|Sink the Scharnhorst!|
Terschelling is one of the Wadden Islands, which form an archipelago off the north coast of the Netherlands, it is some 11 kilometres from the mainland and is located in the municipality of Terschelling, which is in the province of Friesland. The island can be reached from Harlingen on the mainland by ferry. Harlingen is approx 12 kilometres south-west of Franeker and approx 30 kilometres west of Leeuwarden.
First - a bit of ancient history
We British were not always so friendly with those Dutchmen you know! By Tom
In 1666 West-Terschelling was ransacked by the English. The English fleet originally planned to attack the Dutch merchant fleet which was moored before the coast of Vlieland, thenext island to the west. When the Dutch vessels retreated towards Terschelling, the English followed, destroyed 150 Dutch vessels, and landed in the harbour of West-Terschelling. The town was burnt to the ground by the English on this occasion which would become known as "Holmes's Bonfire" after the English admiral Holmes, the Great Fire of London in the very same year was considered by some to have been God's retribution. The next year, in 1667, the Dutch under command of De Ruyter executed a retaliatory expedition, and dealt the English navy a heavy blow at the Raid on the Medway (also known as the Battle of Chatham), in effect ending the Second Anglo-Dutch War.
The Raid on the Medway, was a successful Dutch attack on the largest English naval ships, laid up in the dockyards of their main naval base Chatham, that took place in June 1667 during the Second Anglo-Dutch War.
Chatham near London in 1667 - Perhaps burning Terschelling was not such a good idea Holmes!
The Dutch, under nominal command of Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, bombarded and then captured the town of Sheerness, sailed up the River Thames to Gravesend, then up the River Medway to Chatham in Kent, where they burned three capital ships and ten lesser naval vessels and towed away the HMS Unity and the HMS Royal Charles, pride and normal flagship of the English fleet. The raid led to a quick end to the war and a favourable peace for the Dutch. It was the worst defeat in the Royal Navy's history!
In fact, all the buildings in West Terschelling were
burned down, except the church and the lighthouse
"Brandaris". Alas, in later times that broke down
also and that very old church was replaced by a new one.
So now only the light-tower is older than 1666. (On many
houses in the village, you find that year marked indeed,
via the wall anchors). Willem
‘t Wyfke fan
Stryp (the sage of Clever Granny of Seeryp) by Willem de
When these “overheated navy hooligans” were finished in West-Terschelling with their “Bonfire”, at least a number of them marched further Eastward, to the other villages on the island. They were keen on more wealth, more attractive and helpless women, and more liquor too! But, without horses and only one sandy country road to use, they were obstructed by new refugees with their cattle - the rest of Terschelling being an agricultural community.
They arrived much later at Midsland village than intended. Twilight was coming already and the smoke from those buildings burning down, and excessive alcohol was giving them only “troubled vision”.
Suddenly, they discovered a mysterious rising in the landscape. It could be an enemy defence line, with some watchful soldiers on top, looking out into their direction of course..?
They stopped therefore and asked an old lady at the side of the road for an explanation. And like many old people, she was fooled enough in life to be clever at the end, so she answered them: “Go back, it’s not the right place to be; hundreds of them are rising up already and thousands are laying down!”
Very old and mysterious tombstones at the Seeryp churchyard and ‘t Wyfke fan Stryp (Clever Granny of Seeryp)
And that was no lie or boast at all. She was talking about the many tombstones on that old “flood-mound” - long ago created for the safety of the church and the local people - and about the many more bodies buried there, in what was left after centuries, the graveyard!
Result: these “sea dogs” returned to their maritime life, the daily rowing and sailing on the seas. And that's how East-Terschelling was spared, by the “Wyfke fan Stryp”. The old graveyard in the former village of Stryp (also called Seeryp, Striep or Zurijp etc.) is still there, complete with some of those tombstones, and also with the foundation outlines of the holy church built there.
And today, there is also a statue, of that Clever Granny of Seeryp, always pointing in the direction of the flood-mound graveyard.
World War 2 by Willem de Jong
A photograph taken after the liberation of Terschelling in May 1945
This photo was taken in May 1945, in West-Terschelling
village, a/d. De Ruyterstraat, near Hotel Oepkes (on the
terrace behind the building I think), of a bunch of
Allied airmen and, in the middle of that group, one
Dutch policeman (from Amsterdam as far as known). This photo was sent to me in
Sept.1977 by Mr. J.A. Duyf himself; and a copy of
it, also of these names etc., was in a "album of
verses" too, of his daughter, Mevr. Boonstra-Oepkes,
living in Leeuwarden in those years,
Goudsbloemstraat 32. Douwe Drijver and I were
visiting them at that address, while he came over
from West-Terschelling and was staying for a couple
of days with his daughter and son in law.
Douwe Drijver and I were visiting them at that address, while he came over from West-Terschelling and was staying for a couple of days with his daughter and son in law.
I now know that Franek agrees with me, but it
seems fairly obvious from their distinctive lapel badges
that Jan Zumbach is in the centre of this group and
Polish compatriot, Tadeusz Kawalecki, to his left
with the Dutch policeman between them. Four of the
seven American airman appear to be wearing their flying
kit, easily recognisable with that fur collar. Apart
from the policeman the most likely non-flyer in that
group should be the man with spectacles (pilots had to
have exceptional eye-sight) the British Army
Captain whose name from that
signature is difficult to de-cipher... Tom
I now know that Franek agrees with me, but it seems fairly obvious from their distinctive lapel badges that Jan Zumbach is in the centre of this group and Polish compatriot, Tadeusz Kawalecki, to his left with the Dutch policeman between them. Four of the seven American airman appear to be wearing their flying kit, easily recognisable with that fur collar. Apart from the policeman the most likely non-flyer in that group should be the man with spectacles (pilots had to have exceptional eye-sight) the British Army Captain whose name from that signature is difficult to de-cipher...
During the war and in the time
before, he was shopkeeper / owner of a business in
tools, ironware, electrical and household goods, in
the Raad-huisstraat in West-Terschelling, later on
in the Willem Barendszstraat (during the war he was
hiding his photo-camera and some
picture-film-material, preserved for liberation day
and after the war).
During the war and in the time before, he was shopkeeper / owner of a business in tools, ironware, electrical and household goods, in the Raad-huisstraat in West-Terschelling, later on in the Willem Barendszstraat (during the war he was hiding his photo-camera and some picture-film-material, preserved for liberation day and after the war).
These men, including the
policeman, were all POWs in the last months of the
war, and brought to Terschelling by the Germans,
because the "road to Germany" was already closed by
the Allied forces, due to the progress of their
actions in Northeast Holland (March - April 1945).
These men, including the policeman, were all POWs in the last months of the war, and brought to Terschelling by the Germans, because the "road to Germany" was already closed by the Allied forces, due to the progress of their actions in Northeast Holland (March - April 1945).
Thanks to recent information, kindly shared with us by Polish Air Force researcher Franek Grabowski, we now know more about these 16 prisoners of war. Though we cannot at present put names to faces he has helped us know who most of those servicemen were and their interesting history. The men whose signatures from the back of the photo are reproduced on the list below have in most cases been identified. A more interesting story has now been partly uncovered thanks to Franek..
The senior officer in this group was a Polish Wing Commander, Jan Zumbach of 303 (Polish) Squadron fame.On 30 January 1945, Zumbach was posted to HQ, No. 84 Group. On April 7th while flying an Auster light aircraft used to visit units under the Group's command, alongside another Auster flown by Tadeusz Kawalecki, and both of them having apparently had a few drinks, he made a navigational error and ran out of fuel. They force-landed in enemy territory and he and his colleague in the second Auster were captured. Jan Zumbach and Squadron Leader Tadeusz Kawalecki, spent the final month of the war as prisoners of war.
Franek relates - They were arrested by what looked like Yugo troops, and taken to Arnhem, and then sent to a PoW camp. In the camp there was a French pilot, Fernand Fuchs, who later was promoted to Colonel and also was a French attache in India, a Dutch police officer detained for providing help to allied airmen, two US bomber crews and two Canadian pilots. There was also a British Signals General, accidentally captured with his driver in his Jeep, who was taken to another, more distinguished place.
Finally, 16 PoWs were brought to Terschelling, where they were greeted in a not very nice way by a German officer.
Zumbach, who was the senior officer, and who spoke perfect German due to his Swiss origin, told the officer that the war is soon to be over and it is in his [the Jerry officer's] best interest to take good care of the PoWs, because it depends on them, what they will tell the liberating troops.
Then Zumbach asked to place the PoWs in the best hotel on the island, then for free time until 21.00, and finally requested the guard to give honours to Allied officers. Then they arranged an official visit to the Allied cemetery with its British graves, and placed Union Jacks on them. Most of the time on the island they spent on the beach.
In early May some problems with food appeared, and during a visit to the German commander, Zumbach suggested, that he can accept a capitulation of the German forces. At the same time,10 soldiers drafted to the Wehrmacht from Silesia appeared, and claimed that morale was low, and asked Zumbach to confirm they were Poles forced to serve in German army. Finally, on 6 May, the German garrison surrendered to Zumbach, who then passed the power to the local mayor. Allied airmen and PoWs were then taken to the mainland, where they were surrendered to liberating troops.
* Franek mentions that it should be noted, that Zumbach's account is not always spot on accurate. He was apparently known to 'spice up' a story and Willem has doubts about the authenticity of the German surrender story.
Who were they? From Franek's extensive research and a small amount of ours..
In "Schylge myn lântsje" (= Terschelling my little land), in a special war-edition of it (50 years after the war), May 1995, I discovered a 2nd photo of these former POW airmen in Hotel Oepkes in West-Terschelling. This photo is showing us the airmen, and the Dutch police-man too, on the balcony of the Hotel Oepkes, celebrating the "liberation" of Terschelling, on 6th May 1945, together with some of the population of West-Terschelling village. But, in the same time, in front of the building / before the entrance of the hotel, is still standing one of the....... occupying Germans, with a rifle on his shoulder ! A crazy photo indeed. The real liberation came later of course, when the last "Moffen" were leaving the isle by boat, to Wilhemshafen / Germany.
That Dutch police-man was, as I found in a letter of 24 Oct. 1977 (from the Gemeentepolitie Amsterdam, Commissaris T. de Jong) Mr. J.H.E. van de Putte, since 16th Aug. 1939 a sports teacher/trainer and personal coach; by German order (?) he was going in 1943 into a "executive" rank / job, doing "normal police-work in the street". But why he was a POW, I still don't understand. Franek quotes Zumbach who says the policeman was detained for helping allied airmen.
Because of his health he left the Amsterdam Corps on 3 January 1966 (dismissed with honour, from the Police-corps and the Mayor of Amsterdam). He passed away on the 20th of June 1969.
Hotel Oepkes today
Wing Commander Jan Zumbach see YouTube film
The son of a Swiss father and a Polish mother, Jan Zumbach was registered as a Swiss citizen and hid his nationality in order to join the Polish army. He did his A-levels in 1935, and then joined the army. He just did a short few months unitary course in infantry, obligatory for all future officers, but he was going Air Force from the beginning. Mind you, Air Force was at that time a part of the army and not yet separate structure.
He served as an infantryman until 1936 when he transferred to the Polish Air Force. He registered with serial no. P-1382.After graduating from flying training in 1938 he was posted to 111 Eskadra Mysliwska.
Zumbach did not fly during the German invasion of Poland due to a broken leg as a result of a flying accident during the summer of 1939. He returned to his unit only to be evacuated to France via Romania. While in France, Zumbach flew the Morane 406 and Curtiss Hawk 75 with GCII/55. On 10 June, he was one of several pilots shot down by Bf 109s, but escaped unscathed.
On 18 June 1940, he traveled to England by boat and on 2 August was posted as one of the founding members of the newly formed No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron.
During the Battle of Britain, Zumbach scored eight confirmed kills and one probable, mostly against Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters. Zumbach was shot down by a JG 3 Bf 109 over Dover on 9 May 1941 when returning from a mission, but he was able to bail out unharmed.
Zumbach became one of the first Allied pilots to engage in combat with the German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 when he damaged, and in return, his aircraft was damaged by a "single radial-engined fighter" on 13 October 1941. In December 1941, Zumbach was posted to 58 OTU, and in March 1942 returned to 303 Sqn as a flight commander. In May, he was promoted to Squadron Leader and took command of the squadron, a post Zumbach held from 19 May 1942 until 30 November 1943.
