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Schiermonnikoog

Texel & Den Helder

 

 

D

Leeuwarden Airfield

Schiermonikoog

Harlingen & Harderwijk

Occupied Harlingen

German Radar

Ameland

Vlieland

Terschelling

St. Jacobparochie

Rottum Island

 

 

 

Burials at Vredenhof on the island of Schiermonnikoog 

Information about (wartime) Schiermonnikoog. by Willem de Jong.

 

The Protestant village church at Oosterburen village centre    

In history, the Dutch coastline is formed primarily by a huge gravel and sand deposit, as a result of the never stopping water transport downwards, from the eroding inland mountains of Europe to the sea, via the rivers  Rijn (=Rhine), IJssel (= …?... ), Maas (=Meuse) and Schelde (=Scheldt). 

Transformed into wide beaches and high dunes, in fact this line is running from the "Dunkirk area" (France) to the "Skagen area" (Danmark), and in detail it is changing every day, by the winds and waters of the North Sea; the same swelling sea who was breaking that line later on, sometimes year after year (storm floods in autumn and winter), like as in the IJsseldelta, even making inland seas / mudflats (Waddenzee, Lauwerszee, Middelzee, Zuider- zee etc.). 

Thus, that’s how our islands were born, in Zeeland and in Friesland, created by water and wind and with the building materials from the Alps and the Ardennes. What a difference to the White Cliffs of Dover or to the Norwegian Fjords, laying along the same sea waters…..

 Starting from Den Helder / Marsdiep, a long row of those islands are laying West to East, also across the border of Germany, to the "Deutschen Bucht" (seaway to Hamburg) and then going North, upwards to Esbjerg / Jylland, across the border of Danmark. 

Most of the time they are named the "Friese (Wadden-)Eilanden" / the Frisian islands, but also other names are in use, like as Frisian Chain, or nicknames such as "Nectarines". 

The no. 5 island in that row, the last Dutch isle where people are living on, is named Schiermonnikoog: "the isle of the grey monks" (an old, historical name of course; schier or skyr = grey / colourless, monnik = monk and oog / oye / oya = island, small land in the sea, formed like an egg or eye). The islanders themselves name their birth and living place "Lytje Pole" (lytje = little and pole = peace / part…..of land). And most of the real islanders appreciating a last resting place there, in the churchyard in the village, or, after a cremation procession on the mainland (!), some place there for their ashes, on the beach for example or on the playground of their child-hood days.

 In the pre war time there were about 650 people, most of them sailors, fishermen, farmers etc., and "jutters" of course (beachcombers), but the small-scale w source of Tourism was just started in that time, but then…. 1940, war ! It was really a shock for most of the islanders, who thought to be outsiders, safe on a rather isolated piece of Europe.

But the reality of that moment in history was dictating the islanders a new and unknown life, for over 5 long years (!), together with occupying troops; many times there were more Germans and their assistants on the isle, than there were living islanders. 

And the war was coming to the island itself: planes were crashing, bombs were falling, (sea) mines were exploding and also artillery shells, etc. etc.

Results: a number of their own population was killed, there were also civilians injured, the village was partly destroyed and the ever peaceful landscape, were God's nature was living always a beautiful life, was raped !

The last weeks of the war were the most horrible times for the islanders; while Groningen, the city as well as the province, was liberated already by Canadian troops, like parts of the Frisian mainland too, there was no longer a way back for the Germans to their homeland.

Therefore SD- and SS-troops, from the Scholtenhuis in Groningen etc., thus the real Nazi-bastards, flee to Schiermonnikoog by boats. And they brought a lot of assistants and hookers with them to the island. 

These men had nothing to lose any more, because their role was played out, and they knew it, and therefore they were very dangerous !!! And they brought many extra guns to Schiermonnikoog and strong drinks and drugs. A real hell, even for the regular German occupation troops still there, who had learned to deal with the civil population.

 With a lot of tact, from islanders, from people of the resistance, from Canadian military men and even from the "normal German soldiers", and with all the luck in the world, it came more or less to a good end: on the 11th of June 1945 the last Germans were transported via Terschelling island to Germany. That was liberation day for Schier, but….. some people were timid waiting for news about husband, son, brother, nephew etc., not seen in 5 years ! 

They were celebrating later on, or never again.

 

 

 

Photo 1 - Dhr. Sake van der Werff - born 30th Jan. 1870, in Dokkum (Frl.) - died 1st May 1955, S'-oog (Frl.); one of the first carers of the Vredenhof Cemetery - Schiermonnikoog.     His photo is also featured below under '1944 funeral'

His father was a "skûtsje skipper", owner / skipper of a small inland sailing cargo trader, moored / fast in the ice in winters' Dokkum when Sake was born. Sake was a policeman on the island, since Christmas 1901. That  is why he was in touch with the Vredenhof (drowned persons, sailors, most of the time unknown, washed on the beach). And that's why he knew about the writing of "official paperwork" (police-reports etc.).

In 1913 he started a new life on Schiermonnikoog. On the 28th of April he bought an old horeca building, which was transformed and named Hotel - Pension Van der Werff later on. 

He and his son are both buried in the same Vredenhof Cemetery, beside the "lost ones of so many nations".

Photo 2 - Mevr. Alderdina Bol / "Juffrouw Dien" - born 1906 in Zoutkamp (Gr.). Once a waitress in the hotel, later the owner, after Sake and till 1977, also a caretaker of the Vredenhof Cemetery after Sake.

 

'Time' magazine 1983

 

 

 

Locally based German soldiers attend a military funeral at  Schiermonnikoog

 

Naval authority (Kriegsmarine) inspection on 11th Sept. 1941 of the 'Vredenhof' cemetery.

 

About this interesting video below of Schiermonnikoog from 1969 with older film fragments in it from Sake van der Werff, etc.

It's a bit a pity I guess, you cannot understand easily all the 'Dutch talk' in it, during the many (short) interviews with old islander sea skippers, captains, and the island mayor then (Mr. Anker), and also with the well known 'Juffrouw Dien' of Hotel van der Werff.

She is talking about Sake himself, his life as a sailor and policeman etc., and about his actions later for the Vredenhof cemetery, and his resistance also, against the German occupying authorities, to reform the island 'drowned sailors graveyard' into a 'real wartime soldiers cemetery', as they wanted to do, and in the first place for their own casualties !

There are also fragments in it, as you understood maybe, with Mr. Mees Toxopeus, the NZHRM lifeboat (Mrb.) 'Insulinde' skipper, who was living his last days on Schiermonnikoog island; and also fragments with a beautiful 'hawknose captain', who is telling about his services on the Atlantic Ocean, going 'up and down' more than once between the US and the UK, sailing then in convoys, while one time his ship was torpedoed by German submarines, like also a nearby English ship....... He managed to get every soul alive in the rowing rescue boats, drifting then on the wild and cold open sea waters, till the moment they where picked up and rescued and brought back to America....... and he then didn't see his wife for more than 5 years!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hampden L4127 from 144 Squadron and AC1 Allan Wilson's 1939 Funeral

 

The first RAF victim of World War II to be buried at Vredenhof was 18 year old Wireless Operator/Air Gunner AC1 Allan Wilson from 144 Squadron, son of Duncan and Jessie Wilson, of Sandyford, Newcastle-on-Tyne. 

Alan's body was recovered in November 1939, barely two months after the beginning of the war and before the German occupation of Holland. Allan Wilson's aircraft, Hampden (Mk. B.I) L4127, was piloted by 28 year old F/O Norman Beck, navigated by Sgt Percy Sprotson (21) and 25 year old Canadian Pilot Officer Roger Turner the gunner. They were shot down byHmptm Dickore of 1./ZG26 over the sea between Heligoland and Wangerooge.

Norman Beck was rescued from the sea by a German patrol boat but died before they arrived at Wilhelmshaven.

Percy Sprotson was first interred with a military funeral at Emden (Bolardusfriedhof) but his body, and that of Norman Beck, was reburied at Sage Military Cemetery, near Oldenburg, in Germany after the War.(see page 16) 

Pilot Officer Roger Turner has no known grave and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

The  aircraft took off at 06.40 hrs on the 29th of September from Hemswell, Lincolnshire to bomb German warships in the Heligoland area. Eleven 114 Squadron Hampden bombers were sent in two formations. The first 6 attacked 2 destroyers but missed their targets, the second wave of 5 were intercepted and every one was shot down by Luftwaffe Me.109's  who were then in place and waiting. 16 aircrew were lost and another 4 made P.O.W.'s. 

It was a disastrous day for 144 Squadron. Hampden L4121 flown by: F/O. John T.B. Sadler (Killed with 3 crew, 1 made p.o.w.) - Hampden L4126 flown by: F/O. Baughan (3 killed, with the pilot a p.o.w.) - Hampden L4127 flown by: F/O. Norman C. Beck (All 4 crew killed) - Hampden L4134 flown by: W/Cmdr. James C. Cunningham (3 killed, 1 p.o.w.) - This Hampden L4132 was thought to have been shot down at 10.03 hrs by Uffz. Pollack (2) of I./ZG26 flying an Me109.

During the day, 144 Squadron at Hemswell was ordered to prepare 12 of its Hampdens, each to be armed with 4 x 500lb GP bombs and dispatched in two flights of six aircraft.

The two flights were assigned tasks identified as Raid EH3 and Raid EH4.

W/C Cunningham, the squadron's CO and a graduate of the RAF Cranwell, headed Raid EH3 which departed at 0640 and set out across the North Sea flying on a NE cou before making ENE until it was approaching the island of Sylt. Then, whilst some distance short of the island the bombers turned S and arrived in the vicinity of Heligoland at more-or-Iess the same time that S/l W H Lindsay, leader of Raid EH4 [which had left Hemswell at around 0700], was leaving the area having taken a more southerly route. Unbeknown to both leaders was that a strong force of Me109s from I./ZG26 had taken off from Jever and were now heading at high-speed towards Heligoland. At around 1000, with Lindsay's flight now on a westerly course and with Cunningham's raid passing W of the island, the first interceptions took place and it was Raid EH3 that took the entire force of the engagement.

All five Hampdens [one had turned back after developing engine trouble soon after take off] were shot down, falling into the sea between Heligoland and Wangerooge.

In the space of a few minutes 16 alrcrew were killed, the four survivors, along with some bodies, being plucked from the water by German patrol boats and taken to Wilhelmshaven.

I consider it near impossible to identify individual claims; therefore, it is suffice to say that from the Me109s, Obit Gunther Specht, Hptm Friedrich-Karl Dickore and Uffz Pirsch and Pollack submitted claims, Gunther Specht claiming a brace. It is believed two of the fighters were obliged to ditch with battle damage, both pilots being rescued by the same boats that had been sent out to search for survivors from the bombers.

F/Sgt Williams, who died in L4132, had survived two pre-war air accident: these are reported on 12 December 1936 and 24 November 1938, the former whilst flying Heyfords with 102 Squadron and the latter when 144 Squadron was equipped with Bristol Blenheims.

AC1 Liggett (L4134) made numerous escapes before being repatriated in September 1944: (He was interned in Camps 21B/L3/L6. He took part in an abortive tunnel escape from L6 on 29 Aug 1943 and was later awarded the MM. [Gazetted 9 February 1945]. Post-war, Sgt Galloway (L4121) was appointed MBE on 7 January 1947.   Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War Vol.1.    W.R Chorley

 

A 1939 Dutch Army Fokker D.XXI, and a Fokker TW.8 torpedo bomber of the Dutch Navy

Photos now of Dutch airplanes used in the period Aug. 1939 - May 1940 (as far as I know, the French and British name it the 'Phoney War'. In the Netherlands we call it the "Mobilisatietijd"  for us still a pre-war time. Planes like these were flying daily over the coast-line of the Netherlands, and over the Frisian islands, to defend our borders/waters. And that's why one of them, probably a Fokker D.XXI, from JaVA. 1 ( Jacht Vliegtuig Afdeling 1 = fighter unit 1) from Eelde airfield (near Groningencity) discovered the dead body of AC.1 Wilson from the air, when it was washed ashore on Simonszand, a shallow East of Schiermonnikoog, on 23 October 1939. 

The only problem was, that plane had to return to his base, before the pilot could tell what he saw, because this D.XXI fighter had no radio-equipment aboard... !! That dead body could easily drift away in any direction, during the next rising tide. As soon as the fighter landed, Airfield Eelde was calling Den Helder / Dutch Coastguard Center for the North, by telephone and they were later notifying the local coastguard - Marine Kust Wacht (post 3) - on the isle of Schiermonnikoog by radio !!!  How simple and quick.

By the way, those Fokker fighters were belonging to the Dutch Land Forces and the Fokker torpedo bombers (TW.8 planes) to the Dutch Navy. The Dutchies had no seperate Koninklijke Luchtmacht/Royal Air Force at that time, like the Germans and the British. The Navy airplane (TW.8) on the other hand was radio-equipped, but had to unwind an antenna-cable first after airborne before they could use that radio. Our photo above is showing the TW.8 plane on the Braassemermeer, an inland lake in Western Holland (near Roelofsarendsveen village and Leiden city). They used a part of the lake as base and runway etc., until winter. (In Aug.1939 sometimes sailing boats of tourists were passing.) This same Fokker TW.8 torpedo bomber (no. R-5) was shot down by a German Heinkel He-115, North of Hollum/Ameland, on 13 September 1939 ,10 days after the war had started!

Below from Willem are photos of LAC Allan Wilson's 1939 funeral and the incredible respect shown by the islanders of Schiermonnikoog. These photos about AC.1 Allan Wilson are (from the book "De oorlog in beeld/Schiermonnikoog 1940-1945", by Bauke Henstra & Eddy van der Noord) 

Some Fokker D-XXI pilots would later make successful Spitfire pilots in the RAF. The most famous of those wasBram (Bob) van der Stok, who would eventually become Squadron Leader of 322 RAF (Dutch) squadron. He would become even more well known for his escape from Stalag Luft III (the Great Escape). He and two Norvegian officers were the only successful escapees.

 

 

These men were arriving at Simonszand by (civil) motorboat of Wopke Fenenga, 24 October 1939. They recovered the mortal remains of this young British airman, and brought the body to Schiermonnikoog / to the Vredenhof Cemetery (last ride to the cemetery / morgue by horse-drawn wagon). The Dutch military man in the middle / behind was Sgt. C.R. Veldkamp of MKW-post 3, "the highest Coastguard leader" of Schiermonnikoog, and the man who arranged the surrender of the island to theGermans in May 1940, without any bloodshed.

Right of him Leo van der Veen, and most-right Wopke Fenenga. The names etc. of the other 3 men are unknown to me, but the most-left could be a local policeman.

2.) Guard by 2 Dutch military men (of MKW-post 3 / Schiermonnikoog I suppose), left a Navy "matroos" and right a Soldier of the Land Forces; on the coffin in the morgue the Union Jack and some flowers.  

 

Today I found a message in my mailbox from Mr. Jakob Klooster, grandson of Mr. Derk Leeuwerik (1911-1997) from Nieuweschans village, in the province of Groningen; in which he is telling me that the 'matroos' on the leftside of our photo on the picture guarding the coffin of AC.1 Alan Wilson - is his grandfather, serving on the island in that time as a 'zeemilicien', of the local MKW-post no.3.  Willem - October 2013

 

 

 

 

 Overview of the military funeral ceremony for Allan Wilson; a lot of islanders / Schiermonnikogers was there and members of the local press too (they were writing about it the following days, in papers like the Leeuwarder Courant). Members of the 1939 funeral procession, brought in by horse-drawn farmers wagon: RAF Sqdn. Ldr. A.A, Adams, Dutch Consul for Britain, Chr. van de Rijk, Captain of the Dutch army, G.S. Sicco Smit, etc., and probably the burgemeester / mayor of Schiermonnikoog. On the right is his grave (Grave 16) several days later.

 

 

This event was followed in August 1940 with the gruesome discovery by three islanders who found themselves swimming among the remains of fourteen French and four British soldiers. They were from the evacuation of Dunkirk and were killed in the English Channel while attempting to escape the Germans.

 

 

At the churchyard of Oosterburen village, I pictured the War Memorial on the church wall first, with the names of the islander casualties from WW2 inscribed. Many of them died in Japanese and German camps, were killed at sea, or on the island itself, some by Allied bombs.

I also pictured the small grave stone of Mr. Wobke Fenenga who was the local NZHRM lifeboat skipper for a short period. It was he who in October 1939 brought the body of RAF airman Allan Wilson, found at the Simonszand,  for a decent funeral service in the Vredenhof cemetery.

Some months later, during the winter 1939 - 1940, he died suddenly from a heart attack, during a 'rescue operation', when some people from the mainland (Province of Groningen side), had tried to walk over the ice fields to S'-oog island, and were missing. He was the leader of the rescue team, but turned homewards, because he didn't feel well. They found him later dead, laying in the snow, just on the inland side of the island sea wall. He was only aged 51.   Willem, October 2016

Blenheim Mk.IV L9259 0f 235 Squadron  Lost: 24/05/1940

 

Blenheim L9259, piloted by Pilot Officer Michael E. Ryan, took off from RAF Bircham Newton together with Flight Lieutenant Richard Cross in P6909 at 04.15 hours. Both were on escort duty and giving protection to a 206 Squadron Hudson bomber by flying 2,000 feet above it.

