In May 2005, Barrie Davies Sgt.Pilot AAC (retired) of Beesel, The Netherlands, was on a search for family of Flight Sergeant Henry Hiscox when he read Harry's Story.

Flt. Sgt. Henry Hiscox of Newport Mons was an RAF Lancaster tail gunner shot down over Beesel 21st June 1944. The Beesel school was doing a project on him and laying flowers on his grave (a lone Commonwealth War Grave in the Beesel cemetery) on May 4th, which is the Dutch Dodenherdenking Daag or Remembrance of the Dead Day. 

Barrie found Bob Lacey, Chairman of the Royal British Legion in Minden, Germany who kindly offered to take and forward a photo of Harry's grave marker in Hannover for Harry's Story. Here are a few of the messages we received from Barrie concerning his search for information about Henry Hiscox:

"I have found out from a local amateur historian that an eye witness saw Hiscox's aircraft approach from Kessel, on fire, turn over the Church in Reuver, head back to the river Maas and heard the noise when it crashed. Later, resistance fighters found that the tail section had fallen off into a field half a mile from the crash, the Germans had simply dug a hole at the spot and dumped Hiscox's body in it. 'Ciske the Gypsy', a resistance man, left a poem on the hastily made grave which was preserved by a local. Later, after the liberation, he was buried with honours where he now lays.

The poem may give you an idea of the feeling of the Dutch people in those days."

The poetic rhyme is lost in the translation, the story it tells is not.

English airman, we stand around this grave of yours in this foreign place.
Your valuable life you gave in forfeit
so that we can live in freedom.
Now you lay here quietly to sleep while people in your homeland wait,
Your child maybe asks his Mother why she can't laugh with him any more.
You arrived here in our midst, fighting for a beautiful ideal.
The enemy have buried you without honour, without glory
English airman, we will surround your grave with respect and flowers and ask with thanks, our good God for your happiness in the everlasting life.

Ciske de Zigeuner (Ciske the Gypsy) his Resistance nick-name. He was a member of the local resistance, real name Frans van Marissin
 

The story of what happened to Flt. Sgt. Henry Hiscox RAFVR in 1944
by Barrie Davies May 2006

Henry Hiscox, having been in the Home Guard and Fire Service, read an advert in the newspaper asking for volunteers for the RAF. He put his name down and after training was posted to 75 ‘New Zealand’ Sqn. RAF.

By 1944 he had flown as rear gunner on 35 sorties over Germany so at that point he need not have flown any more, indeed he should have become an instructor. He would have gone on training younger men and possibly being commissioned but preferred to “do the job himself”.

Henry was rear gunner of the Avro Lancaster B1 bomber, No. HK 569 which took off from Mepal in Cambridgeshire at 23.28 hrs on the night of the 20th July 1944 heading towards Homberg, Germany to bomb a refinery.

Over Heibloem in The Netherlands, his aircraft was caught in searchlights and attacked by a night fighter. It was hit and caught fire, injuring or maybe even killing some crew members in the forward section. Still heading west, it past, at low level, over the village of Kessel on the River Maas when, it is thought, the Bomb Aimer, Sgt. T.G. Little, managed to bale out. Loosing height and burning fiercely, the 21 year old New Zealand pilot Flt. Sgt. Neil Douglas Davidson turned the aircraft over the village of Reuver passing close to Beesel to head back towards the river. Just before he reached it the tail section, with Henry inside, broke away and landed in a corn field. The Lancaster, with a full bomb load, was now un-steerable and it plunged into the bank of the river on the Kessel’s side and blew up with the loss of the remaining 5 crew.

The explosion demolished 22 houses, half of the Church and half of Kessel’s old castle as well. Luckily, although a number of civilians were injured and many made homeless, none died.

Sgt. Little landed in a garden suffering back injuries. He was helped by Dutch civilians (given a cigarette) but was too badly injured to be hidden so he was taken away to hospital by the Germans where he remained in Prisoner of War Camp 9c, Mulhausen, for the duration.

Whistle signals were heard coming from both sides of the river so it is now thought that both Little and Henry were in contact with each other. Local people were not aware where Henry was or indeed if it was them who were whistling, it could have been the Germans. After two days the whistles fell silent.

Four young teenagers set out to harvest a field of corn some 10 days after the crash and found the body of Henry hidden partly by the corn. One of the boys, (then 18 years old) Sef Willems is alive today and was able to point out where he lay. Sef told us the Germans were informed and, contrary to stories previously heard, they behaved correctly, arriving with a plain coffin, taking Henry’s body away in it to the old Town Hall in Beesel where he was laid out awaiting burial. Villagers were allowed to go to see him. It is worth noting that these men were ordinary foot soldiers not SS. Henry was buried two days later in the old cemetery of Beesel. On orders (from the SS maybe ?), no-one was allowed to attend the funeral except the grave digger and his helper, they were not allowed to lay any of the flowers brought by the villagers, on Henry’s grave, on pain of being shot. Later that night the villagers secretly threw the flowers over the cemetery wall onto it, risking their own lives !! Naturally those people looked on Henry as a hero and must have seen his funeral as disgracefully without honour and without ceremony. Which explains the poem found at his grave side, written by the resistance fighter, notably the reference to ‘flowers’.

The Germans placed a simple white cross on Henry’s grave but the villagers of Beesel erected their own ‘headstone’ behind it, probably in 1945 after the liberation. It was made of wood, stood 5 foot tall, the breadth of the grave, had a propeller attached to it and according to Sef Willems, Henry’s helmet was hung on it too but this probably didn’t survive wind and weather. Chiseled out of the wood were some Dutch words of which only a few are readable on the photo I have found. They mentioned he was a ‘Piloot’ (Pilot), if the headstone was official it would have described him as ‘Air Gunner’, so it was made by simple people who cared enough to honour Henry by their own hand. Later the Commonwealth War Graves Commission replaced it with the standard white stone. What happened to the ‘original’ is not known?

Kessel, Reuver and Beesel are situated about half way between the Dutch towns for Venlo and Roermond on the river Maas, a couple of miles from the Dutch/German border. Find Maastricht on Google Earth and go north up the river.

If anyone reading this, knows the whereabouts of Sgt. T.G. Little, he spoke French to the Dutchmen in 1944 so he may have been Canadian, please ask him if he would like to contact Henry’s daughter (now 73) through this web site. She was only 11 when her Dad died and has no photo of him. She would like to talk to someone who knew her Dad.

This following is a photo of Henry's Mother and Father when they visited his grave in 1945 or 46 when it had the locally made headstone:

"Here are two pictures of the school project memorial for Henry Hiscox in our village. Children, the Burgermeester (Mayor) teachers, parents and at the back an old fella who saw the plane crash. They even got a member of the local brass band to blow the Last Post ! They're really not being forgotten." 




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