The May fliers - Jan Linzel

Discussion in 'Stories' started by Marcel, Apr 27, 2008.

  1. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    One of my heroes is Dutch fighter pilot Jan Linzel. I bought the book about his war efforts a few months ago. He really is an amazing character. Jan was in the Dutch resistance during the first years of the war, then fled to England where he started to fly Spitfire and Tempest fighters. After the war he became the commander of the Vliehorst shooting range for a/c on Vlieland. Many NATO pilots, including many US pilots trained there under his supervision. He still lives, age 92 in Ireland. But the passage I translated is about 10th of May 1940 when Jan was a D.XXI pilot and got thrown into action:

    Air Battle - 10 May 1940.

    This day of May, innocent people will die. It is still dark. There is a humming in the air.The radio broadcasts confused messages.
    Swelling noises, droning, explosions. All noises are drowned by the aircraft of the Teutons. Jan Linzel has a restless sleep.
    At half past one in the morning there is someone at his bed: commander
    Boy Ruijs de Peres.1st Lt. Boy Ruijs de Peres
    "Go to Marienhoeve immediately and awake the ground crew. They must come to the base in a hurry. There is a lot of flying activity and we will have work to do".
    Shortly after 01.30 there is a large number of aircraft flying high over our country from East to West. Large formations of German planes flying in the direction of the North sea. It is said that they will go to England.
    But soon the intentions become clear. They turn over the sea and in the grey morning light they approach our airfields from the West.
    The pandemonium starts at 02.55 hours.
    Linzel drives on his bike along the concrete path to the farm. He runs through the stables and shouts: "Rise, everybody! As soon as possible to the base and prepare the aircraft!".
    The boys are at their posts very quickly.
    Jan changes his uniform for a brown woollen jack, his personal white pilots cap and runs with his parachute to his plane, the Fokker D-21 (215).
    They did this before, but never that early.
    After warming up the engines, the pilots stay in their cockpits in order to take off at first alarm.

    Three sections are stand by:
    1. P.J.B. Ruijs de Peres (222), G.K.P.Kiel (216), J.Eden (247)
    2. G.Steen (246), A.M.van de Vaart (212), J.Linzel (215)
    3. F.G.B.Droste (228), P.J.Aarts (217)
    Only the Fokker D-21 (227) of Ottes was not prepared to fly, probably under repair.