Nearing the Dutch coast four miles from Borkum, the Hudson bombed the merchantman Hertha Engeline Fritzenfrom 2,000 feet, its bombs exploded within 10 yards of the vessel.

 

A Hudson bomber from 206 Squadron and the Hertha Engeline Fritzen. Built in England, as the S.S. ' Picton ', by Richardson, Duck & Co. at Thornaby (Stockton-On-Tees), in 1906. It was powered by a triple expansion steam engine of Blair & Co.  Renamed the 'S.S. Hertha Engeline Fritzen', it was later in service with the German Shipping Company Fritzen operating from Emden (North Sea) and Stettin (Baltic Sea, in todays Poland).Though fortunate in having that 'near miss' with 206 Squadron, this vessel was wrecked and lost when it ran aground near the Hook of Holland on 26 October 1941.

 

According to Andrew Bird's book, 'Coastal Dawn', Pilot Officer Ryan's aircraft then slowed down when his fingers were caught in the rotary fuel switch. Around that time a pair of Luftwaffe Bf109Es were sighted. They were apparently flown by Oblt. Peter Emmerich, and Uffz Otto Rückert of Trägergruppe 186, a unit originally formed to operate from the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin but believed at that time land-based on the Fresian island of Wangerooge.

At 07.18 they attacked L9259 from the rear. The Blenheim's gunner, twenty-year-old LAC Albert Smith, fired off many rounds in a desperate attempt to defend his crewmates. Ten minutes later at 07.28 one of the Bf109Es finally felled twenty-year-old Pilot Officer Michael Ryan and his crew.  It is difficult to assess which of the two German pilots was responsible as various claims lists have named both.

The navigator onboard the Hudson saw “a splash in the water, evidently made by the machine” when it was shot down, plotting its position as 270 degrees, Borkum ten miles, and close to Schiermonnikoog Island.

The Blenheim was seen to disappear into the sea off Schiermonnikoog by the air gunner of the Hudson.

The crew were - pilot, Pilot Officer Michael E. Ryan, age 20, observer, Sergeant William Martin,  age 26, and W/Op/Gunner, LAC Albert Smith.

The body of Leading Aircraftsman Albert George Smith, was never found and he is now commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

 

Andrew Bird's highly recommended book, Coastal Dawn, is available from Grub Street Publishing.

 

 

Pilot Officer Michael Erskine Ryan was the eldest son from an English noble family. His father was barrister Sir Gerald Ellis Ryan (2nd Baronet). At the end of May his body was washed ashore on the Northern beach of “Skyr” and was recovered and indentified. The military and civil funeral was held on Saturday the 1st of June 1940, on a rainy afternoon (see the photos).

The Blenheim's observer/navigator, Sgt William Martin, was found a fortnight later and was buried in grave 17, at Vredenhof on June 15th 1940. 

The local Leeuwarden paper reported - Schiermonnikoog, 17 June (1940). Yesterday afternoon, after 5 o’clock, were buried the human remains of the English Air Officer William Martin, Meth, RAF, 748313, in the cemetery located in the dunes at "Vredenhof".

This funeral ceremony was held with military honours of the German troops on station there, under the command of the "Inselkommandant" of Schiermonnikoog (that would be Uffz. Hans Frankenberg, the 1st commander of the island). 

A wreath of pine-needle twigs and flowers was laid on the coffin by the military. In front of the grave was spoken first by Rev. van Wieren, the local Gereformeerde (Protestant) vicar, and after that by Feldwebel Wende (no any idea who he was... or his task?  Probably the Rev. van Wieren was leading the Our Father prayer text in English )

 

 

The first two photos show Bill Martin & Doris Pittman on their honeymoon (courtesy of his nephew Nigel Pittman).They were married on November 11,1939 at St Alban’s Parish Church, Streatham. The couple were only wed for five months before Bill was lost on operations.


William (Bill) Martin (1914-40) I cannot tell you a great deal about Bill but do know that he signed up to the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1938. Prior to that he had worked for the Post Office, which I know to be true because my late uncle Ralph (Doris's brother) was the one who set me on the path to finding Bill. The two of them had worked together, initially as telegram boys in the late 20s. My uncle was born in 1914 and said they were the same age. The family lived in Barnes, south west London, near Kingston and his father had a builders business. I have the address of their home and looked for it on Google and it is still there, a nice terraced Victorian property. More than that I cannot tell you other than that Ruth told me that she felt Bill was a determined and brave man, not least because apparently he was constantly air sick. Bill was the love of my aunt Doris's life and she never really got over his death.     Nigel Pittman

Bill Martin had a twin sister, Daisy Daphne (known within the family as Daphne). They were born at 37 Archway Street, Barnes, on 22nd May 1914. She married Leonard Shackleford (bn 1913), who like her brother had worked for the GPO,  at Barnes Methodist Church in August 1940. They appear to have had two children and were living at Wallorton Gardens, Barnes, in 1964. Nigel is hoping to trace their family.  Tom

 

 

 

A Blenheim of 235 Squadron, Michael Ryan's body, and the first ' Inselkommandant ' of Schiermonikoog, Uffz. Hans Frankenberg

 

 

 

 

The military and civil ceremony at Vredenhof Cemetery on 1st June 1940

 

 

 

 

 

Memorial to Michael Ryan at Chattisham Church in Suffolk.

 

 

 

 

 

The Loss of Halifax BB252 from 10 Squadron in January 1943

 

Taking off at 16.17 hrs 9th of January 1943 from RAF Melbourne in Cambridgeshire to drop mines over the Nectarine area, BB252 was one of 121 aircraft in a large- scale mine-laying operation off the Friesian Islands. Four aircraft were lost during this operation, all falling victim to Luftwaffe night fighters. At 18.16 hrs Halifax BB252 was intercepted and shot down by Lt. Lothar Linke of Stab IV/NJG1 with the combat taking place at around 1,100 metres with the Halifax crashing west of Schiermonnikoog. All the crew were lost. Six are buried in Vredenhof Cemetery.It is reported that the last body recovered was not buried until March 22nd 1949. During March 1974 small parts of the aircraft were salvaged by a Dutch recovery group.

 

 

 

 

F/Sgt. - WO/AG. - Arthur William Wilson - R/117584 - RCAF -  - age 23, grave 90, Vredenhof / Schiermonnikoog.  He was a son of Thomas Arthur and Mabel Wilson, of Valois, Province of Quebec, Canada. 

Sgt. - Pilot - Eddie Fish - 1383746 - RAF(VR) - age 32 - grave 94 Vredenhof / Schiermonnikoog - son of Joseph Herbert and Clara Jane Fish; husband of Monica Fish, of Blackpool, Lancashire, UK

Sgt. - Fl.Engr. - Alan Smith - 979749 - RAF(VR) - age 23 - grave 92 Vredenhof / S'-oog - son of Daniel and Elizabeth Duncan Smith, of Larbert, Stirlingshire, UK

F/Sgt. - Nav. - Charles Brian Fetherstonhaugh - R/106063 - RCAF - age 20 - grave 91 Vredenhof / S'-oog - son of Cuthbert Foster and Dorothy Frances Fetherstonhaugh, of East Kildonan, Manitoba, Canada.

                                                                                                                                                                                                     

F/Sgt. - Air Obs. - John Wilmer Smith - R/69401 - RCAF - age 23 - grave 93 Vredenhof / S'-oog - son of William H. and Mary Ellen Smith, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

F/Sgt. - A.G. (rear) - Lawrence Clifford King - R/126316 - RCAF - age 21 - grave 89 Vredenhof / S'-oog - son of James and Mary Catherine King, of Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

One of the crew survived, but was badly wounded; the Germans brought him in high speed to hospital (St. Bonifatius ?) in Leeuwarden, but he died some days later (15th Jan. 1943):

Sgt. - A.G. - Michael John Boyle - 1482429 - RAF(VR) - age 20 - Leeuwarden, Noorder Begraafplaats, Row 2 / Grave 3 - son of Michael Joseph and Louise Julia Boyle, of New Malden, Surrey, UK

 

 

About the funeral on S'-oog (by the Germans), 12th Jan. 1943, there are photos in the book "De oorlog in beeld - Schiermonnikoog 1940 - 1945" (Bauke Henstra & Eddy van der Noord)    

Lt. Lothar Linke (Already an ace at this stage of the war with 14 kills) went on to have a total of 27 kills before he lost his own life on the 13/14th May 1943 in a crash west north west of Lemmer due to an engine failure. Lothar Linke was flying over the south of Friesland when one of the engines of his Messerschmitt caught fire. 

 

He and his radio/radar operator Walter Czybulka had to abandon the aircraft. Next morning his body was found not far from the wreck of his airplane. It is believed that he was hit by the tail unit of his plane just after he had bailed out. 

 

Walter Czybulka landed safely by parachute. He was wounded and taken to a hospital in Leeuwarden. 

 

Lothar Linke, a 33 year old veteran who had participated in the 'Battle of Britain' was buried at the Noorder Begraafplaats in Leeuwarden. 

After the war his remains were reburied al Ysselsteyn in the south of Holland.

 

 

The Crash Site of BB252 from 10 Squadron - Maybe shocking pictures to the next of kin of these brave airmen, but taken by the Germans, these photos, in the very cold winters' landscape of  Eastern Schiermonnikoog / De Balg, 10 January 1943. In fact it's showing us the hard reality of the warfare in the air in these years. And it must be said, it wasn't a pleasure to those "local occupation soldiers"; some Germans were really appalled by what they saw...And they were fighting for the life of Michael Boyle, by giving him the best medical care they could and by bringing him to Leeuwarden, to the hospital, in the highest speed. So sadly, but he died there, some days later, as we know..... (photos via the book "De oorlog in beeld - Schiermonnikoog 1940 - 1945", by Bauke Henstra & Eddy van der Noord). The last two pictures were published in a photobook named "Friesland 1940 - 1945",  printed by the b.v. Friese Pers / Leeuwarder Courant (1980). I think these are taken by the same German photographer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The military funeral in Vredenhof cemetery at Schiermonnikoog, by the Germans, of 6 crewmembers of Halifax BB252, 12th of Jan. 1943.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leeuwarden Northern Cemetery.    Left is the grave of Sgt Boyle  and on the right a photo of all of the Allied war graves  in the Northern Cemetery of Leeuwarden.  At least in one of the graves there are buried 4 airmen of the same aircraft, thus in a joint-grave; and in one of the others is buried an airman who died in the St. Bonifatius Hospital in Leeuwarden, after he was brought in from Terschelling Island, in October 1943; a similar story like Sgt. Boyle.

 

 

 

RCAF Flight Sergeant Lawrence King - Air gunner on Halifax BB252 of 10 Squadron

 

 

 

 

Stenhousemuir Clubhouse War Memorial Plaque in Scotland 

Sergeant (Flight Lieutenant) Alan Smith of the RAF Volunteer Reserve was killed in action on 10 January 1943. His grave is on the small island of Schiermonnikoog, the most northerly of the Frisian Islands, lying about 7 miles north of the Dutch mainland. This means that his aircraft was en route to take part in a bombing mission over Germany. Flight Engineer Alan Smith had volunteered for service with the RAF. Prior to this, he worked in the Engineering Department of Carron Company. He was "a popular and capable cricketer". His parents lived in Pembroke Street, Larbert. He was 23 years old.    

 

 

 

Featherstonhaugh Lake, Canada - Named in memory of F/Sgt Charles Featherstonhaugh

 

 

*  *  *

 

A mine-laying disaster  - 420 Squadron's Hampden AD915-F. Crashed Schiermonnikoog February 1942  by British broadcaster  Robert Kee 

 

'It was a mine laying trip off the Friesians, exactly the same trip as I had done on my first operation about six months before. This time I was the first pilot. You had to lay mines from a very low height, about 400 feet with the magnetic mines. We came down to 400 feet and the navigator said, "I can't understand what's happening. We should be there but the sea has stopped and I can't see a coastline shape at all."

We flew around a bit, no-one firing at us. We realised what had happened. The sea had frozen over, it was very cold in February, so that the outlines of the land were indecipherable anyway. Whether we were over the right island we couldn't tell.

Finally it turned out we were over the next-door one, so we were in the right lane for laying the mines. We thought we would lay them there because it was obviously an island, and obviously a bit of sea. And then I can't really say what happened. I remember suddenly searchlights were on us and a total feeling of chaos. I remember seeing some tracer, but I don't remember any feeling of being hit. I do remember very strongly the feeling that the engine had no power. We were in a spin at 400 feet. I had been told by my instructor that the only hope in a Hampden in a spin is to push the nose down as hard as you can, which I did even though the ground was very close. The next thing that I remember was the shattering of everything and thinking, "This is it!"

The navigator and I were saved by the fact that the aircraft must have been just regained flying speed. We slithered along the ice with minimum friction. We were in the forward, up tilted part of the aircraft and survived. The two gunners were both killed in the crash. They were smashed to bits at the back of the aircraft. After the crash I was able to pull the navigator, who was unconscious, some of the way away from the wreckage in case the 2,000 pound magnetic mine went off. I then made off over the dunes, just trying to get away from the possibility of capture.

Eventually a rather frightened German soldier appeared over the dunes shouting at me. I said what I had learned to say from films of the First World War. When you were taken prisoner you said "Kamerad". He took me into his dugout where there was a very polite and friendly naval officer - it was a naval flak unit - who spoke excellent English and had been at Oxford in the 'twenties. It became very unreal. I heard him reporting over the telephone: "We shot one down by flak!"

I spent the night there, and the next morning a small Fieseler Storch aircraft came over from Holland. I remember thinking - a slightly romantic notion one had of being an RAF pilot - that now I must try and escape. There had been one case of a Hampden pilot who had managed to get control of what was probably a Storch, and killed the German pilot and flown it back to Britain. 

I thought that I would get into the aircraft and hit the pilot over the head and try to fly it. Now it seems absolutely ludicrous, because actually when we got into the thing there was another Luftwaffe officer with us who immediately produced a revolver and sat facing me. It was a tiny little aircraft and I was squashed in the back and he sat facing me throughout. I had to drop that romantic notion. At the same time I was by then beginning to feel extremely relieved to be still alive. Then I heard the phrase that I was to hear over and over again for the next few days: "For you the war is over!" And indeed it was.'  Pilot Officer Robert Kee, Bomber Command 

 

The navigator Sgt W H J Rutledge was also taken prisoner. The two crew-members killed were Sgt Horace Baker, aged 22, son of Horace and Elsie Baker of Littleworth. Stafford, and Sgt James Adams, age 24, son of Horace Edmund and Florence Adelaide Adams, of Tilford, Surrey. Both were buried at Schiermonnikoog.

 

Robert Kee CBE (born 5 October 1919 in Calcutta, India) is a British broadcaster, journalist and writer, known for his historical works on World War II and Ireland.

During World War II he served in the Royal Air Force as a bomber pilot with 44 Squadron and later with the newly formed Canadian 420 (Snowy Owl) Squadron out of RAF Waddington.

His plane was shot down over German-occupied Holland. He was imprisoned and spent three years in a German POW camp. This gave him material for his first book A Crowd Is Not Company. It was first published as a novel in 1947 but was later revealed to be an autobiography. It recounts his experiences as a prisoner of war and his various escapes from the Nazi camp. The Times describes it as "arguably the best POW book ever written."

His aircraft, Hampden  AD915 PT-F was hit by flak at 8,000 ft and ditched off Schiermonnikoog. Then, at about 1330hrs on 22 February an army signaller found an exhausted carrier pigeon at Spurn Head on the Yorkshire coast. Strapped to its leg was a message which read "SOS AD915 F. Time despatched 21/2/42 10 o'clock. Position OOSTERIERUM Friesland Netherland OZO"

 

 

From 420 Squadron Diary

January 21st 1942: "A Red-Letter day." The first operational sorties for the squadron were undertaken less than one month after it's formation. The squadron was "keen as mustard" to begin operations. Six aircraft were prepared for the squadron's first sorties. Five were to bomb Emden, bombing point "A", and the sixth was detailed for a gardening operation to the Frisian Islands. Bomb loads consisted of 4x500 plus 2x250. Take off time was ~17:20. Visibility ranged from good to cloud cover. Crews bombed from 11000 to 12000 feet at ~20:07. One crew, flown by F/Sgt Pinney, bombed an alternate site in the town of Emden. Crews reported some explosions and fires in the target area. Heavy and light flak was intense over the target area. F/O Gibson's crew released their mine in the target area from a height of 700 feet. The rear gunner reported the parachute opened successfully. The five were part of 38 aircraft that attacked Emden, Germany. One of the squadron's aircraft, AE130 "S", failed to return. "S" was flown by S/Ldr pilot V.T.L. Wood (OC of B-Flight) and his crew of nav Sgt. D.D. Grealy, wop/ag Sgt D.G. Semple, ag Sgt R.L. Bott. All were later listed as POW's. 

