Concerning the flight of the LANCASTER ED488 VN-M, which crashed on 2nd February 1943 at Hamont in Belgium, the following events could be reconstructed from the R.A.F. Bomber Command Intelligence Narrative of Operations, the Operations Record Book of the 50th Squadron, German wreck salvage reports and from eye-witness accounts:
On the evening of 2nd February 1943 an allied fleet of 161 aircraft set out for a bombing raid on the city of Cologne in Germany. The 5th Group of this fleet from the 50th Squadron, which had its base at Skellingthorpe (Lincoln), sent 8 Lancaster bombers. Six of these aircraft were completely successful. One aircraft returned early owing to the rear turret being out of service. The VN-M of Flying Officer Al Power and his crew, failed to return.
On their way home, the aircraft of F/O Al Power and his crew was attacked by the German night-fighter of pilot Hauptmann Streib. The two air gunners immediately opened fire on the attacking German plane, but a second attack left both air gunners fatally wounded. The steering mechanism was damaged and the plane caught fire. Since the plane was completely out of control, F/O Al Power instructed his crew to bale out, but as the last man to leave the plane, his parachute failed to open.
The Lancaster flew low over the nearby farm, owned by the Tijskens family and crashed in a swamp called 'de Papebos', in the Belgian village of Hamont at 9:27 P.M.
A German report made on 3rd February 1943, the day after the crash, mentioned that the plane lay under the swamp's surface. Another German report of 12th February mentioned that to salvage the wreck would be technically impossible.
Sgt Clark, Sgt Holland, Sgt Mitchell and F/O Church, who had been able to leave the burning plane in time, survived the war. They were all interned in German prison camps for several years.
The names of the two air gunners, Sgt Beadon and F/Lt Bousfield, are engraved in the R.A.F. memorial in Runnymede on the Thames, together with 20,454 names of other R.A.F. airmen who have no graves.
F/O Al Power was buried in the military cemetery at Heverlee in Belgium.
At the chapel of De Haart in Hamont, a commemorative plaque mentions the names of the three war heroes of the 50th Squadron who lost their lives for our common freedom.
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- Text: Peter Loncke
- Photos: René Winters, Peter Loncke & Edgard Van Decraen (5)