A Father’s Tale
Alan Green was a navigator who served with 218 Sqn on Wellingtons and Stirlings during World War 11 and flew more than 20 missions, including the first 1000 bomber raid and daylight attacks on the famous battleship Scharnhorst. His son, Stuart was only 12 when his father died in 1976, aged 56. Stuart, an airline pilot, has been researching his story.
In the course of his research Stuart has met the Dutch families who helped Alan when his aircraft was shot down. The first time Alan was shot down, in May 1942 it was by a British night fighting Hurricane over the south coast. The second time, in June that year, he was shot down by a German night fighter which resulted in him baling out over Holland. Alan went on the run but was taken prisoner, ending up as a PoW in Stalag Luft III. Among Stuart’s most precious possessions are Alan’s Stalag Luft III registration documents and a letter he wrote to his parents from the camp.
In May 2012 Stuart took his family who, of course, had never known their grandfather, on a trip to Stalag Luft III. He also discovered that there was a memorial, erected in 2010, on the site of the crash of his father’s bomber, a four-engined Stirling. He found a witness to the crash, 87-year-old Tiny De Boer, was still alive and living in the same house next to the site as she had been in 1942.
Stuart says “I visited Holland in November 2011 and met members of the family on whose land my father came down in his parachute. They said he was on the run, laying low, for three days before he was captured. They helped him as much as they could and subsequently found his chute, which was eventually used for clothing, although they kept the parachute harness buckles and presented them to me – a very special moment.
“We laid flowers at the crash site and later walked all around the site with locals pointing out exactly where my father came down. We also visited the military cemetery, where 285 bomber crew were buried, to pay respects at the graves of my father’s three crew members who died in the crash including the pilot, Sqn Ldr Ashworth, who had flown with my father 33 times and been shot down with him before. At 40 he was an old man for Bomber Command crew.
“Throughout the day, the Dutch were incredibly warm, hospitable and deeply respectful of the contribution and sacrifice”
The three crew members who perished in the crash were William Watt, Billy Whitehead and S/L Ashworth. William Watt’s niece, Ros Bryant, made contact with Stuart in 2014 and in July Stuart and Ros met for the first time at the London Bomber Command Memorial. Ros and her husband Graham had just visited the crash site and cemetery in Holland where William was buried. Ros had been keen to visit Tiny de Boer to thank her for the memorial which she had helped organise but sadly, Tiny had passed away, aged 93, only a few days before Ros and Graham’s visit.
During their conversation Stuart learned that William had had a younger brother, John, who was killed whilst serving in Bomber Command.
This photo of the crew was taken 2 days before they were shot down. Alan is on the extreme left with William standing next to him. They flew together at least 10 times and survived an earlier shoot down in a friendly fire incident involving a Hurricane and a Turbinlite Havoc – all the crew survived!
W7530 taken a few days before the shoot done by an RAF Photographer who visited 218 Sq at Marham.
To read more stories like this please click here
Our free to access Digital Archive holds 1000’s of items from Bomber Command’s history. Click here to access the Archive