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One of Our Aircraft Is Missing

(1942 b 103')

En: 6 Ed: 6)

A British air crew bombs Germany and has to parachute in the Netherlands, where the people help them escape from the German soldiers.

            Five Dutch farmers were executed in the summer of 1941 for aiding the escape of a British air crew.

            On a Sunday morning at an English airfield they are waiting for one more plane to return. The plane crashes into an electric tower and burns.

            The pilot John Gly Haggard (Hugh Burden) speaks, and second pilot Tom Earnshaw (Eric Portman) checks in. Frank Shelley (Hugh Williams) is the navigator. Bob Ashley (Emrys Jones) operates the radio. Geoff Hickman (Bernard Miles) is the front gunner, and George Corbett (Godfrey Tearle) is the rear gunner.

            The crew has breakfast and gets a new man. They board the plane. Corbett goes to the back of the plane. The pilot Haggard checks with the radio man Hickman. The plane takes off. Their target is Stuttgart, and they talk about the city and people they knew there. They cross the channel and watch the sky. They pass over the Dutch coast. The navigator expects flak soon, and they get a little but are not hit. They see flashes in the city below by a river. They see fires burning in the night. The pilot takes the plane down, and they release the three bombs. Haggard announces the mission completed, but then they are hit. The navigator says how to change the course. Haggard takes the plane down some. They are afraid the plane may stall. The engines are not doing well, and they prepare to bail out. They plan to follow the railroad northwest. The pilot Haggard is to be last and tells the others when to jump. Tom, Frank, Geoff, George, and Bob jump, and their parachutes open. Finally John parachutes also.

            At dawn one man has climbed a tree to look around while four others ask him questions. It is 38 miles to the North Sea, and Bob is missing. They have waited two hours, and Frank suggests they find Bob first and make a campaign. George says they can either separate or stay together. The navigator Frank shows on a map where he thinks they are. George takes off his uniform and says he is going swimming. They see some children chasing animals. The men have climbed a tree, but the dog barks at them. A boy sees them and calls the others. Frank speaks to them in Dutch and says they are “RAF.” He says they say they are friends. They come down and say hello. John speaks to them in Dutch, and they all give their names. They learn that a school-teacher at the farm speaks English. They say they are not invading yet.

            The five men gather in a large building with ten women. George says he has been watching and that no one has left the house. Els Meertens (Pamela Brown) comes into their room and introduces herself as a school-teacher. John starts to introduce them; but she checks an identity bracelet and asks another what his name is. She is skeptical and asks about their aircraft. She says no aircraft crashed that night. John says he had six in his crew. She asks where they buried their parachutes. She asks if any one of them can prove who they are. Geoff says they are English. Frank gives her an article from The Times. She goes out, and they find a picture of William of Orange and of the Queen.

            She takes them into the other room, and they meet Pieter Sluys (Arnold Marlé). They are invited to eat and sit down. She says they have enough food for their friends. Els says if the Germans find the other man, they will search for them. She says they can escape. George suggests they go to the sea, but she says the sea is fifty kilometers away with many guards. She says they must go to church, and they ask her faith. She says she is Catholic. They are all Protestants. She says they will give them civilian clothes. She says they can make it to the coast tonight. She says they will throw the Germans out of the country as they did with the sea. Instead of boots, they are given clogs.

            Frank is dressed as a woman. They are given a permit signed by Pieter Sluys. They ride bicycles and are accompanied by the Dutch. They come to a main road and see tanks go by. They turn right on that road.

            In a church they sing and then sit down. They discuss their parachutes and learn they are safely hidden. They hear soldiers talking outside. The priest has them kneel, and they pray. A German officer enters, and two soldiers with guns stand by a door. A parachute is showing, and a woman covers it. The officer walks around looking and then goes out. The organist plays, and they sing a hymn.

            They get another permit to travel by bicycle. Geoff talks with a Dutch woman about their brothers. They see a boy run across the street toward the house. His father makes him go upstairs. The Englishmen and Dutch women sit at a table. A priest says a prayer. The burgomaster (Hay Petrie) says that his son is a Quisling and makes friends with the soldiers. A maid goes to the door and comes back to alert them. A man enters the room and speaks to the burgomaster and the priest. George pulls out his revolver and asks the man to speak in English. They hold the man. They hear a gramophone, and the burgomaster says it is not strange. He explains that his son changed their records so that the Germans would be confused. He accuses the man of being a Quisling, and they say the Germans will blame him and shoot him. The man appeals to the priest on his knees. The priest believes he was meant to fall into their hands.

            They get another travel permit and board a ship. People standing around a soccer field applaud as the two teams take the field. The five airmen are also watching on the sidelines. The Germans give an order, and the burgomaster says they all should leave. Then they are ordered to stay. They see Bob Ashley playing on one of the teams and shout “Hooray!”

            They are in a truck, and Bob explains what happened to him. They tell him he was walking the wrong way toward Germany. They can see the North Sea and come to a check-point guarded by German soldiers. The driver talks to them, and they pass through. A woman tells them they may need to get out at once. She gets out and looks around. The six men get out and hide on the dock while she talks to an official. The men enter a warehouse from the roof. They hear men singing and come down to the floor. Another woman talks to a man and leads them to a window.

            She and they drop down into a furnished room. She says they are safe there and can talk. She shows them the radio that is tuned to the BBC. She has to go and tells them to lock the door and open to a special knock. She goes out. Bob turns on the radio, and they listen to Frank’s wife singing. They notice the windows are blacked out because of them. They hear the knock, and a different woman comes in. She looks them over and does not want to know their names. Frank kisses her hand and says he is an actor. She says Germans are easy to handle. She asks them to see her husband in London. She hears him on the radio. She says they may be there for days or hours. She asks who is in command, and George says she is. She says they will take a fishing boat to the open sea. She describes the corridor which is unguarded during a raid. Now they can only wait.

            They hear the rain, and the radio says there were no air raids last night. She wishes she had better food for them and proposes a toast. She says their motto means, “We can take it.” Frank says there has not been much progress in 300 years. They ask George to speak, and he offers their love and gratitude and admiration. He promises their help will grow, and their attack will sweep away the Germans. They hear planes and the air raid sirens. She says they are making the Germans run for shelter.  She leads them outside and answers a German. She shows herself to the Germans, and they like what they see. They offer her wine. She asks for the flashlight and drops it in the water. An officer comes out, and the British grab him and strangle him. Another officer comes out, and George knocks him out. She speaks to Louis who gets out of a rowboat. She says they cannot wait because the three Germans will be missed. She gives them directions in the channel and tells them to hurry and go due west. Frank has a compass. She says, “God bless you,” and shakes their hands. They get in the rowboat and go under a bridge. A German soldier is on a bridge that they go under. The bridge opens, and they see fishing-boats coming toward them. George orders them to wait until his word when the bridge closes and then row. The soldier does not see them; but when he does, he starts shooting at them. They row hard and get clear. George was hit and is bleeding.

            In the morning they are on a large buoy in choppy water. They see two ships approaching. They have two German prisoners. Geoff serves some hot soup. The voices from the ships are recognized as English. The English officer says he is a barrister and discusses the two German prisoners. He agrees that George can’t be moved, but they won’t leave him behind. The captain orders his crew to tow the lobster ship. He says the next stop is Dover.

            This war drama is based on a true story and depicts the effectiveness of the Dutch underground in helping the British and themselves survive despite the brutal German occupation.

Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

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