The RAF’s only airworthy Lancaster bomber was effectively ‘shot down’ yesterday, in a prank played by the pilot of a German Messerschmidt 109 fighter aircraft. Both aircraft had been performing at an air show at Duxford air museum. Lancaster PA474 was only built after the war in Europe had ended and so never actually flew in combat. Nevertheless, for many years now it has been flown around the UK, appearing at all manner of festivals and indeed national celebrations, taking the plaudits for a win in which it took no part.
Following a recent restoration the WW2 Me 109 is visiting the UK on a Nelson Mandela Goodwill & Reconciliation tour. German air force pilot Jurgen Morfflung, who as a serving military officer cannot be named for security reasons, was putting the machine through its paces and ‘hunting the enemy’ as part of a WW2 re-enactment.
He outlined the events to reporters today ‘Of course, contrary to your UK propaganda, the Me 109 had the edge on the bomber’s Spitfire and Hurricane escorts and I soon out- manoeuvred them both. As I banked round over the runway, the Lancaster appeared in my sights and I let it have a ‘pretend’ 3 second cannon burst. I’d quite forgotten that we’d loaded it up with paint balls – mostly red but with a yellow and blue tracer – and it made quite a mess. A bit like John Lennon’s ‘psychedelic 1960s Rolls Royce, only a little more tasteful. Anyway, if they didn’t want to be shot at, why paint a target on the fuselage?’
The Dulux ordnance covered the windscreen and blocked the air intakes of the Lancaster’s engines, with the result that the five man crew had to bail out. Morfflung denied rumours that he then circled round and strafed the parachuting air crew ‘I was just checking they were all OK and my thumb must have accidentally hit the ‘Fire’ button. Five times in fact. I’ve no idea how their flight suits became covered in red paint with flecks of yellow and blue.’
All of the Lancaster’s crew were uninjured and its pilot Squadron Leader Thomas Edwards was philosophical about the loss of the aircraft. ‘I’m sure Jurgen didn’t mean anything like this to happen. But as I was trying to steer my parachute and avoid landing in the sewage works, he flew past slowly with the cockpit canopy pulled back. I could swear I heard him say ‘For you Tommy, ze war is over’.’