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    Friesland wartime history     by Willem de Jong                page 31  

A Polish pilot whose Spitfire  crashed at Vuren  and  the  events  of 16th/17th of September 1944

Texel & Den Helder

 

 

D

Leeuwarden Area

Schiermonikoog

Harlingen & Harderwijk

Occupied Harlingen

Shipdham Airfield & the USAF 44th

Ameland

Vlieland

Terschelling

St. Jacobparochie

Rottum Island

Hindeloopen

12 Squadron Losses

Sink the Scharnhorst!

Runnymede Memorial

 

 

 

 

317 City of Wilno Squadron was formed on 22nd of February 1941 at RAF Acklington as a Polish Hurricane squadron. In June it moved south and began to take part in sweeps and bomber escort missions over France.

Converting to Spitfires in October 1941, the squadron joined other Polish squadrons at RAF Northolt in April 1942, and then on September 5th 1942, was transferred to RAF Woodvale in Northern England, where they stayed until 13th February 1943.

In April 1943 it returned south, to RAF Deanland in Sussex, to fly offensive sweeps over northern France, and later joined Second TAF preparing for the invasion of Europe.

From 26th April until 28th June 1944, 317 Squadron pilots, together with those from 303 and 308 Squadrons, were stationed at a temporary airfield near Chailey in Sussex.

The site of a former military airfield. It was used during 1944 as an advanced landing ground to provide air cover for Operation Overlord, the Normandy landings. The only accommodation at the airfield was a tented camp.

 

 

    317 Squadron pilots at Chailey airfield, Sussex, in May 1944, and a portrait of Spitfire pilot, Warrant Officer Richard Lewczynski,

 

There were 4 blister hangars and the landing surfaces were made of Sommerfeld Track, a type of steel mesh matting.

After flying ground attack missions in support of the invasion landings, they moved in July to RAF Appledram, and in August to RAF Ford.

On August 4th, 317 Squadron, with the other squadrons of 131 Polish Fighter Wing, relocated to Plumetot, near the Normandy beachhead, on August 4th 1944. The airstrip was located 7 miles NW of the village of Plumetot.

(1) The Norwegian pilots of 332 Spitfire Squadron used a standard 45-gallon Typhoon/Hurricane ‘Torpedo’ jettison tank modified for use on the Spitfire to transfer their beer to France, and (2) the Poles at Plumetot had “beer bombs”  put together: probably at Ford airfield in West Sussex.

 

The pilot's sleeping quarters were located in trenches, which gave them some protection against shelling. They did, apparently, manage to build themselves an ingenious mess, which was flooded with beer, having arrived at the base carried inside specially adapted aircraft droppable tanks.

Spitfire IX PL286 ZF-Z of 308 Polish Squadron  and 198 Squadron Typhoons on Plumetot airfield in July 1944.

During the Battle of Normandy, the Allies constructed a total of nineteen airstrips. These were valuable bases for the repair, refuelling and emergency landings of Allied aircraft. Aerodrome ‘B10’ at Plumetot was given an asphalt surface, and had a length of about 1200 metres. While Caen was still in German hands, it was the closest airstrip to the city.

 

From that airstrip, the Polish squadrons made several long range armed reconnaissance missions, sometimes reaching into Belgium. Every day the distance from the airstrip to the front grew, and the Spitfires had to land at RAF Manston, back in the UK, to refuel, before going back to Plumetot.

On the 5th September 1944, the main party left Normandy and moved to Londonieres, some 10 miles south of Dieppe le Treport. Their aircraft followed the next day. The remaining ground personnel from Plumetot joined the unit during the next couple of days, finally leaving the ruined Normandy. Some sorties were then flown against German resistance points at Le Havre, Boulogne and Dunkirk.

On 10 September 1944, came the order to relocate to a new airstrip, the former Luftwaffe air base of Flugplatz Vendeville, situated five miles south-east of the centre of Lille. The airfield had concrete runways and some buildings left standing.

Their instructions now were to dive-bomb German strong points at Dunkirk, carry out reconnaissance, and attack the movements of German troops and supplies, and their Big Ben (V-1) rocket launching pads in Holland, while also supporting the Polish 1st Armoured Division during its pursuit of the German Army along the coast of the English Channel when it liberated the towns of Saint-Omer, Ypres, Oostnieuwkerke, Roeselare, Tielt, Ruislede, and Ghent. 

After the period at Lille-Vendeville airfield, in October 1944, 317 Squadron moved to St. Denis Westrem, situated 3.2 km southwest of Gent, Belgium. Between November 25 and December 11 they were sent back to the UK for a short break and were rested at Fairwood Common (Wales) only flying short training flights. They then returned to St. Denis Westrem until January 1945.

On January 1, the Polish Wing took off for a morning mission to bomb various targets. Nearly an hour later, over 50 German fighters attacked their airfield at St. Denis.

This was a part of the Operation “Bodenplatte”, the last major effort made by a fading Luftwaffe.

Low flying Fw190s and Me109s strafed the aircraft belonging to Polish, American and British squadrons.

Fortunately the Germans were caught red-handed by the Polish pilots of 308 and 317 squadrons when returning from their operations. A fierce air battle broke out above and around the airfield.

317 squadron’s pilots shot down six confirmed, one probable and damaged four.They suffered one loss, F/Lt Powierza, who was shot down and died in the resulting crash. On the ground, the Poles lost 18 Spitfires, while several soldiers defending the airfield were killed.

317's next move was to Grimbergen airfield situated in the province of Flemish Brabant in Belgium.

 

April 1945: Nordhorn, located near Grafschaft Bentheim in Lower Saxony, Germany.

April-September 1945:  Varrelbusch, Oldenburg, Lower Saxony.    

September 1945-October 1946: Ahlhorn, Lower Saxony.   

October-December 1946: RAF Hethel, Nr Norwich, UK. Disbanded as an RAF fighter unit at RAF Hethel on 18 December 1946.

317 Squadron’s war record: 10251 sorties in 14352 flying hours; 48 1/3 enemy’s aircraft shot down, 10 probable, and 26 damaged; 3 aircraft destroyed and 3 damaged on the ground; one 500 tons ship sunk; 595 motor vehicles, 13 locomotives, 111 railway cars, 17 self propelled guns, 30 barges and tugs, 17 military buildings destroyed.

Losses: 25 pilots lost, 2 missing and 5 POW; 59 aircraft lost and 25 damaged.

 

W/O. Ryszard 'Richard' Lewczynski was born 17th March 1918, in Wlodawa, on the river Bug, which is situated in the Lublin 'Voivoship' of Eastern Poland, near the borders of todays Ukraine and Belarus (and near the horrible remains of Nazi-camp 'Sobibor'). He graduated at the 'Szkola Podoficerow Lotnidtwa dla Maloletnich', in Bydgoszcz, and is believed to received some pre-airforce education at a training centre near the local airfield of that Polish city. Unfortunately we have very little information about Ryszard and his family.

We know he took part in the Polish campaign, flying with the 151 Eskadra (fighters) in 1939, at that time assigned to Army "Narew" and operating from a field airport in the town of Biel. near Malkinia, and close to the East Prussian border.

Ryszard (Richard) Lewczynski is listed as one of the squadron's 16 pilots.

 


The PZL P.7 was a Polish fighter aircraft designed in the early-1930s at the PZL factory in Warsaw. A state-of-the-art construction, it was one of the first all-metal monoplane fighters in the world. The badge of the later formed 317 Squadron was identical with the emblem of 152 Squadron and presented an attacking condor on a white shield in the form of an equilateral cross.

During the French campaign of 1940, Ryszard (Richard) Lewczynski was one of the Polish fighter pilots dispersed throughout French units in fighter squadrons assigned to the defence of cities and industrial production centres.

He is also believed to have been one of the pilots evacuated by cars to the port of La Rochelle on the 18th June 1940, from where they were transported to England.

A short time later he was posted to the new Polish 307 Fighter Squadron, on 24 August 1940. based at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey, Lincolnshire. The Squadron moved on to RAF Jurby on the Isle of Man on 7th November 1940, RAF Squires Gate, Blackpool, on 23rd January 1941, RAF Colerne, Bristol, on 26th March 1941 and RAF Exeter, Devon on 26th April 1941. During this time he flew Boulton Paul Defiants and later, Bristol Beaufighters.

In May 1942 he joined 317 Squadron.

On Saturday the 16th of September 1944, 12 Spitfires, led by F/Lt Krzeminski, took off on an armed reconnaissance mission, between 13.50 & 14.00 hrs, from Lille Vendeville airfield, to attack various targets in Holland. Two of the aircraft failed to return. Sgt Edward Lakomy crash-landed his Spitfire, MK943 (JH-S), after being hit by flak, but managed, with the help of the Dutch resistance, to evade capture and successfully return to his unit.

W/O. Ryszard 'Richard' Lewczynski, in Spitfire ML128, was not so fortunate.

His aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire over Rotterdam, and he was forced to bail out in enemy-held territory.

Until now it's still a 'wartime mystery' of what happened then to him, but he is believed to have been murdered by SS soldiers, and buried in a 'secret fieldgrave'.

 

During this period there where a lot of different units present in Oisterwijk. Among them was a sanitats company (divisional dressing station) I think as part of the 245th Division, and  a big German supply dump in  our leather factory, that was also used for the German war effort. A transport unit called NSKK (National Sozialistisches Kraftfahr Korps) was stationed in the forest, and also the Germans had a big storage of ammunition in the forest in bunkers and outside. There where also FLAK battery’s set up in and around my village, and in a local hotel the command of airbase Gilze-Rijen resided. The German Feld lazarett (field dressing station) resided in a building next to the monastery ‘Catharinenberg’ in Oisterwijk in the Pointerstreet. According to a story told by a villager this field dressing station had Stabsartz Dr Zink as principal doctor, he was the staff doctor and probably principal in this hospital and it had Dr Auer as their staff surgeon. Peter van der Linden

 

 

23 year old F/Sgt Edward Lakomy, flying in Spitfire MK943 (JH-M), was hit by anti-aircraft fire on this raid. He made an almost perfect emergency landing (wheels up) in the polderland south of the Betuwe riverland, near the 'Het Eendennest' (ice skating club).

He was fortunate because in that Northern 'Langstraat' area of the Dutch Province of Noord-Brabant, and including the south of Gorinchem and Vuren, an active resistance group, named 'Group André', was operating, carrying out their dangerous underground work from the villages of Capelle, Vrijhoeve-Capelle and Sprang.

In 1943 the 'Group André' started helping airmen downed over the Netherlands, by transporting them to Belgium, using two safe routes. They even assisted 28 men, who came down near Loon op Zand on 17th September 1944, in their British Horsa Glider (No.298) on its way to the Arnhem area during 'Market Garden'. 

During this busy period, they found themselves responsible for a large number of Allied servicemen and hid them in the Overdiekse Polder. 

