Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Book Launch

Exbury Junkers

The Exbury Junkers: A World War II Mystery - Part II
By: John Stanley

I just had time to look at one more of the exhibits and, as I did so, my attention was immediately grabbed. This display featured the wartime recollections of a former member of the Royal Observer Corps, whose name was Jock Leal. It told how Jock had been on duty at an observation post near Newport on the Isle of Wight early on the morning of Tuesday 18 th April 1944 when he had witnessed an incident so peculiar that he was to remain intrigued by it for the rest of his life.

The display recounted how a lone German bomber, a Junkers Ju 188, had emerged ghost-like from the clouds over the Isle of Wight on what was a fine Spring morning, just seven weeks before D-Day. The enemy intruder proceeded to fly a very strange meandering route low over the northern part of the island. Despite coming under a barrage of anti-aircraft fire the Junkers appeared to take no evasive action nor was it seen to return fire and it simply continued to loiter. More curiously still it fired a series of red flares or Very lights as it circled over the area. Jock Leal watched in total disbelief from his observation post as the German bomber survived all attempts to shoot it down and then made its way across the Solent to the Hampshire mainland. Minutes later, Jock saw the Junkers being pounced on by two RAF fighter planes, and he watched as it came down in a field close to the sea.

Some years afterwards, Jock was to describe the events of that morning, in two books that he wrote documenting the air battles over the Isle of Wight during WWII. He recalled:

All this time, it had been dropping red flares. Its speed never exceeded 250mph. It never flew higher than 1,000ft. It passed over many military objectives without dropping a bomb or firing a gun. Nor did a single gun reply when the Typhoons screamed up, and poured fire into this strange intruder. We watched in amazement as the Junkers crashed in a mass of flames.

And he went on to consider:

Why had it dropped red flares ? Why had the pilot not tried to evade gunfire and fighters? Why fly so slowly and so low ? Why not defend itself ?? We asked ourselves the questions but could give no answers.

It also turned out that Jock had discovered a further intriguing fact, some time after the Junkers crash, namely that the German bomber had been carrying as many as seven men, when the normal crew of a Ju 188 was thought to be just four. Incidentally, none of the men had survived the crash.

The exhibition display, based on Jock's recollections, had made mention of all these mysterious ingredients, and went on to speculate about what the German bomber might have been up to when it flew across to the Isle of Wight on that April morning shortly before D-Day. For example, one reason for there having been more than the normal complement of crew on board the Junkers could have been that it was carrying men who were attempting to escape to Britain.

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