Wreckage of a Short Stirling Washes Ashore

As a result of Storm Eunice, large pieces of a wartime plane washed ashore near a small village in North Holland.

The wreckage of the Short Stirling washed up on the Dutch shoreline was found entangled in a fishing net. Locals found other parts from the plane during a clean-up at the beach.

After close inspection by war museum experts, the aircraft has been positively identified as the remains of a Short Stirling MK1, specifically the SS-BF396.

It is one of only three Short Sterling planes that were shot down by enemy fire on the Dutch coast.

Identified

The chunks were sent to Martjin Visser, of the Egmond Foundation, based at the museum Jansjeschong, in the village of Egmond Aan Zee. He recently told the press that he is “100 percent certain it’s a British plane.”

”Visser said, “We came into possession of some Dutch and German documents which mentioned the crash of a Short Stirling into the sea in the vicinity of
Camperduin.”

Wreckage of the Short Stirling came ashore tangled in fishing nets. Credit: @Egmond4045/Zenger

The researcher compared their wreckage with a surviving Short Stirling fuselage and concluded it was indeed a 100% match. The last remaining hull of a Short Stirling is preserved in a museum at a Dutch Airbase in Deelen.

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The wreckage is believed to come from the same type of combat aircraft. Visser added, “A total of three Stirlings crashed off our coast, two near
Bergen Aan Zee and one near Camperduin.”

The Short Sterling aircraft were used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the initial years of World War II.

Night Fighters

They were the first four-engine planes used in the effort to defeat Germany and although they were later relegated to second tier duties, including acting as suppliers for the Allied invasion of Europe, they were respected by their pilots due to the fact they could manoeuvre effortlessly away from deadly Luftwaffe night fighters.

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Short Sterlings, such as the one found, were also used to lay mines in many of Germany’s ports. Handley Page Halifax planes, and Avro Lancaster aircraft, were subsequently used to battle the German Luftwaffe.

Short Sterling heavy bomber
The Short Stirling was introduced to the RAF in 1941. At one point, it was carrying the majority of the load for British bombing missions. There were 2,383 built in total by the Short Brothers company and Belfast Austin Motor Company in the UK.

The Stirling was attacked and shot down on 17th December 1942 by Oberleutnant Werner Husemann along the Dutch coast. The eight crew members were killed in the crash. Until now, the plane was assumed lost, and the bodies never recovered. No doubt the remains of the airmen are still resting on the ocean floor.

RaF Crew
The crew members on board were pilot Victor Mitchell, second-in-command pilot
Trevor Horace Bagnall, Navigator Reginald William Pearson, air bomber Gerald
Thomas Padden, wireless operator Stuart John Goff, flight engineer Robert Hart, mid-upper gunner Arther Henry Rider and rear gunner Albert Charles William Parker.

Knight’s Cross

The crew members on board were pilot Victor Mitchell, second-in-command pilot Trevor Horace Bagnall, Navigator Reginald William Pearson, air bomber Gerald
Thomas Padden, wireless operator Stuart John Goff, flight engineer Robert Hart, mid-upper gunner Arther Henry Rider and rear gunner Albert Charles William Parker.

A Luftwaffe night fighter ace, Husemann’s final wartime tally was an amazing 34 enemy aircraft shot down. For this amazing feat he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. 

There is a kind of tragic irony in the plane going down where it did. According to Visser, pilots assumed that once they were over the Dutch coastline, they would make it back to England without incident. “By the time you reached the Dutch coast,” he explained, “you were pretty safe.” Not in this case, unfortunately.

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In the case of another Short Stirling bomber, the circumstances were different, though equally tragic. Although that plane was also shot down by a German night fighter, it crashed into a freshwater lake in the Netherlands, not too far from Amsterdam.

My Father

In July of 2020, the son of a RAF sergeant, Leonard Shrubsall, got the news that his dad’s plane, and perhaps his remains, had been found in that lake.

Richard Shrubsall was 76 in 2020 when he heard news that his father, whom he had never met, might be returned for burial if the Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution could retrieve his remains. He was, Shrubsall said to the Daily Mail, “flabbergasted.”

All seven crew members perished in the crash. A rescue operation came upon the plane’s landing gear quite accidentally.

A team was assisting some boaters who were having engine trouble. When they pulled up the anchor, pieces of the landing gear came to the surface too.

Initially the plane was mistaken for another type of RAF aircraft. But once the authorities examined it closely, they knew they’d found a Short Sterling bomber. Seeing the identification number allowed them to pinpoint precisely which plane it was, along with the names of the entire crew.

Short Sterling bombers were used on the front lines of the war but less and less after 1943. Pilots complained of their altitude limitations, and their “loss rate” was as much as 15 percent – considerably higher than the Lancaster and the Halifax.

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