By Malcolm Brooke
There is no doubt that two bodies were recovered from the wreck of JA851. The first body, found at the crash-site is identified in the records as "the one from Sønderborg". The second body, P/O Tomlin, was washed onto a beach a month after the crash.
|Quite by chance, a lady called Jo Houlihan was researching the story of her Great Uncle, Sgt George Silvester, who was the rear gunner of JA851 that fateful night. Her research led her to this website and enabled her to contact local historian Jørgen Jørgensen.
|It was decided to create a memorial for JA851 to be unveiled on the 17th August 2003, the sixtieth anniversary of the crash. Details of the memorial stone published in the local press brought forward a new witness.
Chresten Schultz was born in 1917 and was 26 years old in 1943.
Jørgen Jørgensen interviewed him in July 2003 and was very impressed by his mental faculties. He could remember every detail of that night.
|He remembers standing outside his house in Holm with friends. Aircraft had been passing over for quite some time. Suddenly shooting was heard over to the east and, following a burst of tracer, a huge fireball was seen in the sky. He saw a bomber coming down "in circles" engulfed by fire. For a moment they were very frightened as they thought the aircraft would hit their village. Just before impact the bomber's nose pulled up and it passed very low over some nearby houses. A fierce fire which lasted over an hour was then seen to the west. They saw nobody leave the aircraft.
|The next morning they saw a dead airman laying in a field. Nearby they saw a part of the rudder and a vertical fin. The airman was lying on his stomach with an arm under his head. Although the face was mostly turned downwards Chresten clearly remembers the face of a small, good looking man about his own age. He especially remembered the hair which he thought was a little long.
|Jørgen Jørgensen then gave Chresten ten 6 x 8cm photographs of airmen. One by one the photographs were examined and put to one side with the comment, "none of these".
When he saw the nineth photograph he said immediately, "I am sure, it is him!" This was the photograph of George Silvester.
Jørgen Jørgensen then gave Chresten a large 10x15cm official photograph of George and he confirmed again, "It is him."
|Other local police reports indicated that the body in the field was wearing an Air Gunner's wing on his uniform. Additional comfirmation comes from the fact that only the pilot and two of the gunners had been awarded medals and it was recorded that a medal ribbon was sewn onto the uniform of the body found in the field.
|On the 17/18th August 2003 a memorial stone was unveiled and a Danish naval boat placed a wreath over the location of the wreckage. The memorial unveiling was attended by many locals and also Alan Parr (nephew of Bob Slaughter) and "Uncle Will" (see The Canal Raids website).
Den dræbte flyver
60 år efter flystyrtet ved Holm er det lykkedes at identificere den dræbte flyver, der blev fundet på Stenbæks mark den 18. august 1943 om morgenen. Flyet, et Lancaster bombefly med en besætning på syv mand, var på vej hjem til England efter et angreb på den tyske raketforsøgsstation i Peenemünde, da det blev skudt ned af en tysk natjager. Besætningen på syv mand omkom. Den dræbte på Stenbæks marker blev den 21. august jfr. materiale i Landsarkivet i Aabenraa begravet som ukendt i grav nr. 14 blandt flyvergravene på kirkegården i Aabenraa. Flyets pilot, P/O T. E. Tomlin, blev den 16. september 1943 fundet på stranden ved Halk. Han blev begravet den 20. september. Den dræbte flyver fra Holm blev aldrig identificeret.
I 2001 henvendte Jo Houlihan, Reading, England, sig til undertegnede for at få oplysninger om det nedstyrtede fly ved Holm, hvor hendes Grand Uncle, F/S George B. Silvester, var agterskytte. Meget talte for, at den dræbte flyver på marken kunne være Silvester, idet han som agterskytte havde de bedste muligheder for at springe ud.
