(I JG 54) Combat Operations... 24 August 1940
Escort...The entire Staffel will carry out the operation...
Schwarn Eins will provide high cover
Schwarm Zwei will provide close escort for IKG 55 who will bomb Hawkinge airfield.
Take off 1400hrs, distance to target 67 km.
Time to target, 10 mins. Weather over target: expect broken cloud.
Rendez altitude 3000m.
Route to target altitude, 4500m.
MAX STADLER, DIARY RECORD.
After being fished out of the Canal, I was taken to hospital and was allowed to rest for 24hrs... Much needed and I slept like a log.
After getting the all clear from the chief medical officer, I was told that a car had been sent for me from Guines.
Rosenfeld had come to fetch me in person... he smiled and shook my hand warmly.
''If it wasn't for you Max I'd have been done for, I can't thank you enough for shaking that Tommy off my tail''
His smile was then replaced by a grim expression. He went on to tell me that he was the only one from our Schwarm that had made it back.
''Burkart Auler, Krueger, and Dunkel, all gone, presumed dead''...
''I thought you had had it too. But yesterday afternoon we had a message that you had been picked up and that you were safe, here in the hospital''
I couldn't take it in, they were gone... But then he said there was a maximum effort on this afternoon, and as I had been cleared for flying again I was 'on the board'.
One good bit of news was that Piller had been assigned to our new Schwarm again... I was glad to see him as we needed a pilot with his experience to lead us.
On the briefing before we left, I noticed that there were only nine pilots left fit for operations.
Schwarm Eins had three pilots assigned, but we had six as we were close escort.
On the way to our aircraft, Piller shouted ...''Come on boys, time to make those Tommies pay up!''
With a wave and a rude gesture he ran to his 109...
As we RV'd with the bombers, I remember thinking, ''we are really going to give it to them this time''... there were several waves of bombers all heading for England, with twin engined 110's above them, all bound for that airfield.
They better have their funny tin hats on, this is going to upset their day...
As we crossed the coastline and headed for Hawkinge, as usual, we were met by flak, shortly afterwards I looked to my left and pressed my RT button... ''Enemy fighters... 10 oclock level''
No flak near them I thought... got to be the enemy!
Piller's calm voice came back, instructing myself and Rosenfeld to stick with the bombers at all costs...
I didn't like the orders, but obeyed them...
I watched what was left of our Staffel turn into the enemy formation, then, as we followed the bombers on their run in to target, the 110's peeled off and dove down like a pack of Stuka's to the airfield.
I listened to the radio transmissions, at one point hearing Piller say he was engaging... others saying they were in trouble or heading home.
I followed the bombers as ordered, but when the French coastline came into view and the first bombers passed the coast, I had already decided I was going back.
I checked around for Rosenfeld, but he wasn't there... Had he been shot down? Or had he decided that he was going back as well?
No time to worry about it, so I went to full combat power and headed back...
It didn't take long, soon the angry flak could be seen all around the coast and inland around Hawkinge.
As I neared the airfield I saw a Spitfire at low level, he had not seen me for sure, but as I closed in the pilot bailed out as another 109 screamed past him...
I then noticed the rest of my flight at low level heading back out to sea, so I joined them and made my way back to friendly skies, happy to see that at least four had made it back.
It was then I realised... ''Where was Piller?''