On the 20th of September they handed them over to another resistance group in Drunen, where their number, which included some American aircrew, had increased to 47. We believe F/Sgt Edward Lakomy was part of that group of evaders who were hidden at a secret location in the woods between Esch and Boxtel.

On 28th of September, during 'Operation Pheasant', they, and the whole Boxtel area, were liberated.

On the 3rd of November, Edward was returned to 317 Squadron via Belgium.

 

Members of the 'Stichting Vliegeniersmonument Giessenlanden' (WW2), of which Peter den Tek is the chairman, are trying to erect a local War Memorial or plaque in Gemeente Lingewaal, on which will be recorded the name of that brave Polish pilot, together with six other Allied airmen. They will invite the families of those men for the unveiling, but in the case of 'Richard', they are trying to find his 'unknown fieldgrave' and an address of his next of kin.

 

 

Richard and his friend 23 year old Tadeusz Hanzelka. Both arrived at 317 Squadron in early 1942.

 

Vuren village. After he bailed out, at around 14.50 hrs. local time, Richard's pilotless Spitfire, seriously damaged by anti-aircraft fire, was diving towards Vuren village, in the Betuwe area of the Province of Gelderland (Central Holland).

It crashed into, and destroyed, the home of the van der Meiden family.

The resulting fire killed Bertus van der Meijden (aged 45, a workman), Lena 'Leentje' Willemijntje van der Meijden (their eldest daughter, 10 years old, a school girl) and Willemijntje 'Mijntje' van der Meijden (daughter, 9 only, also a school girl). Their mother Aaltje van der Meijden, (nee Van der Mooren), survived.

(1) The grave at Vuren. (2) The van der Meiden family of Vuren before the war. It is not known if Bertus or his wife, are on the photo. (3) 'Leentje' and  'Mijntje'.

 

Gemeente Lingewaal in the Province of Gelderland, N.L. (from Wikimedia). Now the question is being asked - where was the 25 year old Spitfire pilot, Ryszard 'Richard' Lewczynski, buried?  It was mid-afternoon when he bailed out from the aircraft and his parachute descent should have been seen by many local people.
Do you have any information to add about this tragedy?
They did however have other distractions earlier that day.... At 11.30 am, a German ammunition train was attacked at Oisterwijk by seven RAF Typhoon fighter aircraft from liberated Belgium.

(1) An aerial photograph of the ammunition train taken by a lone Typhoon pilot on 13th September.

(2) Eight 27 Kilogram rocket projectiles being loaded onto the launch rails of a Hawker Typhoon. Above them are two of its four 20mm cannons.


In three attacks on around thirty railway wagons loaded with ammunition, grenades and bombs, and parked in Oisterwijk's marshalling yard, the train and twenty surrounding houses were destroyed. By some miracle there was no loss of life and only 15 civilians were wounded.

On October 29th, 1989, a monument, made by Dutch artist Nicolas M. Jabusc, was dedicated to the incident using original artefacts from the bomb damage.            See YouTube film

 

Oisterwijk was liberated on 26 October 1944 by the Seaforth Highlanders and the 2nd Glasgow Highlanders of the 15th Scottish Division.

 

From a Dutch newspaper article translated by Peter den Tek.

Just as in Giessenburg, also in Lingewaal WW2 Allied airmen are honoured, the Air war at Lingewaal comes to life.

Lingewaal: A few eyewitnesses can still tell about it: how during WW2 five Allied planes crashed in Lingewaal.

The six airmen should be honoured, say Peter den Tek and Marjan Pelle. But first they looked for their stories and with success. By Janneke Boluyt.

Somewhere in Herwijnen a damaged but complete Mustang of the British Royal Airforce must be buried in the ground. On September 15th 1944 the fighter, flying a reconnaissance mission, was shot down.

Martijn van Steenis from Herwijnen, now 86 years, was outside with his friends when it happened. The 15 year old saw the plane crash into the ground, and the British pilot Basil Scarff bailing out of his plane just in time. "That plane went straight into the ground. After that we saw a parachute.”

The teenager was not afraid. "No” he now says. " I was young. You just didn’t realise that it was dangerous.”

Very curious he cycled to where the pilot came down. "But I was stopped by German soldiers. I didn’t get very far.”

Moments later the pilot passed him, escorted by German soldiers. "They went to café Waalzicht. This is no longer there. I remember how we looked inside and saw how the pilot gave every soldier a cigarette.”

Perhaps these cigarettes saved the life of the young pilot {Note: The next day a Polish pilot landed nearby but was killed by German troops}. Scarff was not shot and was then transported to POW camp Stalag Luft I in Germany. He survived the war. The veteran died long after WW2 in 2002.

Meeting Stories of those like Scarff cannot be forgotten say Peter den Tek (49) from Asperen and Marjan Pelle (46) from Herwijnen. Den Tek already initiated a project for a monument in Giessenburg. The Airmen Monument was unveiled last May by member of the Royal Family Pieter van Vollenhoven.

Also in Lingewaal these airmen should be honoured, Den Tek says. It doesn’t have to be a static monument but it has to be something which reminds people throughout the year what happened in the skies. Together with Marjan Pelle he mobilises all Historic Societies to make this happen.

Pelle: "A lot of people don’t know what happened in the skies over Lingewaal. We also want to involve youngsters, also making it an educational project. Also the families of the Allied airmen don’t know exactly what happened and where. Last May Martijn van Steenis, the young eyewitness in 1944, met Peter Scarff, the son of pilot Basil Scarff. It was impressive for both the Brit and the Herwijner.

The two met at the exact spot where Van Steenis was standing when the arrested Basil Scarff passed him. Van Steenis: "He brought his medals with him. And his father’s ID tag from his time in the POW camp. So interesting.”

And the plane. It has never been found.

Den Tek: "Beneath a row of houses some say. Near the football pitch others think. We know it is near the Graaf Reinald road. We have an aerial photo showing the impact but Herwijnen has changed so much that we can’t tell for certain where it is."

Van Steenis: "I think it is under the spot where a flat has been built. I once pointed that out and they have been digging there but they did not find anything.”

Grateful The story of Basil Scarff is only one. It was an international mix of Allies shot down over Lingewaal: One Polish airman, a New-Zealander, an American and three British airmen.

The search done by Pelle and Den Tek is providing more and more information.

At Herwijnen cemetery the British airmen John Douglas Phillips and Benjamin Frank Reynolds are buried. They were flying the Mosquito which was shot down by the Germans [Note: A German Night fighter plane] on December 12th 1943. „ The widow of pilot Reynolds was pregnant at that time.”

Marjan Pelle says. "She, Brenda, is now in her nineties, but last year she came with her son Chris, in his seventies, to Herwijnen. She was deeply touched that we remember her husband every year [Note: May 4t is Remembrance Day in the Netherlands]. Her reaction the next day was even better Pelle Says. "She asked why we were flying all these Dutch flags. ‘ We celebrate our liberation’ I told her her. She was so grateful for that.” It motivates them to continue their search. Using Facebook gets them far.

Den Tek: "Some things are only mentioned briefly in a database. Once you start digging deeper you see the impact. A date and a name come to life when you speak to families of the airmen.”

Only the relatives of the Polish pilot Ryszard Lewczynski have not been found yet. His remains must still be buried somewhere around the village of Vuren. His Spitfire was shot down and crashed on the house of the van der Meijden family in Vuren. The tragedy is that father Bart van der Meijden heard shot being fired and called his two daughters in. Then the Spitfire came down on their house. The three were killed instantly. They are buried at Vuren cemetery.

What exactly happened to the pilot is unknown. "Only now it becomes clear that it was the plane of Lewczynski which came down on the house in Vuren.” Den Tek says.

What happened to the Pole is a mystery. "We know he bailed out with his parachute and landed safely: His fellow airmen saw him going down with his parachute. But that is the last we know of him.

Den Tek: "He was executed immediately or taken to German HQ in Dordrecht.”

In the seventies, when the A15 highway was build, a search was done for his remains but without any result. "We are in contact with a Polish TV station who might be picking up this story. Perhaps this will give us more leads.”

The search will continue. Den Tek: "We need to record this because the people who witnessed this will otherwise take it with them into their graves.”

From America we received grateful reactions to our search. The sons of pilot Richard Edward Brown didn’t know much about what happened, he didn’t talk a lot about that. He made an emergency landing to the south [Note: should be North] of Herwijnen, they now know.

 

24 year old Flying Officer Basil Henry Scarff of RAF 65 Squadron, flying Mustang III FB203, left Beauvais airfield in France on a reconnaissance mission over the Arnhem area at 18.35 on September 15th 1944. At 19.55pm his aircraft was hit by flak near Herwijnen, in the Netherlands.

One of his fellow pilots witnessed him abandoning his stricken Mustang and parachute into some woods near Herwijnen.

He was taken prisoner by the Germans and held at Stalag Luft 1 until the end of the war.

After the war he stayed with the RAF and served in the UK , Singapore, Kuala Lumpur (with the RMAF), and Wake Island. After retirement he and his wife Doreen settled in Ettington near Stratford-upon-Avon where he passed away in 1992.

 

 

 

 

 

Operation Market Garden September 17th 1944

 

During the morning of the 17th of September 1944, some 3,887 Allied aircraft, including 1,053 Dakota transports and 500 gliders towed by Stirling and Halifax bombers, were involved in supporting or airdropping 35,000 men behind enemy lines in three areas; Arnhem to the North, Eindhoven some 65 miles further south and Nijmegen in the centre.

The attempted capture of bridges over three rivers met with fierce resistance on the ground, and air support from the RAF's 2nd TAF Typhoons was needed to take out enemy gun positions.

Over the following 7 days, aerial resupply by Dakotas, Stirlings and gliders resulted in the loss of 238 aircraft and 139 gliders, but the bridges at Nijmegen and Eindhoven were captured.

Of some 10,000 men dropped at Arnhem, more than 7,500 were killed and the remnants evacuated after nine days of bitter conflict. The mission, initiated to bring the war to an early conclusion, had failed.

Operation Market Garden had started just before midnight on Saturday 16 September 1944 when 200 Lancasters and twenty-three Mosquitos from RAF Bomber Command pounded four German fighter airfields in northern Holland. This was followed by 822 B-17 Flying Fortresses from the 8th Air Force the next day bombing the 117 identified anti-aircraft positions along the route the transports would take, as well as airfields at Eindhoven, Deelen and Ede. That force was backed up by another fifty-four Lancasters and five Mosquitos, while eighty-five Lancasters and fifteen Mosquitos attacked Walcheren Island.

The mission to the Leeuwarden (fighter) airfield of the Luftwaffe, coded ZH 52 in RAF jargon, was flown by Bomber Command - ‘Pathfinders’ of Group 8 and ‘regular bombers’ and ‘ABC equipped bombers’ of Group 1 (of No. 100 Sqdn., No. 101 Sqdn., No. 103 Sqdn. and of No. 576 Sqdn.)