I december 2002 udgav Søren Flensted et værk med oplysninger om samtlige flystyrt i Sønderjylland. Her dukkede nye oplysninger op om flyet ved Holm. Søren Flensted skriver, at gårdejer P. Hejsel, på hvis jord flyet faldt, har berettet, at tyskerne omtalte liget som værende skotte, samt at han ved selvsyn konstaterede, at den omkomne bar ordensbånd.
Det må formodes, at tyskerne ikke har sagt ”Schotte”, men ”Schütze”, hvilket betyder skytte. De har formentlig set hans flyvervinge, et AG med halvvinge. AG står for Air Gunner, altså skytte. Fejlen er mulig, hvis man ikke ved så meget om flybesætningen i et bombefly.
Tre besætningsmedlemmer har fået tildelt medalje: piloten, bombekasteren og agterskytten. Da piloten er identificeret, må liget på marken være enten bombekasteren eller agterskytten. Jo Houlihan fandt ud af, at George Silvester var den eneste i flyet med AG-vinge. Det blev ligeledes fastslået, at bombekasteren fik sin medalje posthumt i 1944. Han kan derfor ikke have haft ordensbånd. Det må herefter være 100% sikkert, at den dræbte flyver på Stenbæks mark er F/S George B. Silvester. Om identificeringen også kan godkendes juridisk, er en anden sag.
Et nyt vidne.
Avisomtalen af ovenstående resulterede i en henvendelse fra Chresten Schultz, Brønd 7, Holm. Han fortalte, at han havde set styrtet om natten, og at han om formiddagen havde set liget af den dræbte flyver på Stenbæks mark. Chresten Schultz var dengang 26 år.
Jeg besøgte Chresten Schultz den 16. juli 2003. Han kunne stadig i en alder af nu 86 år tydeligt se flyveren for sig, som han lå der på maven med ansigtet delvist nedad og en arm under panden.
”Sådan en lille pæn fyr, glat i huden og med lidt langt hår. Jeg glemmer det aldrig”, sagde Chresten Schultz.
”Jeg stod længe og kiggede på ham. Det gjorde mig så ondt for ham og hans familie”, sluttede han.
Jeg havde medbragt 10 fotografier af engelske flyvere, ca. 8 x 10 cm. omtrent som pasbilleder. En af dem var George Silvester. Chresten Schultz kiggede omhyggeligt på hvert billede og lagde dem i to bunker.
”Ingen af dem!” sagde han og gav mig de syv.
”Heller ikke ham!” sagde han og gav mig det ene af de resterende tre.
Tilbage sad Chresten Schultz med to billeder; det ene var billedet af George Silvester.
”Det er ham!” sagde han og gav mig billedet af George Silvester, ”jeg kan kende ham på håret”.
Jeg gav nu Chresten Schultz et officielt RAF foto af George Silvester, og han var slet ikke i tvivl.
Om nedstyrtningen fortalte Chresten Schultz følgende:
”Jeg stod sammen med en flok andre unge på vejen ud for mit hjem i Holm. I lang tid havde vi lyttet til motorlarmen fra mange fly, der fløj hen over os. Der lød skyderi rundt omkring, og over Flensborg svingede lyskasterne frem og tilbage. Pludselig lød der en skudsalve over os lidt mod øst, og vi så striben af lyssporprojektiler. Efter bare nogle få skud lyste en voldsom ildkugle op. Det brændende fly styrtede oplyst af ilden. Vi så tydeligt, at det var et firemotoret fly. Det hvirvlede drejende nedad mod os med skrigende, løbske motorer. Vi blev meget forskrækkede, for det så ud, som om flyet styrtede lige ned på os. I sidste øjeblik drejede det af og passerede helt lavt bag husene nord om Holm. Der opstod en voldsom brand ude mod vest, som brændte i over en time”.
Den 17. august 2003 indviede Lokalhistorisk Arkiv, Holm Sogneforening, en mindesten ved Holm for flystyrtet. Jo Houlihan afslørede stenen. Et par hundrede beboere og mange gæster, heraf flere repræsentanter for No. 49 Squadron, var mødt til begivenheden. Der var hejst flag på samtlige flagstænger i Holm.
