Hal­i­fax air­craft shot down in Hol­land in 1943

Tillsonburg News - - OPINION -

among flight crews in World War ii they were the best - their mis­sion among the most danger­ous.

They were mem­bers of the pathfinder squadrons, the planes that flew alone over en­emy ter­ri­tory, find­ing the tar­gets and mark­ing them with flares for the bombers that fol­lowed.

it was about the crew of a fourengined Hal­i­fax air­craft from 405 squadron, shot down over Hol­land in July, 1943, that formed the story told at the novem­ber meet­ing of Till­son­burg and district His­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety.

mak­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion were Frank moore, re­tired royal bank ex­ec­u­tive, and ben mayville, with the on­tario pro­vin­cial po­lice foren­sics team here. mem­bers of the lo­cal mil­i­tary his­tory club, both are de­voted to re­search­ing canada’s mil­i­tary past.

The story started with a small suit­case.

a crew mem­ber of that Hal­i­fax pathfinder was alexan­der mccracken, nav­i­ga­tor on the flight. The suit­case con­tained let­ters and mem­o­ra­bilia col­lected by his fam­ily.

With close mem­bers of the mccracken fam­ily de­ceased, the suit­case had been sold to a friend of moore by the ex­ecutrix of the es­tate. later, when in­formed it would be auc­tioned off, it was pur­chased by moore be­fore it hit ebay.

Then the re­search be­gan: how the plane had crashed and ex­ploded near the vil­lage of Ten boer; mem­o­ries of vil­lagers about the crash; how only one of the seven-man crew had sur­vived and be­came a pris­oner of war.

a tena­cious re­searcher, mayville even found the name of the pi­lot of the ger­man night fighter and his story of the tac­tics used to track the Hal­i­fax and ma­neu­ver for the at­tack.

a paint­ing of that at­tack, with the night sky ablaze with the show­ing of north­ern lights, was ar­ranged by moore and Jerry Vandyke, a cam­bridge travel agent. it was taken to Hol­land and pre­sented to the mayor of Ten boer. mr. moore and their group also vis­ited the graves of the six air­men in the vil­lage ceme­tery.

a book with pho­tos and story of the plane and its crew was also pre­pared by moore and a copy pre­sented to the Ten boer mayor.

let­ters from the suit­case, read by moore and mayville, added proof to a point they stressed: That those sta­tis­tics of war -- the lives lost, the air­craft de­stroyed -- are about in­di­vid­ual per­sons; young men, many barely past their teen years; about fam­i­lies crav­ing for in­for­ma­tion about a son re­ported miss­ing in ac­tion; about their grief when learn­ing of his death.

What will hap­pen to the suit­case and its con­tents? moore wants it to go where that air­crew lost their lives, pre­served in the archives of Ten boer.

de­cem­ber 10 meet­ing of the his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety will be the christ­mas potluck. bring­ing items to donate to the food bank or sal­va­tion army is al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated.

a hand-crafted rock­ing horse, do­nated by pat mooney, with a sec­ond prize of a paint­ing do­nated by pa­tri­cia duwyn, are be­ing of­fered in the christ­mas raf­fle by the so­ci­ety, with the draw date of de­cem­ber 19th mak­ing them prime gifts from santa.

The story of an air­craft and its crew, shot down over Hol­land in July, 1943, was told by Frank Moore and Ben Mayville at the Novem­ber meet­ing of Till­son­burg and District His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety. They show de­tails of that fate­ful night in a paint­ing to Betty Lou Walling­ton and Carol Do­err.

Mak­ing rope at Break­fast in Beth­le­hem Satur­day.

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