It was 14 August 1944. Late evening from Campo Casale airfield in Italy heavy Liberator bomber took off. The number on the side was KG393 ‘A-Able’. Crew were:
1st pilot Capt. Jack van Eyessen (SAAF)
2nd pilot Lt. Robert George Hamilton (SAAF)
Navigator Lt. Derrick Holiday (RAF)
Radio operator Lt. Basil Austin (RAF)
Bombardier Serg. Eric Lichfield (RAF)
Shooter Sgt. Gearge Peaston (RAF)
Shooter Sgt. Leslie Meyes (RAF)
Shooter Sgt. Herbert Hudson (RAF)
Their task was to drop as much needed supplies to Polish Home Army fighting in Warsaw uprising. They had 12 containers on board and each container was 150kg heavy. This was only part of a bigger formation which consisted of 6 Halifax’s, 8 Liberators (148 & 178 Squadrons RAF) and 5 Liberators (1586 Polish Squadron RAF). 26 aeroplanes altogether.
This was not an easy ride. The course took all the crew over the Yugoslavia, Hungary and territories occupied by Germans. Nearly 1000 miles one way.
They flew over the Tatry Mountains and avoided the storm. Warsaw was close. in the distance they could see the flames and huge columns of smoke covering everything. They had to slow down to find and aim properly into Krasinskich Square. They were not higher than 100 metres above the ground. Just before the drop they had to go even lower, to the roof level. White letter ‘K’ was indicating where supplies should be dropped.
This was the moment when they’d been hit. Both engines on the right wing were burning and third on the left too. They just passed Vistula river when the fourth engine caught fire. Capt van Eyessen gave an order to leave the machine.
Liberator hit the ground nearby village Michalin, today part of the town Jozefow 30 km away from Warsaw city centre. Today local people call this place Pilot’s Hill (Pol Gora Lotnika). This is because Lt. Hamilton body was found only 70 metres away from Liberator’s remains. Capt. Bronislaw Kowalski from Polish Home Army buried the body in a temporary grave. He also made an installation, little chapel with sign using what was left from the Liberator.
24 years old Leslie Meyers and 21 years old Herbert Hudson were shoot dead when they were falling under their canopies by German fire. Lt. Hamilton had not enough height to open his canopy properly. Rest of the crew was collected by the Red Army and sent to Moscow and then back to the Italy.
Dead members of this crew were exhumed after war and now are in British part of Rakowicki Cementary in Cracow. Every year local people pay the tribute to the fallen soldiers.
During Warsaw rising British, Polish and South African crews dropped 159 tons of supplies to the fighting units in the city. These drops required extremely low flying just above the burning buildings and in the fierce AA fire. 40 aeroplanes were lost and 200 personnel paid ultimate price.