Who was the killed airman found in the field of the farm “Stenbæk” the 18th of August 1943?
From Søren Flensted: Allierede flystyrt og nødlandinger i Sønderjylland:
The farmer P. Hejsel, on whose field the aircraft crashed, has told, that the Germans mentioned the body as “Scotsman”, and that he with his own eyes saw, that the killed airman was wearing a ribbon.
“Scotsman”, in Danish “skotte”, in German “Schotte”. “Air Gunner” in German “Schütze”,
„Schütze“ is pronounced much like „Schotte“. Easy mistake if you don’t know anything about “Air Gunner”. “Scotsman” gives no meaning. I think the Germans have seen the AG-Wing and said “Schütze”.
From Jo Houlihan’s letter 2003.01.30.
Flt/Sgt George Silvester 977392.
George’s DFM was awarded 2/4/1943, therefore he would have been wearing his ribbon.
He was the rear gunner and also wore his AG Wing (brevet). Will Hay has also stated that a Flight Sergeant would have a crown logo situated above his three stripes on each arm.
P/O Tonkin 156045.
P/O Tonkin was also awarded a DFM, but it was not promulgated until 1944 – posthu-mously.
He was a Bomb Aimer, therefore would have possibly worn a “B” or a “O” Wing (brevet), and not an AG Wing.
Jo Houlihan finish her letter so:
I can only hope that your source of information proves to be correct and I can take further steps to finally lay my Grand Uncle to rest.
In common all this makes 100% for Fl/Sgt G. B. Silvester to be the airman in the field and buried in grave no. 14. But will that be enough for an approval from the authorities? An approval from English authorities will be needed if the family wants a headstone on the grave.
Søren Flensted has got his information about the body from an article written in 1972 by John Vaupel Christensen about allied bomber crashes on the island Als in WW II. Søren Flensted tells that the farmer P. Hejsel in 1943 was the owner of the farm ”Stenbæk”. In 1970 P. Hejsel gave the information to John Vaupel Christensen. Unfortunately the information is not given to a police report the 18th of August 1943.
A witness, Andreas Andresen, Møllegade 82, Holm, at that time 14 years old, has seen the body in the field. The body was lying with his back upwards and with one arm under his head. He looked unhurt. He was small, think 170 cm, and he had dark hair. The witness doesn’t remember to have seen any harness.
A new Witness.
The work about identification of the killed airman was mentioned in the local newspaper in an article telling about the unveiling of the memorial stone the 17th of August 2003, the 60 years anniversary of the crash.
The article ended with an enquiry for possible witnesses in the hope to confirm the identification. Chresten Schultz, Holm, called up and told, that he had seen the crash and the killed airman.
Chresten Schultz, born in 1917, was 26 years old in 1943. I met him in his home the 16th of July 2003. His mental faculties are untouched by his 86 years of age, and he remembers surprisingly good and clear. Really a good witness he is.
He told, that he saw the crash in the night. Together with some young people he stood outside his home in Holm. The sound of many aircraft had been heard for a long time. From Flensburg there were searchlights, and antiaircraft guns were firing. Suddenly shooting was heard overhead a bit to the east. Tracers were seen and after very little shooting a huge fireball lightened up. The bomber came down in circles lit up by fire. They clearly saw, that it was a four engine aircraft now turning round with screaming engines. A moment they all got frightened because it looked as if the aircraft came directly down upon them. Just before impact it pulled up and passed very low behind the houses in Holm. Then a furious fire lit up to the west. The fire lasted for over an hour. They didn’t see anyone from the crew leave the aircraft.
