During World War II more than 40 different bombers and jet fighters have crashed within de county borders of Hollands Kroon. The crashes were mostly on land, in the Ijssel lake and the Wadden sea.
Few crew members were arrested after using their parachute to reach the ground, others could flee with the help of the Resistance. However, the majority lost their lives and did not return home safely to their family and loved ones.
Information about the unveiling of the remembrance post for this crash
This remembrance post was unveiled on October 9th 2021
Location of this remembrance post
Crash of Vickers Wellington Mk IC Z8838 KX-Z of 311 Squadron at the Molenweg near Middenmeer
In the evening of 11 April 1942 at 22.01 the Vickers bombers took off from East Wretham airport. The goal of this mission was the city of Essex. All crewmembers were from then Czechoslovakia. On its way to Essex the aircraft was shot by a German night hunter. Responsible for this was Oberlieutenant Helmut Lent. He had taken off from Leeuwarden airport.
The aircraft flew burning through the sky after which it crashed at the Molenweg. All six crew members lost their lives and were buried at the military honour cemetery of Huisduinen. Currently, they are buried in a joint grave at the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery nearby Bergen op Zoom.
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Photos of the commemoration on April 11, 2022
Commemoration Czechoslovak crew Wellington bomber April 11th, 2022
This year it is 80 years ago that a Wellington bomber crashed on the land of the Bakker family, the then land user. In October 2021 we placed a remembrance post for the crew. On this page you will find all information about this event, the crew, the location of the remembrance post, photos, reports and press releases.
A commemoration for these crew members was held on 11 April 2022 with great interest. About 50 people attended the commemoration. Invited and interested parties gathered at Brasserie Wings near Middenmeer airport. The speeches of our chairman Mark Hakvoort and representatives of the Czech and Slovak embassies spoke about the event of eighty years ago, but also reflected on the war in Ukraine, now so close to home. A special welcome was given to Mr, Pavel Holomek, Ms. Gabriella Holomek and Paul Holomek, relatives of the copilot of the crashed plane.
After the speeches, the group left for the remembrance post on the Molenweg where Dirk Bak performed The Last Post and the two national anthems. The veterans Hollands Kroon were again well represented. Mayor van Dam of Hollands Kroon addressed the visitors and emphasized the importance of continuing to commemorate. Ten posts have now been placed and unveiled, with about thirty more to follow. Two minutes of silence was observed in memory of the crew members. Finally, wreaths were laid at the remembrance post by Mr. Jozef KUŠLITA from the Slovak Embassy, Mr. Cenek Hajny of the Czech embassy, the veterans Hollands Kroon, the Holomek family, mayor van Dam, Willy de Bruin - Bakker and Harry Doesburg.
NH Nieuws made a report of this day with photos and video.
Photos of the unveiling
Reports and press
Impressive unveiling of remembrance post Z8838 at Middenmeer on October 9, 2021
october 9, 2021 - Amid great interest, remembrance post Z8838 was unveiled on 9 October. Willy de Bruin-Bakker performed the official act under the watchful eye of local residents and many other interested parties.
This sunny Saturday afternoon started in Wieringerwerf, where guests were offered coffee and cake by the Historisch Genootschap Wieringermeer in De Cultuurschuur. There were also previously excavated parts on display that were made available to our foundation earlier this week by Wim Braak. In De Cultuurschuur, speeches were given by representatives of the Czech and Slovak embassies, Katerina Sequensova and Jozef Kušlita. Fred de Vries also spoke on behalf of the Historisch Genootschap Wieringermeer and Harry Doesburg on behalf of 311 Squadron Association from England. The organization of this day was in the hands of the chairman of our foundation, Mark Hakvoort.
After the meeting in De Cultuurschuur, the group left for the place where the memorial post was unveiled, the Molenweg near Middenmeer. Mark emphasized here how important it is that we continue to remember and that the heroes who fought for our freedom should never be forgotten. The names of the six young men who fell on the Molenweg were mentioned. They were between 21 and 30 years old when their Wellington bomber was shot down by a German night fighter.
