LOSS OF LANCASTER W4960 (AR-R)
OF 460 SQUADRON RAAF
ON 11/12 JUNE 1943
DURING A RAID OVER DUSSELDORF

 

Subject:    Lancaster Mk. I, W 4960, AR-R
Date:             Mon, 8 Jan 2001 22:07:38 +0100
From:          "jan springintveld" <crash40-45@hetnet.nl>

Dear Sir,

Your site dedicated to 460 (RAAF) is fantastic, actually your work to create this will at this moment be very helpful to our research.

I'm secretary of the Crash Research Aviation Society Holland 1940-1945 and we research the air war over Holland during WW2. At this moment we have under investigation the crash of Lancaster AR-R, which was lost in the night of 11/12 June 1943.

Take off 21.47 hrs. from Binbrook on a mission to Dusseldorf Germany, it crashed on June 12 th, 1943 about 02.05 hrs. AM near the town of Reeuwijk (prov. South-Holland). The entire crew was killed.

Two years ago we discovered the site and fragments of the Lancaster. According the stories of local inhabitants the Lancaster exploded in the air. The bodies of the crew were found far from the initial crash site, however also the bomber came down in large pieces.

We continue our research on the site within the coming much and we are trying the obtain as much information we can get on the AR-R and her crew, to support our research. After this information I will add more details on our results so far.

A point of interest that we are a member of the Nederlandse Federatie voor Luchtvaartarcheology (NFLA) - Dutch Federation of Aviation Archeology which has their own webpage; www.a1.nl/nfla. Here your will find more details on our organisation CRASH and a view in our museum.

We would appreciate your assistance in our research.

Awaiting your reply with interest,

Jan Springintveld
secretary Crash 1940-1945

 


 

Subject:    Lancaster Mk. I, W 4960, AR-R
Date:             Tue, 9 Jan 2001 13:43:37 +0100
From:           "jan springintveld" <crash40-45@hetnet.nl>

Dear Peter,

Thank you for your swift reply. I must admit that my first response was rather short, with a lot of errors. I intend to do better next time.

I will gather all information we have, incl. the names of the crew, We did find on our first trail digs by hand some interesting parts.

Difficulty on this site is that it is cut in half by a small stream.

Further excavation is scheduled for the summer, probably August this year.

More information a.s.a.p.

With kind regards,

Jan Springintveld
secr. CRASH 1940-1945

 


 

Subject:        Lancaster W4960
Date:                Wed, 10 Jan 2001 21:52:23 +0100
From:               "jan springintveld" <crash40-45@hetnet.nl>

Dear Peter,

As mentioned earlier hereby the details on the crash of AR-R.

11/12 June 1943, target Dusseldorf/Germany take off Binbrook 21.47 hrs. shotdown by nightfighter and crashed 02.05 hrs. at Sluipwijk near the town of Reeuwijk, provence Zuid-Holland, 4km.NNE.of Gouda (north-east of the city of Rotterdam).

Crew killed

pilot F/Sgt. R.S. Christie - A/416324 Jonkerbos 20-J-3
navigator F/Sgt. J. Heath - A/408309 Jonkerbos 20-J-2
B/A F/Sgt. J.H. Horwood - A/414352 Jonkerbos 20-J-6
W.Op Sgt. R.L. Lewis - 1380317 Jonkerbos 20-J-1
F/G. Sgt. R.S. Kerwin - 777739 Jonkerbos 20-J-3
A/G F/O B.W. Bennett - A/420637 Jonkerbos 20-J-4
A/G F/Sgt. P.J. Hogan - A/413866 Jonkerbos 20-J-7

All were initially laid to rest at Sluipwijk, since when their remains have been taken to Jonkerbos War Cemetery.

It is thought that Sgt. Kerwin was a Rhodesian.

Remarks; 38 aircraft failed to return form this operation, the Halifax Squadrons of 4 Group bearing the brunt of the casualties. Aircrew losses were 145 killed 55 missing, 52 made prisoners and 3 evaded capture.

