The Best of British and German!

Here’s another guest post from Mitch Peeke.

In the afternoon of the September 30th, 1940; a lone Messerschmitt 109 flew low and slow over Strood, Kent, belching smoke. The pilot, Unteroffizier Ernst Poschenrieder, had been in combat with Spitfires from 222 Squadron whilst escorting bombers to London. Ernst’s squadron had suffered  heavily when the Spitfires pounced. The aircraft he was flying wasn’t even his usual mount. He wasn’t superstitious, but so far this definitely wasn’t his day.

Knowing he would never get back to France and that he was too low to jump, crash-landing on Broom Hill, a hilltop field cultivating vegetables for the war effort, was now his only option. He could see it would be tricky. People were tending the field, but his wounded engine was giving up. To minimise the dangers of a wheels-up landing, he overflew the field and emptied his guns harmlessly into the surrounding treetops.

Unteroffizier Ernst Poschenrieder (courtesy Shoreham Aircraft Museum)

Approaching the tree-line, Ernst throttled back and put the flaps down, losing as much airspeed as possible. The treetops seemed to be trying to grab him as he cut the dying engine; a fire prevention measure. Skimming the trees, the Messerschmitt sank through the last thirty feet of the air and hit the ground violently at 60 MPH, ploughing down the slope. Bucking and bouncing, it tore up the dry soil then broke its back, slewing half-round and stopping just before the trees. He’d made it, just; but the force of the crash had nearly broken Ernst’s back, too.

The farm workers ran to the scene with hoes and forks. Thinking the pilot had tried to machine-gun them, they sought blood; but a young Land Army girl, a Scots lass named Sarah Kortwright, got there first. Standing beside the cockpit, she kept them back. Ernst sat there, ears ringing and in intense pain; and waited. Someone had gone to fetch a Policeman.

PC Jack Matthews (back row, 3rd from right) who later arrested Unteroffizier Ernst Poschenrieder (by kind permission of Mike Hearne)

Sixty-year-old PC 28 Jack Matthews, of the Rochester Police, quickly arrived on the scene. Taking immediate control, he arrested the pilot, for his own protection. Jack was over six feet tall and athletically built. Facing the mob, truncheon in hand, he sternly announced that anyone trying to interfere would be obstructing a Police Officer or having to assault one. The mob lost interest and Ernst was carefully extracted from his cockpit, grateful to be alive.

Ernst’s crashed 109, courtesy Friends of Broomhill

Ernst was taken to Chatham Police station, then immediately to Hospital, for emergency surgery. Thereafter, he was a POW.

He returned to England in 1955, to thank both Sarah Kortwright and the doctor who’d treated him. He traced the hospital doctor, but Sarah had returned to Scotland. Undeterred, he tracked her down and armed with a bouquet of flowers, went to Scotland and took her out to dinner!  In 2005, Ernst visited artist Geoff Nutkins, at the Shoreham Aircraft Museum in Kent, to sign some prints and sketches. Ernst became a frequent visitor to the museum’s events. Sadly, he died in 2009, aged 98. he was killed not by old age; but rather unexpectedly, by a car.

This article was excerpted from a new e-book. 1940: THE BATTLES TO STOP HITLER gives the full story of this and many other events like it, that took place during the time when it seemed that only the French and the British stood in Hitler’s way. Published by Pen & Sword Books Ltd this e-book is available to download at  priced at £8:00.

12 thoughts on “The Best of British and German!

    • Thanks Jonno, glad you liked it! It is a great story! Obviously, this is a condensed version, taken from my 1940 book. When Ernst came back in 1955, the Doctor who had treated him was still at Medway Maritime Hospital. It was a chance conversation with the Taxi Driver taking him back to the station afterwards that allowed him to trace Sarah. Turned out the Cabbie knew the people in Strood that Sarah had lodged with during the war so he took Ernst to them. They had Sarah’s parents’ address and telephone number in Scotland. Having obtained those, the Cabbie took Ernst back to the station. Ernst rang Sarah’s parents, made the necessary arrangements and then took the train to Scotland to see her. If Ernst had got into any other Taxi that day, he’d never have seen Sarah again!

      Ernst was a very successful Timber Merchant in Stuttgart after the war. Sadly, I never had the undoubted pleasure of meeting him, but having visited Broomhill Park several times, I have certainly admired his piloting skills.

      Do you live in the Medway area by any chance?

      Liked by 1 person

  1. If you ever get the chance to visit Broomhill Park in Strood, you can easily find the spot where Ernst’s 109 came to rest; there is a sizeable permanent bald spot in the grass. The ground has never recovered from being steeped in the Messerschmitt’s oil and coolant! Standing on the spot and looking up the line of his crash landing run, you cannot help but admire his piloting skills in getting his stricken fighter down in such a small area. The 109’s normal landing run was just over half a mile!

    PC Jack Matthews lived in nearby Brompton Lane. His Grandson, Mike, is a friend of ours who still lives two streets away from his late Grandfather’s old house.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What an excellent story! Luftwaffe pilots did machine gun people who were working in the fields, although clearly not Unteroffizier Poschenrieder, My friend’s mother had it happen to her twice as a land girl in Norfolk, on one occasion with the bullets landing either side of her as she dived to the ground.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Glad you liked it, John! Geoff Nutkins told me how he first met Ernst. When he first came to Shoreham Aircraft Museum, Ernst sneaked into the garden, took a blanket off the washing line, spread it on the ground and did ten very well executed military press ups on it! Geoff came out and the 94 year old Ernst got up, sprang smartly to attention and introduced himself! Geoff said he was one of the nicest guys he’d ever had the pleasure to meet. I gather Ernst had a wicked sense of humour, too!

      Liked by 1 person

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