On the 8th October 1940 a Junkers Ju88 took off from its base in Caen France.  Its mission was to bomb
and destroy the Rootes aircraft factory at Speke in Liverpool.  The aircraft was laden with four 250kg
bombs.  After take off the bomber flew across the channel to Southampton, then onto Droitwich, turning
at Ellesmere Port; heading up channel towards its target in Liverpool around 16:00.  Upon approach
towards its target the German bomber was fired at from the ground by Ack Ack guns which had little
chance of finding their target.  Luckily at that time three Hurricanes from the Czech squadron, yellow
section No.312 were taking off from Speke Airport in Liverpool with orders to guard the Hoylake
coastline.  The burst of the anti aircraft fire alerted the Hurricanes the presence of the incoming German

As the German bomber sighted the Hurricanes coming towards them it climbed sharply in order to gain
cloud cover as soon as possible.  Sergeant “Josef Stehlik” flying Yellow 3, fired the first burst at the
German bomber; whilst Pilot Officer “Alois Vasatko” flying Yellow 2, also fired from below.  Flight
Lieutenant Denys Gillam flying Yellow 1, attacked directly from the rear.  The German bomber returned fire
with its MG-15 machine guns from the B Stand which was the rear cock pit and from the C Stand under
the fuselage.  In the fire fight that ensued all 3 hurricanes were hit and damaged.  The first was Yellow 1
which received bullet strikes to the windscreen luckily not hitting the pilot.  Yellow 2 was hit next when
bullets perforated the exhaust manifolds of the plane.   Yellow 3 sustained several direct hits to the fuel
tank which thankfully did not ignite the on-board fuel.  In addition to this Yellow 3 sustained damaged to
the gun pipe line which rendered the guns inoperable.  

During the short fire fight which reportedly lasted just over 5 minutes the Ju88’s starboard engine was
damaged in a hail of bullet fire which also killed the observer 24 year old Leutnant Herbert Schlegel with a
bullet through the head.  The pilot of the German Bomber was 26 year old Oberleutnant “Helmuth
Bruckman”.  In an attempt escape he jettisoned two of his bombs into the River Mersey below.  The
damage sustained was so bad that the pilot was unable to keep the plane in the air and as a result had
to make a crash landing onto the area below.  The Ju88 was spotted by witnessed below gliding towards
Bromborough Docks with smoke billowing from the plane.  As the bomber crashed into the ground it slid
on its belly across the fields and stopped around 90 feet later.  The plane was damaged upon impact as
the undercarriage had become jammed and had not been retracted and the port engine had been ripped
out in the landing.  One of the bombs was torn from its rack and was found lying in the field near to the
aircraft along with a fully inflated dinghy.  The pilot Oblt Bruechmann received only minor wounds but 37
year old Sonderfuhrer “Horst Lehmann” the air gunner and 26 year old Unteroffizierer “Helmuth Weth”
the wireless operator were severely injured into the crash.

Harry Gill who was a gateman at the Bromborough Dock at the time recalled:
“I was on duty at the South Gatehouse at Bromborough dock, when a twin-engined aeroplane plunged out of
the clouded sky and crashed about 200 yards away on land reclaimed from the River Mersey.  I ran towards it
and half way there I looked up and saw a swastika on the tail fin.  Two men scrambled out of the cockpit and
ran behind the damaged wing. They were bending over a third airman lying at their feet.  I sized them by the
epaulettes of their uniforms and demanded their guns, which they surrendered without argument.  Mr Rand
and Mr Thompson then appeared at my side, Mr Thompson took charge of one of the Germans and escorted
him to the Dock Gatehouse to be kept in custody until the military authorities arrived”.

The injured German pilots were taken to Clatterbridge hospital for medical attention.  The corpse of
Lieutenant Herbert Schlegel was later taken to Hooton Village Church where he was buried with full
military honours.  In 1962 his body was transferred to the German military cemetery at Cannock Chase,
Staffordshire.  The Hurricane pilots returned back to Speke airport where they received a heroes welcome
as they were carried shoulder high by their friends.  The event received a great deal of attention from the
public, so much so that the airport gates had to be closed the following day when crowds of locals arrived
wanting to congratulate the Czech pilots.

Later Flight Lieutenant Gillam stated:
“Taking my car, I drove through the Mersey Tunnel to the scene of the crash just as the crew was being
rounded up.  The observer was dead but the others had survived although the gunner and wireless operator
had been injured.  I cut the German badge off the side of the aeroplane together with one of the swastikas for
souvenirs, then returned to Speke”.

The panel with the Swastika on was hung in the flight hut at the squadron dispersal to boost morale.  
The bombsight from the German bomber was extremely useful to the British as it was a new type and
was the first to fall in their hands.  The RAF removed the aircraft 3 days later and took it to the Oval
Recreation Ground were it was placed on display to the public.  More than £70 was collected for the
Mayor of Bebingtons “Spitfire Fund”.  On the 18th October, the Ju88 was paraded through the streets of
Liverpool in procession with university students and was later displayed at St George's Plateau alongside
a German Messerschmitt Me109 where it was put on public view as part of “War Weapons Week” in
Liverpool.  Mrs Anstead Browne of the Neston Spitfire Fund later secured the use of the Ju88 for a short
time as reward for her efforts.  She arranged for the Ju88 to be transported on two low loaders where
she placed it on view in a field off Bevyl Road which adjoined the Parade at Parkgate.  A cost of 6d for an
adult and 3d for children was charged to view the bomber.  The bomber caused great interest with the
locals and attracted many crowds.  The plane was over watched by security during the day and the Little
Neston Company of the Home Guard kept a close eye of a night.  The bomber remained there until the
24th of November 1940 when it was taken to RAF Sealand in North Wales and disposed of.

After the war, Flight Lieutenant Gillam presented the panel with the Swastika on to RAF Finingley.  Sadly
due to the closure of RAF Finingley the panel is now missing; no doubt a souvenir in someone’s house.  
A local report tells us that a paddle from the dinghy which had a plaque mounted on it along with a
painting entitled “The Fastest Victory” signed by Flight Lieutenant Gillam has been seen for sale on an
Internet site.

In November 1992 the German pilot “Helmuth Bruckman” visited the area and landed in the same field
that he crash landed his Ju88 into, this time aboard the Duke of Westminster’s helicopter.  He had hoped
to met, Denys Gillam but he had unfortunately died of a heart attack only a few weeks earlier.

Additional Information:
Ju88 works number 4068, coded M7+DK from No.2 Squadron of KGr.806 Bomber Wing
Hurricane Yellow 1 coded P2575
Hurricane Yellow 2 coded L1926
Hurricane Yellow 3 coded L1807  
The Ju88 in a field near Bromborough Docks 1940
Victorious Josef Stehlik & Alois Vasatko at Speke with the Swastika
The RAF examine the downed Ju88 at the crash site
2 of the 3 Hurricanes which participated in the defence
The Ju88 in the field at Bromborough
The Ju88 in the field at Bromborough
The RAF examine the downed Ju88 at the crash site
Hurricanes taking off from Speke Airport
The Czech pilots holding the wreckage of the JU88
Additional Information:
JU88 Specs
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Crash Site Today
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By Colin Schroeder