Text by Alan Parr and images courtesy of Eric Molenaar and Ed Norman
On November 8th 1941 Hampden P1206 EA-Z of 49 Squadron took off from Scampton at 1714 to bomb Bocholt. It was intercepted over Holland by a ME110 piloted by Seigfried Ney, and shot down. Just after 2100hrs it crashed into a field near the village of Berkhout and burned for many hours. The bodies of the pilot, W/O Christopher Saunders DFM and the navigator Sgt. James D’Arcy were thrown clear and were recovered by the Germans and buried in the cemetery in Bergen. The bodies of the two gunners could not be recovered and sank into the soft ground with the remains of their aircraft.
Sgts. Stanley Mullenger and John Kehoe lay with the aircraft until September 2007 when a Dutch salvage team led by Capt. Paul Peterson RNAF, excavated the site and recovered human remains as well as substantial pieces of the Hampden.
On May 7th 2008, a Commemorative Service for the crew was held in Petrus and Paulus Church, Bergen and during which the funeral service, with full Military Honours, for the two gunners was held. The single coffin, containing the mortal remains of the gunners and draped in the Union Flag, was borne by six SAC’s of the Queen’s Colour Squadron, 63 Squadron, RAF Regiment.
A poem, ‘Gone but never forgotten’, was then read by Jackie Purser, one of the twin daughters of W/O Christopher Saunders. The Last Post was sounded by a trumpeter of The Band of the RAF Regiment after which a two minute silence was observed. As the coffin was lowered into the grave the unmistakable sound of Harvards could be heard and a pair of these aircraft, of the Bureau of Air Display of The Royal Netherlands Air Force, made a number of passes. The Netherlands Army Band then played the National Anthems of Great Britain, Ireland and The Netherlands.
Official wreaths were laid followed by individual tributes. Our Chairman, Ted Cachart, laid the Association’s wreath and Mr Alan Parr laid one on behalf of 4T9er Eric Clarke who was flying from Scampton at the time that P1206 went missing. Four Crosses of Remembrance, one for each member of the crew, were laid. Also present at the ceremony was 88 year old Margaret Walsh-Kehoe, Sergeant Jack Kehoe's sister, who had travelled to the Netherlands from Southern Ireland to attend her brother's funeral. Her parents never knew what happened to their son. By happy coincidence, W/O Saunders and Sgt D’Arcy are buried at the end of a row, adjacent to The Cross of Sacrifice. Sgts Mullinger and Kehoe were laid to rest behind their comrade’s graves and their headstones are now planted back to back with them. Thus, the mortal remains of the crew of Hampden P1206 are at last truly reunited.
Hampden P1206 (EA-Z)
W/O C.A. Saunders DFM Pilot (Killed)
Sgt J.M. D'Arcy NAV (Killed)
Sgt J.E. Kehoe W/AG (Killed)
Sgt S.G. Mullenger W/AG (Killed)
Additional images can be viewed by clicking this link.
An extensive report of the excavation can be viewed on the English version of Eric Molenaar's website.
On the 69th anniversary Ed Ijsbrandij and Dick Schilder of DARE (Dutch Aircraft Research & Excavation) laid flowers at the Berkhout memorial.
The Association would like to thank Ed and Dick for this most generous act of remembrance
An additional plaque is mounted just outside the village church.