Pat Murphy Pays Homage to Hart Finley

Hart Finley also flew with this Squadron.

RCAF No. 403 Squadron

I am not the only one who writes on this blog.

I am always more than happy to let my readers write about the veterans they have met.

Pat Murphy had the privileged of meeting several Spitfire pilots, and his way to pay homage to them was to build replicas of their Spitfires.

Pat Murphy has contributed a lot to this blog. First with his article about the Smith brothers.

Pat has not stopped contributing, and this is his latest contribution about a true Canadian hero. I will add hyperlinks throughout Pat’s article so you can see what I mean by “a lot”…

I will also post pictures taken from Walter Neil Dove’s collection along the way. I am sure Pat won’t mind me doing so.


Squadron Leader, Hartland “Hart” Finley DFC

RCAF. Spitfire Pilot.

By Pat Murphy


Hart Finley flew 2 operational tours with the RCAF during…

View original post 2,092 more words

More about the crash

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.


Original post


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.

Auster 4

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.

Arthur Horrell

The sisters of Jan Jeurissen did make them nice with white stones.

meisjes verzorgen het graf van een engelse piloot3

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.

Leo Potten,
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.

Arthur Horrell

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;

Luis Perez-Gomez

I found this pilot’s name in a logbook which belonged to a flight instructor at No. 2 S.F.T.S. Uplands.


LAC Perez-Gomez – Killed overseas…


While looking for more information on this student pilot, I found this story written in 2008. Luis Perez-Gomez is on the extreme left of the first row.

443 Squadron Pilots arriving in England in 1944



Memories a tango through time
The season of remembrance plays memory tricks on those who have lost loved ones to war.

Some experience images, and some say their memories trigger a scent.
By The Ottawa Citizen November 3, 2008
Memories a tango through time

The season of remembrance plays memory tricks on those who have lost loved ones to war. Some experience images, and some say their memories trigger a scent.

Dorothy Pratt hears music. It’s a tango.

In Ottawa as New Year’s 1943 approached, she was 16 and she was in love. Her name then was Dorothy O’Brien, the very proper daughter of a doctor. She was a figure skater, and she loved to dance. She had literally been swept off her feet by a man, little older than herself, who was the best dancer she would ever know.

He was Luis Perez-Gomez of Mexico City. He came to Ottawa to study English at Ottawa Technical High School, and to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. When they met at a community dance, he was in uniform. A little clumsy at first meeting, when they relaxed and let the music guide them, they could fly. He was a master of the tango, and became her teacher.

When he earned his wings, he invited her to be his guest at his graduation. On his last night before leaving for war, he asked her to join him for dinner and dancing. The place for such occasions was the Canadian Grill at the Château Laurier.

It was a fairytale kind of night, with other dancers stepping back and giving them the whole dance floor, and applauding.

Six months later, she would discover he had named her as his next-of-kin. A telegram arrived, saying he was missing in action. It was soon followed by another. Killed in action.

A decade later, she married Denis Pratt, a retired naval commander, and they had three children. He died in 2003. Through a full and rewarding life, she never forgot the dashing young dancer.

She has an interesting theory.

“It’s true, they (war dead) don’t age. In my memory, he’s about 20. And I’m 16.”

We all have pleasant memories we escape to and, when in need of a little recharging, Dorothy Pratt slips back in time and goes dancing at the Grill.

In 2001, Denis took Dorothy on a war graves tour of Europe, and located the lonely grave of F/O Luis Perez-Gomez in a village cemetery in Sassy, in Normandy. He was killed when his Spitfire was shot down 10 days after D-Day. The villagers buried him as one of their own, fearing the Germans would remove all identification.

After the war, Commonwealth War Graves decided it best to leave him there, and gave him a military headstone. There’s a similar marker nearby, for an unidentified Canadian airman.

When the villagers of Sassy heard the story of their foreign resident, they decided to make the story known to the few visitors they get. They invited Mrs. Pratt back in 2004, on the 60th anniversary of his death, and had her do the honours unveiling a plaque on their newly-named village square — Place Perez-Gomez.

They also want visitors to know the unique nature of that war grave. It is occupied by the only Mexican national lying under an RCAF marker from that war.

The story of the dancing fighter pilot and the girl who loved him was told in one of these columns on Nov. 6, 2001. More details appear in the latest issue of Air Force magazine.

Remembrance Day is marked in Mexico City by a gathering of veterans, mainly expatriate Brits. Luis Perez-Gomez is on their honour roll. This year, the service will be on Nov. 9. It’s easier to gather people on a Sunday.

The story of the dancing Mexican reached them, and they have invited Dorothy Pratt to attend. She’s 81.

“I could have said no,” she said. “But there’s a 16-year-old girl in me …”

Most of Luis’s relatives now live in Guadalajara and a delegation of them will attend the service in Mexico City. They know the story of Dorothy of Ottawa, and have invited her to their homes to meet the extended family. She didn’t hesitate to accept. She will take with her some of the mementoes of her first love, and will offer them to his family.

“It’s one of the strange things about getting to my age, that time seems to shrink and memories of long-ago events become much clearer. My husband was a wonderful and understanding man, and I love and miss him.”

She says she won’t hesitate, when she meets Luis’s family, to tell them there’s a part of her that still loves him.