Crash in Rucphen (English version)

To produce this page, material from the book: ‘The abrupt end…’, written by Ad van Uffelen and Frank van Overveld, was used with permission.

Hereafter we briefly report on the crash of the Halifax bomber in the Pierestraat in Rucphen.

Number of crashed aircraft during WWII per municipality

During the Second World War, about 6,000 military aircraft crashed over the Netherlands. More than 1,000 of these ended up in North Brabant. This concerns both Allied and German aircraft

One of these planes crashed in the night of June 22, 1943 near our village, in the vicinity of ‘De Posthoorn’. Because of the many coke and steel factories, synthetic oil factories and other war industries, the Ruhr area was of great importance to Nazi Germany’s war effort. The Allies decided to deal a final blow to the German war industry with large-scale bombing flights and to break German morale. The bombing of Krefeld is part of this ‘Battle of the Ruhr Area’. 

Top view of the location where the Halifax bomber crashed

Not all planes return to England. In the night of 21 to 22 June, 44 aircraft were lost, nine of which crashed on Brabant territory. One of these aircraft crashes near the built-up area of ​​Rucphen.

The plane that crashed near Rucphen was a Handley Page Halifax of the Royal Canadian Air Force, a four-engine bomber.

This aircraft departed from Middleton St. George Air Base shortly before midnight on June 21, with destination Krefeld. 

Handley Page Halifax

On the way there, the Halifax is picked up by the radar of the “Biberstellung” in Oostvoorne. From the ‘Biberstellung’, ‘Fliegerhorst Gilze-Rijen’, where the German night fighters are stationed, is informed of the arrival of the bombers.

Wilhelm Johnen (1921 – 2002)

Above West Brabant, the bomber is attacked at an altitude of 5,300 meters by the German night fighter Wilhelm Johnen of ‘NachtJagdGeschwader 1’ in his Messerschmitt and shot out of the air.

On board the Halifax were seven crew members.

Three crew members manage to evacuate the plane by parachute. They landed on the estate of the Hoendervangers family on Willeke van Oerschestraat, now Pierestraat. They die in this.

Current situation of the location where the crash occurred.

The bomber narrowly overran the farm of the Hoendervangers family and crashed at 1:43 am, 200 meters away, at this location. The four other crew members also die here. We will never know whether Colin Rees Pearce, the pilot, deliberately crashed his plane here to prevent the Halifax from crashing into the built-up area of ​​Rucphen. What we do know is that after the plane was hit, the pilot dropped some of the bombs over the forest area. Probably to prevent those bombs from inadvertently causing damage in built-up areas.

Testimonies from witnesses have shown that the wreckage of the aircraft was scattered over a large area. These wreckage were most likely recovered by the Germans shortly after the crash. The German (war) industry had a great need for raw materials and therefore the materials were usually reused by the Germans.

Field investigations have been carried out at the suspected location of the crash to confirm whether the Handley Page Halifax actually crashed at the location in question. The debris found confirms that the location investigated is indeed the place where the plane crashed.

Fam van Dijk and Kamerbeek visit the crash site, photo taken by Rein Kamerbeek from Rotterdam

The remains of the crew were recovered by the German 719th Infantry Division and initially transferred to the ‘Kriegerfriedhof Zuylen’ cemetery in Breda. In 1946 the remains were transferred to the military cemetery in Bergen op Zoom.

Out of respect and so that they are not forgotten, we mention here the names of the crew members who died. 

Pilot Captain Colin Rees Pearce.
Born in New Zealand, died in the crash, aged 22. Posthumously promoted to Pilot Officer
Navigator William Tidswell Ellis.
Born in New Zealand, died in the crash, aged 27. Posthumously promoted to Pilot Officer
Tail gunner Edgar Lester Robson.
Born in New Zealand, killed after jumping off the Halifax, aged 27. Posthumously promoted to Pilot Officer
Radio operator/gunner William James Randall.
Born in England, killed in the crash of the Halifax, aged 23.
Gunner James Galloway.
Born in Scotland, died after jumping off the Halifax, aged 21.
Bombardier Glyn John Davies Thompson.
Born in England, died after jumping off the Halifax, aged 22.
Flight Engineer Joseph John Francis Holland. Born in Canada, killed in the crash of the Halifax, aged 22. 
Temporary monument in the Pierestraat.

On June 22, 2021, a commemoration was held for the first time in Pierestraat. A temporary monument has been unveiled. It is the intention that a permanent monument will be placed as soon as possible. The commemoration takes place annually on June 22.

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