WWII airman's legacy lives on

By iain.hyndman@wanganuichronicle.co.nz, Iain Hyndman

The legacy of Wanganui airman Eric Lloyd and his fellow World War II Wellington bomber crew lives on 71 years after they were shot down over Holland.

On November 8, 1941, navigator Lloyd and five crew members were returning from a Berlin bombing mission when they were shot down over Nazi-occupied Dutch soil by Luftwaffe night-flying ace Helmut Lent, who notched up 110 "victories" during the war.

The aircraft crashed and disappeared into a bog near the village of Soarremoarre for almost 12 years.

A letter from the then-British Air Department in January 1953 said Lloyd was at rest with his crew in the Bergin Op Zoom Canadian War Cemetery in Holland after a Dutch salvage crew dug the Wellington Bomber from the bog.

The villagers of Soarremoarre had long regarded the bomber crew as heroes, believing they had deliberately missed their settlement as the plane plunged to the ground.

Every year since the crash, local children have placed flowers on the crash site to commemorate this bravery.

On November 8, 2010, David Lloyd and his son, Dax, along with family members of the other Kiwi crew attended an unveiling of a memorial in the village.

A stone monument holding two stainless steel plates was built with funds raised by the villagers and the Stichting Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation. One plate tells the tragic story of the crash while the other contains the names of the crew.

The monument's foundation also contains a small piece of nephrite (a type of jade), which symbolises the ties between New Zealand and the Netherlands.

The memorial was to be the final chapter until the younger Lloyds were gifted parts of the ill-fated aircraft by Dutch officials.

David Lloyd, now an artist living in Hamilton, said he had never met his uncle and initially was uninterested in the mangled aircraft wreckage, but his son was.

"We were given four pieces of the aircraft and dad will be keeping two and other two will be given to the Whanganui Regional Museum. One part is believed to be a section of the bomb hatch, while the other is a rather flimsy bladder from a Mae West [lifejacket]," Mr Lloyd said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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