The ‘hero’ German Luftwaffe pilot who saved hundreds of lives by guiding his blazing bomber away from a British village before crashing has been immortalised in a museum in the community he saved – after more than 65 years.
Courageous Gunther Blaffert was piloting a Junker 88 laden with 1,100lb bombs destined to wreak havoc on factories near Bristol in 1944.
The bomber was intercepted and attacked by an RAF fighter and burst into flames before it plummeted towards the tiny fishing village of Beer, Devon.
But in his last frantic act before parachuting to safety, Gunther wrestled with the controls and steered the bomber to safety, before it exploded harmlessly in nearby farmland.
Gunther’s heroic actions have now been commemorated alongside the casing of a bomb from the aircraft and pictures of the pilot at a museum opened in Beer.
Thousands of people have flocked to the site, called The Bomb Shelter, to pay homage to the selfless hero.
Local councillor Mike Green yesterday said: ”Had this pilot disregarded everything and bailed out without concern, the Junkers would have landed on Beer, destroying many houses and killing many people.
”But he didn’t, and as a result of his bravery Beer escaped widespread destruction.
”He was found just 200 meters away from his plane, so he must have jumped out literally at the last minute. A local farmer found him and apparently there was no animosity, he just offered him a cup of tea and took him inside.
”The humanity on both sides is amazing considering the atrocities which led to the circumstances.
”Since the Bomb Shelter opened it has been a major attraction, drawing in lots of visitors who are keen to see the bomb casing, how it got there, and the story and photographs of Gunther.”
The German plane was one of 130 as part of a mission to de-stabalise British industry by bombing factories outside Bristol on the night of March 27, 1944.
Gunther was piloting the craft when he and his crew of three men were hunted and gunned down by an RAF Mosquito over the Devon coast.
His crewmen drifted out to sea and died but Gunther managed to parachute safely to land and was taken for a cup of tea by a farmer before being arrested and taken to a prisoner of war camp.
Almost 50 years later an aircraft historian traced Gunther to his home near Hamburg and persuaded him to visit England, when he also met with Beer’s inhabitants.
In 1991 the dad-of-two visited the crash site and sat alongside locals as he enjoyed meals in the two village pubs.
He died five years ago in his 80s, but has been immortalised by the museum which has opened in his honour.