(I JG 54) Combat Operations... 22 August 1940
Escort...Two Schwarm's will carry out the operation...
Schwarn Eins will provide high cover
Schwarm Zwei will provide close escort for IKG 55 who will bomb the aircraft factory at Felixstowe.
Take off 0600hrs, distance to target 122 km.
Time to target, 38 mins. Weather over target: expect broken cloud.
Rendez altitude 2100m.
Route to target altitude, bomber dependent.
MAX STADLER, DIARY RECORD.
Today is the day. Today I feel sure we will bring up the Tommies... Our escort for the Heinkel's of KG 55 on the aircraft factory attack is bound to be intercepted.
I have a new Schwarm Leader... Piller has taken over Schwarm Eins, and we have Stabsgefreiter Burkart Auler, he seems a good type.
We were to rendezvous with the bombers as they approach our airfield, but after taking off and climbing to the RV altitude, we were having 'fun' trying to locate them in the clouds.
As radio silence was imposed, it would be a purely visual exercise to be sure.
Burkart Auler must have the eyes of an eagle... he soon located the He III's, (five in all) and we were soon closing in on them.
Frantic waves from their crews could be seen, as they were obviously very glad to have us along.
As we passed between Canterbury and Margate we were still being followed by the ever present flak. By that stage we had already lost one of the bombers...
Suddenly Burkart Auler yelled ''Contacts 12 oclock level, closing fast''... five small dots rapidly got larger, and we started to climb not a second too soon.
At first I thought they were twin engines Blenheim's, but a 110 Zerstörer leading four Ju 88's screamed past... it seemed they were so close I could reach out and touch them.
We all felt their slipstreams as they rocketed past.
''Bloody idioten'' I thought aloud, what were they doing?...
We crossed into open sea again and made our approach to Felixstowe, as we neared the coastline again, Rosenfeld shouted ''INDIANER two oclock high'' .
We all as one turned and climbed to the right, and I heard Rosenfeld once more shouting for help and I closed in on the enemy aircraft that was homing in on him.
I soon identified it as a Spitfire and gave it a burst and it broke away from Rosenfeld who then reported he was heading for home!
Before I knew what was happening, I felt a thump and simultaneously I pushed the nose of my Little Emil straight down before I even knew I had done it!
It was a pure reflex action to avoid being hit again... I had been 'bounced'
Rapidly changing direction to avoid being hit again (in case the enemy had stayed with me) I applied full power to try and gain separation from my pursuer, but it was obvious very quickly I was loosing power.
I headed back out to sea and homeward... I searched the sky all around, but strangely I was all alone, nothing to be seen anywhere. A few minutes later and thinking I was in the clear, my engine just stopped!
I had about 1500m of height left... I kept Little Emil just above stalling speed, still gliding out to sea.
I knew I would never make it to friendly skies, and I knew I would not make the English coast... at 600m I knew there was only one course of action left.
Time to get out...
I remember lots of noise suddenly receding as the plane seemed to fall away from me... I felt for the parachute release handle, left of the main harness buckle. and then, a sudden deceleration and yank in the leg straps... and silence!
I was in one piece!... I looked down below me to see Little Emil strike the water with a huge splash, and then she was gone!
My next worry was a rapidly approaching body of water. My drills kicked in... turn the snap lock on the harness buckle, as the sea got closer, feet and knees together, cross both arms and grab the front lift webbs of the parachute and tuck the chin in... as my feet made contact I punched the harness buckle to release the harness and raise my arms straight up... the parachute harness came straight off and I continued down, but away from the parachute.
I waited until I had stopped sinking and then swam up and away from the parachute until my head broke the surface.
I'll say this... the next seven hours were the coldest I have ever been in my life. When I heard the noise of an aircraft I had already made the firm decision that I didn't care whose side it was on, I would use the flares and the dye to try and get it's attention, but when it came, there was no mistaking the drone of that wonderful 'Auntie Ju'... I was yelling and crying as it touched down and made it's way towards me.
A crewman threw me a line and dragged me closer and then it was willing hands pulling me on board. I don't remember much more, as I was dried off, wrapped up in blankets and given some very hot coffee laced with rum.
I will be forever thankful to those men who had saved me.