During this period, Zumbach flew three Supermarine Spitfire VBs, carrying the serial numbers BM144, EP594 and EN951. All these aircraft carried the same code, RF-D, ("RF" being the squadron code for 303 Sqn) and "D" being the individual aircraft code. All three aircraft carried a cartoon of Donald Duck on the port side of the fuselage, slightly forward of the cockpit. Zumbach's victory tally was marked with German crosses under the cockpit on the port side; confirmed kills were outlined in white, probable kills in red, and damaged aircraft with no outline. Franek mentions
Zumbach was called Donald Duck because of his characteristic voice and that the Cartoons differed on each Spitfire and believes colour outlines were introduced only on EN951.
After handing over command of 303 Sqn to Sqn Ldr Bieńkowski, Zumbach spent a year in staff appointments, including the Polish Air Force Staff College. He returned to flying duties as the commander of the 2nd Polish Air Wing, No 133 Wing.
On 25 September 1944, he scored his final victory of the war, a probable kill over a JG 26 Fw 190 over Arnhem. I do not have the record at hand but believe it was downgraded to 'damaged'. Franek
On 30 January 1945, Zumbach was posted to HQ, No. 84 Group. While flying in Auster MT440 on April 7th 1945, and with Squadron Leader Kawalecki in Auster NX532, a light unarmed two-seater aircraft used to visit units under the Group's command, he made a navigational error and ran out of fuel. Both Austers force-landed in enemy territory and their pilots spent the final month of the war as a prisoners of war. At the end of the war Zumbach's final victory tally was 12 (and 2 shared) confirmed kills, five probables and one damaged.
Post war he resumed service with HQ, No. 84 Group.
Demobbed in October 1946, he joined a small air taxi company involved in smuggling. He continued those activities for a few years, then settled in Paris and started in the catering business (a bar/restaurant gastronomic - not sure the proper name). Apart of that he became entangled in the arms dealing business, and was personally involved as a mercenary pilot during the Katanga and Biafra wars.
He passed away on 3 January 1986 in Paris, France. He is buried in Warsaw, Poland, at the Powazki military cemetery.
Tadeusz Wilhelm Kawalecki was born on 12th March 1915 at Stanislawow. In 1932 he started studies at Lwow University of Technology, and three years later joined the Air Force Cadet Officers' School at Deblin. He was commissioned in the 11th promotion in 1938 and then posted to 2 Air Regiment. In 1939 he fought with 121 Eskadra Mysliwska. After escaping to France,Tadeusz was send to the UK, to be a part of a Polish bomber Squadron there, where, according to the Anglo-Polish agreement, he joined RAFVR and was assigned serial no. 76698. Following renegotiation of that agreement in July 1940 he was transferred to the PAF. He completed his training and was posted to 151 Hurricane Squadron on the 8th of August 1940, flying during the Battle of Britain. In early 1941 he was posted to 1 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit, and then on 25 October 1941 to No. 4 Flying Instructors' School.
Following this, he served as an instructor at the 25 (Polish) Elementary Flying Training School. On 15 January 1944 Tadeusz was posted to the Polish Air Force Academy.
Following graduation in May 1944 he became an Operational Officer with 84 Group and in January 1945 posted back to the AF Academy. His rank was a Squadron Leader from RAF 84 Group when on 7th April 1945 he was listed as the pilot of missing Auster NX532 when flying with Wing Commander Zumbach in Auster MT440. The Auster was an un-armed aircraft commonly used for AOP (Air Observation Post) missions.
Demobilised in May 1946, Tadeusz moved to Canada. He was tragically killed in 1970 at Straford, Ontario, Canada
Tommy was shot down by Flak north of Emmerich 6 weeks before the end of the war and was taken prisoner and saw the last days of the war at Hotel Oepkes Terschelling.
He should not have been flying that day, but had offered to take the place of a young pilot who was exhausted. He later recorded his dreadful experiences in the hands of the retreating German soldiers and the Hitler Youth for his grandsons.
One of his mates on 403 Squadron, F/Lt R A (Mo) Morrison from Hamilton,Ontario relates that he had one narrow escape when, flying with 3 other Spitfires from 403 Squadron over Germany when his aircraft and that of Tommy Todd were both hit by flak. Todd was forced to bale out and became a P.O.W.
Mo's Spitfire was flying nose-heavy with the elevator trim-tab useless. He had to land the aircraft under power, which he did successfully. It later transpired that the oxygen bottle had been hit and the elevator trim control wires severed. Fortunately neither the elevator control wires or the rudder cables were cut — otherwise the story could have ended quite differently.
Lieutenant Fuchs from 340 Squadron (Free French)
Lt Fuchs in Spitfire XVI TB597 of 'Red Wing' from 340 Squadron was brought down by Flak at Deventer, in
the Salland region of the Dutch province of Overijssel, on the 31st March 1945 and taken prisoner.He saw the end of the war at Hotel Oepkes Terschelling.
340 Squadron was formed November 7, 1941 at Turnhouse as a French fighter squadron equipped with Spitfires. Became operational on November 29, with the operational code 'GW', it defensive patrols before being transferred to the South of England in April 1942 to take part in the sweep conducted over the northern occupied France.
In March 1943, the squadron was withdrawn from the front and put in Scotland, moving to the South West of England in November to carry Sweep again and antiship operations. No.145 Wing (Wing 145) joining the second TAF (Tactical Air Force) in April 1944, 340 Squadron was responsible for providing air cover in the framework of the installation of British Squadrons on Normandy. It eventually joined French soil in August. After moving to Belgium in September the squadron returned to England to perform new missions to escort light bombers reaching the second TAF Netherlands in February 1945. From February to May 1945, 340 Squadron continued its mission of harassment over Germany till victory.
During the war years, 340 Squadron flew 7,845 sorties and over 10,000 flight hours. It claimed 37 enemy aircraft destroyed with 5 more 'probables' and over 500 vehicles and locomotives. Thirty of its pilots were killed and 6 became prisoners of war. Many more were injured, some seriously. For its gallant actions, 340 Squadron was awarded the French Croix de la Liberation. This was awarded to the heroes of the liberation of France and is an exception honour, second only to the Legion d'Honneur. Only 18 were awarded to French military units.
Transferred to RAF 5 MU (Maintenance Unit) for overhauling and painting in 340 Ille de France Squadron markings, RR263 was marked as Spitfire TB597 and presented to the French Air Force to commemorate the pilots who lost their lives flying for the Free French Air Force in WW2. Transported in an RAF Beverly to Tours AB on the 20th May 1977 RR263 entered the Le Bourget museum in 1978.
An 'alarm call' at 340 Squadron and 340 Sqdn Spitfire 'Stormy' with pilot André Gibert
Flight Lieutenant Edward Cook of 622 Squadron
622 Squadron Lancaster bomber HK770 GI-T from 622 Squadron piloted by F/Lt Edward Cook and based at RAF Mildenhall took off at 3.10pm on 22nd April 1945 to bomb Bremen. 767 aircraft took part in the raid - 651 Lancasters, 100 Halifaxes, 16 Mosquitos.
2 Lancasters were lost. This raid was part of the preparation for the attack by the British Army XXX Corps on Bremen. The bombing was on the south-eastern suburbs of the city, where the ground troops would attack 2 days later. The raid was hampered by cloud and by smoke and dust from bombing as the raid progressed.
HK770 was hit by flak at 6.28pm while approaching the target area at 19,500 ft. The port outer engine was blown from its frame and 6 feet of the port wing shot away. Six of the crew bailed out successfully over Germany at 12000 feet and were made prisoners of war. The pilot, F/Lt Cook, managed to reach Dutch airspace before parachuting out at 1,200 feet. His Lancaster close to the River Rhein not far from Rijwijk hamlet, between Zoelmond and Maurik in the province of Gelderland at 8.50pm. (I find it difficult to understand how an aircraft in that condition could fly for 2hrs 22minutes, even allowing for a possible clock difference of 1 hour for British Summer Time! Tom)
His crew were Flight Engineer- Sgt. T. McLaren - POW (injured - in hospital until liberation?), Navigator - F/O. M. Parry - POW (injured - hospital), Air Bomber - F/O. P.D. Gough - POW, Wireless Operator - F/O. R.W. Sherry - POW, Air Gunner - Sgt. Charles T. Savage - POW (injured - hospital), Air Gunner - Sgt. R.C. Hagerty - POW (injured - hospital). It is not at present known the names of the hospitals or the POW camps.
Flight Lieutenant Edward Cook's last days of the war were spent as a prisoner of war at Terschelling.
Flying Officer G A McDonald and 443 RCAF (Hornet) Squadron. His Spitfire, serial no. SM314, was a Mk. LF XVI, fitted with a Merlin 266 engine, and built in Birmingham.
On the thirty-first March 1945, at about 10.45am while flying from from an Allied frontline airstrip, No. B-82, situated not far from Nijmegen, near Keent and Grave village (see map below), and on an uneventful patrol of the Rheine-Hengelo-Borculo-Enschede area, F/O G. A. McDonald, a recent replacement pilot who had only been flying operationally with the squadron for a month, had engine failure and was forced to bale out. He was seen by one of his fellow pilots, F/Lt T R Watt, to land safely. F/O McDonald was then captured and became a prisoner of war.
The well known Canadian Squadron Leader, Arthur Hazelton Sager, was at that time (30th March) just completing his tour as the commander of the "Hornets".
443 RCAF Squadron was formed in Canada in 1942. After conducting defensive patrols around Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, the Squadron was transferred to France in January 1944 and after the Invasion, joined 127 Wing and moved to B.3 at St. Croix-sur-Mer in Normandy. At that time, the Squadron was being led by its first Commander, S/L Wally McLeod, DFC and Bar.
Unfortunately, on the 27th of September 1944, S/L Wally McLeod was shot down and killed during the latter days of the Battle for Arnhem. This was a huge blow to 443 Squadron. At the time, F/L Art Sager was flying with 416 Squadron and on the 30th of September, 127 Wing was ordered to move to Grave, Holland. After taxiing his Spitfire, he was met by Group Captain McBrien. He offered to drive Art to the briefing hall where all the pilots of 443 were assembled. It was here, in front of the group, that the Group Captain said, "I'd like to introduce you to your new Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Art Sager." 443 Squadron had a new CO.
For the next 6 months, 443 Squadron led by S/L Art Sager, distinguished themselves in air combat and ground attack.
Art later wrote a book about his experiences as a Spitfire pilot called 'Line Shoot'. Oddly enough, he chose the 'Ladykiller' nose art to describe the deadly siren-like aircraft he flew, squadron members thought it was an advertisement about Art's skill with the fairer sex and never let him live it down.
The 127 Wing air strip
By MARGARET ECKER - news correspondent with the RCAF in Holland, April 2, 1945 - (CP) -
An RCAF Spitfire wing (127) now flies from a made-to-measure aerodrome sliced out of a Netherlands forest.
As one airman put it, "It's like a summer camp in Northern Ontario - except there's no place to fish."
Six weeks ago, this was a young pine wood. Today it's a "super" airfield, but the forest still crowds around its fringes and among the trees Nissan huts, where RCAF personnel live, have been built.
It's the best and safest airfield we've ever had," said the commanding officer, pointing out the double-perimeter track, one for aircraft, the other for transport, and the wide, safe runways of metal mesh that won't be muddy in any weather.
From those strips, Canadian Spitfires fly on patrols over the British 2nd Army lines and escort heavy and medium bombers on the way to blast German cities. S/L Danny Brown of Elm Park, N.J., commands the Red Indian Squadron: S/L J. D. Mitchner, Saskatoon, the City of Oshawa Squadron, and S/L Art Sager of Vancouver, the Hornet Squadron.
On one side of the field is the brain centre of the airfield, the control tower caravan which helps make this a super airfield. S/L Reg Fisher of Toronto described how difficult it was to control an airfield with planes landing at both ends. In the glass dome of the caravan, F/L Ivan Tinkess of Orangeville, Ontario earphones on his head, seemed to be answering a dozen telephones as he brought in planes from one fighter squadron. There's so much strain on the job that most control officers can work only five or six hours.
