Type: Bristol Blenheim Mk. IV
Part: 57 Squadron RAF
Crash date: 10th May 1940
Crash location: Vogelenzangsebrug, Echteld
Commander: P/O A. Thomas
The Bristol Blenheim Mk. IV, number L9245 - with P/O Alban Thomas, L/A Leslie Jordan and Obs Penry Thomas on board - took off on 10th May 1940 from Rosières-en-Santerre in Picardy. When they were flying over the Betuwe around noon, they were caught by Leutnant Emmerich Fluder from 5./JG 27’s Messerschmitt Bf 109 above Tiel. Following a fierce firefight, the aircraft came down on the banks of the Linge with a loud bang at 12:08 hours, near the café at the Vogelenzangsebrug in Echteld.
Alban Thomas and Leslie Jordan were initially buried behind a farm in Echteld. Their remains were reburied at the General Cemetery in Hoek van Holland in December 1946. There wasn’t a single trace of the third occupant.
Toon van Ewijk and Cees de Waal from Zoelen were fishing at the so-called Schelenhoek in Zoelen a few weeks after the crash, when they spotted a shapeless mass in the water. They were amazed to discover this concerned the lower part of a human body. One leg still included part of the trousers, one sock and one shoe. And they found a white handkerchief in one of the trouser pockets with the inscription Alban Thomas.
The body, which was already in quite an advanced state of decomposition, was subsequently buried at the new cemetery at the Beemdsestraat in Zoelen. The grave was given a headstone after the war, which stated an unknown English flyer was buried there.
An upper body was removed from the Linge in Buurmalsen in March 1941 - at the place where the Korne meets the Linge - and this was eventually identified as P.L. Thomas. The body was also buried under this name at the General Cemetery in Buurmalsen.
Following some intensive investigative work in the nineteen seventies, amateur historian Mr. J. van Alphen from Deil and the well-known RAF researcher Mr. J. Hey from Hengelo reached the conclusion that the two different sets of remains came from the same body.
You can find more information about the background to this event here and here.
The 57th RAF Squadron in Rosières-en-Santerre, October 1939.
The wreckage of the Bristol Blenheim following the crash at the Vogelenzangsebrug, with Gé van het Veld, now Mrs G.H van Ommeren-van het Veld, in the foreground to the right, 10 years old at the time.
Sergeant P.L. Thomas’ grave at the General Cemetery in Buurmalsen.
The crash site of the Bristol Blenheim, as seen from the air.