Friesland wartime history     by Willem de Jong    <   page 12   > 

Lancaster DS776   OW  - "A"  from 426 Squadron & JA921 from 156 Squadron

Texel & Den Helder




Leeuwarden Airfield


Harlingen & Harderwijk

Occupied Harlingen

German Radar




St. Jacobparochie

Rottum Island

     Sink the Scharnhorst!
     12 Squadron Losses
     Runnymede Memorial 



DiThe Disastrous Leipzig Raid       


Lancaster DS776 OW "A"  from 426 Squadron

Airborne 23.54 19th February 1944 from Linton-on-Ouse.  Crashed 05.45 20th February 1944 some 2 km E of Valkenswaard (Noord- Brabant), 10 km S of Eindhoven. While on their way back from Germany, DS776 was intercepted by a German Night fighter. The plane crashed 2km N.E. of Valkenswaard. 

An investigation revealed a witness, Mrs. van Riemsdijk, who saw the plane explode 50 metres before the crash. Debris was scattered over a large area. She and other town members approached the aircraft to see if there were any survivors. Four bodies were removed and reported buried in Woensel Cemetary, Eindhoven. 

At the time of the investigation only two graves were marked, F/O Hancock, and Sgt. Gwynne. The rest were unknown. The towns-people collected what ID discs they could and handed them over to the Red Cross.


F/O. Harold Alton Hancock - J/20963 - RCAF - age 34 - Pilot . Buried Eindhoven / Woensel, General Cemetery, plot KK, grave 8.  Son of George Thomas & Clara Lucinda Hancock, of Port Hope, Ontario, Canada. Harold was the skipper of this plane. He was a Bachelor of Commerce Graduate from Queen's University, Kingston.

F/Sgt Morris Allan McKenzie - J/86163 - RCAF - age 25 - Navigator.  Buried Eindhoven / Woensel, Algemene Begr.plaats, plot KK, coll. grave 7.  Son of Henry Lewis & Hazel Belle McKenzie, of Cartwright, Manitoba, Canada.

Sgt.  John Vernon Gwynne - 1764165 - RAF(VR) - age 20 -  Flight Engineer.  Buried Eindhoven / Woensel, Algemene Begr.plaats, plot KK, grave 9.  Son of David Wallace & Maud Gwynne, of Southport, Lancashire, U.K.

W/O Foster Richard Alleyn - J/85507 - RCAF - age 22 - Bomb Aimer. Buried Eindhoven / Woensel, Algemene Begr.plaats, plot KK, coll. grave 7.

F/O. Paul Conroy Cox - J/11843 - RCAF - age 24 - Wireless Operator.  Buried Eindhoven / Woensel, Algemene Begr.plaats, plot KK, coll. grave 7.   Son of James & Mary Cox, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada; husband of Phyllis Irene Cox, also of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

P/O Vernon George Whalen - J/88871 - RCAF - age 23 - Mid-Upper Gunner.  Buried Eindhoven / Woensel, Algem. Begr. plaats, plot KK, grave 10.  Son of Michael & Estelle Whalen, of Port Arthur, Ontario, Canada.

P/O Edward Albert Dowe - J/86196 - RCAF - age 21 - Tail-Gunner. Buried Eindhoven / Woensel, Algem. Begr. plaats, plot KK, grave 11.   Son of John Edward and Alma M. Dowe; husband of Mildred Dowe, of Canada.


The Loss of Lancaster JA921 from  156 Squadron. 

JA921 was one of two 156 Sqdn Lancasters lost on this operation. (See: ND358) Airborne 0023 20th Feb 1944 from Warboys. Crashed 0530 20th February 1944 in an area known as the Zuidpolder SE of Emnes (Utrecht) and 8 km ESE of Bussum, Holland. Sgt Hughes, the son of the Revd R.R.Hughes of Llanllechild in Caernarvonshire is commemorated on Panel 231 of the Runnymede Memorial. The others killed are buried in Amersfoort (Oud Leusden) General Cemetery. W/O R. Stanners KIA, Sgt R. Prankett KIA, Sgt E. Hopcraft KIA, F/O Eddy Kryskow RCAF PoW, Sgt H.W. Hughes KIA, Sgt A.C. Merces KIA, Sgt T.J. Brewer KIA.   See 156 Squadron site


Warrant Officer (Pilot) Ramsay Stanners (Pilot) Age: 21.  Son of James and Sarah Stanners, of Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire. 