As stated; the Lancaster exploded and large pieces of the plane were spread. All crew members were found dead. Research on aerial reconnaissance did not reveal the site, therefore ground survey was essential.

In December 1997 we started first investigations of the site, 500 x 500 mtr. in order to find heavy parts which disappeared in the ground. In 1943 the wreckage was recovered by the German Recovery unit from Utrecht, the so-called Zerlegebetrieb; identified, stripped and sent to Germany by rail. The aluminium was considered as most valuable for the, in this case, German effort/war industries.

In local files we found a number of important documents which report the situation as locals and German soldiers entered the crashed. Also some witness accounts.

In 1998 we traced a site which hold several large piece of metal and we found fragments of aircraft/aluminium. This place measures 11 x 8 meter and is divided in two by a small 4 meter wide stream. On both banks we found prove of front section of the plane. We believe cockpit/navigator section; an cockpit instrument/clock, some 0.303 ammunition, and a navigators instrument; a compasses. On the other bank we hit the smell of fuel and oil, tubes and pipes which could lead to an engine. In the stream itself we detected small fragments but important enough to drain it when a small operation will take place, now planned in August. This investigation was carried out with simple hand equipment.

At first, we had the intention to do this coming March but the ground conditions are not good. Now being wintertime, but mostly had rain instead of snow, the surface is very swampy. The owner of the land granted us permission to continue our research but only when weather conditions are better, but most of all the condition of the area to work in are fair and we cause minimum of damage. We need the assistance of some heavy  machines to continue our work, but this will be provided by our sponsors.

Towards August 2001 we want to gather as much information on the crew as possible supported with photographs or even establish contact with next of kin. The most important part of our research to reveal the faces behind this tragic incident. Any other information which might lead to illustrate a more completer picture on the plane and crew is also much appreciated. When we are able to recover the remaining wreckage of the Lancaster this and the information on the crew will be part of an display in our museum; dedicated to those we fought and died for our freedom.

Are you able to assist us and complete the story of W4960 and its crew ? Looking at your website I most say I am confident we succeed.

Additional to our research I found an address of the 460 Squadron Association, Mr. P. Gibby, 10 Rydal Drive, Tunbridge, Wells/Kent TN4 9ST /United Kingdom. I am sure you have knowledge of this association, but would it make sense to get in contact with them as well or will this mean 'double work'.

I hope this information is sufficient and await your reply/information with interest.

With kind regards,

Jan Springintveld
Crash Research in Aviation Society Holland 1940-1945
De Kwakel / The Netherlands

 


 

Subject:    Lancaster W4960
Date:        Thu, 11 Jan 2001 14:02:47 +0100
From:       "jan springintveld" <crash40-45@hetnet.nl>

Dear Peter,

Thank for your prompt reply. I interested to find out what you effort and information board on your website will generate.

As suggested I will get in contact with the 460 squadron association in the UK. When something turns up I will let you know.

The update you on our organisation attachment an English summary on CRASH 1940-1945.

Keep in touch and thank you again for you assistance.

With kind regards,

Jan Springintveld
CRASH 1940-1945/The Netherlands.

 

CRASH 1940-1945 - The Netherlands

Since 1987 CRASH is actively involved in investigating the events during the Air War in the Second World War in all its aspects. The Western part of Holland is our main area, although the research include all of The Netherlands. Our membership of the Nederlandse Federatie voor Luchtvaart Archeologie (NFLA) did expand our activities. Strafing, bombardments and locations of crashed aircraft are investigated in detail.

The initiative and start of this all, was our first research and recovery of an English Wellington bomber, crashed in the night of May 30/31st, 1942 near the Akerdijk in Badhoevedorp (Municipality Haarlemmermeer). The entire crew was killed. The recovery was something special, because the aircraft appeared to be the first victim that night, taking part in the First Thousand Bomber Raid executed by RAF Bomber Command. Exactly 45 years later the wreckage was recovered.

