22/23.03.1945 No. 161 Squadron Stirling IV LK209 MA-T Fl/Lt. Aitken
Operation: SOE - Rowing III (1)
Date: 22/23rd March 1945 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: No. 161 Squadron
Type: Stirling IV
Base: RAF Tempsford.
Location: Crashed West of Oost-Vlieland, Netherlands.
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Alan Henderson Aitken 175821 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. William Horrocks 2210899 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Nav: P/O. Ronald Arthur Caston 187018 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Air/Bmr: P/O. William Lawson Shaw 196054 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Reginald Arthur Swift 196053 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Alexander Robert Paton 1573936 RAFVR Age 24. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Joseph T. White RAFVR Age 25. Survived PoW
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 23:00 hrs on a special operation when, on what we understand was the return journey the Stirling was hit by German anti aircraft fire. The pilot is thought to have either tried to make a crash landing on the sand dunes or that he simply let control, sadly the aircraft caught fire after coming to rest. All but two of the crew were killed in either the landing or the anti aircraft fire.
The pilot was discovered by locals propped next to an engine with his clothes on fire - they managed to extinguish the flames but sadly he died during the 8 hour ferry journey to the German hospital at Harlingen. Sgt Joseph White had a truly miraculous escape when he jumped from the aircraft prior to impact. Luckily his fall was broken by trees. Locals assisted him but fearing repercussions they handed him over the the local A/A flak battery unit.
Above and below Stirling LK209 - see credits
(1) SOE. Special Operations Executive: Their primary role was to drop and collect secret agents and equipment into and from Nazi-occupied Europe. A British World War II organisation. Following Cabinet approval, it was officially formed by Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe against the Axis powers, and to aid local resistance movements.
Above left: Harlingen General Cemetery and right: Vlieland General Cemetery (courtesy CWGC)
Left: Memorial to the crew (courtesy Mieke Boonstra)
Fl/Lt. Alan Henderson Aitken. Harlingenn General Cemetery. Plot E. Row 4. Grave 5. Son of John and Mary Aitken of Fruitfield House, Airdrie, Lanarkshire, Scotland.
Sgt. William Horrocks. Vlieland General Cemetery. Grave 78. From Poynton, Cheshire, England. No further details currently available.
P/O. Ronald Arthur Caston. Vlieland General Cemetery. Grave 77. Son of Mr. and Mrs. W. Caston, of Ilford, Essex, England.
P/O. William Lawson Shaw. Vlieland General Cemetery. Grave 74. Son of James and Mary Shaw, of Greenhill, Lanarkshire, Scotland.
P/O. Reginald Arthur Swift. Vlieland General Cemetery. Grave 75. Son of John Ernest and Nellie Swift, of Battersea, London, England.
Fl/Sgt. Alexander Robert Paton. Vlieland General Cemetery. Grave 76. Son of John and Mabel Paton, of Drumoyne, Glasgow, Scotland.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to James Castle, Dirk Bruin, Mieke Boonstra, Air Britain, Tempsford Roll of Honour, 626 Squadron. Rene Bosma for grave photographs.