2 Spits of 443 RCAF 'Hornet' Squadron taking off in Holland
F/Lt W R James and 412 Squadron RCAF
Flight Lieutenant Walter R James was flying on a patrol with his squadron on the 30th March 1945 from their base at Heesch (near Hertogenbosch) in Holland to Burgsteinfurt in Germany via Neede (east of Arnhem) and on to Borken in Holland. They encountered flak over Zelhem in Holland and one Spifire, piloted by 26 year old F/Lt W J (Billy) Anderson from Woodlawn, Ontario, was hit in its external fuel drop tank and went down in flames killing the pilot. Billy had already completed 60 operations, some while serving in the Battle of Britain, and also was wounded during his time in Malta. F/Lt Walter James flying in Spitfire PT357 was also hit by flak but managed to bale out before his aircraft crashed a few miles south at Varsselder near Gendringen. Taken prisoner, he was one of the 16 officers 'imprisoned' at Terschelling.
Spitfire PT357 was built as a Mk. LF IX, by Castle Bromwich Spitfire workers, in Birmingham, and the engine fitted was a Merlin 66. When a brand new plane, in November 1944, it was used in some "diving tests" over the RAE (Royal Aircraft Establishment) Farnborough, in Hampshire while fitted with (extra) recording instruments,before it was going into action on the front line. The results of these tests were to compare with the results of similar tests with a captured German Focke-Wulf Fw-190, also at Farnborough, and with some of the US-built fighters.
And there is more; during "Operation Bodenplatte", in the morning of 1 January 1945 (part of the German Ardennes attack), this same aircraft, while already airborne and flown by pilot F/O. V. Smith of No. 412 RCAF Sqdn. (from airbase Heesch, near Venlo, the Netherlands), shot down a Fw-190 fighter, at 09.50 hrs., NE of Venlo city (in Zuid-Limburg). Thus at least 1 victory with this same aircraft, by a colleague of Walter R. James.
Formed at RAF Digby in June 1941 with Spitfire Mk II's, 412 Squadron moved to Willingore in October, receiving Spitfire Mk Vb's. In May 1942 the Squadron moved to Martlesham Heath, and then in June to North Weald, Kent. Operations in the south-east of England continued from Merston, Tangemere, Redhill, Kenley until January 1943, when the unit was at Angle in South Wales. It returned to the south-east of England in March 1943, but in April moved to No. 10 Groups area until the summer. In October 1943 the Squadron joined No. 126 Wing of the 2nd TAF (Tactical Air Force) at Biggin Hill, where in November Spitfire Mk IXb's were received. Thereafter it was involved in operations over France leading up to the Normandy invasion in June 1944. Moving to French soil within days of the landings, air superiority patrols followed until the breakout in August, after which a move to Northern France brought operations over Nijmegen and Arnhem. Spitfire Mk IXe's replace the IXb's in September, following which the wing moved into Holland.
The squadron played a key part in action during the Germans' Ardennes offensive, and in the final months of the war as the 21st Army Group pressed into north-west Germany. Moves to airfields in Germany were made during April 1945, ending at Wunstorf where the Squadron was about to convert to the Spitfire Mk XVIe's. The squadron claimed 108 victories and wore the unit code VZ during this period.
A Supermarine Spitfire Mark IXE of No. 412 Squadron RCAF, armed with a 250-lb GP bomb under each wing, taxies out for a sortie at B80/Volkel, Holland in October 1944. A member of the ground crew is seated on the starboard wing to help the pilot to negotiate potholes, flooding and other obstructions on the airfield.
Flying Fortress 44-6617 of 332nd Squadron
Left to right 2nd pilot 2nd Lt. Fred Cain, Pilot 1st Lt. Clark Dickerson, and Navigator 2nd Lt. Bob Esterlein from 44-6617 of 332nd Sqdn
Shot down in April 1945 on their 13th mission. With their radio room and oxygen system on fire, they crash-landed on the Ouddorp beach of Goeree en Overflakkee island in Holland right next to some German defensive positions. No one was seriously injured in the crash. They were all captured and made to walk with their hands on heads for 7 kms to the nearest village. The crew were then transported to Amsterdam. The three officers were separated from the crew and for a time held captive at a monastery in Aalsmeer. In the second week of April 1945 they were taken together with thirteen other prisoners via Den Helder to Terschelling. The Germans had intended imprisoning them on the German Frisian island of Borkum but rapidly changing developments in the war situation changed that.
Flying Fortress B-17G 43-38103 of 490 BG/848 Bomber Squadron crashed around 1345 on April 5th 1945 at the Kilhaven near Ouddorp (the westernmost part of Goeree) while returning from a raid on Nuremberg. It was flying low and three engines were put out of action and fire had started in the catwalk and nose section of the aircraft. It had been damaged by Flak from vessels of the Kriegsmarine - moored in the outer harbor of Middelharnis. This was the crew's 13th mission.
Seven were killed. The pilot 1st Lieutenant Charles W Bates, the co-pilot 2nd Lieutenant Ellis E Smith (Jr) and 2nd Lieutenant John L Ewald the navigator who had landed in the water, were taken prisoner and finished up at the Hotel Oepkes at Terschelling.
Five of the dead as unknown airmen were buried in the general cemetery of Ouddorp, on April 20, followed by a sixth crew member. After the war, they were all buried in the American Military Cemetery Ardennes at Neuville-en-Condroz before being repatriated to the USA.
They were - S/Sgt. Alfred J. Aulicino, Sgt. Raymond S. Conroy, Sgt. Jack K. Hamilton , Sgt. Charles A. Anderson, S/Sgt. Charles M. Plötner, Sgt. James E. Ireland , Sgt. John E. Till
The 490th Bomber Group did combat in June 1944 with B-24's, bombing airfields and coastal defenses in France immediately preceding and during the invasion of Normandy. They struck bridges, rail lines, vehicles, road junctions, and troop concentrations in France and supported ground forces near Caen in July and near Brest in September 1944.
The group converted to B-17's in October 1944 and operated primarily against strategic targets until the end of February 1945. It mounted attacks against enemy oil plants, tank factories, marshalling yards, aircraft plants, and airfields in such cities as Berlin, Hamburg, Merseburg, Münster, Kassel, Hannover, and Cologne. Interrupted strategic missions to attack supply lines and military installations during the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945. Beginning in March 1945, it attacked interdictory targets and supported advancing ground forces.
After V-E Day, the 490th carried food to flood-stricken areas of Holland and transported French, Spanish, and Belgian prisoners of war from Austria to Allied centers.
Flying Fortress B-17G - 43-38405 and 1st Lieutenant Curtis E Ash
Flying Fortress B-17G - 43-38405 of 351BG/508 Bomber Squadron - was airborne on February 14th 1945 from AAF STA 110, Polebrook, Northhamptonshire, UK for a mission to bomb the railroad marshalling yards at Dresden, Germany. Its skipper was 20 year old 1st Lt. Curtis Edward Ash who was later a prisoner of war at Terschelling. The B17 was shot down by flak over IJmuiden, Netherlands.
One of the crew, the navigator 1st Lt. Robert William Hays, was killed and four, including the pilot, were hospitalised. The whole crew became prisoners of war.
The navigator Robert William Hays had entered the service on September 16, 1943. He was called to active duty February 1944, and was commissioned at Ardmore, OK the summer of 1944. He left for overseas duty August 1944. He was a bombardier and navigator on B-17G # 43-38405. He had been awarded the air medal and three oak leaf clusters during seven months of overseas flying. On February 14, 1945, he was reported missing on his last mission before returning home. Had he returned from his last mission, he would have completed a total of thirty-five combat flights.
The crash site at IJmuiden
The crew of 43-38405 were
19190696 - 1st Lt. - Pilot - Curtis Edward Ash - Santa Clara, CA - POW - Hospital Heiloo (age 20)
19181784 - 2nd Lt. - Co-pilot - Ned L. Benedict - Los Angeles, CA - POW - Hosp. Apeldoorn
14044401 - 1st Lt. - Navigator / Togglier - Robert William Hays - Monroe County, IN - Killed
11140785 - Sgt. - Nose Gunner - Arthur A. Nicholas - Suffolk County, MA - POW
13067999 - T/Sgt. - Flight Engineer / Top Turret Gunner - Robert B. Pierce - Du Bois, PA - POW - Hosp. Apeldoorn -
13170985 - S/Sgt. - Radio Operator - Ward E. Brady - Allegheny, PA - POW - St. Joseph's Hospital, Apeldoorn
35917673 - Sgt. - Ball Tuuret Gunner - John R. Norbo - Lyndhurst, OH - POW
39909100 - Sgt. - Waist Gunner - Kenneth Graser - Willard, Box Elder County, UT - POW
37707945 - Sgt. - Tail Gunner - Louis Dewayne Anderson - Weld County, CO - POW
1/Lt Richard E. Brown, Pilot of F5-E 44-23709 'Quicksilver' of the 7th Recce Group 22nd Photo Sqdn based at Mount Farm in the UK.
His aircraft crashed on 20 April 1945 near Asperen (west of Rotterdam), Holland. He was taken prisoner and later transported together with 15 other officers to the island of Terschelling.
A F-5E (Photo Reconnaissance version of P-38) at RAF Mount Farm UK in 1944
22nd Photo Recon Unit was activated as a squadron on 2 September 1942 and assigned to the 5th Photographic Group whose primary function was dedicated to reconnaissance and mapping.
The squadron was then attached to the 8th Air Force, 7th Photographic and Reconnaissance Group operating from Mount Farm, in England. As war progressed, the unit moved to Chalgrove, before going to Villacoublay in France where they remained until December 1945.
Photographic reconnaissance was a very vital contribution to the war effort. It provided in-depth information to be used in upcoming missions. The key was to have a fast and high-flying airplane that could outrun enemy fighters sent to intercept it.
These aircraft were stripped of all armament and heavy protection to cut down on the weight. Their only weapons were their cameras. The aircraft used by the unit were the Famous Supermarine Spitfire, Lockheed P-38, and North American F-5 and P-51.
Travelling through Nijmegen, Emmerich, Arnhem, Barneveld, Amersfoort, Amsterdam and Alkmaar the 3rd Medium Regiment Royal Artillery eventually reached Den Helder. On 26th May 1945 the Regiment was given the assignment to send a unit of sixty men to disarm the German garrison on the islands of Vlieland, Terschelling and Ameland. This unit was called Jaffa Force and was under the command of Captain JD Johnston.
On May 29 Jaffa Force transferred by LCT (landing craft) from Den-Bank to Terschelling and there was the German commander to hear that from that moment Captain Johnston was Allied Commander of the three islands.
On the morning of the 31st May 1945, Lieutenant Frederic Squire with five soldiers was sent to Vlieland to officially take control there.
Arrival of the British Royal Artillery Jaffa Force in LCT 2188 on 29th May 1945
Captain J D Johnston of the 3rd Medium Regiment Royal Artillery talks to Dr David Smit of the Dutch resistance
The command group of the resistance forces on Terschellingen. Centre is Doctor David Smit, who was the commander of the group. The other members were Jac de Vos, Jeen de Vos, W. Zaadnoordijk, J.C. Visser and teacher Dirk den Boer.
The liberation party in front of the (former) Town Hall in West Terschelling (see also the RAF - posters right !)
The Germans leaving the Island after more than 5 years occupation
See also the moored inland cargo vessels in the background, still loaded with beams, which the Germans were going to use as extra barriers on the beaches of the island. Fortunately there was not enough time for them to do all that extra defence work, which was to include bringing extra mines to the beaches. By the way, those mines, also loaded in a cargo ship, were lost for them in a " beautiful RAF - attack " on that ship, South of Terschelling........Kabuuuuummmmm !!!
The end of the “Walsum 10” in a big bang, South-East of Terschelling island.and to Strike”) were sinking two so called “lichters” (barges). One of these “Rijnaken” was loaded with mines! Therefore, this RAF - operation was giving the people of Terschelling, and also the occupying Germans on the island, a lot of excitement because that last ship exploded in a gigantic “ KABUUMMM ”, Unfortunately not all mines aboard were detonating.
This was also the final “great firework show” and the last demonstration of power of the local Marine-Flak-Abteilung in day-light. In fact the exit for the “Jerries” on the island.
By the end of the war the Germans tried to transport to Germany, via the canals and the rivers, but also over sea, and as much as they could, all kind of goods stolen in the Nether-lands. In their homeland, because of the air operations against their traffic structures, power- plants, industries and cities, 24 hrs. a day in those months, they “needed” everything: food, all kind of supplies, metals, building materials, fuel, tools, and even furniture and clothing.
For that reason they had moored 2 big “Rijnaken”, named the “Boetak” and the “Walsum 10”, in the harbour of West-Terschelling, in the background / Eastside, right under the so called “Delle-wal” dune area, and thus not so far from the “Tiger”- complex too (!).