The unveiling ceremony was impressive. Dirk Bak blew the Czech and Slovak anthems with his trumpet, and a minute's silence was held after "The Last Post". The presence of no fewer than eleven veterans from Hollands Kroon and Schagen, led by Dirk Doornik, made it a beautiful ceremony.
Mayor of Hollands Kroon, Rian van Dam, made it clear in her speech that the six crew members who died are real heroes who gave their lives for our freedom, and many others with them.
Our foundation Herdenkingspalen Hollands Kroon is proud that we once again had so many visitors this afternoon. Not only (former) residents of the Molenweg and Schagerweg, but also the Historical Associations of, among others, De Wieringermeer, Wieringen, Medemblik and Hoogwoud were represented. The purpose of our foundation is to commemorate and not to forget, this afternoon certainly contributed to that. The Czech media, Czech TV and Czech Radio and Slovak TV have also played an important role in this.
Click on the photo for the report on Slovak TV
International coverage in the Czech and Slovak media.
Slovak embassy in the Netherlands :
report on Facebook
Slovakia : Správy RTVS
Czech Republic : a report by Vikto Daněk
NH Nieuws about the unveiling of our 7th memorial post
Meerpeen.nl with its own report and video report of the ceremony at the Molenweg
The whole story
Never regard their numbers …
Near Bergen op Zoom are two large cemeteries where Allied soldiers who fell in the Second World War are buried. On the left cemetery are 1118 - mostly Canadian - soldiers. At the other cemetery, 1284 Allied soldiers of various nationalities and units have their final resting place. On this right-hand cemetery are approximately 25 airmen who died during the war in or near the Wieringermeer. Five graves stand out because they are placed against each other and thus disrupt the "ideal" image of straight rows. A sixth grave right next to it is part of it, given the date of death. These six graves with Czech and Slovak names belong to the crew of the Wellington bomber Z8838 KX-Z for Zebra. This Wellington IC of the RAF was shot down on 11 April 1942 near the Molenweg by a German night fighter piloted by pilot Helmut Lent.
Report Air Protection Service Wieringermeer
The Wieringermeer municipal archive (stored in Alkmaar) contains a report from the head of the Wieringermeer Air Protection Service. The report states that at 24:30 a plane crashed while burning on Molenweg, close to the intersection with Schagerweg. The wreckage fell without causing damage in the open field, at a great distance from the buildings, so that there was no fire risk. An investigation was immediately launched on the spot, but there was no sign of the crew of the aircraft. It was then believed that they had died in the burning plane and did not have time to jump with the parachute. It was striking that both constables on duty only reported the crash late. The (church) tower air watch Medemblik, which oversaw the entire Wieringermeer, had certainly not seen any aerial combat. Bomb hits did not occur, while the fall of the plane caused only a weak blow, which was not heard or felt even on the nearby farms.
The Czech-Slovak crew
The crew consisted of experienced Czech and Slovak airmen who had fled in 1939 after the German occupation via, among other countries, Poland to France. After the fall of France, they went on to England to continue fighting against the occupier of their mother country.
The crew were part of 311 Squadron and had taken off at 22:01 UK time on 10 April from East Wretham airfield in Norfolk. The motto of the squadron was "Never regard their numbers". The losses of the bomber crews within the 311 Squadron were high. In the course of the war, of the 318 men deployed, 94 were killed, 34 captured and about 30 wounded. Of the 52 deployed aircraft, 22 crashed. As a result of the high casualties the Squadron was reassigned in late April 1942 to other duties such as reconnaissance over the sea and surveillance of Coastal Command. Unfortunately, this came too late for this crew.
The crew who died on April 11, 1942 consisted of:
Sgt. Josef Politzer Wireless Operator born 17 april 1913 in Stupne
Sgt. Karel Kodes 2nd Pilot born 24 may 1920 in Bratislava
F/o. Karel Rychnovsky Navigator born 9 may 1918 in Konice
Sgt. Jan Peprnicek Gunner born 15 dec 1912 in Ostrozska Nova Ves
F/sgt. Josef Hrdina Gunner born 7 march 1912 in Vsen
F/sgt. Josef Kalensky Captain pilot born 17 feb 1915 in Liskovice
During the war, the occupying forces buried the Czech fallen with military honors in Huisduinen. After the war (May 1947) the Dutch government moved the graves to Bergen op Zoom.
