Tag Archives: van Hamel

Lt Lodo van Hamel, Royal Dutch Navy

Monday, 26 August 1940

Date Operation Name Pilot Aircraft Agent Target Country Outcome
26/8/40 “Mr X” F/Lt E.B. Fielden Whitley III Lt Lodo van Hamel, Royal Dutch Navy Leiden Netherlands Completed

Aircrew Details

Pilot F/Lt E. B. Fielden
2nd Pilot Unknown
Navigator Unknown, but probably F/Lt Marsh
Wireless Operator Sgt David Bernard
Rear Gunner Unknown, if any
Despatcher S/Ldr D. Ross Shore, AFC
Agent Lt. Lodo van Hamel

F/Lt E.B. Fielden made a second attempt to drop Lodo van Hamel on the night of the 26-27th. Louis Strange was not on this sortie, but he wrote that Fielden:

shut his engines right off at 8,000 feet about four miles out at sea, glided right on to the D.Z. near Leiden without touching his engines, dropped Mr X down wind landing him twenty yards from the mark, and was away round Leiden and on his way back before the searchlight opened up on him.

If this account sounds a little glib, it’s still likely to have been essentially true. In any case Strange’s account is the only one there is. Louis Strange was not above embellishing an account to improve the narrative. His own life had been full of adventures, his accounts scarcely credible. Historians have tended to seize upon such irregularities — often, as here, in the cause of others — to cast doubt on the whole. Some may have found it galling to learn of evidence that proved its essential truth. Even allowing for Strange to have improved upon the facts — his narrative of the first attempt allows a morning air raid on North Weald that actually did not turn up until mid-afternoon, by which time he, Fielden and their now-unarmed Whitley were safely back at Ringway — his basic narrative is borne out by official records.

F/O J.A. ‘Tony’ O’Neill accompanied Fielden to North Weald on the second attempt. The Ringway ORB records that he flew to North Weald with Fielden on the 26th, and back the next day. But there’s no entry in his logbook to indicate he flew on the operational sortie, though he had recorded the first attempt on the 23rd and a short test-flight on the 26th. Whoever flew as Fielden’s Second Pilot, if he took one, has not been recorded.

S/Ldr Donald Ross Shore definitely flew on both attempts, but he didn’t record the names of his fellow-aircrew. In 2004 I interviewed Wing Commander David Bernard at his home. His memories, unassisted by his logbook which had been impounded after his capture in 1941, dovetail with Strange’s account of the successful attempt. (I later found that he had made a recording for the Imperial War Museum.) At the time of this interview neither David Bernard nor I knew of the Ringway record, or of Louis Strange’s account.

The date for van Hamel’s parachute drop has been generally assumed to have been the 28th, but the several items of evidence pointing to the night of the 26-27th is contemporary, and therefore most likely to be correct. I have no explanation for the discrepancy: I can only speculate that van Hamel may have lain low before getting in touch with his contacts, to ensure he hadn’t been followed after landing.

Sources

TNA AIR 20/2263: Operations Record Book, RAF Ringway.
RAF Museum, Hendon: Typescript for ‘More Recollections of an Airman’, Louis Strange’s unpublished second volume of memoirs.
Logbook: S/Ldr D. Ross Shore
Personal interviews: W/Cdr David Bernard, 2004.

Friday, 23 August 1940

Date Operation Name Pilot Aircraft Agent Target Country Outcome
23/8/40 “Mr X” F/Lt E.B. Fielden Whitley III “T”, K7218 Lt Lodo van Hamel, Royal Dutch Navy Leiden Netherlands Abandoned: searchlight site near target

Aircrew Details

Pilot F/Lt Earl B. Fielden
2nd Pilot S/Ldr Louis Strange, DSO, MC, DFC*
Navigator F/Lt Marsh
Wireless Operator None – no W/T
Rear Gunner None – no rear turret
Despatcher S/Ldr D. Ross Shore, AFC
Agent Lt. Lodo van Hamel

Lodo van Hamel

Van Hamel, a Lieutenant in the Royal Dutch Navy, has escaped to England after arranging for the evacuation of Princess Juliana to England by sea. He has also acted creditably in command of a Dutch Navy sloop during the Dunkirk evacuation, defiantly flying the Dutch ensign near the beaches. François van ‘t Sant, head of the Dutch government-in-exile’s intelligence service and a controversial Dutch courtier, asks for a volunteer to return to Holland and gather information about conditions in Holland under Nazi rule. Van ‘t Sant has had dealings with the Dutch section of SIS before the war, and he offers his government’s services. The Dutch Navy is asked to provide a volunteer. Kicking his heels in London, Van Hamel steps forward without hesitation.