However, before this last ship could go back to Germany too, it should be unloaded first, because… it was loaded with so called Kathy-mines, cubic blocks of concrete, each of which 75 kg. explosives were implanted.
Soon the islanders knew about this very dangerous cargo, near their village, and near their own houses. They were therefore begging the last Inselkommandant, Marine Kapitan Leutnant Bernard, to anchor this damned vessel outside the habour, not only for their own safety but also that of those soldiers stationed in nearby bunkers etc.
And indeed, those 2 ships were soon taken outside the harbour, tugged by other boats, because they didn’t have engines to power themselves, and they were anchored in the “Oosterom” lane, South of the island.
And….. Two days later, in the late afternoon, the RAF came. Three Beaufighters of 254 Squadronattacked suddenly, while the German West-batterie near the harbour was giving its clear and last gun-fire in this war, as we know now.
The “Boetak” was set on fire and quickly sank, while the 10 mtrs. wide and 85 mtrs. long, 1570 reg. tons, “Walsum 10” ,built around 1900, and owned by “Walsum Handels Mij.” in Rotterdam, got a direct hit.
After the big explosion and by the time the smoke was gone…. nothing was to be seen anymore ! Well done boys !!
What happened to the skipper of the “Walsum 10”, Mr. Van der Heide, I don’t know (maybe someone can tell us later ?). The fact is, that many people on Terschelling were sleeping much better in the days after that event.
In 1982 the wreckage of the vessel was found by the divers of the “Ecuador” team, on the position 53°.20’.60” N. – 05°.15’.80” E. After the recovering of the large anchor (see photo) the members of the club were giving a sign to the Dutch authorities, so they could start the greatest mine-clearing operation ever in Holland.
Later 157 still active Kathy-mines were found, still as deadly as they were……
(based on the information from the website of the “Wrakkenmuseum” in Formerum on Terschelling - see also the link on page 15b)
The Commonwealth War Graves plot is located immediately inside the main entrance gate. On West-Terschelling General Cemetery are 67 Commonwealth war graves.
The Commonwealth graves occupy a full length row on the left of the main path as you enter, and a short row on the right of this path at the far end of the cemetery.The cemetery address is :- Longway, West-Terschelling, Terschelling
Visiting Information :
Visitors please note that tourists who wish to bring their car aboard on one of the ferries have to make a reservation first, in the summer time even weeks, better months before!
Reservations can be made directly via your own PC (see information / websites of the shipping companies, EVT or Doeksen).
Otherwise, in Harlingen city and harbour, on the mainland, there are enough paid parking places even for long periods. There is a shuttle bus every 10 minutes going to the ferry landing (free for parking car owners and their passengers). And on the island itself the public transport service is very good, and there are no long distances.
Best tip for Terschelling: rent a bike, enjoy the landscape and nature !
The Emergency War-time Cemetery
The photographs show the Emergency war-time Cemetery, an early civil/military funeral, and the late Mr A Klijn grave-digger at Longway Cemetery in 1947.
During the first years of the war there was an "Emergency-Cemetery" in the dunes of Paal 8, near the NZHRM - lifeboathouse (West a/z.), where casualties of Dunkirke and the first lost Allied airmen were buried for a while. Later on - the new Longway Cemetery was finished - they were all reburied in West-Terschelling village.
Some photos above show that "Emergency Cemetery" in the
dunes of Terschelling's coastline, in West aan Zee
(West-Terschelling on Sea), also named Paal 8. This
cemetery was created by the islanders themselves, but
under order of the Germans / the first "Inselkommandant"
(Commander of the island) Kapitänleutnant M.A. Helmuth
Klett, because in July and Aug.
The first civil and military funeral in Paal 8 was on the 2nd of Aug. 1940, 16.00 u., of a killed French soldier, Joseph Marie Le Neures. Besides some "Mannschaft" of the local Marine-Flak-Abteilung, the mayor of Terschelling, Mr. Reijnders, was involved too, and Ds. Visser (padre of the Protestant Church), and 2 local policemen, Jan de Vries and Okko Jacobus Reijnders. In the days after this burial, both policemen and a German army-doctor were busy with more found corpses; for example,11 Aug. - 8 bodies, 13 Aug. - 7 bodies, most of them French.
By the end of Aug. 1940, already 25 men had found their last resting-places in this cemetery. They were all buried "with German attentions" in this "Noodbegraafplaats", together with casualties later on, mostly RAF airmen. This Emergency Cemetery, near the NZHRM-lifeboathouse (reddingbootschuur), was in use until the beginning of 1942 when the new Longway Cemetery in West-Terschelling village was finished (Sgt. Albert E. Towsend, the Wireless Operator of a Lancaster bomber of 61 Sqdn., was the first victim buried there in the village, 29 Aug. 1942, 16.00 hrs.; in grave 66).
The view on the left shows the dunes area in 1980
77 Squadron's Halifax NA545
Halifax NA545, piloted by Australian Pilot Officer
Harold W Bird, took off from RAF Full Sutton in
Yorkshire at 2315 hours on the night of 16/17th June
Four of the crew of Halifax NA545 at RAF Full Sutton and the graves of Harold Bird and Reginald Castle-Hall at Terschelling.
The crew were
RAAF 417330 P/O H W Bird
(Pilot), RAF Sgt R A Castle-Hall, (Flight Engineer), RAF
Sgt A B Freemantle, (Navigator), RAAF 414809 F/O S W
Mackay, (Bomber aimer), RAAF 429838 Flt Sgt R J Warren,
(Wireless Operator), RAF Flt Sgt F A Meeghan,
(Mid Upper Gunner)
The only crew-member I can at present positively identify in this photo, believed taken when the crew formed at 20 OTU RAF Elgin, is F/Sgt Frederick Meeghan (top left). I can only assume that the skipper Harold Bird is bottom centre and bomb-aimer Stuart McKay on his right and navigator Alfred Freemantle standing behind him (far right). TB
The sergeant seated on the left is probably the flight engineer 31 year old Reginald Castle-Hall. The air-gunner behind the skipper is likely to be Scotsman John Lauder. Three Australians can be identified by a national badge on their left shoulder not normally on an RAF uniform, which may mean that the 7th crew member not in the photo, is South Australian Robert J Warren.
Both the South Australian skipper, Pilot Officer Harold
W Bird, and his Flight Engineer, 31 year old RAF
Sergeant Reginald A Castle-Hall from Stoke Newington,
London, are buried in the Terschelling (West
* * *
12 Squadron's Wellington Z8370 PH-Y
12 Squadron's Wellington Z8370 PH-Y after it crashed on the east beach at Terschelling on January 20th 1942 and a close view of the damaged rear gun-turret where Sgt William Rutherford was killed.
received an email from
Ger Boogmans who claimed ownership of one or
more of the above photographs and asked for its
removal with the threat of legal action. Willem
is anxious to point out that this was one of the
most photographed incidents in Friesland World
He relates - they were 'given to me as real photos by Mr. J.A. Duyf (handed over by his daughter at their home in Leeuwarden). The local photographer in Leeuwarden, De Schrans, Fa. Dikken & Hulsinga in those days, was taking copies of them, thus photos from photos, because the originals were very fragile glass plate negatives and were still on Terschelling island, as Mr. Duyf told myself and Douwe S. Drijver. Those same copies we showed later at our exhibitions in Leeuwarden and Sneek, and even once at the military airfield of Leeuwarden in 1979.
Sgt. Edmund John Roberts FOWLER, aged 20, 2nd pilot, 1211175, RAF. Grave 36
Sgt. William RUTHERFORD, aged 26, Wop/Rear gunner,
942274, RAF. Grave 37
F/Lt. W.H. THALLON, Pilot, 41754, RAF, POW no.1441, POW
P/O. P.R. ROSS, Observer, 38210, RNZAAF, POW no. 1437,
POW camp L3. Promoted to F/Lt.
F/Sgt. F.W. WALKER, Wop/Airgunner, 550392, RAF, POW
no.90097, POW camp L6. Promoted to W/O.
F/Sgt. G.H. GROVES, Wop/Frontgunner, 652612, RAF, POW no.24791, POW camp L3. Promoted to W/O.
Sgt Edmund Fowler was the son of Singapore Assistant Superintendent of Police Edmund Victor Fowler who was a prisoner of war of the Japanese in Malayasia during the occupation. He remained there after the war and was listed as Deputy Commissioner of Police in 1950.
On the night of January 20th, 1942, Wellington bomber PH-Y bearing its crew of six was returning from a bombing raid on Emden when a burst of cannon and machine gun fire, from a German night-fighter flown by Ludwig Becker, ripped through its tail turret, killing the gunner Sgt. Bill Rutherford.
A second burst struck the forward gun turret and astrodome, wounding F/Sgt. Groves in the legs and feet and killing the second pilot, Sgt. Fowler.
George Groves relates: "Our pilot, Flight-lieutenant Thallon, told us to bale out, that, although he had engines, he couldn't control the aircraft. I crawled from my position in the front gun turret up to the pilot's cockpit. There I opened the hatch and looked down to see nothing but the ominous blackness of the North Sea. True, I was badly shot up, but I was only twenty-years-old and not quite ready for a death by drowning. "Can you make it over that island just ahead," I asked the pilot?
Somehow Thallon was able to manoeuvre the crippled Wimpy over the landfall and I, along with Pilot Officer Ross our observer and our other Wireless Air Gunner F/Sgt. Walker 'hit the silk'.
Flight-lieutenant Thallon could not follow for he had thought he saw the second pilot move. Believing Sgt. Fowler to be still alive he could not abandon him. I landed somewhere near a village in the centre of the island and was soon arrested by the Germans. The others who had jumped were also picked up by the enemy.
The pilot successfully crash-landed what was left of Wellington PH-Y on a gravel beach on the north shore of Terschelling Island.
George Groves, the twenty-year-old Canadian Wireless operator-airgunner from Pine Falls, Minetoba, parachuted from his stricken Wellington bomber to land near a village on the German-held Dutch Island of Terschelling.
There, suffering from numerous bullet wounds and a broken wrist, he was arrested by an enemy patrol and placed in the care of an Austrian doctor who was able to have him flown to a Luftwaffe hospital in Amsterdam. There he would remain for several weeks before being transferred to a convalescent home in Bavaria.
From the convalescent home, he was sent to a prison camp in Germany and would remain there until the war ended in 1945.
Fifty years later that same Canadian, now a retired mechanical engineer would return to the Island of Terschelling ... but this time to a much different kind of reception. George Groves and his daughter, Hope, would be the central figures in the island's fiftieth anniversary of its liberation from the Nazis.
In recalling his revisit to Terschelling, George states
that his one sad moment came during a visit to the local
cemetery where he saw for the first time the graves of
his fellow crewmen and placed flowers and crosses in
their memory. Says George: "It was quite an ordeal....
for me, a very emotional moment. But the events to
follow would soon raise my spirits."
From the cemetery, the parade led down to the waterfront where George and Hope boarded an old army jeep in which they were driven to the spot where Wellington PH-Y had crashed.
Nearby on the beach was a
little bar where everyone enjoyed a few beers.
On the next day, father and daughter were back on the Dutch Mainland in a town called Workum. Here, they had lunch and watched the big Liberation Day Parade roll by. After attending the air show at Soesterberg they then flew to England.
For George this visit evoked deep and conflicting emotions: pride and appreciation that he should be so singularly honoured by the Dutch islanders. Sadness at having to relive a terrible night of pain and death endured so many years before.
For Ludwig Becker, the night fighter pilot who shot down Wellington Z8370, this was one of three 'kills' for that night and also his Gruppe's 100th victory.
Joining the Luftwaffe volunteers in 1934, by 1939 Becker was a test pilot and a leutnant in the Luftwaffe reserve.
Serving with NJG 1, he crashed a Messerschmidt Bf 110 near Winterswijk on 30 August 1940.
His first victory was a Wellington on the night of 16–17 October 1940.
He was awarded the Ritterkreuz in July 1942, he then
served as a Staffelkapitän in 12./NJG 1. By the end of
the year, Becker had some 40 victories to his credit.
Becker and his Radar Operator Ofw. Josef Straub (who had taken part in 40 kills) were posted missing in action on 26 February 1943 in a Bf 110G-4 while on a daylight mission intercepting a B-17 formation over the North Sea, and crashing north of Schiermonnikoog in Holland.
At the time of his death he was credited with 46 victories.
