AJ-Z crash site mystery solved: Dutch pilot comes forward

A Dutch pilot now based in Scotland has come forward to say that it was him and his family who placed a wooden cross in a field near Netterden to commemorate the spot where Henry Maudslay and the Dams Raid crew of AJ-Z were shot down early in the morning of 17 May 1943. According to the local newspaper NRZ Emmerich, it was erected by Jens van Gessel.

The article reads (translated from German):

Yesterday, Jens van Gessel contacted the RP editors by phone and said he had set up a memorial in Netterden with his father and son to commemorate the crash of ED937 in 1943.
As reported on Wednesday, the white cross, decorated with artificial poppies and an airplane, was erected recently on the edge of a field in Klein-Netterden. It was clear from the inscription that it was placed there to remember the crash of an airplane on May 17, 1943, but nobody knew who had been involved.
The aircraft with 15 men on board [sic] had flown from England on the night of 16-17 May 1943 to attack the power supply of Nazi Germany. The target of the 19 Lancaster bombers of the Royal Air Force were six dams in today’s North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse. The Möhne and Eder dams were breached. ED937 was damaged when attacking the Eder dam, which made it an easy target for German anti-aircraft positions on its return flight. It was shot down over Emmerich.
Another aircraft from the squadron flying on the same operation in May 1943 crashed nearby in Heeren-Herken. The Heimatverein Haldern has set up a memorial plaque at that position.

The article goes on to explain Jens van Gessel’s motivation. He is a pilot, originally from the Dutch town of ‘s-Heerenberg, but he has lived in Scotland for six years, flying helicopters in the oil industry. He used to be a member of the Emmerich Flugsportverein (Flying Club).

He had heard about the aircraft shot down over Emmerich and started to investigate it. He concluded that much of what is written on the internet about the crash is not true. After reading many books about the aerial war on the Lower Rhine he is convinced that: “If the plane had not come down here in Emmerich, it would have crashed over ‘s Heerenberg and possibly would have claimed more victims there, because the city is exactly on this route.”

So this was the reason why he set up the cross up in Klein-Netterden. Not for personal reasons, but to remember the crash and the larger catastrophe which was avoided that night. Whether the pilot of ED937 might have intentionally crashed his bomber into a field to avoid a crash over an inhabited area, Jens van Gessel cannot say. It would be possible. “But of course we cannot prove that,” explained the Dutchman.

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Mystery tribute at AJ-Z crash site

This tribute to the Dams Raid crew in Lancaster AJ-Z, piloted by Henry Maudslay, has recently been placed in a field near the German town of Emmerich, close to the site of the aircraft’s fatal crash after being shot down on the night of 17 May 1943.

Local people, including members of the local group who have recently come together to raise funds for a permanent memorial, would like to know who erected this cross. The local newspaper, NRZ Emmerich is also investigating the matter. There is no indication on the cross itself, and no clues other than the only word “May” is spelt in English rather than German.

If anyone has any information, they are asked to contact the organiser of the local group Marcel Hahn via his Facebook page or the NRZ journalist Christian Schmitt. The Dambusters blog would also like to know, so please add a comment below if you can shed any light on the matter!