Saksan rajan läheisyydessä lensi Erich Hoenmann ohjaama pieni Messerchmitt 108 lentokone.
Tapahtuma alkoi kun viisikymmentä kaksi vuotta vanhan ohjaajan näkö-kosketukset maahan estyivät hyvin laajan ja paksun sumurintaman johdosta. Lentäjä muutti koneen kurssia länteen. Samalla ohjaaja teki pienen virheen. Hän katkaisi polttoaine syötön lentokoneen moottoriin siirtämällä vahingossa kojelaudassa olevaa vipua.
puuta repi koneen siivet, moottori irtosi kiinnikkeistä ja hautautui pensas aitaan.Bel
Lähellä olevan rajavartioaseman sotilaita kiirehti onnettomuus paikalle. He näkivät
pitkän harmaaseen mantteliin pukeutuneen miehen, joka vaikutti hyvin kiihtyneeltä.
Pian he huomasi savua nousevan pensas aidan takaa, jossa toinen mies polttamassa papereita. Sotilaat ampui ilmaan, tarttui mieheen ja sammutti
Komentopaikalla miehet paljasti henkilöllisyytensä. Lentäjä oli reservin majuri Eric Hoenmans, matkustaja vakinaisessa palveluksessa oleva majuri Helmut Reinberger.
Sankan sumun johdosta oli, polttoaine loppunut ei he ollut tiennyt koneen olevan Belgian puolella rajaa.
Miehet vaativat lupaa soittaa saksan sotilas asiamiehelle tai suurlähettiläälle.
Belgian komentopaikan lämmitys toimi kamiinan avulla. Majuri Reinberger joka oli näytellyt nukkuvaa, nousi äkkiä pystyyn, tempaisi kamiinan luukun auki ja työnsi tuleen kuulustelussa pöydälle jääneet paperit. Belgialainen kapteeni Rodrigue työnsi
kätensä tuleen ja veti paperit pois toiseen kertaan syttyneet paperit, polttaen samalla kätensä.
Rodrigue kääntyi Reinbergiä kohti ja sanoi, "aina sama juttu, jos ihn misiä kohtelee hyvin, ne maksavat sen pahalla".
Reinberg ei vastannut, mutta hän hyökkäsi Rodriguen kimppuun ja yritti saada tämän
revolverin itselleen. Rodrigue torjui hyökkäyksen ja Reinberg kaatui lattialle, nousi pystyyn ja alkoi hakata omaa päätä seinään, hokien "tämä on minun loppuni, en saa koskaan anteeksi sitä mitä nyt olen tehnyt".
Hän lisäsi vielä, sanoen halusin kapteenin revolverin ja vain tappaa itseni, en muuta.
Rauhallisena pysynyt lentäjä pyysi anteeksi toverinsa puolesta. "Mitä muuta te odotatte, Hän on aktiivi upseeri, kuinka hänen nyt käy"
Verho on repeytynyt, kirjoittaa 11.1.1940 päiväkirjaan Kenraali van Overstraeten.
Helmut Reinberger Eric Hoenmans
The Mechelen Incident of 10 January 1940, also known as the Mechelen Affair, was an event which occurred in Belgium during the Phoney War in the first stages of World War II.
This prompted an immediate crisis in the Low Countries and amidst the French and British authorities, whom the Belgians notified of their discovery; however the crisis abated relatively quickly once the dates mentioned in the plans passed without incident. It has been argued that the incident led to a major change in the German attack plan, but this hypothesis has also been disputed.
The affair began with a mistake made by the German aviator Major Erich Hoenmanns, the fifty-two-year-old base commander of Loddenheide airfield, near Münster. On the morning of 10 January, he had been flying a Messerschmitt Bf 108 Taifun, an aircraft used for reconnaissance, liaison, and other miscellaneous roles, from Loddenheide to Cologne when he lost his way; extensive low fogbanks obscured his view of the landscape.
In response he changed course to the west, hoping to regain his bearings by reaching the River Rhine. However, having already crossed over the frozen and indistinguishable Rhine at the moment he changed direction, he left German territory flying all the way to the River Meuse, the border in this area between Belgium and The Netherlands, and ended up circling Vucht.
It was then that he appears to have inadvertently cut off the fuel supply to the plane's engine by moving a lever inside the cockpit. The engine spluttered, then stopped, and Hoenmanns was forced to land in a nearby field at about 11:30 AM. The aircraft was severely damaged. Both wings were broken off when they hit two trees as he sped between them; the heavy engine tore off the nose section. The plane was a write-off, but Hoenmanns survived unscathed.
Had Hoenmanns been alone in the plane, nothing of great significance would likely have happened, apart from his internment for landing without permission in a neutral country. However, he had a passenger, one Major Helmuth Reinberger, who was responsible for organising the 7. Flieger-Division's supply, the formation that was to land paratroopers behind the Belgian lines at Namur on the day of the coming attack. Reinberger was going to Cologne for a staff meeting.
The previous evening, Hoenmanns had over a drink in the mess offered to fly him there. Usually, Reinberger would have had to make the tedious trip by train, but Hoenmanns needed some extra flying hours anyway and wanted to take his laundry to his wife in Cologne. Hoenmanns was unaware that Reinberger would be carrying documents related to the German plan for the attack on The Netherlands and Belgium, which on the day of the flight was decreed by Hitler to take place a week later on 17 January.
Hoenmanns only discovered that Reinberger was carrying secret documents when after landing, they asked a farmhand where they were, to be told that they had unknowingly crossed Dutch territory and landed just inside Belgium. On hearing this Reinberger panicked and rushed back to the plane to secure his yellow pigskin briefcase, crying that he had secret documents that he must destroy immediately. To let him do this Hoenmanns, as a diversion, moved away from the plane.
Reinberger first tried to set fire to the documents with his cigarette lighter but it malfunctioned; he then ran to the farmhand who gave him a single match. With this Reinberger hid behind a thicket and piled the papers on the ground to burn them. But soon two Belgian border guards arrived on bicycles, Sergeant Frans Habets and private Gerard Rubens. Seeing smoke coming from the bushes, Rubens rushed over to save the documents from being completely destroyed. Reinberger fled at first but allowed himself to be taken prisoner after two warning shots had been fired.
The two Germans were taken to the Belgian border guardhouse near Mechelen-aan-de-Maas (Mechelen-sur-Meuse). There they were interrogated by Captain Arthur Rodrique, who placed the charred documents on a table. As a diversion once more, Hoenmanns asked the Belgian soldiers to let him use the toilet; Reinberger then tried to stuff the papers into a burning stove nearby. He succeeded but yelled with pain when lifting the extremely hot lid of the stove. Startled, Rodrique turned and snatched the papers from the fire, badly burning his hand in the process.
The documents were now locked away in a separate room. The failure to burn them made Reinberger realise that he would surely be shot, for letting the attack plan fall into the hands of the enemy. He decided to commit suicide and tried to grab Rodrique's revolver. When the infuriated captain knocked him down, Reinberger burst into tears, shouting 'I wanted your revolver to kill myself'. Hoenmanns supported Reinberger saying: 'You can't blame him. He's a regular officer. He's finished now.'
Two hours later officers from the Belgian intelligence service arrived, bringing the papers to the attention of their superiors in the late afternoon...