Relics recovered by the Ecuador Dive Team of Terschelling
The Ecuador diving team was founded in 1975. Their club-house is in the old lifeboat station at Terschelling and a number of their finds are displayed in the Wrakken Museum.The picture on the right shows items from the wreckage of Halifax DK203 which was shot down by Lt Heinz Vinke of 11./NJG1 on the 3rd of October 1943 .
On 3rd October 1943 at about 23.22 hours Halifax DK203
Squadron, of which three of the crew were Norwegians,
crashed into the Waddensea near Terschelling. DK203 was
one of four 76 Sqdn Halifaxes lost on this operation.
Squadron, of which three of the crew were Norwegians, crashed into the Waddensea near Terschelling. DK203 was one of four 76 Sqdn Halifaxes lost on this operation.
Airborne 18.30 3rd of Oct 1943 from Holme-on-Spalding Moor. Shot down when returning from bombing by a night-fighter (Lt Heinz Vinke, 11./NJG1), crashing 23.22 onto a sandbank 400 metres E of Terschelling.
The primary targets in Kassel were the Fieseler aircraft plant and the Henschel works. Henschel was a major German industrial company manufacturing locomotives, engines, and trucks. A subcamp from Dachau was established nearby to supply workers to Henschel.
Taking part In this raid on Kassel were 547 aircraft - 223 Halifaxes, 204 Lancasters, 113 Stirlings, 7 Mosquitos. The H2S 'blind marker' aircraft overshot the aiming point badly and the 'visual markers' could not correct this because their view of the ground was restricted by thick haze. German decoy markers may also have been present. The main weight of the attack thus fell on the western suburbs and outlying towns and villages. 24 aircraft lost - 14 Halifaxes, 6 Stirlings, 4 Lancasters, 4.4 per cent of the force.
The crew were Lt N.S.D. Eckhoff RNAF, Sgt A. Hayes RAF, Sgt S. Meieran RNAF, Sgt R. Coupe, Sgt J. Skjelanger RNAF, Sgt C.H.E. Coster, F/O M.G. Sheerman.
Two crew-members were immediately killed, and five succeeded in bailing out, but the flight engineer, Sgt Hayes, died from his injuries on the 6th of October 1943 and is buried in Leeuwarden Northern General Cemetery.
Three of the survivors were taken prisoner by the
Germans and spent the rest of the war
Sgt C.H.E. Coster was interned in Camp 4B, PoW
No.259859. Sgt R. Coupe in Camps 4B/L3, PoW No.259860.
Sgt S. Meieran in Camps L6/357, PoW No.382347.
J.Skjelanger was confined in hospital due to his injuries.
Sgt C.H.E. Coster was interned in Camp 4B, PoW No.259859. Sgt R. Coupe in Camps 4B/L3, PoW No.259860. Sgt S. Meieran in Camps L6/357, PoW No.382347. J.Skjelanger was confined in hospital due to his injuries.
One of the crew-members who was killed was Maurice Gordon Sheerman, son of John and Elsie Sheerman. His wife was Edith Marjorie Duncan Sheerman of Lytham St. Annes Lancashire. Maurice is buried in Westerschelling General Cemetery.
The pilot, Lt N.S.D.Eckoff of the Norwegian Air Force, was also buried there, but after the war, on the 12th of September 1946, was reburied at Vestre Gravlund cemetery in Oslo, Norway.
The above photo of the Halifax "A" for Apple, is the picture of the same plane, but not of the right crew as far as I can see. This "A" for Apple (DK203) was in fact the "hooker" of the squadron, because this "grand old lady" was underpowered (there was something wrong with her engines, and all the squadron's crews knew about it) but they had to fly this machine when their own Halifax was in a "repair-situation".
And indeed, Nils' regular Halifax was damaged the night
before, in another raid on Germany, and that's why he
was piloting the DK203, and that was also the reason why
they were starting first from the airfield, about 30
minutes before the rest...... Over Texel Island / the
Netherlands, the other planes of the squadron were
"overtaking" them already !After that meeting point
his brave crew was flying alone all the way to the
target Kassel / in the middle of Nazi-Germany...... and
there they "bumped into" suddenly a German nightfighter,
resulting in the crash of that enemy craft, but, they
were also losing one man of their own crew, simply
The photo on the left shows the crew posing with a member of their ground-crew (right). Tail-gunner Maurice Sheerman (4 from left) is wearing the heavy clothing necessary for enduring time in that coldest part of the aircraft. The pilot Nils Eckhoff is third from right.
The crash of the Halifax
DK203, October 3, 1943
- (from a translated Dutch account) -
- (from a translated Dutch account) -
Battered is a Halifax bomber with three engines and
without navigational instruments on its way back from
Germany. To gain speed it is flying low. This is good
three quarters. Then suddenly shouts tail gunner
Sheerman: "Hunter, hunter!" At the same time, flight
engineer Hayes screams in pain. He was hit in the leg.
The tail is on fire. The Norwegian pilot Eckhoff throws
Hayes and the Norwegian navigator Meieran fire
extinguishers. They feverishly try to extinguish the
fire. In vain!
Burning like a torch and with a deafening noise, the Halifax descended lower and lower over Oosterend Horn. Those already asleep are awakened by an eerie crackling, screaming and wailing and suddenly hell flakkerlicht over the darkened island.
Above, the flaming bomber swung off in a southerly
direction. In the cockpit Eckhoff the pilot tries once
more to raise the unit. He will be last to leave the
aircraft. The Halifax must be held before a little
flying. Shortly it drops like a brick in the Ans
It is too low for the the pilot to abort. His body is found in the Form Rumer Wheel. The corpse of tail gunner Sheerman is below the airplane. Flight Engineer Hayes dies in a hospital in Leeuwarden. The four crew Meieran, Skelanger, Coster and Cole are taken prisoner. The last two were seriously injured. Eckhoff and Sheerman are buried on Terschelling.
left to right - Sigmund Meieran - Navigator, Albert Hayes - Flight Engineer, Bob Coupe - Bomb Aimer, Nils Eckhoff - Pilot, Maurice Sheerman - Tail Gunner, and Jens Skjellanger - Wireless Operator (did Upper Gunner Charles Coster take the photograph?)
The graves of the three DK203 crew-members killed.
Albert Hayes is buried at Leeuwarden, Nils Eckhoff in Oslo, and Maurice Sheerman at West Terschelling.
This photo of the white cross in the middle is not from Nils' grave in Oslo, but is taken from his former grave at Terschelling, Longway Cemetery grave 106. That cross was made by myself, and planted there during my "poppy-tour", exactly 40 years after the crash on 3rd October 1983. The cross was "only for that particular moment", for "laying down flowers, not on a empty grave" and for taking photos, of course, for his family. Willem
This morning I received a new mail from
Attje (who cares for Maurice Sheerman's grave) of
Terschelling island. Over the last days she and her
husband tried to read the complete story, but, to be
honest as she wrote, it should be nice if there was a
Dutch translation too. Therefore I'll send to her the
(old) "Harlingen Courant" version, as soon as possible,
together with a translation of the newest 'Maurice' part
of the website. In this way, when they are visiting the
grave again and bringing flowers on the 4th of May next
year, they will have a much better "feeling" with this
brave airman resting there. Willem-
Willem- December 2012.
The latest photos of Maurice Gordon Sheerman's grave, as promised. They have brought beautiful flowers again..... during the memorial service, 4 May 2013.
With friendly greetings from sunny Terschelling, they wrote...... from Attje and Willem Lak.
This afternoon, Mrs. Attje Lak was mailing me, from Terschelling, with this adoption paper she found at home, in their "old family papers". It's a copy of a letter of Mrs. J.Bokma, of the local committee of the Dutch War Graves Commission (a sister organisation of the CWGC),and by the way, on notepaper of the Gemeente Terschelling (town hall in West-Terschelling), in which is an appeal to their family for adoption of Sheerman's grave (Longway No. 108). In fact this was a written confirmation, because they were asked already before "viva voce".
A nice historical paper.....
We read in this letter that the
earlier adoption family, Mr. and Mrs. Zaadnoordijk, have
passed away (1973). Han Zaadnoordijk - a member of
the family, possibly a child of theirs, no longer
living on the island I think - was their official
representative. They could contact him (or her) if there
were any further questions about the adoption of the
grave. Willem - January 2013.
Willem - January 2013.
Another Raid on Kassel by 76 Squadron three weeks
Another Raid on Kassel by 76 Squadron three weeks later
Following their briefing, Handley Page Halifax crews of
76 Squadron board their transports at
Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, Yorkshire, to be driven to their
dispersals in preparation for a raid on Kassel, Germany.
This raid, on 22/23rd
October 1943, was the most devastating delivered on a
German city since the 'firestorm' raid on Hamburg in the
Radio spoofing as part of Operation Carona and a
diversionary attack on Frankfurt were used to confuse
the Luftwaffe night fighters.
The force of 569 heavy bombers
dropped 1,800 tons on Kassel. This included nearly half
a million magnesium incendiary fire sticks designed to
to ignite fires. Hitting specific targets at night was
virtually impossible so the RAF set out to destroy the
city and largely suceeded. Damage to the city's water
system made it difficult to fight the fires. Among the
civilian casualties were large numbers of wounded
soldiers recovering in several hospitals .
.The most useful part of this raid was the damage to the three Heinkel factories as these were at the time making the V1 flitting bombs. Also the railway system and its installations were severely hit.
Of the 569 aircraft used in the attack, 43 were lost, of which 25 were Halifaxes.
On this raid 76 Squadron lost one aircraft and crew. It was Halifax LK664 MP-U piloted by Norwegian Lt Leif Hulthin of the RNAF and shot down 31 Km northwest of Kassel. One of the crew was Pilot Officer A V C Barden, the bomb-aimer, from Shelley in Yorkshire, who was only 18 years old and one of the youngest to be killed in 1943.
The grave of Leif Woodrow Hulthin at Hanover War Cemetery courtesy of Mike Harrison.
Five of this crew, including Pilot Officer Barden,were in Halifax DK175 MP-T , also piloted by Lt Hulthin, which took off at 2349 on 13th July 1943 from Holme-on-Spalding Moor but crashed out of control almost immediately and burst into flames. Fortunately, on that occasion the crew scrambled clear and escaped injury.
Two drawings by Willem illustrating the recovery of Flying Officer Maurice Sheerman's body. The Germans used explosives to free him from the damaged tail turret of the crashed aircraft.
The funeral was arranged by the people of Terschelling island. The late Pieter van Jelle Roos transported the body with his farm-wagon. Local police officer Jan de Vries took care of the paper work from his MP-post at Hoorn village, and carpenter Rein de Haan made the coffin from drift-wood.
Terschelling - De Ans. White arrow indicates crash site 400 metres from the landing stage and Halifax DK203’s crash site, as found in 1980 by the local diving team and later by Willem.
Willem's Account of DK203's crash
76 RNoAF Squadron Halifax (BC) Mk.V DK203 MP-‘A’ took off from RAF-station Holme on Spalding Moor, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, at 18.30 hrs on the 3rd of October 1943. This was 15 to 30 minutes before the start of the main bomber-stream, because of its underpowered engines. The target was Kassel, in Hessen, Central-Germany, and in particular the factories of the Henschel Werke, manufacturers of railway materials and locomotives, trucks and also aircraft engines, like the Daimler Benz DB601 etc. In fact 10% of all German built aircraft engines came from Kassel!
Over the first checkpoint at Texel island, Holland, the other planes of the main bomber-stream were already overtaking the aircraft. DK203’s lack of power meant that they couldn’t reach the required altitude and speed. After heavy discussions aboard, the navigator was giving a new shorter course to the skipper, and their “ lonesome raid ” continued. The last miles to the target were quite easy to find and fly, because of the large scale fires on the ground from the earlier bombardment which could be seen from a long distance.
Kassel in October 1943. The Hitler Youth are clearly visible in the right hand corner
The bombing of Kassel in October 1943. The damaged engines ready for dispatch to Germany's war industry and the sadness of bomb victims who could share their devastating experiences with fellow war victims in London, Bristol, Liverpool and Coventry.
The Fieseler Aircraft Factory at Kassel after a raid
When they were ready for their own bomb attack, because the main bomber force had already left, the German air defence did not expect another enemy aircraft over the target anymore, and therefore it happened that the Halifax suddenly collided with a Luftwaffe nightfighter on its way home!
