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Monument "The Hive" at Zedelgem: A need for every citizen to examine their conscience

* Ceremony of solemn tribute at Rebecq on September 29th 2021 *

RAF aircraft's crash sites in Province of Oost-Vlanderen:
Waarschoot

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Last update: 31/07/21

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Elegy to
the Heroes of Silence


* To the 53 Squadron *
* To the crew of N3551-PZ-E *
* To the monument erected in remembrance *
* Cemetery where rest the crew *

Crash site of Blenheim N3551-PZ-E
14/07/1940

aircraft
crest raf squadron
Unit: 53 Squadron
Aircraft: Blenheim
Code: N3551-PZ-E
Base: Desting
Mission: Gent
Crew officer: Fl/O Pantom A D
Incident: Shot down by German fighter

Location: (Prov. Oost Vlanderen)

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Facts

In early May 1940, the Germans invaded Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Surprised by their meteoric advance, the soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force and those of the French Army sent to Belgium to contain a possible invasion are forced to retreat to Dunkirk. The collapse is complete, the exodus has thrown thousands of Belgian and French civilians on the roads leading to the South.
The British General Staff had to reposition its forces and try to bring back to England its army in disarray. The time is crucial, at the top, there are fears that Hitler will not be content to invade the continent, but that he will continue his momentum towards the British Isles. If England can count on its air force, at this hour its ground defense is lacking, most of the troops are on the continent that it is trying to flee.
Quickly, the British will try to slow down the invaders. One of the measures they use is the bombing of ports that can reach England quickly. There was an emergency reorganization of the RAF fleet. Some squadrons were given new missions. This is the case of the 53 Squadron whose usual objective is coastal reconnaissance. The aircraft of this unit operated their missions in France from January to June 1939. In September of that year, they moved to France, where they carried out their reconnaissance missions until May 1940, when they were ordered to return to their home base in southeastern England, in Kent. From then on, until the end of the year, night bombing was added to their tasks and they fulfilled both roles for the rest of the year.

On 14 May 1940, six Blenheim of 53 Sqd were engaged in a bombing mission of the area of the oil deposits of the Ghent-Zelzate Canal. Leaving their base in Delting during the evening, they arrive quickly in sight of the target. The pilots then observed that an air defence had been installed at the site to be bombed, making the approach dangerous.
Flak’s batteries fire long bursts of projectiles at the six bombers illuminated from the ground by powerful searchlights. Five of the six aircraft were dropping their bombs causing massive explosions and fires. When their mission was over, they turned around and returned to their base, which they joined before midnight.
Only one aircraft is missing: it is the Blenheim N3551-PZ-E. It must have been able to drop its bombs but was hit by a projectile fired from the ground while it was at Waarschoot. A fire broke out on board, making the aircraft uncontrollable.
The plane crashed in the so-called "Meienbroek" district, on the edge of the villages of Lovendegem and Waarschoot. Juliaan Versichel was 10 years old at the time, he says: I saw the plane when it crashed, it was in the Voordestraat, where we lived; when it hit the ground, it broke in half. The front of the aircraft landed in the meadow while the second part finished its run in the orchard located at the rear of the farm located in front of our house.
There were explosions and everything was burning around the wreckage. Two of the crew members manage to escape the flames and try to escape. They are P/O Alastair Dyson Panton, pilot and Sergeant Alfred Ernest Farrow, observer.
Sergeant Leslie Herbert Stride was killed in the accident. He was both a radio and a air gunner. He was just 19 years old. His horribly burned body is extracted from the cabin as soon as the fire has abated. He will be taken to the cemetery of Eeklo by the Germans who arrived quickly on the spot.
But let’s go back to our two fugitives. Having moved away from where their plane crashed, they try to escape from the enemy. But they were also horribly burned in the accident and this prevents them from taking distance. They are joined by the Germans who arrest them and take them to Eeklo for questioning. But their injuries require urgent care. They are taken to the hospital in Ghent.

After his convalescence, P/O Panton was deported to several internment camps in Germany and released in 1945. After the war, he returned to the RAF and completed his military career with the rank of Commodore. He died in 2002.
Sergeant Farrow is more affected, his condition requires that he has to be transferred to the military hospital of Brussels where he remains until 31 July 1940. He was then imprisoned in Mechelen for a month to be deported to several camps reserved to imprison allied airmen. He was released on 6 April 1945.

On September 18, 2014, 74 years after the crash, Enid Stride, Sergeant Stride’s sister came to Eeklo. During the only pilgrimage she has made that in the evening of her life, finally, she can see where her brother is. She said, “Now I know he is at peace and that good people are watching over him. I can leave peacefully.”
In the following March, the sad news came to Eeklo: Enid Stride had joined his brother, airman Sergeant Leslie Stride, killed in action on 14 May 1940. They are now together for eternity. May they rest in peace.

Thanks to Daniel De Baets for information and pictures that he provided to us.

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Few moments after the crash, we can see the body of Leslie Stride laying on the groud covered by a white cloth

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The wreckage of the Bleheim N3551

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The wreckage of the Bleheim N3551

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The wreckage of the Bleheim N3551

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The wreckage of the Bleheim N3551

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The wreckage of the Bleheim N3551

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The wreckage of the Bleheim N3551

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The wreckage of the Bleheim N3551

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Inquiry of the Kommandantur asking to the mayors information eventual crash hapenned in their commune

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Answer of the mayor of Lovendegem

Sources:
Aviation Safety
The International Bomber Command Centre (IBCC)
Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)
Aircrew Remembered
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