He met the guy who had shot him down

I found this in Quora, published here thinking in my brother Lutin Louis

Profile photo for Raico Rosenberg

Raico Rosenberg – Lives in Tenerife (1979–present)

What is it like to meet somebody you actually fought against in a war?

Heinrich Rosenberg, My very own father (not grandfather) was a Luftwaffe pilot in WW2. He flew the famous Messerschmitt ME-109 fighter plane in Africa on the Western front with the JG.27 squadron.

One day after a total of 12 kills in his career, a Spitfire got lucky and severely damaged his plane over Libya. As his plane was going down in a corkscrew he decided to bail out and parachute out to safety. Unfortunately, since the plane was tumbling wildly, one of the wings swung hard on his left leg, smashing the bones between his ankle and knee to pieces. He landed in the middle of the desert and despite the parachute breaking his fall it just made his leg worse.

On the other hand, he was luckily found in the vast open desert by his own troops. He was sent home after many attempts to stitch him up properly. During the frenzy of that war, field hospitals often offered rudimentary solutions to extensive injuries. He ended up having his leg shortened some 5cm thanks to all the operations he underwent.

I guess this incident helped him survive the war in a sense, the injury forced him to adopt a non-fighting position. After being promoted for “bravery” he was appointed in command of a local military airport until Germany surrendered in 1945.

It was years later in around 1978 on his honeymoon with my mum they had a stop in Australia as they were on a lengthy around the world trip. As my dad had continued his flying after the war he would fly privately wherever he could and on this occasion, he got together with a few of the old school pilots and chatted about the war. He always spoke openly to other pilots and it was never a problem as my Dad was a nice character, always up for a laugh, no matter what.

It turns out that while exchanging details of their adventures during the war, one of the old Aussie chaps said he knew of a Welsh bloke that had served with him and that had shot down a Messerschmitt plane on the same day and place as when my Dad had got shot down! My Dad was anxious to get in touch but I think the possible grudges of war left the other side weary and it took quite a while to get in touch.

After some correspondence, it turned out that this chap named Ted was indeed the “perpetrator”, lived in Wales and was also an active pilot of light aircraft.

After a few years, they finally arranged a visit and we all flew to Wales. I will never forget that day, I was about 6–8 years old and my brother 2 years younger with my Mum who was 26 years younger than my Dad (yes, really!). It was summer and the weather was great. The very first time we met on an airfield, Ted had landed in his Cessna and all 4 of us walked across the field to meet him. Walking over seemed like an eternity as the grass and flowers were abundant during that time of year. The press was there taking photos of us arriving and I could feel the tension growing as we came closer, I saw that Ted was a tad nervous as my Dad approached him, I guessed he was unsure whether my Dad would have a go at him or something for shooting him down… Instead, my Dad produced a big smile, gave him a really hearty handshake and said: “Thank you for shooting me down!”. Ted looked more confused than ever and with a perplexed face said, “Oh and why is that?” to which my Dad replied, “Thanks to you I have a great pension and a lovely family!” There was a huge roar of laughter and tensions eased.

Ted and my Dad became good friends and although we lived in Tenerife and Ted in Wales they kept in touch right till the end and even flew together if I remember correctly.

My Dad passed away in 1996 when I was just 16 and these are the memories I have of him. I wish I could find the photograph that was in the Newspapers. If I do find it I will post it here. Here is a link of WW2 pilots about my Dad and a photo of him that I restored ages ago:

https://www.militaryartcompany.com/aces.php?PilotID=1670

Hope that answers the question!

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