The airfield raids were to protect the forthcoming slow ‘sky trains’ of paratroopers and their towed gliders coming from the UK, and also the forces on the ground, against Luftwaffe fighter attacks. The Allied ground forces were trying to make their way via a rather small and dangerous route across the rivers and canals, all the way to Arnhem and then hopefully move around the important ‘Ruhrgebiet’ of Germany.

See youtube film about ground and airborne forces.

 

For more about Leeuwarden airfield see our page 3.

 

 

Leeuwarden airfield after its destruction in September 1944. In the first April 1945 photo, a Canadian soldier looks at camouflaged glider obstacles on the repaired runway.The second image shows some of the runway damage after the Lancaster raid on16/17th September. The  third and fourth records the fuselage remains of III.#NJG.1 fighters, and what is left of a Junkers Ju-88.

 

The Allies had massive air superiority in this area. To quote one German soldier "If you see a white plane, it's American, if you see a black plane it's RAF. If you see no planes at all it's the Luftwaffe".

The exiled Dutch Government, from their base in London, called for a strike of all transport workers to coincide with the operation.

Because of that 17th September 1944 RAF air raid on the 'Fliegerhorst' Leeuwarden, undoubtedly the heaviest attack ever, and that on the nearby 'Flugplatz' Havelte, the start of operation 'Market Garden', and a totally chaotic situation for them in Holland, the first reaction of the Luftwaffe was that they gave up those important air stations. But then, from the moment the Allied liberation route came to a halt in front of Arnhem, they soon came back, to make repairs etc.

 

German 'Flugplatz' Halvelte (Drenthe) after Allied bombing, and the remains of a German plane in a family photo taken there after the Liberation.

 

Late in 1944, and the beginning of 1945, and even till the last occupation days in April 1945, many local men were simply picked up from the streets and arrested in so called 'razzia's', and made to carry out those repairs. They were forced to rebuild a local concrete road at Marsum village, close to the original air field, into a new runway, and to also make an extra grass air-strip for emergency landings, etc.

It was all very hard work, mostly by hand, with very little food and shelter, during the autumn rains and the winter cold, and often operating under snowy conditions.

Although NJG.1 didn't come back to the 'Fliegerhorst', some Luftwaffe aircraft, mainly fighters, were using it to refill and reload, and for emergency situations.

But then, in the middle of winter time, another 'problem' was thwarting their further plans for its operational use. The excessive water level in the canals and also in the ground!

There wasn't enough coal or diesel etc. in that wartime period to power the local pumping stations in the Frisian polder landscapes, or around Leeuwarden city. And although some of the old and famous polder windmills were brought into use again, the Germans were getting  'wet feet' and icing problems at the airfield during frosty periods!

In the last days before liberation, large areas of the airfield were 'blocked' by the Germans against any Allied fighter, glider, and paratroopers' incursions.

The Germans used camouflaged obstacles for that purpose, like 'Trojan Horses' made of wood, and on wheels (see the 16th April 1945 photo above, with the Canadian soldier).

And then, at the end, all buildings, runways etc, that had survived the many air raids and other Allied attacks, were blown up with explosives shortly before the liberation of Leeuwarden by the Allies...... happy Sunday 15 April 1945!

Civilian casualties. The 'most heavy'  RAF air raid on the Leeuwarden airfield,  was on the night of 16-17th September 1944, around 2.00 hrs. Some of the bombs came down outside of the 'Fliegerhorst', in the nearby village of Beetgum, destroying the farmhouse of the Fokkema family, and resulting in the immediate deaths of three of their children. Their seriously injured daughter Neeltje passed away one day later, at one of the hospitals in Leeuwarden.

Also killed was an 87 year old woman. Antje Jacobs de Vries (nee Hoogland) - born 5th March 1857, she was the widow of  blacksmith Foppe Pieters de Vries (1851-1922). They were married 29th May 1879. Nothing is known about any children. She is buried next to her husband, in the Menaldum churchyard, of the Protestant St. Lambertus Church.

Another victim was Ringer van der Laan - born 25th April 1880, aged 64. He was the husband of Johanna van der Laan (nee Krottje) (1888-1971). They were married 26th May 1910 and had no children. Ringer was also buried in the Beetgum churchyard, of the Protestant St.Martinus Church.

The youngest casualty was a 16 months old girl! Johanna Maria van der Woude is believed to have been born 14th May 1943, in Beetgumermolen. There is little known about her parents. Her father was G. van der Woude? We think that she also was buried in the Beetgum churchyard.

 

They were all buried in a family grave, in the Beetgum churchyard, of the Protestant St. Martinus Church.

 

German casualties. While at least seven civilians were killed in that air raid in nearby Bitgummole village, by a small part of the dropped bomb load which came down outside the airfield, at the 'Fliegerhorst', only two Luftwaffe men were killed. How many wounded there were is at present unknown to me. Probably one of those great wartime secrets of the enemy airfield.

After watching those 'damage photos' of the station, taken after the bombardment, I can only come to one conclusion; their warning system was perfect, just like the way their personnel were protected with bunkers and trenches etc..

The two servicemen who died Obergefreiter (O.G.) Werner Brunkhorst - an airplane technician (ground crew member) of the ' Techn. Kompagnie F.F.S. A/B 7 'Plauen' - born 25th July 1922 (in Gravenstein, Schleswig-Holstein, N. Germany / near the Danish border) - buried first in the 'Ehrenfriedhof' (Cemetery of Honor) of Leeuwarden - selected part of the Northern Cemetery there - plot 2, row 10, grave 21 (most likely buried 19th Sept.1944) - remains exhumed 4th Sept. 1958 (!) - reburied soon after in the German War Cemetery of Ysselsteyn (Zuid-Limburg) - plot AT, row 10, grave 250

Hauptman (Hptm.) Karl Schmitz - function unknown (most likely ground crew) of the '332. Flieger Bataillon Komman- dantur (Berlin-) 'Schönweide' - born 19th Febr. 1892 (in Fulda city, Hessen, Central Germany) - also buried first in the 'Ehrenfriedhof' of Leeuwarden - plot 2, row 10, grave 20 - 19th Sept.1944 (in a simple military funeral service) - remains exhumed also 4th Sept. 1958, and reburied in Ysselsteyn (L.) - plot AT, row 11, grave 251It is almost unbelievable that there were no more victims during that massive bombardment!

 

 

WHAT THE WAR DID TO US -    Doeke Fokkema (testimony of a local victim)

I  lost three brothers and one sister during the heavy Allied air raid on the Luftwaffe captured airfield of Leeuwarden city. On the night of 16-17 September 1944 a bomb hit our parents home by accident. Of the explosion itself, I don’t know anything. But what I still remember is that there was grit and mud in my mouth and that I was covered by debris of the house. My 3 brothers, Dirk (18), Germ (12) and Anton (8), were killed right away. My sister Neeltje (14) died in hospital one day later.

Together with my parents, and my other sister Froukje, I survived. But it had a great impact on the rest of our lives.

In particular my mom couldn’t get over that loss. And I remember very well that my father and mother were taking the portraits of the four lost children with them from room to room; always nearby, always in sight! And my sister, even when older, had troubles too because of that air bombardment.

During the Gulf War in the 90’s she could not sleep in a regular way for weeks, because of those US-raids etc. on Iraq. For her it was all coming back again.

I was only 4 years when it happened. Therefore it passed all over me without realizing all the consequences, then and later. But in my later childhood almost everyone, known to me from the village etc., felt always sorry for me. Understandable of course, but it was often disturbing.

And one thing more: I was free from military duties forever, because of what had happened already to our family during the war…..

(translation from the Frisian language into English).

 

 

17th September 1944 (in the morning) - Ir. Harm Höltker, the temporary Mayor (Burgemeester) of Gorinchem city, a fanatical member of the NSB party in Holland (Dutch sister party of the German Nazi party) and therefore a sympathizer of the '3rd Reich' etc., was leaving town in his DKW motor car.

Why he was on the road during that Sunday morning, on the same day that operation 'Market Garden' was starting, and with the skies 'overloaded' with Allied fighters, is not known.

A passenger in that car, another enthusiastic NSB member, was the local chief of police of Gorcum in those days, Lt. Groen. He was on replacement there after the earlier chief was 'on the run' and in hiding, since 'Dolle Dinsdag' ( Crazy Tuesday), 5th Sept. '44.

Suddenly, close to the motorway bridge across the river Lek near Vianen, both authorities of Gorinchem were halted by a German road block controlled by the ´Feldgendarmerie´ (Army Police) stationed there. They were ordered to leave their car.. which was then commandeered by the same Germans !!!

The two local officials were now faced with returning to Gorinchem during those chaotic war conditions, on their own two feet!

 

 

The attack on the marshalling yards at Zevenaar and the start of the Arnhem battle. 

On that same Sunday the 17th of September 1944, Hitler’s own ‘viceroy’ in occupied Holland, and the highest representative of the Nazis in the Netherlands, Austrian born ‘Reichskommissar’ Arthur Seyss-Inquart, was visiting the city of Zevenaar, situated just southeast of Arnhem, in the Liemers area of Gelderland and close to the German border. 

While he was there, with his already nervous delegation, the air raid alarm was sounding time after time! 

In the Roman Catholic ‘Juvenaat’, originally a boarding school for children of river merchant skippers' families, and now requisitioned by local SS troops and used as one of their headquarters, two important events were witnessed. First the nearby marshalling yards, behind the railway station of Zevenaar, was attacked by RAF Typhoons, and shortly after, the ‘Market Garden’ skytrains to Arnhem were coming!

He and almost all the other German authorities and military men in the meeting, left the building complex and raced up to the gardens, to watch with their own eyes what was happening in the skies, and..... quite close to their viewpoint at that moment!

Soon, ‘hell broke loose’. Telephones started to ring, stressful radio calls came in, and motorcycle couriers were racing on the roads, all giving highest alarm, that enemy airborne troops were landing nearby!

The regular residence of Seyss-Inquart and his clique in those years was in a large house with a safe concrete bunker in Den Haag (the Hague) -Wassenaar , at the country estate ‘Clingendael’, and situated in the former dunes area close to the coastline of Zuid-Holland; a long way from that captured school building in Zevenaar.

He is thought then to have travelled back to his safe bunker via the border areas of nearby Germany and taking a wide route around Arnhem. He would definitely have wanted to avoid the chaos on the local roads with the rapidly moving alarmed German troops.

1) R.C. 'Juvenaat' (St. Stanislaus) Zevenaar. In September 1944 it was used as SS headquarters and their interrogation and torture centre. (2) Zevenaar station was the target for a number of Allied aerial attacks. This one is believed to be on August 25th 1944. The station buildings were finally destroyed in March 1945.