In the so-called Randstad ( the Dutch west coast), the primarily objective of our activities, it is estimated that approximately 750 aircraft came down during World War Two. Many sites are known, others still await discovery. After our first recovery much information was revealed to us by the population. Consequently more aircraft wrecks could be recovered, such as a Short Stirling and a Spitfire. We also succeeded in tracing the New Zealand wireless-operator of the RAF bomber and the Australian Spitfire pilot.

In 1991 our research lead to a large exhibition in which the results of our research became visible. The story behind each wreckage is important. The appreciation of our work is obvious, we receive much support, but also requests for assistance and advice. It became evident that there is a great curiosity by the public in general. Next of kin of crewmembers are still looking for answers about the fate of their loved ones.

The investigations are sometimes extensive and costly, though sponsored by members. An important factor is the assistance of specialized companies who support the recoveries for minimum charges; they help our organization because they approve our objective. An extra dimension is the search for missing military personnel.

In the Netherlands it is estimated that there are still more than 2000 aircraft wrecks. In 400 of them, it is expected remains of crewmembers can be found. CRASH became worldwide known when in 1997 the recovery of an American B-24 Liberator, nicknamed ‘Connie’ took place. The bomber crashed on June 21st, 1944 near the village of Vijfhuizen (Municipality Haarlemmermeer) and since then two crewmembers were still reported as missing in action. CRASH repeatedly asked for extra attention in this case. Finally after 8 years of pressure it paid off.

In 1996 CRASH celebrated its five year Jubilee as a foundation. 600 visitors came to visit a special two-day exposition. The aircraft wreckage of a P-51 Mustang and a Mosquito nightfighter complete with documentation and photographs tell their own story. In our collection you can also find a unique piece of Dutch Air War history. In June 1993 the wreck of Dutch fighter, shot down on May 11th, 1940, was recovered. The Fokker D-21, nr. 229 in combat with three German Messerschmitts Bf-110’s, was finally put out off action and crashed. The pilot F.Sgt. Koos Roos although severely injured, survived the air battle. According to official Dutch History Records the plane came down near Leiden. However, after our research we were not able to find the crash location. During an investigation in the town of Nieuwkoop (province Zuid-Holland) the wreck was discovered. This piece of Dutch Military history lives on in our Airwar museum CRASH 1940-1945. The wreck is almost completely reconstructed and became the only exhibit of its kind.

This initiative of CRASH received much admiration in- and outside The Netherlands. Support from colleague-researchers, many involved organizations, our results so far, and the commitment of our specialized members did make of CRASH a well respected private recovery-organization. This knowledge is available to everyone.

CRASH is a member of the Nederlandse Federatie voor Luchtvaart Archeologie (NFLA), The Netherlands.

For more information, please contact:-

Crash Research in Aviation Society Holland 1940-1945
Secr. Graslaan 10,
1424 SB De Kwakel
The Netherlands

Tel. 00 (31) 297- 530667
Fax 00 (31) 297 - 580795

E-mail:  crash40-45@hetnet.nl

 


 

Dear Mr. Jan Springintveld,

My father Don Christie, today 77, is the younger brother of Robert (Bob) Stanley Christie Flgt Sgt. and pilot of R 4960; two sisters one older and one younger than Bob, are still alive living in the state of South Australia.

I, as the oldest of my generation was named after Bob, my first Christian name also Robert; I was born in 1955, hence the information I have, has been passed on by older family members. 

As with the death of any family member the death of Bob at the time was difficult, a son so many miles from home, in a different country, fighting a war for freedom. Bob paid the supreme sacrifice, as did so many young men and women during WW 2.

The Christie family have been fortunate over years to maintain contact with a very special family, the 'Valette's', in The Netherlands.

My grandfather wrote to his local newspaper at the end of he war, re the Valette contact. This article was published - I quote:-

Thoughtful Hollander

Mr. and Mrs. L. R. Christie, of Pata, Murray Mallee, have been touched to receive a poignant letter, dated October 3, from C.J.J. Valette, of Reeuwijk, Holland, giving news about the loss of their son , Flt.-Sgt. R. S. Christie, RAAF." 

