Op vrijdag 21 september wordt aan de Bakenbergseweg 262 een monument onthuld voor de crew van Dakota FZ626. Neergeschoten tijdens een bevoorradingsvlucht op DZ ‘V’
On Tuesday the 19th of September 1944, a total of 101 Short Stirling bombers and 63 Dakota’s left the UK, heading for Arnhem, The Netherlands. They were tasked to drop containers and baskets with ammunition, fuel and food for British and Polish ground troops. The planes met intense Flak fire. The staggering number of 97 planes were hit by Flak on the way to Arnhem and over the drop zones. 11 Stirlings and 8 Dakota’s did not return to their bases.
Dakota FZ626 was flown by Pilot Officer John (Len) Wilson, Flight Sergeant Herbert Osborne (Co-Pilot), Flight Sergeant Reginald French (Wireless Operator), Warrant Officer Les Gaydon (Navigator) and air despatchers Lance Corporal James Grace, Driver Richard Newth, Driver Vince Dillworth and Driver Wilfred Jenkinson. Wilson had flown several missions over Arnhem on the days before the 19th, dropping paratroopers.
They took off from RAF Down Ampney at 1235hrs, heading for supply dropzone
‘Victor’ (‘V’), in the northern outskirts of Arnhem. FZ626 joined a large group of air- craft. The force was composed of 63 Dakota’s from 271 and 48 Sqdn of RAF Down Ampney and 575 and 512 Sqdn of RAF Broadwell. The Squadrons leaving the respective airfields in that sequence. FZ626 carried 16 panniers, containing fuel and food.
The Germans turned out to be well informed about the position of the drop zone that FZ626 was heading for. In the morning of the 19th a German Flak unit put up an air trap, consisting of four 20mm guns and at least one 88mm gun in the far east corner of the drop zone. In afternoon the guns look down several Short Stirlings above ‘V’. The formation of Dakota’s of 271 Squadron, being the last group of aircraft to make the dropping run on ‘V’ in the late afternoon, were not aware of the experiences of their colleagues. And so ran into the same Flak as encountered by the group of Stirlings earlier that day.
Dakota FZ626 arrived at ‘V’ around 1630hrs local lime. Descending to 500 ft (150m) at a speed of 120 mph (190 km/h), to be able to safely drop its load. It got caught in the fire of the German guns, being the first Dakota of this run over ‘V’ to be fatally
hit. Instead of turning the aircraft away from the gunfire, Len Wilson decided to steer the
crippled aircraft straight at the German guns. He just overshot his target. The aircraft came down right behind the positions of the 20mm Flak, crashing on a house
(Bakenbergseweg 262). cutting some birches in half, just 5 feel above the heads of the
German gun crews.
Though just missing the gun batteries, the explosion of the aircraft and the fuel in the panniers caused huge panic among the guncrews, who simply abandoned their guns. Together with Len Wilson and Herbert Osborne the crew members Reginald French, James Grace and Richard Newth were killed in the crash of FZ626. Gaydon. Dillworth and Jenkinson parachutes from the the burning aircraft and were taken prisoner by German soldiers.
One of the damaged birches is still present today at the Bakenbergseweg on the location where the Flak was situated. This tree is a silent testimony of the bravery of the pilot, clearly showing where the aircraft hit the crest of the tree. The courageous men who died on this spot are remembered by this green quartzite stone.