Halifax LW682/OW “M”
On 12 May 44, No 426 Squadron was tasked with the bombing of the railyards at Louvain, Belgium as part of an 120 aircraft raid. Fourteen Thunderbird crews were on the battle order, and each aircraft carried nine 1000-pound bombs and four 500-pound bombs. At 2205 hours the detail began taking off on the four-and-a-quarter-hour mission; all were airborne in fourteen minutes. Eight of the crews are known to have attacked the target between 0028 and 0035 hours, 13 May 44.
Halifax LW682/OW “M”, with Sgt W.B. Bentz and crew never made it to the objective. A Luftwaffe night-fighter ace, Major Martin Drewes, in an Me 110, shot them down near the village of Geraardsbergen. The aircraft crashed into a bog near the River Dender, killing the entire crew. The German records state that the softness of the ground prevented the recovery unit from getting much from the wreck.
The navigator, F/O T.W. Taylor (Chisolm Mills, AB); the bomb aimer, F/O C.S. Phillips (Valparaiso, SK); the wireless operator, WO1 J.E. McIntyre (Biggar, SK); and the flight engineer, Sgt R. Ellerslie (Doncaster, Yorkshire), had each completed two missions. The mid-under gunner, F/S J.E.J.G. Arbour (Montreal, PQ) was on his first mission. The remains of these men were recovered and buried together in the Geraardsbergen (Grammont) Communal Cemetery, East Flanders, Belgium. The pilot, F/S W.B. Bentz (Penticton, BC), and the rear gunner, Sgt F. Roach (Leamington, ON), had each completed three operational sorties. The mid-upper gunner, Sgt J.W. Summerhayes (Brantford, ON), was credited with two operational sorties. The remains of these men stayed lost within their Halifax.
In July 48, the crew posthumously received the Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm.
On 6 Sep 97, the remains of the lost crewmen were recovered from the crash site and, on 10 Nov 97, buried with their five comrades. How this was achieved is yet another excellent example of the great work the Association has been involved in.
Canadian Air Force Colour Party leading the funeral procession with the 426 Squadron Standard.
Reverend Harry Schmuck, Association Chaplain, leads the gathering in prayer.
LCol L. Motiuk (ret'd) delivers the eulogy.
This fire axe was obtained from the crash 13 May 44 by M. Masfrackx of Schendebeke, Belgium. It was donated to the recovery team 6 Sep 97, and presented to 426 Squadron 18 Dec 97.
These ingots are the smelted down airframe of LW682. The rest of the melted airframe was used to make the base of the new totem pole for the Disforth Bldg.
Awarded to the crew in 1948 by the Belgians, Croix de Guerre avec Palm
Mr K.W. Kjarsgaard receives an Honourary life-long Membership of 426 Squadron, presented by LCol L.W. Hoddinott, CO
and F/L Howard Ripstein (ret'd) one of the founding members and strong supporter of the Association.