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1944-08-17 The Loss of Rijklof van Goens Spitfire MB880

Crash site: presumed to be off the coast of Dover, GB.

Crash cause: Allied Flak.

Name

Goens, Rijklof van

R. van Goens, ca. 1938 Source: Steen archive

Rank

Res 1Lt Vl, F/Lt., Pilot

RAF VR 124239

Decorations

Kruis van Verdienste

Born

25/7/1914

Place

Bandoeng, Java, NEI

Squadron

RAF 41 Sqn Fighter Command

Ops/hr

86/92

Aircraft

Spitfire Mk. XII Nr. MB880 EB-X

Base

RAF Lympne, Kent, GB

Mission

V-1 patrol

Status

MIA, aircraft shot down by Allied Flak

age

30

Missing

17/8/1944

Place

Channel close to Dover, Kent, GB

Known to

OGS

yes

CWGC

yes

Remarks

See 'Steen – een geschiedenis door Huize Groenoord' by this author, 2005

Memorials

1. Runnymede, panel 203

2. St. George's Chapel, Biggin Hill, Kent, GB

3. Vijfluik Loenen, Gelderland, NL

4. Stone tablet, Orry-la-Ville, Senlis, France

5. Stained glass window, Teuge, Gelderland, NL

GB arrival

Engelandvaarder. Departure from Rijswijk, NL, on 16/1/1942. Travelled a land route via Belgium, France, Switzerland, France again, Spain, Gibraltar. Arrival in the UK on 13/5/1942. A detailed account of this journey is given in 'Steen' by this author. Sources: Cees Sipkes War diary, collection Marcel Sipkes, and NA 2.09.06-4748

Data

Confusion

Also reported as ditched and killed for lack of fuel.

Also reported as engaged in a sortie over France.

OGS: Res 2Lt Vl, died in France, Département Pas de Calais.

All this is nonsense.

A biography of Rijklof van Goens is given in 'Steen – een geschiedenis door Huize Groenoord', Baarn, 2005, by this author. The text below is a summary from the Steen text, where it describes the circumstances of Van Goens' final flight.

41 Squadron Spitfire EB-Q, drawing by Rijklof van Goens, 1943

This 41 Sqn Spitfire picture comes to us via Ger van Huizen, who got it from Peter Huender's brother, who in his turn received most of the Rijklof van Goens material. Therefore we may be looking at Rijk's MB880 EB-X, but we cannot be sure. 41 Squadron lost no less than 31 Spitfires with serial numbers in the MB8xx-range. In any case, we see a 41 Squadron pre-invasion Mk. XII with clipped wings and a pointed tail fin. Source: Ger van Huizen, NL


Van Goens' copy of 'Operational notes for pilots, Griffon II, III, IV Engines', November 1943. This page annotated by Van Goens, who also sketched his aircraft. Source: Ton Prince, NL


Rijklof van Goens datasheet, called 'Pilot Service Record', as found in October 2007 by Steve Brew, in the 41 Squadron archive at RAF Coningsby. Source: 41 Squadron Archives, RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, GB, via Steve Brew

2. Dover Gun Belt weapon systems

To be able to understand events on August 17th, 1944, we need to study the weapon systems deployed there and then. From the safe distance of sixty years we have at our disposal information that was top secret at the time. Information also that was not given to the pilots. This enables us to see if and how instructions given to the pilots coincided with the realities of the battlefield. The exercise follows from a suspicion that the battlefield reality may have been more complex than covered in the simple instructions given.

Mid July 1944 many AA-guns were relocated from the London area to the coast. This enabled a more timely engagement of the V-1's that were being launched at London as of June 13th. No less than 441 heavy AA-guns were relocated to the Dover Gun Belt, or Diver Belt, in only 4 days. The heavy guns could not be set up on any soil, they needed a solid bottom. This was achieved with the 'Pile platforms', foldable improvisations using railroad track bars and beams, and named after General Frederick Pile, the chief Commanding Officer of AA Command.

V-1 'Buzz bomb'. Depicted is the specimen of Aviodrome Museum, Lelystad, Holland.


De piloten ontdekten dat de vleugel van een V-1 ook zonder aanraking beïnvloed kon worden. Door zeer dicht bij de vleugel van de bom te vliegen, kon de luchtstroom erover worden verstoord. Uiterst moeilijk en gevaarlijk werk. De V-1 was snel, 600 tot 700 km/u, gemiddeld 650 km/u, en de spanwijdte was slechts 5.37 meter.

De Spitfires Mk. IX, XII en XIV kwamen snelheid tekort. De topsnelheid op 2.000 voet hoogte was zo'n 355 mph (570 km/u) voor de Mk. XII.

Source: Spitfire F Mk.XII D.P. 845 test report, Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment, Boscombe Down, 29/10/1942

De piloot moest in een duikvlucht voldoende snelheid opbouwen. Dat was geen probleem. Maar het volgen van de V-1, op ultrakorte afstand in een steeds langzamer vliegende jager, en dan manouvreren in een decimeterbereik, was bijzonder problematisch.

Uit de Operations Record Books blijkt dat de meeste piloten liever, vanaf voldoende afstand, de boordwapens gebruikten. 'Wingtipping' is spektakulair, en wellicht om die reden in de literatuur telkens gepresenteerd alsof dit de reguliere techniek was. In het 41e Squadron, waarin Rijklof van Goens vloog, was 'tipping' ronduit verboden.

Source: Peter Graham, gesprek dd. 24/5/2004.

De vlieghoogte van de V-1 kon vooraf aan de vlucht worden ingesteld. Doorgaans vloog vloog de bom op ca. 2.000 voet hoogte. Veel lager was onhandig, vanwege de beperkte nauwkeurigheid van het besturingssysteem. Veel hoger weld zelden gedaan.

The bold move towards the coast had the additional advantage that a new element in the weapon system chain, the proximity fuze, could now be used to its full effect for the first time.

On July 22nd, the British had 478 heavy AA-guns operational in the Diver Belt, and 1.326 guns of smaller caliber (40 and 20mm). At the end of August no less than 1.938 British AA-gun barrels were pointing to the sky in the Dover area.

Source: Dr Colin Dobinson, “AA Command – Britain’s Anti-Aircraft Defences of the Second World War”, London, 2001, pag. 437.

British forces were strengthened by 5 American AA Gun Battalions, each having four batteries with four 90mm AA guns. A total of 80 heavy guns.

