Maximum Effort!


In August 2004 I received an enquiry from Andrew Rees Williams, a serving airman who was planning to visit the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery with his family and also wished to visit the crash site of their 3rd cousin George Holden DSO DFC & Bar, a former C/O of 617 Squadron.


With merely 10 days to go before their planned departure time was at a premium, in fact the final link fell into place just 4 hours before they took off!

My good friend, Author Alan Cooper picks up the story....................


  Research can be very rewarding but it can also be frustrating.

In this instance it was a great success but only after much help from a number of people on the ground.

Andrew Rees Williams's 3rd  Cousin Wing Commander George Walton Holden DSO DFC and Bar was killed on the 16th September 1943, his 30th birthday.

He had a very distinguished career, as a Warrant Officer he was awarded the DFC in 1941 and as a Wing Commander and Commanding Officer of 102 Squadron in 1943 he was awarded a bar to the DFC also the DSO.


George Holden DSO DFC&Bar


George Holden DSO DFC & Bar


  When Wing Commander Guy Gibson was posted from 617 Squadron after breeching the Ruhr Dams in May 1943, George Holden was posted to 617 as Commanding Officer in August 1943.  



On the 11th August 1943, 617 Squadron moved from Scampton where they had flown on the Dams down the road to RAF Coningsby.

Much of the training being undertaken at this time was low level, the Dams raid had given them reputation of a squadron that could undertake attacks from low level.

The target this training was being carried out for was the Dortmund-Emms Canal and the point chosen for the attack Grevn where the canal diverted into two branches.


Andrew and Sons at the Mohne Dam



The date chosen was the 14th September eight Lancaster's carrying 1200 H.C. bombs and escorted by six Mosquitoes of Fighter Command and two reserve Lancaster's were the force detailed for this attack. But having set off they were soon recalled because of bad weather in the target area.

Sadly, as they turned to return Sqn Ldr David Maltby's wing tip hit the sea and he and his crew were killed.

He had taken part in the Dams raid as a flight commander and is now buried in Wickhambreux, Kent. He was the only one of his crew to be found.


The next day the 15th they again set off in two groups and two different routes to the canal.

Wg Cdr George Holden in Lancaster EE 144-S led the first group with Mick Martin, Les Knight and Harold Wilson, both Martin and Knight had been on the dams raid and although Wilson was down to fly on the raid because of illness in his crew they did not go.

20 miles from the target light flak opened up on Holden's group and he was hit in one of the petrol tanks and crashed in the Norhorn-Altendorf area on a farm house at Hesperweg where the Lancaster and its 12000 bomb blew up.


Crash site of EE144


Andrew at the crash site of EE144


Andrew at George Holdens Grave

  The crew of EE144 were all killed along with the farmer's wife Frau Hood, the farm house was partly destroyed and a large tree was badly split. Five bodies were recovered and buried at a small cemetery at Lingen. Two of the crew, George Holden and George Deering DFC from Canada (who flew in Gibson's crew on the dams raid) were identified but the other three bodies were not identified, but in 1947, when the bodies were exhumed and reinterred in the Commononwealth War Graves cemetery in the Reichswald Forest all the crew were given their own headstone. The other members of the crew were Torger Taerum DFC, Frederick Spafford DFC, DFM both from Canada, George Hutchison DFC and Bar (all in Gibson's crew on the dams raid). The two others were F/Sgt Denis Powell MID who had flown as flight engineer with F/Sgt Bill Townsend on the dams raid, F/O Henry Pringle DFC, and P/O Thomas Meikle DFM, a very experinced and decorated crew.  

Andrew at George Holdens Grave


  It was Andrew's wish to visit the farm but to do this he needed help, Bob Baxter was his first port of call, he in turn put him in touch with German researcher Karsten Schulze who in turn put him in touch with Joachim Eickhoff (Jochen) a specialist in the Lingen area. He had a big archives of the RAF, USAAF, and the Luftwaffe during WWII.

The owners of the farm at Hesperweg were now the daughter and son-in-law of the original Hood family. As Frau Hood had been killed in the crash, Andrew was a little reticent in turning up unannounced at the Hood farm which was rebuilt in 1943.


Andrew meets Jochen & family


Andrew meets Jochen's Family


  Jochen took them to the farm where the son was unable to meet them as he felt the meeting would bring back too many sad memories. He was only 10 years old when his mother was killed and with his father helped to rebuild the farm. His sister who was 18 at the time became mum and brought up the other children.  

The Hood's rebuilt farmhouse today

  Andrew met the grandson and his wife and they invited him into the rebuilt farm house for a lovely supper.

Later they went outside and to the side of the farmhouse by a lake and laid flowers at the spot that the Lancaster came to rest and exploded.

The lake had been there for about 20 years and when it was dug out a wing from the crashed Lancaster came to light.


The Hood's rebuilt farm house today



Tree split by blast

  Flowers were given to the grandson and his wife and left for the son in memory of his mum. Andrew was given a recipe book by the wife that she had compiled from receipes received from friends all over the world and included the recipe for North Devon scones, which is where Andrew's wife hails from.  

Andrew inspects the tree which was split by the blast from George Holdens 12,000 LB bomb

  A visit to the small cemetery at Lingen followed and on to the last resting place of George Holden and his crew, the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery the home of many airmen and soldiers who were killed in the last days of the war, the ground fighting in this area in 1945 was hard and losses were heavy.    


Entrance to Lingen Cemetery where George and his crew were initially buried


  Andrew had in fact visited this cemetery some years before when he himself was serving in the Royal Auxilliary Air Force but on this occasion he was accompanying a friend who was looking for his uncle's grave and he unaware at that time that his cousin was also buried there.

The following day Andrew was taken to the target area at Ladbergen , the canal had been used by the Germans to transport U-Boat parts to other locations for assembly.

  George Holden DSO DFC&Bar   A successful search on this occasion and classic example of how war is so futile and must be avoided at all costs.  

George Holden's Medals Including DSO + DFC&Bar



Occasions such as Andrew meeting the Hood family in Germany does for more good to cement relations between countries than all the politicians put together.

Alan Cooper  November 2004.


617 Sqdn Group Photo


617 Squadron group Photo.

George Holden is in front row immediately left of the cane chair