A FEW weeks ago, as part of the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, I wrote a feature about local connections with Churchill’s ‘Few’ – the brave, young RAF pilots involved in that desperate, four-month encounter in 1940.

The feedback I received was really positive. A number of you asked about the fate of the enemy – the Luftwaffe personnel that were also brought down across the district.

The German campaign, part of “Unternehmen Seelöwe” (Operation Sea Lion), consisted of five distinct phases.

However, we didn’t really experience crashed enemy aircraft here until phase three – the large-scale attacks on RAF airfields.

During the afternoon of Saturday, August 24,1940, the Luftwaffe mounted one such raid on RAF North Weald.

Hurricanes from 151 Squadron picked off one of the lumbering Heinkel bombers (a He111H-2, code A1+BT of unit III/KG53).

As the stricken aircraft plummeted to earth, a sole crew member, the gondola (or belly) gunner – Gefr. Hans Zaunigk – bailed out and was captured off Scraley Road, Heybridge.

The Heinkel flew on and hit a tree in Maypole Road, Langford, exploding and killing all who had remained on board – Olt. Gerhard Huhn (aged 25), Fw. Walter Jahger (23), Fw. Gottfied Ultsch (26) and Ofw. Josef Schmid (26).

In 1987, I co-wrote a book about that incident. As part of the research I made contact with Hans Zaunigk, invited him back to Maldon and remained good friends with him until his eventual passing in Berlin in 2012, aged 94.

He had outlived his colleagues by 72 years.

On Saturday, August 31, a Dornier (Do17Z-2, 5K+KM of 4/KG3) was shot down during a raid on RAF Hornchurch.

It force-landed at 13.20hrs at East Wick Farm, Burnham, badly wounding 24 year old Uffz. Ernst-August Bock (who died three days later).

Also wounded (but survived) were Olt. Heinz Gahrtz, Ofw. Alfons Bulach and Gefr. Ernst Neumann.

Three days later, on Tuesday, September 3, 1940, a Messerschmitt Bf110D (3U+EP of 6/ZG26) was flying as part of a bomber escort during yet another raid on RAF North Weald.

Again, RAF fighters engaged the enemy aircraft and wounded the gunner, Uffz. Werner Driews.

As a result, the pilot, Lt. Walter Manhard, belly-landed his aircraft in a field at Stud Farm, Mundon.

Among those that ran to the incident were my father, Peter Nunn, then a nine-year-old schoolboy, and my maternal grandfather, Charles Lavender, who was serving with Maldon’s ARP.

Tall, Aryan, fighter ace Manhard remained steadfastly in the cockpit and coolly combed his blond hair, before being unceremoniously hiked out by his captors.

Taken into custody, he escaped, was recaptured and then sent to a PoW camp in Ontario, Canada.

It was from there, on August 8, 1944, that he escaped again and went undercover across the border in the US.

He married an American woman and was never recaptured. He finally gave himself up to the FBI in 1952, and was still living in America when I corresponded with him in the 1980s.

Tuesday, October 8, saw the fall of another Messerschmitt, this time a Bf109E-1 (2+ of 4/JG52).

It was shot down at 9.25hrs while on a ‘freelance’ mission over the Thames. Fw. Paul Boche was captured wounded at Little Grange Farm, Hazeleigh, where his Bf109 had ended up practically intact by a haystack.

Another Messerschmitt Bf109 (1+ of 8/JG26) was on a similar freelance expedition when, at 16.45hrs on Tuesday, October 29, it fell to earth at the ‘Newlands’, reclaimed land at Marsh House Farm, Tillingham. Fw. Conrad Jaeckel had bailed out and was picked up unhurt.

The final Luftwaffe incident of the Battle of Britain took place 15 minutes later that day in Heybridge. A Bf109E-4 (3X+B of 4/LG2) brought down telegraph cables and caught fire alongside Goldhanger Road, at Charity Farm.

Fw. “Max” Hans Rank, 25, bailed out with a gunshot wound to his thigh.

Badly haemorrhaging from his wound, he was taken into Maldon, firstly to 32A Spital Road and then into the main part of St Peter’s Hospital.

Despite medical attention, he succumbed to his wounds.

Whenever I drive past St Peter’s or along Goldhanger Road, I think about what happened to young Max and the sacrifice that he made for what turned out to be a hopeless cause.

Just like the RAF ‘Few’, he was someone’s son, doing what he thought was right at the time.

And so 80 years on, as well as the RAF lads, we think of Max and all those other Luftwaffe aircrew who died at the time, those who ended up in captivity (including one escapee) and those – like my good friend Hans – that lived to a ripe old age but never forgot.