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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 49540
Last updated: 9 September 2020
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Type:Silhouette image of generic SPIT model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Supermarine Spitfire LF.Mk IX
Owner/operator:442 (Caribou) Sqn RCAF
Registration: PV316
C/n / msn: Y2-
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 1
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:near Grave, Noord-Brabant -   Netherlands
Phase: Combat
Departure airport:B.88 Heesch (NL)
Destination airport:
On 14 December 1944 the weather dawned clear for a change, bright and cold, and the prospect of a clear day allowed 442 Sqn RCAF to plan a full flying program. The unit commanding officer, Sqn Ldr William Albert Olmsted DFC and bar, led at 1435 hrs the first sortie with six aircraft to dive-bomb the rail marshalling yards at Bocholt where a locomotive and about 15 good cars were dispersed. One section of four Spitfires attacked and claimed four rail cuts, two trucks destroyed, and a truck and a round-house damaged. Olmsted then stopped the attack, turned westward and used the other two aircraft to bomb another marshalling yard near Stadtlohn, where a large fire was started amidst a number of railway carriages. With the aircraft now free of bombs, Olmsted regrouped the fighters to start a search for targets to strafe and flew northward.

A few minutes later he saw a train heading at top speed for the large Dutch city of Enschede pulling eight passenger cars. He ordered his section to follow as he dived on the engine, determined to stop its rush toward safety. His bullets were on target and crippled the engine, forcing it to slow down. Because there were flak cars interspersed among the passenger cars, Olmsted felt the train was particularly important and radioed the pilots to blast the Flak gunners.

Soon the Flak wagons, manned by gray-uniformed men, were clobbered, completely silenced. Then Olmsted’s first impression of the importance of the train was confirmed as streams of Wehrmacht soldiers jumped from the cars, seeking protection in the railroad ditches and low scrub vegetation. The Canadian pilots then strafed the ditches, flying parallel with the tracks while the German soldiers, fully armed, bravely returned fire.

Suddenly Kenway, the code name of the air controller in the area, called Olmsted and told him there were some "bogies" (unidentified and so potentially enemy aircraft) southwest of his position and if he was interested. Olmsted replied positively and led his pilots due west, climbing as fast as the Spitfire could go. While watching left and right his formation and the attack scene for a final assessment of the damage done to the train, he just happened to glance at the radiator temperature gauge located on the lower right side of the instrument panel. Olmsted, like many experienced pilots, seldom actually looked at his engine instruments, the "feel" of the aircraft being enough to know if everything was right. But this time, the needle flicked from a normal 90 to 140 and back to 90 again in the flash of an eye, at exactly the instant he looked at it.

Having by mere chance noticed the gauge, Olmsted realized instantly his aircraft was in trouble. He radioed Kenway to say he was hit and in trouble, and asked a vector for the closest front line. With a calm voice, the senior controller, Sqn Ldr Edison, told him to steer 200° towards Nijmegen. Soon after this conversation with Kenway, Olmsted’s Spitfire began to shake violently. Olmsted managed to coax his Spitfire to 13,000 feet before the engine died and was then faced with a 25-mile glide to Allied territory, escorted by an anxious squadron. He managed to cross the frontline but was then obliged to bale out from his burning Spitfire IX PV316 (note that the Form 541 in the unit ORB says he was flying the Spitfire PT883, but this aircraft survived the war and two other sources said he was flying PV316), at a less than ideal altitude, near Grave at 1545 hrs. He landed nevertheless safely and waved to the rest of his section who continued home. He was quickly picked up by Canadian soldiers and returned to his unit just a little after his section had been interrogated.

It was his second close call in less than a week, and by the way he was already preparing to leave the squadron and training his successor, Flt Lt Milton Jowsey. This bail out ended his operational flying and he left the squadron eight days later. At this stage he had flown 410 sorties (for a total of 517 hours 30 minutes) and was awarded a DSO on 16 February 1945, the citation praising his leadership of 442 Sqn in ground-attack sorties, at least 75 percent he led personally in the air.


"Blue skies: the autobiography of a Canadian Spitfire pilot in World War II", by Bill Olmsted. ISBN 0-7737-5213-7
"Invasions without tears: the story of Canada’s top-scoring Spitfire wing in Europe during the Second World War", by Monty Berger and Brian Jeffrey Street. ISBN 0394222776
"2nd Tactical Air Force. Volume Two : Breakout to Bodenplatte. July 1944 to January 1945", by Christopher Shores and Chris Thomas. ISBN 1-903223-41-5
ORB 442 Sqn RCAF, December 1944 (available online at (Form 540) and (Form 541))

Related books:

Revision history:

17-Dec-2008 11:45 ASN archive Added
14-Dec-2015 17:26 Laurent Rizzotti Updated [Time, Operator, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Phase, Source, Narrative]
26-Oct-2019 09:44 TigerTimon Updated [Aircraft type, Cn, Location, Departure airport, Source]
24-Feb-2020 14:38 Xindel XL Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Departure airport, Operator]

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