The air defence by artillery consisted of a chain of three elements, radar, guns, and shells with proximity fuzes. Each element of this chain was ultramodern in the summer of 1944 in Dover.

The SCR (US Signal Corps Radio) 584 radar was a 'gun laying radar', especially designed for fire control. It enabled the guns to be aimed before a target came into range of the shells, and even if that target would never become visible as a result of clouds. This radar had a range of 64 km. It could track targets automatically from a range of 29 km. With an accuracy of 0,06 degrees, an accuracy never achieved before. The auto tracking range almost reached the French coast. A SCR-584 radar controlled the M9 predictor, that controlled the aiming of the guns. Guns had electric motors for aiming, so the SCR-584 via the M9 predictor in fact automatically aimed the guns. This reliable and highly accurate radar was a technological breakthrough.

Source: “The SCR-584 Radar”, in ts. Electronics, Nov. 1945, on http://www.hamhud.net/darts/scr584_specs.html

This radar was high on General Pile's wish list. Churchill understood, and pleaded the case to the Americans. General Marshall, Chief of Staff of the American Army, made 165 radar sets available, and these were delivered promptly. That gave the British some time to modify the M9 predictor to suit the ballistics of the British heavy AA-guns and shells.

The American 90mm AA-guns were the most sophisticated available in Dover in the summer of 1944. The M1A1 type had the electric aiming motors. The gun had a semi-automatic loading mechanism, allowing an extremely high rate of fire for such a large caliber. Max. was 24 shots per minute, and gunners have reported that such rates were actually achieved.

Source: specifications 90mm M1A1 AAA-gun, and letter Jack Cesear, Parma, USA, dated 20/3/2004.

US 90mm AA-gun battery. Source photo: unknown

The guns were mounted on a 'Pile platform', a foldable assembly of railway bars and beams, named after General Frederick Pile, Commanding Officer of AA Command.

Source: Dr Colin Dobinson, “AA Command”, London, 2001, page 436

The 90mm M1A1 gun was aimed automatically by the M9 predictor, that was controlled automatically by the SCR-584 radar, that was tracking a target automatically. A loading mechanism enabled a very high firing rate of 24 shots per minute.

According to Jon Iveson, curator of the Dover Museum, this photo is one of a series made by the Kent Messenger newspaper in August 1944, on the beach at Hythe or St. Mary's Bay, South of Dover. That would show us a battery of the 124th AAA Gun Battalion. Guns placed in positions created by shoveling up beach material.

Source: Jon Iveson, Dover Museum, email dated 2/3/2004

At St. Mary's Bay there is hardly any beach. But at Hythe there still is the Firing Range, stetching out to sea. Behind the narrow, steep beach there is a flat and overgrown terrein. Guns and radar would have been dry on that section. It would explain the overgrown transition between land and sea in the 1944 picture, which in fact is the transition between flat terrain and beach. That would make this into a picture of the US 126th AAA Gun Battalion.

Proximity fuzes are detonators on AA-shells that react to the proximity of a target, via the reflection of a radio signal. Also called VT-fuzes, a code name. These fuzes did not have to be set directly prior to firing, to the estimated altitude of the target. This enabled a higher rate of fire as well as a higher scoring rate. If not a direct hit, the shell would explode automatically if within some 15 meters of the target. Quite close enough to bring down that target. The effectiveness of the AA defences increased dramatically with the use of proximity fuzes. Development of the fuze had begun before the War. Thanks to the engagement of the US, proximity fuzes became available in large quantities in 1944. Just in time for the V-1 offensive against England.

Source: Guy Hartcup, “The Challenge of War”, Newton Abbot, 1970, p. 170 ev.

American code names for the VT-fuze were 'Posit' and 'Bonzo'. As 'VT', commonly understood as 'variable time', these names were intended to mask the functional properties of the fuze.

AA-shells in the larger calibers have fuzes with a self-destruct mechanism. This destroys a shell that missed its target, before it can do damage on the ground.

The British gave up on their own development of proximity fuzes, when it became evident that the American design, and most of all the American production capacity, was superior. However, the British requested a modification: the mechanical clock controlling the self-destruct time had to be adjustable. Then the altitude of lethality of the shells could be controlled directly prior to firing. And that would enable a safe flight zone to exist above the self-destruct height.

The development of an adjustable self-destruct timer did not went well. The British dropped the requirement, and the Americans saw no need for it. A pre-firing fuze setting requirement, as with conventional time fuzes, would lower the rate of fire, which would be counter-productive. VT-fuzed shells used in the Dover Gun Belt were non-adjustable. Shells would self-destruct after a time preset in the fuze factory. This setting allowed shells to be lethal to altitudes far above the level that was declared to be safe above the Dover Gun Belt. The pilots were not told.

The combination of proximity fuzes and superaccurate radar controlled and automated gun laying made the AA defences effective to a degree that was never achieved before. A one-kill-per-shot situation would not be achieved until after the War, with auto-aiming rocket munitions. But the number of shots needed to down an airborne target decreased dramatically from 30.000 in September 1940 to 156 in August 1944. That gave General Pile what he wanted: 'a robot defence against a robot target'.

Source: General Sir Frederick Pile, GOC in C, AA Command, 1939-1945, in “Ack-Ack - Britain’s defence against air attack during de Second World War”, London, 1949, page 181, 314.


Figure 7. Layout of a US radar controlled AA battery Source: Life Magazine, June 1943


The system performed so well, that in the last week of August 1944 a top score was achieved of 74% of all V-1's within range, and on one night that week even 82%.

Source: Gen. Sir F. Pile, “Ack-Ack”, London, 1949, page 344.

At the end of the War this had added to 1.972 V-1's destroyed, and at least 627 other enemy planes. This huge succes had to be kept out of the newspapers. It was preferred that the Germans would continue to direct effort and ressources to V-1 production, now that the Allies were able to deal so effectively with this menace.

The no-fly zone reached from Dover to Beachy Head, 10.000 yards out to sea, 5.000 yards inland, and a height of 8.000 feet. Within that zone AA-gunners were at liberty to fire at targets flying below 6.000 feet. Allied planes had to keep out of the area thus defined.

Source: Gen. Sir F. Pile, “Ack-Ack”, London, 1949, page 334.

Out to sea guns were allowed to fire with VT-fuzed shells. In inland directions fire was limited to the use of conventional time-fuzed shells.

