A RETIRED teacher is on a mission to find out more about a downed German fighter plane he discovered as a schoolboy, so he can give a piece of seat he cut from the aircraft to the pilot’s family.

James Gilman, 85, of Newton Hall, Durham, said he happened on a Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter which had been shot down, while on a church outing with friends in the Cleveland Hills in the summer of 1940 or 1941.

But despite his best efforts, including contacting the Yorkshire Air Museum, there appears to be no record of the aircraft.

He said: "I’ve still got this piece of seat and would like to give it to the family of the German pilot who flew that plane. I don’t know whether he was killed, bailed out or was captured.

"But first, I have to find the Messerschmitt, because no one seems to know anything about it, and it’s not on any museum’s records. I had heard that parts of a plane had been found in the Chopgate area.

"If anyone knows where it is, can they please let me know."

Mr Gilman lived in Clive Road, Middlesbrough, when he went on the outing as an eight-year-old.

He said: “A group of us boys, including my best friend George Black, went off on our own exploring when there in front of us stood an aeroplane with Nazi markings on its fuselage.

"It was a Messerschmitt which had crashed, with its nose buried in the earth and pitted with bullet holes.

"We crawled through the grass to the plane and when we got nearer were concerned there might be dead bodies on board - but there were none."

He added: “We whooped with joy and proceeded to clamber all over the machine. The cockpit canopy was shattered in to pieces so I managed to get in.

I sat on the edge of the pilot’s seat and held the joystick with its firing button and over the next few minutes fought the great Air Battle of Middlesbrough imagining I was downing six Spitfires in a row.

“Before we left the plane I cut a bit of the pilot seat out with a penknife to keep as a memento.”

Mr Gilman said his quest to discover more about the aircraft was sparked when he came across the piece of seat while going through old trunks.

Anyone with information can email james.gilman@btinternet.com