The next day he saw the killed airman lie in the field. Near him he saw a part of the rudder and a vertical fin. The airman was lying on his stomach in the field with an arm under his head. His face was mostly turned downward, but Chresten Schultz still clearly remembers him as a small, good looking young man in his own age. Especially he remembers his hair, maybe a little long, he thought. He stood for some time looking at the killed airman. He felt so sad, thinking of the young man and his family home in England. He never forgot these minutes, and he still - now in the age of 86 years - clearly is seeing him in his mind.
With me I brought 10 photos of airmen, 6 x 8 cm., much like passport photos. Chresten Schultz carefully had a look at each photo and laid the photo to the left or to the right. He handed over the seven photos with the words: “None of these!”. Then he took the last three, - one of them George B. Silvester -. A photo was handed over: “Can’t be him, too”, he said. From the last two he took George’s photo with the words: “I am sure, it is him. He has just the hair, I remember!”
Then I gave him the official RAF photo of George, 10 x 15 cm, and Chresten Schultz was sure, that the airman, he saw in the field, was George Bernhard Silvester.
In a quarter of an hour a German night fighter shot down three Lancaster bombers.
JA 851 and JA 691, No. 49 Sqn, and EE 117, No. 619 Sqn.
Just in these days (1982) an account about the shooting down of those bombers has been published. The pilot of the German night fighter, Oberleutnant Hans Meisner, tells:
“We were scrambled (Jagel/Schleswig) at 2.15 o’clock on the 18th of August 1943 and sent to the area of Ameise (GCI radar station near Aabenraa). We were lucky to be placed just in the stream of returning bombers from Peenemunde. But the radio was jammed and we did not get contact to Ameise. We did not get any information. We climbed to 11.000 feet and came near to Aabenraa Fjord. My radar operator, Unteroffizier Josef Krinner, had several contacts on his scope, but they passed so quickly, that we thought, it was “Window”. As the contacts were below us, I dived and opened up the throttles.
At 2.54 o’clock I saw the first Lancaster just ahead of us at about 10.000 feet. I flew nearer and fired from about 150 feet. I was a bit to the right and 150 feet lower. No. three engine caught fire. As I broke away under the bomber the rear gunner gave me a burst, but a bit to the left, and he did not hit me. From the beginning of the attack both aircraft were in the German searchlights. As the Lancaster tried to escape in a turn down to the left it placed itself just in my sight, and I gave it another burst. The Lancaster had got it and crashed on the ground a few hundred meters from the fjord. (Lancaster JA851).
I turned east as the observer had got another contact, Meisner tells. I descended a little and saw a Lancaster over me heading west. As the weather was clear I still could see him as I made a steep turn to the west. I gave him a burst from the same position as before, and again No. three engine caught fire. He went down and crashed near Aabenraa Fjord at 3.01 o’clock.(Lancaster JA691).
I turned to the north and the observer got a new victim on his scope. I saw him in a distance of about 1200 meters. My first attack was just as the other two, 150 feet behind, 150 feet lower and a bit to the right. As No. 3 engine caught fire we were caught by searchlight. Though moonlight I got blinded. The Lancaster pilot pulled up his aircraft. Maybe he too got blinded, maybe he in this way tried to slow down to give his crew a better chance to bale out. The bomber filled all my sight. I pulled up, and from about 20 meters I fired. After a very short burst No. 2 engine and the fuselage caught fire. The aircraft blew up and crashed 3.11 o’clock about 2 km east of Ustrup. (Lancaster EE117)
As the bomber blew up the Bf 110 was hit by thick, black oil from the Lancaster and had to brake off and return to Jagel. The aircraft landed safely at 3.30 o’clock. On a raid on Peenemunde RAF that night lost 41 bombers.
This article was published in 1982 in the newspaper Jydske Tidende written by Jørgen Larsen, a reporter from the newspaper. He does not remember from where he got Meisner’s account, maybe from a German article, he tells. An investigation did not give any help.
JØRGEN JØRGENSEN, SUNDGADE 41, DK-6320 EGERNSUND, DANMARK. TLF. 0045 74449230.