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Thread: NZ425934 O. D. Pratt, RNZAF - 462 Sqn, RAAF evader Holland or Belgium 15 Oct 44?

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    Default NZ425934 O. D. Pratt, RNZAF - 462 Sqn, RAAF evader Holland or Belgium 15 Oct 44?

    Hello,

    The following accounts were recently posted on the Wings Over New Zealand forum during the last few days. I would be interested to know if anyone here can confirm or contradict any of the claims made about Pratt's descent, that people sheltered him and were later shot by the Germans, and that their baby was later delivered to Pratt in England. Information leading to the location of Pratt's 'landing' place would also be most welcome.

    Cheers,
    Errol

    Post by Dave Homewood on 23 May 2020 at 9:34pm
    DUTCH ORPHAN BABY. STORY OF ADOPTION BY N.Z. AIRMAN.
    LONDON, February 18,
    A two-year-old baby Dutch girl clutching a piece of paper was among 500 Dutch children who reached England from Holland last week. The paper in the child's hand contained only the name and address of a New Zealand bomber navigator, Flying Officer Owen Pratt, who is recovering from injuries at an R.A.F. rehabilitation centre, says the "Sunday Express."
    Pratt's bomber was shot down last autumn over Holland. He bailed out, but escaped from the Germans because a Dutchman and his wife sheltered him. During his concealment the airman played a great deal with the couple's baby daughter. They became fast friends. Later he escaped to England through the underground movement.
    Pratt has now learned that the Dutch couple saved his life at the cost of their own. The Germans shot them when it was discovered that they had been hiding a British airman, but the neighbours knew the secret of Pratt's stay there, and gave the baby a note which she brought to England.
    The airman has now paid the debt for his freedom. He has adopted the baby, making arrangements for her to be sent out to his wife, herself a Dutch girl, in New Zealand.
    EVENING POST, 19 FEBRUARY 1945

    15 hours ago
    Post by errolmartyn on 15 hours ago
    The Kiwi navigator was Flying Officer NZ425934 Owen Dallas Pratt. He and fellow Kiwi, NZ413028 William Bolton Cookson, the pilot, along with three RAAF and two RAF men all safely baled out of their 462 Squadron, RAAF Halifax III MZ296 Z5-N in the early hours of Sunday 15 October 1944. They had taken off from Driffield at 0006 hrs to raid Duisberg. The aircraft was either hit by flak or a fighter, or perhaps both.
    Page 401 of Thompson’s Vol II of New Zealanders with the RAF describes Pratt’s descent over Holland:
    Occasionally these grim experiences had their lighter side. When one New Zealand navigator, after baling out from his crippled Lancaster [sic], crashed through the roof of a granary in a Dutch village, the people sleeping below mistook his arrival for that of a delayed-action bomb and hastily left the building, leaving him trapped until daybreak. The navigator, Flying Officer Pratt of No. 462 Squadron, tells his story thus:
    We jumped at seventeen thousand feet. There was a terrific gale at that height and I thought I should never get down as I was being blown along almost horizontally. At long last I saw a dark mass below me. Then a church steeple flashed by and I went crash through a roof. I found myself swinging by my parachute harness in inky darkness and released myself. I think I was knocked out for half an hour. When I came to it was still dark and I felt all the way round the walls and gradually realised that there was no door. I could see a glimmer of light from the hole I had made in coming through the roof and managed to climb through it to the roof top. I shouted and shouted without result for a long time, but when light finally came there must have been half the village packed into the streets below. When the police finally rescued me I found I had crashed through the roof into a loft twenty feet high with only a trap door exit in the floor.
    Pratt was born in Invercargill on 12 Sep 1911 (not 1912 as Thompson has it in his footnote). Educated at Christchurch Boys’ High School during 1925-1927, he later became a Christchurch accountant. In 1938, in New Zealand, he married Enid Marion Macdonald; it seems rather unlikely that she was also Dutch as claimed in the Evening Post report. Owen and Enid resided in Christchurch post-war and in the 1963 electoral rolls they are recorded at the same address as one Adrienne Jacqueline Pratt; Owen and Enid appear in the main roll, while Adrienne is a late addition, appearing as she does in the supplementary part of the roll. If the Dutch baby was two-years old in early 1945, she would have become able to vote in 1963 – so Adrienne may well have been the baby that the newspaper report describes.
    Owen Pratt served with the RNZAF from May 1942 until 25 Feb 1946. His wartime career was somewhat different from the norm. He served as an AC2 until 11 Nov 42 when he was commissioned in the Administrative & Special Duties Branch as a Pilot Officer. In June 1943 he embarked on the Matsonia for Canada and while there graduated as a navigator and, now as aircrew, was transferred to the General Duties Branch. From Canada he would have then crossed the Atlantic for Britain on attachment to the RAF, to eventually end up with 462 Squadron. He died in February 1999 and Enid four years earlier. I’ve no further details about Adrienne, however.
    Cheers, Errol

