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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 49159
Last updated: 30 October 2020
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Time:09:45 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic SPIT model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVI
Owner/operator:322 (Dutch) Squadron Royal Air Force (322 (Dutch) Sqn RAF)
Registration: RK892
C/n / msn: 3W-A
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:near the Groene Kerkje church at Oegstgeest, Zuid-Holland -   Netherlands
Phase: Combat
Departure airport:B.79 Woensdrecht
Destination airport:
On 13 February 1945 six pairs of Spitfires of 322 (Dutch) Sqn RAF took off around 0915 hrs from Woensdrecht airfield for armed reconnaissance missions. The pair made of Flt Lt Lourens Marinus Meijers and Flg Off Eric Ditmarsch flew directly to the sea and then flew to Den Haag along the coast. At the height of Valkenburg they were fired at by Flak, immediatly went up to avoird the antiaircraft shells, and turned inland. They then followed highway 4, the current A44, and flew to Amsterdam. This busy road between Amsterdam and Den Haag was particularly popular with allied pilots as an opportunity for a nice piece rate shooting at a German convoy there frequently occured. It was for both men also no stranger route.

At the sight of a German vehicle at the height of the Elsgeesterpolder Meijers hesitated for a moment and put the attack. With roaring engine both Spitfire dived down. But at the moment that the leader, Meijers, opened fire Ditmarsch made an unexpected maneuver in such a way that he was suddenly is in its line of fire. The tail of Ditmarsch’ s Spitfire XVI RK892 was cut and landed on the south-eastern side of the A4 at the height of the Vinkenweg. The aircraft also lost a wing that fell across the road near the farm of the family de Ruiter. Ditmarsch was too low to bail out and crashed in his unmanegeable fighter at high speed near the Groene church in Oegstgeest, hitting a ditch at high speed. The impact was so rude that the heavy engine of the Spifire broke from the aircraft, and rolled 30 meters through the pasture before coming to a halt. Meijers flew several turns around the wreck and then departed westwards. It was 1015 hrs.

The young Martin de Jong was at the time on the way to the main distribution office in Oegstgeest with his father, who had a grocery store. Halfway through the canal his father discovered that he had forgotten the necessary coupons and send his son back home to pick them up. On the way back, at the height of the Groene church, Martin suddenly saw blue flames and puffs of smoke on the ground. It took a while before he realized that two fighters were shooting at a German vehicle. Foxholes were dug along the road, but none was near hom, so he quickly crept behind a barrier post, which were buried in order to avoid glider landings on the highway. He hid totally under the pole to avoid the fire from the air. Suddenly a piece of Spitfire wing fell on his hiding place and hit in the ribs, while the aircraft itself crashed a little further down in the polder. De Jong was then taken home by a passerby on the luggage rack of his bicycle, after which he spent three weeks recovering in bed. He though that the two planes had collided in the air.

The wreck of Spitfire XVI RK892 with the lifeless body of Eric Ditmarsch so ended in the slope of a boundary ditch in the polder between Oegstgeest and Voorhout. German troops quickly reached the site and put guards around it to keep the curious at bay. The two soldiers assigned to this task were billeted in the family home of the Ruiter at the end of the Vinkenweg in Rijnsburg. Soon, the Germans found out that the pilot of the Spitfire was not an Englishman, but a Dutchman in Allied service. This aroused the anger of the Ortskommandant who gave the order to leave the body of Ditmarsch where itw was as a warning to the inhabitants of the surrounding villages. However, the parish priest of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Bartholomeus in Voorhout took pity on Ditmarsch to and went daily to the office of the Ortskommandant to advocate for the opportunity to bury him. After a few days the permission to take the body out of the plane was granted. After the war, however, another version of this story said that Ditmarsch could not be found at first because he laid in the ditch away from the wreck. That could also explain why he was buried only on 17 February 1945 in Voorhout.

Carpenter Broeders from Noordwijk was instructed to make a coffin and Jan van Steijn, the owner of the meadow, brought the body of Ditmarsch by horse and wagon to Voorhout. There it was discovered that the pilot missed a boot with a foot or part of his leg. This was later found by A. Post from Oegstgeest. He and some of his friends brought the grim discovery also to Voorhout, with a silk scarf bearing the map of the Netherlands that Ditmarsch was wearing. Ditmarsch was laid out in Voorhout church and then buried on 17 February 17 near the Groene church in Oegstgeest. The coffin, hastily put together with wartime bad quality glue, broke during transport. After the war the story emerged that on the day Ditmarsch was buried a Piper Cub reconnaissance plane landed on the A4 to deliver a wreath for him. This story has been endorsed by several people but could not be confirmed.

At this stage of the war, the Germans were no more in a hurry to retrieve the Spitfire’ s wreck. They only took away the weapons and let the rest to become an attraction for the local youth, who used the wreck in the ditch to get from one side to the other of the meadow and count the bullet holes in the tail of the Spitfire, up to 108 according to some. A portion of the Spitfire propeller was taken by Joop Warmenhoven. After his death, it was added to the collection of the Voorhout Historical Circle. The yound also secretly searched the area for ammunition. The shells were then stripped of gunpowder and after the war as a souvenir sold to collectors. The wreck was over time stripped from parts but remained in the ditch until well into the 50s when it was removed and sold as scrap by a smart Dutch that convinced the owner of the pasture if he could help to get rid of the wreck.

Eric Ditmarsch was born on 27 November 1922 in Semarang, a city on the northern coast of the island of Java, Dutch East Indies. At the outbreak of the war he was 17 and he enlisted in the Navy. After training as a fighter pilot, he joined 322 Sqn on 11 November 1944. His Dutch rank was Officier vlieger 3e klasse KMR. His close family was officially informed of his death only on 28 August 1946.

Eric Ditmarsch today is the day still buried in grave number 14 next to the Groene church in Oegstgeest. The stone has since been renewed and management is in the hands of the Dutch War Graves Foundation. He and the 16 other Allied airmen buried in Oegstgeest are not forgotten after all these years. Ever since the war, they shall be commemorated annually on 11 November. The commemoration takes place on that day because the countries of the British Commonwealth commemorate their war dead on or around November 11 every year.

What was the real reason for the drama remain a mystery to this day. Maybe it was the bad weather? 13 February 1945 was a gray windy day. There was no frost and the meadows were green. Flt Lt Meijers was more than an experienced pilot, one of the first Dutchmen who was trained in England. He reported that he did not know what exactly happened because he did not shot at all.

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Revision history:

17-Dec-2008 11:45 ASN archive Added
14-Feb-2016 19:09 Laurent Rizzotti Updated [Time, Operator, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Location, Phase, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
08-Feb-2020 20:59 TigerTimon Updated [Time, Cn, Location, Departure airport, Source]

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