By Aled Lloyd Davies.
There can be something very satisfying when we succeed in completing an unfinished story which has been around for a long time waiting for the last piece of a jigsaw to fall into place. By a strange stroke of good fortune, I was able to experience this satisfaction recently.
During the wee small hours of 29 May 1941 there was an aerial battle above north-east Wales involving a Beaufighter piloted by Wing Commander Charles Appleton and a German Heinkel 111 piloted by Lieutenant Helmut Einecke. The Heinkel carried a crew of four, and somewhere above Wrexham and Mold, its starboard engine caught fire and the four occupants had to bale out by parachute. They all landed safely, but at some distance from one another. Hans-Gorg Hartig came down near Leeswood; Hans Mulhahn near Nercwys, and Konrad Baron, very obligingly, came to earth within a hundredyards of Mold police station. The exact location of the pilot’s landing place has been wreathed in uncertainty ever since, and as police records of the event are no longer available, the various stories which were circulated at the time cannot any longer be corroborated. Some said that he landed near Llwynegryn, others that he fell at various other scattered locations near Mold. But where exactly? That has been the unanswered question.
Quite be chance, I happened to meet one of the two men who first greeted him near his landing place the other day. Rhys Jones now lives in Abercegir near Machynlleth, but during the war, he worked for the Forestry Commission in Flintshire and Denbighshire. On this particular morning, he and a colleague were walking near the wooded area called Y Rofft, near Rhesycae. Out of the woodland came a limping Luftwaffe pilot. He had injured his leg when landing and had ripped his parachute into strips in order to bind his wounds. He greeted the two forestry workers in perfect English.
Before they were taken into custody by the Home Guard and police, however, he asked whether he was near Mold, and whether the Alun School was still there. He then intimated that he was a former pupil at the school, his family having lived in the town of Flint in the pre-war years, prior to his going to college in Liverpool in 1938. When war was imminent he and his family had returned to Germany, and he had joined the Luftwaffe. Since my chat with my friend from Abercegir I have spoken to a number of Einecke’s contemporaries
at the Alun School, who have confirmed the existence of a German pupil at the school at that time. He was a smart, well-groomed lad, who seemed to have a slight superior attitude – although this may have been his defence against a certain amount of anti-German feeling which was prevalent during the late thirties.
Rhys Jones did not find him arrogant in any way. He had reason to get to know him better when Einecke was a prisoner of war at Wynnstay near Ruabon. He, and a number of fellow prisoners were employed by the Forsetry Commission during the early forties, and my friend from Abercegir was the person who sorted out their various tasks. Because of his fluency in the English language, they used to converse a great deal and he got to know him quite well. Before he left the Wynnstay camp, he presented Rhys Jones with two baskets which he had woven himself during his spare time. The baskets are in Abercegir to this day.
* For further information about the crashed German aeroplane see, Buckley, 21(1997) ,47-68. Editor
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