarky
on Mon Oct 13, 2014 5:09 am, edited 1 time in total.