Boy 14 steals US Army aeroplane 1942 UK

November 7th, 2011  

Topic: Boy 14 steals US Army aeroplane 1942 UK


In December 1942, I was 14 years old and my brother, John, was 13. I was so horrified at seeing the Germans firing on the refugees on the newsreels at the cinema that I was determined to 'borrow' an American plane from one of the many airfields around Salisbury Plain, together with a few hand-grenades and take off for Germany to kill Hitler.

We had already checked the planes lined up on the small airfield and had picked on a Piper Cub with the name 'Shirley Anne' emblazoned on it's side, which we made sure was full of fuel.
After one aborted attempt, we tried again.We walked up to the plane for a second time. John climbed up into the observer's seat while I set the throttle to one-quarter. I knew I'd left the ignition on, but I re-checked that the left magneto was on and walked around to the front of the plane. I had to start it up first go, I thought. I shouted to John 'strap yourself in'and reached up , grasping the propeller and pulling down with all my strength. The engine sprang into life and I ran round clear of the propeller and jumped into the cockpit.

'Okay, John, here we go'
I advanced the throttle to the three-quarter position and, with the stick pulled back,we rolled forward. I gradually increased speed to about 50 knots and we slowly took off, just missing the girls picking holly at the end of the field!

I watched the ground fall away, knowing I must keep straight and level, but with some safe altitude! So I let her climb, slowly, heading towards Andover, about seven miles away.
The die was cast,, here I was at last, airborne!

We were soon approaching Andover, and I decided to turn the plane around when we reached the railway station and would go back to Ludgershall where we lived. But turning the aeroplane around was very different from flying it in a straight line!

Very gently, I applied left stick and left rudder, trying to move both in unison to avoid a side-slipping. I managed this fairly successfully, at least I had no complaints from John, who was chatting away about the sights below, not in the least afraid! I was very nervous!

We were flying fairly low and just missed the flag-pole on the school by a mere few inches and looked down expecting to see the undercarriage rolling around the playground!

I now knew that I was pushing my luck and started to climb, still on full throttle. I headed back out over Windmill Hill and over Tidworth Military Cemetery and on up higher, climbing steadily all the time. Everything seemed so small now so I checked the altimeter. Three thousand three hundred feet! Gosh, that's high! I began to make plans to return to our field. I estimated we had been flying twenty-five minutes.

V - R - O - O - M!!!!!!!
The whole plane shook violently, as a huge shape screamed past us from astern, diving over out flight-path!
'Christ! What was that? Bloody Jerries?'

The whole aircraft shook violently, and I saw what appeared to be a Hurricane of Spitfire zoom right back up into the clouds. The shock made me lose control of the aircraft for a few seconds, and I struggled to gain some sort of control again.
'Stupid sod,' said John, 'he nearly crashed into us, let's get the heck out of here, the Yanks may have seen us take off and have raised the alarm.'

I decided it was time to turn and head back to the Long field. I made a slow turn back the way we had come and on looking over my shoulder could see Stonehenge behind, so I thought we must be on the right course for Tidworth.

Suddenly, The engine started to misfire, and all sorts of spluttering sounds started to come from the exhaust. Stone the crows, this is all we want, I thought, and I could see the propeller slowing down through the windscreen, and then the nose started to drop.

Immediately I started to panic and pulled the stick back! The nose lifted, but I must have pressed the left rudder too, because the plane appeared to stop and slip sideways to port, straight down in a left-hand spin!!!

I instinctively realised that no plane will pull out of a spin unless you first gain enough speed to give enough lift, then gain enough air-speed to lift you out of the dive. So I immediately pushed the joystick forward, then over to starboard, at the same time centralising my rudder bars. However, as I pushed the stick a little too far over to starboard, she tried to start spinning in the opposite direction! I quickly centralised the stick, keeping it in the forward position, whilst all the time we were gathering speed! Slowly, the plane stopped spinning and we were diving near vertically!!!

I eased back the stick and the nose started to lift, and we levelled off. I knew I mustn't overdo this and, watching the artificial horizon, I tried to keep a very slight nose-up position. The propeller was just 'windmilling' and all kinds of spluttering and coughing was coming from the engine!

I knew we could not go far without full power and, looking below out of my starboard window, and just ahead, I could see Tidworth.

Christ! What luck! Just by chance, we had headed back in the right direction! I looked at the altimeter, which read between 800 and 900 feet. I could see the Garrison Theatre picture-house, just distinguishable, near the crossroads. We were going to have a free balcony seat if we weren't careful - through the roof!

'Land on that new tarmac car park,' shouted John. 'Quick!'
I looked down and could see the tiny figures of soldiers, milling about, working on the park. We were still losing altitude, fairly fast, but we were well above the car park. The palms of my hands were soaked with sweat!
November 7th, 2011  

Topic: Part 2 Boy 14 steals US Army aeroplane 1942 UK

'No, we don't want to get caught,Dad's in the Depot down there!'
I had to make my mind up very quickly. Then I noticed, opposite the car park,a large wood, several miles long. There were thousands of fir trees, tall, dark and menacing, but maybe our salvation. I reckoned I had enough speed and height just to bank carefully to starboard without stalling, and land on the treetops!!! From the air it appeared as one big carpet! This would be the one chance only, if any, and if I make a hash of it, that's our lot!

I gently eased her round and lined up with the trees, now only a few feet below us. As soon as we passed over the edge of the trees, I eased the stick forward, slightly, and suddenly remembered.....
'Turn off the ignition switch!'
'Okay!' shouted John, 'it's off!'

