- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Mr R Fuller
- Location of story:
- Lewes Sussex
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 January 2005
The Piolot Leonard Buckle
The War was approximately 1 year old, and I was walking along the main Lewes road with friends, near the Lewes Racecourse, I was around 8 years old, and this was the approximate age of my friends.
Suddenly some boys appeared at the top of a nearby hill and they were running and shouting to us “there’s a German plane up there” as they were only young they were probably running because they were frightened and thought that they would get into trouble for being up there at all, also possibly that they might come to harm.
My friends and I ran up to the top of the hill, and sure enough there was a German light ‘plane which had landed on top of a hill on the racecourse.
It is not difficult to imagine the excitement and interest this event caused, as we watched From our screened viewpoint behind the bushes as the hapless pilot was escorted to Lewes Police Station by Police Officers and members of the Home Guard, naturally we Were intrigued.
The ‘plane was completely intact and we learned later that it was a Gotha 145, bi-plane which apparently was being used for delivering mail and important dispatches for the Wehrmacht, along the coast of France and across to the Channel Islands and back.
In the rear cockpit was a full sack of mail which made very interesting reading for British Intelligence.
The records of the event state that the aircraft took off from Cherbourg-Ouest and was piloted by German named Leonard Buckle.
The ‘plane was routed to fly to Strasbourg in Eastern France, which was right on the German border. But for reasons which have never been made clear the ‘plane “lost it’s way”, perhaps suffered instrument failure, was off course, was short of fuel or became lost because of heavy mist, we shall never know.
But when the aircraft reached an appropriate point over the channel, two of our hurricanes escorted the Gotha over the channel to our shores and indicated that the pilot should land immediately, presumably the pilot of the Gotha had signed to the hurricanes that the ‘plane was unarmed and was therefore not a threat.
The aircraft was in perfect condition and therefore a real prize to land in the lap of the British.
Of course the ‘plane was guarded and the next day the markings were changed on the aircraft and the ‘plane was adopted by the R.A.F. for communication duties throughout the war.
On the same day that Leonard Buckle took off to deliver mail so did approximately 100 German aircraft, assembling over Cap-Griz.Nez, they were mostly fighters escorting groups of Domiers intent on attacking R.A.F.airfields in the U.K.but that was not the intention of the Gotha whose comparatively innocent occupation was merely to deliver and collect mail.
I never forgot that day, but it was not until many years later in the late 1980s that I decided to try to find out what had happened to the pilot.
My investigations started with Lewes Police Station and the records office, searching back to 1940, having done so, I then applied to Berlin Police archives, who after a long wait, which it appears is their normal protocol, became most helpful and informative.
After going through many papers and old archives I finally managed to track down Leonard Buckle and exchanged correspondence with him and it was eventually arranged, after some considerable time that I should go to Germany and see him. This I did and I met his charming wife and his three daughters, after some time we all became friendly and a pleasant relationship was established. (Remembering that this was many years after the war)
Now both Leonard Buckle and his wife have both passed on, but I have remained in contact with the family, and in 2004 one of Leonard Buckle’s daughters came to England to see me and brought her son with her.
Whilst she stayed with me, I took her to the place where I first saw her Father on the Lewes Racecourse, and there fully explained everything to her; quite naturally she became rather tearful.
Also I contacted Lewes Police Station and requested that we go there, this we did and we were shown the cells and keys which were in use at the time. The police person on duty at the time was most interested in the story, and was very helpful.
Leonard Buckle’s family have agreed that I may offer this story for the interest of others for posterity...
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