For the peoples of the occupied countries, the flight of Bomber Command aircraft overhead often seemed a beacon of hope that one day the Nazis would be defeated and Liberation would come. This was despite the fact that when Bomber Command aircraft were shot down over their lands there was sometimes a considerable human cost.
One such incident came in the night of 23 June 1943 when the Armstrong crew’s Lancaster was shot down over the city of Utrecht.
The photographs above, which show the aftermath of the shooting down, were taken by the Germans. They were later stolen by the Dutch as a permanent memorial to what had happened. The photographs come from the collection of Co Maarschalkerweerd, who was a very young boy at the time of the crash, living in Utrecht with his family. For most of his life Co has been gathering material about the Armstrong crew and what happened to them. These photographs appear with his kind permission.
Co Maarschalkerweerd wrote an article on the shooting down for a magazine (After the Battle, no 41, published 1983 in London). The article is a thorough account of the aftermath of the shooting down of a Lancaster over an urban area. It is a grim reminder of the cost to Dutch civilians of the RAF’s strategic air offensive.
The many photographs which illustrate the article show how close the falling remains of the aircraft came to killing numerous people. In one house, no 38 Palmstraat, the complete nose of the aircraft smashed through the roof and came to rest inches above the bed of the occupants – the ammunition from the forward gun hanging down in festoons.
In other houses, serious fires were started. Several adults and children were killed as a direct result of the Lancaster debris or the resultant fires.
The bodies of the five crew members who were killed were later found in the same area of small, neatly kept houses. Honored for their sacrifice, they were buried in the local cemetery.