It shows that there are some thoughtful people in the world" Mr. Christie writes to me, enclosing the letter :-

To the relatives of the late Flight Sergeant R. S . Christie, Aus. 416324, Australia.

" Dear Madam or Sir - It is with some hesitation that I am writing you about your son, R. S. Christie, who, with six other airmen, died on June 12, 1943, when their bomber, returning form Germany, crashed in our neighbourhood. It would perhaps be better not to write you about your sad loss, but it may be that you wish to hear something of your boy's burial and grave."

"The burial took place in the end of June 1943. It was a quiet, sunny day when your son and his six friends were laid in a common grave in the old churchyard of our small village. The only words spoken were the Lord's Prayer, said by the parson. That was all. But that simple ceremony was so intensely touching that everybody, even simple and hardened men cried. My son Jack, who at the time was 14 years old, and who is otherwise a quiet normal, more or less a rough boy, was so deeply touched that he vowed that he would place every year on that same date some flowers on the grave".

Permanent Gravestone

 Last year he did so, quite secretly , but of course, the inhuman Huns and their shameless Dutch friends immediately removed his little bouquet. He even swore if ever the Huns should leave, he again would honour the grave with a floral tribute. After our liberation, Jack - I am indeed proud to state it - took the initiative to collect some money for a big floral tribute, but the donations were so generous that we were even put into a position to order a permanent grave-stone, which will be erected instead of the wooden crosses, which now indicate the resting place of the seven young men.

 

 " As soon as the gravestone will be put up we shall make a photo, and if you will kindly send me your address, I shall not fail to send you a copy. I would add that all the inhabitants of Reeuwijk most certainly see to it that your son's grave will be respectfully cared for. I most sincerely hope that my letter about your son will not renew your pain about your sad loss, and I pray that time may soften a little your sorrow".
 
Again this Christmas we received a Christmas card from the late Jack Vallete's widow, Bep, from The Netherlands. My parents have visited the gravesite and the Vallete family home on two occasions, as have my brother and I in 1978. The Vallete family has truly been a cherished friend of the Christie family, we are indebted to them, their compassion and care has been outstanding, now over 60 years.
 
I have in my possession all of Bob's letters to his family during his time in the RAAF detailing his training, his locations and life in the forces. I also have his 'Pilots Flying Log' book, the last entry being 10th June 1943, Duty (Activity) noted as 'Formation', with '1.55' hours flying time. P/O Bennett,Sgt. Heath, Sgt. Horwood, Sgt. Hogan, Sgt. Kerwin, and Sgt. Lewis were also on this fight. The records show that this crew had flown together for at least three months prior to their fateful last journey.
 
On behalf of my family I thank you for your commitment in ensuring the memory of those young men and many others does not slip by and be forgotten. I am keen to follow up your research and hear of what has been found of the aircraft and any other details of the flight, the aircraft and any details of the other flight members family. If I can supply any relevant information of value from here in Australia please ask, I will try to assist.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Rob Christie
Adelaide, South Australia.
 

 

On 29 January 2004, I received the following e-mail from John Lewis:-

Hi Peter

My thanks go out to you for your site on the 460 Squadron. It has brought a big change to our family here in England.

My brother Mike emailed you in November 2000 to ask how he could track down any families of the crew of Lancaster AR-R  who flew with our father Sgt Reginald Lewis W/O but there came no news.

In April 2001, my daughter Heather went on your site and came across the name of Jan Springintveld. Lancaster AR-R was mentioned. Upon opening it up she became very excited to find that Crash 40-45 had come across my father's Lancaster at Sluipwijk, Holland and were in  the process of recovering the parts, and that they were looking for any relatives of the crew.  At last there was some information as to what happened on the night of 11/12th June 1943. Our mother was still alive so we were able to keep her informed of all the information coming in from Jan Springintveld. Sadly mother died on 12th January 2002. We decided to reunite her with Dad if the War graves Commission allowed it. They were extremely helpful and allowed us to. We went out to Jonkerbos Nijmegen and put her ashes with Dad on the 12th June the date the crew were killed.  Jan Springintveld and 2 more members of Crash 40-45 requested that they would like to attend at Jonkerbos War Cemetery to be with us. We met them for the first time and it was an emotional time for us , not only on our part to have our Mother and Father reunited but to see the rest of the crew along side Dad's grave. We managed to share the few flowers we had amongst them all.

