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Ashford: German airmen crash landed in Kennington in 1941

Fifteen-year-old Peter Rainer was one of the first on the scene when a bomber crashed in Ashford in the Second World War. Now aged 92 and living in Hythe, here he tells Robin Britcher about an eventful night

It was soon after midnight on May 11 1941 when German airmen crash-landed in Kennington.

Neighbours heard the Heinkel 111’s engine cut out as it skimmed over homes before crashing into the field behind Church Road, now Spearpoint Recreation Ground.

The crashed plane
The crashed plane

It came to a violent halt when the wings jammed against two trees.

Fifteen-year-old Peter Rainer was one of the first on the scene.

Now aged 92, and living in Shepherds Walk, Hythe, the great-grandfather said: “I still remember it as if it were yesterday.

Peter Rainer with a model Spitfire he made.Picture: Paul Amos. (5722150)
Peter Rainer with a model Spitfire he made.Picture: Paul Amos. (5722150)

“That night was pretty lively and we were outside our home in The Street watching planes coming and going.

“It was starlit and searchlights were trying to pick up the German bombers. Suddenly we saw a low-flying plane, followed by a big bang.

“I pulled my trousers on over my pyjamas, dad was wearing his Home Guard jacket and we raced to the field.”

The crew of five had been flung into the nose of the plane.

The crashed Heinkel at The Ridge
The crashed Heinkel at The Ridge

“We pulled them out and got them as far away as we could as one of the engines was alight,” Mr Rainer said.

“We smothered the fire with lumps of earth torn up by the crash.”

Other neighbours arrived with blankets, pillows and a tray of teas.

Fred Huckstepp had seen the plane pass his bedroom window in Church Road. Helped by his son Peter he lifted the injured pilot Richard Furthmann from the cockpit.

Mr Huckstepp told KentOnline's sister paper, Kentish Express: “One of the crew spoke perfect English. He said ‘Don’t hurt me, my leg is broken.’

The 1941 landing took place near the property of a Mr Fields on Church Road. (5458200)
The 1941 landing took place near the property of a Mr Fields on Church Road. (5458200)

“Another walked along a wing, jumped to the ground, put his hand on my shoulder and said ‘Kamarad, kamarad’.”

Soldiers stationed in nearby Spearpoint House (now the Conningbrook Hotel) arrived and took the injured airmen to hospital.

Furthmann, whose back was broken, died in the ambulance. The Heinkel was one of 571 planes that had taken off from occupied France a few hours earlier to bomb London.

It was the heaviest, and final raid, of the eight-month bombing offensive known as the Blitz.

After dropping its 1,000lb bomb over Stepney, Heinkel 3976 was heading back to Lille when it was spotted by 22-year-old Spitfire pilot Roger Boulding.

Spitfire pilot Roger Boulding (5685960)
Spitfire pilot Roger Boulding (5685960)

He made six attacks, badly damaging the plane.

Furthmann dived down to 150ft before he was forced to make a belly flop landing in the field used for grazing animals. Thirty-eight years later, Peter Huckstepp received an unexpected visitor.

He said: “There was a knock on my front door and a big man introduced himself as Albert Hufenreuter, the navigator of the plane.

“My wife and I invited him in for a cup of tea and he told us the whole story.

“He was very happy with the way things worked out.

Young Peter Rainer (5685968)
Young Peter Rainer (5685968)

“It was his squadron’s last mission before their posting to Russia and not many survived that.”

Hufenreuter also called on Mr and Mrs Field of Chantry, Church Road, to apologise for demolishing their fence when the plane crashed.

Mrs Field said later: “He was a courteous friendly man, no one less like an enemy could be imagined.”

History enthusiast Alan Wright, of Ashborne Close in Kennington, is researching the 1941 crash.

Spearpoint Recreation Ground in Kennington
Spearpoint Recreation Ground in Kennington

He hopes to uncover more information and anecdotes about the incident.

Mr Wright said: “I have had a few ideas of what I could do with whatever I uncover, either presenting the work to Ashford Museum, an article in a popular aviation journal or some form of book.

“It all depends on the degree of information I am able to finally compile.”

Robin Britcher’s book, Kennington at War 1939-45, is on sale at Bella’s (Savers Newsagent) in Faversham Road, price £5.

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