Crew: Clarke, Dutch Eyewitness Report

The Clarke crew (Crew: Clarke) were all lost at the end of January 1944, when their Lancaster was shot down over the Netherlands. 
The Dutch report of the crash serves to remind us how dangerous the air war was for civilians, and how grateful the Dutch were to those who fought to liberate them from the German Occupation.

From David McMahon, December 2008:

The translation of the crash report given below is a lightly edited version of an article which appeared in “Roundabout”,  a residents association magazine from Welling, Kent, in March 2003. It seems to be a translation of the Dutch description of the event written in 1982 by Jan Smit.

Clarke crash report1 (2) - Copy
The Dutch document was obtained through the good offices of Wim Krijkamp and copies of the relevant pages of “Roundabout” from Pieter Korshuize of the “Stichting Aircraft Recovery Group 1940-1945”  Pieter also tells me that he has information about other aircraft shot down in Holland and would be pleased to share them with anyone who is interested.

KOLHORN – 30/31 JANUARY 1944

A Dutchman’s Story

   Kolhorn escaped a disaster on 30 Jan 1944 when a British bomber exploded above the village.  All seven crew members died.

Round about midnight all hell broke loose above Kolhorn.  A huge four-engined Lancaster appeared for the second time.  The locals thought their last moments had come.  The Lancaster flew lower and lower.  It was directed at the village.  All of a sudden a ball of fire appeared.  The bomber seemed to disintegrate.  It blew up above the village. The crew had no chance to escape.  They met a horrifying death.

According to witnesses, Flip Timmerman and Simon Groot, everything was like a huge nightmare.  Thinking back, Timmerman can recall all that happened as though it was only yesterday.

He explained it all took place on a Saturday night.  “We thought we were going to have a pleasant evening. We had been to the Theatre that evening. The church clock sounded midnight.  My wife and I were on our way home, early for us, the usual dance had been forbidden by the Germans.  We heard the aircraft and saw it come over on the way back from a raid on Germany.  It flew in the direction of Schagen and the coast.  It had probably dropped its bombs on Germany.  It was being followed by a German night fighter which was firing tracer all the time. It was from the ‘Flieqhorst Leeuwarden’ whose fighters were always present above this area.  The gunners of the Lancaster were firing back with everything they had.  Unfortunately, the German managed to hit one wing and an engine.  When the bomber was over Schagen it turned and came back, burning, in the direction of Kolhorn.  It was a frightening sight.”

The crew of the Lancaster was a mixed Australian and British one under the pilot 22 year old Ernest S Clarke.  He probably realised they would never make it all the way home and was looking for a suitable place to crash-land.  This explanation is offered because the Lancaster turned to starboard just before the village.  It was then flying toward the Waarder Polder and the Wierirgemeer lake.

Those watching from the Dijk heaved a sigh of relief but then the flying inferno came back toward Kolhorn.  A wing broke off and the Lancaster appeared to stand still in the air, then the plane blew up just above our village.

Those on the Dijk saw the pieces falling everywhere.  The crew never had a chance to escape. Between Oude Streek and the Church one of the crew was found on a roof; one of his legs was missing and he was badly burned.  He had tried to jump at the last minute; his chute was half opened.  He was dead.
A little nearer the bakery, an Australian with red hair was found.  Kleas Keuns managed to take his watch and some personal papers from him.  These belonging were later returned to the next of kin.  Keuns’s contact with the family resulted in him emigrating to Australia later.

The tail went through the roof of Piet Pool’s house.  The tail turret landed in the garden of Lsjf.  The gunner was still strapped in behind his guns.  His body appeared to be unmarked; he probably broke his neck.

Along the area in front of the carpenter’s shop the main fuselage hit the ground.  Two crew members were in it.  It was here that something shameful happened and who was responsible was never found.  The two crew members were robbed of their flying boots during the night’s panic.

On the other side of the Kolhorner Diep, an engine landed in the middle of the road.  The sound of bullets could be heard going off everywhere.

The nose lay at the farm of Blaauboer.  It is probable that bodies were in it.  Unfortunately the area was sealed off by the Germans so we will never know.

For the village of Kolhorn the 30th January was a night that will never be forgotten.
Under the trees, close to the spot where the crew lost their lives, in their last resting place, a simple monument was erected by the population for these brave young men.  It reads:

They died for us.

The citizens of Barsingehorn

31 August 1945.

Seven simple graves marked with white stone remind us of them.