Text & Pictures: Marc Arys - Archives:World Wide Web / DR   ęsbap 2022

  

Every year on May 4th, a National Remembrance Day service is held in the Netherlands in memory of all civilians and military personnel who lost their lives in war or peace missions since the beginning of the Second World War.
This year saw the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) Lancaster B Mk 1 - PA474, carry out an extensive flight to be part of the various commemorations held in Belgium and in the Netherlands.

  

  Flight plan of PA474. The flown inbound leg to Belgium differed from the planned one

  

PA474 departed RAF Coningsby at 10.43, heading for the continent and coasting out at Great Yarmouth. The flight path took her over Zeeland, north of Middelburg, before turning south towards Belgium. 
After the first overflight at Lierde (commemoration of Lancaster
'DX-P' W4234) PA474 set course to Alken, as part of the commemoration of the loss of Lancaster HK542 'KO-J', shot down on April 25, 1944. All crewmembers lost their lifes. 'KO-J' was assigned to the RAF 115 Squadron

  

  'Through struggles to the stars' motto of the RAF - Bomber Command Crest - 115 Squadron crest

115 Squadron lancaster on duty

  Splendid art paint of a 115 Squadron Lancaster

  

A memorial was inaugurated on May 4, 2019. This memorial was erected in cooperation with the Belgian Friends of the 115 Sqn, and consists of a central pedestal joined by two vertical plates, depicting the tail of a Lancaster. The central piece carries the names of the crewmembers of 'KO-J'. The ceremony was presided by municipal and military authorities and attended by quite a large audience. Some military vehicles and re-enactors were also on site.

  

  Ceremony at the memorial

  

After the formal ceremony, Lancaster PA474 made two passes in memory of the fallen crew, before heading to Leopoldsburg, Sanicole and on to the Netherlands.

  

  Fly-by of PA474

  

Lancaster B Mk 1, HK542 - 'KO-J' (RAF 115 Squadron)

  

On April 24, 1944, 637 aircaft were dispatched for various missions, of which 21 detailed for an attack on Karlsruhe. 369 Lancasters, 259 Halifaxes and 9 Mosquitos. 19 aircraft were lost, 11 Lancasters and 8 Halifaxes.'KO-J' was shot down by night fighter Oberleutnant Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, from the IV/NJG 1, and crashed at Alken, 9km northeast of Sint-Truiden in Belgium. The seven crewmembers were killed.

  

At first they were burried on the airfield of Brustem, but have found their final resting place at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at Heverlee (Belgium)

  

Oberleutnant Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer (16.02.1922 - 15.07.1950)

   

  

H.W. Schnaufer was the highest-scoring night fighter ace of the German Luftwaffe. Schnaufer's victories (121) were mostly British four engined bombers. He joined the Luftwaffe in 1939 and trained at various pilot ands fighter pilot schools. First assigned to the 1 NJG (Nachtjagdgeschwader), he flew combat missions in support of Operation Cerberus. Participated in the Defence of the Reich campaign from 1942 on. His scored his first aerial victory on June 2, 1942. Het went on to become a squadron leader and group commander. Awarded the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross for his 42nd aerial victory on December 31, 1943 and the Diamonds to his Knight Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords on October 16, after achieving his 100th victory.

  

Knights Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords and Diamonds

  

H.W. Schnaufer was nicknamed the "Spook of Sint-Truiden" (Ghost of Sint-Truiden), from the location of his unit in Belgium.
H
e was taken prisoner of war by the British forces in May 1945 and released a year later. Schnaufer took over the family business (wine). On July 13, 1950, during a wine purchase visit in France, he sustained multiple injuries in a car accident and died in a hospital in Bordeaux two days later.

  

      

Messerschmitt BF 110-E2 (G9+LN), the mount of the Spook of Sint-Truiden

  

Lancaster B Mk 1 - PA474

  

PA474 was built as a B Mk 1 (B1) by Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd at its Broughton factory near Chester in 1945 and was to be part of the British Tiger Force for strategic bombing in the Far East. Following the end of the war with Japan the aircraft was not needed and PA474 entered storage. With gun turrets removed it was assigned to Photographic Reconnaissance duties with 82 Squadron in East and South Africa.
On return from squadron service PA474 was loaned to
 
Flight Refuelling Limited to be used as a pilotless drone. Flight Refuelling used an Avro Lincoln instead and PA474 was then transferred to the College of Aeronautics, Cranfield, Bedfordshire to be used for trials on the Handley Page laminar flow wing. The test wings were mounted vertically above the rear fuselage.
In 1964 PA474 came under the control of the
 
Air Historical Branch for possible display in the proposed RAF Museum. During this time the aircraft appeared in two films: Operation Crossbow and The Guns of Navarone. PA474 was stored first at Wroughton and then at Henlow then, after a request in 1965 from 44 Squadron, the Lancaster moved to RAF Waddington for restoration back to wartime standard including refitting the front and rear turrets.
PA474 was transferred to the
 
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in 1973.In 1975 a mid-upper turret was found in Argentina and fitted. During the winter of 1995 the Lancaster was fitted with a new main spar to extend the flying life.
On 7 May 2015, the aircraft suffered a fire in its starboard outer engine. A safe landing was made at RAF Coningsby. It flew again on 12 October 2015 after extensive work to fix the damage caused by the fire to number four engine. It was later announced that with the ongoing maintenance, PA474 should still be airworthy for years to come.

  

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