(I JG 54) Combat Operations... 1 September 1940
Offensive Patrol... Dover, Canterbury area.
The Staffel will provide cover for friendly aircraft proceeding to, or returning from operations in that area...
Take off 0700hrs, distance to target area 70 km.
Time to target, 11 mins. Weather over target: expect heavy cloud and rain.
Route to target altitude, 5300m.
MAX STADLER DIARY ENTRY.
My rescue from the channel by the good men of the Kriegsmarine was a wake up call... would I be lucky a third time I had to ask myself.
After I was hauled on board like a floundering fish, they were all laughing so hard they could hardly stand up!
Their Oberleutnant zur See slapped my back, gave me a steaming mug of coffee, and pressed into my other hand a small metal object.
''My Kapitan says you are to have this. You are the fourth Luftwaffe dogfish we have pulled out this week... He also thinks that perhaps some of you might want to transfer as you spend so much time in the water!''
I looked at the shiny object in my hand and smiled. '' Of course I will be eternally grateful to you wonderful mensch, but I couldn't transfer as I don't want to smell of rotten pilchards for the rest of my life''
More back slapping and laughter followed, but I vowed to treasure that metal object as long as I lived...
After such a violent landing in the sea, I was in hospital and under observation for three days, as sometimes a pilot can have complications after the event.
I was given the all clear and was returned to Guines to find that in my absence, the Staffel was back to full strength with a full compliment of aircraft, plus two spares.
I went to the mess and could not believe my eyes... standing at the bar talking to Rosenfeld was Zeuch!
I grabbed him and shook his hand... the last time I had seen him was on my very first combat mission, and we had been informed he had been shot down and was posted missing.
''It's so good to see you Zeuch'' I cried... ''where have you been?''
He explained that he had been experiencing engine problems and turned back. Luckily, after a crash landing in the sea about 100m from the beach, he had staggered ashore and was rushed off to hospital.
He had received a blow to his forehead when he hit the sight, then collapsed when he got ashore and had been unconscious for three days!
Needless to say, there was much catching up and 'the odd drink' was consumed!
Hauptmann Hilleke led us out over the channel the following morning... We gained operational height and then headed out to the English coast.
Heavy flak greeted us as we approached Dover... I looked over to see the whole Staffel surrounded by flak. I know exactly what the 'new boys' would be feeling seeing this lot on their first op.
As we moved up towards Canterbury, Hilleke suddenly signalled and made a hard left turn... in the distance we could see many aircraft swirling around above the clouds.
I worked out they must be near Hawkinge and it wasn't long before Hilleke radioed enemy contact and led us down on some Hurricanes that were about to hit a formation of Dorniers.
I singled one out that was after a Dornier that had broken away from the group, but the pilot must have seen me and veered sharply away and down.
We spiralled down in a rolling scissors but neither he or I could get a good firing solution, and soon we entered the clouds and the bad weather below and we lost each other.
I was in the clouds, no visibility... then something close flashed by my canopy, then several more... all around me objects were falling. Then I realised... ''Bombs, they are bloody bombs!''.
I soared upwards, praying they would not hit me... even if a bomb didn't go off, it would smash my little Emil to pieces.
As I cleared the clouds, I found myself smack in the middle of a large formation of Ju 88's!
I eased myself out of the bombers vicinity, checked all around for activity, there was nothing... time to take stock. I checked my instruments, finally settling on the fuel gauge.
Definitely time to head back I thought... I don't want to meet those jokers in the Kriegsmarine again... the thought made me smile!
I could make out ahead of me some small formations making their way back across the channel... ''Must be my Staffel'' I thought. Their fuel state must be more or less the same as mine.
I crossed without incident, slowly gaining on the formations ahead.
I dropped below the clouds and prepared myself for the bumpy ride ahead... soon enough, the wind and rain were buffeting me, but I was thankful that this time I had made it back home.
I landed without mishap... as I taxied in I could see most of the Staffel had landed. I could see Zeuch's aircraft to my right just completing his taxi... Eight down, plus I had seen three still in the circuit.
I felt good as I switched off and undid my straps and climbed out onto the wing... waiting for me was a few of the pilots with Hilleke and a host of 'Black Men'...
'' We were worried about you'' shouted Hilleke... '' We took bets to see if you would get straight into your dinghy''
''Very, very amusing Herr Hauptmann'' was all I could come up with... The rest of them all fell about laughing!