Memorial dedication to the crew of Halifax DT556 – 21st June 2014.

On Saturday 21st June 2014 a memorial was unveiled at Gootress near the town of Kasterlee in Belgium to the crew of a 76 Squadron Halifax bomber which was shot down in the early hours of 2nd March 1943. The memorial was a joint venture between the Wings Museum, the Heemkundige Kring a local history group in Kasterlee and the community of Kasterlee. Eleven relatives of two members of the crew attended the memorial service travelling from England and Canada.

The circumstances of the loss of Halifax DT556 and her crew were first investigated in 1998 when the Wings Museum wrote to the local Mayor asking for information about the incident. Several searches were made over the years by the Wings Museum with lots of small fragments being recovered. These findings backed up eyewitness reports that the Halifax exploded over the small hamlet of Gootress scattering wreckage across the surface of the fields. By identifying part numbers located on the wreckage, these pieces also confirmed that this was indeed a Mark II Halifax. The investigation came full circle when finally in 2014 a memorial was unveiled to commemorate the crew.

Halifax DT556 Memorial – Kasterlee, Belgium

The Last Flight of DT556…

Handley Page Halifax II Serial Number DT556 MP-U was one of two 76 Squadron Halifaxes lost on the night of the 1st/2nd March 1943. The crew of DT556 took off at 18.27 from RAF Linton-on-Ouse to bomb Berlin. A second pilot by the name of Arthur Thomas Wheatley was on board DT556 to gain air combat experience.

After bombing the target, on the homeward leg of the flight, DT556 was shot down by a German night fighter at 00.13 at Grootrees near Kasterlee in Belgium. The aircraft exploded in mid air scattering wreckage over a 1km radius. Tragically out of the eight crew members on board, only three managed to bale out. Two were captured by the Germans, and one managed to evade back to England. Five of the crew are buried in the CWGC Schoonselhof Cemetery.

On 1/2nd March 1943 a bomber force of 302 aircraft (156 Lancasters, 86 Halifaxes, and 60 Stirlings) were briefed to bomb Berlin. During the raid the Pathfinders experienced difficulty in producing concentrated marking because individual parts of the extensive built-up city area of Berlin could not be distinguished on the H2S screens. Bombing photographs showed that the attack was spread over more than 100 square miles with the main emphasis in the south-west of the city. However, because larger numbers of aircraft were now being used and because those aircraft were now carrying a greater average bomb load, the proportion of the force which did hit Berlin caused more damage than any previous raid on this target. This type of result, with significant damage still being caused by only partially successful attacks, was becoming a regular feature of Bomber Command raids. Some bombs hit the Telefunken works at which the H2S set taken from the Stirling shot down near Rotterdam was being reassembled.

The set was completely destroyed in the bombing but a Halifax of 35 Squadron with an almost intact set crashed in Holland on this night and the Germans were able to resume their research into H2S immediately. 17 aircraft (7 Lancasters, 6 Halifaxes, and 4 Stirlings) were lost on the raid. Returning from the raid shortly after midnight DT556 was intercepted by an German night-fighter and shot down at 0013 hours, crashing between Kasterlee and Turnhaut (Antwerpen), Belgium. Five of the crew were killed and are interred in the same cemetery, two were captured, but Flying Officer E. L. Souter-Smith avoided capture and reached Switzerland where he was interned. After the Second World War he moved to Australia, but was sadly killed in a motoring accident in 1973.

The Crew of Halifax DT556

Fletcher (DFM, MID)

Rank: Squadron Leader
Age: 29
Trade: Pilot
Ser. No: 44065


Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Age: 22
Trade: 2nd Pilot
Ser. No: 42290


Rank: Pilot Officer
Age: Not known
Trade: Bomb Aimer
Taken Prisoner of War by Germans


Rank: Sergent
Age: 20
Trade: Flight Engineer
Taken Prisoner of War by Germans
Read John’s Personal Account


Rank: Sergeant
Age: 19
Trade: Air Gunner
Ser. No: 1320028

Stanley (RCAF)

Rank: Pilot Officer
Age: 22
Trade: W.Op./Air Gnr.
Ser. No: J/17008

Moore (RCAF)

Rank: Pilot Officer
Age: 23
Trade: Air Gunner
Ser. No: J/17007


Rank: Flying Officer
Age: 32
Trade: Navigator
Ser No. 126710

The memorial service and unveiling ceremony took place on Saturday 21st June 2014 attended by the Mayor of Kasterlee. Speeches were read by the Mayor, a representative of the Heemkundige Kring Historical Society and Luc Cox an Aviation historian. The memorial service included a faultless sounding of the last post followed by laying of wreaths and flowers by the families and a flypast by three Piper Cubs over the crash site. An exhibition presented by the Wings Museum about the aircraft and its gallant crew was then attended in the marque close to the crash site. This was then followed by a reception at a local restaurant.

We were pleased to be able to show the families where the Halifax came to earth 70 years before.
The family of Grenville Stanley stand on the exact spot where the Halifax crashed – visiting the crash site was an important and emotional part of their visit
A representative from Stanley’s family placing flowers at the memorial
A representative of the Trinder family placing flowers in memory of their loved one
A touching and moving message from the Trinder family
The Kasterlee Fire Brigade who always show great support and respect
Family members of Sgt. Trinder and P.O. Stanley stand next to the memorial
Representatives from the community of Kasterlee – without their co-operation none of this would be possible
The Marque erected close to the crash site
The Wings Museum exhibition inside the Marque

Visit by families to Schoonselhof Cemetery – Commonwealth War Graves

They lay in peace in the soil that they gave their lives to protect.
Our Canadian friends John and Maxwell Ingalls from Manitoba, Canada.
They travelled a long way from Canada to visit the grave of Greenville Stanley and even after all this time the tears were still as fresh as they were 70 years ago.
Relatives of Sgt. Trinder pay their respects. In the background, relatives of Pilot Officer Grenville Stanley from Canada pay their personal emotional tributes.
The crew members who lost their lives are buried together in a row of five at Schoonselhof.

With thanks to the community of Kasterlee. Also Heemkundige Kring local history group, Marcel Borgh, Luc Cox, Kasterlee Fire Brigade and of course the families for attending.