Source: Joe Miller, Tucson USA, letter dated 18/3/2004. Joe Miller was in the 127th AAA team.

This limitation of the firing window for VT-fuzed shells was made to keep the technology secret. A dud with a VT-fuze might fall into the wrong hands if found on land. The enemy should not have an easy ride to develop this highly effective technology.

The chain of radar-predictor-guns did not incorporate a mechanism that prevented VT-fuzed shells from being fired in an inland direction. This became the domain of fire discipline. And with that the domain of gunners psychology. It cannot be assumed that not a single VT-fuzed shell was fired in an inland direction. These shells allowed a higher rate of fire, as no setting prior to each shot was needed. Getting out as many shots as possible was good sport between the gun crews. And to the point too, as more shots meant more chances of bringing down the target.

There was a safeguard against firing at friendly aircraft. Each British aircraft, as of day one of the War, had a transmitter that send out code that identified the aircraft as friendly. This was received by radar-like equipment on the ground. The system was called Identification Friend or Foe, IFF. The transmitter in the aircraft reacted to radar signals, and reflected these after modulation. Friendly aircraft produced a blinking dot on the IFF radar screen, enemy planes a continuous dot. In 1943 British aircraft had an IFF type that could handle several of the Allied radar frequencies in use by that time.

Source: Guy Hartcup, “The Challenge of War”, Newton Abbot, 1970, page 122 ev.

This meant that on the oscilloscope screens of the IFF system Spitfires should be recognizable as friendly. If everything worked properly. When over enemy territory, pilots switched off the IFF system, as it would present the enemy with information about their presence. Returning home, pilots could forget to switch on the IFF system again. Van Goens and Graham did not patrol over territory held by the enemy. Could the both of them have forgotten to switch on the IFF system? Not very likely. Could both systems have malfunctioned? Also not likely. However. Testing an IFF system was not as straightforward as testing a plane's radio. If a single tuning capacitor was a bit off due to the mechanical stresses of combat, the system could not work properly. The pilots had no way of checking this. Until it was too late. Weapon technology took giant strides forward. But the complex chains were as strong as the weakest link.

Once again, reality was even more complicated. The IFF blip appeared on the IFF radar screen, not on the SCR-584 radar screen. There was no link between the systems. Each system had its own antenna, and antenna direction control system. The IFF antenna was manually positioned. Data of both systems was shared between the crews by means of shouting to each other…Fast and accurate target recognition could hardly be possible this way. Henry Abajian, one of the engineers involved in the development of the SCR-584, has complained about this in an interview. The engineers could have produced a fully integrated system. Linking the IFF antenna to the SCR-584 disk would not have been difficult. That would have yielded the auto-tracking capability of the SCR-584 for the IFF radar too. There would have been no confusion over the positions of both antennae. But information about the IFF system was witheld from the SCR-584 engineers. Secrecy was preferred. The operational result might have been much better without the secrecy paranoia.

Source: http://www.ieee.org/organizations/history_center/oral_histories/transcripts/abajian.html, interview between Henry Abajian and Frederik Nebeker, 11/6/1991.


Former searchlight position in the Dover cliffs, near the right harbour breakwater. Dover 070130-8



90mm AA gun in the Overloon Oorlogs- and Verzetsmuseum collection. Source: Overloon 060803 90mmAA-3cb

3. Eyewitness accounts

This information was also witheld from the pilots. None of the surviving pilots, with whom we have been able to speak, was given such vital details at the time. Nor at any time after the War. Pilots, close to the designated gun belt at Dover, have been in far greater danger than they have ever known.

Peter Graham was able to supply more information about the August 17 flight with Rijk:

The most probable way we set off was flying North East or South West while gaining altitude inland, keeping on a steady course once we found ourselves in ten tenths cloud. I know I usually liked to patrol at about 9,000 feet which gave us a good long range of vision and enough height to dive at around 450 m.p.h and get on the tail of any doodlebug sighted. They most often flew at around 2,000 feet.

The majority of these patrols were carried out in mid-channel. More rarely they were just off the French coast when there was always a slight chance that we might spot an enemy aircraft and go and knock it down. (We never did.) Every now and then we would spend a whole flight orbitting a town in Kent.

We certainly had no reason to switch off our IFF. I don't remember ever having to do that. I imagine those gunners must have had IFF receivers at their disposal.

Source: Peter Graham, email dated 19/1/2004

I cannot KNOW about our course immediately after take-off but still think that climbing to the North-East is most likely.

Since I would quickly have discovered that the intended anti-diver patrol could not possibly be carried out in the weather conditions I would have decided to land at Manston after only a few minutes in the air.

15 minutes is just about right though we never timed flights to the exact minute. All my log book entries of times in the air ended either in 0s or 5s. To the best of my memory our usual speed climbing through cloud would have been around 220 m.p.h. Therefore in 15 minutes we would travel 55 miles through the air, possibly a little more over the land since the prevailing wind is from the South-West. If I've got this right I'd have all the time in the world to get down at Manston 15 minutes after take-off from Lympne.

Source: Peter Graham, email dated 22/1/2004

I am sure I gave no orders to Rijklof while we were climbing through the ten tenths cloud. He would be formating on me just to my left (port side) and very close behind me. (See Skypilot page 62 for our two ways of climbing in formation through cloud). During the ascent I would have had my eyes glued to my instruments and would be quite unaware of Rijklof's presence or absence. He was a very competent pilot and I certainly didn't expect to lose him on the climb. I think it was very unlikely that we did the ascent in wide apart formation.

Source: Peter Graham, email dated 27/1/2004

Van Goens and Graham were on an overland anti-Diver patrol. Taken off 10:05 from RAF Lympne. Climbing Northeast, through a 10/10ths deck of clouds. Worse flying conditions than anticipated at base. A patrol was out of the question. V-1's usually flew at an altitude of 2.000 feet, which would be in the clouds and therefore invisible for the pilos. After a few minutes only, Graham decides to abort and fly on to RAF Manston. Because of the low clouds the margin for landing errors had decreased. That made it safer to divert to Manston, which was larger than Lympne.

The distance between Lympne and Manston is 35 kilometers. That distance could easily be bridged in 15 minutes, including the take-off and landing phases.

Once inside the clouds, the pilots are blind. Van Goens has to keep a safe distance from Graham. Flying blind it is far too dangerous to keep a tight formation. Rijk's course starts to deviate from that of Peter; we assume in the direction of the prevailing wind.