Sgt Royce Prankett (Flt Engineer) Age: 29. Son of William and Gertrude Prankett, of Selby, Yorkshire

Sgt Ernest Hopcraft (Navigator)   Age: 22. Son of Ernest Albert and Ada Alice Hopcraft, of Bordesley Green, Birmingham.

Sgt Humphrey Watkin Hughes (W/Operator) Age: 29   Son of the Revd. Richard Rhys Hughes and Ann Lloyd Hughes; husband of Catherine Hughes, of Llanllechid, Caernarvonshire.

Sgt Ainsley Charles Merces (Air Gunner) Age: 21.  Son of Eric J. and Aileen R. Merces of Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex. Address: Milicross, Mill Lane, Shoreham by-sea.

Born Calcutta, India, February 11th 1923. Arrived in UK with his mother from India in April 1932.

Shoreham College details: Day boy- joined Middle 4a in 1936 and left December 1939 in Upper 6th. Passed Oxford Junior Certificate July 1939. Passed entrance exam to to RAF in November 1939.

Pilot Officer Thomas James Brewer (Air Gunner) RCAF.  Age: 21.  Son of Thomas R. and Ella J. Brewer, of Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia, Canada.

F/O Eddy Kryskow RCAF (Bomb Aimer) bailed out and was helped by the local Dutch people to successfully evade capture till the Liberation in 1945. See Eddy's account.

The War Memorial pictured was designed by Peter Zwart, a former member of the Dutch Resistance, is named "Vrijheidsmonument Eemnes" (Liberation Monument Eemnes), in the centre of Eemnes (location "Plantsoen") and adopted by the schoolchildren at Eemnes, of 4 schools: "Mariaschool" (Roman Catholic), Obs. "De Zuidwend" (Neutral), PCbs. "De Wegwijzer" (Protestant) and RKbs. "De Hobbitstee" (Roman Catholic). It's showing us "children playing in freedom” (in bronze) since May 1987. On the pedestal are the names of 28 persons killed in the war, most people of Eemnes, but also the names of the crew of Lancaster JA921. Willem





The original graves before being moved to their present location and Eindhoven/Woensel Cemetery today.



F/O Jack Kingston and F/O Eddy Kryskow.
I made an error in our original listing.
'Bomber Command Losses' by W R Chorley as my source, I named Jack Kingston as the bomb aimer on this aircraft.
Unfortunately the book mistakenly listed RCAF F/O Jack Kingston in two crashes, JA921 on 19/20th February 1944 with 156 Squadron, and the second on 7/8th July 1944 in Lancaster ME789 with 106 Squadron.

The second bomber was the one in which Jack was the bomb-aimer. His aircraft was one of five 106 Squadron Lancasters shot down over France while attacking the V1 missile bases at St. Leu d'Esserent.

208 Lancasters and 13 Mosquitos, mainly from No 5 Group but with some Pathfinder aircraft, attacked a flying-bomb storage dump in a group of tunnels (formerly used for growing mushrooms) at St Leu d'Esserent.

The bombing was accurately directed on to the mouths of the tunnels and on to the approach roads, thus blocking access to the flying bombs stored there.

German night fighters intercepted the bombing force and 29 Lancasters and 2 Mosquitos were lost, 14.0 per cent of the force. No 106 Squadron, from Metheringham, lost 5 of its 16 Lancasters on the raid.

106 Squadron Lancaster ME789 ZN-B crashed near the town of Gournay en Bray (Seine-Maritime).

The following link shows the French record.






"Please, show more respect for the field grave in Eemnes" (crash site of Lancaster JA921)    by Willem de Jong


In the early morning of February the 20th 1944 an Allied bomber crashed in the Eemnesser Zuidpolder. 67 years later (today) some of the wreckage of the plane and probably the remains of crewmember Sgt. Humphrey Watkin Hughes are still there, in the ground ( preserved in the peat bog, I think ).

The meadow of the crash site, in the corner of the "Anna Louwenweg" and the " Zuid Erven- weg", between Eemnes (village) and Baarn (village) – East of Hilversum and N.E. of Utrecht city – is anno 2011 a peaceful landscape. A man goes for a ride on his bike this way, a tractor is passing further on, and on a distance you can hear the traffic on the A1 highway. And from time to time, in winter, it’s a beautiful clamorous "geese base" (wild geese from the Scandanavian summer population). 