Willem carried out a large amount of research on this German fighter crash over Kassel. He was unable to find any from that evening where crew survived. Messerschmitt Bf-110G-4U/7, Werkenummer 5560 (D5#AD), with Hptm. Rudolf Sigmund and crew, of Stab III./NJG.3 was recorded on that raid as being shot down by a bomber and crashing N.E. of Kassel, near Göttingen but there were no survivors.
The nose of the bomber was badly damaged, many instruments didn’t work any longer and one of the engines was out of power; but most important of all… one man was complete gone, simply blown away, falling overboard!
It was the bomb-aimer, Sgt. Robert (Bob) Coupe; although injured, his life was saved by his parachute and he came down in the target area, near the same site where that enemy fighter had crashed. On board the Halifax, the rest of the crew did not know what had happened to him.
He became a POW, but he was taken to a hospital first, where his wounds could heal, and where he also came in contact later with one of the wounded Luftwaffe crewmen from that collision!
In the meantime, the DK203 was still hanging in the air; the “grand old lady” did not give up, and was easier to fly after aborting the bomb load. There was no fire starting or any other direct danger coming. Hopefully they could now return to their home base or at least make it to the UK?
Pilot Nils was speeding up the aircraft by losing height bit by bit - and on the lower altitudes the extreme cold, coming in by thundery winds via the damaged nose, would be reduced too - and navigator Sig was orienteering their final course home by using the stars and glimpses of the landscape below. At the time they were flying again over those wonderful Frisian chain of islands, and hope was growing….. “they could make it!”
Then, rear-gunner Maurice was suddenly yelling: “Hunter-hunter”- the last words they ever heard from him.. In the next few moments the Halifax was hit from nose to rear, from the gun fire of that sneaky Luftwaffe nightfighter, piloted by an expert: Ofw. Heinz Vinke (of unit 11./NJG.1)
The rear-gunner (Sheerman) was probably killed at that moment. The flight-engineer (Hayes) was hit and wounded and the plane had caught fire. Also inside the top turret the mid-upper gunner (Coster) was in great danger and left the aircraft straightaway with burns to his face.
The fuselage of the damaged Halifax was almost working like a yetmotor (jet-engine?), because the heavy winds via the broken nose and the open rescue hatch, already opened over the target area, were pushing the flames backwards, to the damaged rear turret and even outside, with a fire tail behind.
This inferno could never be stopped. The fire extinguishers had been emptied so everyone was bailing out.
The skipper was the last man to leave. He did not survive, probably too late or too low, or, like the navigator Sig later related, “He was hit by one of the tail fins, like so many Halifax pilots, after using the pilot’s emergency hatch”
Sig Meieran was to later develop this theory, based mainly on the fact that he didn’t meet many surviving Halifax pilots in the POW-camps, while there were plenty of other Halifax crew members!
The skipper’s body was found on Terschelling island, and the remains of his rear gunner were still trapped in the wreckage of the plane, which came down some 400 meters outside the polderland of Formerum village, near a place named “De Ans” (today near the stage of the club “De ôde Dyk”)
(RNoAF) 2nd Lt. (Piloten Fenrik) Nils Eckhoff's body was found early the next morning, 4th Oct.’43, by local farmers, in a meadow used by Mr. Willem Cupido, of Worf, near the Formerumer Wiel (an inland pool). He was buried in the Longway cemetery, West-Terschelling - grave 106 on 5th October ’43.
His remains were exhumed after WW2 - following the wishes of his family in Norway - and cremated in Amstedam / Driehuis-Westerveld (1st crematorium in Holland) on 22nd May 1946.
His urn and ashes, together with his original Terschelling grave’s wooden cross, were flown to Oslo, to his family, and there interred in the Eckhoff family grave, at the Vestre Gravlund (Western General Cemetery of Oslo)
In August 1984, after visiting his brother Rolf Eckhoff, we brought back that 1st grave cross to Friesland for the local Terschelling museum. Behouden Huys is the owner now, and it’s in the collection for the daily use of the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden.
Nils Eckhoff's family grave at Vestre Gravlund
in Oslo (the largest cemetery in Norway).
Nils Eckhoff's family grave at Vestre Gravlund
in Oslo (the largest cemetery in Norway).
The roots of this very old family go back via Norway,
and Denmark, to Germany's Northern "Holstein" area (near
the Danish border) and also to "Ost-Friesland",
Oldenburg town (not far from Holland).
On this grave his name is written below the names of his parents (his father Johannes was a company director)
Johannes Nicolay Eckhoff 1881 - 1945, Nils Stockfleth Darre
1881 - 1945, Nils Stockfleth Darre
The Vestre Gravlund (Western General Cemetery) is
situated in a beautiful park landscape, between the
Willem's drawings illustrating how Jens
Skjelanger as well as Sigmund Meieran came down by parachute
into the cold waters of the Wadden Sea and the body of
the pilot Nils Eckhoff being found in the early hours of the next
morning, by local farmers.
Willem's drawings illustrating how Jens Skjelanger as well as Sigmund Meieran came down by parachute into the cold waters of the Wadden Sea and the body of the pilot Nils Eckhoff being found in the early hours of the next morning, by local farmers.
Flight Engineer (RAFVR) F/Sgt. Albert Hayeswas wounded. He died at St. Bonifatius Hospital in Leeuwarden (a/d. Mr. P.J. Troelstraweg) on the 6th of October and was buried in Leeuwarden (a/h. Schapendijkje), at the Northern General Cemetery - row 2, grave 4, a day or two after. He was the 23 year old son of joiner/carpenter John George Hayes and Bertha Hayes of Nottingham, UK.
Air Gunner (RAFVR) Flying
Officer Maurice G Sheerman . His body was recovered
by the Germans from the tail-turret of the wrecked
aircraft. He was buried at Longway /
Terschelling - grave 108 . He is also commemorated
on the memorial at
Emanuel School in Battersea. (see photo near the bottom
of this page)
. He is also commemorated on the memorial at Emanuel School in Battersea. (see photo near the bottom of this page)
Maurice Gordon Sheerman was born near Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey in 1917. He was the second son of John & Elsie Sheerman who originated from the Godstone area of Surrey. Maurice and one of his two brothers were educated at Emanuel School, in Battersea, London. At present we do not know if Maurice went on to University but he was employed as an assayer before joining the RAF and there is a record of the 22 year old's return to the UK from the African Gold Coast on the 'MV Adda' in the early months of World War 2. He at that time gave his home address as 1 Bernard Gardens, Wimbledon.
Maurice married Edith M D Needham (1919 - 2001) at her home town of Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire in the autumn of 1942. He had probably met her while stationed with the RAF in that area. The couple made their home at 21 Westby Road, St. Annes. After Maurice's death Edith did not remarry until 1951 when she became the wife of Reginald Dean. She died October 3rd 2001, on the anniversary of the loss of her first husband Maurice, and is buried at Lytham Park Cemetery.
Navigator (RNoAF) Sergeant Sigmund Meieran(ovski) landed safely by parachute, into the shallows of the Wadden Sea (depth about 1 mtr.), S.E. of the island (in direction Oosterend / Boschplaat).
The wind blew in his “canopy” continuously after landing and was helping him to reach the island the quick way. He then started to walk, keeping as far away as possible from the searching Germans. He was also trying warm up – his feet were very wet and cold.
He began following Terschelling’s outlines, looking for a small boat or something, because as a navigator he knew he was stuck on a damned island.
Unfortunately after about 18 hrs of freedom, in the last daylight of the next day (4th October ’43), he was suddenly caught by some armed “Jerries” of the Kriegsmarine, while he was stealing one of their dinghies in front of the sea-dike and not far from the crash-site. After the wounded flight engineer Albert Hayes, he was the 2nd of the crew made POW. On 7 October ’43 he departed for Harlingen (on the mainland), and via Leeuwarden and Amsterdam he arrived at Deutschland and the interrogation camp, 14 Oct.’43, in Frankfurt am Main.
He spent a total of 19 months in POW-camps before he was liberated by the 5th British army on the 26 April ’45, at Fallingbostel. His complete war diaries (in English) can be found via the Norwegian website www.jmoslo.no/utstilling/.../krigsdeltagere05.htm
At the beginning of the war, in Toronto, Canada, he had changed his name and passport, so the Germans didn’t know for 100% sure that his family was Jewish, and also making sure that there was no direct link to his family in occupied Norway!
He survived WW2, but not everyone in his family did, alas……
Cleveland June 1945 (see Gene Meieran's note below)
Cleveland June 1945 (see Gene Meieran's note below)
SIGMUND MEIERAN (1920-2013) Navigator on Halifax DK203 by Willem
In the early hours of April 11th, 1940, 20 year old Sigmund Meieran(ovski) put on his backpack and with his ski’s under his arm, walked to the front door of his parents home in Ila, a part of Oslo, Norway.
It was about 2 days after the German invasion of Norway and Denmark and he had made an important decision.
On his way out he was surprised by his father, who was asking where he was going so very early in the morning. Sigmund answered that he was leaving, only for a short ski-trip, but that he would be back later to assist his father in their store.
But, this trip would turn out to be for 5 years; and during that period he would be downed as a navigator in a 76 Squadron bomber during a dramatic fighter attack, followed by 19 months as a prisoner of war in Germany.
When Sigmund eventually did return home, as a "Fenrik" ( 2nd Lieutenant) in the Norwegian Air Force, he found his father and mother, two brothers and a five year old niece had been deported and killed.
Sigmunt Meieran was of Polish-Jewish origin and it is believed his parents had migrated to Norway in the 1920s. He had one brother who survived the war and settled in America. Sig joined him there for some years and was employed by NASA. He later returned to Oslo.
This message is to inform you of the passing of my uncle Sigmund Meieran, navigator on the Halifax DK203, 76 Squadron, shot down Oct. 3 1943 over Terschelling.
Sigmund survived the war, and indeed visited Terschelling in the 1970's when his aircraft was dug up in the Zuider Zee.
Some of his instruments are seen in the Museum in Tershelling (and noted in your paper).
Sigmund passed away on Feb. 17, 2013, at the age of 93 years and one month.
He was the oldest surviving RNAF member, and the oldest Jewish Norwegian veteran of WWII.
I have attached a recent picture of Sigmund, one taken at his 90th birthday party, as well as one taken in Cleveland, Ohio, with my brother Harvey, and my parents, Rae and Elias Meieran, in June 1945. Elias was Sig's older brother, and had moved to Cleveland in 1926. This picture was taken in June 1945, after Sig was liberated and came to Cleveland to see his remaining family (his parents and much of his immediate family were shipped to Auschwitz in November, 1942).
I am the younger in the photo; 7 years old at the time. I have also attached a photo of Sigmund, Harvey and me taken in Oslo a few years ago, when we attended the opening of the Norwegian Holocaust Museum.
Sigmund was an active outdoorsman until near the end of his life. He never married but his two nephews and one niece and our families are like his children.
wartime newsreels part 2
Wireless Operator (RNoAF) Sergeant Jens Skjelanger also landed by parachute into the cold sea waters near Terschelling island.
Unfortunately these people couldn’t hide him from the occupying Germans for a long time. In that small local community everyone was known by face, name etc. on the island. Local police officer Jan de Vries took him to the Germans in the end and Jens Skjelanger became a prisoner of war.
Later, on the 6th of February 1945, he was repatriated to the UK on the Arundel Castle because he had been infected with tuberculosis at the POW-camp.
Before the war he had been a marine wireless operator with the Norwegian merchant fleet, and far from home when in April 1940 the Germans invaded Denmark and Norway.
In Aug. 1984 I interviewed him in his home-town Strømmen, East of Oslo, after some correspondence and help from Nils’ brother Mr. Rolf Eckhoff. (We made an appointment during a telephone call to Norway)
Exchange of disabled prisoners of war December 1944- February 1945
It seems odd that in the middle of total war between the Allies and Nazi Germany, that such formalities as exchanging badly wounded prisoners-of-war were not only negotiated but carried out.
British Merchant Marine officer Peter Guy, cited in
Convoy: Merchant Sailors At War 1939-1945 by P.
Kaplan and J. Currie, describes an exchange which
occurred in the late December of 1944.
He is aboard the British merchant ship Arundel Castle and their destination is Goteborg, in neutral Sweden where the exchange will take place.
"We were granted safe passage, and it was a treat to have portholes open and lights showing. On Christmas Eve 1944, we lay off Gibraltar after embarking the Germans at Marseilles, and everyone who was able gathered on the deck to sing a grand selection of carols....Later we passed through a narrow channel in the Skaggerak into the Baltic, and we could see the faces of the German gunners looking down on us from their gun positions. They weren't impressed when some of our crew gave the V-sign. Arriving at Goteborg, we were surprised to get a welcome from a German brass band playing on the quayside...The saddest part was when close on a hundred of our lads who had lost their sight were led up the gangway. The exchange was all over in about three hours and we sailed home to Liverpool."