    It is still dark. There is no light in the cockpit of the D-21. The instruments are fluorescing, but not quite clear.
    The Fokker D-21 is only provided with a few blind-fly instruments and has for instance no artificial horizon. There is a turn coordinator and a vertical speed indicator; the last one is reacting slowly.
    Soon it will be daytime. Because fair weather the horizon is visible and the possibility for a safe take-off is getting better every minute.
    At 03.55 hours (Amsterdam time) the siren starts its howling.
    One after another the three flights start to take off.
    Lt. Steen is nr. 1 of Jan Linzel. He is flying in the direction of Delft. They see a large formation of Heinkels flying in NE direction.
    "Foreign Aircraft Violating our Air Space."
    There is a large number. Jan is surprised that Steen doesn't attack but returns to base. Jan, who already had been punished for not following the leader before, follows immediately.
    After Steen has landed, Jan parks his plane near him. Steen has already left the cockpit and asks Jan: "Are your machine guns ready to fire?" "Don't know". "Let me try them, mine don't work!"
    Linzel descends the 215 and Lt. Steen climbs into the cockpit. He tries the MG's and says: "I take this plane, you can use mine!"
    It is not funny, but what to do as an ordinary sergeant? Linzel runs to the 246 and gets in.
    The ground crew in the mean time discovered that the compressed air bottles of this plane were closed. The machineguns work on compressed air.
    Steen has Jan's parachute; fortunately they have both nearly the same size, so Steen's chute fits Jan too.
    The soldiers shout "Try your machineguns!" Linzel gives short bursts of fire; all four are okay.
    The moment he fastens his belts and the ground crew is starting his engine, from the South-West a large formation of Heinkel bombers approach. A number of approximately 36 are counted.
    Suddenly there is everywhere screaming and bombs begin to fall. They fall on the field, in large rows, 200 to 400 meter in front of Jan.
    The boys of the ground crew disappear. One is hiding in a sewage tube, another under a car. Linzel in his belts stays in his cockpit and is watching where the bombs fall.
    In the direction of Delft is a non-damaged strip and for the first time he is aware of the fact that war has begun.
    A few soldiers come running and swing the engines start handle. A new formation of Heinkels is approaching from the South-West. The boys gesture and shout: "Shoot their balls off, serg!" Jan starts taxiing, pushes full throttle and takes off.
    Linzel starts in a crater-free direction and behind him are bursts of explosions. Bombs fall on the place he was just before. The second group of Heinkels release their bombs over buildings and hangars. One of the ground crew is killed.
    Linzel climbs to 3000 meter in South-East direction. Levelling at that altitude he sees a plane from left to right at a higher altitude. The silhouette stands out against the clear eastern sky. Never he saw an aircraft like that.
    He turns climbing to the left and comes right after the enemy. It's a Messerschmitt 110, flying very calmly; obviously never saw the Dutch aircraft at their tail or were convinced of their strength and didn't expect any resistance.
    Right behind them, Jan gives a burst of fire. Immediately a purple flame comes out of the starboard engine, followed by black smoke. The Me dives downward and Jan stays after it. On low altitude the Germans level their aircraft, pass the Voorburg-Gouda railway and belly-land in a meadow with a thick cloud of smoke.
    Linzel climbs to 3000 meter again and sees a formation of Heinkels over the Westland near Delft in the direction of The Hague. Time is now about half past four.
    Jan attacks the last plane at the right. Right behind it he fires all his remaining bullets into that aircraft. He can't see if there is any damage, but as he turns away he sees a Heinkel leaving the formation.
    That moment he feels a bang in his left thigh. A bullet has hit his leg. He does not know from where the bullet came. The sky is full of German planes and of course they saw Jan.
    There is no time thinking about that. He is bleeding and knows this is very badly. He begins to feel light in the head. The Fokker is flying level; Jan throws his cockpit roof off and pulls himself up at the handle on the upper side of the windscreen. Sitting on the edge of the cockpit he lets himself fall backward. His feet nearly strike the stabiliser wing.
    After counting to three he pulls, an enormous jerk and he is hanging quietly in the air.
    Now everything turns black and he is unconscious for a while. As he comes to he is still hanging in the air, seeing the burning Ypenburg air base. Much smoke!
    Blood is dripping from his leg. Again everything is black.
    Then, a big bang. He comes to and is lying in a meadow. Suspicious cows come to look at him. There is no wind and his parachute lies behind him. It has been a cold night and the ground is wet and cold. Jan slides backward until the chute is under his back.
    It is 04.35 hours. Jan pulls down his trousers. It does not look well. At the foreside of his thigh is a little hole, but at the back it looks awful. There is a big hole and pieces of flesh lay on his trousers but the bone is not hit. As he tries to sit up, he is dizzy again. Too much loss of blood.
    Suddenly a whole flight of Junkers drone over his head. Of one of them the starboard engine is in fire. From the open door "Fallschirmjäger" are jumping out, land in the meadows further away, take positions and are heading in the direction of the airport.
    Jan is still lying there, unable to do anything.
    In a distance of 300 meters are little farmhouses. Jan swings his flying cap, but people don't see him. He blows on his whistle and waves with his pilot chute. He sees they are looking, but do not come nearer.
    How long has he been there? A couple of hours?
    A Heinkel, about 1000 m over The Hague, is hit by AA-fire from the ground and falls like a stone.
    Linzel is unconscious now and then.
    At last, it's almost 7 o'clock, a couple of farmers come walking slowly in his direction. A dog is circling around him, barking. An old man comes nearer and says: "We supposed you were a German paratrooper".
    "I'm as Dutch as your cows overthere! I have been shot down, wounded and can't walk!"
    "How can we take you away?"
    "On a ladder!"
    As they bring a ladder, they lay Jan on it with his parachute under his head and bring him to one of the houses. The old man goes out and after some time he comes back with two Red Cross soldiers.
    They are just bandaging Jan, as suddenly two German paratroopers enter the room.
    "Was ist hier los?" ("what is going on here?")
    "Bin abgeschossen." ("I've been shot down") Jan answers.
    “Tut uns Leid. Ist's schlimm?"("Sorry, is it bad?")
    "Es geht, aber ich kann nicht laufen."("Not that bad, but I can't walk")
    "Na ja, Krieg ist Krieg. Tut uns wirklich Leid!" ("Yes, it's wartime. We are really sorry")
    They are friendly but have wounded men of their own and leave with one of the medics.
    "Auf Wiedersehen!"
    After the other soldier has bandaged Jan, a couple of members of the Air Surveillance, called by the farmers, take Jan to a hospital in Delft.
    There is is nursed between other wounded soldiers, both Dutch and German.
    Linzel is in hospital until the 24th of June, as he leaves, collected by his father, walking with a stick.
    He stays with relatives at Voorburg for a couple of weeks to recover.

    Source:

    "De Meivliegers" by Peter Gerritse.
     
  2. juvenal

    juvenal New Member

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    Hi Marcel

    My father knew Jan Linzel at Cranwell (where I was born) and supplied test Spitfires for him to fly. You mention you read a book about this man. Can you give me details of it please? I've grown up knowing I was named 'Jan' after this Dutchman, but until this morning had no more information.

    Thanks.
     
  3. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    Send you a pm.
     
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