Just at that moment, the plane belly-flopped onto the trees, with a crash, and continued to skid along like a sledge, on the tops of the firs, so that, to my horror, I could see the ground whizzing past below me!! Simultaneously, the port wing broke away with an ear-splitting crash. The plane veered slightly to starboard and stopped, balancing precariously on the top of two or three trees, which had been decapitated!

The silence was deafening and we sat there, dazed and shocked,for a few seconds. Miraculously, the door was still intact, and I kicked it open, slightly. I looked down at the ground, about fifty feet below and thought 'how the hell are we going to get out of this, because we're going to get nabbed if we don't do a bunk sharpish!'

Then it started!!! We could hear the wail of sirens!
'Come on John' I yelled, 'we've got to get out of this, quick'
There was a warning smell of gasoline! The fear of fire was in my mind!

I climbed, gingerly, out of the cockpit, grabbed the nearest tree-trunk and, with great difficulty, climbed down as quickly as I could. I finally reached the ground, jumping the final six feet or so, walked back a few feet and looked up, instinctively, to see where John had got to. As I did so, I was covered with aviation octane fuel, which was dripping down the tree!!

John was still sitting in the plane, leaning over the side, looking down at me, and shouting' Don't mind me, will you? I'm only here for the view. Do you want some toilet paper? You're a right sod leaving me up here!'

'Come on! Quick! The Yanks are coming!' I yelled, and as I did so, I glanced through the trees towards the edge of the wood, and could just make out scores of U.S. soldiers, swarming up in our direction, some with rifles, and there was an ambulance too!

John scrambled down quickly and when he was about ten feet from the ground his clothing got hooked up on the short stubby branches! He jumped down and was lucky the ground was soft and springy as he hit it with a tremendous thud, rolled over, shook himself, and got to his feet. Then we bolted through the wood in the opposite direction to the approaching troops!!!!

After a couple of miles, I glanced round and, in the distant trees, I saw the remains of 'Shirley Anne' up in the top, her tail-plane just visible. It was only then that I really felt the shock of the crash! How on earth did I put that plane up there, smash it up, and both of us get away, without a scratch.
Eventually, we reached home. Soon Dad would be home from work at the Depot. Did he know about the plane crash or not? We would not have long to find out!!!!

'Had some excitement lunchtime, Phil' he said to Mum.
'Oh, what's that' said Mum.
'We had a big plane crash up in the trees at the back of the Depot. The pilot must have bailed out, because they've searched all over for him. There's a rumour that there may have been two of them in the plane and they could have been German agents!'

'What kind of plane was it, Dad?'I asked knowing full well what type it was!
'I think it was a bomber,' Dad replied, 'an American fighter is supposed to have chased it over the firing ranges, but lost it! Where have you been today, Jim?'
'Oh, I've been out with John, cutting bows and arrows'.
'Pity you didn't go out cutting firewood instead of messing about like that. It's time you started to pull your socks up!'Dad continued to moan during his lunch, not knowing he was only six feet from the culprits!
'Yes, they'll get bloody shot if they get caught, if they are spies. Smashed it to smithereens they did! They must have bailed out, because no-one would have got out of that alive and, anyway, someone else is supposed to have seen two parachutes come down over Tidworth Oval!'

I was dying to tell Dad that it was not a bomber at all, and that there were no parachutists but I wasn't that stupid, so decided to keep quiet!!

It was towards the middle of January, 1943 and Dad was in his office at the motor pool. It was almost lunchtime and in walked two Special Enquiry Agents attached to the U.S. Army, who were investigating the theft of the plane. Would Mr Eddie Stoodley go and ask Jim if he took the plane or not?

I was in the Colonel's car in the garage opposite his office when Dad came in.
'I want a serious talk with you, Jim!' he said ominously,'Now I want you to answer me truthfully, yes or no, to my question. Did you and John steal that plane?'
'Yes, Dad,' was the automatic answer.
'Do you know who is in my office?'
'No, Dad'
'Well, I'll tell you. The bloody FBI, that's who! They've finally caught up with you and I'll tell you this much, you'll be shot at dawn, like a spy! Don't you think I have enough problems, without you adding to them?'
'I'm sorry Dad, I only took it to make you proud of me.'
'Proud of you! I'll bloody disown you! Who are we supposed to be fighting, the Germans or the Yanks! They're on our blasted side aren't they, you stupid sod? You'll have to go to court, you know, and just think of the disgrace you'll bring to the family.'
I did feel pretty ashamed then.

I went to court on the 6th February, 1943, at Ludgerchall Juvenile Court. The summonses against me were as follows:
Flying an aircraft in time of*
war without:
* a certificate of airworthiness
* a certificate of insurance;
* a pilot's licence;
* a certificate of competency to fly;
* flying an aircraft in time of war without permission of the Secretary of State for Air, etc.
The court took a lenient view and bound me over for twelve months.
An American colonel paid substantial costs for the damage on my behalf!!!!

He also stole a Sherman tank and hid it in woods.
November 22nd, 2011  
hmm all this and no flight simulator? go figure, man thats a dream right there, I would of punched hitler in the jaw teach that sour crout a lesson!
November 22nd, 2011  
I'm surprised he actually got it off the ground.

Similar Topics
Your pet's diary
The First Ethnic Chief Of The Indian Army
US Army recruited an autistic teenager as Cav Scout
Army Announces Retention, Recruiting Numbers for FY 2005
Will there be a draft?