It is important to note that both Norway and Denmark
were occupied by the Germans at this time so the German
gunners he refers to are stationed in those countries.
The operation commenced on 29 December 1944 with the departure from the USA of 694 German POWs aboard the Charles Stafford bound for Marseilles. Then in the middle of January 1945 the Tairea (from Italy and the Middle East) and the Empire Clyde (having first sailed from the UK to Algiers brought a further 549 German POWs to that southern French port. The Gripsholm once again and the hospital ship Letitia (Captain GH Baillie) brought 1,550 German repatriates from the United States (850 of whom were civilians).
Others were brought from Avonmouth (England) in the
Dutch hospital ship Oranje, and Arundel
Castle ferried 966 from Liverpool, all to
The planned exchange of 1,756 British sick, wounded and
protected personnel and 440 US personnel plus 850
civilians went smoothly. The Germans were taken away
from Marseilles in the special trains provided for by
the Swiss, and these same trains (with a capacity of
360, including 150 lying cases) then brought the Allied
repatriates to Marseilles.
Letitia reached Liverpool on 1 February 1945 and disembarked the 721 repatriates the following day.
Arundel Castle, with 763 sick and wounded, also sailed to Liverpool, berthing in Princes Dock at 1800 hours on 5 February. The unloading of the patients was completed on the 6th of February.
On Whit Sunday 2011 the Roman Catholic priest of Paderborn, in Central-Germany, Mr. Karl Heinz Kloidt died.
Born in 1926, he was a pupil of the "Eschweger Oberschule" (Eschwege high school). He was only 16 years old when he was stationed as a "Luftwaffenhelfer", on a German FLAK-battery in "Raum Kassel".
During the Kassel air raid of 3/4th of October 1943, he and the other students in their ack-ack-battery near Kassel's industrial area, were hit by a British air force bomb. It was a direct hit on their guns and ammo-store. 23 of those boys were killed, and many others, like Karl Heinz himself, were badly wounded.
After weeks in hospital - the Hitler authorities did not give up - they posted him to the Western front in France to fight on the battlefields against the Allied troops. It was there he was later made a prisoner of war.
After these bad adventures, it was simply enough - never again! That was one of the reasons why he became a priest in 1952.
The 76 Squadron stain-glass window at All Saints Church, Holme-on-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire
The 76 Squadron badge is shown in the right-hand side of the window and below it are shown three anchors. These are a reminder of the losses suffered during action against the German capital ships:- Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Tirpitz.
All Saints Church itself is depicted in the left-hand light, with the red beacon shining from the tower against a lightening night sky, in which are shown a handful of stars.
The main central area of the design is composed of two large interlinked circles. The upper edge of the top circle represents the sun rising, ("dawn breaking"), and the lower edge of the lower circle is marked as for a compass rose.
The central area represents the landscape of Yorkshire, in which the Church sits, for the airfield of Holme-on-Spalding Moor, and for which (as part of our country) our armed forces fought and in some cases lost their lives.
At the top of the right-hand light are shown two Halifax bombers returning from Operations, guided in over the early morning fields towards the airfield by the red beacon.
The Hercules radial engine is shown at the base of the right-hand light and balancing on the left, the up-turned faces of two ground- crew, awaiting the returning aircraft.The words " TO SEE THE DAWN BREAKING - SAFELY HOLME" (the title of the Squadron's History, written by Bill Chorley) are shown between the Church and their faces. The yellow lines in the lower half of each light depict the runways of the airfield.
Yorkshire to Terschelling
I am researching former pupils of Emanuel School in
Battersea who fought in WW2 and noticed you have done
some excellent research on Maurice Gordon Sheerman, who
I saw this http://www.626-squadron.co.uk/willem15.htm
and was wondering if you had any more information on
Maurice Sheerman that was not included in this article
and would be willing to share?
I have a blog detailing my research and am working with the School archivist Tony Jones on an exhibition in 2014 commemorating all those who served in both WW1 and WW2.
My blog is http://emanuelschoolatwar.posterous.com
I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for
Yours sincerely, Daniel Kirmatzis November 2012
Please find attached the Emanuel WW2 Memorial with M G Sheerman's name on the right hand panel about half way down.
15 year old Maurice Sheerman as an alto in the chorus of the Emanuel School Musical Society at their concert in June 1932.
EMANUEL SCHOOL AT WAR By Daniel Kirmatzis
A little over four
years ago I started to uncover the stories of
Old Emanuels who served in the First and Second
World Wars. Just over a year ago Tony Jones, the
Emanuel School Archivist and I sat down and
discussed turning my research into an
exhibition. Together, we have been working hard
to produce what we believe will be one of the
largest school level war exhibitions of its kind
in the UK in 2014. It has been a fascinating
journey which is now in its last stage.
On Thursday 6 November 2014 we are holding a Special Preview evening for the Emanuel School at War Exhibition.The Exhibition will then be open to the public from Friday 7 November 2014 to Monday 10 November at Emanuel School.
There will also be a fully illustrated, 500pp book to accompany the exhibition.
I have a blog which details some of the research I have undertaken in the last few years which can be found at http://emanuelschoolatwar.wordpress.com
If you have any further materials to contribute to the exhibition and/or book please let me know.
We are also fundraising towards the cost of publication and if you feel you could assist us in reaching our target of between £12,000 - £15,000 to produce 500 copies of the book and help towards the exhibition costs then we would be happy to send you a fundraising booklet and gift aid form.
I hope the exhibition will be a fitting tribute to honour the memory of all those OEs who played their part in two world wars. Daniel Kirmatzis
Little Norway in Canada
The Flyvåpnenes Treningsleir (FTL), the official name) or "Little Norway" was a Norwegian Army Air Service/Royal Norwegian Air Force training camp in Canada during the Second World War.
When Nazi Germany attacked Norway on 9 April 1940, the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNAF) was unable to mount a sustained defence.
For the Norwegian Army Air Service aircraft the only option for escape was Finland, where the planes would be interned but at least not fall into the hands of the Germans.
In all, two Fokker C.V.s and one de Havilland Tiger Moth made it across the border and onto Finnish airfields just before the capitulation of mainland Norway. All navy and army aircraft that fled to Finland were pressed into service with the Finnish Air Force, while most of the aircrew eventually ended up in "Little Norway".
Following the defeat of the Norwegian forces, the King,
key members of the government and military left Norway
in June 1940 aboard the HMS Devonshire.
Arrangements were made to transfer Norwegian pilots to a North American headquarters while various locations were considered, a base around the Toronto Island Airport in Canada was chosen.
Once the base was established, young Norwegians migrated to the site to enroll in the RNAF in Canada.
Although basic training took place in "Little Norway", by 1941, students selected as fighter pilots began to receive advance training at the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan base in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan on the NA Harvard.
In total during the war, over 2,500 Norwegian airmen of all categories (pilots, navigators and mechanics) were trained in the various bases of "Little Norway".
Norway was able to reestablish its Air Force and to maintain four national squadrons of aircraft and one air transport unit throughout the war, operating under allied operational command.
A substantial number joined Bomber Command's 76 Squadron which was based at RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor.
From August 1942 to April 1943, No 76 Squadron was commanded by Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire VC who had a distinguished RAF career and was later to be a British observer on an American aircraft dropping one of the atom bombs on Japan in 1945.
Our photographs show a sentry on duty at Little Norway. In the group, Lt Nils Eckhoff is on the extreme right, and at the bottom Sgt Sigmund Meieran (left) is pictured during training.
Lancaster W4946 from Australian 467 Squadron
W4946 was one of two 467 Sqdn Lancasters lost on this operation. The other was W5003 piloted by Australian Flying Officer J L Carrington shot down by a night-fighter over the target area.
W4946 was airborne at 23.00 on the night of 27th July 1943 from RAF Bottesford.
Its bomb load was 1 x 4000lb, 2 x 500lb bombs, 48 x30lb and 900 x 4lb incendiaries. The crew, led by Pilot Officer James Buchanan, were all Australians except for the 20 year old flight engineer, Sgt Geoffrey Peggs, who was from Colchester in Essex.
The crew were - P/O J T Buchanan (Pilot) aged 31 from Beaudesert, Queensland, P/O A L Gibbons (Navigator) age 21 from Victoria Park, West Australia, Flt Sgt R P Holmes (Bomb Aimer) age 21 from Rockhampton, Queensland, P/O K H Hoffman (Wireless Operator Air Gunner) age 22 from Mount Morgan, Queensland, Sgt G C Peggs aged 20 (Flight Engineer) from Colchester, UK, Flt Sgt D E E Dean (Mid Upper Gunner) age 21 of Newtown, Tasmania, and Flt Sgt R G Reu, (Rear Gunner) age 20 from Lobethal, South Australia.
Hans Joachim Jabs was one of the few German Bf-110 aces to attain numerous victories against Hurricanes and Spitfires during the Battle of Britain, during which he downed eight Spitfires and four Hurricanes. Downing the superior-performing Spitfires and Hurricanes in the twin-engine Bf-110 was considered by fellow Zerstorer pilots as the ultimate achievement of a fighter pilot. However, by mid 1941 it was very clear that the Bf-110 needed to be withdrawn from front-line daytime fighter service. Many 110s were retrofitted for the night fighter role, where the aircraft would not encounter fighter opposition. Jabs was retrained in late 1941, and he joined NJG-3 in the defense of Hamburg from the RAF night bombing attacks.
The graves of Australians Pilot Officer A L Gibbons and Pilot Officer K H Hoffman at Terschelling
* * *
Wellington HE116 from 21 Operational Training Unit
Wellington HE116, with a crew made up of trainees from 21 OTU, left its airfield at RAF Edgehill near Banbury, Oxfordshire at 23.40 on a mission to bomb Bremen.
The normal task of an Operational
Training Unit was to take the newly
qualified pilots, navigators, wireless
operators and air gunners arriving from
their respective training schools to
introduce them to the service aircraft
they would be flying and to bring the
various disciplines of working together
as a team. They would spend about five
to six weeks at Moreton in the Marsh.
The airfield at Moreton in the Marsh and the memorial at its satellite airfield RAF Edgehill
On the evening of the 13th of September 1942, 446 Bomber Command aircraft took off to bomb the Focke-Wulfe aircraft factory and the Lloyd Dynamo Works at Bremen. Twenty six bombers were lost, of which 16 were from training units.
Wellington HE116 was lost over the North
Sea. On its return journey from Bremen
shot down by night fighter pilot
Hauptmann Helmut Lent of II/NJG2 at
2.05am north of the Dutch Fresian island
of Texel. Three of the crew's bodies
were washed ashore and buried in Holland
and Denmark. The others are commemorated
at the Runnymede Air Force Memorial. The
crew were Pilot : 25
year old Canadian Pilot Officer
Michael Holub. The navigator was Warwickshire
born Sergeant Bernard L
aged 20, who had only
married Hilda Guymer in April that year.
The observer was 34 year old Canadian,
Flight Sergeant Walter Pedersen.
He was from Clanwilliam, Manitoba. The
wireless operator was 21 year old
Stanley Davies from
Bridgend, Glamorganshire. The
air-gunners were 34 year old Surrey born
Sergeant Robert S C Plowright who
had married Charlotte Hahn in 1938, and
19 year old Sergeant Richard
from Lake on the Isle of Wight.
aged 20, who had only married Hilda Guymer in April that year. The observer was 34 year old Canadian, Flight Sergeant Walter Pedersen. He was from Clanwilliam, Manitoba. The wireless operator was 21 year old Welshman Sergeant Stanley Davies from Bridgend, Glamorganshire. The air-gunners were 34 year old Surrey born Sergeant Robert S C Plowright who had married Charlotte Hahn in 1938, and 19 year old Sergeant Richard F Stay from Lake on the Isle of Wight.Apparently before the mission Richard Stay had tossed a coin to see which spare gunner went with this new crew on their first trip.
All six crew lost their lives and three of the bodies were never recovered. Robert Plowright was buried on the island of Schiermonnikoog on September 30th. Walter Pedersen's body was washed up on the South Beach on the 21st of September and buried on the 22nd at Terschelling. He had been identified from his identity disc. The air-gunner Richard Stay was recovered in Denmark and was buried on October 20, 1942 at Four Felt Cemetery in Esbjerg. The remaining crew are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial near Windsor Castle.