The upper limit above the gun belt could only be safe if the self-destruct timers of the VT-fuzed shells were set accordingly. On this we have the reports of the gunners themselves. From these, we have to understand that self-destruction took place at far higher altitude than say 7.000 feet. In fact that was at least triple that altitude, 7.000 yards.

The five American AAA Gun Battalions each had four batteries with each four 90mm guns. Each battery was controlled by a SCR-584 radar and a M9 predictor. That means 20 radar eyes for laying the US guns in the Dover Gun Belt. These eyes were given direction by the British Chain Home radar, that could see V-1's almost from take-off in Northern France. The American units were the most effective ones in the Dover Gun Belt. On average they used 150 shells to bring down a doodlebug. Units without radar control needed 2.800 shells for that. The US units formed the backbone of the defences in the gun belt. When compared to British units with SCR-584 radars, this was caused by the firing rate of the US guns, which was twice as high as that of the British 3.7' guns.

Two US Battalions were deployed around Dover City, one North, one South. The same area held five British batteries, each with eight 3.7' guns, each battery under control of a SCR-584 radar, and a modified M9 predictor. This adds up to a total of 72 radar controlled heavy AA-guns, around the city of Dover only. On top of that there were numerous guns of lighter caliber. In August 1944 the lighter guns were also grouped around a predictor and radar, enabling the gunners to aim and fire blind. In all this added up to the most formidable and most sophisticated anti aircraft artillery ever assembled. It would lead to AA Command's finest hour. Operation Diver became a sounding succes.

The US 127th AAA Gun Battalion was deployed North of Dover, from August 4th to September 9th. The four batteries, D26 to D29, were located on the clifftop, close to the shoreline. The crews were lodged in Camp Swingate Down, close to the Chain Home radar towers.

A battery of the 127th AAA Gun Battalion in the Dover Gun Belt, with Dover Castle in the background. Most likely 'C' battery, position D26. Photo taken by Eric O. Anderson, August 1944, Paul Alexa Photograph Collection, published in Roy Humphreys, 'Hellfire Corner – Reminiscences of Wartime in South-east England', Phoenix Mill, GB, 1994, page 16

A SCR-584 radar, close to the shore, with the Dover breakwaters in the background. We see 'A' Battery radar, August 1944, located in a hollow section of the terrain, directly Southwest of Fan Bay Battery.

Source: Photo taken by Eric O. Anderson, gunner of gun 3 of 'A' battery. The film travelled through Europe in the closing stages of WW2, and was developed in the US after the War. It is one of 79 photo's taken by Anderson of the 127th AAA Gun Bn. Photo's are now in the Paul Alexa Photograph Collection, MHI, ref.Nr. RGG502. With thanks to Scotchie of Kent Underground, and Sgt. Joe L. Miller, Tucson, USA, who took on the role of unit historian in 1944. The picture was published in 'Britain's Frontline Town Dover' by Rex Puttee and Mark Smith, Dover, 1990. Picture given to the authors by Major John Dimmer. It is stated that this would be 'D' Battery radar. Looking at the positions of shoreline and breakwaters, we maintain that this is 'A' Battery.

From 'Buzz Bomb Alley', text added in April 1986 to the Unit History of the 127th AAA Gun Battalion. Author is the ammo corporal of 'C' battery Chadbone Blue, Gun Two, Allan J. English:

In the morning of the sixteenth of August the sirene blew. Everyone piled out of the shelter on the gun Picking up the phone. "Radar on target!. "Range, Ten thousand". "Tracking head on target!". "Range, nine Thousand!!" ."Guns, Warm up remotes!" (four motors whined as four switches clicked). "Range eight thousand!" ."Guns in remote" ."Check one"..."Check two". "Check three"... "Check four" (four Guns swung in unison, leading the target). "Stand By!!!". (the crack turned on the Fuse setters; Four rounds. "Set"). "Load!". "Range, Seven Thousand". "Commence FIRING!!!!!" The roar deafened; the ammonia choked. A rat race between four guns! Who would fire the fastest; the most rounds??..before "Cease Firing".
Today our gun answered V1 with one hundred and seven rounds, fifty five HE; Fifty two Posit.
The next day (August 17th 1944) was the same only we topped its score by eighteen. Twenty one HE, one hundred and four Posit."

Fire is opened when the V-1 is at a distance of 7.000 yards (6.400 meter). The predictor transmits signals to the guns, leading these to aim at point in the predicted flight path, 5.200 meters from the guns. At that point the V-1 and the shells are calculated to arrive at the same time. The constant speed and course of the V-1 make it an ideal aerial target. The V-1 travels at an altitude of approx. 2.000 feet (600 meter), making the line of fire almost horizontal. The aiming lead distance becomes rapidly less as the V-1 approaches. When the bomb is at a distance of 1 kilometer, the lead distance is down to 200 meters. The gun barrels are quickly elevated, possibly to their largest angle of 80 degrees, as the bomb crosses the shoreline close to the guns.

Source: Ballistical data 90mm AAA gun, muzzle velocity 823 m/s, horizontal range 17.355 meter with a 30 sec. time fuze. A V-1 airspeed of 600 km/h is assumed.

From the battle report, month of August 1944, written by Lt. Colonel Jacob G. Reynolds, the commanding officerof the 127th AAA Gun Battalion:

At 170910 August , Site D28 engaged an FB in a direct approaching course. A Cat "A" destruction resulted. FB exploded at less than 1000 yards from Both D27 and D28, causing severe blast effects in the areas, but no casualties, and little actual damage.

At 170911 August, sites D26 and D28 engaged Diver No. 180 on an incoming course. As a result of their fire , the FB was disabled. After making landfall on a circular course and proceeding for approximately one-half mile, the FB leveled off and swung back towards site D28. Diver cleared site D28 at an estimated altitude of 50 to 100 feet, skimmed the cliff edge and crashed OTS, 300 yards from sites D27 and D28.

Source: Military History Institute, USA, via Jack Cesear, 127th AAA Gun Bn Association, USA

Explanations: HE = High Explosive, meaning in this text shells with a conventional time fuze. Posit & Bonzo are codes for proximity fuzes. The V-1 flying bomb (FB) was also called Doodlebug, Buzz bomb, or Diver. A Cat. A destruction is a total destruction of the target, as when the V-1 explodes.