 

February 7th: Early takeoff of aircraft was not called for. Five aircraft took off in late morning to carry out mining operations in the Frisian Islands. Weather conditions deteriorated so flying was cancelled. Link training. Clay pigeon shooting practice. Payloads consisted of one #22 mine assembly. Take off time was ~11:45. Gardening in Nectarine (Frisian Islands). F/Sgt Pinney mined an alternate site due to poor weather at the primary site. Mines were successfully dropped from 500 to 800 feet. The weather was overcast with snow showers. No opposition was reported by the crews. The squadron's aircraft were part of a force of 32 Hampdens mining in the Frisian Islands. All aircraft from the squadron returned safely although three were lost to German fighters. 

 

February 16th: Morning lecture by Medical Officer. Four aircraft prepared for mining with a single #22 mine. Each also carried 2x 250 wing bombs. The target was the Frisian Islands. One crew sent off to deliver nickels. Two crews practiced night bombing. All aircraft returned safely. Take off time was ~18:04. The weather was poor but the mines were successfully dropped from 500 feet. Three of the crews then used their wing bombs to attack targets of opportunity. P/O Kee, flying Hampden AD915 "F", dropped nickels over Paris in cloud. Reported some flak fire but not directed at them. These were a part of a force of 37 Hampdens and 12 Manchesters. 

 

February 17th: A film on the German Navy was shown to aircrews in the morning. Three aircrew practiced night infrared bombing. In true Canadian spirit a meeting was held to organize an ice hockey team to represent the squadron and for skating on the Grimsby ice rink.

 

February 18th: Four aircraft were sent on ops with bombs and one mine each to the Frisian Islands. Two others were detailed to drop nickels. One plane reported missing. Planes were loaded with a single #22 mine. Take of time was ~18:11. Cloud base was at 1000 feet. Mines were dropped from 500 or 600 feet. P/O Smith's crew dropped wing bombs on flak guns. AD915 "F" reported missing. Pilot P/O R. Kee and nav Sgt W.H.J. Rutledge were reported as POW's. Wop/ag Sgt H. Baker and ag Sgt J.R.B. Adams were killed. 420's aircraft were part of a force of 25 Hampdens laying mines in Frisians, and around Wilhelmshaven and Heligoland. 

A talk on pigeons handling was given that morning. 

 

The Handley Page Hampden Mark I bomber was nicknamed the "flying suitcase". It was powered by two 1,000 hp Bristol Pegasus XVIII nine cylinder radial engines. The wingspan was just over 69 feet and it was 53 ft 7 inches long. Empty, the aircraft weighed 11780 lbs. Its all up weight was 18,756. Maximum speed 254 m/hr with a ceiling of 19000 ft and its effective range bombed up with 4000 lb of bombs was 1095 miles. The crew totalled four; pilot, observer/navigator, wireless operator/gunner and rear gunner.

 

 

 

 

 

Some Friesland winter beach scenes, including Schiermonnikoog Lighthouse

 

These pictures are showing us what's happening to an inland sea like the Wadden Sea, shallow, and twice a day even "drying up" partly during low tide, and in wintertime, under low temperatures and snow conditions: lots of ice, even icebergs of crushed sea ice, sometimes meters high ! And that's exactly what Robert Kee is telling us: you couldn't see anymore the outlines of the isles and the mainland, covered under snow, and the ice fields on the sea. And that was also the "trouble" for these crews dropping or launching these mines in the winter nights, because these mines were landing "softly" by parachute, coming down on the ice fields, thus not directly into the waters! 

Numbers of them were found "undamaged" on the ice floors by the Germans, or were exploding later on the drifting ice, just in springtime too. There are many stories of suddenly "exploding icebergs" on Holland's coastline..... also around de IJsselmeer waters (winter of 1939-1940, 1940-1941 and 1944-1945).  Willem

 

 

 Acknowledgements and thanks to Kelvin Youngs at   http://www.aircrewremembered.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

These mine-laying operations demanded very precise flying and accurate navigation.

 

 

 

The Loss of 415 Squadron's Hampden AT245 - 28th of June 1942

 

These  photos from Vredenhof. A military funeral of 3 RAF men by the Germans in 1942 reveal a complete contrast to those buried in 1944 by the people of Schiermonnikoog

 

 

 

 

H.P. Hampden Mk.I, AT245, GX-"U" (for Uncle), RAF Coastal Command, 16th Group, no. 415 (TB) Squadron "Ad Metam" (= "To the mark") - this Sqdn. was nicknamed the "Swordfish-Squadron" - homebase Thorney Island, but sent on detachment to RAF North Coates, near Grimsby / Cleethorpes, on the coastline of North East Lincolnshire (UK); started for a torpedo-strike against the merchant fleet etc. of Germany, in the Helgoland sector and North of the Frisian Chain, Saturday evening 27-06-1942; hit by Marine-flak, directly after midnight, and crashed at 00.11 hrs. in the North Sea, 5 km. North of Schiermonnikoog Island, Sunday the 28th of June, 1942.

Warrant Officer Irving Walter Garfin, - Pilot - RCAF - R 61116 - age 27 - Born 7th October 1914 and originally named Israel, he was the son of Polish born Jewish fur merchant, Hymie Garfin, and his wife Celia Rosenspire, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Irving was educated at Victoria High School Edmonton, and the University of Alberta, where he earned his Batchelor of Science degree. In addition to English, he was also conversant in Hebrew and German.

At that time working as a production foreman with the Canadian Bedding Company, Irving enlisted in the RCAF at Toronto on 15th September 1940, and completed his pilot's training at 4SFTS Saskatoon, receiving his wings and sergeant's stripes on June 9th 1941.

10 days embarkation leave followed before he was posted to the UK on July 29th. There was further flying training with 3SGR at RAF Squires Gate in Lancashire, before he was sent to 415 Squadron on November 4th 1941.

His body was originally interred at Dunen Cemetery on the East Fresian island of Juist, but reburied after the war in grave 5.C.13, at Sage War Cemetery, Sagerstrasse, near Oldenburg, Ost-Friesland. See page 16 for his grave at Sage Cemetery.

 

F/Sgt Vincent Bertram Whelpley, - Observer - RCAF - R 73182 - age 23. Son of farmer Aubrey Whelpley and his wife Ida Belle Crossmen, of Sussex Corner, New Brunswick, Canada. Born at Sussex Corner on December 19th 1918, he was educated at Sussex Corner Public School and Sussex High School. Before enlisting in the RCAF in October 1940 he was employed as a clerk with the Sussex Mercantile Company. After training as an observer he was awarded his wings and sergeant's stripes on September 29th 1941. Vincent was then posted overseas, arriving at 415 Squadron on 1st December.

At the time of the crash his mother was no longer alive and his next of kin was a sister, Ella Louise Walpert.

Flight Sergeant Whelpley is buried in grave 72, at Vredenhof.

A

Willem's local research uncovered this list of items recovered with Vincent's body.

1 watch for a pilot

1 fountain pen

1 small pocket knife

1 crest

1 lighter

1 round (model) flashlight

2 portrait photos (for a passport etc. via the local resistance, I guess)

1 personal letter

1 rubber case (water proof 'surviving kit' for occupied area) in which following items:

2 maps (of the European mainland, I guess), 2 iron filings, and also the following bank notes:

2x100 Francs, 10x50 Francs and 10x10 Francs (all French money)

3x20 Francs and 1x10 Francs (all Belgium money)

2x10 Guilders (Dutch money)

2 'dog tags' (ID-tags) were found also; 1 was left on the body.

 

F/Sgt Boyd Allison Dakin Jr. (nicknamed "Duke" in the RCAF and "Dukey" by his school-friends) - Wireless Operator/A.G. - RCAF - R 76026 - age 21, was the son of garage proprietor, Boyd Allison Dakin, and Alberta Brandon Cossaboom, of Berwick, King's County, Nova Scotia, Canada, who were married at Massachusetts in 1911.

He had one older brother William Glendon Chipman Dakin 1916–1990.

Duke was educated at Berwick High School where he excelled at hockey and track sports.

He left school in 1935 and worked for five years as a motor mechanic before enlisting in the RCAF at Toronto in October 1940.

Trained as a wireless operator/air gunner at No.7 Wireless School, Montreal, and No.6 Bombing and Gunnery School, he received his wings and sergeant's stripes on August 18th 1941. Ten days embarkation leave followed before being posted to the UK.

There was more radio training at No.2 Radio School at Yatesbury in Wiltshire and then a posting to 415 Squadron on November 29th.

Boyd is buried in grave 70, at Vredenhod.

 

F/Sgt Douglas Pearce, Wireless Operator/ A.G. - RCAF - R 79687 - aged 21, was the son of farmer Thomas Pearce (1885-1976), and his wife Kathleen Seward (1889-1937), of Parkman, Saskatchewan.

The couple were English migrants, Thomas from Stratford on Avon, who arrived in 1908, and Kathleen from Hampstead, London, who migrated in 1910. They had six children but tragically Kathleen was only 48 when she died in 1937. She and her husband are buried at Mair cemetery.

Their fifth child, Douglas Pearce, was born at Manor on 1st February 1921. After completing High School he was employed for five years on the family farm.

Enlisting in the RCAF in November 1940 he completed his technical training as a wireless operator/ air gunner at No.3 Wireless School, Winnipeg on 4th August 1941. His promotion to sergeant and the award of aircrew's wings followed, plus 10 days embarkation leave before his posting to the UK.

There was then further technical training at the RAF's No.1 Radio School followed by a posting to 415 Squadron on 29th November 1941.

RCAF Flight Sergeant Douglas Pearce is buried in grave 71, at Vredenhof.

There is on the seafront at Alexander Road / Central Promenade in Cleethorpes (UK), near the former RAF base North Coates, a War Memorial, to the lost airmen of the North Coates Strike Wing; although they were on detachment there, it is also in memory of these 4 airmen, killed in action far from home.    

 

The grave of Irving Garfin and those of  two of the crew of Whitley bomber P5108 from 51 Squadron (story below) at Sage Cemetery (see page 16)

 

Things were different in 1944

 

 

 

February 1944

Carrying the coffin to the grave by civilians (from left to right) Nico Faber, Jilke Visser, Sake  van der Werff (once a hotel-manager and one of the previous carers of the Vredenhof Cemetery) and Mr. B. Laning.

Thus, no guard of honour by German soldiers of the "Marine-Flak-Abteilung" anymore, no funeral oration by the  Kommandant , also no rifle salute again.....

No time for that, " Uncle Heinrich " was bitter and bloody from fighting !

 

 

 

From Leigh Nethercot  20th of January 2012

Hello Willem

I read with great interest your report on www.626-squadron.co.uk about the fate of ME589. My grandfather was Sgt Gordon Bodycot who is buried on Schiermonnikoog.We have visited his grave on the Island and met with Wyb Jan Groendij and his family. It is good to see the history you have researched regarding the losses during the WW2. I am happy that my grandmother Sadie (Whitcraft) Bodycot is still alive and is 93 years old on February 14th 2012 nearly 68 years after her husband died.  I know she still thinks of him regularly. I am lucky also that she has given me his war medals (see picture) so that she knows they are safe when she is no longer here. My mother has Sgt Bodycot's flight records and RAF information too. Thank you again for research and for sharing it on the website. Best Regards

Leigh Nethercot

The crew of Whitley bomber P5108 from 51 Squadron - Crashed 2nd of March 1941 

Some exceptional stories must be told, like this one; the story of Sgt. Ernest Frederick Matthews, buried in grave 52, Vredenhof / Schiermonnikoog. He was the Wireless Operator/Air Gunner of Whitley Mk.V, P5108, MH-"Q" (for Queen), piloted by Sgt. V.W. Bruce, of No. 51 Sqdn. "Swift and Sure", RAF-base Dishforth.

Their aircraft came in trouble - after an attack maybe ? - and therefore the a/c. crash-landed on a sandbank in the Wadden Sea, before the German coast, near Pilsum (Gemeinde Krummhörn / Ost-Friesland) in Germany, on the other side of the Eems-Dollard bay between Holland and Germany (N.W. of Emden / Germany and N.E. of Delfzijl / Holland).Skipper Bruce had done a very good job (!), and they all survived this accident (only some wet feet of the seawater). But then, the "German Circus" was going on.....

They started a rescue operation with planes of the "Seenotdienst", based on the (German) island of Borkum. The crew of 5 RAF airmen was split up, and they were brought in 2 German floatplanes to the SAR-base on Borkum isle. But..... one of these rescue-planes crashed on his landing at the base !! 

 

 

 

Maybe the plane, a Heinkel He-115 ? , was overloaded ? How about the German "besatzung", I don't know till now, but the 3 RAF airmen aboard were all killed: Sgt. R. Smith and Sgt. R.V. Huston (buried both in Saga War Cemetery now, near Oldenburg in Germany - see page 16) and Sgt. Matthews, who was washed up on the Schiermonnikoog beach later on.

The other 2 RAF men, Sgt./Pilot Bruce and Sgt. A. Mather were made POW (no. 485 and no. 510). They had landed safely in that other "Seenotflugzeug".

 

Details: Sgt. Ernest Frederick Matthews - Wireless Operator/Air Gunner. - 640340 - RAF - age 20 - KIA 02/03/1941, about 05.30 hrs. - son of John Frederick & Annie Matthews, of Dingle, Liverpool (U.K.). He had at least one brother, name Allan (see photo).

 

 

Photo: Leeuwarder Courant (local newspaper), Saturday the 4th of May 2002 (in Holland "Dodenherdenking"/ "Remembrance Day"); it's showing us Mr. Allan Matthews, the brother of the lost Ernest Matthews, laying flowers on the grave (no. 52), Vredenhof / S'-oog. 

In the evening of that same day there was a documentary film on the Dutch TV (net RTL 5) about the Vredenhof Cemetery.

 

 

 

This was Sgt Bruce's second crash-landing. On the 21st/22nd of September 1940 he piloted Whitley P5105 when he and his crew were tasked with bombing invasion barges in the docks at Boulogne. On their return to Dishforth they overshot the runway on touch-down and the aircraft's undercarriage collapsed. Fortunately there were no injuries. 

 

 

Hampden Bomber AD835 from 83 Squadron - 25th July 1941

 

Airborne 22.05 from RAF Scampton. Shot down by a night-fighter (Lt Lothar Linke, 11./NJG1) and crashed 03.56 off Schiermonnikoog. The three men killed are buried in Vredenhof Cemetery.  

Sgt John Tate (Observer), Sgt Edwin Marsden (Wireless Operator), and Sgt Frank Ireson (Air Gunner). 

The pilot Sgt P.H. Draper was interned in Camps 8B/L6/357, PoW No.9620.

Sgt Frank Lewis Thomas Ireson (24) was the son of Lewis and Mabel Ireson, of Luton, Bedfordshire, and husband of Alice E. Ireson of Luton. Sgt John Nicholas Bailey Tate  (22) Son of Thomas Bailey Tate, C.S.I., and Decima Tate, of Littlehoughton Hall, Alnwick, Northumberland. John was probably born in India. His father was a high-ranking civil servant in the Punjab between 1904-1937.

Sgt Edwin E Marsden was from Blackburn, Lancashire.

 

 

 

The wreckage of AD835 and prisoner of war Sgt Draper with his captors at Schiermonnikoog

 

The grave at Vredenhof of German Pilot: Ofw Heinrich Schwiering    (Buried 4th September 1941)
 His wife, Luise Schwiering, a very pleasant old lady, died last year or the year before. She visited the family Groendyk at S'oog / de Vredenhof  many times, bringing presents to Wyb's children and sending postcards and happy new year greetings.......    In April 2002 she joined Mayor Fennema in placing a wreath to her husband's memory.

He was the pilot of Heinkel 111 Wn.3976 (GI+KH) en route to bomb Greenock, near Glasgow, which was lost on 7/8th April 1941 when it crashed into the English Channel near Worthing, Sussex, at 00.37 hrs, after being shot down by an RAF Beaufighter from 219 Squadron. 

The crew of the Heinkel comprised of : Pilot: Ofw Heinrich Schwiering,     Observer: Fw Werner Ehrlich, W/Op: Fw Wilhelm Letzgus, and Flight Eng: Ofw Ernst Nottmeir. They were shot down by a Bristol Beaufighter crewed by P/O A J Hodgkinson and Sgt B E Dye of 219 Squadron.

The body of the Flight Engineer, Ernst Nottmeir, was washed ashore near the crash site at Worthing on the 18th of April 1941. He was buried in the German War Cemetery at Cannock in Staffordshire.Incredibly, though Ff. H.K. Schwiering was killed near Worthing on the South Coast of England on April 8th 1941, his body was finally washed ashore at Schiermonnikoog 5 months later. 

On the 4th of September 1941 he was buried at Vredenhorf in grave 61.