* * *
Halifax W7752 from 102 (Ceylon) Squadron
Halifax W7752 from 102 (Ceylon) Squadron took off at 8.11pm on September 10th 1942 from RAF Pocklington in Yorkshire for a raid on Dusseldorf.
479 aircraft were sent from RAF Bomber Command in this raid on the German city of Dusseldorf. 242 Wellingtons, 89 Lancasters, 59 Halifaxes, 47 Stirlings, 28 Hampdens, 14 Whitleys. Training aircraft of 91, 92 and 93 Groups were among those taking part.
33 aircraft were lost - 20 Wellingtons, 5 Lancasters, 4 Stirlings, 3 Halifaxes, and one 1 Hampden, 7.1 per cent of the force. 16 O.T.U., from Upper Heyford, lost 5 of its 13 Wellingtons.
39 industrial firms in Dusseldorf and 13 in Neuss were damaged so much that all production ceased for various periods. 8 public buildings were destroyed and 67 damaged. 911 houses were destroyed,1,506 seriously and 8,340 lightly damaged. 132 people were killed.
W7752 was on its return journey when attacked by a German night-fighter. It crashed into the North Sea off the Dutch coast. It is believed to have been shot down at 11.36pm by Hptm. Horst Patuschka (8./NJG 2) north-west of Walcheren.
Handley Page Halifax Mark II Series1A, JD206 'DY-T' of 102 Squadron RAF, about to be towed from its dispersal by a David Brown tractor at Pocklington, Yorkshire. This aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire on 22 June 1943, and ditched off Overflakkee Island, Holland. IWM photo
The eight man crew of Halifax W7752 were 23 year old English
born Pilot Officer Peter A V England RCAF
(pilot) from Quebec, Canada, (observer) from Bream in the Forest of
(pilot) from Quebec, Canada,Flying Officer Bernard G H Smith (2nd pilot) whose parents lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 22 year old Sergeant Kenneth Marshall (flight engineer) from Waterlooville, Hampshire, UK, 26 year old Sergeant Reginald (Coot) Moore
(observer) from Bream in the Forest of Dean, UK,22 year old Flight Sergeant Samuel H Jackson (wireless operator/gunner) from Hoole in Cheshire, 20 year old Welshman Sergeant Derrick R W Schofield from Bebbington, Cheshire, 24 year old Flight Sergeant George F Fargher RCAF (air gunner) from Manitoba, Canada, and 23 year old Pilot Officer John B McCormack, an Irishman from County Kerry, whose name is also on the Epping, Surrey war memorial.
The German pilot who is credited with shooting down the Halifax was Hptm. Horst Patuschka (1912-1943) of 8./NJG 2. During his service he managed to claim 23 victories. He and his two crew-mates lost their lives on 7th March 1943 when his Junkers Ju 88C-6 developed engine trouble and crashed at Bizerte, Tunisia.
of the eight bodies from W7752 were eventually
recovered from the water and buried at
different Dutch cemeteries. With no known
graves, John McCormack and Derrick Schofield
are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
Reginald Moore and Kenneth Marshall were both washed ashore at Terschelling, Sgt Marshall on 11th of October and Sgt Moore on 14th of October and each buried with a German military funeral two days after being recovered.
Three of the crew were found around the Westerschelde Estuary, Peter England in the sea on the 19th of September, Samuel Jackson on the 23 of October, and the body of Bernard George Harry Smith were washed ashore near 's-Heerenhoek village on the 27th of October. They are buried at the Northern Cemetery in Vlissingen.
Canadian George Fargher was buried at Bergen op Zoom (N.-B.), grave 14.C.5.
In Hptm. Patuschka's own
records - "Intercepted
and shot down over
Biervliet village", in
Zeeuws-Vlaanderen (the Flanders mainland side of the
another German source
reports - more into the
2/MFlaA 813, which
was a local FLAK-battery
on Walcheren island, as
far as I know, reports "meldet
Flugzeug nördlich v.
Walcheren" at 23.37
hrs. So they are
saying, the plane
crashed into the North
Sea, off the Walcheren
coast, not in the
The grave of Sergeant
Moore was adopted by
Mrs. I. Tuinman - Van
Vliet who lives near the
all tempt fate at some time or
other in our lives. On one
occasion on leave in the
village, Coot had been drinking
in Aunt Annie's (The Rising Sun
pub) with two of his pals,
Darryl Camm, who was in the
Navy, and Hylton Miles. The
three emerged somewhat the worse
for wear and both Darryl and
Coot went across the road and
chalked their names on the
Skarzynski 1 May 1899 -
26 June 1942 Stanislaw
Skarzynski was born in
Warta on 1st May 1899.
His father was the local
pharmacist. He attended
school in Wloclawek and
Kalisz. In 1916/17 he
was a member of the
Organisation and in
volunteered for the
newly created Polish
Army and commanded an
action of disarming
German soldiers in
During the battle of
Radzymin he was severely
wounded in one leg on 16
August 1920. The infected
wound needed long
Skarżyński from that time
always had a limp. Unable to
continue serving in the
infantry, he managed to
tranfer to the air force.
On 7/8 May 1933,
Skarzynski flew solo in
a small Polish tourist
aeroplane RWD- 5bis (reg
no SP-AJU) across the
southern Atlantic from
Saint-Louis Senegal to
Maceio Brazil. The
flight took 20 hours 30
minutes (17 hours 15
minutes over the ocean).
He crossed 3,582 km
establishing a World
Record for a FAI
Category 2 tourist plane
(weight below 450 kg).
In December 1941, he
went to RAF Bramcote to
train on Wellington
bombers and in April
1942 assumed command of
RAF Lindholme which was
the home base for 304
and 305 Polish
Squadrons. Although not
directly attached to
either Squadron, he was
still a fighter at heart
and began to fly bombing
missions as second
On 25th June 1942 he was
on a 305 Squadron mission to
Bremen as second pilot in
Wellington Z8528 SM-R,
captained by F/Lt E
Rudowski, when one engine
failed and they were forced
to ditch in the North Sea
about 40 miles off Great
He was the last to leave
the aircraft and the
rest of the crew managed
to get into a dinghy and
heard his cries for help
for about half an hour
but were unable to save
him. He had taken refuge
on a piece of wreckage
but was swamped by a
wave and washed away.
The rest of the crew
were picked up by a
Royal Navy vessel after
about eight hours in the
water but Skarzynski
drowned and his body was
washed ashore on
Terschelling Island in
the Friesian Islands on
21st of July. He was
buried in West
Terschelling cemetery on
23rd of July. That year
he was posthumously
promoted to Group
During the course of his
career he was awarded
the Silver Cross of the
Order of Virtuti
Militari, the Cross of
Officer Cross of the
Order of Poland, the
Cross of Valour (four
times), the Gold Cross
of Merit and the Silver
Cross of Merit. He also
won the Cross of the
Romanian Crown, the
Hungarian Cross of
Merit, the Brazilian
Southern Cross and the
French Legion d’Honeur.
He was posthumously
promoted to full colonel
and awarded the Order of
Polonia Restituta II
1983 a plaque was fixed to
his gravestone; it reads
ZAWSZE RAZEM JULIA which
means “Forever together,
Julia” and marks the fact
that his wife’s ashes were
buried in the same grave.
In Hptm. Patuschka's own "Abschuss" report records - "Intercepted and shot down over Biervliet village", in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen (the Flanders mainland side of the Westerschelde). But another German source reports - more into the North.
2/MFlaA 813, which
was a local FLAK-battery
on Walcheren island, as
far as I know, reports "meldet
Flugzeug nördlich v.
Walcheren" at 23.37
hrs. So they are
saying, the plane
crashed into the North
Sea, off the Walcheren
coast, not in the
The grave of Sergeant Moore was adopted by Mrs. I. Tuinman - Van Vliet who lives near the cemetery.
"We all tempt fate at some time or other in our lives. On one occasion on leave in the village, Coot had been drinking in Aunt Annie's (The Rising Sun pub) with two of his pals, Darryl Camm, who was in the Navy, and Hylton Miles. The three emerged somewhat the worse for wear and both Darryl and Coot went across the road and chalked their names on the Cenotaph.
Stanislaw Jakub Skarzynski 1 May 1899 - 26 June 1942 Stanislaw Skarzynski was born in Warta on 1st May 1899. His father was the local pharmacist. He attended school in Wloclawek and Kalisz. In 1916/17 he was a member of the Polish Military Organisation and in November 1918 volunteered for the newly created Polish Army and commanded an action of disarming German soldiers in Warta.
During the battle of Radzymin he was severely wounded in one leg on 16 August 1920. The infected wound needed long rehabilitation, and Skarżyński from that time always had a limp. Unable to continue serving in the infantry, he managed to tranfer to the air force.
On 7/8 May 1933, Skarzynski flew solo in a small Polish tourist aeroplane RWD- 5bis (reg no SP-AJU) across the southern Atlantic from Saint-Louis Senegal to Maceio Brazil. The flight took 20 hours 30 minutes (17 hours 15 minutes over the ocean). He crossed 3,582 km establishing a World Record for a FAI Category 2 tourist plane (weight below 450 kg).
In December 1941, he went to RAF Bramcote to train on Wellington bombers and in April 1942 assumed command of RAF Lindholme which was the home base for 304 and 305 Polish Squadrons. Although not directly attached to either Squadron, he was still a fighter at heart and began to fly bombing missions as second pilot.
On 25th June 1942 he was
on a 305 Squadron mission to
Bremen as second pilot in
Wellington Z8528 SM-R,
captained by F/Lt E
Rudowski, when one engine
failed and they were forced
to ditch in the North Sea
about 40 miles off Great
He was the last to leave the aircraft and the rest of the crew managed to get into a dinghy and heard his cries for help for about half an hour but were unable to save him. He had taken refuge on a piece of wreckage but was swamped by a wave and washed away. The rest of the crew were picked up by a Royal Navy vessel after about eight hours in the water but Skarzynski drowned and his body was washed ashore on Terschelling Island in the Friesian Islands on 21st of July. He was buried in West Terschelling cemetery on 23rd of July. That year he was posthumously promoted to Group Captain.
During the course of his career he was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari, the Cross of Independence, the Officer Cross of the Order of Poland, the Cross of Valour (four times), the Gold Cross of Merit and the Silver Cross of Merit. He also won the Cross of the Romanian Crown, the Hungarian Cross of Merit, the Brazilian Southern Cross and the French Legion d’Honeur. He was posthumously promoted to full colonel and awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta II Class.
In 1983 a plaque was fixed to his gravestone; it reads ZAWSZE RAZEM JULIA which means “Forever together, Julia” and marks the fact that his wife’s ashes were buried in the same grave.
It is almost unbelievable, but during the war there was on Terschelling Island indeed a second Wassermann-tower !!! It was an equipment like as on Schiermonnikoog: a Wassermann M - I / II (Girder type), 36 mtrs. high, erected North of the large Wassermann- or Tiger-bunker (Tigerstellung), and NE of West-Terschelling village, on a location named "Groenplak" (= Green Spot). See the pictures I found via Google etc. (also from de remains of the concrete foundation of the Würzburg-Riese on a place in the dunes and pine woods NE of West-tersch., on a location named "Het donkere bos" (= the dark wood), and from a "Tobruk-bunker" nearby the "Seinpaaldune" and the "Noordsvaarder" (part of the West-Batterie).
By the end of the war there were in total 94 German
objects spread out over the isle, as bunkers, shelters,
stores, trenchies, tunnels, living-blocks,
generator-houses,garages, gun-beddings, road-blocks,
etc. etc., most under camouflage and surround by
kilometers of barbed wires, mine-fields etc.
By the way, in Enschede city, East-Holland, on the campus of the Technical University Twente, is still standing a complete and also still working Würzburg-Riese equipment, as far as I know; the students are using it as study-object and for some experimental technical research. Willem
(1) Wasserman foundations at Groeplak. (2) Würzburg-Riese foundations (3) West Battery Bunker
www.fortendenhelder.nl/radars/wassermann.htm - you'll find an overview / list of all German "Fernaufklärungs"-equipments along the European coast-line / on the mainland, in the so called "Atlantikwall", including Terschelling, Schiermonnikoog etc.
German minesweeper at Terschelling in 1943
Graves of Airmen at Longway Cemetery
Photographs from Longway Cemetery of a list of local people adopting graves
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