In the morning of August 17th, 1944, batteries D26 and D28 were firing at two V-1's. In the same minute that Rijk appeared close to the shoreline and close to these batteries, if the time difference of exactly one hour is a report error.

The 127th Gun Battalion fired at no less than 17 V-1's that day, shot down six, and all claims were acknowledged. This was the record of the month. In all, 492 VT-fuzed shells were fired that day, and 422 with time fuzes. Lt. Col. Reynolds wrote the report on September 13th, 1944. If the time difference of one hour is not a report error, then still the analysis below describes what may have happened.

At 09:10 hours Battery D28 engages a V-1, that explodes in the air. The explosion, at less than 1.000 yards from the guns, is heavily felt by the gun crews. That cannot have been a Spitfire. The fighter aircraft did not carry 1.000 kilos of high explosive.

At 09:11 hours D26 and D28 engage another V-1, called Nr. 180 in the battle report. This one also and as usual came in low over sea. The bomb is hit, but continues to fly. It crosses the shoreline. The AA-fire has damaged the bomb's autopilot mechanism, the bomb starts to deviate from the original straight line course. Radar continues to track the bomb automatically, and predictor and guns follow suit. When the bomb was over the coastline, fire was almost vertical, or at least parallel to the shoreline, or perhaps even in an inland direction. Guns would not fire if the bomb was very close, as that would obviously be too dangerous to the gun crew. The V-1 flies a U-turn, coming back only a few dozen meters above the heads of the D28 gunners. It crashes in the sea, 300 yards out. This V-1 flew so low, and remained in sight for so long, that we can exclude any mixup with a Spitfire.

This V-1 was hit and shot down, and two batteries with four 90mm guns each had been firing at it for approx. 45 seconds, with a firing rate of max. 24 shots per minute per gun. That's a maximum of ¾ x 24 x 4 x 2 = 144 shells, of which at least 50% carried VT-fuzes. The 90mm shells reached an altitude of at least 33.000 feet (10 km) when fired vertically. One shell from this, or similar, fire found Rijk, and the gunners were not aware of that. The VT-fuze did what it was supposed to do. A VT-fuze could not distinguish a friend from a foe. That Rijk was most likely hit by a VT-fuzed shell follows from the difference in altitude of the V-1 and the Spitfire. Time-fuzed shells would have been set to explode at the V-1's altitude of 2.000 feet, prior to each shot.

Dover, 127th AAA deployment area, with the Swingate masts in the background. Dover 080126-1

4. Crash situation data

Figure 8. Van Goens flight path, Dover Gun Belt and radar & 90mm AA gun ranges

Map of the Northeastern Dover Gun Belt, or Diver Belt, with the ranges of the AA-defences located in Dover. Assumed flight paths of Peter Graham and Rijklof van Goens reconstructed with the help of Peter Graham. The Gun Belt was 10.000 yards out to sea, and 5.000 yards inland. In this area, the AA-gunners were allowed to fire on targets flying lower than 6.000 feet (1.800 meter). Allied aircraft were allowed to travel over this area, at a minimum altitude of 8.000 feet (2.440 meter). Note that five RAF fighter bases are located IN the Gun Belt zone.

Rijk's presumed course was at an angle of about 120 degrees with the regular flight paths of the V-1's. SCR-584 eyes, scanning the sea for targets, or engaged with targets coming in over sea, would not see Rijk. If he would have entered a SCR-584 beam at all, then this would have been after the shell was fired that would find Rijk. In that situation the IFF system, for what it was worth, could not prevent disaster. The Chain Home radar was no help either, as it could not see in the area where Rijk was flying: almost on top of it.

Figure 9. Dover 90mm AA guns firing at a V-1, accidentally hitting a Spitfire

In the drawing above everything but the Spitfire and the V-1 graphics is drawn to the same scale. Reality was of course a highly four-dimensional affair. This drawing depicts, in two dimensions and time, the firing situation for a single gun in Battery D26.

Fire is opened at Diver 180 at a distance of 7.000 yards, firing line 1. Firing line 2 shows the situation when Diver is at 1 km from the coast. Firing line 3 is a shot when Diver crosses the shoreline. This shell, if it missed the V-1, reaches an altitudeof 10.000 feet at a distance of more than 2 km in an inland direction. And it continues its lethal trajectory upWards and inland, until destroyed by the self-destruct timer in the fuze. When this shell is fired, and if it hit a Spitfire flying at 10.000 feet, then this Spitfire was 2,5 km away from the radar sight window. The SCR-584 radar was state of the art, but that did not include a multi-target capability, and a properly integrated IFF system, that would both be needed to be able to prevent disaster.

The timing of the self-destruct timer is not yet known. We assume this to lead to a flight distance of at least 7.000 yards, as the eyewitness reports that fire was opened on that distance. That yields a danger zone of at least the area under the red circle section in the drawing. This area was much larger than the box shaped no-fly zone known to the pilots.

Batteries D26 and D28 fired at Diver No. 180. That means 8 of these red circle sections in the sky. Or more, if British batteries opened up on this Diver too. These circle sections start close to each other, as the target is at long range. As target approaches, the red lines fan out fast. More red lines appear, as lighter AA-guns join the battle. In other words, the landsided area in and beyond the gun belt was by far the most dangerous area for Allied planes.

The radar beam was only 360 meters wide at 10.000 feet high, due to the sight aperture of 7 degrees in auto tracking mode. Radar was tracking Diver, flying at 2.000 feet with 600 km/h. To be able to hit, the guns needed to aim well in advance of the V-1's predicted flight path. This is represented with the firing lines in the drawing above. Shells needed about a second to reach an altitude of 2.000 feet. Shells that missed, meaning most of them, reached 10.000 feet 3 seconds later. At the moment of firing the shell that would find Rijk, he would have been more than 2 km away from the radar beam. The radar could not see him, at least not in time to prevent disaster. The gunners could not see him, because of the clouds. If he would have been seen on radar, then that was possible for less than 1,5 seconds with these flight and radar disk paths. We have to assume that the gunners had no idea about the presence of a Spitfire, had no intention to shoot at it, and had no idea that this was in fact happening.

That fire was brought out almost vertically too, follows from the battle report:

At times four or more batteries were firing on a single FB, with the result that the sites were frequently blanketed with falling shrapnel.

A considerable number of men were hit by falling shrapnel, but only one man was injured seriously enough to require hospitalization.