 

Meanwhile the flames and clouds of thick black smoke were rising sky-high over the rail facilities of Zevenaar station, and many explosions followed. The cannon and rocket projectiles of those Typhoons had hit a supply train bound for the German troops in the Arnhem area. Its fuel tankers were loaded with synthetic oil, diesel and other important ‘Treibstoff’, and the wagons with shells and MG ammo etc. They had been destined for delivery to the 9th SS-Panzer Division ‘Hohenstaufen’ and other nearby (heavy) ‘Wehrmacht’ units, who were held back from the front line for a break, and the supply of new equipment.

The Dutch resistance organisation had warned Monty and the other Allied army leaders about the train, and photos from Spitfire reconnaissance flights, in the days before, had confirmed that information! Almost the whole train was destroyed, with at least 20 fuel loaded wagons, and there was no possibility of dousing the fire, because of the heat and the explosions.

The whole area around the Zevenaar station was damaged, and one of the launched ‘rockets’ of the Typhoons was ejected into the ‘Turmac’ tobacco and cigarettes factory alongside the tracks. That company was producing surrogate tobacco products from the leaves of bramble bushes and beech trees mixed with locally grown tobacco. Two of their employees were killed during this raid, and the factory was later destroyed during the March 24th 1945 bombing attacks.

Over the next few days after 17th September, the people of Zevenaar were to continually hear the ‘thunder’ from the Arnhem battlefield.....

 

 

 

 

 

During the 11th September 1944 Allied air attack on a fuel-tanker in the 'Vluchthaven' (shelter harbour) and vessels on the river near Gorinchem, 15 people were wounded, mostly civilians. Some of them were transported to the local hospital.

This was all from the machine-gun fire of the diving fighters, who, luckily for the inhabitants of Gorcum, did not drop any bombs or launch rockets. The fuel-tanker failed to explode.
The next day at around 10am, the Allied aircraft returned.

On location 'E.0962', two river ferries (operating between Gorinchem and Sleeuwijk) were attacked and damaged by 12 Hawker Typhoons of RAF 411 Squadron. This time only one German soldier was wounded. However, on the Northern river side of the Waal, the Typhoon pilots were more successful.

At the Concordiaweg, on the road just North of the inner city of Gorinchem, they attacked a German troop convoy, of which one truck at least was left burning at the side of the road (nothing known about any casualties). 
One of those boats, named 'Gorinchem V', captained then by a German crew and with 'Wehrmacht' troops aboard, was again attacked and sunk by bomb hits, on the Southern side of the river (Sleeuwijk side), on 28th October 1944.

The sugar refinery of the CSM company in Gorcum, (Gorinchem) named 'Hollandia', and situated on the Arkelsedijk (No. 4) in October 1944, had a 'bad reputation', because it was the temporary head-quarters of the Waffen SS  under the command of Hauptsturmführer Matthus.

On the evening of 3rd Oct.1944, under his leadership, and using a list of names given by NSB party members at the townhall, about 100 local young men of the city were 'arrested' in a so called razzia!

The next morning some of those young Gorkumers were released from their 'duty', for unknown reasons, but others were then 'simply' picked up from the streets then, as 'replacements'.

They were all transported to Camp Amersfoort (Utr.) and from there to Deelen Luftwaffe airfield for heavy labouring work. From Amersfoort the 44 remaining Gorcumers were on October 11, along with about 1400 compatriots, deported to the Neuengamme concentration camp  near Hamburg.

The majority of the prisoners would die a miserable death in that German hell. Of those 44 Gorcumers only four survived the war and the camps.

I really don't know yet, if those 'Nazi thugs' and their leader 'Matthus' were stationed in that CSM building, midway through September 1944.

Because, in that case, maybe there might be a link somehow to our Polish pilot 'Richard' Lewczynski.  That's the reason why I have been trying for many days, to find more about that SS man and his 'horrible bunch', but..... without much success at the moment.  Willem

 

Moerdijk - the very unlucky village
Originally it was nothing more than a rather small, but busy village of river fishermen and their families, with its own shipyard and ferry harbour. The Willemsdorp, Dordrecht and Rotterdam ferry terminal included a passenger waiting room and a pub. There was also a post office and shops, a Roman Catholic sisters cloister, a boarding school, at least two churches, and a soap factory. They were all situated on the southern river bank of the ‘Hollandsch Diep’ and close to the water labyrinth of ‘De Biesbosch’.

(1) The building where the Moerdijk Roman Catholic 'Ursulinen' cloisters were located. Local people sheltered in the cellars during the 1940 invasion and in Sepember 1944. It was badly damaged during the 17th September 1944 bombing. Burned down by the Germans on 7th November, it was never rebuilt.

(2) Moerdijk's old Protestant church (founded 1815). On 17th September local people gathered inside and sang loud psalms to drown out the noise of the Allied air attacks!

 

From 1872 it was governed by the Province of Noord-Brabant. A long railway bridge came into use for the southwards route to Roosendaal and Antwerp.

Near the end of 1936, the longest road traffic bridge in the Netherlands, alongside the railway bridge, was unveiled. For that reason most traffic was now simply passing the village, and the regular Moerdijk ferry line was closed.

Because of those two important bridges, the village was suddenly a very strategic military point in the area. 

During the German invasion in May 1940, right from the beginning, a heavy battle was going on. Enemy paratroopers landed nearby and Moerdijk was under fire day after day.

 

The arrival of the Germans at Moerdijk in May 1940. Who ever had control over these bridges could now advance into the heart of Holland, and the cities of Rotterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht and Amsterdam, and also defend this important region. The Germans fortified the bridgeheads with bunkers and the bridges became Stützpunktgruppe Moerdijk. (picture from http://histomil.com)

The local people suffered badly. Many hid themselves in the Catholic Sisters' cloisters with their wounded and dying family members.

In the following wartime years, Moerdijk could not return to normal village life. There were many, mainly unsuccessful, Allied attacks on the bridges.  It wasn’t easy to hit those structures. Also the ‘Wehrmacht’had  built strong defensive positions in the area with a large number of anti-aircraft guns.

Now, in September 1944, there was an extra reason for the Allies to pound that position, they needed to break the heavy German Flak-defence there because of their planned route to Arnhem.

 Late in the evening of Saturday 16th September 1944 , between 22.50 and 23.05 hrs., and before the air raids on Leeuwarden and Havelte etc., the Moerdijk area, and the German Flak batteries at the bridgeheads in particular, came under a carpet of bombs from RAF Bomber Command. 59 planes in total, including 5 ‘Pathfinder’ Mosquitoes, had been sent to finish that job.

 

A Polish tank during the Liberation of Moerdijk and the bridge after its destruction by the retreating Germans

 

Tragically, two of the RAF Lancasters,  LM169 (WP-‘R2’) of 90 Squadron and  LM693 (KO-‘T’) of 115 Squadron, collided in mid air and crashed near Strijen village, just Northwest of the Hollandsch Diep and the bridges, and unfortunately before they had dropped their bomb-loads. None of the crew-members survived.

A total of 754 bombs were dropped (293,7 tons) and the village of Moer dijk was badly damaged, while the main target, those damned bridges, still remained intact. Most of the Germans had survived and an early Sunday morning RAF reconnaissance flight discovered the sad reality that after the raid,  the Germans were again firing their anti-aircraft guns. That evening, the 17th September, the RAF bombers returned. Many desperate villagers were praying in the Protestant church...... and were singing loudly, on the advice of their clergyman, trying to drown out the renewed noise of the gun-fire, the ‘screaming bombs’ and the horrible explosions. In the afternoon of that day - almost no one there was interested in the huge ‘Market Garden’ armada flying over. 

 

Moerdijk's war damage and its Bell House War Memorial with the 'Polish liberators weather vane' on top.

 

About 55% of their buildings had been destroyed, and 25% heavily damaged. Even the remainder of the village was a sad sight. Most dwellings had no glass or  roof tiles, doors were blown out, and even some trees were without leaves. Eight civilians had been killed - and it was miracle that the number wasn’t higher ! There were many wounded, requiring first aid and other help.

That was the end heavy air raid activity over the village. Their next ordeal was the Liberation. On the 9th of November 1944, the Polish 1st Division arrived. Now there was heavy door to door fighting to capture every ruined house, and those bridges. At the conclusion more than 370 Germans were taken prisoner, trapped there because their own retreating army had blown up the bridges.   

Another, later fact of history, in the February 1953 flood disaster, Moerdijk village was badly damaged again !

 

One of the Moerdijk casualties was Mr. Paulus Numan, who was born in Rotterdam on 10th July 1920. He was employed as a book-keeper in the local cake and biscuit bakery of the Firma (company) Schriek.
An unmarried young man, he lived in a boarding house in the village. Paulus had ‘special papers’ because of the fact that he worked in the food industry, so the Germans couldn’t send him to work in their own ‘Heimat’, or a weapons factory etc.
That boarding house however, received a direct hit during the 17th September 1944 air-raid, and was totally destroyed.
Paulus, and all the family he was boarding with, were killed right away, They had thought they would be safe, sheltering in the cellar.
Although only 24 years old, the local L.O organisation (one of the resistance groups, helping to hide people and supplying documents, money, etc.) had lost an important member. His remains, together with with the bodies of that unlucky family, were recovered after 2 days of digging in the debris. Paulus Numan was buried in the local Roman Catholic cemetery a few days later.

 

Vienna born 33 year old Sister Charitas Bock, a teacher who had Jewish roots, was arrested at Moerdijk convent by the Dutch police on the morning of Sunday 2nd of August 1942 and taken to Westerbork transit camp.

From there she was transported to Auschwitz concentration camp and murdered in a gas chamber with others from her family, on the following Sunday.

In November 1944, as the 1st Polish Armoured Division advanced, Moerdijk, with its important bridges, was on the front line.

They launched some heavy artillery fire and the people of Moerdijk were subjected to an inferno of grenades and shelling.

Many of them were evacuated, but around 250 inhabitants sought refuge in the cellars of the convent on the Steenweg. Sister Cornelia was one of the sisters who helped them.

In her diary, she accurately described all events leading up to the liberation that finally came on the 9th of November 1944.

The convent, sometimes described as a monastery, was badly damaged during the 17th September 1944 bombing, and burned down by the Germans on 7th November. It was never rebuilt.

 

Vught concentration camp and its satellite at Moerdijk

Near those well-known bridges across the Hollands(ch) Diep and the village of Moerdijk, known to the Germans as ‘Moordeich’,  there was the  temporary satellite camp Moerdijkso, part of the ‘KZ Herzogenbusch’, better known in Holland as Vught concentration camp.

Vught concentration  camp was near the Dutch city of 's-Hertogenbosch, in Noord-Brabant, and served two functions, as a transit camp for Jews deported from France, Belgium and Holland, en route to the extermination camps, and as the main security camp for political detainees from Belgium and Holland. Between 26th March 1943 and February 1944, at this Moerdijk satellite site, about 500 of Vught's political prisoners and Jewish people were ‘living’ in old store houses and ships barracks, close to the harbourside of  the village, and guarded by SS men (many of them Dutch nazi’s !).
They were put to work in "Arbeitskommandos", teams, those poor ‘Häftlingen’, and forced to do exhausting work as slaves.
Some unloaded cargo ships, laden with stone blocks, grid, sand and cement, during the construction work of the concrete bunkers, tank barriers (Panzerfallen), protection trenches, barbed wire works etc., on both sides of the bridges.

