Second World War pilots buried in Leuven, 72 years later


The three Royal Air Force pilots were on a mission to bomb a German petrol refinery, when their plane went down in Flemish Brabant

At the going down of the sun

A funeral took place last week at the military cemetery in Leuven for three members of the UK’s Royal Air Force – 72 years after their plane went down.

The men were on a mission from RAF Waterbeach in England to bomb a German petrol refinery in Gelsenkirchen, when their plane, a Lancaster NN775 bomber, went down for unknown reasons at Bunsbeek in Flemish Brabant, now a district of Glabbeek. All seven crew members – five British, one Australian and one Jamaican – were killed.

The accident happened in March 1945, and the bodies of four of the crew were soon recovered. They were buried in a common grave in the cemetery, with seven headstones. The plane sank into the boggy ground and was only exhumed last year.

The bodies of the three remaining airmen were found inside. One of them, Flight Sergeant Allan Olsen, was only 18 years old when he died, two years younger than Sergeant Christopher Hogg. The third was identified as 23-year-old pilot Holman Kerr from Northern Ireland.

Last week the three joined their fellow crew members in the common grave in Leuven. The site is part of the worldwide network of graves maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The ceremony was attended by ambassadors, families and personnel from RAF Waterbeach. A monument was unveiled at the town hall in Glabbeek, and a remembrance service held in the Sint-Quirinus church in Bunsbeek.

Photo: Peter Reekmans