Lancaster PB303

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At 14.05 hours on November 1st 1944 a bomber with it's seven man crew, took off from Metheringham Airfield near Lincoln, together with 19 other aircraft, for a raid on Homburg in Germany.

The aircraft was PB303, a Lancaster Mk III from 106 Squadron coded ZN-R .

Air Gunner: Sgt. John Anthony Crisp, (19) Son of Ernest & Bessie Crisp from Harrow Middlesex

Navigator: Sgt Cyril Ernest Bayliss, (22) Son of Harold & Ellen Bayliss from Redditch Worcestershire

W/Op/AG: Flying Officer Lesley W. Perry, (22) Son of William & Alice Perry & husband of Josselyn Irene Perry from Taunton Somerset

Pilot: Flying Officer F/O George Jeffrey Symes, RCAF (27) husband from Sheena Symes from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Air Bomber: Flying Officer John Arthur Smith, (20) Son of Arthur P. & Lilian Smith from West Ewell Surrey

Flight Engineer: Sgt Alfred F. Harris, (24) Son of Hyman & Rose Harris and husband of Kate Harris from Hatch End Middlesex

Air Gunner: Sgt. Clifford Eugene Leroy Cook. RCAF,  (19) Son of James & Eva L. Cook from Belleville, Ontario Canada

Over the target area, PB303 was seen to leave the formation and dive into the clouds. A photograph was taken at the moment the Lancaster left the formation. It is clearly visible that its bomb doors are open, the port outer engine is missing and there is damage to the fuselage.

The crew must have dropped their bombs and turned back in the direction of their base. About three quarters of an hour later, this aircraft was observed near the town of Bergen op Zoom and it was on fire. It crashed close to a little village of Lepelstraat in the Southern part of the Netherlands at about 17.00h local time.

The whole crew lost their lives. The Lancaster hit the ground in a meadow just alongside a small country road called “Heenweg” (Pos. N 51°32’24,4’’  E 004°15’23’’) near to a farm which at that time belonged to Mr. Schot.

PB303 leaving the formation near the target area.

Inmediatly after the crash, one body was found. This was FO Lesly Perry. Recovery of the other members of the crew was only possible after about one year. Due to difficulty identifying the separate bodies, five were buried together in a collective grave at the Canadian War Cemetery near Bergen op Zoom.

Witnesses have told, there was a ceremony at the site of the crash on November 23rd 1944.

Sometimes you can still find small metal parts there. I have been informed that there are still some engines buried deep in the soft clay.

 After the war had ended, people from Holland were able to adopt graves of those gallant warriors who lost their lives to liberate their country. In this way they were able to express their gratitude for their regained freedom and also give some comfort to the relatives. The adoptions were organised by the Dutch Wargraves Committee and someone who adopted a grave had to take care of it just as if it was of someone from his or her own family. They had to put flowers on the grave at remembrance ceremonies and were also able to write to the family of this person. They also had to help to organise an opportunity for parents or wives to visit the grave. My mother, Mrs Jane Goossens was one of the many who adopted several of the graves.

You couldn’t choose which graves you adopted, graves were appointed randomly by a Committee and by coincidence my mother got the graves from the crew of this Lancaster to take care of.

My mother started writing to the families and even hosted some of them, later when they came over to Holland to visit the grave of their husband or son. Mrs. Goossens couldn't speak English,  because she never had the opportunity to learn it when she was at school. Therefore she first had to write her letter in Dutch, and pass it to a neighbour who translated it for her, she then copied the translated letters herself. This was quite some work. Her neighbour also translated the letters she received. When I was about 18 years old, I had learned some English myself, so I was then able to do the translations for her.

Certificate from a grave adoption.

I can remember some visits from relatives, but as I was only 4 or 5 years of age then, my memory isn't very clear about it. For instance I still can remember the visit of the widow of Sgt Harris. She stayed at our home whilst she was in Holland and my mother accompanied her to the cemetery several times. Also Mrs Smith and Mrs Perry stayed at our home . Both mothers lost their sons because of this crash.

Sgt Alfred Harris and his wife Kate

FO John Smith

Thanks to Mr. Gordon Smith who started this research did inspire me to also start the research about this crash and to make these web pages.

He sadly passed away in June 2012.