On the spot nothing is there to remember what has happened in the early morning hours of 20th February 1944. No monument, no info-board, nothing. Anyone who is passing there can’t know the history of the place and he or she can’t know the fact there is still the field grave of Sergeant Humphrey Hughes.

That night the Allied forces were attacking the German city of Leipzig in a large scale air-bombardment. But the night was ending in a disaster. 78 bombers and the lives of 546 young men were lost in the darkness. 

Like his crewmates, Sergeant Humphrey Hughes was new, shortly serving the Pathfinders of 156 RAF Squadron. Only a month before, he became father of a first son. 

During that Leipzig air raid he was the Wireless Operator of Avro Lancaster JA921, "Q for Queenie". The crew aboard was composed by young military men of the United Kingdom and Canada. Hughes was born and living in Wales; therefore the others called him "Taffy", a nickname for a Welshman. With about 4500 kilograms in the bombay this Avro Lancaster was flying to Leipzig indeed. About half past two - Central European Time (CET) I presume - they are arriving and bomb aiming the target.

On their way home trouble was starting. In the Osnabrück area, about 60 kilometres in a straight line after the Dutch border, the bomber was hit by an exploding Flak-shell. The total aircraft was bumping metres in the air. But after that accident everything and all the crew seemed to be all right, at least to the time they were reaching the former Zuiderzee (Holland), about 05.15 in the morning. 

Then the portside outer engine caught fire (!). Therefore they were trying all the tricks and methods, but the fire was not put out. Returning to the land, over the wide agricultural area of Eemnes they were circling, so the crew could abandon aircraft, bailing out by parachutes…….that was their plan at least.

On the moment the crew opened the emergency hatches to leave the plane, the portside wingtip was tearing away and that burning engine, with the twiddling propeller still on it, was falling down. Then the whole aircraft was out of balance, out of pilots control of course. The Lanc was making his last nosedive therefore - it’s about 05.35 hrs. - and was smashing to the ground, in the meadow / grassland along the Anna Louwenweg and the Zuid Ervenweg, in the Zuidpolder (= South Polder), as known already.

One of the crew was bailing out indeed, before the a/c. hit the ground: it was Canadian airman Eddy Kryskow (wounded ?). The others did not survive. 5 of them are buried in the cemetery "De Rusthof" in Amersfoort city. And one body was never found: the remains of Humphrey Watkin `Taffy` Hughes.





At long last! - A memorial to the crew of Lancaster JA921 being unveiled on the 17th of July 2015 by the local mayor and a grand-daughter of Taffy Hughes, the wireless operator.  Photos kindly forwarded to us by Peter Bruin who continues to investigate the whereabouts of the crash-site and possibly, the remains of Taffy Hughes, the only crew member with no known grave.


After the war the `Missing Research and Enquiry Unit` of the RAF was responsible for tracing the airmen MIA and KIA. In one of the reports of this unit, about the air crash of Eennes / Zuidpolder, we can read, "it’s plausible the remains of Hughes are still in the ground, inthe wreckage of the plane". Their advice: try to recover this remains. But later on this advice is never followed by real and serious recovery work (under supervision of officials of the KLu or the RAF ). Mr. Gerrit "Gerrie" Zwanenburg, of Baarn (born in Harlingen, in Fries- land), as a former "recovery-officer" of the KLu (= Koninklijke Luchtmacht / Royal Dutch Airforce) says: "Such recovery operations are only starting, if it is really necessary for some reason. In case of plans for building houses on such a spot, for example".

By the end of the war, there were more than 4000 wrecks of airplanes known in the Nether-lands, so there must be made decisions in the first post war years (motorways, railways, air-fields etc., and urban agglomerations had priority no. 1; safety first in case of bombs etc.).

Today there are still about 2000 of these wrecks left, spread out over the whole country. In about 400 of this locations - according to the facts / details known by the Dutch Department of Defence - might be remains of airmen; calculations made by Mr. Zwanenburg himself gave a lower outcome, about 200 (!).

The crash story etc. of the Lancaster in Eemnes is well known by Mr. Zwanenburg; and he also knows that a part of the wreckage is salvaged already in 1947, by a "dealer in scrap metals". This information was coming from a "demolisher", of Hilversum town, who told a similar story to Mr. Jaap van der Woude, the author of the book "Vrijheidsmonument Eemnes" (= memorial of freedom in Eemnes). 

