Recovery of Avro Lancaster NN775/A2-F, Royal Air Force, Glabbeek

 

On March 5th, 1945 at 14.34 hrs the time stopped for the seven crewmembers of Avro Lancaster NN775/A2-F, RAF No 514 Squadron , F-Flight ....

 

Earlier that day they had taken off from RAF Waterbeach, near Cambridge, as part of a 170 bomber formation on a mission to Germany. Target was the benzol-factory 'Consolidation' at Gelsenkirchen. The

outbound flight was uneventful, Belgium had already been liberated so the biggest part of the flight was over 'friendly' territory. Over target, NN775 was hit by enemy ground fire and tried to reach home...

Unfortunately they didn't make it, the aircraft crashed in the Belgian village of Glabbeek, none of the crew would survive the crash.

British troops investigated the crash site and could only conclude that there were no survivors. In 1947 a first recovery was made and the remains of the crew were recovered as good as could be done in those days.

 

Avro Lancaster NN775/A2-F Crewmembers :

 

Norman Kerr, pilot, Northern Island (23 years)

Sidney Smith, navigator, United Kingdom (21 years)

William Marsden, Lancashire, United Kingdom (20 years)

Frank Clarke, bombardier, Warwickshire, United Kingdom (21 years)

William Olsen, wireless operator, Toowoomba, Australia (21 years)

Herbert Thomas, tailgunner, Clarendon, Jamaica (23 years)

Christopher Hogg, upper fuselage turret gunner, South Yardley, Birmingham, United Kingdom (20 years)

 

The crew had been declared operational only a few weeks before, and made their first mission on February 18th, 1945. The mission on March 5th was only their 7th....

 

In late 2016 a new successful attempt was organized by the Glabbeek towncounsil, with the support of The Planehunters Recovery Team and Belgian Aviation History Association Archeology Team (BAHAAT). The remains of the crew and a large part of the of the aircraft were recovered in an operation that covered several days.

 

On April 28th, 2017 a memorial was erected in the town center of Glabbeek in the presence of the crew family members.

Later that week the remains of the aircraft were put on display in a large tent in the town as a grim reminder of the events 72 years earlier....

Cockpit Section and forward fuselage

Engines and Wing section

Main undercarriage

Rear fuselage, part of the code is still visible

Tailgunner position with the armament still in place

Many small personal items were recovered, including oxygen masks, coins, parachutes, life jackets,... but the most impressive part for me was the watch of one of the crew members that stopped.... at 14.34 hrs, the time of the impact.

Text & Photography : Laurent Heyligen