Sec­ond World War pi­lot re­turns to meet fam­i­lies that saved him

Perthshire man was helped by the Dutch re­sis­tance

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - NEWS - JAMIE BUCHAN jabuchan@the­courier.co.uk

A Perthshire pen­sioner who is one of the last sur­viv­ing Lan­caster bomber pi­lots is pre­par­ing for an emo­tional trip over­seas to meet those who helped keep him safe af­ter his plane was gunned down.

Ernie Holmes, 97, was on the way home from a night-time bomb­ing raid in Ger­many when his air­craft was at­tacked by the en­emy.

The Lan­caster crashed over the Nether­lands, killing five mem­bers of the eight-man crew.

Ernie parachuted to safety and was taken in by farmer Fons van der Hei­j­den, a mem­ber of the Dutch re­sis­tance.

This month he will take part in a cer­e­mony in the Nether­lands to com­mem­o­rate the events of May 1944.

He hopes to meet some of the fam­i­lies who pro­tected him as he tried to get back to Eng­land.

Ernie, who stays at Kin­car­rathie House, was im­pris­oned by Ger­mans as he tried to reach home. Just days be­fore the re­gion was lib­er­ated, Fons, who had har­boured many ser­vice­men, was taken out of church by Nazis and shot.

Ernie said: “It is go­ing to be a very emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence for me.

“These were good peo­ple who... risked ev­ery­thing, to keep me safe.”

He said: “I re­mem­ber one of the fam­i­lies had a lit­tle girl and I’m hop­ing to meet her again when I go over to Hol­land.

“I still have flash­backs about that time and I hope that be­ing part of this me­mo­rial event will help those flash­backs sub­side.”

Ernie, who con­tin­ued flying af­ter he was lib­er­ated at the end of the war, has been in­ter­viewed for this week­end’s BBC Songs Of Praise pro­gramme.

Pre­sen­ter Aled Jones asked him about his mem­o­ries of the crash.

He said: “We dropped our load and we had the tar­get burn­ing. And then we started our way back home by a dif­fer­ent route, and it was on the way back, all we heard was the roar of our en­gines.

“I re­alised I’d lost con­trol of the air­craft.

“Mean­time, num­ber three en­gine was tear­ing it­self to bits, ex­plod­ing, throw­ing bits around. I called out to my crew: bail out, bail out.

“But be­fore this hap­pened there was... an ex­plo­sion and I woke up.

“The cabin had gone, I was hang­ing off the nose of the air­craft but still strapped to my seat.”

He man­aged to open his para­chute and land in a wood­land.

“A girl came by rid­ing a bi­cy­cle,” he said. “She said ‘Gude Mor­gen’ to me and I knew straight away I was in Hol­land.”

Pay­ing trib­ute to the man who saved him, he said: “There is no greater love, than he who will give him­self for an­other.”

The Songs Of Praise in­ter­view will be broad­cast on BBC1 on Sun­day at 3.10pm and will be avail­able on iPlayer af­ter­wards.

Ernie Holmes, 97, be­ing in­ter­viewed for Songs Of Praise; a Lan­caster from the Bat­tle of Bri­tain Me­mo­rial Flight dur­ing a flypast.

Ernie Holmes is one of the last sur­viv­ing Lan­caster bomber pi­lots from the Sec­ond World War.

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