In the night of 16 to 17 June 1944, a British bomber was shot down above the hamlet of Barlo near Aalten, Netherlands. The aircraft, a Lancaster MF 840BQ/V bomber of the 550th squadron, was on the return flight of an attack on the synthetic oil refineries in Sterkrade, north of Essen, and had come under attack by a German night fighter. The Lancaster lost a tailpiece and part of a wing and it crashed near ‘De Radstake’ in Varsseveld.
Six of the seven crew members died: G.S. Smit, pilot, J.J. Berg, navigator, L. Pulfrey, bomber, R. Townsend, radio operator, J. Tizard, tower gunner and J. Heath, tail gunner. Leslie Pulfrey was the first to leave the burning plane above Barlo, but did not survive the jump.
Flight engineer Roy Kay was the only survivor of the crash. He came down with a parachute and landed in a tree, hurting his bum and unable to walk, sit or lie for a few days. He was found and brought to safety by the local resistance. When he recovered that much he was able to be transported, he had to walk a short track. He was helped by Jo Wikkerink, daughter of the head of the local resistance, ‘Ome Jan‘ (Uncle Jan) Wikkerink.
It was fairly dark already. Roy got a raincoat and a felty hat and off they went. He had trouble walking. Just a few meters passed the sollicitors house they had to take a path. It was difficult walking there. He had his arm around her hanging on her shoulder. She tried to get her other shoulder under his arm, to support. Slowly they went the path that climbed a little, across the road into the Koningsweg. Some people came towards them. ”Ev’ning” they sounded. There was a kissing noise next to Jo’s cheek, and chuckling behind them. Suddenly she had to laugh too. It was an odd situation.
They arrived at the meeting point a little later than suspected. They both were dog-tired at that moment. Geert, (her later brother in law) stood there with a transport bike, with a big bearbar on the front. Where normally the hive (basket) was tied, there now was a quilted blanket carefully tied up. Together with her father Jan, Jo helped the man climbing his ‘seat’ while Geert held the bike. Afterwards Jan and Geert went on. Jan in front to look if the road was safe. Kay was eventually brought to The Hague where he was given shelter by pilot helper Alex Wissink for 40 days.
Later on a code message came in that his escape succeeded and that he had safely returned to England through the pilot lifeline. During his journey back, Roy collected a lot of information, which he passed on to the Americans.
The six killed airmen are buried next to each other at the Rentinkkamp Cemetery in Varsseveld, Netherlands. Roy Kay passed away in England on 23 March 2009.
Things to make from a used parachute!
The parachute Roy Kay risked to use and brought him back to earth later was divided. After the war it first became Jo Wikkerink’s wedding dress. Later again it became a cradle cloth for her children, and after that also for three of her grandsons. When Geert married Jo’s sister Jannie, that same wedding dress, with some changes also served as Jannie’s wedding dress.