IN THE BAG !!!!!

Telegram dated 26 July, 1942, from the War Ministry telling my wife that I was missing in action,
followed by one dated 2 September, 1942, stating that I was now a POW in Germany.

Additional data is also on file at the National Aviation Museum in Ottawa.


This is the true story of a Dutch boy's honesty and a watch belonging to a British Royal Air Force pilot of a Halifax aircraft on a bomber operation over Germany on a night in July 1942.

My crew and I had been briefed to bomb a target at Duisberg, in the Ruhr. All went well until we had crossed the Dutch-German border at 18,000 feet, when my mid-upper gunner started firing his guns without warning. A few minutes later my front-gunner called up on the intercom that a night-fighter was coming in from the starboard quarter. I immediately started a diving turn to starboard and at the same time felt the full wrath of the enemy's guns, which set fire to both starboard engines and killed my mid-upper gunner. My navigator went back to help, but it was useless because of the amount of damage. However, he informed me that my mid-upper gunner was dead. My flight-engineer was working on putting out the fires on the two starboard engines. I then feathered the props and, re-trimming the aircraft, decided that we had better jettison the eight 1000 pound bombs (live, as we were now over Germany) and try to turn the aircraft to port. My navigator had given me a course to steer for England and we set course and tried to maintain height. Unfortunately, the bomb doors refused to close and we rapidly lost height. I informed my crew to prepare to bail out, but to await orders. When the aircraft was down to 3,000 feet the order was given to jump. At 1,000 feet I decided that it was time for me to go and I left the controls to go forward to the escape hatch. As I got out, I somehow got caught up and was hanging out upside down. I spent a few terrifying moments hanging there, not knowing what to do. My first thoughts were, "Well, that's it - I've had a good life - and that's it, God help me!" I then gave myself a good shake and suddenly I was free. I remember crashing through some trees and then everything went blank until I came to, hanging up in a tree some six foot from the ground. I could see in the light from the fires of my burning aircraft that some people were shouting and milling around some distance away. After gathering my wits, I released my parachute harness and climbed down to the ground. I then made my way out of the wood, across a field, and lay down in a small copse. As daylight was starting to break, I stayed there until nightfall.

I checked through my escape rations and escape money and, when nightfall came, I decided to walk towards a hut I had seen, to look for water. This hut was empty so I proceeded on and eventually came to a farmyard, which I entered. But, as I was feeling my way into the barn, I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder, and a man saying "Politzei! Politzei! Kom mit!" I said "Water, please!" He then called to his wife, who brought me a mug of water. He then took me along a lane towards a bungalow, where a man came towards me saying, in perfect English, "Are you all right, old boy? I'll get you some milk, but I'm sorry I can't help you more - this man's a policeman and you will have to wait for the Burgermeister who will take you to the police station at Oplau." The Burgermeister eventually arrived and took me to the police station. (Click here for a copy of the Official Police Report). I was greeted there by my bomb-aimer, who had been captured earlier. I also met a young man, about twelve to fourteen, who was the Dutch policeman's son. He told me his name was John Freriks and he spoke English. I told him that I had some valuables and he said that the Germans would take them. "They'll certainly take your watch and fountain pen and any cigarette lighter that you might have." He then said that he would be happy to look after them for me until after the war was over. So I handed him a piece of paper on which I had written my name and the address of my parents. Now my parents address (when I was shot down) was "Dorchester", Dorset Avenue, Chelmsford, Essex.

At the end of the war John decided that he would like to return the items, which he had hidden all those years in a tin in his garden. Although they were now really useless, the thing was that he really wanted to give them back as he had promised. However, he had lost the piece of paper with my name and address, and all he could remember was "Officer Porter, Dorset, Essex". So, in December 1945,John Freriks wrote a letter to the Mayor of Dorchester, Dorchester being the capital of the county of Dorset. The Mayor traced my name to Gravesend, Kent, where I had owned a house before the war, and sent the letter to the Chief Constable of that town. The police at Gravesend decided that the letter should be forwarded to the Chief Constable of Essex, as they thought that 'Dorset' might actually be 'Orset', a town in that county. After some detective work, the Essex police found the name 'Porter' in the telephone directory under 'Porter, "Dorchester", Dorset Avenue, Chelmsford, Essex', and put two-and-two together. On coming home one weekend, your mother told me that a policeman had called with the letter to see if it was really meant for me, which of course it was! After replying to John's letter, he came to stay with us and brought the items I had left with him in 1942. (Click here for photo and Newspaper Report). He spent a few days with us and we had a good old talk about times gone by. It appeared that soon after we had first met he had been taken off to Germany in a working party until the end of the war.

After the war he became an officer in the Dutch Air Force and a few years later, in 1955, I was posted to Germany as second in command of Royal Air Force Station, Wahn, Near Cologne. Whilst stationed in Germany my wife and I went to Amsterdam and stayed with John and his wife, where he gave me the bomb-aimer's compass from my crashed Halifax. It had been found by his father after the Germans had cleared the wreckage and exploded a 1,000 pound bomb that had hung up and failed to leave the bomb bay when our bomb load had been dropped. In 1990, I also made contact with Charles Manders who had possession of my old flying helmet. After being found at the crash site, it had been buried again along with my parachute harness after the parachute silk had been "rescued" to make undergarments for some of the local ladies.

In 1985 Jack Paterson, my Hali navigator' received a Map of the crash site from Martin Van Sleeuwen in the Netherlands. They became good friends and Jack and his wife, Dorothy, stayed with Martin in 1995. Click HERE to see this map and some recent photographs.

John and I are still in contact with each other even to this day. We still talk about the incident that brought us together and he just relayed an interesting story that he had recently heard from one of his boyhood neighbours in the 1997 Christmas card he sent to me.

A report on the crash and what happened to the rest of the crew may be found HERE This information was obtained from Lost

Previous Section
Chapter Headings
Go Back to Chapter Headings

Next Section