 

 

   

Some interesting photos from the well known book "De oorlog in beeld" - Schiermonnikoog 1940-1945 - by Bauke     Henstra & Eddy van der Noord) :

photo 1 - Schwiering and (his?) crew in front of any He-111 (the Wn.3976?); he is standing 2nd from right. 

photo 2 -Overview of the funeral service / the burial of Schwiering's body, 4th of Sept. 1941 

photo 3 - his coffin near the grave before the "Last Rifle Salute" (the Swastika-warflag is covering the coffin) 

By the way, in the book he is named as "Herman", not Heinrich (I don't known if it is correct).

Arthur Hodgkinson - the RAF pilot who shot down Schwiering's Heinkel  Pilot Officer Arthur John Hodgkinson who was flying a Bristol Beaufighter with his navigator Sgt B E Dye., was already a distinguished pilot. Sgt Hodgkinson had claimed the first of his many enemy aircraft as shot down when on 25th October 1940 flying in the new Beaufighter R2079, he downed a Dornier (either a Do 17 or Do 215). It was one of the first Beaufighter victories. He received his commission on 20th February 1941 and promoted to Pilot Officer. Arthur was also awarded the DFC for his service with 219 Squadron. 

The citation from the London Gazette appeared on 11th April 1941, it reads.. "This officer has carried out numerous operational flights. He has destroyed at least three enemy aircraft, of which two were destroyed at night. His eagerness to seek and destroy the enemy at night has set a splendid example to his fellow pilots."  

He flew with 264 Squadron before being posted to 23 Squadron. He was then awarded the DSO, which was gazetted after his death on 23rd July 1943. He had lost his life on 10th July 1943 flying a 23 Squadron Mosquito when the aircraft was shot down near Rome, Italy. He was twenty seven years old and is buried at Beach Head War Cemetery, Anzio, Italy. 

The citation in the London Gazette reads..       "This officer has completed much operational flying. Latterly, in the Middle East, he has bombed targets in Tunisia, Italy and Sicily and, during these operations, he has attacked numerous locomotives to good effect, while fires have been started in railway installations and sidings as a result of his determined work. In addition, Flight Lieutenant Hodgkinson has executed many sorties over enemy airfields during which he has destroyed three hostile aircraft and caused much disorganisation. His sterling work has contributed in a large measure to the successes of his squadron."

o

The wreckage from a Heinkel shot down by Arthur Hodgkinson on Saturday 17th of May 1941 in rural Sussex, a Heinkel 111 in flight and the Bristol Beaufighter.

By July 1941 Hodgkinson, operating from RAF Tangmere, had shot down six German aircraft.

 

 

 

Sgt. Walter James Eric Cumberland and Halifax LW626 from 192 Squadron
Halifax LW626 took off from RAF Foulsham at 2043 hours on the night of 26/27th March 1944, detailed to carry outspecial duties in support of Main Bomber Command Force operations over Essen, Germany. This Halifax had an 8 man crew, because of the extra electronic equipment on board (radar detection etc.) - with an added extra ‘ belly bubble ‘ under its fuselage.The aircraft was last heard on W/T at 2127 hours transmitting an SOS. The signal strength was weak but it was believed the Halifax had ditched in the North Sea, some 60 miles off the Norfolk fishing port of Cromer. In the first daylight hours, an air rescue patrol was sent out over the North sea. It found the ditched Halifax near the position its crew had given - it was still more or less floating , or maybe in very shallow waters.

From the wreck of the aircraft it appeared that rather than a forced landing the aircraft had broken up on impact.

An RAF HSL was launched,which reached the spot about 17.00 hrs. Unfortunately there was no sign of life. The crew of the boat found and recovered 5 dead bodies. They were brought back to harbour and buried later in the UK, four in Cambridge City and one, Sgt Wilson, at his home town of Preston in Lancashire. Of the remainder of the Halifax crew…… 2 of them, P/O Kennedy and Sgt Cumberland were washed ashore and buried in Holland some weeks later, while one, MIA Sgt Cox, found a sailor’s grave for ever..

 

Cambridge City Cemetery -overview of the War Graves section

The  crew were -

RAAF  P/O Peter Gordon Melville-  Pilot/Skipper. Born November 1922 the son of Gordon Arthur & Linda Eileen Melville, of Toorak a suburb of Melbourne, in Victoria, Australia.  His name is inscribed on panel 127, in the ‘Commemorative Area’ of the Australian National War Memorial, in Canberra (ANZAC Parade). He is buried in grave 14358 at Cambridge City Cemetery.

Sgt Thomas Hugh Cox - Air Gunner. 19 year old son of Thomas & Ethel Cox, of Healing, in Lincolnshire, UK. His name is remembered on the Healing Cenotaph, the local WW1 & 2 War Memorial (stone pillar) near the crossing of Low Road and the Avenue, and on the local List of Honour, annex to the cenotaph. Both his parents died in 1966 (his father was 82 years old and his mother 74), while his older sister Barbara passed away 4 February 1976 (aged 56). All are buried in St. Peter & St. Paul churchyard, in Healing (as far as can be seen on a grave photo, his name isn’t on their grave marker) He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - panel 227.


The Cenotaph at Healing and the Cox family grave at St. Peter & St. Paul churchyard.

 

Sgt. Albert John Rogers, Flight Engineer. 21 year old son of Herbert & Edith Emily Rogers, of Coventry (UK). He is buried in grave 14158 - Cambridge City Cemetery.

The Bexhill-on-Sea War Memorial

 

RNZAF F/O. Hugh Graham Gray - Bomb Aimer. 23 year old son of Arthur & Margaret Ketching Gray,of the Titiroa area, in the Southland Region (near the Mataura River and Toetoes Bay), on South Island, New Zealand. As far as known, his name isn’t on any war memorial, in Fortrose village or any other nearby settlement. He is buried in grave 13758 - Cambridge City Cemetery.

 

Sgt. Brian Frederick Welch - Navigator. 20 year old son of Frederick & Ellen Welch, of Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex (UK); age 20; he is also memorated via the local War Memorial, standing at the Sea Front, on which an extra copper plaque for the local war deaths of the years 1939-1945. He is buried in grave 1395 - Cambridge City Cemetery.

 

Sgt. George Wilson Wireless Operator - He is the only airman of the complete crew of 8 who is interred in his hometown. George was the 22 year old son of Francis & Rose Wilson, of Preston.

The local Cenotaph, in Market Square, was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, and unveiled on 13 June 1926 by Fleet Admiral, Earl Jellicou of Scapa. In the beginning it was for the WW1 victims of Preston only, but it now commemorates him, and the other local WW2 victims (no names inscribed). George Wilson is buried in the New Hall Lane Cemetery,in Preston, Lancashire.

 

A 192 Squadron Halifax and the Preston Cenotaph

 

P/O. Ronald William Kennedy - Special Operator of RCM Equipment. He was the 29 year old son of William Henry & Beatrice Kennedy and husband of Olive Margaret Kennedy, of East Dulwich, London (UK)

He joined 604 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force before the war as an Aircrafthand. Called up on 24th August 1939, he remustered as an Airman/Air Gunner and trained with the squadron.

He served with 604 throughout the Battle of Britain and, after the introduction of Beaufighters equipped with AI radar, he retrained as a Radio Observer. In May 1941 Ron Kennedy was posted to 109 Squadron. That unit was formed from the Wireless Intelligence Unit at Boscombe Down. Their main task was to identify German radio beams and to develop methods to jam them. Its secondary role was to develop wireless and radar navigation aids for Bomber Command.

In 1942 the squadron moved to RAF Tempsford deploying the twin-engined Mosquito light bomber fitted with Oboe and operated as part of the Pathfinder Force.

Commissioned in October 1943, Kennedy was killed on 26th March 1944 as a Pilot Officer with 192 Special Duties Squadron. His body was recovered in May 1944 on the high water line (before the outside summer meadows) infront of the sea dike, North of Wierhuizen (named locally ’t Ol Waaier). He was buried at Wierhuizen hamlet Protestant Cemetery, Wierhuisterweg (Gem. De Marne, Prov. of Groningen) - plot 1, grave 5. 

The Germans had developed FREYA, a long-range radar able to detect approaching aircraft at a distance of 100 miles. They had also installed a chain of WURZBURG radars stretching down the whole of western Germany. These controlled an integrated defensive system of searchlights, flak and night-fighters.

The British countered by fitting some bombers with a device called MANDREL which was able to jam FREYA radar, rendering it useless.

British scientists also came up with TINSEL, whereby a microphone placed in a bomber’s engine bay recorded the deafening engine roar and the wireless operator transmitted it on German ground-to-air radio frequencies, making it impossible for nightfighters to speak to their controllers.

RAF personnel who spoke German would tune in to Luftwaffe night-fighters’ radio frequencies and give false and misleading instructions.

192 was an RCM (Radio Counter Measures) Squadron. They carried devices to jam German Air Interception radar and ground/air communications with strange code names such as "Jostle" and "Airborne Cigar".

Often carried were German speaking Wireless Operators as extra signalers who would also drop "Window" to blanket German radar. The Squadron would carry out spoof raids in which aircraft would head towards a target and hopefully draw the attention of the German defending forces from a genuine raid and then drop "Window" and withdraw under it's cover. They would often repeat that manoeuvre several times during one night.

Another tactic was to orbit in wide circles over the North Sea in a manoeuvre known as "Mandril Circle" - also designed to neutralise German radar detection. Bombers would then emerge from behind its cover, hopefully on a course German defences had not anticipated.

General Major Adolf Galland, the fighter ace commanding the entire German fighter force in 1944, was to remark: "Today the nightfighter achieves nothing. The reason for this lies in the enemy jamming operations, which completely blot out ground and airborne search equipment. All other reasons are secondary."


Sgt. Walter James Eric Cumberland - Air Gunner - He was the 19 year old son of Walter & Alice Cumberland, of Romford, Essex (todays Greater London).

His body was washed ashore on a Schiermonnikoog beach in May ’44. Walter's name is inscribed on the local War Memorial, at Coronation Gardens, in Romford (list 1939-1945, on the East side plinth). He was buried at Vredenhof in grave 106 on the 10th of May 1944.

 

 

 

Romford (Essex) War Memorial, at Coronation Gardens

 

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Captain John Owen Roberts and the SS Firth Fisher

A

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Captain John Owen Roberts of the British Merchant Navy was buried here on the 2nd of August 1940.

His ship, The SS Firth Fisher, was a British Cargo Steamer of 574 tons built in 1919 by J. Lewis & Sons Ltd. in Aberdeen.  On the 21st May 1940, enroute from Littlehampton and Dover  to Boulogne with 480 tons of military stores for the British Expeditionary Force, she hit a mine and sank half a mile east of Boulogne Pier only a few days before the evacuation of Dunkirk. 

Seven out of the crew of ten were lost. The 46 year old captain was the husband of Doris Irene Roberts, of Walsoken, Norfolk.

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Burials at Schiermonnikoog of United Kingdom Servicemen

Name

Age

Born

Aircraft Squadron

Rank

Died

Buried

               

Adams, James R. B.

24

Tilford,           

AD915 420 Sqdn

Wo/Ag

18.02.1941
21.02.1942

Arrigh, Louis A.

26

Castle Ashby    

W6486 22 Sqdn

Wo/Ag

25.03.1941
16.06.1941

Baker, Frederick

29

Hammersmith,

Z1214 142 Sqdn

Obs.

05.09.1942
19.09.1942

Baker, Horace

22

Littleworth,GB           

AD915 420 Sqdn

Wo/Ag

18.02.1941
21.02.1942

Bodycot, Gordon W.

29

Leicester,GB              

ME589 626 Sqdn

A/G

20.02.1944
08.05.1944

Cumberland,Walter J

19

Romford, GB

LW626 192 Sqdn

A/G

26.03.1944
10.05.1944

Donoghue,Stephen P.

28

WelwynGarden,GB

Z6819 51 Sqdn

Obs.

15.08.1941
16.09.1941

Fish, Eddie

32

Blackpool,GB               

BB252 10 Sqdn

Pilot

10.01.1943
12.01.1943

Gill, Francis

24

Tyne&Wear,GB          

Z6819 51 Sqdn

Wo/Ag

15.08.1941
08.09.1941

Howarth, John

19

Radcliffe,GB                 

AM842 59 Sqdn

Wo/Ag

30.05.1942
24.07.1942

Howitt, William I.

23

Strathaven, GB

MF375 524 Sqdn

Wo/Ag

09.07.1944
24.07.1944

Ireson, Frank L. T.

24

Luton,GB                      

AD835 83 Sqdn

Wo/Ag

25.07.1941
28.07.1941

Large, William T.

20

Cartmel,GB                  

AW192 86 Sqdn

Wo/Ag

24.11.1941
29.12.1941

Magrath, Ian P.

35

Staines,GB                   

AM672 53 Sqdn

Pilot

10.08.1941
18.10.1941

Marsden, Edwin

27

Blackburn,GB               

AD835 83 Sqdn

Wo/Ag

25.07.1941
28.07.1941

Martin, Stephen F.

20

Gillingham,

L9889 22 Sqdn

Observer

26.11.1940
08.01.1941

Martin, William

26

Streatham, GB

L9259 235 Sqdn

Observer

24.05.1940
15.06.1940

Matthews, Ernest F.

20

Liverpool,GB                

P5108 51 Squadron

Wo/Ag

02.03.1941
14.05.1941

Meagher, Brian D.

20

Liverpool, GB

Z1099 75 Sqdn

Wo/Ag

30.11.1941
06.12.1941

Payne, Cecil W.

20

Kimbolton,GB

JD145 78 Sqdn

Wo/Ag

12.06.1943
01.07.1943

Plowright, Robert S.

34

Baslow,GB                    

HE116 21 O.T.U

Wo/Ag

14.09.1942
30.09.1942

Powell, Leonard A.

31

Ilford, GB

LW296 158 Sqdn

Bomb.

03.10.1943
19.11.1943

Richardson, Horace

19

York, GB

R3701 82 Sqdn

Observer

13.07.1940
02.08.1940

Roberts, John O.

47

Wisbech,GB

 FirthFisher Merch. Nvy

Captain

21.05.1940
20.08.1940

Ryan, Michael E.

20

Hintlesham,GB

L9259 235 Sqdn

Pilot

24.05.1940
01.06.1940

Smith, Allan

23

Larbert,Scotland

BB252 10 Sqdn

Engineer

10.01.1943
12.01.1943

Street, Ronald Victor

19

Wolverhampton,GB        

BF478 214 Sqdn

A/G

24.05.1943
04.06.1943

Tate, John N. B.

22

Alnmouth,GB                  

AD835 83  Sqdn

Obs.

25.07.1941
28.07.1941

Turtle  Reginald W

26

Finchley,GB                   

N3761
214  Sqdn

Pilot

07.06.1942
22.06.1942

Wilson, Alan

18

Newcastle,GB               

L4127 144  Sqdn

A.C.1

29.09.1939
29.10.1939

Windle, Stanley L.

31

W.Hartlepool

Dunkirk Northum. F

L/Cpl.

30.05.1940
20.08.1940

Unknown

?

Airman RAF

   

?

?
28.08.1940

Unknown

?

Airman RAF

   

P/O

14.07.1942
15.07.1942

Unknown

?

Airman RAF

   

?

17.09.1942
19.09.1942

Unknown

?

Airman RAF

   

?

05.07.1945
06.07.1945

Unknown

?

Airman RAF

   

?

19.03.1949
22.03.1949

Unknown

?

Airman RAF

   

?

16.03.1943
18.03.1943

Unknown lieutenant

?

Airman RAF

   

F/O

18.05.1943
19.05.1943

 

 

 

 

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Unmarked Graves

60

cloth mark SMZU 28

83

poss F.E.McKenzie died 09.07.42

96

poss. Arthur George died 30.01.43

99

died 3-4 months before

102

died 6-8 weeks before

107

died 2-3 months before

108

died 3 months before

109

died 6 weeks before

An unknown allied airman washed ashore on this island and RNZAF pilot Allen Fraser

 

From New Zealand

Name

 

Age

Born

 

Died

 

Grave

Christie, Arthur Stafford

22

Son of Arthur Humphrey and M Jessie Christie of Palmerston North

Wo/Ag

21.06.1942

75 Sqdn

73

Fraser, Allen Armistice

23

Son of Alexander Errol Millar Fraser and Mary Agnes Fraser, of Christchurch, NZ. Husband of Elizabeth Joan Fraser, of Wairoa, Hawke's Bay.

 

Pilot

21.06.1942

75 Sqdn

74

Matthews, Oswald A.

20

Wellington, New Zealand

Pilot

07.07.1941

115 Sqdn

58

Young, George Anthony

21

 

Son of George Young and Johan Young of Palmerston, North Wellington

 

Wo/Ag

09.07.1942

75 Sqdn

84

See  NZ Graves in Friesland

 

 

Australian & New Zealand Graves

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From Australia

 

       

Died

   

Price, Harrington Warren

27

Son of Harry and Margaret Price, of Ashfield, New South Wales

 

Sgt 20-06-1942

49 Sqdn

81

Borrett, Arnold Harvey

25

Son of Harry Britain Borrett and Emily Eliza Borrett, of Mount Lawley, Western Australia.

