Messerschmitt Bf 110 vol. II

Messerschmitts Bf 110B-1 of 2./ZG 1, which in September 1939 operated from Lichtenow airbase. In the foreground the machine coded ‘2N+KK’. [Kageros's Archive]

The Norwegian fighters suddenly broke off from the fight and dived away. Were they withdrawing?
Fearing a ruse, Lent cautiously circled above. A fuel warning light lit up on his instrument panel, as he scanned the silent and indifferent wall of fog. It wouldn’t be long now before all his fuel lights began to glow. All the Bf 110s were desperately low on fuel. They would shortly run out– what then?
The leader ordered another attack. Lent headed for the deck and opened his throttle wide. The Norwegian aircraft batteries opened up again and this time their rounds rattled on his Messerschmitt’s starboard wing. The Zerstörer pilots pressed on, making firing passes one after another – but as time wore on, they faced a crisis situation; they could not continue to ignore the warnings being flashed by their instruments. Most of them had already witnessed their entire set of fuel warning lights come on. They began to glance ever more frequently towards the ridge of the fjord, hoping to see the Junkers transports emerge from the gloom. Then, someone called out over R/T: “Here they come!”
Lent looked over and indeed, the first Ju 52 appeared from out of the mist, followed by another. As the startled Messerschmitt pilots looked on, the Junkers transports dropped down and began to form up in a landing pattern. As the first of them, laden with troopers, came in to land, the Bf 110s raced down to assist. At that moment, the Norwegian gunners sent up a tremendous fusillade of antiaircraft fire. The pilot of the first Junkers 52 immediately hit full throttle and heaved the heavy machine up, aborting the landing attempt. However, the next Junkers in line, seemingly oblivious to the mortal danger, slid down onto the landing strip. Lent heard his commander addressing him: “Lent, get down there– we will cover you!”
The Leutnant acknowledged the order and banked his machine to port. He was fully aware that the massive AAA fire would now be directed at him. Was this to be the end of the “King of the Hunt of Heligoland Bight”?
Nevertheless, a soldier has to obey his superiors. Lent quickly came to terms with the idea that this could well be his last mission and pushed the control column forward. Suddenly something whacked into his aircraft with great force – a burst from a machine gun had knocked out his starboard engine.
The Messerschmitt dropped to starboard, still some 50 metres above the ground. Lent reacted immediately, kicking hard left rudder. Drops of sweat trickled down his face as he lowered his undercarriage. The ground raced toward him. Then, another hit shook the machine. At that moment his wheels touched the ground and the aircraft rolled across the airfield in a forced landing, straight towards the gun emplacements. Suddenly, a miracle – the Norwegian guns stopped blazing away.
As he skidded across the airstrip, Lent caught sight of another Junkers transport touching down on the adjacent strip. The three-engined monster was rolling along on a collision course with him.
“That’s it!” thought Lent, “it’s all over!” He forgot about the anti-aircraft artillery, and stared, hypnotized, at the Ju 52 bearing down on him from the port side. Painfully slowly, the Junkers’ brakes began to take effect and the giant machine slowed to a halt, just in time. He had been spared – but that transport was only one of many which were trying to get on the ground as quickly as possible. Lent’s Messerschmitt rolled on until it ran off the end of the landing strip and approached the border of the airfield. Still, the Norwegian batteries remained silent. How come?
He activated the brakes. A ditch running round the airfield loomed ahead of his machine. With no time to lose, he tightened his harness and pressed his back hard against the seat. Without warning the aircraft lurched and its tail was flung up into the air with an awful, cracking sound. The Messerschmitt shuddered violently as its undercarriage sheared off, before finally coming to a grinding halt. Lent was struck by the sudden silence.
Oberleutnant Hannsen, the commander of the Messerschmitt detachment, landed shortly afterwards. He looked at the wrecked Bf 110 lying nearby, but there was no time for compassion. He had to clear the way for the landing Ju 52s. As he revved the engines of his machine to pass Lent’s wreck, he saw one of the Junkers transports disembarking paratroopers of the II./Infanterieregiment 324. Looking to the rear, he noticed the remaining Bf 110s queuing up behind him on the landing strip.
Hannsen opened his canopy and jumped to the ground. On seeing him, the German infantrymen gathered around him. Their faces had a somewhat baffled look.

Messerschmitt Bf 110C-1 ‘L1+ZB’ of Stab I.(Z)/LG 1 during the war in Poland. Note the hinged entry hatches. Letter ‘Z’ green, white-outlined.[Kageros's Archive]

Two other men walked quickly towards him: it was Lt. Lent and his radio operator, Kubisch. Kubisch was carrying a machine-gun over his shoulder that he had retrieved from the damaged Me 110’s gunner position.