On 30th September, 1940, as the Battle of Britain raged in the skies above Kent, a German plane (Messerschmitt ME109e) with unusual markings, crashed on Broomhill.
Here is an eye witness account from Robin Downs:
"During the Battle of Britain I was thirteen years old and living in Jersey Road, Strood. I remember on one occasion a German Messerschmidt plane flying low over the gardens and heading towards the church at Frindsbury. As it reached that point the anti-aircraft guns in Chatham Dockyard fired a burst near it and it turned, obviously disabled and losing height flew back in our direction.
As it reached the end of Jersey Road only apparently a couple of hundred feet up the pilot opened up his machine guns. We naturally thought that he was firing at us and immediately flattened ourselves on the ground." (Research by Clint Mitchell, published on asisbiz.com)
Another witness remembered as the plane flew low overhead, his father (Mr Mapley) fired three shots at it with his Lee Enfield from near his air raid shelter in Gordon Road. When the plane was inspected, after it crashed, it was noticed that there were three bullet holes in it. Mr Mapley certainly had no doubts who it was that shot the plane down!
When the plane crashed on Broomhill it was immediately surrounded by angry locals and land Army girls who were working the fields. Their anger probably had much to do with their (mistaken) assumption that the German plane had been machine gunning them as it came down.
In fact the pilot was Uffz. Ernst Poschenrieder, based at Le Touquet-Etaples airfield. On 30th September 1940 his unit was on bomber escort duty. After intercepting RAF Spitfires over North Kent, his aircraft was hit by pilot Sgt Parker (who was himself shot down and killed ten days later). During the forced landing Ernst sustained serious back injuries.
By the time local PC Jack Matthews attended the scene one of the girls, a brave Scot called Sarah Kortwright, was standing guard on the german pilot, preventing the angry women from reaching him. The police officer then helped the injured pilot to the ground and escorted him to a waiting ambulance.
Such was the strength of feeling on the ground that the mob refused to allow the ambulance to drive to the site of the crashed plane and Herr Poschenrieder had to walk to the road.
However, another witness version said the angry women who had filled their aprons with plums to pelt the pilot changed their attitude when he emerged from the plane and was seen to be a tall, handsome and charming man.
Herr Poschenrieder was treated at Medway Hospital for serious back injuries and spent the rest of the war in a prisoner-of-war camp in Canada.
However, in 1955, by then a wealthy timber merchant, Ernst returned to Broom Hill to ask the whereabouts of his rescuers, saying he intended to give "the biggest bunch of flowers arms could hold" to the girl who had saved his life that day. He was told she had returned to Scotland and, after visiting the doctor to thank him for his excellent treatment, Ernst travelled north and tracked down Miss Kortwright, where he presented her with a large bouquet and took her to dinner.
A print by Geoff Nutkins (of the Shoreham Aircraft Museum) shows a photograph of Ernst and a painting of his plane.
Below is another print by Geoff showing Ernst's plane.
Copies of these and other prints are available on Geoff's website here.
The Shoreham Aircraft Museum is well worth a visit! On show are some souvenirs collected from the crash, as well as all kinds of items of interest to those interested in the RAF during World War 2.
13 High Street, Shoreham Village, Near Sevenoaks, TN14 7TB.
The museum is open every Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday from Easter until mid-October. Opening hours: 10.00am - 5.00pm. Entry charges: Adults: £3.00 Children under 16 free.
This photo shows Ernst's squadron ( 7/JG53) in France. His plane (number 12) is in the middle behind the group. Photo courtesy of asisbiz.com