On September 17th, 1944, the reconnaissance aircraft made in America the P-51 Mustang FZ125-YT-C crashed at the Broeseinderdijk, Grote Heide, Neerpelt, in the province of Limburg in Belgium.
The Canadian pilot Henry James (Jimmy for his friends) Muir was carrying out an armed reconnaissance flight over Arnhem. During this flight he was hit by the German FLAK (anti aircraft guns). The RCAF pilot lost his life during this attack. He was laid to rest at the old cemetery of Neerpelt.
The American aircraft had joined the 65th Squadron of the 122nd Wing of the Royal Air Force. The Wing participated in the large operation Market Garden. Early September 1944, the Wing was established at the airport of Grimbergen.
On 17 September,1944, in Grimbergen at 16.45 eight Mustangs took to the air. Just about two hours later only six returned. Aircraft FX896 of Flight Lieutenant D.G. Metzler was also lost. After a dogfight the aircraft crashed over Oosterbeek near Arnhem. F/L Metzeler also lost his life.
During the Battle for Arnhem between 17 and 25 September, 1944, the most important job of the 65th Squadron was to prevent the Germans from getting reinforcements into their lines in the Netherlands. Therefore strafing attacks were carried out on trains, tanks and trucks.
Till the day James Muir (standing up, third from the right in the picture) died he was the official author of the war diary of the 65th Squadron. James Muir was born on August 26th, 1922 in the Canadian city of Quebec. He was a British citizen and mastered both the English and the French languages fluently. At the time of the crash he was a Temporary Flight Lieutenant.
On 9 December, 1943, James Muir was transferred from the Royal Canadian Air Force to the Royal Air Force. At first he served in the 82nd Squadron and in May 1944 he3 was transferred to the 65th Squadron. After the war James Muir received posthumously five medals of honor.
On the Boeseinderdijk in Neerpelt, the Local Society for the Preservation of the Historical Countryside has erected a small monument in order to memorize pilot James Muir for ever.
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- Text: Heemkundekring Neerpelt
- Photos: Ben Harmsen & René Winters