Crash information W4769 Wieringerwerf

During World War II more than 40 different bombers and jet fighters have crashed within de county borders of Hollands Kroon. The crashes were mostly on land, in the Ijssel lake and the Wadden sea.

Few crew members were arrested after using their parachute to reach the ground, others could flee with the help of the Resistance. However, the majority lost their lives and did not return home safely to their family and loved ones.

Information about the remembrance post 

This remembrance post was unveiled on February 6th 2021

Location of this remembrance post

AVRO Lancaster MKI

Crash information

In the Sunday evening of 3 January 1943, English Lancaster bomber took off from Seyerston airport on its way to Kruppfabrieken in Essen. The crewmembers were led by the young but experienced pilot Harry Bird.


This dark night pilot Bird and his crew members flew together with 3 Mosquito and 19 Lancaster bombers to Germany. The Lancaster did not return that night, but it exploded high in the sky at 19.40h. To this day the cause of the explosion is unknown. All crewmembers died. They are buried at the Military Honour cemetery in Huisduinen. After the war they are reburied at the British Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery near Bergen op Zoom.

The crew

Harry Raymond Bird

Pilot Officer


21 years old

United Kingdom

John Davis


Flight engineer

23 years old

United Kingdom

Harold John Robert Tickle

Flying Officer


20 years old

United Kingdom

George Leslie Inglis


Bomb aimer

26 years old

United Kingdom

Robert James Kee

Warrant Officer II

Radio officer

21 years old


Ronald Clifford Gait



21 years old

United Kingdom

Leslie George Gunning



19 years old

United Kingdom

Photos of the unveiling

Reports and press

Placement remembrance post without official unveiling

january 2021 - Sunday evening 3 January 1943 the Lancaster bomber  W4769 QR-V exploded at a 6 km altitude. All crew members aged between 19-26 years lost their lives.

A private unveiling of this new remembrance post will be held on the 6th of February, to honour the request of the family of one of the crew members. Unfortunately, no guest are allowed due to the strict COVID-19 regulations

On the 6th of February our board members placed the information panel on the remembrance post. They will add a moment of silence to remember the 7 heroes.

The whole story

per puram tonantes

It is Sunday evening, January 3, 1943. Eyewitness Ben Viersen is 12 years old and heard the sound of airplanes early in the evening. He, his brother and father had just waved goodbye to the visitors on Sunday evening. Curious to watch the planes in the sky, Ben opened the barn door. High in the air he heard the heavy propeller engines roar of English bombers. In the cold night just after New Year's Eve, the British Air Force, the RAF, was on its way to bomb targets in Germany. The planes flew from a westerly direction to the IJsselmeer, and almost directly above the Oostermiddenmeerweg. Ben Viersen was just outside when one of the planes exploded in mid-air. Father Viersen immediately called Ben back inside and closed the barn door. After the explosion there were flashes of light and explosions, and after a few moments only the fading sound of the other planes moving away could be heard.

The police, then called the Rijksveldwacht, made reports of this and other incidents during the war. A report by a local police officer, Mr. Haarsma. National constable Haarsma saw the same explosion as Ben Viersen from Middenmeer. The plane exploded with a huge bang in the air. He looked towards Medemblik and saw a real firework in the sky. Rays of fire, different in color, came down at a moderate pace. Mr. Haarsma contacted the Head of the local Air Defense Service Mr. Nap and discussed the incident. Both came to the conclusion that on-site investigation in the dark, at that time, for unexploded bombs would yield nothing. At 10:00 PM, Mr. Haarsma and Mr. Nap was still summoned to investigate the location of the downed aircraft on the Oostermiddenmeerweg with someone from the Dutch Marechaussee, Mr. Hoorns. Once there, only scattered aircraft wreckage was found. On the same night of January 3 to 4, both men were called at 2.30 am by the German Ortskommandant of Medemblik to come to the crash site again for the detection of duds. Tracking in the dark was pointless and it was agreed to make another attempt the next day. The report does not state whether there was a search for the crew that night, which is strange in hindsight.

The wreckage turned out to be from an English Lancaster bomber, a four-engined heavy bomber.

