Almere is a young city, but even here the Second World War has left its traces. Back then, this area was still the lake IJsselmeer, which was important to the allied forces’ flight routes to the Ruhr. Pilots often chose to fly over the IJsselmeer on their return from bombing missions in Germany. This route heightened their chance of survival if their plane would crash.
Various remainders of airplanes were found during the reclamation of the province of Flevoland. A couple of these wrecks are located on Almere’s territory in the lakes Gooimeer and IJmeer. These were all military aircrafts that crashed during the Second World War (1940-1945) and Cold War (1945-1991).
A couple of years ago, the wreck of an airplane was found in the Markermeer, northwest of the pumping-engine De Blocq van Kuffeler. It was identified as the Short Stirling BK716; an English bomber that carried out bombardments on German cities during the Second World War.
Discovery Short Stirling
In 2008, the Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution by chance brought up an engine of the landing gear of a Short Stirling from the Markermeer. The foundation Aircraft Recovery Group 1940-1945 thinks it concerns the BK716. This aircraft carried seven crewmembers. During the recovery of the wreckage, one of the engine blocks was found. The registration number on this part of the airplane confirms the identity of the Short Stirling as the BK716.
The BK716 crashed in the night of 29 / 30 March 1943 during a return flight from a bombardment on Berlin. On their way home to Royal Airforce station Downham Market, the Short Stirling was shot by a German night fighter pilot.
The crew of the BK716 was formed by British and Canadian members:
- Flying Officer John Frederick Harris
- Sergeant Ronald Kennedy
- Flying Officer Harry Gregory Farrington
- Sergeant Charles Armstrong Bell
- Flying Officer John Michael Campbell
- Sergeant Leonard Richard James Shrubsall
- Sergeant John Francis James McCaw
Why did we recover the Short Stirling?
The City Council of Almere wanted to salvage the aircraft. Relatives have asked the city to recover the remains of their family members, in order to give them a proper burial. The City Council supported this request, since the crew has paid the ultimate price for us to enjoy our freedom today. Furthermore, it offers relatives the chance to say goodbye to their beloved family members properly.
National Aircraft Wreckage Recovery Program
The recovery, which is part of the National Aircraft Wreckage Recovery Programme, was commissioned by the municipality of Almere. The Ministry of Defence and specialized contractor Leemans Speciaalwerken carried out the recovery. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) provide funds and advice.
The National Aircraft Wreckage Recovery Programme was set up in 2018 and covers some 30 aircraft recovery operations with a strong likelihood of human remains being found. The programme was started to fulfil the fervent wish of surviving relatives to be able to properly bury their missing family members and to obtain certainty about what happened to them. Moreover, as the Netherlands celebrates 75 years of freedom in 2020, recovery operations of this nature are a meaningful gesture in that context.
75 years of freedom
The Netherlands celebrates 75 years of freedom in 2019 and 2020. Our rights and freedom are not unconditional. We will always have to work hard in order to maintain them. Connection forms an essential part of the commemoration and celebration of 75 years of liberation and freedom. The story of the crew of the Short Stirling is part of this commemoration. They fought for our freedom, and eventually paid the ultimate price. Freedom for which we are thankful every day.
The recovery of the Short Stirling started on August 31st and completed on October 9th, 2020. The municipality carried out this project together with our partners. The Ministry of Defence took care of the recovery and will now carry out the process of identification. Together with Leemans Speciaalwerken, Defence raised the wreckage from the bottom of the Markermeer and cleaned the found parts. They searched for mortal remains, personal belongings, munition, and military equipment. The Recovery & Identification Unit of the Royal Netherlands Army (BIDKL) examines the human remains and other parts of the airplane in order to identify the remains as those of the crew of the BK716. This bomber carried seven crew members. Their relatives have been informed by the municipality of Almere.
The results of the investigation will be submitted to the British Ministry of Defence for approval. After approval they will start preparations for a re-burial ceremony. The identification process and reburial process can take some time.
As soon as we have more information about the crew and aircraft, we will publish it on this page.
The recovery took place on water since the wreckage was located in the lake Markermeernear the pumping-engine De Blocq van Kuffeler.
Almere works together with the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, a specialized aircraft recovery contractor Leemans Speciaalwerken and the Province of Flevoland to recover the Short Stirling.
It is very important to the municipality of Almere to tell its citizens about the Short Stirling BK716 and its crew. These stories will keep the memory of the Second World War alive, especially for the younger generations. The municipality had created the childrens book De nacht van de Stirling (The night of the Stirling) and has commissioned an artwork to remember the crew of the BK716. This artwork will be placed in the national resistance monument Bos der Onverzettelijken in 2021.
The Province of Flevoland has commissioned a documentary about the crew members and their relatives: Vliegenoverpolderlijnen.nl.
The Short Stirling was an English, four-engine bomber that was brought into action during the Second World War. Seven crew members were on board. The Short Stirling was 26,6 meter long, 8,8 meter high and had a wingspan of 30,2 meter. This type of airplane of the Royal Air Force (RAF) was specially developed for the bombardments against German cities. In 1942, it was the largest bomber of the allied forces. The aircraft was produced since 1939 in England. In total, 2.375 of this type of aircraft were built. Airplanes with a wingspan of 30 meters weigh over 20.000 kilos without cargo. With bombs and fuel, this craft will weigh about 27.000 kilos.
Due to this heavy weight, the aircraft was less able to manoeuvre, and therefore an easy target for the fast German night fighters. For protection, the aircraft had gun turrets at the front and back, each with an air gunner inside. In the middle, a bomb aimer was situated who could also fight the German night fighters.
- Ministry of Defence
- Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations / National Programme for Aircraft Recovery
- Province of Flevoland
- Contractor Leemans Speciaalwerken
- Aircraft Recovery Group foundation
- Bos der Onverzettelijken