09.11.1941 N. 408 Squadron Hampden BI AE438 EQ-N P/O. Wilson
Operation: Ostend, Belgium.
Date: 9th November 1941 (Sunday)
Unit: No. 408 (Goose) Squadron
Type: Hampden B1
Base: RAF Syerston
Location: Crashed near Westkerke, West Vlaanderen. 9 Kilometres South East of Ostend.
Pilot: P/O John Cayley Wilson J/5224 RCAF Age 27. Killed (1)
Nav: Sgt. Evan Bertram Te Makahi Robertson NZ/404556 RNZAF Age 29. Killed (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Douglas Frederick William Norton 1280431 RAF Age 19. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Douglas Victor Markall 1167721 RAF Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 17.55 hrs. from RAF Syerston with a further eight aircraft to attack Ostend.
Once over the target they were immediately caught in the radar operated searchlights and the German Flak battery engaged the Hampden.
The operators at Fliegzeug Abwehr Kanone hit one of the wings and a part of the tailplane. Pieces of the aircraft fell in the field belonging to a local farmer Mr. Vandamme south of Aernoudstraat at Rokse. During the fatal minutes that followed local witnesses reported that the aircraft had lost complete control and dived with enormous noise and crashed at 22.00 hrs.
The following morning German guards were placed at the scene and nobody was permitted near the crash site. They had already recovered the bodies of the crew and they were provided a funeral with full military honours.
Many years later in 1992 the cemetery was cleared to make way for roads and dwellings (see below and insert), but the graves of these four crew-members were preserved in the area and a weeping willow tree overhung the four graves. Not only a truly superb last resting place for this crew but recognised as the smallest CWGC Cemetery of WW2.
Above left: Sgt. Evan Bertram Te Makahi Robertson (courtesy Karen Norton, Vivienne Saunders, Sally Throp via John Depauw Mayor of N.S.B. Westkerke)
Right: The jacket belonging to Sgt. Markall (courtesy Dirk Jonckheere-Veterans Organisation Department of Westkerke)
In 2007 a jacket was discovered after the death of a former member of the resistance who's attic was emptied and cleaned. Amongst the items found was a jacket - marked with the name of 'Dougie' - it turns out that this belonged to Sgt. Douglas Victor Markall.
Left: Sgt. Douglas Norton and grave marker Right: Sgt. Douglas Markall (see credits)
Hampden AE438 (courtesy Michel Beckers)
A letter from Doug Norton sent on the day they were lost:
"My beloved Dad and Mom,
I am sorry that it took so long before I had the opportunity to write to you but we have been extremely busy lately. Last night I flew a raid, also the night before and Wednesday night. You see we have been busy. I woke up an hour ago and I just finished my lunch.
Last night I flew to Ostend in Belgium and we have dropped our bombs straight into the docks. So I bed that it is mass there now. Everything goes well with me. However, I should admit that I feel very tired last time. I do not believe that I will be ordered to fly tonight and so I will be able to rest somewhat.
Last night the other boys bombed Cologne and they have to fly again tonight. Thus I do not believe that it is so tough for me. Yet that is the reason we joined the war and we may not complain.
Well, that is it for today again and I hope you are all well and healthy.
Cheerio’ take care,
God bless you all with love and happiness.
Sister aircraft to AE438 - AE196, Aircraft transferred to 44 squadron and was lost on 13th December 1941 on a minelaying trip.
Research underway and further details are to follow on this crew and aircraft. Shot down over Brest with the loss of all crew.
Crew graves (courtesy Dirk Jonckheere-Veterans, Organisation Department of Westkerke)
Crew graves - Showing the redevelopment around the graves.
P/O John Cayley Wilson. Westkerke Churchyard. Grave No 4. Son of John William and Florence Wilson, of Aylmer West, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt. Evan Bertram Te Makahi Robertson. Westkerke Churchyard. Grave No 2. Son of William Alexander Robertson and Sarah Jane Robertson, of Fairlie, Canterbury, New Zealand.
Sgt. Douglas Frederick William Norton. Westkerke Churchyard. Grave No 3. Son of Mr. and Mrs. F.C. Norton, of Ipswich, Suffolk, England.
Sgt. Douglas Victor Markall. Westkerke Churchyard. Grave No 1. Son of George Frederick and Amy Markall, of Birmingham, husband of Elfreda Hannah Markall, of Birmingham, England.
Researched with further information supplied by the Veterans Organisation Department of Westkerke, we would like to thank the Mayor of the Westkerke Mr Depauw, Mayor of Oudenburg Mr. Ignace Dereeper and finally and not least to Dirk Jonckheere who is organising this memorial and coordinating the visit of relatives and dignitaries. Also thanks to Michel Beckers, Harold Buckley, Ken Spink, Mark Peters.
Other sources as quoted below.
Left: Bretteville-Sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery.
(1) His brother, 25 year old Lt. Bruce Wilson of the 28th Armoured Regiment (British Columbia Regiment RCAC) Killed on 13th August 1944. Buried at Bretteville-Sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery Grave: XXV1.D.1.
Left: Alamein Memorial
(2) His brother, 34 year old 2nd Lt. Alan Charles Tuarea Robertson DCM. Mid. - killed on the 8th February 1944, serving with 26th Battalion New Zealand Infantry. Remembered on the Alamein Memorial Column 101.