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Air crash in Bergeijk



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A Wellington HZ520 crashed on the Borkelsedijk in Bergeijk on 22 June 1943. The British bomber was on its way to bomb Krefeld, a city in Germany, when it was hit by German artillery at around 01:20 on its way out.

Four Englishmen and one Canadian were on board. Two of them, Flight Sergeant Hugh Victor Holmes (England) and Flying Officer Douglas Stewart Milne (Canada), did not survive the crash. They are buried in Commonwealth War Cemetery in Woensel, Eindhoven.

Shortly before the aircraft crashed, it dropped its 4,000-pound bomb, which landed near the crash site. The bomb crater is located 20-25 metres northeast of the Borkelsedijk and it can still be seen today.

One of the survivors surrendered

One of the three crew members who survived had landed by parachute near Berkenhoeve at Burgemeester Aartslaan (now Stal Tilburgs (Tilburg Stables)). His name was Bill Wright, a radio operator and gunner from England. He was taken in by the residents of the farm, but he later surrendered to the Germans.

Two crew members tried to flee

These crew members (Eric F. Lapham, from England, and Edward Alexander Eames, from England) went to hide at Sjang Martens at Maaij 8. Jan Verhoeven and Johan Vierbergen* from the underground resistance picked them up there and, dressed as farmers, took them to Belgium via the Barrier. Johan had the escape route with him. He had written it down on the inside of a matchbox to prevent the German troops from finding it. They then crossed the bridge over the Kempen Canal and travelled to Berlare by train from the Neerpelt station.


Johan Vierbergen travelled with the two crew members to Schoonaarde station near Dendermonde. There they had to wait one night until the stationmaster, who was in on the plot, came on duty. Johan therefore took the pilots to acquaintances in the neighbourhood. The next morning, they were arrested with a bicycle belonging to Johan's acquaintances in their possession. The German troops then arrested Johan Vierbergen and Jo Vanduffel-Verhoeven, the owner of the bicycle. Johan was executed in Germany. Jo Vanduffel-Verhoeven survived through several camps, including Ravensbrück and Mauthausen.

After the war

All three crew members survived their captivity. Eric Lapham paid a visit to Bergeijk in 1990 and in 1994, together with Jo Vanduffel-Verhoeven, he attended the unveiling of the monument Bergeijk, Poort der Bevrijding (Bergeijk, Memorial Gate of Liberation). On the same day they also unveiled the monument for the crashed aircraft at Borkelsedijk* and laid flowers at the commemorative stone for Johan Vierbergen and Mayor Magnee in the Bergeijk* town hall.

Source: Bergeijk in Oorlogstijd (Bergeijk in wartime), Johan Biemans, 2015