An almost-forgotten crash (rough English translation)

This is of the 24 September ‘de Gelderlander’ article…

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Eyewitness Riet Las from Hees with a ​​picture she painted of her parents’ house and shop in Hees.

by Harm Graat

NIJMEGEN – “I was in the shop as usual. My father had a bakery, my brothers delivered the bread and I ran a grocery store at the house. The shop hadn’t received supplies for a week. It was 25 September 1944, and as early as the 17th we’d been hearing tales about the impending liberation of Nijmegen. Suddenly there was this sound, this wailing sound that could only be made by one thing: a crashing plane. There was no time left to go in the basement. Same for the stairs and the toilet – two other places that our father had designated as shelter – it was too late. I ducked under a table. A huge uproar. I dared not look at first. Thought everything would have gone. But by the dust, I saw that the door was still standing. The whole shop was still there, and the porch. I ran into the street, the Oude Dorpsstraat in Hees, now called the Korte Bredestraat, right over from the Petruskerk, which had lain in ruins since 1942. Outside I saw a woman on fire, flames leaping from her hair. I saw my brother taking a big piece of cloth, a curtain or something, to her to beat it out. A leg lay in the street. The plane had come down two doors away on a double house. A broken wing stood like a ladder right up against our own home. There was fire, fire. But there were no fire engines. At the warehouse in Hees there was a pre-war pump car with hoses. An English soldier climbed the rubble in order to extinguish it, calling for them to wet him. From our house I heard my mother cry, “Marietje, what happened, has the porch collapsed?” I cried, “No, it’s Pietje van Son’s!” At that moment, in all the chaos, a customer came into the shop. He said: “I’ve come to buy a loaf”. I shouted at him “Man, how can you come for a loaf now? The whole lot here is on fire!” That man was found to be in shock. The leg that was in the street, turned out to be the pilot’s, who was later found in the back garden. A single woman who rented a room in the house that was hit – Mrs Satink – was killed instantly. The others who lived in there – the old lady Dodemont-Van Son and her two daughters – died in the days afterwards. Dina and Nolda were those daughters. They were much older than me, but I knew them well. It was Dina that I had seen on fire. Something you never forget. The funny thing is, I didn’t experience it as anything traumatic, that crash. There was also: so, luckily we’ve survived this. You were young. It was also exciting. That English soldier who had put out the fire was at our table eating bread that same evening. My mother gave him my brother’s clothes. Meanwhile we dried his uniform in the baker’s oven. When that was taken out, everything had shrunk. Even his cap no longer fit! He was able to laugh about it. I have always thought that there was only one crewmember on that plane. They said it was a Spitfire, a small device. In the years after the war we have talked about, but never really thought about it. Neither the casualties who fell to that bomb in 1942. Hees, then a garden village, was never in the spotlight. And in the war naturally so much happened, especially in the city. I always kept thinking about that pilot. It was never clear who he was. That ate at me. After the War I adopted the graves of other soldiers, I met the relatives, I saw firsthand how important it is that relatives know what happened. A few years ago I came in contact with Mr. Everard Bakker, who looked into a plane crash over Schaarsbergen. I told him I would like to know what happened with us. I thought I’d never hear any more about it. A few months ago he called. “It’s resolved”, he said. I could not believe it. It appears to have been a much bigger war plane than we always thought, with more occupants. I have to get used to that idea. It is good that after all these years, seventy years, answers have still come up. For me, but especially for the victims and their kin. They are not forgotten.”

Killed:
Everdina Dodemont 65 yr.
Arnolda Dodemont 45 yr.
Maria Dodemont-van Son 89 yrs.
Maria Satink ?
Stanley Harrison RAF 25 yr.
George Robert Munton RAF 32 yr.
Harold Morris Nottle RAAF (Aus) 25 yr.
Burial report: Garden House Hees.
Ronald George Taylor Escaped by parachute

Tomorrow it will be seventy years ago that a B-25 Mitchell of the British 98th squadron crashed on a house right in front of the Petruskerk in Hees, Nijmegen. It caused four civilian deaths and killed three aircrew. Amateur researcher Everard Bakker, employed in Defence, did years of research into the crash of unit FW-211, assisted by relatives of the British airmen who perished. In June, ‘the puzzle was completed ​’; the aircraft has in fact been missing for seventy years. Tomorrow there is a grand memorial at the Petruskerk. The service starts at 16:30hrs; the chances are that there are not enough places in the church, let the organization know. The ceremony that is accessible for everyone starts between 17:30 and 17:45. At 18.15hrs the Last Post is sounded, and at 18:20, the time of the crash, there is a flypast by a Spitfire.

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