103 Squadron RAF
Mission :Hasselt railwaystation
11-12 May 1944
“Serial Range NE324 – NE181 This aircraft was one of 600LancasterMk.111s ordered from A.V.Roe (Chadderton) and delivered from Dec43 to May44 with Merlin 38 engines. ND700 was delivered to 103 Sqdn 20Mar44. ND700 took part in the following Key Operations:Berlin24/25Mar44; Nuremburg 30/31Mar44;Karlsruhe24/25Apr44;Hasselt11/12May44-Lost When lost this aircraft had a total of 122 hours. ND700 was one of two 103 Sqdn Lancasters lost on this operation. See: JB733 Airborne 2148 11May44 from Elsham Wolds to bomb railway yards. Hit by cannon fire from a night-fighter and exploded. Wreckage was spread over a wide area near Oostmalle (Antwerpen), . All are buried in Schoonselhof Cemetery. F/S Agar’s award had been Gazetted 19oct43, while that for F/O Vander Dasson appeared 10Sep43; he had served with 619 Sqdn, W/C Goodman came from Fish Hoekk in the Cape Province of South Africa. W/C H.R.Goodman Royal Hellenic AFC KIA P/O P.D.Vickers KIA F/S G.H.Agar DFM KIA F/O W.L.Vander Dasson DFM RCAF KIA Sgt C.L.Finighan KIA F/S R.White KIA F/O R.McLeod RCAF KIA F/O Vander Dasson, at the time a Sgt, survived a very serious crash in Lancaster R5752 6/7Sep42 against Duisburg. ”
At Elsham Wolds Airfield 103 bomber Squadron prepares there Lancaster bombers for a raid to the marshalling yards at Hasselt Belgium.
Lancaster ND700 “PM-X” is bombed up with eleven 1000 pounders and four 500 pounders.
Wing Commander Goodman is the “skipper” on ND700 for this night mission. Normally the crew would fly with there regular pilot, Squadron Leader Van Rolleghem DFC , a very experienced Belgian bomber pilot. But because of an ulcer “Rollo” could not fly this mission.
This period the R.A.F. would ask “Maximum effort” from the bomber Squadrons. So Goodman takes the decision to fly with this most experienced crew just for one time, hereby promising them to rest after this raid until there Skipper is back on flying duties .
At 21.48h “PM-X” takes of on course to Hasselt, after one hour the Lancaster crosses the enemy coast . A half hour later ND700 is circling the target area. By this time the railway centre in Hasselt is covered with a thick fog. Already 39 bombers dropt there bombs on the target . Circling high above the bomber stream is the Master bomber. He sees it is of no use because of the fog and calls the mission of . Many heavily loaded bombers among which is ND700 start the trip back home.
Already the German night fighters patrolling the sky to search for the bombers .The night fighters would claim fifteen bombers that night, the Flak (German anti aircraft units) would claim five. The fact is that sixteen bombers would crash on occupied territory that night.
Sgt Witham, survivor of Lancaster ME737 that crashed the same night recalls : “We were sitting ducks, all hell let lose. A Junkers 88 came up from underneath and fired upon us with his guns, we didn’t know what hit us “ (this probably happened also to ND700)
By then the German night fighters were equipped with “Schragemusik” upward firing guns ,a technique unsuspected by bomber crews.
The German night fighter would position itself under the bomber out of sight from the air gunners. Than he would fire up in to the petrol tanks in the wing, setting the bomber on fire.
Around midnight Lancaster ND700 was hit by a night fighter, the plane is losing height now. Wing Cdr. Goodman makes a wide turn above the sand dunes of Malle, hereby dropping the bombs. None of the crew jumped out of the plane. That is why we think the pilot tried to land it.
Just above the ground the fiercely burning Lancaster exploded, the fuselage is smacked in to the ground at 00.10h. killing the whole crew.
The next morning there was a huge crater already filled up with groundwater .The parts of the plane were scattered over a wide area. Because of the water the Germans recovered only one crewmember, air gunner Flight /Sgt White. He was buried at the closed cemetery of Fort3,the Germans used these closed cemeteries because they could not stand that the locals put flowers to the graves.
After the war in 1947 ,the Missing Research and Enquiry Service from the R.A.F. recovered the rest of the crew.
Today the crew still rests at the Schoonselhof Cemetery in Antwerp among 101 soldiers of WW1 and ,1456 soldiers and airmen of WW2
One of the local eyewitnesses told me “That pilot is a true hero, he steered that burning plane just between the narrow gap of two towns (Oostmalle and Wechelderzande) ,we owe our live to this man “
After 68 years and seven days, Lancaster ND700 finely returned home to Elsham Wolds.
Planehunters and APCK donated a frame with parts of ND700 recovered from the crash site to the Elsham Wolds memorial room.
(Steven Volkaerts donating a frame from Lancaster JB733 crashed the same night,see topic JB733)
With special thanks to Luc Cox, Pascal Kempenaers , Geert Van de Put , Vincent Mertens ,Wim Govaerts , APCK , Karel Valkiers , Steven Volkaerts ,Tim Wilmsen , 51 Sqn. History Society , Planehunters team and all the people involved in the memorial service.
A special and emotional thank you for attending the memorial service and all the kind words from the families of the crew. Thank u so much for supporting us and appreciating our work
Chairman Planehunters Recoveryteam
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