Sgt 19-2-1943

15 Sqdn

 
             
             

 

 

Unidentified 75 Squadron aircrew from Wings Over New Zealand Forum

 

Just over a year ago my wife and I were travelling though Europe and while there I decided to visit my Uncle's grave. He was the victim of Helmut Lent, the highest scoring N/F ace up to the time of his death. As mentioned in Errol Martyn's For Your Tomorrow, the Wellington had a crew of 6, and were all RNZAF. Only 2 bodies were ever found, one being my uncle. 

He is buried in the most beautiful cemetery you'll ever see, the graves are tended by Wyp Jan Groendijk who was our most gracious host during our stay and his very good friend JB took us in his 4 wheel drive along miles of beach to where my uncle's body was found, just a mere 70 years ago. to learn more of Vredenhof go to this web site: annadasovic.nl it must have become a bit PC as they have pulled down part of the site that showed you the pages of Anna's book. Some were pretty gruesome but the stories moving. There was a picture of my Uncle half buried in sand next to another body. which brings me to the reason for this post. 

Wyb Jan believes that the unidentified F/S is that of F/S Frank E.McKenzie, Uncle and Mckenzie were the only F/Sgts on that flight, the other 4 were P/Os. (They were both buried at the same time with full Military honours, that's the amazing thing about that place, you'll understand more by visiting the web site) if you read the war Graves commission they say the body was exhumed after the war and could not be identified. According to Wyb Jan no body has ever been exhumed at Vredenhof and they only used the German records to identify the victims which as you can imagine were very detailed. this is where I need some help, Wyb Jan wants to find relatives of F.E.McKenzie and get his grave site officially identified. My mother thinks he had a brother as my Parents knew his, when they lived in Christchurch after the war.

Visiting the Island of Schiermonnikoog was a highlight of our trip and its amazing to think that the 4 other Kiwis buried there, along with so many other nationalities are never forgotten.          August 23rd 2011

See       NZ Graves in Friesland

From Canada

 

Hotel owner Van der Werff had designated Vredenhof a resting place for all who were drowned and so it had to be when it came to the burial in March 1943 of the Canadian flight engineer Arthur D. Cherkinsky from Windsor, Ontario, who the Germans wanted, because of his Jewish background, to be buried outside Vredenhof.

His brother Joseph Cherkinsky, who was an RCAF navigator, was also to lose his life on May 5th the same year while training with 22 O.T.U. He was stationed at RAF Wellesbourne Mountford, in Warwickshire, UK, when his Wellington bomber crashed after engine failure in rural Gloucestershire. He was buried with three of his crewmates at Evesham cemetery.

 

 

 

Name

 

Age

Born

 

Died

Buried

Grave

Cherkinsky, Arthur D.

26

Windsor, Canada

 

Engineer

02.03.1943

05.03.1943

95

Dakin, Boyd A.

21

Berwick, Canada  415 Sqdn

 

Wo/Ag

28.06.1942

02.07.1942

70

Emond, Joseph E. H.

28

Ottawa, Canada    142 Sqdn

 

Obs.

10.07.1942

07.08.1942

82

Fetherstonhaugh, Charles

20

Winnipeg, Canada

 

Nav.

10.01.1943

12.01.1943

91

King, Lawrence

21

Saint John, Canada

 

Ag.

10.01.1943

12.01.1943

89

Pearce, Douglas

21

Maple Ridge, Canada

 

Wo/Ag

28.06.1942

02.07.1942

71

Smith, John W.

23

Toronto, Canada

 

Obs.

10.01.1943
12.01.1943
93

Strachan, William A.

25

Simcoe, Canada

 

Obs.

07.07.1941

07.08.1941

59

Whelpley, Vincent B.

23

New Brunswick, Canada

 

Obs.

28.06.1942

02.07.1942

72

Wilson, Arthur W.

23

Valois, Canada

 

Wo/Ag

10.01.1943

12.01.1943

90

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Burials

 

 

 

German photo of a military funeral service for a French Dunkirk victim, in August 1940

 

Name

Age

Born

Rank

Died

Buried

Grave

Feret, Raymond C. A.
38
Caen, France
Soldier
04.06.1940
09.06.1941
53a
Lefebvre, Pierre
?
 
Soldier
01.06.1940
09.06.1941
53b
Fichant, Jean
?
 
?
June 40
02.08.1940
9
Lafosse, Fernand
38
Evreux, France
Soldier
04.06.1940
02.08.1940
?
Lepage, Georges
35
Savigny-s-Orge, France
Soldier
June 40
02.08.1940
8
Deux Inconnus Fr. sold.
?
 
?
June 40
02.08.1940
2
Unknown French soldier
?
 
?
June 40
02.08.1940
3
Unknown French sailor
?
 
?
June 40
02.08.1940
10
Unknown French soldier
?
 
?
June 40
02.08.1940
12
Unknown French soldier
?
 
?
June 40
30.07.1940
40
Unknown French soldier
?
 
?
June 40
17.08.1940
43
Unknown French soldier
?
 
?
June 40
17.08.1940
44
Unknown French soldier
?
 
?
June 40
28.08.1940
45
Unknown French soldier
?
 
?
June 40
05.09.1940
48
Unknown French soldier      

June 40

14.10.1940

49

Unknown French soldier

 

?
 
 
?
 
June 40
 
 
03.12.1940
 
 

50

 

           

 

 

 

 

The 1941 crash of 86 Squadron's Bristol Beaufort  AW207 by Willem de Jong

 

 

 

Bristol Beaufort Mk. I, AW207, BX-"H" 86 Squadron "Ad Libertatem Volamus" ( "We fly to freedom"), of Coastal Command. Took off for a mine-laying operation in "HetFriese Gat"  (The Frisian Hole, a shipping lane between Ameland and Schiermonnikoog) from RAF North Coates, 16.15 hrs., 24th November 1941.

After arriving at the Dutch coast-line and locating the correct drop zone, they were flying in on perfect altitude and on course for the mine drop in the dark. "A piece of cake" ? Not yet....... Suddenly they were caught by search-light beams and hit by heavy Flak-fire from Schiermonnikoog's West-Batteries. Pilot P/O. D. Page altered course for the polderland on the Southside of the island, trying to make an emergency-landing there, because of the damage aboard it was impossible to return to the home base.

The aircraft missed closely the farmhouse named "De Kooi" and made an almost perfect wheels up landing in the meadow nearby, but one of the wings (right one) ripped off and both props/engines were "totally in the mud". The high explosive sea-mine was thrown out of the planes' fuselage and lucky for them and failed to explode! The crew could leave the wrecked plane. Only Sgt. J. MacCann was seriously wounded (broken collar bone ?)

They set fire to their "death bird", before the German came to capture them; thus, POWs from that day in November 1941: P/O. D Page  - pilot, F/O.  J. (Jimmy) Mc Paxton - navigator,    Sgt. J B Green - air gunner,   and  Sgt. J McCann.

The pilot, Pilot Officer Dominic (Nic) Page, was born at Canterbury, on the 6th of February 1921, the youngest son of Harry Carlton Page, Managing Director of the Canterbury Gas Company, and Ethel Page of Dane John Place in Canterbury, Kent.  He was educated at Junior King's from September 1931 and at the King's School Canterbury from January 1936 to March 1940.On leaving school he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and after pilot training he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on the 13th of April 1941. 

On the 24th of November 1941 he and his crew took off at 4.15pm from RAF North Coates in a Beaufort 1 aircraft, registration number AW207 BX-H, for a mine laying operation over the Frisian coast between Ameland and Schiermonnikoog. On the run in to lay the mine their aircraft was hit by flak and Page altered course for Schiermonnikoog. The aircraft just missed hitting the farm of De Koos but crash landed at 6.15pm in a meadow just beyond the farm. Wreckage was spread over 80 metres with one wing ripped off, both engines lost from their mountings and the mine being thrown clear but failing to explode. The crew were uninjured other than Sergeant McCann who suffered a broken collar bone.

The crew set fire to the aircraft before they were captured. He spent three and half years as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft 3 with the POW number 707. While in captivity he was promoted to Flying Officer on the 30th of November 1941.  At the end of the war he returned to the UK where he resumed his flying career after attending a refresher course.  On the 19th of September 1946 he took off in a Mosquito aircraft for a flight with his navigator, Flying Officer Francis Colin Ashworth. The aircraft crashed near Wittering in Lincolnshire and burst into flames. Both crewmen were killed.

Three German prisoners of war, who were working nearby, had attempted to rescue the two men but were beaten back by the flames. Their gallant conduct was commended by the coroner and they were recommended for early release.  On the 3rd of December 1946, during questions to the Secretary of War in the House of Commons, Mr Anthony Greenwood MP asked the Secretary whether the arrangements for the repatriation of the three men, Ulrich Wolfs, Fritz Oeder and Joseph Schoensteiner, had yet been made.  Mr Bellinger replied "Yes sir, The conduct of these three prisoners of war has resulted in arrangements being made for their repatriation on the 21st December".     25 year old Dominic Page was buried at All Saints Churchyard in Wittering.

 

 

 

 

The remains of the Beaufort  at Schiermonnikoog after its crew set it alight.

 

 

On the same day Bristol Beaufort AW192 BX-T from the same squadron was shot down near Schiermonnikoog.

Its crew were P/O D. R. J. Harper,  Sgt A. P. McGregor, Sgt A. N. Kennedy, and Sgt W. T. Large. Both P/O Harper and Sgt McGregor are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. Sgt Large was washed ashore on the 26th December 1941 at beach pole 9 and rests locally in Vredenhof Cemetery and Sgt Kennedy in Mount Vernon Roman Catholic Cemetery, Edinburgh. William Large was the son of William Whittle Large and Mary Large and husband of Joan Lingard Large, of Cartmel, Lancashire.

 

Halifax Mk.II DT550 MP-B of 76 Squadron

 

Halifax Mk.II DT550 MP-B of 76 Squadron left RAF Linton-on-Ouse at 17.01 on 8th of November 1942 on a mine-laying mission. It was hit by flak and came down on a sandbank on the uninhabited Dutch island called Rottumerplaat. All the crew were killed. Part of the wreckage is displayed in the park at Schiermonnikoog.

 

F/Sgt Edward Seares, Sgt John McGauchie, and Sgt Ronald Bowkett are buried at Oldebroek Cemetery and Sgt Terence Keech at Sage. The remainder of the crew have no known graves and are remembered on the RAF Memorial at Runnymede, near Windsor in the UK.

The Canadian pilot, 28 year old, Flight Sergeant George G. Sawatzky was born in  Pavlovka, Russian on 17th Sep 1914 the son of Russian Colonel Gerhard William Sawatzky and Luise Epp. George married Dorothy Pfeifer at Vancouver, BC in January 1942 only four days after receiving his pilot's badge. He had enlisted in the RCAF at Vancouver in May 1941 and his civilian occupation was recorded as a farm manager for the previous four years. George's spoken languages were listed as English, German, Russian and Dutch (most likely Low German or Low Saxon a.k.a. Plautdietsch). Eighteen days after his marriage to Dorothy he left Canada for service in the United Kingdom, arriving on February 9th 1942.

 

The memorial at Prince Rupert, British Columbia - F/Sgt Finley's home town.

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On the left is the memorial at Ferryhill, Co. Durham where Sgt John McGauchie is commemorated and a picture from the small Gloucester village of Blaisden where Sgt Ronald Bowkett is remembered.

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An 'eye-catcher' for the Schlei-museum is the rear section of Halifax DT550 of 76 Squadron on display at Schiermonnikoog.

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X3557 from 75 (NZ) Squadron

Soon after the outbreak of war 75 squadron was posted to No.6 (Training) Group and on 4th April 1940, its number plate, with the letters "NZ" added, was transferred to a Royal New Zealand Air Force heavy bomber flight which was based at Feltwell, Norfolk, a station in No. 3 Group.   Equipped with Wellingtons, No. 75 (NZ) Squadron of the RAF - the first Commonwealth squadron to be formed in Bomber Command - took part in the early bombing offensive against enemy-occupied territories, and while returning from a raid on Munster on 7/8th July 1941, one of its aircrew, Sergeant Pilot JR Ward, RNZAF, won the Victoria Cross. Towards the end of 1942 the squadron converted to Stirlings and subsequently contributed to the Battle of the Ruhr, the devastation of Hamburg, and the famous raid against the German V-weapons experimental station at Peenemunde.   75 Squadron's Wellington X3557 AA-X took off from RAF Feltwell on the evening of July 8th 1942 with an RAFNZ crew on their 10th operational flight. That night Wilhelmshafen was the target. The aircraft crashed at 1.30am in the Waddenzee off Rottumeroog after being shot down by German Ace, Helmut Lent. All crew members perished and only two bodies were found and positively identified. The pilot, 24 year old Pilot Officer Trevor Smith was initially buried on Rottumeroog but now rests at Oldebroek Cemetery, and 21 year old wireless operator/gunner Sgt George Young was buried here at Vredenhof. X3557 was a brand new aircraft and had only arrived at Feltwell on the 20th June.

The remainder of the crew are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial near Windsor, UK.

It is now believed that unmarked grave 83 at Vredenhof contains the remains of Sgt Frank McKenzie as the unidentified Sergeant's body was found next to that of Sgt George Young. They were the only two sergeants on that aircraft.

The crew were - P/O T H Smith RNZAF, P/O D N Potts RNZAF, P/O A S Broun RNZAF, Sgt F E McKenzie RNZAF, Sgt G A Young RNZAF, and P/O J R Gavegan RNZAF. 

More photos from Graeme Young

George Young and Frank McKenzie before they received their Sergeant's stripes

The pilot Trevor Smith (24) was the son of Walter George Thomas Smith and of Hannah Elizabeth Smith, from Matarawa, Wellington, New Zealand.  Wireless operator/air gunner Sgt Frank Edwin McKenzie (22) was the son of Frank Harold and Blanche Louisa McKenzie, from Bryndwyr, Christchurch, New Zealand.Co-pilot P/O Donald Norman Potts (25) was the son of Norman and Myra Potts, from Opotiki, Auckland, New Zealand. 

 

Navigator P/O Alan Stewart Broun (32)  was the son of Mr J.L. Broun from Auckland, New Zealand.W.Operator / Air Gunner Sgt George Anthony Young (21) was the son of George Young and of Johan Young of Palmerston North, Wellington, New Zealand.  

Trevor Smith was exhumed from Rottumeroog graveyard after the war and reburied at "De Ekelenburg Cemetery in Oldebroek", (grave 41 in the Allied War Plot of Honour, the "horseshoe-plot").  Willem is currently investigating the reason.

*   See page 22 for Trevor Smith's Rottumeroog burial records

The rear gunner, P/O Jack Ralph Gavegan (30), was the son of Percival and Catherine Mary Gavegan, from Adelaide, South Australia. He was an experienced gunner and was previously with 125 Squadron. 

In April 1942, during the German bombing of Bath, Defiant N3370 flown by Pilot Officer White and Pilot Officer Gavegan, did make contact with a Heinkel 111 of IV/KG 55 which was flying near Bristol, and in the ensuing combat the German gunner, Oberfeldwebel Willi Schulze, was killed and one of the bomber's engines damaged. However, Wnr.5319 was a tough old aircraft and the surviving crew members managed to nurse it back to France.P/O White's Defiant also had its problems, for on landing back at Colerne, the nearest airfield to Bath, at 3.15 am, the port oleo leg collapsed and a wheel snapped off causing the aircraft to slew round, damaging both its port wing-tip and flaps.

Between the evening of Saturday 25th April 1942 and the early hours of Monday 27th April 1942, there were three attacks on Bath.  The German planes had taken off from airfields in northern France, and it only took about an hour and a half to fly from there to Bath. During that period, damage in Bath, where 162 people were killed, was extremely serious, particularly in the old and residential part of the city where a number of large heavily tenanted houses were completely demolished, trapping many victims under the rubble. Because a higher proportion of incendiaries had been used than on the previous night more fires were started, some 90 in total, while to make matters worse on this occasion high winds fanned the flames which swiftly engulfed adjacent premises. This turned the rows of burning buildings into fire areas, and six of these developed before the end of the night.

Helmut Lent

 

Helmut Lent was promoted to Hauptmann on 1 January 1942. Later that year, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 6 June 1942, at which time his total stood at 34 nocturnal victories plus seven day-time victories. The award was presented at by Hitler at the Führerhauptquartier on 28 and 29 June, his tally standing then at 39 nocturnal and seven day-time victories. By the end of 1942, Lent had 56 victories and was the top German night-fighter ace.