As far as is known, only two prisoners were  lucky enough to escape and survive. Most of the others died from illness, brutality and hard work, or were transported to the gas chambers in Germany.

I found the name of one of the Dutch 'slaves' in the 'Aussenlager Moordeich' of Moerdijk, Mr. Johannes 'Hans' van Rijn, aged about 30-35 then, and who was there from 13 July 1943 to 19 October1943, doing 'Tankfallen' - work near the bridges. He was transported later to Germany, some camp there and, almost unbelievabley, survived the war....His son in law later said that it was very difficult for him after the war to settle into a normal family life!     Willem

Vught had its own gallows and crematorium. 749 prisoners, of whom 329 were executed, perished there between 1943 and 1944.

The two photographs above were taken after Vught was liberated by the Canadian Armored Division on the 26th October 1944. The execution site near the camp is now a national monument, with a wall bearing the names of all 749 victims who died there, 329 of whom were executed.

 

 

The collision of Lancasters LM 169 and LM 693.

At 9.14 pm on the evening of Saturday, 16 September 1944, Lancaster LM 169 from 90 Squadron (RAF), took off from RAF Tuddenham, in Suffolk, on a mission to bomb flak positions at Moerdijk in Holland.

As part of the lead-up to Operation Market Garden, RAF Bomber Command was carrying out two pre-emptive raids.

223 aircraft, 200 Lancasters and 23 Mosquitoes, bombed airfields near the Dutch towns of Leeuwarden and Steenwijk  and Hopsten and Rheine in Germany. A second group of 54 Lancasters and 5 Mosquitoes attacked flak positions and the railway bridge near Moerdijk, south of Dordrecht. 90 Squadron's LM169, and 115 Squadron's LM 693, were part of that second group who carried out the raid between 22.51 and 23.05.

The formation dropped 294 tons of high explosive bombs near the town of Moerdijk. The attack was not a completel success; the bombing succeeded only in cutting off the roads leading to the German positions. 

Over the target area there was a mid-air collision involving LM 169 and LM693 resulting in the deaths of both crews. 

The out of control Lancaster LM 169 crashed into the polderland, (land reclaimed from the sea) between Strijen and S-Gravendeel, West of  the ‘Dordtse Kil’ waterway, and near the Moerdijk bridges.

That area ,‘Sperrgebiet’ then a ‘no-go-zone’ for civilians, and even for the landowners, was flooded most of the time.

It had been laid with mines as extra ‘military protection’ by the Germans, and was the reason the crash site could not immediately be visited and the Lancaster's crew recovered.

Their remains were only found after the liberation.

In June 1945  a specialized Commonwealth Graves recovery team transported the bodies to nearby Dordrecht city, and organised an extensive military funeral service.

The military funeral at Dordrecht General Cemetery in June 1945.

 

The crew of Lancaster LM169 from 90 Squadron were:

Flying Officer Paul William Tooley – pilot, Flying Officer Harry Johnson – navigator, Sergeant Roy Whittington – flight engineer, Flying Officer James Edward Brown – bomb aimer, Flying Officer David Selwyn Thomas – wireless operator, Sergeant Leslie Mathers Gill – air gunner, Sergeant Eric John Smaldon – air gunner.

 

 

Flying Officer Paul William Tooley, the pilot,was 20 years old and the only son of potato merchant Frederick W.J Tooley and his wife Violet, who lived at Hooton House, in Woodthorpe, Nottingham.

In common with most middle class boys at that time, he was sent away from home to be privately educated at boarding schools.

Fan Court Preparatory School, Chertsey, and Wycliffe College at Stonehouse

 

His preparatory school was Fan Court which was situated near Chertsey in Surrey. It was there that boys were educated to prepare them for life in one of the prestigious public schools.         

In 1937 his parents enrolled him at Wycliffe College. It was situated during that time near Stonehouse, in rural Gloucestershire, but in 1939 moved to Lampeter, in South-west Wales for the duration of the war after their buildings were requisitioned by the Government.

He later wrote that his favourite pastime while in Gloucestershire was playing the organ in local churches, sometimes without permission.

 

The Wycliffe scouts at Delphi in Greece in April 1939

 

At Wycliffe he became involved in the Boy Scout movement and later was made an Assistant Scoutmaster. During his first school year he travelled with the scouts to Algeria in the Easter holidays, and the following year, sailed with them to explore Greece.

He was also a corporal in the Air Training Corps, a talented piano and organ player, and part of the group producing the school magazine.

In his last year, 1941, he was made a prefect.

Wycliffe Scout Group (Gloucestershire) claims to be the oldest continuously active school-based Scout group in the world. It is listed in the Scout Association database with a registration date of 1 February 1909, although the Group celebrated their centenary in 2008, implying that there had been Scouting activity at the school before the Group was registered.

Paul left Wycliffe to enlist in the RAF but stayed in contact, writing about his experiences while being trained as an aircrew pilot in Canada.

From the RAF Flying school in Alberta he wrote, "For some time I have been longing for some Welsh rain. So far we have seen nothing but snow here. The lowest temperature recorded was 55 degrees below zero, and that was quite enough for me."

After receiving his pilot's wings and commission in June 1943, he was posted for two months to the General Reconnaissance School at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, for navigation instruction, and then to an Operational Training Unit near Truro, Nova Scotia, for three months of aircrew experience.

He was then granted 18 days leave which he used to visit America. For the first five days he visited friends in Boston, and then moved on to New York where one night he went to the Ziegfield Follies, and the next, the Metropolitan Opera. He described crossing the heavy traffic on Broadway at 11pm as one of the most dangerous things he had ever done.

Paul spent the last week of his leave in Washington, where he was very impressed by the whiteness of the monuments and public buildings.

After visiting both the Senate and the House of Representatives, he returned to Canada by commercial air-liner.

Further aircrew training in the UK on Lancaster bombers followed and in late 1943 he was posted to 90 Squadron.

Paul is buried at Dordrecht General Cemetery row A, grave 13.

We have not, at present, found the record of any local war memorial that he is remembered on, but In the city of Nottingham there is the City War Memorial commemorating the dead of both World Wars.

A

Sergeant Roy Whittington, 1851166, flight engineer. He was 20 years old and one of the two sons of Harry and Hilda Whittington of Ryde, on the Isle of Wight. His parents were married at All Saints Church in Ryde. In front of that church is a memorial to the dead of both World Wars,where Roy is remembered. He is buried at Dordrecht General Cemetery, row A, grave 9.

His name is also recorded on the Ryde Borough war memorial inside the Town Hall. His brother, Eric Whittington, who was born in 1921, served with 804 Squadron in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm as an air mechanic and was awarded a Long Service Medal in 1963 after serving for 20 years. He died in 1979.

A

Flying Officer David Selwyn Thomas, 169609, the 19 year old wireless operator.

David Selwyn Thomas was the son of John Llewellyn Thomas and Sarah Bowen of Ty Rheola, Gendros. He was born at Bryn y Babell, Cwmdu, on 7 November 1924 and was known as Selwyn.

His family spoke both Welsh and English.

At the beginning of the 18th century, Gendros and Cwmdu were hamlets in the rural community known as Fforestfach, which is near Swansea in the county of Glamorgan.

By the end of the 19th century the villages served a landscape of coal mines and steel and tin works.

John Llewellyn Thomas was employed in the offices of the Richard Thomas tinplate works in Cwmbwrla, Swansea, and the company’s offices in Pittsburg, USA. His career was blighted by the Depression but at the time of the outbreak of the Second World War he held the important post of chief clerk at the Cwmbwrla Tinplate & Steel Works.

His son Selwyn Thomas attended Gendros School from where he was an awarded a scholarship to Swansea Grammar School.

He sat his matriculation examinations in 1940 and in the same year joined Barclays Bank Ltd as a junior cashier at the bank's Pontardawe branch in the Swansea valley.

He was a fine sportsman and played both rugby and cricket for his school and for the Swansea junior teams.

The Luftwaffe identified Swansea as a strategic target because of its importance as a port and the oil refinery situated near the docks; its destruction was an important strand in the German strategic bombing campaign. The first air raid took place in June 1940 and was followed by several smaller raids.

The Swansea Blitz took place on the 3 nights of 19, 20 & 21 February 1942, and the destruction so angered Selwyn Thomas that he enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as soon as he was old enough to do so.

He enlisted as an aircraftsman with a view to gaining a commission in the Royal Air Force and, after recruit training, was selected for Airman Aircrew training as a signaller. He started basic flying training in 1943 and was promoted to the rank of sergeant at the end the course. He showed much promise and was offered a cadetship in the Royal Air Force and training as a pilot, but he turned down the opportunity.

He chose to enter operational service at the earliest opportunity and was accordingly commissioned as a signaller in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve with the rank of pilot officer.

After further flying training in wireless and air gunnery he was posted with the rank of flying officer to the Lancaster operational conversion unit at Royal Air Force Feltwell.

In mid-1944 he was posted to 90 Squadron, Bomber Command, then stationed at Royal Air Force Tuddenham and newly equipped with the Avro Lancaster Mk I.

90 Squadron was engaged on several fronts, tasked with the destruction of many heavily defended German targets. The squadron began its conversion to the Lancaster during May 1944 and was declared operational the following month.

Selwyn Thomas was assigned to one of the crews charged with night-time attacks on the German forces.

He was killed in action during the night of 16/17 September 1944, flying in air operations in support of Operation Market Garden, the largest air operation of the Second World War.

To safeguard the aircraft planned to transport paratroopers to Arnhem and Nijmegen the following day, the Royal Air Force carried out two pre-emptive raids on the night of 16/17 September.

The first group comprised 223 aircraft (200 Lancasters and 23 Mosquitoes) and was tasked with bombing the airfields near the towns of Leeuwarden and Steenwijk (in the Netherlands) and Hopsten and Rheine (in Germany).

The second group comprised 59 aircraft (54 Lancasters and 5 Mosquitoes) and was tasked with attacking flak positions and the railway bridge near Moerdijk, south of Dordrecht. Selwyn Thomas flew in Lancaster LM169 of the second group of aircraft.

The second group carried out its raid between 22.51 hours and 23.05 hours, dropping 294 tons of high explosive bombs and twelve 250-pound marker bombs near to the town of Moerdijk; in addition, they also deployed flares. The attack was not completely successful; the bombs succeeded only in cutting off the roads leading to the German positions.

At the conclusion of their bombing runs, the attacking aircraft turned, climbed and headed for the safety of the North Sea and thence to their home airfields. Unfortunately during this manoeuver a flying error caused a mid-air collision between Lancaster LM169 from 90 Squadron and Lancaster LM693 from 115 Squadron.

