Memorial dedication to the crew of a 149 Squadron Stirling, 25th May 2013

On Saturday 25th May 2013 a memorial was unveiled near the town of Kasterlee in Belgium to the crew of a 149 Squadron Stirling bomber which crashed in the early hours of 14th May 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. Four relatives of the crew attended the memorial service.

Short Stirling III BF479 of 149 Squadron was briefed to attack the industrial town of Bochum in Germany as part of the ‘Battle of the Ruhr’. At about 0305 the bomber was attacked by an Me110 night fighter flown by Obfw Fritz Schellwat of Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 which resulted in the destruction of the Stirling bomber.

The aircraft crashed in flames in the Vorsell near Kasterlee where the German Luftwaffe were quickly on the scene. None of the crew survived the crash and all are now buried in Schoonselhof Cemetery, Commonwealth War Graves section.

The crew was:

  • Flying Officer L C Martin – Pilot
  • Sgt R C Ferguson RCAF – Second Pilot
  • Sgt J E Butt – Flight Engineer
  • Sgt N H Frank – Navigator
  • Flying Officer G R Royde DFC – Bomb aimer
  • Sgt E Hazelden French – Wireless Operator
  • Sgt H P Fudge RCAF – Mid-upper Gunner
  • Sgt H A J Berry – Rear Gunner

Representatives of the families of Sgt Ferguson, Sgt Frank, Flying Officer Royde, and Sgt Berry attended the memorial service along with several eyewitnesses of the events of seventy years ago.

The Wings Museum is keen to establish contact with any other relatives of the crew. Please contact us.

The Wings Museum Recovery Team investigated the crash site, and recovered various items in 2009.

Belgian Air Force F-16 Falcons perform a flypast over the crash site – Friday 24th May 2013.

The ceremony was performed over two days, starting on Friday 24th May 2013 with a flypast of two F16 Falcons generously provided by the Belgian Air Force. To witness this unique event were four relatives of the crew.

The final memorial service and unveiling ceremony took place on Saturday 25th May and was attended by the Mayor of Kasterlee. Speeches were read by the Mayor, a representative of the Heemkundige Kring and an eyewitness, Mr Jacques Boone.

The memorial service included a faultless sounding of the Last Post, followed by the laying of wreaths and flowers, and then another flypast, this time consisting of a Stampe SV4, two Piper Cubs and a Dehavilland Chipmunk. They flew the ‘missing man’ formation over the crash site, followed by a low pass by the Stampe.

An exhibition presented by the Wings Museum about the aircraft and its gallant crew was then attended at the Town Hall of Kasterlee, followed by a reception at a local restaurant.

The Memorial before the dedication
Frank Berry pays an emotional visit to his relatives grave at Schoonselhof
Representatives of the families of Sgt Ferguson, Sgt Frank, Flying Officer Royde, and Sgt Berry
The last post is played followed by a minutes silence in reflection of the young lives lost all those years ago.
Jacque Boone recalls his memories of 70 years ago.
A large crowd gathered to pay their respects
Wings Museum Curator Daniel Hunt and John Frank in his Coastguard uniform
The Mayor reads a moving speech
An SV4 and Chipmunk fly over the crash site
The SV4 performs a low flypast and wing waggle as it heads for home
The memorial now stands in proud memory of those who lost their lives close to this spot in fight for freedom.
Families of the crew and those responsible for the memorial dedication
Our Canadian Friend Rob Ferguson. Rob is now a keen researcher for the Wings Museum.
Families visit the exact spot where the stricken Stirling crashed 70 years ago along with the curators of the Wings Museum.
The wreckage of Stirling BF479 burnt out on the surface and was recovered by the Germans. Even so, the Wings Museum Recovery Team managed to recover many items that were left behind just below the surface.

With thanks to the community of Kasterlee, and the Belgian Air Force. Also Heemkundige Kring (a local history group), Jacques Boone, Marcel Borghs, Luc Cox, and of course the families for attending.