'Falling shrapnell' are fragments of shells that exploded or self-destructed in the air. Maximum elevation of the 90mm guns was 80 degrees. Falling shrapnell therefore came from batteries close by.

That fire continued in a landinWard direction follows from the battle report by Paul Alexa, 127th AAA Gun Battalion radar operator:

At 05.00 hours one morning I locked on to a buzzbomb that was part of a salvo. As its range decreased I could see the bursts of our exploding shells shown as tiny stars on my radar screen. Radar continued to track the robot as it passed almost directly over our position with my screen showing an increasing range as it drew away from us. We continued to fire at it. Suddenly the blip on the scope slowed, stopped completely and reversed direction. Through my headphones I could hear the range officer giving coordinates for a new target. I said quickly, ‘Sir, the range of the other one is now decreasing’, because I had realized we had turned it right around. The range officer acknowledged that this was so, but gave orders to get on to a new target. He knew that the old one would fly out to sea and crash.

Actually, after nearly colliding with one of the radar towers and flying low over our batteries it exploded on the cliff edge. One man yelled, ‘Hey, look at that crazy fighter pilot’. But then he recognized it as a buzzbomb and dived for cover. Inside the radar cabin we were tracking a new target and did not know how close we had come to being the unintended target.

Source: Paul Alexa, in Roy Humphreys, “Hellfire Corner – Reminiscences of Wartime in South-east England”, Phoenix Mill, GB, 1994, page 160


Going back to the drawing of the Dover Gun Belt perimeter, and the assumed flight paths of Peter and Rijk, we see that the section in which Rijk was probably hit, runs parallel to the path of Diver No. 180 flying a U-turn. That would have increased the odds for Rijk to get hit by a large degree. If a firing arc was crossing his path at a blunt angle then it would have been a single shell that represented the danger. But parallel paths mean that Rijk may have received a pattern of shells.

Figure 10. Lethality zones of VT-fuzed 90mm AA shells

This drawing depicts the actual danger zone in and beyond the gun belt, when batteries D26 and D28 are firing at Diver No. 180. The drawing is the top view of a half sphere with a diameter of 20 km, formed by a VT-fuze self-destruct time leading to a flight distance of 10 km. It is assumed that Battery D28 did not fire over the heads of their collegues in D26. The large danger zone represents the fire of D26, until Diver No. 180 has flown max. 250 meters inland. Shells fired at that point are lethal up to 10 km high, and 7 km inland. The danger zone is very small when Diver is at long range. Danger zone fans out rapidly as Diver approaches. The width of the danger zone follows from the positions of the guns in the battery, in relation to the altitude of the target. The inland firing distance of 250 meters is assumed. From Paul Alexa's report we understand that this distance may have been far greater.

In the 127th AAA Gun Battalion history there is no mention of the downing of a Spitfire. Joe Miller and Jack Cesear were there. They did not see a Spitfire come down. Neither did Paul Alexa, as he was in the radar cabin. They all heard the rumour of a Spitfire downed that day by AA-fire. That rumour has been traced to the downing of Ross Harding. He survived the incident without injury.

The Aircraft Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in England has been asked for information about the loss of Van Goens. The AAIB was founded back in 1915, as part of the Royal Flying Corps, later to become the Royal Air Force. As of 1946 civil aviation became the main focus, but the AAIB assists the RAF to this day, when aircraft accidents are investigated. We received no answer from the AAIB.

Meanwhile the myth of a safety zone outside and above the gun belt lives on: "Any pilot needing to cross this line had to fly at 8.000 ft, well clear of the shell bursts"

Source: Mary James, artikel "Revenge", in Flypast magazine, June 2004.

Well clear of shell bursts. No way, with proximity fuzes, and shells travelling up to 34.000 feet.

The Air Historical Branch, RAF Bently Priory, Stanmore, Middlesex, is requested information about the crashes of Steen, Van Goens and Plesman. On May 18th, 2004, we received a reply from Mrs. Susan Dickinson of RAF AHB5. She has used information from the RAF Casualty Files. These are in the Hayes archive, that is closed to the public. She quotes a letter from the CO of 41 Squadron to the Air Ministry:

"P/O van Goens took off at 0905hrs from RAF Lympne as Blue 1 on an anti-Diver patrol. When the section became airborne Blue 1 and Blue 2 were separated by the Controller, one being send to Ashford the other to Tenterden. This is the last Blue 2 saw of Blue 1.

A number of Divers were coming in at that time and both Blue 1 and Blue 2 had chases, but the weather was bad and these took place

above cloud. Blue 1 was not sure of his position and at roughly 0948 he transmitted for a fix and was plotted South of Dover, just inside the Gun Belt at 2000 feet. He was told to climb but no word was received from him after the last fix.

As soon as the weather cleared, a search was carried out by two Walrus, A.S.R., Spitfires and a member of 41 Squadron with no result."

Squadron Leader Robert Hugh Chapman was also Commanding Officer of the Squadron, 28 May to 28 August 1944.

Source: 41 Sqn Operations Record Book, PRO.

From other sources Mrs. Dickinson adds information about the weather on August 17th, 1944:

The cloud was 10/10 from 600' to 4000' and visibility below was about 2 miles.

And she draws the conclusion that is almost inevitable when reading the CO's letter:

It would appear that F/Lt. van Goens was shot down by A.A. guns just off Dover. Sadly there are no further details with regard to the exact location.

Source: letter AHB (RAF), dated 18-5-2004

The case seems watertight. Rijk had been sent, right after take-off, to Ashford or Tenterdon, places Southwest of Lympne, clearly outside of the gun belt. Rijk requested a radio fix, and that places him inside the gun belt, and on a dangerously low altitude. The implications are as follows:

a. Controller had send Rijk on the usual mission, outside of the gun belt.

b. Rijk got lost, and appeared to be flying where he should not have been.

This version seriously contradicts the reconstruction we made with the help of Peter Graham. Analyzing the message of the CO, who based himself on information obtained from the Intel Officer, we find a number of inconsistencies. Here we go:

a. If there was a 10/10th deck of clouds, stretching from 600 to 4.000 ft., then a hunt for V-1's, usually flying at 2.000 ft., was quite impossible. Pilots had to have visual contact for that. And a timely contact too, so as to be able to dive down and pick up speed needed to catch up with the flying bomb. There was no point whatsoever in trying to search and chase in a 10/10th deck of clouds.

b. Blue 1 and Blue 2 would both have had chases, which took place above the clouds. That would be above 4.000 ft. V-1's flew at an average height of 2.000 ft. They would deviate in height, but not by that much. It is quite unlikely that both pilots would have had chases above 4.000 ft. that day.

c. If Rijk would have descended through the clouds, then that can only be understood as a preliminary to landing. If Rijk was uncertain about his position, then it is quite unlikely that he would have descended to 2.000 ft. before asking for a fix. He would have asked above the clouds, prior to final descent. After all, he knew that the deck was closed; he had ascended through it.

