Dutch lecturer's search for truth about World War Two plane leads him 400 miles across world to Radlett
PUBLISHED: 16:13 12 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:43 23 September 2019
A lecturer's search to uncover the truth about a World War Two plane which crashed near his home in the Netherlands has led him almost 400 miles across the world to Radlett.
In 2014 Gert Talens became interested in the mystery of a fighter plane which caught fire in November 1944 over water which is now the Dutch municipality of Dronten.
The 52-year-old was initially tasked with creating a visitor's story for a new forest in Abbertweg called Torenbosje.
Gert then discovered that the remains of a de Havilland Mosquito, which had caught fire and plummeted to the ground over the area, had been discovered nearby.
Piecing together historical archives, Gert found the two British crew members were navigator Alfred Kitchen and pilot Maurice Williamson.
This was at odds with a memorial near the site, which said the plane was flying German colours.
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The aircraft turned out to be one of 290 planes flying to Neuss when it came under fire - unable to control the blaze, Alfred became trapped in the escape hatch and fell unconscious from smoke inhalation.
Maurice was initially luckier - he managed to get out before the plane crashed near a local landmark called the Zeebeumpie.
However, he was promptly captured by German forces and became a prisoner of war.
All but the leg of 24-year-old Alfred was pulled from the plane's wreckage and later buried in the Kamper cemetery in IJsselmuiden.
In uncovering what happened to these soldiers, Gert visited the UK to meet with Alfred's descendants. He visited Adrian and Simon Kitchen in The Three Horseshoes in Radlett.
Gert said: "During my search I realised more and more that Alfred and Maurice were men who wanted to live. Not heroes, but just guys who lived in a time when things were going badly. They did what they had to do but would have preferred to do something else."
Alfred was posthumously awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross in 1946 for an incident on his third ever outing to occupied territory. He safely guided a battered flight back to safety after its pilot was injured in crossfire over Europe in 1943.
View the report at www.gertspeelt.com/kitchen