Air battles over Flevoland. Part 3: An emergency landing on the IJsselmeer

"They thought they were higher but crashed”.

The story of the salvage officer who was involved in the salvage of, in particular, Allied aircraft wrecks in the Flevoland polders.

B24 crash

A B-24 is shot down (Batavialand, G.J. Zwanenburg Collection).

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The British knew this water as the Zuydersea. An emergency landing on a flat piece of land is always a little better than an emergency landing at sea. The Dinah Might for example, made an emergency landing in the Noordoostpolder. This wasn’t because they knew that the Noordoostpolder was an emergency landing area, but just because they had seen land from the air. The Americans once had difficulties with their navigation. They could see water quite well, but their geographical knowledge of Europe was considerably less than that of the British. A lot of the British airmen were from the mainland however, it was a different story for the Americans. There were some Americans with a Dutch name, who perhaps even spoke Dutch.

The Emergency landing of a B-24

Let’s take the example of the famous B-24 along the Oostvaardersdijk. Hit, four men had jumped and the remaining crew said, “hey, we are above water. Let's try and make an emergency landing, that way we will have the dinghy and everything with us”. So they did, above water ... As your altimeter works on air pressure it doesn’t work just above ground level. When taking off over land, you have references to homes, buildings, and landmarks. However, when ditching you had to fly on sight. Two pilots sat in the front cockpit and the flight engineer stood in between. He had to watch the air speed, "we are now flying this," "we are now flying that" so the other two could check to see how high or how low they were. As it was, they were flying at 120 miles per hour when they crashed. They thought they were much higher but unfortunately not, they smashed into the sea.

One survived, Charlie Taylor, the co-pilot [see section 14]. The nose of the plane broke off to the left and the pilot sat on the left, the co-pilot was sitting on the right. The pilot got hit by the steering wheel and died instantly. The other guys were sitting right him behind in the radio cabin . They died there. The radio’s, ammunition, etc. all shut down with the obvious consequences.

Charlie Taylor however, found space. He bumped his head on the instrument panel, loosened his belt and drifted to the surface. The aircraft kept floating. Then he crawled on top of it, took out the dinghy and hung on to it. That’s how the Germans found him and picked him up. The others were all killed. Purely due to the fact that they did not have any height reference above the water.

Source: Batavialand, interview by Lenie Bolle with Gerrie Zwanenburg, 16th September, 2009.

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