Hamont 16/17 june 1941
What happened on the night of 16/17 june 1941
The crew consisted of:
- Pilot and Squadron Leader, Dermot Kelly, 23 year, Royal Air Force More info about his +50 operational sorties
- Sergeant-2nd Pilot, Douglas MacVicar, 23 year, Royal Canadian Air Force
- Navigator, Flight-Sergeant Stephanus Marais, 22 year maried, from South Africa, Royal Air Force
- 1st Radio-operator and gunner, Sergeant Leonard Beaumont, 21 year, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
- 2nd Radio-operator and gunner, Sergeant George Houghton, 26 year, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
- Rear gunner, Sergeant William Connell, 21 year, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Link to 103 Sqn
Around 11 p.m. on the night of 16th tot 17th June 1941 seven two-engine Wellington bombers of the 103rd Squadron took off at Newton Air Base in the English county of Nottinghamshire. Their mission was to bomb the harbour installations at the river The Rhine in Duisburg.
After dropping this load, the seven Wellingtons had to scatter pamphlets above the German cities of Gladbeck and Krefeld.
Because bomb aiming was not accurate yet in 1941, also civilian targets in the city of Duisburg were hit, and there were civilian casualties.
Above Duisburg the Wellingtons were caught in search lights and they encountered heavy flak. Beside that, they were attacked by several German night fighters. Two aircraft were hit, but today it still is not clear whether the N2849 was then also hit. On their way home the plane was intercepted by the German Messerschmidt ME110 of Lt Reinhold Knacke of the 2nd Nachtjagdgeschwader.
The Wellington went out of control and crashed at 02.25 a.m.
The crash site is situated behind the houses in the Teutenstraat, known at the land registry as "De Eickener".
Onderzoek: Sven Vanneuville, Hamont-Achel
Sgt 2de piloot
Lt KNACKE Reinhold 2NJG/1 werd zelf gedood op 03 februari 1943 tijdens een gevecht met een Halifax
Squadron Leader, Dermot Kelly Letters "Missing in Action"
(by Geoffrey Kelly, Surrey UK)
The first letter (left) dated 19 June 1941 from his Squadron Commander: Sqdn Ldr. Lane says Dermot was the oldest member of the Squadron (at 23 years!) and that he had been recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross. He also says that
“There is no way of knowing how he came to be lost, and we are all hoping to hear in due course – at least a month – that he is a prisoner of war”.
Presumably Sqdn Ldr Lane had the sad duty of writing similar letters to the closest relatives of all five of the crew members of the Wellington bomber too.
The second letter (21 June 1941) from the Air Ministry is a typical standard letter sent to next of kin and no doubt would have irritated my grandfather greatly as he is addressed as Major when he was by that time a Lieutenant Colonel. He eventually retired from the Army as a Brigadier.
The third letter (25 June 1941) from the RAF Newton Station Commander Guy Tyrrell is very movingly written and clearly from the heart. He goes on to try and give Dermot’s parents hope by saying “The exit on this particular type is relatively easy and our parachutes are one hundred per cent reliable..”
The last letter dated 9th September 1941 is from the Red Cross confirms what my grandparents must have feared by then that their son and the five members of his crew were all dead.
The letter goes on to say that the Mayor of Hamont “reports that there are some Personal Effects of this crew, but as they were taken by the German authorities, it is not possible to know to whom they belong individually. We very much regret this, as we know you are especially anxious to be informed whether your son’s crucifix and chain have been recovered….We hope so much that at least something belonging to your son has been recovered.”
As far as I am aware, nothing was ever recovered and returned to my grandparents, however as the letter goes on to say: “We hope that it will be some small comfort to your wife and yourself to know with what obvious care and respect your son and his companions have been laid to rest: you can also feel that the graves will be carefully tended in the future.”
I am sure they would never have dreamed that their memories would still be preserved nearly 75 years later.
The owner of the allotment, Mr. Antoine Schildermans from Hamont, once found a piece of a watch at the crash site and he had saved it. He handed it to the Dunster family from England on 20th June 2009.
Still filled fire extinguisher from the crashed Wellington at Hamont. It was found after the crash by the brothers Jaak and Piet Schildermans from Hamont, who owned a plot adjacent to the meadow where the Wellington crashed.