JR2: Thank you for the kind words. And now let us see if I can actually type with this new keyboard.
I approach my 109 after the briefing, my faithful groundcrew putting the last touches on readying my bird. I climb into the cockpit assisted by my lead mechanic and run through my preflight checks. Rudder, good. Elevator, good. Flaps, good. The controls seem to be in order and I give the order to start the engine. After a few cranks from the inertia starter the DB601A roars to life, flatten the grass with its wind. I scan the instrument panel and confirm that all gauges are correct. Giving the signal to clear the chocks, I give my groundcrew a thumbs up and advance the throttle, starting to roll. Taxiing to the end of the start order I have a few minutes to contemplate the day's mission, another Stuka escort.
There is a convoy in the channel and the Stukas are to bomb it. Operations predict that we will arrive in the vicinity of the convoy just off the coast from Folkstone. Today, my Staffel has drawn the short straw and are tied to the Stukas. "What great lumbering targets we will make if we are bounced.", I think sourly. The weather is not helpful either, 5/10ths clouds with intermittent rain showers. We will just have to make the best of it, as it is time to go.
At the signal from my Staffelführer I release the brakes and pick up speed, my "Emil" bumping over the ground until with a fina bump I lurch into the air, free of the earth's grasp. Quickly I clean up my aircraft and setup for a short fast climb. Water vapor swirls over my wings as we climb through the thick cotton-like clouds. Shadow alternates with sudden light as our 109s fly between and through the towering formations. Below through the breaks in the clouds I make out the coast of France, slowly changing from the port wing to the starboard as we circle waiting for the Stukas. Where are they? Are we going to circle all day? They finally show up, nearly 10 minutes late and we turn west, towards England.
We can't spot our other fighters, whether due to the clouds or our late rendevous I don't know but it makes me uncomfortable. Apparently I am not the only one, Yellow Six's voice comes over the RT, "Das ist gar nicht gut!" To which Yellow 10, our "Spassvogel", replies, "Keine sorge kleines! Dein Mama ist da, und Ich lässt die böse Englander deine hinteren nicht hauen!" That brings a laugh from everyone, except Yellow 1 that is, who commands everyone to clear the radio net unless we have something mission related to say. "Spiel Verderber," I think with a smile and scan the sky.
We are over the channel and I think the Stukas have spotted their target. It would be easier if we could talk to them, but their radios operate on a different frequency then ours, I real pain in the backside. Maybe in the future one of the geniuses in high command will decide to fix that and make things a little better for the frontline pilots. The Stukas are lining up in single file for their dives when a warning is shouted over the radio by a pilot in another Staffel that we can't see. So someone is with us after all. I try to find the action, but with the clouds and without a solid reference point it is impossible. Suddenly Yellow 3's voice comes over the radio as calmly as on a training exercise. "Achtung, Indiäner, 3 Uhr unten," he laconically calls. "How can the man be so calm?" I think, even as I look to the left and down. There they are! A string of black beads floating above bright white clouds. "An alle, wir greifen an!" calls Yellow 1, and his 109 snap rolls and dives away towards the enemy. The game is on once more!
I kick over into a dive and feel the controls stiffen as my airspeed increases. We are diving head on towards the climbing enemy fighters and as we approach it is obvious we have been seen. The enemy formation disintegrates as fighters break onto various courses. I can almost hear the frantic radio calls as I continue my dive. I am now close enough to see that the fighters are Spitfires and I pick out one that has foolishly turned away, still climbing. "He must be new." a part of my mind thinks detachedly as I concentrate on the rapidly growing target in my sight.
The Spirfire is still climbing in a gentle left hand turn as I flatten my dive and curve in behind him. We are both in a left bank and I watch the Spirfire's elevators turn upwards as the pilot pulls his mount into a harder turn, apparently realizing I am behind him. It is too late! I have closed the range to less then 100 meters and open fire with both weapons. My opponent's last second maneuver has slewed his bird around so that the brunt of my fire strikes the rear fuselauge and tailplane. Bright flashes and small puffs of smoke mark the hits, as pieces are chewed from the skin to whip away in the wind. Suddenly, both the left elevator and the rudder break away to go spinning into space. The Spitfire staggers and flips over, entering a flat spin. I continue on my course and see a small black figure fly from the cockpit, quickly streaming silk as the pilot releases his parachute. And then both plane and pilot are gone, hidden by the cloud I now find myself in.
The radio is still filled with traffic as I break through the cloud. I call for my Rottenflieger and gets no answer. Curving back and forth, I both clear my tail and check the sky for friend and foe. In the distance I see black specks as they dance between the clouds, but I can't make out friend from enemy. In these conditions it is not a good idea to be flying around alone and decide to turn for home.
I enter into any clouds I see on the way - which is easy because there are alot of them. After five minutes I see the coast of France and know I am at most a few minutes from landing. I descend and curve gently to starboard to clear my tail and am shocked to see another plane pulling into firing position! Pull harder and dive! Even as I look winking lights along the leading edge of the enemy plane's wings confirm he has opened fire. My "Emil" shudders as rounds smash into the left wingtip. If I had not turned and dove those rounds would have smashed squarely into the center of my aircraft. I am still in deep trouble and continue to dive, flipping to the left now and the coast. My plane shudders and groans as I streak towards the ground, my airspeed passing 675 kph. Grimly I continue, ignoring the airframe's protests, knowing that my only hope for survival is to reach the coast with enough separation from my enemy to make a further attack unlikely.
I begin to pull out at 1000 meters, the blood draining from my head, causes my vision to narrow down to a small point directly ahead. At 200 meters I flash over the coast at enormous speed, sweating from both fear and the effort required to control my 109. After a further kilometer I turn slightly to look for my tormentor and see that the sky is clear. He has wisely decided not to follow me over the coast and into the light AA that protects the numerous airfields located on this part of France.
Shaken I take a heading towards my airfield and request permission to land. I come straight in without ceremony and do not make one of my better landings, barely avoiding a ground loop. After taxiing to my revetment and switching off the motor I sit for a moment to allow my shaking to subside. My lead mechanic climbs onto the wing to help me out of the cockpit, a worried expression on his face. He asks if I am alright and says I am pale enough to have seen a ghost. I tell him that I was almost a ghost and recount they last few minutes of my flight. He nods thoughtfully and pulls the silver flask that he always carries in his coveralls offering me a drink. I accept gratefully and down a mouthful of Jägermeister letting its warmth sooth the tension from my body. By the time I climb down from my bird I am nearly back to normal. But this is one mission I'll not soon forget.
As you can see, this mission had a little bit of everything. I hope everyone enjoyed it.