Aalten Vliegtuigcrash - Jan Ebbers (translated by Jack Pritchard)

Leslie Pulfrey grew up in Sheffield, in England, a place famous for its steel industry. During the Second World War, the area was heavily bombed. Pulfrey, (until then in the police service), reported to the RAF base, in order to take part in operations against the enemy. This was his contribution to the British war effort.

His older brother, Jack, and younger sister Elsie worked in the RAF. He trained as a gunner and bomb aimer, and served in RAF 550 squadron, based at North Killingholme.

After undertaking many successful flights, F/O L Pulfrey's last flight was on the fateful night of the 16/17th June 1944, in the crew of Squadron Leader Gavin Smith. The targets for that night were factories creating oil products for German industry. The Lancasters arrived at the target with thick cloud cover.

The bombers had trouble finding the target, and Pulfrey's Lancaster came across a German night fighter, and came under fire. A fuel tank in one of the wings caught fire, and due to this, the Lancaster was lost. The first to jump from it was Leslie Pulfrey.

The aircraft lost its tail piece and a part of a wing above Aalten, ultimately splitting into two pieces and landing in a field behind a farm called "Oude Lieftink", in Varsseveld, in the Wisch municipality.

As the plane crashed, Roy Kay jumped from the aircraft, and miraculously reached the ground unharmed. He escaped an arrest, and succeeded in an escape to England, aided by the so-called 'escapelijn'. The remaining crews bodies were sadly found in the wreck of the Lancaster.

Their names are:
Squadron Leader G. S. Smith (pilot)
Flying Officer J. J. Store (navigator)
Flight Sergeant R. Townsend (radio operator)
Flying Lieutenant J. Tizard (gunner)
Flying Officer J. Heath (gunner)

And what happened to Pulfrey? His precise fate is unknown, but it is known that he jumped from the burning aircraft above Aalten as his body was found in a field early the next morning by Johan van Eerden, a farmer. Pulfrey's parachute was torn, probably by shrapnel, and his head was entangled in the parachute cords. He was identified by his identification plate and wristwatch. Gerrit Hendrik van Eerden, the owner of the field, decided to honour Pulfrey.

Pulfrey was buried in the General Cemetary in Varsseveld, together with his fellow airmen. Roy Kay, the sole survivor of the crash, is (as far as I aware) still alive, and only he could understand the events of that traumatic night. It is impossible to forget the night that 321 bombers left Britain, and 31 did not return.

Near the spot stands this memorial for Leslie Pulfrey and for his comrades, who gave their lives for our freedom. For the tombstone in Varsseveld, Leslie's parents chose these words:

Deep in our hearts
His memory is kept
We smile with the world
But never forget

Joe Pinguey, F/O Pulfrey's nephew, has kindly sent a photograph of F/O Pulfrey's grave

This story was originally part of http://www.fietstochten.tmfweb.nl/ , a website describing cycle routes around parts of the Netherlands. The author's father-in-law was Gerrit Hendrik van Eerden, the owner of the field.

The original Dutch version can be viewed at http://www.fietstochten.tmfweb.nl/pulfr.html