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1944-04-11 The Loss of Jaap van Hamel Spitfire NH700

Crash site: Simonside Hills near Tosson Farm, Rothbury, Northumberland, GB

Crash cause: oxygen failure presumed. Note: the Spitfire Mk. XIV was not pressurized for high altitude flight.

Name

Hamel, Jacob Willem (Jaap) van

Chevington 080203 Hamel JW van

Rank

Tijd Res 1Lt Vl, F/O., Pilot

RAF VR 132085

Decorations

Bronzen Kruis

Born

4/11/1920

Place

's-Gravenhage, NL

Squadron

RAF 322 (Dutch) Sqn Fighter Command

Ops/hr

24/28

Aircraft

Spitfire Mk. XIV Nr. NH700 VL-B

Base

RAF Acklington, Northumberland, GB

Mission

High altitude test flight; take-off 15.30h

Status

KIFA, oxygen failure presumed

age

23

Killed

11/4/1944

Place

Simonside Hills, near Tosson Farm, Rothbury, Northumberland, GB

Buried

Chevington Cemetery, Northumberland, GB, grave H/249

Known to

OGS

yes

CWGC

yes

Remarks

Memorial

1. Vijfluik Loenen, Gelderland, NL

2. Mill Hill Memorial Table, London, GB

3. Memorial Plate, main building Technische Universiteit Delft, NL

GB arrival

Engelandvaarder. Crossed the North Sea by canoo with Rudi van Daalen Wetters. Departure 20/6/1941 from Katwijk, rescued 25/6/1941 near Lowestoft, Norfolk, by HMS Eglinton.

Sources: report by R.F. van Daalen Wetters, 1994, and NA 2.09.06-3898

Van Hamel and Van Daalen Wetters departed one day after C.Th. de Iongh and R.S. Cohen had escaped from Holland at the same place and with the same flimsy transport.

Data

Confusion


Jaap van Hamel, working on a Spitfire. Below his right hand we see the gun camera. Source: SLH

Whilst on a training exercise from RAF Acklington the machine was witnessed to dive out of cloud and into a hillside near Rothbury, Northumberland. The accident was subject to an enquiry where the cause was found to have been a possible failure in the oxygen system.

Please note that the sentence above is RAF idiom. It suggests a thorough investigation of the crash. We may well assume that the conclusion of 'possible failure in the oxygen system' came about by reasoning. At the crash site, there most likely was little to investigate, and certainly not the functioning of the oxygen system. A Spitfire diving into the ground would make sure that that's quite impossible. Little left but bent metal.

Jaap van Hamel was a student from Delft Technische Hogeschool. He was corporal under training for the Artillery (bereden Artillerie). He had been actively engaged in the early armed Resistance in Holland. This included the first liquidation of a traitor in occupied Holland. It led to a massive manhunt by the Nazis. Many members of the Delft Students Resistance group were caught, and executed. Jaap van Hamel had serious reasons for wanting to escape, so that he could continue the fight against the agressors from abroad.

Source: Annie Huisman-Van Bergen, "De vervolgden - jacht op twee Delftse studenten in 1941", Meppel, 1999.

Jaap van Hamel was a fighter. It was most appropriate, and in fact only natural, that he became a Dutch RAF fighter pilot too.

2. Engelandvaarder

Picture shows a German made Keppler foldable canoe with a small sail. 20-25 June 1941, five days at sea, with Rudi van Daalen Wetters, sitting in front. This picture became famous at the time. Picture taken from the destroyer that rescued the exhausted men. This copy of the photograph was given to Rudi van Daalen Wetters.

Paddling over the North Sea in a canoe was extremely hazardous. Many tried, but only a few parties survived. It is believed that survival depended mostly on luck. See the chapter on Coen de Iongh for another one of the few succesful attempts. Van Hamel and Van Daalen Wetters were decorated by the Queen in London with the Bronze Cross for their daring escape to England.

Rudi van Daalen Wetters BK, VK, also became a fighter pilot, in 322 (Dutch) Squadron. He wrote a 3 page report on his Wartime experiences, in the summer of 1994. He writes that he could have written books on the subject, but unfortunately he did not. These few pages are the only notes we have from him. He writes how they managed to escape by canoe, and about the despair when in the vast North Sea for days. The small but expensive outboard motor they brought with them, failed to function, and had to be dumped into the sea. After five days at sea, they were spotted by a convoy off the British coast at Lowestoft, Norfolk, and rescued by HMS Eglinton, one of the escorting destroyers.

Source: Wartime report Rudi van Daalen Wetters, 1994, via Ria van Daalen Wetters

Katwijk beach, looking to the North. Between the arrows the strech of Boulevard under which a tunnel gave access to the beach, from which R.F. van Daalen Wetters and J.W. van Hamel escaped to England. The tunnel ends were blocked with sand decades ago. Katwijk 050915


Rudi van Daalen Wetters in front of the famous canoe picture, in Overloon War Museum, Holland, 1990. Photo taken by his wife, Mrs. Ria van Daalen Wetters.

Mr. Van Daalen Wetters passed away in October 1999. The family had no pictures of Jaap van Hamel, other than the one with the canoe.


Map 61. Site of former RAF Acklington, now a HM prison. Chevington Cemetery is very close to the former airbase.

Looking South towards former RAF Acklington, now a HM prison. Acklington 080203-1

Former RAF Acklington, along Tyne Road. Chevington cemetery, in South Broomhill, is visible as the dark rectangle in the center of this aerial photograph. Source: Google Earth

3. Crash site data

Two aircraft crashed in the Simonside Hills, Southwest of Rothbury, one North of the hills, one South. A Hurricane early in the War, and Jaap van Hamel's Spitfire. Both sites are known, but it has not yet been established which is which. Jim Corbett is a member of the Air Crash Investigation and Archaeology (ACIA) group, active in Scotland and Northern England. He reports that cannon rounds were found at the Northern site in the sixties, close to Tosson Farm, making this the likely site of Van Hamel's crash.

Source: Jim Corbett, email 5/3/2005. ACIA has a website: www.acia.co.uk

In February 2008 Chris Davies, member of ACIA, managed to pinpoint the crash site, with the help of the local 'oral archive'. A few bits of Van Hamel's Spitfire were still there; the bulk has been cleared. The bottom is rock, covered with a small layer of soil that holds the local vegetation of pine trees and heather. Chris is employed at HM's Prison in Acklington, the former RAF base from which Jaap van Hamel set out on his last flight.

Sources: Jim Corbett, Chris Davies, Russ Gray, emails, february 2008

The bits found are inconclusive for the Spitfire-or-Hurricane question. However, 20mm cannon rounds were found at this site in the 1960's, pointing towards a 1944 Spitfire and away from a 1941 Hurricane.

Map 62. Simonside Hills, map of crash site of Jaap van Hamel, 11/4/1944


Part of the Simonside Hills, near Tosson Farm, looking up towards the crash area of Jaap van Hamel. The area is habitat for sheep and deer. A disturbed deer is fleeing, in the center of the picture. Rothbury 080203-5

Remains of Spitfire NH700. Source: Rothbury 0802 C Davies-4, by Russ Gray

ACIA member Chris Davies at the crash site. Source: Russ Gray 0802

270 degrees view from the crash area, rotating clockwise towards the town of Rothbury, in the extreme right background. Rothbury 080203-6


From the bridge in the town of Rothbury, looking towards the Simonside Hills. Jaap van Hamel crashed in the red area in the center of the photograph. This ancient and lovely village may have been very remote from World War 2. Nevertheless, a young Dutchman died within sight of the villagers, when preparing for War.Rothbury 080203-7




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