April 26, 2018. In 2016, a book entitled ‘The Night Hunter’s Prey’, by Iain Gordon was published. It tells the story of two airmen – RAF (Royal Air Force) Rear Gunner Alex OLLAR of Scotland, and Luftwaffe Pilot Helmut LENT of Germany. In July 1942, just as both men reach the apex of their careers, they meet for the first time in the night skies over Hamburg. Ollar didn’t survive the encounter. Lent didn’t survive the war either. He died when the left engine of his plane failed, struck high voltage cables, and crashed on October 5, 1944. Lent died of his injuries on October 7, 1944.
This book was interesting because Major Helmut Lent was the commander of 4./NJG 1 squadron, stationed at the airfield in Leeuwarden. A member of Lent’s squadron, Lt. Leopold FELLERER was responsible for shooting down the Halifax L9561 flight on October 12, 1941 in which Elmer Bagnall MUTTART lost his life.
In a previous blog posting, Sgt John William DUFFIELD, a member of the crew, who had hospitalized following the crash, wrote about Lent in his 1946 letter to Muttart’s father. (See On the War Memorial Trail ….. At Harlingen General Cemetery)
On page 127 of ‘The Night Hunter’s Prey’, an account of what happened following the fateful crash on October 12, 1941 is recorded: “In the early hours of 13th October, a member of Helmut’s staffel, Leutnant Leopold Fellerer, shot down a Halifax of No. 76 Squadron based at Middleton St. George. The Canadian pilot, Flight Sergeant Elmer Muttart RCAF, was killed in trying to save his crew in a crash landing on the Dutch coast south-west of Leeuwarden, but the other seven members of the crew got out of the crash and were captured. The rear gunner, Sergeant John Duffield, sustained some injuries and was taken into the sickbay at Leeuwarden,
The rest of the crew were entertained royally for the evening in the Luftwaffe Officer’s Mess at Leeuwarden. In a letter to his parents, Helmut told of the good evening they had enjoyed and mentioned that some of the English prisoners had made a very good impression. He added: ‘It really is a cause for regret that we have to fight against such men.’
The following day he visited Sergeant Duffield in the sickbay and introduced himself, and then visited him until he was transferred some six days later. Duffield later related how Lent asked him if there was anything he could do for him. The room was very hot and stuffy as the window had been sealed and Duffield asked if it might be opened for some fresh air. Lent laughed and told him the medical staff were afraid he might escape. Nevertheless, he arranged for the window to be opened.”
That was an extraordinary account of the events following the crash in Wons, and we thank Berlin historian Ralf Gräfenstein for bringing it to our attention. If only we could tell such a complete story for every person listed on the Cenotaph as we have been able to tell for Elmer Muttart over this past year! If you have photos and stories to share for the names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this blog.
Donations are still being collected towards the ‘Muttart Memorial Fund’ for a memorial panel in Wons, The Netherlands. If you would like to donate, cheques may be written out to TAHS and mailed to Tryon & Area Historical Society (TAHS), PO Box 38, Crapaud PE C0A 1J0. In the subject line, identify your cheque as being for the “Muttart Memorial Fund”. A charitable donation receipt will be sent to all donors.
If you wish to donate and you live in Europe: Bank transfers may be made to Stichting Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation, Bank Account # (IBAN) NL35ABNA0569579856, and state in the subject line “Attn D.S. Drijver for Halifax L9561”.
© Daria Valkenburg