The solution for the contradiction with the earlier reconstruction is simple, and disconcerting at the same time. In the ORB we find on the 16th, the day before Rijk's fatal flight:

“16.50 The next section on patrol consisted of F/O Graham and P/O Gray, who took-off at 17.05 and were ordered to orbit Tenterden and Ashford respectively. A wave of flying bombs started coming in at 18.10 and both pilots had chases."

That's almost literally the text in the CO letter. The Intel Officer has fed the CO with information from the previous day, and has, for the second time, exchanged Rijk for P/O. Gray. The CO has also copied the I/O's representation of Rijk's rank as P/O. rather than F/Lt. The flawed reporting of this 'darling man' but 'incompetent I/O' made that possible. The CO could have been a bit more thoughtful too, in his report to the Air Ministry. And he did not think of having the ORB updated in the days after Rijk's loss, when it became clear that Rijk would not return.

Now, sixty years later, it springs to mind that the inaccuracies in this reporting point away from any possibility of mistakes from the command. It is suggested that command had matters under control, and that pilots were making the errors. In the light of all this, we cannot accept the statement about the radio fix as historical evidence either.

5. Conclusions

Peter Graham lost radio contact with Rijk shortly after Rijk became 'incoherent' over the radio. We have to assume that the termination of Rijk's flight was a sudden and violent one. We have no report on, and cannot assume, enemy fighter involvement. We exclude engine trouble, as in that case Rijk would have glided or parachuted to safety. We exclude oxygen failure, as Rijk could not have been that high, and as cursing over the radio is quite opposite to losing consciousness for lack of oxygen. We have to assume that AA-fire was involved.

In the entire period of deployment in the Dover Gun Belt, August 4th to September 9th 1944, the 127th AAA Gun Battalion fired at 146 V-1's a total of 5.757 shells. 68 V-1's were claimed as destroyed, 49 claims were acknowledged.

Source: 127th AAA Gun Bn History, collected typescripts, USAMHI.

That's 117 shells per claim acknowledged. And that's clearly better than the average of the period of 150. The 127th was a crack unit.

The AA-gunners that fired at Rijk did most likely not aim at him. They did not see him, because of the clouds, and most likely not on radar either, on which he may have appeared for a very short instant when fire was directed at a V-1. If he was seen on radar a all, then most likely this happened after the fatal shell had been fired. We estimate Rijk's altitude at that moment to be clearly higher than the max. height at which AA-gunners were allowed to engage a target. But the rules given to gunners and pilots saw to it that things could go very wrong.

Rijk came down from appox. 10.000 feet. The crash site may have been a few kilometers away from the 127th AAA positions. The gunners may not have seen the aircraft come down, because of the low deck of clouds. Their eyes were glued to V-1's, one of which flew a U-turn only a few dozen meters above the heads of a battery. When this one was so very close, the crew must have ducked for cover and saw nothing. In any case, there is no eyewitness account available. Neither in the 127th unit history, nor in the memories of the surviving gunners. However. Joe Miller, who was there when it happened, expressed that these things should not be talked about.

Source: Peter Huender, email 11/5/2005.

Obviously we disagree. Covering up the truth is below our standard. Doing so with freely invented stories, that are disgraceful to the one who cannot speak any more, sinks even deeper. It is dealing a posthumous slash below the belt. Rijklof van Goens did nothing to deserve that.

We cannot know with certainty that the fatal shell was fired by the US 127th AAA Gun Battalion. Or by a British battery in the area. Without eyewitnesses, and without a aircraft wreck that can be examined, the best we can do is describe the circumstances as accurately as possible, leading to the closest possible approximation of what may have happened.

We have no certainty that Rijk ditched in The Channel. It is an assumption that is to be seen as likely. Plane wrecks were not salvaged from the sea in Wartime. No time for that. And no time after the War either, when everybody was busy rebuilding the countries. In March 2004, via the Dover Express, we asked eyewitnesses of the crash to come forward. No response.

Rijklof van Goens must have flown close to the landsided boundary of the no-fly zone. We have no evidence that he flew in the no-fly zone. We have presented the difference between the known no-fly zone and the much larger actual danger zone. Rijk was most likely shot by AA-fire, at the extreme corner of the Dover Gun Belt, on the opposite side from where the enemy was expected. For Allied pilots this was the most dangerous section, even if their aircraft were kilometers away from the no-fly zone boundaries. Rijk was most likely flying at an altitude where he should have been safe. But where he could not be safe, because VT-fuzed shells had self-destruct timers that made the shells lethal way beyond the no-fly zone boundaries. The IFF system could not prevent such a friendly fire incident. Even if the IFF system had been fully integrated with the SCR-584 gun laying radar, the radar would have seen Rijk, if at all, only after the fatal shell was fired. The AA-gunners could do nothing to prevent this. The gunners hit Rijk, without seeing him, either by sight or on the radar screen, with fire that was not aimed at him, but at a V-1 flying far below him.

Rijklof van Goens was most likely shot down and killed by accident, on August 17th 1944 at 10:11 hours, close to the shore off Dover, six minutes after take-off from RAF Lympne, by ultramodern anti-aircraft artillery, by gunners that did not see him, that had no intention to shoot at him, and that had no idea that this was happening.

We estimate that Rijklof van Goens ditched in the Channel in this area NE of Dover. Dover 080126 Rijklof crash area

Early September 1944 Operation Diver, its most eventful phase 1, was over. The Allied forces overrun the V-1 launching sites in Northern France. Rijk was shot down when AA Command had reached its greatest volume, exercize and efficiency in the Dover Gun Belt.

In Wartime this accident was quickly forgotten. The scale of Rijk's misfortune is unmeasurable. All factors analyzed plotted against him.

