Kaart van de vliegrouten dd. 11/12 juni 1943 (bron: Public Record Office, Londen).

Locations of Cockpit and Engine after crash

Digging up engine in january 1985

Frits Reurekas, Karel Hennipman, Jaap Hennipman, G. Overmans en Hans Hartsink

(foto: F. Reurekas)


Enigne of HE-154 as stored now at Koninklijke Saan in Diemen

(foto A. Saan)

The fatal mission

Wellington HE 154 was part of a group of no less than 783 Allied bombers who bombed the German city of Düsseldorf on the night of 11/12 June 1943. An area of 5 by 8 km was completely destroyed, in particular a part of the city centre, 42 industrial companies, 20 military objects and 8 ships. Of the 143 Wellington bombers who participated in this raid, ten did not return, including HE 154. The "Operations Record Book" of the RAAF of 12 June 1943 stated:

Glow of fires on return after passing AMSTERDAM. This aircraft took off at 23.14 and has been reported missing.

 

Air Protection Service

In 1936 in the Air Protection Service ("Luchtbeschermingsdienst" LBD) was established in the Netherlands to detect possible enemy air attacks and to warn the Dutch civilians. This civil service had observation posts at various strategic locations. In the "LBD Record Book, section 'WK-lookout Amsterdam" of 12 June 1943 we can read the following interesting remarks:

 

2.17 pm.: WK reports: at 15° + 40° + 45° defence.

2.18 pm.: WK reports: plane shot down at 15° far away.

 

["WK" is short for "Wolkenkrabber", the Dutch translation for "skyscraper". In fact in 1943 this was the tallest building in Southern Amsterdam.]

 

So Wellington HE 154 turned out to have been shot at 15° (east of the Amsterdam skyscraper) and had been crash "far away" at 2.18 pm. It was not mentioned which German anti-aircraft gun had shot down the Allied aircraft.

FLAK

From the "Raid Tracks" map of HE 154 it can be concluded that the German air defence systems (FLAK), as far as were know to the Allies, were planned to avoided as much as possible. The return flight of the HE 154 ran from Düsseldorf via Arnhem to the coast of Lake IJssel (IJsselmeer) to continue via the cities of Muiden, Diemen, Eastern Amsterdam and the Northern part of the county of North-Holland crossing The Chanel to Leconfield Airbase in Yorkshire. For the time being it is assumed that the HE 154 was shot down by a mobile German FLAK-unit that was operational near Muiden.

Loss Register

The exact location where HE 154 crashed in 1943 has caused some confusion over the years.

Most parts of the crashed Wellington were found within the municipality of Diemen. Next some remains also were recovered in the near-by municipality of Muiden.

The Dutch Ministry of Defence states in its "Loss Register 1939-1945": time of the crash 02.16 hours; crash location "Diemen (Overdiemerpolder)".

At sunrise of June 12th, many German soldiers came over to recover the remains of the Wellington for valuable scrap metal. Because of the hard landing of HE 154 one of the engines was completely broken off and sank into the swampy peat. Due to lack of the right equipment, the Germans did not succeed in excavating the heavy engine. The complete salvage operation of the aircraft wreck took about four days.

Reconstruction

If all the facts are put in order, a fairly complete picture is created of the tragic events that took place during the night of the 11th on the 12th of June 1943. In view of the flight plan, HE 154 flew over central Netherlands back to its base in England after depositing its bomb load at Düsseldorf. Given the flight plan, it is very likely that a FLAK-battery in or near-by the city of Muiden was responsible for the shooting of HE 154.

Captain Green and his crew were forced to make an important decision either to leave the heavily damaged and burning aircraft by parachute, or to make an emergency landing. Consulted experts in the field of aviation noted that the three propeller blades of the excavated Bristol Hercules aircraft engine are still in the so-called 'vane position'. In this position, the propeller blades are set parallel to the flight direction and thus produce the least air resistance. This procedure is necessary when making an emergency landing where both engines have failed. Because the Wellington now functioned as a glider, precious minutes were won to find a suitable location for an emergency landing in the dark. Apparently, the damage incurred was so great that a change of course to the somewhat northern Lake IJssel (IJsselmeer) was no longer possible. The crash location turned out to be the green meadow of farmer Hennípman in Overdiemen. The knowledge that the shot and uncontrollable burning aircraft most likely would have crash on top of living apartments in Diemen and/or Eastern Amsterdam, must have motivated the crew to try to make a dangerous but controlled emergency landing. Unfortunately, they had to pay this heroic deed with their lives.