He was promoted to Major on 1 January 1943 and appointed Geschwaderkommodore of Nachtjagdgeschwader 3 (NJG 3) on 1 August 1943. After 73 kills, of which 65 were claimed at night, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern) on 2 August 1943 and notified by telegram on 4 August. The Swords were presented to him at the Führerhauptquartier at Rastenburg on 10/11 August 1943.In January 1944, Lent downed three so-called "heavies"—four-engined strategic bombers—in one night, but his plane was damaged by return fire, requiring a forced landing. He used only 22 cannon shells to down two bombers on the night of the 22–23 March 1944, and fired only 57 rounds in seven minutes against three Avro Lancasters on 15–16 June. Promoted to Oberstleutnant, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten) in recognition of his 110 confirmed air kills, the first of two night-fighter pilots to be awarded the decoration. On 5 October 1944, Lent was on final approach at Paderborn in a Ju 88 G-6 when an engine failed and he hit power cables. Although his crew were killed he survived, but within two days had succumbed to his injuries.

See youtube film of Helmut Lent in action

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Helmut Lent's Log showing the shooting down of Wellington X3557 on the morning of the 9th July 1942 (Courtesy of Graeme Young)

"The only thing that's hard to fathom is if the plane left Feltwell at 00.10 and was shot down at 01.30 and had traveled 260 miles with a full bomb load , a 4000lb cookie, 1000lb bombs, and 4lb incendiaries.Cruising speed must have been around 180 mph to get there in time and if both countries were in daylight saving, that should have Europe an hour ahead.   Lent was back at Leeuwarden ten minutes later at 01.43. George Young was killed by a cannon shot to the side of the face."  (Graeme Young)

 

A Wellington's top speed was 235 mph - but I'm not sure if it was ever reached with a full bomb-load.  (Tom)

Letter from Pilot Officer T H Smith's father, Mr W G Smith, to Sgt George Young's family. October 1943 (supplied by Graeme Young)

 

Oldebroek Cemetery 


19 year old  Sgt Ronald V Street and Stirling Mark III BF478 BU-G of 214 Squadron

Stirling Mark III BF478 BU-G of 214 Squadron was airborne at 23:06 on 23 May 1943 from RAF Chedburgh, on a mission to Dortmund. 826 bombers were on this raid, dropping 2,000 tons of HE and incendiary bombs in an hour destroying 2000 buildings and forcing the Hoesch steelworks to cease production.  RAF losses were 4.8% of the bomber force.

"It was one of the best attacks I have ever seen," said a Stirling  navigator. "I could see the glow of fires in the sky miles before we reached Dortmund. As we made our bombing run over the target we found ourselves flying through thick rolling clouds of smoke. By that time the only thing I could pick out clearly was a factory with tall chimneys. It was in the centre of a mass of red fire, and smoke was pouring out of it."

Stirling BF478 was intercepted on its return journey by Ofw. Karl-Heinz Scherfling of 10./NJG1 and crashed in the shallows of the Wadden Sea off the Dutch Friesian islands at 2.14 am, 24th May. It was one of three 214 Squadron Stirlings lost on that mission. BF258 and MZ261 were also brought down.

From BF478 only Sgt Street's body was eventually washed ashore and he is buried in Vredenhof Cemetery onSchiermonnikoog (Grave 101).

His six crewmates have no known graves and are commemorated on the Runnymede memorial.

The crew were:

Sgt Ernest Douglas Ager, RAF, Aged 23. Son of Alfred and Alice Ager of Reading, Berkshire; husband of Olive Margaret Ager, of Reading.

Sgt Roy Craven Child, RAF, Aged 25. Son of J. W. Edward and Beatrice Mary Child; husband of Irene Joan Child from Kings Norton, Birmingham, UK. He and Irene Nash were only married early in 1943.

P/O John Wesley Evans, RCAF, Aged 22. Son of Alfred Ethelbert Evans and Minnie Evans, of Richlea, Saskatchewan, Canada. As well as the Runnymede Memorial, his name is on the Regina War Memorial in Saskatchewan and in the WW2 Remembrance Book located in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower at the Parliamentary buildings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario.

Sgt Zanwel Goldfinger, RAF, Aged 24. Son of Chajim Leib Goldfinger and Dewora Goldfinger, of Haifa, Israel.

Sgt Ronald Victor Street, RAF, Aged 19. Son of Albert & Mary Ann Street of Low Hill, Wolverhampton

Sgt Victor Norman Walker, RAF, Aged 23. Son of Charles William and Clara Walker, of Feltham, Middlesex.

F/Sgt Harold Ward, RAF, Aged 20. Son of Walter and Edith Lydia Ward, of Bircotes, Nottinghamshire.

Signpost in Chedburgh by Uksignpix

 

John Wesley Evans's name in the WW2 Remembrance Book, Memorial Chamber, Peace Tower, Ottawa and the memorial at Chedburgh.

 

Willem has found this photo that appears to be the crew- but who is who? Reg Street is bottom right.The commissioned officer behind Reg was not on their last flight as we know from squadron records that all the crew were sergeants. (RCAF Sgt John Wesley Evans was not made a Pilot Officer till after his death.) If this is the correct crew then the sergeant top centre is the pilot - John W Evans.

 

Our photos show Ronald Street when a teenager in Wolverhampton and later as the 19 year old airgunner from a Stirling bomber.The third photograph is of Ofw. Karl-Heinz Scherfling and crew who were credited with the downing of Stirling BF478 (courtesy of Kelvin Youngs at Air Crew Remembered)

 

Before joining the RAF, Ronald Street was employed by the Goodyear Tyre & Rubber Co. (Great-Britain) at Stafford Road, Wolverhampton. In total, 40 ex-employees of that company did not survive the war. For those brave men there has been placed inside one of the buildings a War Memorial on which is inscribed his name, STREET R.V.  He is also commemorated in the Roll of Honour annex to the War Memorial.

The German pilot,Ofw. Karl-Heinz Scherfling from 10./NJG.1 based at Leeuwarden air-base, and flying a radar-equipped Me.Bf-100G night fighter, had intercepted the Stirling over the North Sea just North of Texel & Vlieland islands at an altitude of 3.6 km. This was one of two downed aircraft he claimed that night. The second was a Halifax bomber, DT789 from 10 Squadron at 2.36 am.

 

 

Stirling BF478 was not his first encounter with 214 Squadron. BF313, pictured above, piloted by Wing Commander Kenneth Duke Knocker,was recorded as being shot down by a night fighter piloted by Ofw Karl-Heinz Scherfling of II./NJG2 and crashed at 01:50hrs 3rd July 1942 onto mudflats at Westernieland, 22km NNW of Groningen, Holland. All the crew were killed.

Scherfling had chalked up 33 confirmed kills when on the 21st July 1944 he himself died after his Bf 110 G-4 aircraft crashed following an attack by Mosquito NT113 of RAF 169 Squadron flown by Wing Commander Bromley O.B.E. D.F.C. and Flight Lieutenant Truscott D.F.C.

 

Stirling  BF382 BU-Q of 214 Squadron  © IWM (ATP 11154D)

 

 

 

F/Lt REGINALD WILLIAM ARTHUR TURTLE. D.F.C. (Pilot), 214 Squadron, Royal Air Force.  Buried at Schiermonnikoog (Vredenhof) Cemetery. Grave Ref: Grave 69. Reginald, who it would seem was known as ‘Arthur’ was born on 14 May 1916. His father was a doctor in London. Arthur joined the Royal Air Force on a short service commission in 1938, and married Brenda in 1939. He was an experienced Stirling captain with 46 operations to his credit, having previously served with 149 Squadron.

His Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded posthumously. He was the pilot of Stirling bomber N3761 BU-E which took off from R.A.F Stradishall, Suffolk, on 6th June 1942 as part of a mixed bomber force of 233 aircraft comprised of 124 Wellingtons, 40 Stirlings, 27 Halifaxes, 20 Lancasters, 15 Hampden’s and 7 Manchester’s. Their mission - taking part in the first large raid on Emden, Germany since November 1941. 

Nine of the aircraft which took part in the raid were lost, 3 Manchester’s, 3 Wellingtons, 2 Stirlings, and 1 Halifax. Crews of the bombers reported good bombing results at the de-briefings, and this was confirmed by later photographic reconnaissance.

Emden reports briefly that approximately 300 houses were destroyed and 200 seriously damaged, and that 17 people were killed and 49 injured, in addition to which some unspecified damage was also experienced in the docks area. At 01.47 hours on 7th June 1942, the Stirling flown by Arthur was shot down by a Messerschmitt Bf 110 night-fighter, flown by ‘ace’Oberleutnant Prinz Egmont zur Lippe Weissenfeld of 11./NJG2, and crashed off Terschelling which is one of the west Friesian Islands, Netherlands.

Five of the eight crew are buried in various island cemeteries off the coast of Holland, including Arthur, whose body had been washed ashore at Schiermonnikoog where he is at rest. The other three crew are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

 

Sgt S F Martin and 22 Squadron's Beaufort L9889 OA-T

 

Beaufort L9889 OA-T of 22 Squadron, Coastal Command left North Coates at 12.30pm on 26th November 1940. Its crew were S/Ldr Frank Howard Roberts, Sgt Stephen Frederick Martin, Sgt Stanley Norman Douglas and Sgt T Pickering.

The Beaufort arrived at the  Dutch coast at 13.35pm and sighted two merchant vessels, each between 3,000 and 4,000 tons, about 8 km  NW of Den Helder. After circling the ships for about ten minutes in medium and heavy flak the Beaufort was seen to drop its torpedo and continue the attack run, turning slightly to port, before crashing into the North Sea 400 yards beyond the ship at approx 14:25 hrs. The downing of the Beaufort was claimed byVorpostenboot 1101.

S/Ldr Roberts and Sgt Douglas both rest in Sage War Cemetery while Sgt Martin was washed ashore at Schiermonnikoog and buried locally in Vredenhof Cemetery on 8th January 1941.

This was his first flight with 22 Squadron for 24 year old Squadron Leader Frank Howard Roberts, the son of Norman Roberts (formerly of the Royal Navy). An experienced RAF regular officer from West Hartlepool, Frank had received his commission as an officer in 1934, and was married to Marjorie Junie Squires at Gosport, Hampshire in late 1939. He was originally buried somewhere on the Ost Friesland coast and reburied after the war at Sage War Cemetery - Grave Reference 7. D. 8.

20 year old Sgt Stanley Norman Douglas, the wireless operator/gunner, was the son of John and Isabel Douglas, from Belfast, Northern Ireland.  He is buried at Sage War Cemetery - Grave Reference 7. D. 3.

Sgt Stephen Frederick Martin, was the observer on the Beaufort. He was the 20 year old son of Bertie and Emily Martin, from Ilford, Essex. His birth was registered at the Medway area of Kent in December 1919 and he is buried in Grave 51 at Schiermonnikoog's Vredenhof Cemetery.

Sgt T Pickering was the only crew member to survive. He was made a POW and spent the war at Stalag XI-D / 357  located just to the east of the town of Fallingbostel in Lower Saxony, north-west Germany.

 

German photo of the funeral service at 'Vredenhof', on Wednesday 8th January 1941 of Sergeant Stephen Martin

 

For most of the war, Coastal Command's 22 Squadron deployed the Bristol Beaufort. The first of those aircraft arrived in November 1939, and the squadron flew its first Beaufort operation on 15 April 1940 when nine Beauforts successfully laid mines in the Schillig Roads (north of Wilhelmshaven).

For the first few months problems with the torpedoes meant that the squadron concentrated on mine laying or bombing missions against the German invasion barges. The Beaufort, however still had teething problems and, after some Beauforts were lost in mysterious circumstances, a Court of Enquiry in June 1940 concluded that the Taurus engines were still unreliable and both Coastal Command operational squadrons (22 Squadron at North Coates & 42 Squadron at Wick) were grounded until the engines could be modified. Anti-shipping strikes with torpedoes finally began in September 1941.

 

In September 1940 two of 22 Squadron's Beauforts, L9827 and L9880, were destroyed on the ground while temporarily based at RAF Filton, near Bristol, for modifications.

Filton airfield was attacked on 25 September 1940 just before mid-day by 58 Heinkel 111 bombers with a Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighter escort. The Luftwaffe raid was primarily aimed at the Bristol Aeroplane Company's works on the south side of the airfield. One of the air raid shelters on the airfield received a direct hit, five others seriously damaged and during the raid over 200 people were killed. Luftwaffe reconnaissance planes had determined that there were no fighter aircraft stationed at Filton prior to the attack. 504 Squadron was moved in from 26 September 1940, flying Hawker Hurricane Mk1 fighters, as a result of this raid.

 

Unknown airman's grave identified after 75 years.

At a service on 16 June 2016 in Vredenhof Cemetery, on the Fresian island of Schiermonnikoog, the grave of Sgt James Bent was rededicated in his name during a moving service attended by surviving members of his family.

The service, led by RAF Reverend, Squadron Leader Dawn Colley, accompanied by a trumpeter of the band of the RAF regiment, was organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, part of Defence Business Services, with a new headstone bearing Sgt Bent's name and a personal inscription from his family, provided by The Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Sgt Bent’s niece, Mary Cox from King’s Lynn, her husband Julian and their grandson, Sgt Bent’s great-great-nephew, Teddy, 12, all travelled from England for the service.

The family were joined by over 70 people including representatives from the MOD, CWGC, the British Embassy, local dignitaries, school children and members of the close knit local community.

Nicola Nash who led the organisation of today’s rededication for the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre said: 'This has been an interesting case to work on and we are pleased to have been able to dedicate Sgt Bent’s final resting place and pay tribute to the sacrifice he made.'

Mary Cox later said: “It is such a relief that we have located Uncle Jim’s body at long last. We thank God that he is resting in peace in such a beautiful location together with the other members of his crew.”

She added: “The people on the island were so welcoming, there were more than 100 there, it was emotional.

Where he is buried is lovely. It is like our sand dunes at Hunstanton and Holme, a very peaceful place.”

 

Wellington X3662 KO-P was a 115 Squadron aircraft that survived this period and after 36 raids was retired to serve with 20 OTU (Operational Training Unit). On 8th October 1943 it took off from Lossiemouth on a navigation exercise flying over Penrhos, Carlisle, Macduff and then returning to base. At about 0600 the aircraft crashed off Dunvegan Head on the NW side of Skye, and all its trainee crew lost.

 

The process had originally started in 2008 when Vredenhof cemetery administrator, Wyb Jan Groendijk, came into contact with Sgt. Bent's relatives. He was able to provide them with documents recorded by the Germans during the war.

The family members then came to the conclusion that it was best to go the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), to carry out a further investigation.  As a result of evidence submitted by Laurel Clegg,  an anthropologist working for the Canadian Directorate of History and Heritage,(probably comparing the record of his remains with that of his RCAF crewmate) the MOD’s Air Historical Branch has now confirmed that the unidentified remains are in fact those of Sgt James W Bent.

Groendijk does not know all the details of their findings, but knew that a wireless operator's badge on the airman's uniform may have helped with the identification.

 

The military funeral of two of the Wellington's crew on August 7th 1941.

 

 

Sgt James Bent was the wireless operator on Wellington R1063 KO-D from 115 Squadron based at RAF Marham, near Kings Lynn in Norfolk.

Captained by New Zealand pilot, Sergeant Oswald Matthews, the aircraft, part of a force of nine from the squadron, took off at 11.25 pm on July 6th 1941, to attack the West German city of Munster.

At 2.17am the Wellington was intercepted, and shot down, by a Dornier Do-215B-5 night-fighter, flown by Oblt. Helmut Woltersdorf and his crew, from 4./NJG.1.

Helmut did not survive the war. He was killed in action on July 28 1942 when his night-fighter crashed over Noordwijk, Holland, after being shot down by a Hawker Hurricane piloted by New Zealander Sergeant Peter Gawith of No. 3 Squadron RAF. 

During his Luftwaffe service the German pilot had claimed 24 victories, many of them Wellingtons.

Sergeant Matthews prepared for a controlled ditching, and his wireless operator, Sgt. James Bent, sent a final SOS message to base.

Unfortunately the German fighter pilot had miscalculated his exit maneuver and both planes then collided.

The Dornier made a crash-landing on a sandbank but the Wellington dived into the North Sea and all the crew were lost.

A German air-sea rescue unit from Borkum island, operating with Heinkel He-115's, later picked up the Luftwaffe crew, but were unable to see any signs of the Wellington.

 

According to the records of the Dutch NZHRM lifeboat company ('Strandingsrapport' No. 596, dated 07.07.1941):  After the crash landing of the Luftwaffe nightfighter of Oblt. Helmut Woltersdorf and his crew, the German air force, via Flgh. Leeuwarden, as well as the local German 'coastguard' at Schiermonnikoog, via the Kriegsmarine, were giving alarm, and therefore also the lifeboat of NZHRM station Oostmahorn (in NE Friesland) was launched; with its well known skipper Mees Toxopeus (1886-1974) and his rescue team, aboard Mrb. 'Insulinde'. They were searching for a couple of hours in the area, till the moment the Luftwaffe crew was picked up and saved by the German air sea rescue unit from the nearby German island of Borkum. But Mees Toxopeus wasn't a stupid man at all and he most likely knew there was not only a single German plane missing......... ?!  However, they rescued no men, Allied or German, and recovered no bodies, which would have been very frustrating for him. 

