Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The man, who said: "I'm sorry." - Willy Schludecker

Willi Schludecker
On April 25 and 27, 1942, Willi Schludecker was just a 21 year old when took a part of three raids on Bath. His Dornier Do217E  unloaded nearly 4,000 kg of bombs on the city of Bath. The three night-time Luftwaffe raids have killed nearly 400 people and destroyed more than 19,000 buildings in the Georgian city of Bath, which had a population of 68,000 at the time.. Churchill had been rumored to be staying at the Abbey Hotel in Bath, but Luftwaffe bombs didn't hit hotel.
Willi Schludecker flew more than 120 bombing and mine-laying missions over England, Russia and the Balkans. The average life span of a German pilot at the time was seven sorties. He won two Iron Crosses and is a genuine war hero - just on the wrong side.

In July 1942, Mr Schludecker crashed and spent six months in hospital. He
Ruins of Bath after Luftwaffe raids
had flown his last mission. The veteran's life has been catalogued by a UK documentary team for several years now, as he wants to "leave a legacy for his children and grandchildren" according to one member of the team. They helped put him in touch with various people in the UK, and, encouraged by the positive response he received, Mr Schludecker began visiting. He came to the UK for the first time in 2000 and has returned every year since. In 2007, he apologized in York and when he learned about Bath's remembrance service via the internet, he decided to visit UK again. This time the reason was Bath.

Emotional speech of Willi Schludecker in April 2008:

Willi Schludecker in 2008
"Dear Ladies and Gentlemen

My name is Willi Schludecker. I was a German bomber pilot during the war. My squadron was Kampfgeschwader II and we flew the Dornier DO 217, a heavy dive-bomber. Between April and July 1942, when I was 22 years old, I took part in attacks on England from Holland and France, but only at night.

When we joined the air force, we were young and we just wanted to fly. We did not think much about the future. But when we started flying missions, we soon realised the dangers and then we lived only from flight to flight. The average survival time of a bomber pilot was only seven missions.

In April 1942, I took part in the first two raids on your city during the Bath Blitz. On the occasion of the third attack I had to return to base before reaching the target due to engine trouble.

Of course, at that time I was not aware of the awful damage our bombardment had caused. But now, only on my first visit to Bath, I have seen all of the pictures taken on the ground here after the attacks. I am deeply touched by the pictures I have seen and I realise that the war caused dreadful harm to your city and its people.

There is no other way for me than to ask you all for forgiveness for any pain that I might have caused or any damage that I might have inflicted when I came to your city in 1942. Please accept my sincere apology.

I have visited England many times in recent years, usually in the company of my friend Bill Norman, who is a war historian living in Yorkshire. I have found that everywhere in England where people have allowed me to say sorry, I have found new friends. They told me that I simply did my duty, as your own pilots had done.

Some years ago, Bill later arranged for me to meet with the British fighter pilot Peter McMillan, from Hove near Brighton. Peter had more or less shot me down off the east coast of England in July 1942. He damaged my aircraft so badly that I had to return to my base in Holland. My flight ended with a crash landing that put me in hospital for five months.

After that, I did not fly on any more bombing attacks over England. Instead, I was made a flying instructor. And so my friend Peter McMillan probably helped me to stay alive. I have much to thank him for.

When Peter and I first met, in the spring of 2000, we former adversaries found that despite all odds we were made from the same stem of wood; we had the same passion for flying. We hugged one another and became friends. It is a real pity that he cannot be with us today. He passed away last year.

The war between our two countries caused dreadful damage to towns and cities on both sides, and the citizens of both nations paid a heavy price.

For our common future, we have to do everything possible to ensure that such a horrible war never happens again between both our countries and in Europe. In a war, there are only victims on all sides. War is madness.

Let us together think of and honour all those victims in a credible way. I thank you, Mr Kilminster, for your invitation and the warm reception in this beautiful city. And I thank you all for having allowed me to speak to you."

If anyone has heard the same emotional speech CONCERNING Lübeck, Dresden flowing from mouth of American or British pilots? Maybe, but the more respect deserve a person who fate keep on the wrong side of the conflict, and which is able to admit bad things and ask for forgiveness.
Dornier Do217 E
Dornier Do217 cutway

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