Both aircraft were severely disabled and spiralled to the ground, killing both crews on impact.

LM169 crashed into the flooded Stoope polder near the village of ’s-Gravendeel; LM693 crash-landed in the Maria polder near the village of Strijen.

The people of Strijen carried the bodies of the airmen from LM693 to the village church where they were buried in the churchyard.

The bodies of the crew of LM169 were not recovered until the following spring when the Stoope polder was drained. The recovery party was drawn from the United States Army who accorded the crew military honours, covering their coffins with the Union flag when their work in the polder was complete.

In June 1945 the Commonwealth War Graves Commission arranged a full military funeral for the crew in the Allied plot in the Essenhof cemetery at Dordrecht.

Selwyn Thomas was killed on his first operational sortie. He was posted as missing, believed killed in action.

After the War, Miss Hendrina Timmers of Dordrecht wrote to the Mayor of Swansea to say that she knew of the grave of an airman whom she believed was from Swansea. She explained that while his name was unknown, the cemetery’s records showed that he was from Swansea. She also placed an advertisement in the South Wales Evening Post in her search for the name and address of the airman.

Her enquiries were successful, and in 1947 Miss Timmers visited Selwyn Thomas’ family in Fforestfach. She also visited the Guildhall to thank the Mayor of Swansea for his efforts in support of her enquiries.

The Mayor of Dordrecht appointed families to care for the graves of the members of the Allied forces who lost their lives in the locality and the family of Miss Timmers’ sister, Miss Ton Spiering, became the guardians of Selwyn Thomas’ grave.

Another resident of Dordrecht, Mr Piet Louve, placed flowers on the crew’s graves every Sunday in recognition of their bravery. He, too, visited Selwyn Thomas’ family in Fforestfach. 

Selwyn Thomas was survived by his parents, his elder sister, Margaret Verina Hocknell and his elder brother, Ambrose Bowen Thomas.    Biography by Stuart Hocknell

 

I am pleased to tell you that I attended the unveiling of the memorial in Oud-Beijerland to the members of the Allied air forces killed in action over the Hoeksche Waard and I recently sent Anton de Man biographic and photographic material concerning my uncle to add to the record on the memorial and to the resources at the museum at Strijen.

With best wishes,     Stuart Hocknell.     November 2016

 

The crew are remembered on this memorial at St. Lambertus church at Strijen, and Sarah Bowen Thomas, mother of Flying Officer David Thomas, visiting his grave in 1947.

 

 

Flying Officer James Edward Brown - 153303 - the bomb aimer. He was 23 years old, the son of William & Bertha Isabella Brown, of Nelson in the Pendle area of  Lancashire.

James lost his life with all of his crewmates and is buried at Dordrecht General Cemetery ‘Essenhof’ - row A, grave 11.

At his home-town, in front of  the library in Market Street, there is the local War Memorial. Originally only a WW1 memorial cross; in November 2009 a new additional Memorial Wall was unveiled nearby in which all the names of the local war casualties are listed behind glass.

A resident of Dordrecht, Mr Piet Louve, placed flowers on his grave, and the other members of the crew, every Sunday, in recognition of their bravery. He also made several visits to David Thomas's family in Fforestfach.

 

The 'Plot of Honour' at Dordrecht General Cemetery and wartime German graves there.

 

Sergeant Eric John Smalldon - 1607395 - air gunner. Aged 21, he was the son of Devonshire born Albert John Smalldon (1884-1951) and Ruth Ellacott who were married in 1912. Albert had worked for Southern Railways all his adult life, starting as a boy porter at Braunton in 1899. He transferred to a major depot at Reading, Berkshire in 1902 where he was later promoted to foreman. Moving on to the Eastleigh, Hampshire Depot in 1924, Albert Smalldon retired in the 1940s, completing his service as a supervisory foreman. He died in 1951.

His son Eric was born at Reading on 20th October 1922. He had two sisters, Doris May (bn 1920) and Norah Constance (bn 1924), and one older brother, Arthur Henry (bn 1915).

Eric was buried, with full military honours, at Dordrecht General Cemetery, (Row A, grave 8)

In his former hometown of Eastleigh, on the public green between Leigh Road and Romsey Road (the A335), and in front of the Roman Catholic Holy Cross Church, there is the WW1 & WW2 'Angel' War Memorial, where he is remembered, and his name is also recorded on the local Roll of Honour of the War Dead and Missing.

The family text on his tombstone says: 'Treasured memories of Eric, son of R and A Smalldon, of Eastleigh, England.'

 

 

Sergeant Leslie Mathers Gill- 1681271 - Air Gunner - age 36 - born at Norwich, Norfolk in 1908, and whose mother and father, in 1944, were living at Birkdale, Southport, in Lancashire. His Yorkshire born parents were clothing merchant Henry Gill (born Doncaster 1865) and draper's daughter Edith Helena Mathers (born Wakefield 1877) who were married at Pontefract in 1907.

Henry Gill was 78 years old when he died at Birkdale in January 1944. 

At 36, Leslie Mathers Gill  was older that most air-crew, their age usually being around 20.

He is buried with his crewmates at Dordrecht General Cemetery, row A, grave 7.

The bottom text on his headstone reads 'Only son of Edith H. and the late Henry Gill, of  Birkdale, Southport, England.'

In London Square, Lord Street, Southport, there is a huge WW1 & WW2 War Memorial, with a large colonnade, on which 565 names of local World War 2 victims are engraved, however, we do not know if his is one of  them. (no list found)

 


Flying Officer Harry Johnson - 146308 - Navigator - age 23 - son of  Fred Herbert and Lilian Ethel Johnson, of  Kingston upon Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

He is buried with his crewmates at Dordrecht General Cemetery - row A, grave 12.

Harry was born at 5 King William Street, Blackburn, Lancashire in 1921. He was the youngest of six children of hat and boot shop-keeper, Fred Herbert Johnson, who was born at Brandesburton, Yorkshire in 1881. Fred was married to Lilian Ethel Campion from Hull (bn 1884).

The couple's marriage was at Hull in 1909 and their first child, Phyllis May, was born there in 1910.

During the 1911 census, the family had moved to a shop in King William Street, Blackburn, Lancashire where their remaining five children were born between 1911-1921.

At the time of Harry's death in 1944, the family had returned to Hull.

His name is remembered on the 'Heroes of Hull' website.

 

A report in Dordtsch Dagblad of the funeral at Dordrecht on 28 June 1945. (Kindly supplied by Peter Dillingh)

 

Lancaster LM 693

The other aircraft involved in the collision was Lancaster LM 693 KO-T from 115 Squadron. It took off from RAF Witchford at 9.28pm on the 16th of September and came down in the Maria Polder, near Strijen, around 11pm (local time). The crew were F/Lt. P.W.Bickford RCAF- pilot, P/O P.L.Dooley RAF - flight engineer, F/O A.N.Johnson RCAF - navigator, F/O W.G Scanlan RCAF- bomb aimer, F/Sgt. U.B.Butters RAF - wireless operator, P/O D.G. Flood RCAF -air gunner, P/O D.Dawson RCAF- air gunner.

 

September 16, 1944 (Saturday) From the diary of Bick's friend, RCAF F/Lt Bruce Johnston who had arrived at 115 Squadron at the same time and was on his 29th operation and flying HK 549 (Q).

Operation # 29 - Moerdijk,   Eleven 1,000 pound and four 500 pound bombs  "Did the 29th tonight. Bombed a railway bridge at Moerdijk in Holland. There were only forty-eight on the place. Not a great deal of opposition but we lost Bickford and crew on it. Came as a bit of a shock to us! Saw a chop right at the target which must have been Bick.  At the time I thought it was a bit big for a chop – but I guess it wasn’t. They dropped Red TI on the target then lit the place up with flares and we bombed visually. We were in the first three to bomb and got back to base second. We had a grandstand view of things as we turned away."

Bruce was one of two pilots returning from the mission who had witnessed an orange/red explosion over the target area at 22.58 hrs.

During an earlier mission on 11th of September to Kamen in Germany, Bruce Johnston's Lancaster PD 293 (W) had been hit by flak over the target area and sustained damage to the centre of its fuselage and the bomb-aimer's compartment. His friend Peter Bickford, flying Lancaster ME 756 (V) escorted him back to base.


(left to right) F/O Wilfred George Scanlan, F/Lt Peter William Bickford, F/O Arnold Ney Johnston, F/Sgt. Uriah Bernard Butters, P/O Peter Lawrence Dooley, P/O Donald George Flood and P/O Douglas Dawson. from archives collection of Henk Nootenboom.

 

Flight Lieutenant Peter William Bickford was born in Bristol, UK on July 16, 1920, the first of the three children of William Colston Spence Bickford and Elsie Chapman, who were married there in 1919. His father William, who was born in the Bedminster area of Bristol in November 1881, had worked as a clerk with the Great Western Railway from the age of fourteen.

In 1921 William migrated with his wife and young son, via Canada, to the USA, and first settled in Hopedale, Ohio, where Peter's brother, Barrie Spence Bickford, was born on November 6, 1925, and their sister, Barbara Bickford Myers, on November 20, 1929.

In 1934 the family moved to 431 Second Street, Monongahela, a town located south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where William worked as a freight engineer with the Pittsburgh and West Virginia Railway.

Their daughter Barbara, who also attended  Monongahela High School, later recalled "We were all fond of music as a family. My mother had a lovely soprano voice and sang in the choir at the Episcopal church. Barrie had a go at learning to play the trumpet. Peter was very keen on Gilbert and Sullivan and bought an album of The Mikado which we played over and over until we knew the words of all the songs." 

Peter, attended Monongahela High School, where he was a popular student and an active member of several clubs. He became a proficient photographer and enjoyed skiing and tennis.

While still a student there, he worked part-time as a sports correspondent for the local newspaper, the Daily Republican.

He graduated from High School in May 1939 and became sports editor of that newspaper, and was hugely successful in other aspects of journalism.

During the following two years, he studied navigation and meteorology at Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, and received  flying lessons at a local airport.

He left the newspaper four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, and in April 1942, enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. In May 1943, after receiving his wings and sergeant's stripes at RCAF Moncton, New Brunswick, he was posted overseas. While at home on embarkation leave, he received his commission as a Pilot Officer.

In the UK, after some aircrew training at 12 Operational Training Unit at Edgehill, near Banbury, in Oxfordshire, and Lancaster bomber experience at 1657 Heavy Conversion Unit with RAF Chedburgh, in Suffolk, he was posted in June 1944 to 115 Squadron who were based at RAF Witchford in the East of England county of Cambridgeshire.

His first flight was on 14th June 1944 when he was 2nd pilot to Pilot Officer J Oldham's crew in Lancaster ME 752.

His first flight as skipper was on 15th June when the squadron bombed Valenciennes in Northern France. His crew on that occasion was the same as on their last tragic mission in September.