The question remains whether leaving Rijk's loss out of the ORB, and the invention of the lack-of-fuel theory, are part of a deliberate cover-up of what really happened. Can we be satisfied with the evaluation that the matter was an extraordinary coincidence, not reported properly, let alone investigated, in Wartime? As there was no time for that; too much was happening?

Not quite.

Beyond the no-fly zone of the Dover Gun Belt Allied pilots were in danger that could have been avoided, whilst these pilots were doing nothing but following instructions.

It is unlikely that the making of decisions leading to this situation, can be reconstructed. We have to guess:

- Maybe High Command did not fully realize the danger their ruling presented to the pilots. Maybe the danger became clear only when casualties started to fall. Rijk has not been the only victim.

- Maybe High Commands initial planning was sound, but not modified when it became clear that the VT-fuzes would not have adjustable self-destruct timers. The times were hectic in the extreme. AA artillery had to be available for Operation Overlord, the Invasion, too. New systems needed development and field tuning, and new ideas had to be tested. Gunners had to exercize with new equipment. Many relocations took place, generating loads of logistical issues. And all that under fire; the enemy would not wait until the defence was ready for an attack. In that climate, errors are eaily made. There was a War going on.

- Maybe High Command deliberately took the risk, because of the greater good of bringing down the enemy. Or, from Fighter Command's point of view, the honour of bringing down many V-1's.

General Pile wrote 'Ack-Ack', a history of the Allied anti-aircraft artillery during WW2, and did so in a detailed and frank way. He does not mention anything about self-destruct times of the VT-fuzes. He does not mention the risk to pilots beyond the no-fly zone. He admits that mistakes were made, and balances that against the complexity and the scale of events. 'Never before had the rules of defence been so complicated'.

Source: Gen. Sir F. Pile, “Ack-Ack”, London, 1949, page 331.

On that scale there is no doubt whatsoever that AA Command worked hard and performed beyond expectation. Operation Diver became a huge succes. Without it, the lives of more thousands of civilians in the London area would have been at peril. By the end of August, 1944, the V-1's had taken 5.476 lives, and injured 36.000 people. Without the succes of Operation Diver, these numbers could have been twice as high.

Source for casualty data: Mary James, artikel "Revenge", in Flypast magazine, June 2004.

Moving the guns to the coast was done to increase the chances on succes, to bring down the flying menace more timely, and to simplify the rules of engagement. This succeeded, there can be no mistake about the succes. But Pile's frankness has limits; he offers little insight into mistakes made. He does not deal with the matter of friendly fire incidents in a serious way. At the end of June 1944 he had received an acid letter from Bomber Command, with the complaint that many Allied bombers were shot at by AA Command. Pile wrote in defence that such bombers were not sticking to the rules; these were not flying where Bomber Command said they would fly.

Source: Gen. Sir F. Pile, “Ack-Ack”, London, 1949, page 327.

This defence has the ring of inter-service rivalry. It ignores the causing factors, such as the primitive IFF system. In the Dover Gun Belt we have to add the lethality of the VT-fuzed shells, that strechted way beyond borders given to the pilots. And perhaps we have to add one more factor: the apparent inability of High Command to see these technological matters, or at least to issue instructions accordingly. The Commands met very frequently. At times in the summer of 1944 even every other day. Or rather night, as a result of the stamina of the chairman, Churchill. Fighter and Bomber Command could have refused to allow their pilots to fly over, or anywhere near, the gun belt. Meanwhile, pilots paid the price. The loss of Rijklof van Goens, and others, was not just tragic, it was totally unnecessary.

It has also been tried to classify Rijk's loss in general terms: 'every pilot knew he had to stay out of the gun belt'. We are not going to attach names to this ill-informed expression. It should do to point out that several active RAF airfields were actually located IN the Dover Gun Belt. The reality of the day was complicated and changing rapidly. That reality can hardly be rendered properly with this general expression.

Remains of RAF Lympne. The former airfield is now an industrial estate. Lympne 070130-4

Lympne 00130-2

Rijk was forgotten, already on August 17th 1944, first by the Intel Officer of his own Squadron, who did not report, or reported wronlgy or biased. This reproachable negligence coincided with directions to keep secret the succes of AA Command in the Dover Gun Belt in the summer of 1944. Secrecy perhaps that stretched to a document such as the ORB, that was confidential itself. Instructions given by High Command were flawed, or deliberately more dangerous to the pilots than needed. Perhaps that too was something not to speak about. And that's what happened, for a very long time, aided by the complexity of the subject matter. Peter Graham told this author that I was only the second person to inquire about Charlie during sixty years.

Meanwhile Rijk got the blame. Rijklof van Goens has been mentioned in some literature as a newcomer that made the error of running out of fuel, and did not survive this error. Freely invented, quite incorrect, and disgraceful. Or as a pilot who flew where he should not have flown. We hope to have placed these stories in a proper perspective. Pointing at Rijk was easy, as he could no longer speak. He was, and remained, missing-in-action. The Dutch Government did not bother to give Rijk any posthumous decoration for his achievements during two years of Wartime flying with the Royal Air Force.

6. Epilogue

When all the above was written, the part of the 41 Sqn Operations Record Book was finally found in which the details of the work done are given:

41 Sqn ORB, 16 to 18 August 1944. On the 17th Rijk flew with F/Sgt. V.J. Rossow, take-off 09.05h Source: with thanks to Steve Brew

If the ORB is accurate, it means that Peter Graham has had a lapse in memory. Analysing it from every angle, this has two consequences for the argument given above, and none for the conclusions.

1. Rijk's presumed flight path can no longer be based on the statements made by Peter Graham. A logbook of the Australian F/Sgt. Vivian 'Bill' Rossow has not been found. But it is likely that this flight path, meaning take-off and climbing, was quite similar.

2. There was a time mismatch of one hour, between Rijk's take-off and the crossing of Diver Nr. 180 over the Dover coastline. If the ORB is correct, then Rijk took off at 09.05h, one hour earlier than we assumed based on the observations by Peter Graham.This does away perfectly well with the time mismatch of the AA-battery firing at Diver 180 at 09.11h.

The conclusion remains the same, only the probable time of death is corrected to one hour earlier in the statement below:

Rijklof van Goens was most likely shot down and killed by accident, on August 17th 1944 at 09:11 hours, close to the shore off Dover, six minutes after take-off from RAF Lympne, by ultramodern anti-aircraft artillery, by gunners that did not see him, that had no intention to shoot at him, and that had no idea that this was happening.


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