In October 2021, a memorial pole was placed, by the Remembrance Post Hollands Kroon Foundation, for the crew of of 311 (Czechoslovak) Wellington bomber Z8838 who were all lost when their aircraft crashed, on the night of 11 April 1942, near the village of Middenmeer, Holland.
This successful event resulted in a proposal, from Jozef Kušlita, Deputy Head of Mission at the Slovak Embassy, The Hague and Čeněk Hajný his counterpart at the Czech Embassy, The Hague to the Remembrance Post Hollands Kroon Association that this remembrance should be held annually.
On 11 April 2022, the 80th anniversary of the crash, the crew of Wellington Z3883: F/Sgt Josef Kalenský, pilot, Sgt Karel Kodeš, co-pilot, F/O Karel Rychnovský, navigator, Sgt Josef Politzer radio-operator, Sgt Jan Peprníček, front-gunner and Sgt Josef Hrdina, rear-gunner, were remembered in a humble ceremony.
The event was organised by Remembrance Post Hollands Kroon Association led by its Chairman Mark Hakvoort.
Attendees representing the Czech Embassy, The Hague was Čeněk HAJNÝ, Deputy Head of Mission, with his opposite number Jozef Kušlita representing the Slovak Embassy, The Hague, with Ms Ivana Trubirohová a Ms Chiara Mihalčatinová, trainees from that Embassy. Mayoress Mrs Rian van Dam, represented the Gemeente Hollands Kroon Municipal Authority. From the Czech Republic, specially for the event, was Pavel Holomek, 2nd cousin to Sgt Karel Kodeš, with his son Pavel Jr. and niece Gabrielle who acted as translator, Willy de Bruin-Bakker, daughter of the farmer at the time of the Z8838 crash, Harry Doesburg, representing the Free Czechoslovak Air Force Associates ltd, Dutch military veterans formed the Honour Guard, bugler Dirk Bak and Dutch media.
By the memorial pole, at the Molenweg-Schagerweg intersection, Mayoress Rian van Dam welcomed the visitors. Wreaths were laid at the memorial pole by Čeněk Hajný and Jozef Kušita on behalf of their respective countries, Pavel Holomek on behalf of the relatives of the Z8838 airmen, Mrs Rian van Dam, on behalf of the people of Hollands Kroon, Willy de Bruin-Bakker, Harry Doesburg on behalf of FCAFA ltd, with further wreaths or bouquets laid by Dutch veteran group and well-wishers.
The National Anthems of the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and Dutch were played on the bugle by Dirk Bak.
The memorable ceremony was closed by Remembrance Post Hollands Kroon Association Chairman, Mark Hakvoort.
Pavel Holomek’s commented on this ceremony: “I take it that I am a representative of all those families, because some of them could not come here because of their health and age. I admire the Dutch aviation enthusiasts for devoting so much time and effort to the memory of foreign soldiers. I would like to express my deepest gratitude and admiration for them. For me, my visit to Holland was full of extraordinary experiences.”“I take it that I am a representative of all those families, because some of them could not come here because of their health and age,”
On the cloudy night of 10 April, 1942, eight Wellington aircraft of 311 Sqn took-off from East Wretham, around 22:00 for a bombing mission on Essen, Germany. Of these only one reached the target and dropped its bombs. Two others, unable to find locate the target, instead bombed secondary targets. The other five Wellingtons, were unable to reach their designated target due to icing and engine trouble and so turned for home and jettisoned their bombs.
One of those five Wellingtons was Mk Ic Z8838, KX-Z, was Captained by F/Sgt Josef Kalenský, pilot, Sgt Karel Kodeš, co-pilot , F/O Karel Rychnovský, navigator, Sgt Josef Politzer radio-operator, Sgt Jan Peprnicek, front-gunner and Sgt Josef Hrdina, rear-gunner. They had taken-off at 22:01. At 23:30 a radio message was received from Z8838 that they were approaching Essen.
At 00:08, Politzer radioed to base that they had engine trouble and were returning to base. Shortly afterwards the aircraft crashed following an attack by a Luftwaffe Me-110 night fighter, 2½ miles east of Kolhorn in the Northern Netherlands at 00:20 hours 11/04/42.The enemy aircraft was probably being flown Hptm Helmut Lent of II/NJG2, who claimed a Wellington shot down at 00:23 hours south east of Den Helder.
All of the Wellington’s crew were killed and buried at Huisduinen near Den Helder, Holland. F/Sgt Josef Kalensky, Sgt Karel Kodes, F/O Karel Rychnovsky, Sgt Jan Peprníček, and Sgt Josef Hrdina were interred in a communal grave and Sgt Josef Politzer in a separate grave.
In 2004 the remains were re-interred, again five in a communal grave and one separate grave, at the CWGC cemetery at Bergen-op-Zoom, a town in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant, 40 kilometres north-west of Antwerp (Belgium).
More information about the work of the Herdenkingspalen Hollands Kroon Foundation here.