An English report about this particular Lancaster was that this aircraft had taken off that afternoon at 5.21 pm from Syerston airfield. The airport at the time was roughly between Newark and Nottingham. The Lancaster with code QR-V had been produced in October at the Vickers aircraft factory in Manchester and was less than three months old when it exploded. The still young but experienced pilot Harry Bird was on his way to the Krupp factories in Essen. The mission was an RAF 'experimental operation' to test a new "target seeker" radio system called Oboe. The crew were used to test the new Oboe system's effectiveness in finding the target. Harry Bird and his six crew members flew in the dark night with another 3 Mosquito and 19 Lancaster bombers to Essen. The Lancaster did not return to Syerston airfield that evening, and the entire crew was reported missing. The 'experimental operation' with Oboe turned out to be a success for the Allies and that same month Oboe became operational with the RAF.

The next day (Monday, January 4, 1943) the wreckage and duds appeared to be scattered over a number of farms and their fields. On the Oostermiddenmeerweg near Mr. Sijtsma and Mr. Hoogendijk and at Mr. Viersen on the Wagenpad. The mutilated bodies of the crew members were also found, two at Hoogendijk and three at Sijtsma. Where the last two crew members were found is not stated in the report.

Ben Viersen still remembers well that he and his father found a part of a right airplane wing in the field. The wreckage was dragged from the land to the yard with two draft horses.

Harry Bird and crew were buried with military honors by the occupying forces at the then military cemetery Huisduinen on January 7, 1943. The crew was reburied after the war by the Dutch government at the Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery, Grave reference of Harry Bird is 33. A. 11.

The Lancaster crew consisted of:

Pilot F/Sgt. Harry (R H) Bird †, age 21

Flight Engineer Sgt. John (J) Davis †, age 23

Navigator P/O H J R Tickle †, age 20

Bombsight Sgt George (G J) Inglis †, aged 26

Radio operator Sgt Robert (R J) Kee † (RCAF), age 21

Machine gunner Sgt Ronald (R C) Gait †, age 21

Machine gunner Sgt Leslie (L G) Gunning †, age 19

The squadron to which the Lancaster belonged is the 61st squadron. The motto of the 61st squadron was in Latin “per puram tonantes” roughly translated from English “thundering through the clear sky”. During the Second World War, the 61st squadron lost a total of 156 aircraft and suffered 974 deaths. On the RAF memorial stone Skellingthorpe of the 61st squadron, where these 974 people are remembered, the following text is carved;

My letter sweet life is over

My eyes no longer see

No Christmas trees No summer walks

No pretty girls for me

I've got the chop I've had

My nightly ops are done

Yet in another hundred years

I'll still be twenty one

R.W. Gilbert

We visited the graves at the War Cemetery near Bergen op Zoom. There, far from the Wieringermeer, these crew members lie together with approximately nineteen Allied airmen who died in or near the Wieringermeer. There they can be appropriately remembered as human beings if we also remember their names after 80 years. Having a name is one of the most basic forms of personal identity.

After the first newspaper article in 2014, several other eyewitnesses had come forward. Fragments of the Lancaster and a rescue whistle were also shown. At the end of November 2015, we got in touch with John Davis' grandson, named Gavin Davis. John was the Lancaster's flight engineer. Barry Davis, Gavin's father, was 7 months old when word came of John's missing.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) uses the abbreviation MIA for a missing person, which stands for “Missing In Action”. The message came through the Wing Commander R.M. Coad. The RAF telegram of the disappearance of 3/4 January 1943 had been returned, stating "incorrect address". In a personal letter, the Wing Commander Coad had written to Mrs. Pat Davis on 14 January 1943 that John Davis and his crew had not returned from the mission on 3/4 January and were reported missing by the RAF. On July 15, 1943, the final message came through the Red Cross and the RAF that John had been killed.

Gavin and his father Barry have come to the Netherlands twice before and visited John's grave at the cemetery in Bergen op Zoom. In April 2022, Barry passed away from cancer.

His father John Davis's grave is inscribed;

Sorry is silent,

sacred, unshared,

God alone knows how we cared.

Pat and Barry.

After the grandson Gavin Davis made contact with us, we also came into contact through him with the Air War Study Group (S.L.O.) Drenthe, which has a lot of information about the squadron, crew members and the occupier. In this way we have received, among other things, photos of three of the seven crew members. With these three photos, the three crew members Davis, Kee and Gait have been given a face.

Robert Kee was from Graysville Manitoba, Canada. From UK John Davis, his parents lived in Redcar Yorkshire and Ronald Gait was from Abertillery, Monmouthshire Wales.

Since there are no survivors from this crash, it is not known what caused it. A German night fighter, anti-aircraft guns, a technical malfunction, a pilot error, … unfortunately we will never know. Their story remains unknown, but not the incident. Fortunately, Ben Viersen was not able to forget the incident and passed it on to us and the Stichting Herdenkingspalen Hollands Kroon.