This man said to the author: "We found some human remains at that time, such as an upper leg. My brother has told / reported it in Hilversum, to the local police".

Mr. Zwanenburg does not believe the last part of these information; he is saying: "When they found these remains, they put them aside, and after all they filled up the hole in the meadow, and hiding the remains in the same time. You have to know, after the war, in the time of rebuilding the country, there was scantiness of metals, like iron, copper and aluminium. 

These dealers could make a fortune by recovering such wreckages, and there was no time or money for sentiments. And by the way, it was allowed by the government, under one condition: when they found bombs and/or human remains, they had to stop digging and had to make report to the authorities. In 98 % of such cases, the "recovery-men" were working correct during their activities in the field. But, just in the case of Eemnes, this is pitiful, falling in the 2 % range of "not correct"……. Finally, Mr. Zwanenburg is saying: "By digging again after all these years, new recovery work today, we will find nothing at all or a very little remains".

*** This is a part of a longer epistle about the Eemnes-crash, I found via Google, recently; it is written by a local politician I guess, this year, or by a civil servant of the Gemeente Eemnes maybe (?); thus, I don’t know who is the writer of this piece of work, but he or she is thanking at the end Jaap van der Woude, Gerrit Zwanenburg and "de Historische Kring Eemnes" (= Historical Group of Eemnes) for the help by the completion of it. 

The most important of this whole "story" is: the Gemeente Eemnes has no money for new recovery work today, and besides, they don’t see any reason now for starting such an operation; only in case of building houses on the spot, or, when members of the Hughes-family / the next of kind of Humphrey, via the British authorities (?) , are asking for it……. then perhaps !!

And there is also no money for an information-board nearby the crash site, telling the story of these brave men…… and telling "on this spot is still a field grave" ! Thus, therefore once again my own introduction to this "story": "Please, show more respect for the field grave in Eemnes".  Maybe this web site is a first step ?

I added this "translation" and some extra info to it on 27th December 2011, Willem de Jong.




Hello my name is Peter Gilbert. I have just been looking at the photo '156 Sqd and mascot'.

I believe the person 4th from left is my father Sgt 1178418 James Walter Gilbert who was killed on 24/25th Feb 1944. He was mid-upper gunner on Lancaster JB 479 serial GT-K piloted by W/Cdr Eric Frederick Porter. This was on the raid at Schweinfurt. Just the week before he died he learnt that he was going to be a father (me).

His birthday was on 23rd February. He was killed the next night.       Many thanks Peter Gilbert.


32 year old James Walter Gilbert was the husband of Marjorie Vera Gilbert, of Market Harborough, Leicestershire and is buried with his crewmates at Durnbach in Germany.

His skipper, 35 year old Eric Porter, an Old Haltonian, had been Commanding Officer of 156 Squadron since November, 1943.


I have been looking at 156 squadron photo, and found my Father in it. He is 5th from the right hand side seated in row one. He was Squadron leader James Archibald Robertson.The Lanc he flew was R for Roger. Regards David Robertson  (from 156 Squadron MSG board)



Willem's Introduction


Ameland in war-time


Wartime Texel  & Den Helder 


Friesland War-time Crashes


Ameland,166 & 75 Squadron




Friesland Cemeteries


Ameland Graves


Destroy the Scharnhorst!


Leeuwarden area




Destroy the Scharnhorst! 2


Wirdum Remembers


Terschelling 2


Destroy the Scharnhorst! 3




Sage War Cemetery


12 Squadron in World War 2


Schiermonnikoog  part 2


RAF Topcliffe & 424 Squadron


The Runnymede Memorial




Vlieland Cemetery


Vuren at war


Kallenkote Cemetery




Makkum Cemetery


Wartime Occupied Harlingen


Hampden AE 428, & Koudum


A fatal collision


RCAF 428 Ghost Squadron


Willem's War-time photos


Hudson & Ventura losses


Zwolle's ' De Groene ' group


Shipdham Airfield & USAF 44th


101 Squadron


408 Squadron's Leipzig raid


68th Squadron's Casualties


Friesland radar


Rottum Island or Rottumeroog


Lancasters DS776  & JA921


Bergen General Cemetery




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