115 Squadron gave its support to the Allied forces during the Normandy landings and the follow-up campaign. By September 16th, Peter Bickford had nearly clocked up a 'full tour' (30 missions)

Squadron flight logs show that his Lancaster Bomber, LM693, took off at 9:28 p.m. Saturday, September 16, 1944, one of 12 aircraft from  RAF Witchford, in support of “Operation Market Garden.”

Their target was the bridge defensive flak positions at Moerdijk in southern Holland.

Records show that eleven of the twelve 115 Squadron Lancasters returned safely to base at 12:25am on September 17th.

LM 693 and its crew had been lost following a mid-air collision with an aircraft from 90 Squadron.

Peter Bickford is buried at Strijen Protestant Cemetery - in the Plot of Honour, grave 5.

The War Memorial, in Chess Park, Monongahela, remembers all their local heroes, and his name is also recorded in the Book of Remembrance - page 249 (1944) - in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower at the Canadian Parliament Building in Ottawa.

Peter's younger brother, Barrie Spence Bickford (bn 1925), also joined the RCAF and was trained as an air-gunner. He was posted to the UK and completed his war-time experience as an instructor.

In September 1947 William Colston Spence Bickford reached retirement age, and together with his family, returned to England on the 'Queen Elizabeth' to resettle in the Bristol area. He died in 1955.

 

His parents' grave at Cartwright Union Cemetery. Our thanks to Todd Shrigley

 

Flying Officer Arnold Ney Johnston, the navigator on LM 693, was born on May 16th 1916.

Arnold's parents were farmer John Alexander (Alex) Johnston (1882-1967) and Edith (May) Ferguson (1888-1975) from Cartwright, Ontario.

They had three children, Ferga (1914), Arnold (1916), and Keith (1920).

At the time of Arnold's death, the family were living at Burketon, Bowmanville.

 

 

John Johnston's descendants in a family gathering at Cartwright around 1926. Is 10 year old Arnold on this photo?   

 

Alex was descended from John Johnston (born Antrim, Ireland in 1776) who at the age of 18, a weaver by trade, joined the British 64th Regiment of Foot. We know John was still a soldier in 1800 and was probably with the Regiment when it served in Canada between 1813 and 1815.

In 1830, the 54 year old and his wife Margaret, with their children and grandchildren, migrated from Ireland to Canada.

Burketon Rail Station as it was in 1944

 

We have no information of when Arnold Ney Johnston (1916-1944) joined the RCAF, or of his navigator's training in Canada. He probably became part of Peter Bickford's crew at 12 Operational Training Unit, Chipping-Warden, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, in January 1944, and would have arrived at 115 Squadron in June 1944.

His first flight from RAF Witchford as part of Peter Bickford's crew, was on June 15th 1944 when they bombed Valenciennes in Northern France. He appears to have been Bickford's navigator for all their time with 115 Squadron and therefore would also have been close to completing his tour of 30 missions at the time of his death.

He is buried in Strijen Protestant Cemetery - Plot of Honour, grave 6.

 

(RCAF) Pilot Officer Donald George Flood- J/90719 - Air Gunner - aged 20, was the son of George Flood (1895-1988), originally from Devon, UK, and Lila Katherine Reed (1897-1985), of Oakville, Ontario, who were married at Woodstock in June 1921. The family lived at 284 Hunter Street, Woodstock, a town situated North of Lake Erie, in S.W. Ontario. Donald was born there on April 4, 1924.

He had one brother, William Northcutt Flood (1931-84), and one sister, Catherine (born 1916).

When Donald enlisted at London, Ontario RCAF recruiting office on 26th November 1942, he had only completed two years at High School. For the previous five months he had been employed as a grocer's clerk at the Dominion Stores in Woodstock. On his application form he recorded that his hobby was hunting and that he had served with the local army cadet force for four years. Because of his lack of educational qualifications, the Air Force asked him to attend a pre-aircrew education course, where he obtained a pass certificate on 26th July 1943.

 

 

Donald Flood after gaining his stripes and wings, and his parents' and brother's grave at Woodstock Cemetery.

 

After some further aircrew training, he was posted to No.3 Bombing & Gunnery School, at RCAF Station Macdonald in Manitoba, on September 6th 1943, and passed out with his sergeant's stripes and wings on the 15th of October.

He was then posted to the UK and arrived at 12 OTU, Chipping-Warden, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, on 14th December 1943.

 

Did Donald Flood have a girl friend in London? He had two five day periods of leave in July and August 1944. On the back page of his RCAF pay-book, next to a phone number of one of the Dooley family, was written the address and phone number of a Bloomsbury girl, Kay Dodson, of 7 Queen Court, Guildford Street, with a phone number, Terminus 4349.
That block of apartments is today remembered with a blue plaque, as the wartime home of one of our more famous SOE secret agents, 'the White Rabbit', Wing Commander F.F.E (Tommy) Yeo-Thomas, who in 1944
was betrayed, and then captured by the Gestapo.
Yeo-Thomas was subjected to long periods of interrogation, torture (including long periods of water-boarding), and imprisonment in France, before being deported to Buchenwald concentration camp.
By a complex and dangerous scheme he avoided execution and survived a number of other Nazi camps before finally escaping and reaching the US lines as the war ended.
Following these extraordinary events and his outstanding demonstration of bravery, Yeo-Thomas's dream of returning home to his partner, Barbara Dean, in Queen Square, was realised in May 1945.

For his exceptional courage, he was awarded the George Cross, the Military Cross and bar, the Croix de Guerre, the Polish cross of merit, and was made a commander of the Légion d'honneur.

 

 

The memorial in Victoria Park, Woodstock where Donald Flood is remembered.

 

During the next few months Donald Flood joined Peter Bickford's crew, and had some heavy bomber training at 1657 HCU in Suffolk, and No.3 LFS (Lancaster Finishing School) in Norfolk.

He was posted to 115 Squadron at RAF Witchford in Cambridgeshire, on 11th of June 1944. During the next three months he flew with Peter's crew and was close to the end of his tour of thirty operations when he met his death. His promotion to pilot officer was confirmed two days earlier.

He is buried with his crew-mates at Strijen Protestant Cemetery - Plot of Honour, grave 3.

His parents' grave, and that of his brother, William, is in the Woodstock Presbyterian Cemetery. In Victoria Park, Woodstock, at the corner of Graham Street and Buller Street, there is a War Memorial, for WW1 and WW2 casualties of the city. His name is recorded on the right-hand panel (1939-1945). 

It is also written  in the Book of Remembrance (WW2) - page 306 (1944), at the Memorial Chamber, in the Canadian Parliament Building at Ottawa. 

 

(RCAF) Flying Officer Wilfred George Scanlan, the bomb-aimer, was the 22 year old son of John Joseph Scanlan (1888-1964) and Bridget Ethel Herlehey (1891-1974) of Westport, Ontario.

He was from a Roman Catholic family with Irish roots, and the brother of Mary, Cecile, Terance, John, Joseph, James, Gerald, Kevin and Eugene. One brother, Gerald, who was born in 1927, was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1952 at St. Edward's in Westport.

We know little about Wilfred's RCAF record. He enlisted in 1942 and after his technical training in Canada was sent to the UK.

In January 1944 he was posted to 12 Operational Training Unit, Chipping-Warden, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, for aircrew training, and then, after more technical training, and Heavy Conversion Unit instruction, arrived at 115 Squadron as part of Peter Bickford's crew in June 1944.

His first flight from RAF Witchford was on June 15th 1944 when they bombed Valenciennes in Northern France. He appears to have been Bickford's bomb-aimer for all their time with 115 Squadron and therefore should also have been close to completing his tour of 30 missions at the time of his death.

He is buried at Strijen Protestant Cemetery - Plot of Honour, grave 7.

His name is recorded on the local WW2 War Memorial,  at Spring Street, Westport, and the Canadian Virtual War Memorial; and his name is also in the Book of Remembrance (WW2) - page 437 (1944), in the Memorial Chamber at the Peace Tower, in Ottawa.

 

The Plot of Honour at Strijen Protestant Cemetery

 

(RAFVR) Pilot Officer Peter Lawrence Dooley - the flight engineer, was the 19 year old son of Albert Dooley and Frances (Frankie) McKiernan, who were married at Willisden, Middlesex, in 1916.

Peter's father Albert (born 1888), was an estate agent who came from a family of diamond setters.

Peter's grandfather, Thomas Lawrence Dooley, (bn 1856), married to Harriett Edwards, had a family of at least eleven children. A diamond setter, he had his own jewellery business in Poland Street, off Oxford Street in the West End of London, and often made pieces for the well known London jewellers, Garrards, and Mappin & Webb.

Albert's sister Amy, who was born in 1893, and never married, was a gem stone polisher. She is said by the family to have been one of the specialists sent to clean the crown jewels before state occasions.

Their brother, 19 year old Private Reginald Dooley, (born 1897), of the London Regiment, was killed at the Somme in September 1916, and is buried at Meaulte in France.

Peter's parents mainly lived in the Willesden, Middlesex area, but when Albert retired in the mid-1950s, they moved to Stoneleigh, near Epsom, Surrey.

Peter was their only son. They had one daughter, Francesca, who was born at Willesden in 1923.

Albert Dooley died at Sittingbourne, Kent in 1964, and his wife, Frankie, at Hill House Hospital, Minster, Kent around 1975.

We know little of 19 year old Pilot Officer Peter Lawrence Dooley's service record. He is believed to have received his aircrew training at 12 OTU and either joined Peter Bickford's crew there, or at 1657 HCU in Suffolk. He was posted to 115 Squadron at RAF Witchford in Cambridgeshire, in June 1944.

During the next three months he flew with Bickford's crew, and was close to the end of his tour of thirty operations when he met his death.

Peter is buried at Strijen Protestant Cemetery - Plot of Honour, grave 8. The bottom text of his grave stone reads: ‘No day downs, no night returns, but we remember him’

 

(RAFVR) Flight Sergeant Uriah Bernard Butters - the wireless operator, was the 21 year old  son of William Bernard & Emily Horton Butters, of Kingston upon Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

We have no record of his RAF service but he is believed to have received his aircrew training at 12 OTU and joined Peter Bickford's crew there.

He was posted to 115 Squadron at RAF Witchford in Cambridgeshire, in June 1944.

During the next three months he flew with Bickford's crew, and was close to the end of his tour of thirty operations when he met his death.

The family of Uriah Butters in 1915, their three sons in the uniform of the East Yorkshires, and the corner draper's shop today.

 

At Paragon Square, in the centre of Hull and near the City Hall, and behind the Boer War Memorial with its well known soldiers sculpture, there is a WW1 & WW2 Cenotaph. Without any names engraved, the memorial is for all of the lost and missing servicemen of the city. Uriah Bernard Butters is, however, recorded on the ‘Hull and East Riding at War' Memorial Pages.

He is buried at Strijen Protestant Cemetery - Plot of Honour, grave 4. The bottom text of his gravestone says: ‘He died, but his memory will live'.

