WWII Enemy Aircraft Down!
1 - 5. The Crashed German Bomber on Strawberry Banks
What caused the Junkers to crash has been disputed, here is one version :
The destruction of enemy aircraft was not always without cost to defending fighters, and in this instance a Hurricane collided with the bomber causing the death of the RAF pilot. The Junkers 88, of 5./KGS I, had been tasked to attack the Gloster Aircraft Factory at Hucclecote, Gloucestershire, on 25 July 1940 when it was intercepted by two Hurricanes of the Airfield Defence Flight, No.4 Ferry Pilot's Pool, RAF Kemble. Pilot Officers R.G. Manlove and CA Bird intercepted the Junkers, but in the attack Pit Off Bird collided with the bomber's tail causing the enemy to crash at Lower Weir Farm, Oakridge, Gloucestershire. The four-man crew of the Junkers 88 baled out, although one of them was killed when his parachute failed to open. It was Pit Off Bird who was killed in the collision.
6. Artist Impression of the Battle
7. A recovered piece of the plane
8. Said to be the German Plane
9. Mrs Le Bailly, her maid Mavis and Mavis's brother Roy 'captured' the Pilot
10. You can just see some remains over the hedge
11. The sundial which the pilot struck when landing in his parachute
12. The surviving crew, L - R Unteroffizier Wilhelm Hugelschafer (obs), Gefreiter Gottfried Treue (w/op) and Unteroffizier Friedel Dorner (pilot)
13. Stroud News and Journal reprises the story in April 1995
14. There was debate for years over exactly what happened. The Stroud News and Journal was still debating the detail in February 1985. This is the introduction.
15. There was debate for years over exactly what happened. The Stroud News and Journal was still debating the detail in February 1985. This is the body of the piece.
16. There was debate for years over exactly what happened. The Stroud News and Journal was still debating the detail in February 1985. This is the piece on Charles Bird, the Hurricane Pilot who lost his life in the incident.
17. Mr Weston, who was Head of Oakridge School, was also the Captain of the Home Guard who who formally arrested the Pilot.
18. Article authored by Tony Wood and Published in the British Sundial Society Bulletin Volume 16(I), March 2004
19. Mavis Clements handwritten memories
On the afternoon of 25 July 1940 a German bomber, a Junkers 88, was brought down by a Hurricane from Kemble and / or a Spitfire from Aston Down. The German plane crashed on Strawberry Banks, near the school.
The Hurricane crashed in a field between Oakridge and Lillyhorn crossroads, killing the pilot. Three airmen parachuted out of the German plane successfully, but the parachute of the fourth failed to open. He was found later hanging by his parachute from a tree having bailed out very late, it was thought to guide the plane clear of the village. He was buried with full military honours in the Brimscombe New Cemetery on 1 August 1940.
According to reports in the local press, one airman landed in the grounds of Major and Mrs Le Bailly. Mrs Le Bailly and her maid Mavis Young and Mavis' brother Roy went to him and offered the shaken man a drink. Mr Weston, the schoolmaster and leader of the local Home Guard, came across from the school and took charge until the police and other members of the Home Guard were called.
Margaret Weston, 14-year-old daughter of the schoolmaster, later to become Dame Margaret Weston, recalls running across to one of the German airmen. In an interview she said, 'I was standing outside my house when I saw two men jump out of a plane. One came down on the lawn, and I ran up and asked him if he were OK and he answered me in German. I then realised he was an enemy airman, so I called my father. He came over and the German immediately took out his revolver and handed it to him.' The commander of Aston Down Aerodrome arrived to arrest the first German prisoners to be captured in Gloucestershire.
Sally Hornby wrote that her sister Anna saw the battle overhead as she was walking back from painting down in Chalford valley. 'On getting home, she was astonished to find the ARP warden, having received the yellow alert, waiting for the red which never came, and quite unaware that anything had been going on overhead.' She also remembered 'a funeral was to take place that afternoon, so there were more men in the village than usual. However, just before the funeral cortege was due to set out the air battle began. The bearers vanished. Only after ARP and LDV duties were completed did the funeral proceed. From the beginning of the war, my aunt, Miss Beatrix Hornby, who lived in Lyday Close, always kept a pitch-fork behind her front door in case a German might arrive in her garden. After the plane had come down, we did not think this quite so silly!'
The children who were in school at the time of the crash did not forget this event. Grace Cooke and Robin Gardiner recall how Mr Weston told them all to get under their desks as the planes came down overhead. Some villagers recall that the German bomber scraped the bell tower on the school as it came down (thus beginning the process of collapse that led to the dismantling of the bell tower after further damage by storms) but others do not think the plane itself can have damaged the bell tower.
The children then saw Mr Weston grab the wooden window pole and rush outside with it to capture the airman in Mrs Le Bailly's garden. leaving them in the charge of the other teachers. When Mr Weston returned he had the revolver belt of the German, and showed the children the Luger from it. Sid Gardiner, Robin's father, who was working nights and was therefore at home that afternoon, captured one of the Germans near Waterlane crossroads. Sid took a rifle, though he had no ammunition, and arrested the man with no trouble and kept him until the Aston Down staff arrived.
This crash 'put Oakridge on the map' and drew visitors for quite some time afterwards. The public flocked to see the wrecked plane, reputedly in their thousands. Sally Hornby recounted that Mr Weston, the schoolmaster, 'with great acumen, posted somebody at the gate to the field, not only to show people the way but to collect money for comforts for the troops'. In an interview, Sam Gardiner remembered that within half an hour of the crash people were coming down the lane and across the fields to look at the spectacle. He went on Sunday with a crowd including lots of lads from Oakridge and spotted GeorgeJuggins in the throng, dressed up and sporting his silver-knobbed cane.
The above is an extract from 'Oakridge a History' by Pat Carrick, Kay Rhodes and Juliet Shipman, available from Oakridge History Group, price £15 through the ‘Contact Us’ page or from the Oakridge Village Shop.
For more authoritative detail see Wings Over Gloucestershire by John Rennison, Published by Picadilly Publishing, 1988
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