More then 50 years ago, in 1944, British and other allied bomber-planes flew from England every evening to the cities in Germany. They bombed the Nazi-cities for months. People in Holland could hear the planes passing every evening and every night. Many innocent persons died in these German cities, most of the planes made it back to their bases in England, some where shot down on their way back.

One of these planes was the Lancaster OF-J for Johnny, JB659 of 97 Squadron.

The seven crew members: Alan Hart, Royal Australian Air Force (Pilot), Leslie Clifton, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Flight Engineer), Harold Boal, Royal Australian Air Force (Navigator), Gordon Williams, Royal Canadian Air Force (Air Bomber), William Jones, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Wireless Operator), Douglas Hicks, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Mid Gunner) and Melville Price, Royal Canadian Air Force (Rear Gunner).

This huge Lancaster bomber took off from Bourn Airfield in Cambridgeshire on 30 January 1944, with a crew of three British, two Canadians and two Australians, their destination Berlin.
While returning from its mission, the aircraft was intercepted by a German night fighter. The german fighter was attacking the plane from beneath, where the allied crew had no defense. Changes for survival for them were small.
My grandparents, Cor and Adri van der Bijl, living in the Houtrakpolder, just outside Amsterdam, are standing outside and watching.

The farm Sumatra in Houtrakpolder, near Amsterdam

They are watching together with other people the things going on in the air. The dark januari sky is lighted by the gunshots from the German fighter. Suddenly, the Lancaster plane is hit and is on fire... the plane is going down with a huge dive towards the farmhouse of my grandparents. All nine childeren are inside and asleep. My grandmother runs inside to catch the youngest Isa, one year old, who was sleeping near the frontdoor.

At this moment, the plane crashes on the frontside of the farmhouse... A huge fire appears, the plane-gasoline sets my grandfather on fire... the basement is smashed and a crater of 5 meters deep appears...

Half of the farmhouse is gone. Through a hole in the roof, one girl, Agnes, manages to get out, and sees another sister, Ria, already standing there... Flames on my grandfather are dimmed by sand with the help of a farmworker. This man, also helps my mother, Bernadette and another sister Paula out of the house.

One brother, Wim, is trying to drag his youngest brothers and sisters out of the farmhouse by pulling them with their pyjama's... he has numerous burns and is in shock. He managed just in time to get out before the farmhouse collapases totally.

Both my grandparents, Cor (42) and Adri (40) were killed, together with 4 children Harry(5), Johan(4), Tonny(3) and Ida(1).

Tony, Johan, Ida and Harry sitting in the cornfields behind the farm in the summer of 1943.

My mother survided together with three sisters and one brother.

My mother Bernadette standing in front of the farmhouse Sumatra, wearing the dress, which was found back 56 years later...

Last summer, the crash-site was opened after 56 years. Many parts from the plane where dug up. Also a lot of personal belongings from my mothers family came from the site. A small dress, my mother used to wear had quite an emotional impact on them. She had a picture from her early youth with this dress. Now she has the dress back in her hands... This is still very emotional thing.
Not all bodies from the plane-crew were dug up in 1944. The missing bodies were found last year and will be buried next friday.

To remember the Van Der Bijl family and bombercrew, a Memorial monument was unveiled on November 29th, 2001.

Op 30 januari 1944 stortte een Britse bommenwerper op de boerderij waar Ria Verbruggen-van der Bijl (1934) met haar familie woonde. Daarbij kwamen Ria's ouders, drie broertjes en haar babyzusje om. Ria, toen negen jaar, en drie zusjes gingen bij een tante wonen, haar broer bij een oom. In 2000 werd de bommenwerper opgegraven en kwamen speelgoed, serviesgoed en kleding tevoorschijn. In 2001 is op de plaats van de boerderij een monument onthuld.



more on the web:
Pictures from the day from RAF (29/11/2001) / Onthulling monument Haarlemmerliede - Dutch Airforce Salvation Crew (29/11/2001) / Memorial unveiled as Second World War flying heroes buried in Amsterdam / Press release British Embassy in The Hague / RAF Wickenby memorial museum / BBC Missing in Action / Berging Avro Lancaster Dutch Airforce Salvation Crew / Article from Haarlems Dagblad / Het Parool