Early attempts to land agents on the exposed beaches of Holland and Belgium have met with mixed success. By the end of July German control of the coast is tight. Van Hamel agrees to be dropped by parachute. He is given rudimentary parachute training at Ringway. The parachute school’s Commandant, S/Ldr Louis Strange, writes many years later: “We had given him a drop or two at Ringway and one at night, so off we went to North Weald to fill up and await final orders from the Air Ministry.”

F/Lt Earl Bateman Fielden, known as ‘Batty’, is chosen to fly the operation. He is already experienced at dropping parachutists: he has flown with Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus during the 1930s, when a key part of its act involved the dropping of dare-devil parachutists such as Harry Ward. During the ‘Phoney War’ both Fielden and Strange served in No.24 Squadron, ferrying senior officers and politicians between Hendon and the BEF in France. One of S/Ldr Strange’s early acts as commandant of the Parachute Training School was to request F/Lt Fielden’s posting to Ringway. Fielden is now Strange’s Chief Flying Instructor.

Louis Strange, not one to pass up an opportunity for action, flies as Fielden’s Second Pilot. His logbook records F/Lt Marsh as the navigator. S/Ldr Donald Ross Shore, now recovered from his parachuting injury, flies in the rear fuselage as van Hamel’s despatcher.

The aircraft is one of Ringway’s own Whitley IIIs. Identified by the letter “T” in Strange’s logbook, a Ringway photo from 1941 shows that ‘T’ was K7218. The photo also shows that this particular Whitley’s rear turret has been removed and replaced by an experimental parachuting platform. This explains Strange’s later comment that the Whitley was defenceless. At North Weald, Strange scrounges a machine-gun for the front turret before they set off for Holland. There is no W/T operator, and probably no W/T set. As they approach the Dutch coast they encounter strengthening winds and cloud. They cross the Dutch coast near Bergen, quite a way north of the target. The forecast winds have been inaccurate in both strength and direction. Eventually they find the dropping-point near Sessenheim, about five kilometres north-east of Leiden. It is raining and gusty. Strange and Fielden have just decided that the wind is too strong for the man they call ‘Mr X’ to be parachuted when the Whitley is illuminated by ‘a powerful searchlight’ shining from near the spot where they have been about to drop the agent. They climb away to safety and return to North Weald, reaching it at about 7 a.m.

Sources

TNA AIR 29/520: ORB, Central Landing School, Ringway.
Typescript for ‘More Recollections of an Airman’, Louis Strange, RAF Museum.
Logbooks: Louis Strange, Donald Ross Shore.

Tuesday, 14 May 1940

Rotterdam

The centre of the Dutch city of Rotterdam is heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe. The failure of an attempt to call off the bombing doesn’t reduce the culpability for an attack on an open city that had just agreed a ceasefire. The Germans threatened to destroy Utrecht in the same manner, whereupon the Dutch government capitulated.

Lieutenant Lodo Van  Hamel, Royal Dutch Navy

The Dutch armed forces are ordered to lay down their arms. Lt Lodo van Hamel, escapes to England aboard a trawler. From England, he takes part in the Dunkirk evacuation, defiantly flying the Dutch ensign as he skippers the Dutch Navy motor-sloop M74 off the beaches.

Monday, 13 May 1940

France

German infantry units cross the Meuse. The invasion of France has begun.

Holland

Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands is evacuated to England aboard the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Hereward. Her daughter, Crown Princess Juliana, is evacuated sea aboard the destroyer HMS Codrington, with her husband Prince Bernhard and their family. Their escape is organised by a young Royal Dutch Navy officer, Lieutenant Lodo van Hamel, based at Ijmuiden. He has been responsible for guiding Allied shipping in and out of the port.

RAF Watchfield, Wiltshire

Flight Lieutenant Walter Farley pilots Anson N9736 on a 2 hour 20 minute flight. His passengers are LAC Hiles and LAC Solomon: they are  to practise ‘Air Observers’ Exercise No. 5′. Farley is the OC (Officer Commanding) the Air Experience Flight at No. 11 Air Observers Navigation School. The Flight gives trainee Observers practical experience in navigation.  Farley is an experienced flying instructor, having taught ‘ab initio’ pilots for all three services, in the RAF and as a civilian, during the late 1930s. His RAF career had started with a posting to No. 13 (Army Cooperation) Squadron, so he was experienced in landing in short, unprepared landing-fields. Like many RAF pilots who had joined in the early 1930s, Farley had been placed on the Reserve, in his case in 1938, and recalled on the outbreak of war. He may have been considered too old for an operational role in the early days of the war, but his instructional skills were at a premium. At this time the RAF has only enough front-line aircraft for its existing crop of regular and Auxiliary aircrew.


Sources

  • Logbook of W/Cdr W.R. Farley, DFC.