Discussions on WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic.
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/engl ... 886083.stm
A German pilot is making a pilgrimage to a Northumberland village to say sorry for bombing a church during a World War II dogfight.
Willie Schludecker, who now lives near Cologne, made a split-second decision to jettison his bombs to save himself from nose-diving to the ground.
He recently discovered that this move had almost destroyed a Saxon church at Bolam, near Morpeth.
Mr Schludecker, now 82, is making his trip to the village on Monday.
Mr Schludecker had taken off from Holland on the evening of 30 April, 1942, on a mission to bomb Sunderland.
But his Dornier 217 bomber was intercepted by three British night fighters just north of Newcastle.
The German threw his plane into a steep dive to shake off his attackers but went too low and was forced to ditch some of his bombs.
Three landed near St Andrew's Church and a fourth punched a hole in a side wall before sliding across the floor.
It failed to detonate and the hole it made was turned into a memorial window. Another bomb created a 30ft crater nearby, which is now a duck pond.
For 60 years, Mr Schludecker did not know exactly what had happened until he was told recently by Cleveland historian Bill Norman.
Mr Schludecker said on Monday: "I wanted to jettison the bombs on the railway line, because the plane was damaged and I wanted to get rid of the bombs so it could fly back home.
"I want to see some of the people in Bolam from that time and explain what I was doing and say sorry for the damage that was caused. I am very happy that no one was hurt."
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THE last time former Luftwaffe pilot Willie Schludecker saw the north-east of England was from the cockpit of a Second World War bomber - and yesterday, more than 60 years later, he returned to Northumberland to apologise for inadvertently bombing a village church.
Mr Schludecker was forced to jettison four bombs when he came under attack from British planes during a 1942 raid on Sunderland - and one hit St Andrew’s, a Saxon church in Bolam, near Morpeth.
He knew nothing of the damage to the building until he was tracked down last year by Bill Norman, who was researching the air war over the region.
Now aged 84 and living near Cologne, Mr Schludecker decided to visit Bolam and yesterday apologised to villagers.
It was the first time he had been to the area since the night of 1 May, 1942, when his Dornier 217 was intercepted north of Newcastle.
"I went into a steep dive and then recovered the plane," he said. "I wanted to jettison the bombs on the railway line, because the plane was damaged and I wanted to get rid of the bombs so it could fly home."
But the bombs missed the railway and one slammed through a wall of the 1,000-year-old church, coming to rest inside without exploding. Three others detonated nearby.
As he shook hands with villagers in Bolam, Mr Schludecker said: "This is wonderful to feel such friendship. I was very interested to come here. I felt very bad when I found out I had hit a church."
He was greeted at the church by the Whaley family, who were awakened at 4am on the morning of the raid as his bomber almost clipped their chimney.
John, 83, Chris, 81, and their sister Joy Scott, 86, chatted with him through an interpreter. Joy, who lives half a mile from the church, said: "He was only a lad when he did this, and he was doing his job. Willie is pleased he killed no-one and that is why he has come over."
Mr Norman, a historian from Guisborough, Cleveland, explained how he had tracked Mr Schludecker down.
He said: "I came into contact with his old unit and, during a visit to a reunion, Willie told me the difficulties he had over Newcastle. I went to the area to see what I could find out."
The hole in the church was turned into a stained-glass window and a bomb crater is now a duck pond.
Nice gesture, and good to see the villagers received him warmly.
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A similar gesture was made years ago by the Japanese pilot that bombed a small town in Oregon. He presented the town with his family's 400 year old samarai sword that he carried when he flew the mission. His family spread his ashes near the site in Oregon where his bombs fell .