He came from a prominent Yorkshire family, his great-grandfather, the Rev. Uriah Butters, was a Wesleyan minister. His grandfather, again named Uriah (1857-1949), was a draper who had a shop at Toll Gavel, in the market town of Beverley.

Uriah and Annie had three sons, Uriah Ellis (1892), William Bernard (1893), and Gerald Duncan (1895, and three daughters, Winifred (1881), Mabel (1882) and Ethel (1888).

The father of F/Sgt Butters, William Bernard, appears to have been the only son in the family to move away from Beverley, following his marriage to Emily Horton Clark at Skirlaugh in 1920, and settle in Hull.

His brother, Gerald Duncan, stayed with the family business and is recorded as a master draper at Beverley in 1949.

 

RCAF Pilot Officer Douglas Dawson was the 19 year old son of druggist, Thomas James Dawson (bn 1894), whose family were of Irish descent, and his wife Isabel Caroline Forbes (bn 1901) of Canadian Scottish ancestry, and lived at Cookstown, Ontario.

Douglas had three brothers, Gordon (bn 1922), Grant (bn 1929), and Alan (bn 1935). He does not appear to have been heavily involved in sport like his older brother. An indication that he may have been more of an academic is recorded on the air-force application form where he gave his second language as latin.

His younger teenage brother, Grant, had joined 102 (Barrie Silver Fox) Squadron, the local air cadets, in 1943.

Doug graduated from Cookstown High School in 1941, and began training as a machinist in the machine shop of the Canada Cycle & Motor Company of Weston, Ontario, where he stayed for two years.

On April 13th 1943, he enlisted in the RCAF at Toronto. After basic and technical training, Doug was posted to No.9 Bombing and Gunnery School on 20th September 1943, and after completing the course, was awarded his wings and sergeant's stripes on 29th October.

From there he was posted to Halifax, Nova Scotia, en route to the UK.

Doug was then sent to 12 Operational Training Unit, Chipping-Warden, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, in January 1944, for aircrew training, and then, after more gunnery and Heavy Conversion Unit instruction, arrived at 115 Squadron as part of Peter Bickford's crew in June 1944.

His first flight from RAF Witchford was on June 15th 1944 when they bombed Valenciennes in Northern France. He appears to have been Bickford's gunner for all their time with 115 Squadron and therefore would also have been close to completing his tour of 30 missions at the time of his death. In a letter home he mentioned completing 21 operations on September 7th.

His rank was Flight Sergeant at the time of his death, but, as was the custom in the RCAF, to promote active aircrew every six months, he was promoted to Pilot Officer on 13th December 1944, effective from 16th September.

Douglas was buried at Strijen Protestant Cemetery - Plot of Honour, grave 2.

His brother, Pilot Office Gordon Forbes (Jimmy) Dawson (1922-44) was the husband of Gwendoline Doris Joiner (1925-2003). The couple were married on August 5th, 1944, and were now living near Jimmy's base, at Ely, in Cambridgeshire.

He was a gunner on 115 Squadron's Lancaster HK 595 KO-A, piloted by Squadron Leader Hugh Castle, and specially modified to carry Gee-H direction-finding equipment for accurate bombing during cloudy conditions. This Lancaster had a crew of 9 with a second pilot, and an extra air gunner who operated in the mid-under (belly) position.

HK 595 took off from RAF Witchford at 1240 hours on the 15th November 1944, detailed to bomb the oil plant at Dortmund in Germany. Tragically it was involved in a mid-air collision over Leverkussen, with another 115 Squadron Lancaster, NN706 KO-B, flown by Canadian, Flight Lieutenant John William Davidson, the 21 year old son of William and Helen Davidson, from Toronto, Canada. Both crews were lost.

Gordon Forbes (Jimmy) Dawson was born in Cookstown on June 6th 1922. Completing his education at Cookstown High School he was recognised as one of the best all-round athletes in South Simcoe and had been awarded six silver cups.

A good hockey goalie and a fine baseball catcher, he also played rugby, badminton and lacrosse, and took part in track events, boxing and skiing. A member of the YMCA and Cookstown Boys Recreation Club, he was also competent with a rifle, and later recorded duck and deer hunting as one of his outdoor pursuits.

He left school with few qualifications in 1939, and was employed as a welder with the General Electric Company.

 

In July 1941, he enlisted in the RCAF to train as a pilot. He was first stationed at Toronto,and then Eglinton for initial training. His next posting was to to Malton where he completed his elementary flying and was posted to Brantford for service flying.

Shortly before qualifying for his pilot's wings, in March 1942, he decided that flying aircraft was not for him. He requested a changeover to air-gunner training and was transferred to Trenton.

Jimmy won his wings and stripes at Dafoe, Sask. and was posted overseas in June 1942.

Between July and August 1942 Jimmy was posted to the RAF's No.7 School of Air Gunnery at Stormy Down in South Wales. From there he was sent to 14 Operational Training Unit at RAF Cottesmore, Rutland, near Melton Mowbray, for air-crew training.

His first operational squadron was 192 Squadron based at RAF Gransden Lodge, 10 miles west of Cambridge. A special duties squadron in Bomber Command, it didn’t carry bombs but had specialised electronic equipment, and radar special operators. Its function was to fly with the bomber stream and try to subvert the German Luftwaffe by misleading, confusing and diverting them. They carried German speaking operators onboard who would get on the fighter control radio frequencies and confuse the fighters by giving them misleading instructions.

Jimmy was sent to North Africa and billeted at RAF Blida, southwest of Algiers. At present there are no records about what aircraft or crews he flew with there during the North Africa and Sicily campaigns, but we know he completed one tour of operations there.

In January 1944 he was posted back to the UK and to No.11 Operational Training Unit at RAF Westcott, near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, as a gunnery instructor, and it was probably around that time he met 18 year old Gwendoline (Doris) Joiner from the nearby village of Worminghall.

It was at Worminghall that they were married on August 5th 1944. The couple made their home a few miles away at the village of Waterperry in Oxfordshire, and Jimmy bought a car to commute to RAF Westcott.

They planned to move to Canada when he completed his 30 missions.

Their honeymoon period ended around September 17th when they received the news of his brother Doug's death.

We do not know whether it was by coincidence, or his own request, but only two weeks later Jimmy was posted to the same squadron at RAF Witchford, near Ely in Cambridgeshire.

His rank was Warrant Officer when he wrote a new will at RAF Westcott making Doris his executor, and main beneficiary, on September 27th.

His promotion to pilot officer came through a short time later.

On October 5th Jimmy joined his new squadron and the couple set up home at Station Road, Ely.

His first operation on 19th of October was a new experience. It was a raid on Stuttgart flying with Squadron Leader Hugh Castle's crew in the specially Gee-H adapted Lancaster HK 595, with its added mid-under gunner's position reserved for Jimmy Dawson. Gee-H was an accurate direction-finding system, using two special ground-based stations, and ideal for the lead aircraft pin-pointing targets during cloudy conditions without the aid of pathfinders or marker flares.

It was on his fourth mission with HK 595's crew, to Dortmund in Germany on 15th November, that he lost his life.

A Missing Research & Enquiry team reported “ the aircraft crashed at 3-40pm on the 15th November 1944 four miles north east of Derne and all the crew were killed."  P/O O’Sullivan, F/Sgt Stickland, P/O Dawson and Sgt Sampson are buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Kleve, Nordrein-Westfalen, Germany.

The remaining five crew members have no known grave and their names are commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing, at Runnymede in Surrey.

His widow Gwendoline (Doris) sailed to Canada on the 'bride-ship' MV Rangitata in March 1945 and joined Jimmy's parents at Cookstown.

She settled there, and on November 6th 1946, married 27 year old Harry Richardson Couse, a farmer from Cookstown. The couple were able to visit her family when they sailed to the UK on SS Veendam for a vacation in May 1948.

Doris was Harry's wife for 52 years before he passed away in 1998. She died at Peterborough, Ontario, on October 25th, 2003, at the age of 78, and was sadly missed by her children and grandchildren.

 

 

 

Buried at Strijen the pilot of Hawker Tempest V EJ583

20 year old Flying Officer Robert (Bob) Hawksley Hanney was the eldest of two sons born to Charles Percival Hanney and Dora Grace Morley of Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, who were married at Bristol in 1921.

Born at Ashley Grange, Bristol in early 1924, Bob joined the RAF when only 18 years old. He was trained as a pilot in Canada, and received his commission as an RAF Pilot Officer in May 1943.

Posted to 80 Squadron at RAF Manston in Kent, Bob was promoted to Flying Officer the following November.

His squadron flew Spitfires until August 1943 when it converted to the Hawker Tempest. He took part in the Normandy invasion on June 6th 1944.

On 18th September 1944, during the Battle of Arnhem, the squadron was detailed to strafe Flak positions in the Flushing area of South Holland.

Two of their aircraft were hit by anti-aircraft fire and brought down. Flying Officer Bob Hanney, flying in Hawker Tempest V EJ583, crashed and was killed at Brandelaar Strijensas (Mariapolder) around 1.30pm. He is buried in Strijen Protestant Cemetery.

 

Hawker Tempest Mark V EJ705 W2-X of 80 Squadron, on a dispersal at a Dutch airfield in late 1944

 

 

 

Willem's Introduction

14

Ameland in war-time

25

Wartime Texel  & Den Helder 

1

Friesland War-time Crashes

14b

Ameland,166 & 75 Squadron

26

Hindeloopen

2

Friesland Cemeteries

14c

Ameland Graves

27

Destroy the Scharnhorst!

3

Leeuwarden area

15

Terschelling

28

Destroy the Scharnhorst! 2

3a

Wirdum Remembers

15b

Terschelling 2

28a

Destroy the Scharnhorst! 3

4

Schiermonnikoog

16

Sage War Cemetery

29

12 Squadron in World War 2

4b

Schiermonnikoog  part 2

16b

RAF Topcliffe & 424 Squadron

30

The Runnymede Memorial

5

Harlingen

17

Vlieland Cemetery

31

Vuren at war

6

Kallenkote Cemetery

18

Jacobiparochie

32

Makkum Cemetery

7

Wartime Occupied Harlingen

19

Hampden AE 428, & Koudum

33

A fatal collision?

8

RCAF 428 Ghost Squadron

20

Willem's War-time photographs

34

Hudsons & Venturas

9

Zwolle's ' De Groene ' group

21

Shipdham Airfield & USAF 44th

34a

Hudsons & Venturas 2

10

408 Squadron's Leipzig raid

21b

68th Squadron's Casualties

35

101 Squadron

11

Friesland radar

22

Rottum Island or Rottumeroog

12

Lancasters DS776  & JA921

23

Bergen General Cemetery

 

 

back to 626 Squadron

 

 

 

 

 

 email-address:  w.jong1@upcmail.nl

 

 

 

 

 

uk :      tom.bint2@gmail.com