Vickers Wellington bomber
In the early years of the Second World War, this type of bomber was the backbone of the RAF Bomber Command. The Wellington bomber had a length of 19.69 mtr, a height of 5.31 mtr and a wingspan of 26.4 mtr. Striking about the design is the geometric (geodesic) construction, a light but strong construction that saved many crew members' lives. An incredible 11,461 of this type of bomber were produced between 1936 and 1945. There were six crew members on board. The aircraft was equipped with 8 7.7 mm machine guns to defend itself. It could reach a top speed of 378 km/h under ideal conditions, without a bomb load or large amounts of fuel. The bomber could carry a maximum of 2,000 kilograms of bombs.
The crew was returning from a bomb attack on Essen. It is striking that two other bombers that crashed in the Wieringermeer also had Essen as a target. Over the IJsselmeer, the Wellington bomber was suddenly attacked by a Messerschmitt Bf110 night fighter. The night fighter was piloted by the highly experienced German pilot Hauptmann Helmut Lent. Through a so-called corkscrew maneuver by the pilot Josef Kalensky, they temporarily managed to shake off the night fighter. Whether they knew that the night fighter continued to follow them with its radar equipment is unknown. Hauptmann Lent probably launched a second attack that was fatal to the Wellington bomber. The plane probably caught fire and broke up high in the air as the fire reached the fuel tanks. The crew members were huddled together in the fuselage as the wreckage fell to the ground. Because the aircraft suddenly broke into pieces, the crew had no time to jump.
When the residents of the farms in the area went to look the next day, an identity tag was found. The identity tag belonged to the Czech RAF pilot Sgt. Karel Kodes, the 2nd Pilot. The occupier collected the few remaining remains of five crew members from the burnt-out wreckage and buried them together in 1 coffin. This is the reason that the graves are placed against each other and not at the usual distance. Only the body of Sgt. Josef Politzer, the Wireless Operator, was found relatively unharmed and complete near the wreckage. Sgt. Josef Politzer had a broken neck revealed on examination.
The German night fighter pilot Hauptmann Helmut Lent
The plane of the pilot Josef Kalensky was probably shot at or shot down by the German night fighter pilot Hauptmann Helmut Lent. Pilot Lent had taken off with his Messerschmitt Bf110 from Leeuwarden Air Base and belonged to the German night fighter Squadron II/NJG2. He was born on June 13, 1918 in Pyrehne, near Landsberg an der Warthe. As a German night fighter pilot he was very successful and belonged to the top pilots of the Luftwaffe. During the war he crashed on October 5, 1944, during a routine flight over Germany, and died of his wounds on October 7.
The recovery of the wreckage in August 2004
In August 2004, the Royal Netherlands Air Force excavated wreckage under the leadership of Captain Hans Spierings. One of the two radial engines was found, probably of the Bristol Pegasus XVIII type, with 9 cylinders and an engine power of approximately 1000 HP. In addition, various small parts, parts of the landing gear and approximately 40 kilos of live ammunition have been excavated. Remarkably, a buckle of a parachute was also found, an indication that the crew did not have time to prepare to jump.
Remembrance post 2021
In April 2021, the SHHK Foundation placed the remembrance post in the presence of the embassies from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, (former) neighbors, veterans, trumpeter Dirk Bak, historical societies, Harry Doesburg on behalf of the 311 squadron and other interested parties. Mrs. Willy De Bruin-Bakker from the original land user (lessee), the Bakker family where the plane crashed, was present. Former employee of the Domeinen, Mr. Wim Brak who was involved in the salvage in 2004, the Historical Association Wieringermeer received various aircraft parts such as a propeller blade, a cylinder, hood lock and the lock (according to unknown sources) for dropping the bombs. These parts are stored in the Cultuurschuur in Wieringerwerf.
We must not forget the story of these young men who died tragically in our polder. These men are buried far away from their motherland. The story of the Czech and Slovak crew will remain partly unknown. If there are people who remember the incident or have more information about it, we ask them to contact Stichting Herdenkingspalen Hollands Kroon, Mark Hakvoort (firstname.lastname@example.org).