 

Three of the crew's bodies were washed ashore on Schiermonnikoog nearly a month after the crash.

It was possible to identify two of the bodies, the pilot, RNZAF Sgt O. A. Matthews and the observer, RCAF Sgt W. A. Strachan, but with the third, they could not confirm whether it was that of wireless operator, RAF Sgt James Bent, or RCAF Sgt Charles S. R. Edwards, the Wellington's rear gunner.

As a result, the third grave was marked as ‘Known Unto God’ and Sgt Bent’s name was included on the CWGC Air Forces Memorial to the Missing at Runnymede.

The front gunner, 21 year old Yorkshireman, Sgt. Albert Webster, was first buried August 21st 1941, at Westerland on the German North Frisian island of Sylt, and had probably been washed ashore there. He was exhumed and re-buried at Kiel cemetery on July 1st 1947.

The second pilot, 22 year old Scotsman, Sgt. Kenneth McLeay, and the rear-gunner, 20 year old RCAF Sgt. Charles Edwards, have no known graves and are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

66 years later, in October 2007, this same Dornier aircraft was discovered almost intact in the waters of the Wadden Sea by the Dutch 'Aircraft Recovery Group 1940-1945'. Its Daimler Benz DB601 engine, and parts of the cockpit, are now displayed in the 'Ford by Veldhuis'  museum at Heemskerk, near the city of Alkmaar.

 

The pilot of Wellington R1063 was 391842 RNZAF Sgt Oswald Arthur Matthews.  Born at Karori, Wellington on September 11th 1920, he was the 20 year old son of civil servant Eric Rupert Matthews (1899-1970), and Annie Dorothea Park, who were married at Wellington, New Zealand in 1917.

He was educated at Karori Primary School and then at Wellington College.

After leaving school he was made vice-president of the Wellington College Old Boy's Hockey Club.

He joined the Wellington Aero Club and secured his pilot's licence in late 1938.

Oswald Matthews was a member of the Civil Reserve of Air Force Pilots and when war broke out was in the process of waiting to take a short service commission in the RAF. He immediately offered his services to the RNZAF.

Enlisting at RNZAF Weraroa, Levin, in December 1939, after flying and navigational training he was sent overseas in August 1940. We have no record, but it is very likely that he would have been posted to Canada for instruction at the training units there.

Further training in the UK was followed by a course with 11 OTU (Operational Training Unit) at RAF Bassingbourn in March 1941 where he formed his new crew and received aircrew instruction and some experience on Wellington bombers.

His final posting was to 115 Squadron on 30th May 1941.  

Oswald is buried at Schiermonnikoog (Vredenhof) Cemetery in grave 58.

 

RNZAF Weraroa at Levin in 1940. Oswald Matthews carried out his initial training here.

 

The observer, R/64240 Sergeant William Alexander Strachan was the 25 year old son of farmer, William Strachan, and Scottish girl, Anne Simpson Rennie, of Simcoe, Ontario, Canada, and born at Portage la Prairie on 14th October 1915.

He attended Simcoe High School between 1930-1935 and earned a BA from Queen's University in 1937.

Bill was active in athletics and played for local softball and baseball teams.

Becoming a teacher he taught at South Walsingham School for three years before enlisting in the RCAF at Hamilton on June 7th 1940.

There he trained as an observer and received his sergeant's stripes and wings on December 12th.

Posted to the UK he was sent to 11 OTU at RAF Bassingbourn for aircrew instruction on 15th March 1941. After completing his training he was posted to 115 Squadron at RAF Bassingbourn on 30th May.

His body was recovered from the sea on August 4th and buried three days later.  

He was originally buried under the name 'Staelman' as our 1948 photograph illustrates.

Grave Reference: Grave 59. Schiermonnikoog (Vredenhof) Cemetery  

 

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The rear gunner on the Wellington, RCAF Sergeant Charles Stanley Rutherford Edwards, was the 20 year old son of civil servant Rutherford Edwards, and Orpha Sheridan, who were married at Toronto on August 12th 1919.  

Born at Woodstock, Ontario, on March 29 1921, he attended Runnymede Public School, and then, Toronto's Western Technical Commercial School for 3 years. During that time, he was a member of the Toronto Sea Cadets.

Among his hobbies were swimming and revolver shooting, and he also gained a St. John's Ambulance Certificate.

Charles left school in 1939 and started work with the De Haviland Aircraft Company as an aircraft assembler, and also gained his private pilot's license that year, clocking up 35 hours solo flying.

He enlisted in the RCAF at Woodstock to train as a pilot on July 2nd 1940. 

Unfortunately RCAF instructors failed him as a military pilot, recording his lack of co-ordination and unsuitability to captain an aircraft.

He was then trained as a wireless operator/gunner, and passed out with his sergeant's stripes and wings on 21st December.

Posted to the UK in March 1941 he was sent to 11 OTU (Operational Training Unit) for Aircrew training on Wellingtons. His posting to 115 Squadron followed on May 30th with the crew of Sgt. Matthews. 

Charles  has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel 61 of the Runnymede Memorial.

 

Sgt Kenneth George MacLeay, the second pilot, was the 22 year old youngest son of Duncan and Georgina MacLeay, of Aberdeen. His father was an official at the Aberdeen offices of the Bank of Scotland.

Kenneth was a former pupil of Robert Gordon's College and a member of their Boy Scout group.  

Before joining the RAF he was a commercial assistant with the Skefco Ballbearing Company of Aberdeen.

Kenneth enlisted in the RAF in June 1940 and received his wings 6 months later. 

He has no known grave and is remembered  on Panel 47 of the Runnymede Memorial.

 

The pupils of Robert Gordon's College chase 'Adolf Hitler' during a charity event in 1938.

 

The front gunner was 21 year old Sergeant Albert Webster. He was the son of Alfred Webster and Clara Brady who were married at Sheffield, Yorkshire in 1912.

We know nothing about his family or service record.

He was first buried August 21st 1941, at Westerland on the German North Frisian island of Sylt, and had probably been washed ashore there. He was exhumed and re-buried at Kiel cemetery on July 1st 1947.

The family's text on his gravestone reads, 'Though absent they are always near, Still loved, Still missed, Still very dear.'

 

RAF Marham in 1944

 

Sergeant James Walter Bent was the second of seven children, having one brother and five sisters. Born on 16 November 1917 he was the son of a policeman, PC 151, Charles Walter Bent (1885-1962), and Zilpha Lovell (1893-1949), a domestic servant, who were married at her home village of Great Haseley, Oxfordshire, in 1915.

His father, Charles, had joined the Norfolk Constabulary in 1905, and the 1911 census records him as a police constable at Cromer. 

He retired on a pension at Stoke Ferry in July 1932 after 27 years of service. (My thanks to Peter Billingham at Norfolk Constabulary archives.) Charles died at Hunstanton in 1962.

James Bent, who was employed as a salesman, enlisted in the RAF on 10 April 1940 and after initial training began instruction as a wireless operator. He was posted to 115 Squadron from 11 OTU (Operational Training Unit) on 30 May 1941, and based not far from home, at RAF Marham, Norfolk. 

All of the crew regularly assembled at James’ house, and called Zilpha ‘Mother’. He was close to his siblings, and his 15 year old sister, Margaret, later related that she sometimes played cards with the crew and earned some extra pocket money.

 

66 years later, in October 2007, Helmut Woltersdorf's Dornier aircraft was discovered almost intact in the waters of the Wadden Sea by the Dutch 'Aircraft Recovery Group 1940-1945'. One of its Daimler Benz DB601 engines, and parts of the cockpit, are now displayed in the 'Ford by Veldhuis'  museum at Heemskerk, near the city of Alkmaar.

 

James Bent's family family lived on Marham's operational flight path and they regularly counted the aircraft coming in and out of the RAF base, especially if they knew the crew were flying that night. This was also true of the night he died, and they rang his unit early next morning, knowing that not all of the planes had returned.

On the evening of the 6th July 1941, Wellington R1063 KO-D had taken off from RAF Marham at 23:26 hours, one of nine 115 Squadron aircraft joining the Munster raid. The plane crashed into the North Sea with the loss of all the crew after being shot down by a German Dornier night fighter piloted by Oberleutenant Helmut Woltersdorf.

Although Sgt Bent was able to send an SOS message reporting  that the aircraft was ditching, the subsequent air and sea search, by both UK and local air-sea rescue services, failed to locate the crew.

 

 

Sgt James Bent’s body was washed ashore at the island of Schiermonnikoog on August 7, 1941, and assumed to have come from the same crew as the two bodies, identified as Sgt O A Matthews and Sgt W A Strachan, which had washed ashore a few days earlier.

German documents relating to that third casualty, now known to be Sgt Bent, identified that he was a Sergeant, had an Air Gunner’s brevet and a wireless operator “sparks” badge. The body was also described as being that of a medium sized, strongly built young man.

It was now unclear which of the three Wellington crew who would have been wearing air-gunner's wings, he was. The fact that only one would have worn a wireless operator's badge appears to have been missed.

After it was confirmed that the body  of the aircraft's front gunner, Sgt Albert Webster, had been recovered and buried at Sylt, there were now two possibilities, Sgt Bent, and the Canadian rear-gunner, Sgt Charles Edwards.

Because the Germans, and in the years following the war, our own military authorities, could not make a positive identification, the grave was listed as 'known only to God'.

As James Bent had no known grave he was commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

He was also remembered at home on the Honour Roll in Kings Lynn Library.

Rev. Dawn Colley blesses James Bent's grave, while trumpeter James Lawrence stands by for the 'last post' 

(Leeuwarden Crt., June 17, 2016)

 

 

115 Squadron's Wellington X9873's forced landing at Schiermonnikoog on 31st October 1941.

Wellington X9873 KO-P, piloted by Warrant Officer John W B Snowden, was forced to land on the tidal flats at Schiermonnikoog.

The aircraft was one of 14 aircraft that had taken off from RAF Marham between 5.30pm and 6.20pm on October 31st 1941, part of a force of 48 bombers detailed to bomb the German industrial port of Bremen.

Unfortunately bad weather played havoc with the mission and only 5 of 115 Squadron's aircraft reached the target area with only 3 claiming to have found and bombed the actual target. The remainder, except for Squadron Leader Coleman, whose starboard engine failed and forced him to jettison their bomb load, dropped their bombs on secondary targets at Zuiderland, Groningen, De Kooy, Borkum, Texel, and Emden. All, except for X9873, returned safely to Marham between 8.10pm and 23.45pm.

 

 

 

 

At 9.25pm Warrant Officer Snowden's Wellington was attacked and then forced to make an emergency landing by a Bf 110 nightfighter, with fuselage code G9+HM, flown by Ofw Paul Gildner from 4./NJG1 and his radio operator Rudi Muller, who were based at nearby Leeuwarden. About two hours later Gildner shot down Whitley Z9141 from 51 Squadron. That aircraft crashed north of the dam at Texel and all five crew were lost

Our photo above shows Paul Gildner and what is believed to be the same aircraft, after it crash-landed at Westerland, Sylt, in February 1942.

The crew of the Wellington all became POW's. They were: pilot - W/O John W B Snowden RAF, 2nd pilot - Sgt Herbert E Woolley RCAF, navigator - Sgt Albert E Robinson RAF, bomb-aimer - Sgt Peter V Brazier RCAF, wireless operator/gunner - Sgt Alan W Clarke RCAF, and air-gunner - F/Sgt Peter J C Darvill RAF.

Apparently the local German occupiers, under the command of the Inselkommandant, Dr Arnold Rehm treated them well during their captivity on the island, and the crew even had a dinner of wild duck etc. at the Hotel Van der Werff.

They were then transported on the ferry to Oostmahorn on the Frisian mainland, en route to Amsterdam prison.

Questioning by the Gestapo followed, and then a move to Dulag Luft 1, near Hessen in central Germany, for further interrogation.

The pilot, 364766 Warrant Officer John William Brodie Snowden, was the 33 year old son of Ernest Brodie Snowden and Jessie Knight who were married at Colchester, Essex in 1897. The couple had four children. Ernest had been a regular soldier and at the time of John's birth in 1907 is believed to have been employed as a civilian bar manager at the Warley Barracks of the Essex Regiment. He later served as a Sergeant Major with the RAMC during World War One. 

John William Brodie Snowden joined the RAF when only 16 years old. He enlisted as an apprentice at RAF Halton and was part of No.9 Entry.

After completing his three year apprenticeship he married Edith Beeson at Colchester in 1929. The couple had one son, Peter, who was born in 1930.

John appears to have stayed with the RAF and was trained as a pilot. He was awarded the Air Force Cross (a medal for an act of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy" ) in September 1941. We know little of his service record before joining 115 Squadron.

The 'Saint' emblem on the nose of his Wellington was from the main character in Leslie Charteris's books, a popular read among servicemen during the 1930s and 1940s.

Issued with the POW number 24467, John was first imprisoned at Stalag VIII-B near Lamsdorf in today's Poland and later at Stalag Luft 1 near Barth in Western Pomerania. He was moved in the last days of the war to Stalag Luft VI Heydekrug in Memelland (Lithuania).

On 30 April 1945, the prisoners were ordered to evacuate the camp in the face of the advancing Soviet Red Army, but refused. After negotiations between the Senior American Officer and the Kommandant, it was agreed that to avoid useless bloodshed the guards would go, leaving the POWs behind. The next day, the first Soviet troops arrived.

He remained in the RAF after repatriation to the UK and served with the Central Flying School at RAF Little Rissington until 1949.

John Snowden was then employed as a civilian pilot instructor with the De Havilland Aircraft Company's Reserve Flying School which was based at Panshanger in Hertfordshire. It was at the time when the world's first jet-liner, the De Haviland Comet, was being developed, and pilots trained, at their Hatfield works.

He and his wife were living in the village of Lemsford, near Welwyn Garden City, when he retired.

We have no information about his place of burial.

 

F/Sgt Peter James Clayton Darvill, the airgunner, was born in November 1920.

At the time of the crash his parents were living at Wellington Road, Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, but had moved from the city of Nottingham.

Before enlisting in the RAF Peter was employed at the offices of the London Scottish Assurance Company of Bridlesmith Gate, Nottingham.

Two service numbers appear on records, 936851 and 994782. His POW number was 24466 and he was imprisoned at Stalag Luft 3. While there he was promoted to Warrant Officer.

After the war he married Barbara MacKenzie at Brighton, Sussex in 1946.

The couple had twin daughters, Jane and Susan, who were registered at nearby Hove in December qtr 1946.

Peter died in the Chichester area in 2013.

 

Sgt. Percy Brazier, the bomb-aimer, was the son of William and Agnes Brazier of Front Street, Bracebridge, Ontario.

William Henry Brazier was born at Boughton Aluph, near Ashford in Kent, on December 7th 1881.

He was working as a porter at the Harrods store in Knightsbridge, London, when he met 23 year old, Bristol born, Agnes Toogood, who was employed as a servant in nearby Kensington, and had been in domestic service from when she was thirteen.

The couple were still single when they boarded the White Star liner 'Cymric' at Liverpool on April 10th 1912, en route to Canada. They were married at Bracebridge in October 1912.

William gave his occupation as 'farmer' in March 1916 when enlisting in the 122nd (Muskoka) Overseas Battalion, a unit of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, which sailed to the UK in June 1917.

Percival Valentine Brazier, born on April 11, 1917, had one sister, Mabel, and seven brothers, six of whom served in the armed forces.

Charles, born 1921, an air-gunner with 427 squadron RCAF, Robert, born 1921, with the Devils Brigade, a joint Canadian/US/commando unit in Italy, George, born 1923, with the Canadian Army, Victor, born 1919, with the Irish Regiment, Edward, born 1913, with the Canadian Army, and William (Bus), born 1916, an air gunner with 422 Squadron RCAF.

They all survived the war.

Percy received his gunnery training on Course No.7 at RCAF Fingal.

His  'missing in action' was published in the Winnipeg Tribune on November 6th 1941, and the Ottawa Journal of November 21st.

After being interrogated at Dulag Luft 1, he was sent to Stalag Luft VIIIB at Lamsdorf, then to Stalag Luft III, Sagan, from there to Stalag Luft VI at Heydekrug, and finally to Stalag 357 at Thorn in Poland.

 

Brothers, Percy Brazier, Charles Brazier, and William 'Bus' Brazier

 

When he returned home in June 1945, Percy was given a huge and welcoming reception by the people of Bracebridge.

He later married Ina Hammond (1924-1972) and the couple had one son, Garnet.

Percy died at Bracebridge in 1967 and is buried in St. Thomas Anglican cemetery.

 

Percy was liberated by the British Army on May 2nd 1945 and arrived in London on May 8th - VE Day.

