Hereafter we briefly report on the crash of the Halifax bomber in the Pierestraat in Rucphen.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the production of this page, with permission, material from the book: ‘Bommenwerper on the yellow barg’, written by Ad van Uffelen, was used.