Leo Potten who lives in Ysselsteyn, in the Netherlands wrote me again and added to this story about the plane crash that killed Arthur Horrell and Paul Émile Piché.
After sending you the pictures of the field graves, I have asked some older people if they knew still something from the airplane at the Deurneseroad(weg) in October 1944.
As the official side tells us, they (Piché and Horrell) had to go from Grave to Antwerp (Belgium). They could have been flying through liberated areas because west of Ysselsteyn there were liberated areas since Operation Market Garden.
It seems to be that their navigation was not good or was it because they were flying in an other plane? However they were flying above occupied areas because the village Ysselsteyn had not been liberated until 17 October, 1944. They were searching for the right destination I think because they were flying very low. Maybe they also thought they were flying above liberated areas.
Therefore it was easy to shoot them down. And so it happened because there were many German soldiers, “moffen” as they were called in Holland, in our region because the frontline was nearby. There were even German soldiers who settled on kind of houses build up with cornsheafs called “mijt” in the Netherlands. They were shot by artillery. Their plane caught fire and crashed to the ground nearby the farm of the Jeurissen family which is still living there today.
On this farm there were German soldiers who went immediately to the plane. The father of Theo Jeurissenm, who lives nowadays at the farm, told him. “The German soldiers couldn’t get nearer the plane because of the danger of explosion. Jan Jeurissen, the father of Theo, didn’t know if one or both of the pilots Mr. Horrell or Mr. Piché were still alive when they crashed to earth.
Therefore the German soldiers shot on their bodies to take them out of their horrible misery. Other people told us they were dead when they crashed on the ground. However it is a terrible death they found in flames while they were doing there job.
All this is told about 70 years after this terrible accident. Stories can change with time. However we heard this story from different people.
Theo Jeurissen tells that his father told him that the German soldiers who had their quarters near by the farm of the Jeurissens did not like the war. They also hated it. They were afraid of SS soldiers who layed near by a farm about 300 m. It’s something like the old story of the one controling the other and no one dares te be disobedient because then he might be executed.
After the accident, the German soldiers were very still and were impressed about what had all happened. Some of them couldn’t hold their food in their body and they vomited.
There was also a very young soldier among the Germans. They called him their secret weapon (pun intended related to Hitler’s secret weapons according to Leo’s interpretation). He was very young, didn’t eat much and was homesick. Oma Jeurissen sometimes gave him some food to eat.
The two pilots were buried first in graves near by the farm as you can see on the picture I sent with simple birchwooden crosses.
The sisters of Jan Jeurissen did make them nice with white stones.
Afterwards they were buried in the British War Cemetry in Venray about 10 km from the place where they found their terrible end from their young lives.
Knowing also all this, we are glad that we erected a monument with the names of all these brave men who gave their lives for our freedom. Something which we will never forget.
After reading this terrible story, war is always terrible, we hope you will still able to have a nice Christmas. Christmas means something like peace. Peace for us made possible by these two young man in the craft of their lives in a future which there never was.
In the spring, we will visit their graves and put some flowers on their graves. Great thanks for these brave men.
If there is anything you want to now and if you have more other questions let me know.
We wish you until this story a nice Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Ysselsteyn, the Netherlands
Now for more information.
Some more information which I got from other sources.
The days before October 11 the weather became more and more bad. It was raining cats and dogs like you say. There were less operational flights and when they were there they were no Germans to see. So it seemed to be very safe.
One of the flights which took place was the flight of Flying Officers Piché and Horrell from 443 (Hornet) squadron from Antwerp to Brussel. Mr. Horrell would take a Spitfire from Deurne airfield near Antwerpen to Grave, and Mr. Piché would arrange accomodation for the technical crew from the wing for the holidays.
Because the Auster had not reached Antwerpen on October 15, a Spitfire was sent out to look for the missing plane and pilots. In the evening it came back without finding them maybe because of the bad weather.
The plane of Mr. Piché an Horell was shot down by gunners and was all burnt out. The skin of the plane was made from canvas except the motor which was aluminium. So it was burnt heavily.
On October 21, our village had already been liberated on October 17, and the missing Auster was found by the crew of an Auster from 659 AOP Squadron. Beside the wreck, nearby the farms of Jeurissen and Fleurkens in Ysselsteyn, were three graves. The third grave was from a member of a tank crew who died close to the farms.
For one year the Jeurissen family took care for the graves as you can see on the picture.
The bodies of Mr. Piché and Horrel were brought to the British War Cemetry in Venray where they found their final resting place.
They were brought to Venray by a horse wagon with a white horse in front of it.
At the end of the battle nearby Overloon, a place near by Venray, where there was a terrible fight, a German soldier was taken prisoner. He had both of the identification plates with him.
You can find some of these things in :
The National Archives, Air 27/1883. ORB 443 Squadron.
WO 171/1226 War Diary 659 AOP Squadron, Bulletin Air War 1939 -1945, 196 (1997): 2;