After surviving the 'Long March'

 

 

 

Sgt. Allan William Clarke, the aircraft's wireless operator/gunner, was born on March 27, 1918, in Victoria, Carbonear, Newfoundland.

His father, William, was 30 and his mother, Mary, was 26.

The couple had five sons and six daughters.  Allan joined the RCAF in 1940 and received his gunnery training on Course No.3 at RCAF Fingal.

He was imprisoned in the same camps as his crewmate, Percy Brazier, and was liberated from Fallingbostel on 16 April 1945 by British troops of B Squadron, 11th Hussars, and the Reconnaissance Troop of the 8th Hussars.

After the war he married Dorothy Powell (1920-1992).

Allan died at Perth, Ontario in 1969 at the age of 51, and both he and Dorothy are buried at Elmwood Cemetery. A symbol on his grave indicates that he was a member of the Freemasons.

 

Sergeant Herbert Edward Woolley, the second pilot, was born at Montreal, Quebec in 1921. His father Norman Edgar Woolley was born at Streatham, London in 1895 and migrated to Canada with his parents in 1903. Enlisting in the Canadian Army in 1914, he later married Montreal born Sarah Alice Knowles.

We know of two sons, Herbert Edward (1921), and Robert Stanley (1922). They both joined the RCAF in World War 2 and served with bomber squadrons.

Warrant Officer Robert Woolley was a clerical worker with Imperial Oil when he enlisted in November 1940. He trained as a wireless operator/gunner at the Wireless School at Winnipeg, and received his sergeant's stripes and wireless operator's badge on 24th November 1941.

He was then granted embarkation leave. This was only three weeks after his bomber pilot brother, Herbert, was reported 'missing in action'.

Robert arrived in the UK on 21st January. More radio and gunnery training followed and he was posted to 467 Squadron from 1654 HCU on 18th July 1942.

Robert was part of the crew of Lancaster ED526 which took off from RAF Bottesford at 1946 hours on the night of 25/26th February 1943 to bomb Nurnberg, Germany.

Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it failed to return to base. It had crashed near Wisendorf. The crew of seven were all killed and they are buried in the Durnbach War Cemetery, Germany. 

Robert's brother, R56114 Sergeant Herbert Woolley, was on his first overseas operation with 115 Squadron on 31 October 1941.

He was flying as co-pilot in Wellington IC X9873 KO-P on a mission to bomb Bremen, when his aircraft was brought down by a German night-fighter on the Dutch Fresian island of Schiermonnikoog.

He served some of the POW time at Stalag VIIIB Lamsdorf with his Skipper W/O Snowden.

He was moved to Stalag Luft VI Heydekrug Memelland (today's Lithuania), and near the end of the war to Stalag Luft IV, located in Gross Tychow, Pomerania. (now Tychowo, Poland).

In September 1990 he published a book about his POW adventures called 'No Time Off For Good Behaviour'.

A book reviewer wrote at the time, "What comes through in these narratives is how essential for survival was a sense of humour and how ingenious one can be in adversity.

His best story describes how he and his mates constructed, over a six-month period, a hockey rink. They flooded it for one "exhibition" game. Then the weather turned mild and they could never use it again!

Woolley fulfils his purpose "to contrast the many popular escape-adventure P.O.W. stories with the 'other side' of P.O.W. life, the boring existence in frustration as dramatic events of a world-in-conflict passed them by."

Herbert Edward Woolley died in the same year as the book was published. We have no record of his burial.

Sergeant Albert Edwin Robinson, the aircraft's navigator, was born on June 28, 1918, at Belper, Derbyshire, the seventh of eight children born to Frank and Mary Anne Robinson.

He had two brothers and five sisters.

His father, Frank Robinson, was born on January 18, 1887, and was employed as a bricklayer when he married 20 year old Mary Annie Lowe on July 16, 1906, at Jubilee Hall, Belper.

The family home was in George Street. A keen sportsman, Frank was a member of the local cricket club and helped with the revival of Belper Town Football Club.

When he retired in the 1950s Frank was a surveyor on Belper Council and an active member of several local committees.

He died in November 1960 at the age of 73.

 

The family home at George Street, Belper, Albert's parents Frank & Mary, and Albert's younger brother Norman

 

His son Albert Edwin Robinson,(known to his mates as "Robbie") was employed at the Belper works of the English Sewing Cotton Company before he enlisted in the RAF in 1940.

We know nothing of his service history before he joined Warrant Officer John Snowden's 115 Squadron crew in early October 1941 as navigator.

He does mention in his book, Meet the Grey Monk, being part of a Wellington bomber crew that crash-landed at Saltram Park, near Plymouth on the night of 12/13th April 1941, but unfortunately, does not tell us which squadron he was then attached to.

The crew were unhurt and the next morning given a guided tour of Plymouth's recent bomb damage by the Mayor, Lord Astor.

From Plymouth they took the train back to London where they enjoyed a night in that war ravaged city, visiting Soho and the Windmill Theatre and being caught up in an air-raid, before returning to base.

Churchill visits Plymouth in 1941. In World War 2, the Royal Dockyard at Plymouth was a primary target for the German Luftwaffe. The two main shopping centres and nearly every civic building were destroyed, along with 26 schools, eight cinemas and 41 churches. In total, 3,754 houses were destroyed with a further 18,398 seriously damaged. In those 59 bombing attacks, 1,172 civilians were killed and 4,448 injured.

 

Describing the October 31st Schiermonnikoog crash he later related- 'The day began normally. The previous night we had rather unwisely gone to Kings Lynn for a party, but apart from a dry mouth and drowsy head, October 31st was nothing special.

Although we had for lunch, oddly enough, some very good sirloin, quite unusual for English rations. The mess-steward had prepared an excellent horseradish  and French sauce, which everyone thought a miracle. I remember thinking vaguely, "It seems like the last supper, this is only a lunch." But it was 'my' last lunch in England for the next 4 years.'

While approaching the Dutch Frisian Islands, on the way to the target, the German port of Bremen, a Messerschmitt 110, piloted by Oberleutnant Paul Gildner of 4.NJG1, operating from the German base at Leeuwarden, made a copybook attack from astern and below our Wellington at 19.30 hours on the night of 31 October 1941. We never saw him until it was too late.

We were never in with the chance of a shot. He just loomed out of the murk with a startling suddenness and opened up with a prolonged and devastating burst of cannon fire. It was all over in a matter of seconds. No time to consider. One minute we were happily on course and the next we were plunging down and about to crash, ironically, on Schiermonnikoog itself.

A beam of light plays about Peter, a machine gun rattles (above us presumably) and rough sounding German voices through the mist shout 'Achtung! The indistinct shadow of someone in uniform, the cold shine of a bayonet, a menacing helmeted figure emerges and a hand seems to aim a pistol and another hand stretches and grabs my shoulder. I stumble and fall, but the hand grabs me and then the sudden sensation that I'm trapped now, with all the uncertainty that goes with it.

Fate decreed that I should survive this, plus some enlightening, even if somewhat dreary years in German prison camps before liberation by Russian troops in May 1945'.

 

Photo taken at Stalag Luft III with a clandestine camera and developed after the war. 'X' marks Albert Robinson.

 

The crew were imprisoned in a bunker while awaiting transportation to Amsterdam.

To let them know they were among friends, Robbie heard school-children singing an old 1914-18 war song, 'Its a long way to Tipperary', as they passed by, and on the day of their departure for Amsterdam, when the airmen were marched down the narrow street surrounded by their German captors, friendly local islanders, gathering in small groups, or watching from doorways and windows, were secretly giving them the 'V' sign and knowing looks that clearly meant - 'this is what we do now, but it will not always be like this! '

"You could feel it on Schiermonnikoog in 1941 - a kind of hidden power. I was strengthened as a result."

I believe that the German commander of the island was right when he said to me while I was on the ferry en route to Amsterdam prison. "You will never forget Schiermonnikoog, the Island of the Grey Monk." And I never will.

They arrived at Amsterdam prison and placed in the care of the Gestapo.

Their methods were not nice and consisted primarily of repeated statements that I was not registered as a prisoner of war but a discarded piece of trash that could be disposed of when they felt like it.
To make this clear they took me to a courtyard where Dutch Jews had seen standing in line before they were sent to Bergen Belsen and other camps, and was told that would be my final destination if I did not collaborate, or perhaps, they might just shoot me.
One of my interrogators, who spoke almost perfect English, told me that he had been in an British college for several years and that the English, especially the group of terror-fliers and Winston Churchill, were scum. He added that it would be a pleasure after the war to eradicate them.
I pointed out to him that in his case he did not understand the English. During his time at the college, English history should have taught him that we always won the final battle, and that was still the most important.
He was not very happy with this answer and exploded in hysterical anger. His English was worse as unintelligible threats were shouted. He drew his pistol, and it seemed as if he was going to order the firing squad to liquidate Churchill's 'gangster'. 

After a pause he lowered his pistol. "Tomorrow," the officer said, "tomorrow we'll maybe shoot."
I now began to understand that this was a typical Gestapo method of questioning, using intimidation and violence.

This abuse lasted until the day that I was told in somber tones that I was being moved to a 'special camp' where they knew how to deal with people like me.

It was quite a relief when this 'special camp', turned out to be Dulagluft I at Frankfurt, the official interrogation camp for all captured aircrews.

Arriving at Frankfurt we were hissed and booed by local people on the station platform. An old woman stepped forward and spat at me and the German captain pushed her away roughly.

At Dulagluft I, except for some minor irritation, my treatment was carried out according to proper military procedure.

I was then transferred to the notorious Stalag VIII B on the Silesian plain where the mid-winter temperatures, often far below freezing, proved that our RAF uniforms were not designed for such extreme conditions, and were of little protection against frostbite."

After three and a half years as a prisoner, he described in his book, the final weeks of imprisonment at Stalagluft situated in Barth, Germany.

"With the 2nd British army advancing to northern Germany and the Russians approaching Stettin, and Stalagluft I in between, we began to ask ourselves which army would reach the camp first."

On April 30, 1945 the Senior American Officer (SAO) had several conferences with the Kommandant, who had received orders to move Stalag Luft 1 and prevent it from falling into the hands of the Russians. The SAO stated that POWs would not move unless force was used, and the Kommandant finally agreed to avoid bloodshed.

Late that night the Germans turned out the lights and left the camp, leaving the POWs behind.

On May 1 a first contact was made with the advancing Russian troops and Red Army General Marozil officially liberated the camp on 4 May 1945.

The Russians then provided the POWs with flour, potatoes, eggs and about 100 head of cattle expropriated from nearby German homes and farms. The prisoners ate well and the Russians provided entertainment and vodka.

 

 

No effort was made to evacuate the POWs from the area. There was even serious concern that they might be marched off to Russia.

On May 6, 1945 US Colonel Byerly, the former SAO, left the camp with 2 officers of a British airborne division and flew to England the next day. After reporting to 8th Air Force headquarters on the conditions at the camp, arrangements were made to evacuate the liberated POWs by air.

On May 13, 1945, forty-one B-17G’s were sent from RAF Bassingbourn in the UK to a runway near Barth in order to evacuate some of the prisoners.

"An American pilot of a Flying Fortress flew me back home from a defeated Germany.

When we approached the white cliffs of Dover the pilot asked me to come into the cockpit.

"There they are, Robbie," he said," I guess you're happy to see them."

" I never expected to see you again", I could only say.

He pushed the stick down until we were flying just above the waves and, approaching the cliffs, he pulled up quickly and flew over.

It was an emotional moment. I believe it was then, with the glistening sun on the white cliffs, I realized that people should always be prepared to pay the price for freedom. To imagine the 'Uebermenschen' brutally wandering around down there in England, as I had seen them in Holland and Poland, was dire."

Soon after arriving back in the UK he married Kathleen Alton (1920-1980) on August 1, 1945, at Holy Trinity Church, Milford, in Derbyshire. His lifelong friend, William L Ryde, was best man.

William had also been a prisoner of war in Germany after being torpedoed while serving as a leading signalman in HMS Greyhound during July 1941.

Robbie and Kathleen had two children, Carolyn (1946) and Elizabeth (1951).

He is recorded in 1949 as taking over as the landlord of Derby's Cavendish Hotel.

We know he returned to the island of Schiermonnikoog on at least two occasions, in 1963 and 1976.

On the earlier visit he placed flowers on the grave of his friend, Sgt. John Tate, who was shot down there in July 1941. (see our earlier account on this page of the loss of Hampden Bomber AD835)

It was in the summer of 1976, while living at Repton, he collaborated with Dutch researchers and wrote 'The Grey Monk'.

In later years he also added his experiences as a Wellington navigator to Martin Bowman's book, Bomber Command Reflections of War, Vol.1.

The couple were living in Truro, Cornwall, when Kathleen died in 1980. They had been married 35 years.

Robbie was 77 years old, and still living in Cornwall, when he passed away in November 1995.

 

 

 

Willem's Visit to Schiermonnikoog in August 2012 

 

 

The flag and colours of Schiermonnikoog island (on the rooftop of the well known Hotel van der Werff ) And Vredenhof, the poem on stone by Lammert Wiersma. It's so beautiful.......so real. By the way, this stone is one in a "poem path" across the whole island.

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The Northern tower is still the (only) lighthouse today, also the lookout for the Coastguard (radar equipped etc.), and erected in 1853 - 1854. It is 37 meters in height and 55.5 meters above sea level. The light beams over 28 sea miles. (Even in Dronryp we can see the light of this tower on clear weather nights).  Like all the Dutch lighthouses in the war it was switched off, by order of the Germans. The second photo shows the the Southern tower.  Already during the war it was not in use anymore as the 2nd lighthouse. From 1950 to 1992 it was the "watertoren" (the drinkwater bassin) of the island and nowadays it is simply an antenna-tower (mobile phone etc.) but recognised as an old monument, being also erected in 1853 - 1854.

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In the  Langestreek public garden positioned in the heart of the village of Schiermonnikoog you can find an unknown Allied propeller, fished up in the nets of a fishing vessel from Zoutkamp habour (Gr.) Southeast of S'-oog, on the mainland coast. Even after all these years, engines of war-time airplanes are still being recovered.Also in the public garden is this German 8.8cm flak gun which was recovered from a wreck by the divers of the "Ecuador" team of Terschelling island (Wrakkenmuseum in Formerum)

The Cemetery

 

Inscriptions on the walls at the Cemetery entrance

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Outside the cemetery, near the entrance and a/d. Reddingsweg, there is erected in recent years this sheet of safety glass, on which in short texts is the history of the cemetery, named in the beginning (1914-1918) "the (German) sailors cemetery" or the "drowning persons cemetery"      


There is a plaque situated on the right of the morgue's front door: showing the list of sponsors, of the building companies, in Groningen city etc., who delivered in that time the building materials for the morgue, like bricks, timber and roof tiles, for free. 

The captains and directors of these concerns came later to S'-oog, for a few days , to see the new building, staying for one night or more in Sake's hotel, also free. 

And see on top of this memorial: a typical Frisian inland cargo ship, a so called "skûtsje", a sailing ship in 1800 till the beginning of 1900, for transporting shells, mud, earth, peat etc. etc., and also things like building materials if necessary.

 

The oldest and low part of the cemetery, in front of the former morgue (nowadays a simple storeroom for garden tools etc.); in this part of the cemetery are buried sailors of the Imperial Kriegsmarine of Germany, washed ashore in the years 1914-1918, etc. (the original 13 graves), and of course, since 28 October 1939, the grave of A.C. I  Alan Wilson,the first RAF airman of W.W. II buried in the Netherlands (grave 16).

"The first stone (brick) is laid down by S. v/d. Werff, on Schiermonnikoog, June 1925 " (memory plaque in front of the morgue, left of the front door).  Sake van der Werff was born on the 30th January 1870, in Dokkum.

In the Wassermann bunker on the island they have some of these photos in an exhibition, etc.          

           

Stichting Bunkermuseum Schlei Schiermonnikoog 

Anna Dasovic's Vredenhof Montage

Dhr. Wyb Jan Groendijk, member of the local council of Schiermonnikoog, etc. etc., and  since 1977, after "Juffrouw Dien", today's carer of the Vredenhof Cemetery.     

His email-address - w.groendijk@schiermonnikoog.nl

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A memorial service 4th May 2005

 

 

 

 

 

Go to Schiermonnikoog Part 2

 

 

A

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 Harlingen

19

Hampden AE 428, & Koudum

33

A tragic collision?

8

RCAF 428 Ghost Squadron

20

Willem's War-time photos

34

Hudson & Ventura losses

9

Zwolle's ' De Groene ' group

21

Shipdham Airfield & the 44th

35

101 Squadron

10

408 Squadron's Leipzig raid

21b

68th Squadron's Casualties

11

Friesland radar

22

Rottum Island

12

Lancasters DS776  & JA921

23

Bergen General Cemetery

13  Cartoons  24 Lemmer    

 

 

back to 626 Squadron

 

 

 

 

 

 email-address:  w.jong1@upcmail.nl

 

 

uk :  tom.bint2@gmail.com