The Netherlands / Landmark

Air warfare




On 17 September 1944, Operation Market Garden began and exactly one day later, on 18 September, the municipality of Waalre was liberated by British troops coming from the south. Before Operation Market Garden began, a lot of fighting already took place around Waalre, especially in the air.

Much of the fighting in the Second World War took place in the air. The German air force tried to destroy targets in Britain to hamper the war industry and demoralise the British people. The Allies, in turn, did the same. The German army had concentrated much of its war industry in the Ruhr area, not far from the Dutch border. As a result, the approach routes of the Allied bombers mostly went over Dutch territory. The German army had set up its defences accordingly.

During the war years, many bombers flew over the municipality of Waalre, several of which crashed in the area. Within the municipal boundaries of Waalre, 25 airmen lost their lives: 7 Canadians, 12 British, 1 Australian, 4 Germans and 1 American. Moreover, a bomber with a New Zealand crew came down in Aalst in 1942. They were probably the first complete New Zealand crew to be taken into German captivity.

A bomber of the Royal Air Force lost a fire extinguisher when it crashed. The Lancaster had taken off from Woodhall Spa in Great Britain just before midnight on 28 June 1943. The target for that night was the German city of Cologne. The British crew managed to reach the city and drop their bombs. The return flight was often more dangerous for the bombers than the outward flight. In the meantime, the German troops had often been warned, so they had their anti-aircraft guns and night fighters in readiness and could await the returning stream of bombers. The Lancaster did not escape the German air defences on its return flight either: it caught fire and crashed in Aalst on 29 June. During the crash, the fire extinguisher of the bomber was lost. The entire crew of seven, led by pilot Flight Sergeant Terence Murphy, were killed. Many decades later, the fire extinguisher was found at an archaeological dig, as a silent witness to the disaster that took place here.  

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Heistraat, Aalst