Swastika in Somerset?
Probably still hidden at the bottom of the deepest cellar in a country mansion in Somerset is a swastika hacked from the tail fin of a German fighter-bomber.
In the early 40’s, my prep school was evacuated to a large estate at Hambridge in Somerset. The school lived in one wing of the mansion and the owners lived in the other.
One hot sunny Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1944, my chum, Kirk, and I were standing above the ha ha at the rear of the main building when we saw what looked like a German Heinkel losing height rapidly and apparently crash-landing in a field about two miles from the school. The plane didn’t explode on impact probably because it had run out of fuel. Keen to be the first at the scene of the accident, Kirk and I rushed to our bikes and pedalled like hell to the area where we thought we saw the plane crash.
After about twenty minutes we found the plane which was on the ground in the corner of a field. Apart from a certain amount of oil spillage and minor damage to the nose, the plane was intact. The two-man crew were nowhere to be seen (are we surprised?!) so we got into the fuselage of the plane and proceeded to pull out some of the radio equipment as souvenirs.
We then hit on a brilliant wheeze (as it was called in the Just William era). Why not cut one of the swastikas off the tail and get it back to the school where we could hide it? We had a few tools in our saddle bags, including a small hacksaw, and after a while we managed very crudely to hack off the oil-covered swastika, which was about three feet square.
Then we realised our main problem - how to get the jagged piece of metal back to the school? We decided the only way to achieve this would be to get on our bikes and hold the piece of metal between us as we cycled unsteadily back there.
As it was late on a Sunday afternoon, nobody was about when we finally made it back to the school grounds. We then remembered that, although totally out-of-bounds to the pupils, we had in fact illegally recced the deep cellars in the house a few months before. The upshot was that we did manage to hide the tail fin in one of the dusty unused cellars and I’ll be surprised if it’s not still there today.
I only wish I‘d retained the fearless (or stupid!) quality that I had on that summer afternoon over sixty years ago.