Eric Ditmarsch

The date is 13 February 1945. Oegstgeest was still suffering under the German occupation and from the extremely precarious food shortages; it is the ‘hunger winter’. However, The Netherlands south of the major rivers has already been liberated in September 1945. The English had sent various fighter squadrons into this area, including the RAF 322nd (Dutch) Squadron based in Woensdrecht. Their one-engine fighter Spitfire Mk XVI was flown by a single airman and was fitted with two 20-mm guns and four 7.7-mm machine guns in the wings. The squadron which had been set up in 1943 almost exclusively employed Dutch airmen (since the 320th and 321st Squadrons had already been set up in 1940 with materials flown over from The Netherlands). After playing an active role in a large number of operations, e.g., the landing in Normandy, since 1944, the squadron became involved in a totally new type of operation. The Germans had begun launching V1 rockets at England. Various squadrons, including the 322nd, were ordered to shoot down the relatively slow V1 rocket. In total, the squadron had brought down between 110 and 128 V1 rockets. However, this operation was past history and now the squadron was stationed in Woensdrecht.

Pilots of 322 (Dutch) Squadron RAF, with Flying Officer Eric Ditmarch (in the middle, without tie) and Flight Luitenant L.M. Meijers (at the left, foreground).

Shot down by ‘friendly fire’

Emblem (squadron crest) of 322 (Dutch) Squadron RAD, in the upper left corner the signature of George R.I. (King George VI). On top of the Dutch motto “No talking but action” sits the parrot Polly Grey.

At 09:15 hours, Flight Lieutenant L.M. Meijers took off together with his wingman Flying Officer Eric Ditmarsch for an ‘armed reconnaissance’ over the occupied part of The Netherlands. They were given orders to shoot at any target which appeared useful. At 09:45 hours, flying over Oegstgeest, they saw a German transport convoy travelling along the A44 highway level with the bridge over the Oegstgeester Canal. Meijers opened fire. Ditmarsch unexpectedly made a maneuver which took his airplane halfway into the path of Meijers’ machine gun fire so that part of his airplane’s tail was damaged and fell off. Thus he could no longer control his machine which was now flying too low for a parachute to be used. The airplane crashed into an area near the Groene Kerkje in the Elsgeester polder, just to the west of highway A44. Ditmarsch did not survive the crash.

Eric Ditmarsch was born on 27 November 1922 in Semarang, Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia.As conscript he joined the Dutch Royal Navy at Soerabaja als sailor. On 14th February 1942 he was appointed as Candidate Reserve Officer, formally at the Royal Institute for the Navy in Willemsoord, but operationally at the Navy Barracks (‘Marinekazerne’)  Goebeng at Soerabaja. When Japan attacked Dutch East Indies, he fled on 2th March 1942 and arrived in Englamd on 3th May 1942, via Colombo and Kaapstad.

On his request, he continued his training at the ‘Marine Luchtvaart Dienst’. In August 1942 he was detached to the RAF. Between 12th February and 30th October 1943 he was trained in Canada. On 11th November 1944 he was transferred to the 322 squadron of the Royal Air Force, a Dutch squadron. He executed 9 operational missions. He was buried on 17 February 1945 in the Groene Kerkje cemetery. The 322nd (Dutch) Squadron lost in total 18 pilots.

Tombstone of ‘Officier Vlieger’ Eric Ditmarch. Among the allied graves, this is the only one with the Dutch Lion.