From Nijmegen we went to Reeuwijk with Jan and his friends to see the cemetery at the church in Sluipwijk were the crew were originally buried (an account of this can be seen on your site under Jan Springintveld sent by Rob Christie) From the church we were taken to see the crash site, another emotional time. Its a place of outstanding beauty and tranquility.

The next day we went to the Crash 40-45 Museum in Lisserbroek. A museum worth a visit just for the dedication alone, that these kind Dutchmen have done, to preserve the history of our Air Forces and their Liberation. Brother Mike and I were allowed to handle a few of the parts of AR-R and given a memento of it, another emotional moment.

Last year 2003 May 4th  we went out to Holland to attend the memorial service in the village of Reeuwijk . There is a Memorial erected for the crew of AR for Robert and 3 Dutchmen, who we have been given to understand, could have been Resistance workers. The Mayor asked to be introduced and we had coffee with him after the service. Visited  Jonkerbos again to pay our respects to the crew and our parents.

In July of 2003 my wife Josie and I went to Binbrook. I noticed on your site that Herb and Mary Oliver had visited there in June 1998, just wanted to let you all know out there, that the runway is still intact. We saw the memorial that has been erected on it in Memory of the crews, kept neat and tidy ,although everywhere seemed rather neglected but it wasn't hard to imagine what the 460 went through. The hangers still being used by Industry, we couldn't get to where the Quarters and Conning tower are because it is fenced off. 

 

w4960-01.jpg (46344 bytes)

Memorial at Binbrook
23 July 2003

 

On the same trip we went to East Kirby, a surprise birthday present from my wife, a taxi ride on Lancaster "Just Jane", a fantastic experience and insight as to what my dad did as W/O and rear gunner. The Lanc does everything but takes off !!

 

w4960-02.jpg (16673 bytes)

"Just Jane" at East Kirby

w4960-03.jpg (26466 bytes)

"Just Jane" at East Kirby

 

2004- Just after New Year I had a phone call from Jan Springintveld to say that he had heard from the relatives of 2 crew members, Rob Christie nephew of the Pilot  Sgt Bob Christie and Peter Hogan nephew of Sgt Peter Hogan  (Gunner) it was such an exciting time for us .Since then we have been in contact with them both and exchanged photographs and information that they had. Rob Christie has also managed to find a family member of Sgt Jack. Heath (Navigator). I have a photo of dad with 4 more airmen on it. So far two crew  Bob Christie and Peter Hogan have been identified and hoping one of the others could be Jack Heath.  I received a photo of Flight Engineer Reginald Kerwin from Rob Christie, have been given to understand he could have been Rhodesian but is listed with the M o D that the was Voluntary RAF so unsure how his family can be contacted, working on it at the moment. It would be great if we could find any information on the rest of the crew Pilot Officer Bruce Bennett (Air Gunner) and Sgt John Horwood (Air Bomber). Maybe someone out there reading this might know of them.

We are going out to Holland again this May for the Memorial service and to visit the cemetery in Nijmegan. The historian of Reeuwijk has written a book about the history of Reeuwijk, including the crash of AR-R 4960 and the Mayor asked for it to be translated in to English so he can present it to us.

Without your 460 Squadron web site and this modern way of computers, I doubt if we would ever have had this communication with the rest of the crews families out there in Australia. Although its taken 4 years its just great that contact has been made at last.

Many thanks on behalf of myself and my brother Michael

John Lewis   England.

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

I need your help

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 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 13 January 2001

This page last updated 04 February 2015