    Post by errolmartyn on 14 hours ago
    Additional to my post above, now having checked the casualty forms online via National Archives of Australian for the three RAAF members of the crew, it appears that the Evening Post account should be treated with some caution.
    The Halifax was hit by flak, leading to fuel loss that resulted in the aircraft having to be abandoned over Louvain (Leuven today) about 20km east of Brussels.
    On 19 October, just four days later it was officially reported by the RAAF that four of the crew (including Cookson) were already back with the squadron, one other was en route and the mid-upper-gunner along with Pratt were in hospital at Brussels.
    Leuven and Brussels are quite some distance from the Dutch border, so it seems very unlikely that Pratt descended into occupied Holland. It would appear, therefore, that the family and the reported baby were Belgian rather than Dutch, and that they were not in occupied territory at the time and therefore could not have been shot by the Germans for harbouring the airman. There was certainly no escape ‘to England through the underground movement.’ One wonders, perhaps, if the reporter carried out his interview over a few beers in a pub!
    Errol

    Post by Dave Homewood on 7 hours ago
    Hmm interesting. Only last month I found this and I posted it to Facebook:
    MISTAKEN FOR A BOMB.
    PARACHUTING AIRMAN'S EXPERIENCE
    (Special P.A. Correspondent,) LONDON, November 10.
    It is not often that an airman is mistaken for a bomb, but when it does occur it has decided drawbacks This was experienced by Flying Officer Owen Pratt when using his Parachute at 17,000 feet. He finally crashed through the roof of a granary in a Dutch village just south of Tilburg

    The miller and his family thought that a delayed action bomb had fallen and promptly evacuated their living quarters below, while people were moved out from an area of 100 yards around the building. The result was that Flying Officer Pratt's shouts for help went unheeded until daylight.
    Flying Officer Pratt was the navigator in a Halifax bomber which found Itself with petrol for only three minutes' flying when nearing Tilburg. There was a gale of 70 miles an hour blowing when we jumped," he said and I thought I would never get down, for I was blown along for a long way almost horizontally. At long last I saw a dark mass below me., and then a steeple flashed past, and I went crashing through a roof. I found myself swinging by the parachute harness in inky darkness, and released myself and was knocked out for about half an hour. When I came to it was still dark, and I felt my way around the walls and gradually realised there was no door. I could see a glimmer of light coming through the hole I had made in the roof, and shouted for some time without result. When light finally came there must have been half the village packed in the streets 100 yards away. Finally police rescued me, and I found I was in a loft with only a trapdoor exit in the floor."
    The Dutchman and his wife and two children were delighted to find that their midnight disturber was not a time bomb after all, and Flying Officer Pratt was soon enjoying their hospitality before being flown back to England.
    EVENING POST, 11 NOVEMBER 1944

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    Default Re: NZ425934 O. D. Pratt, RNZAF - 462 Sqn, RAAF evader Holland or Belgium 15 Oct 44?

    Hello ,

    Halifax MZ296 came down near Erps-Kwerps in Belgium. On october 14 1944 Belgium was already one month liberated , so there was no need to " escape " . The crewmembers who were injured were treated at the N° 8 RAF General Hospital in Brussels. The distance between Erps-Kwerps and Tilburg in Holland is about 74 miles.
    I hope i was able to help you with this little info.

    Alain12

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    Default Re: NZ425934 O. D. Pratt, RNZAF - 462 Sqn, RAAF evader Holland or Belgium 15 Oct 44?


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    Default Re: NZ425934 O. D. Pratt, RNZAF - 462 Sqn, RAAF evader Holland or Belgium 15 Oct 44?


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    Default Re: NZ425934 O. D. Pratt, RNZAF - 462 Sqn, RAAF evader Holland or Belgium 15 Oct 44?

    Many thanks Gents.

    It would be nice if someone could identify the address of the building in which Pratt crashed through the roof of during his descent.

    I wonder which direction the reported ‘gale of 70 miles an hour’ was blowing at the time?

    Cheers,
    Errol

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    Default Re: NZ425934 O. D. Pratt, RNZAF - 462 Sqn, RAAF evader Holland or Belgium 15 Oct 44?

    Errol,

    There was a gale of 70 miles an hour blowing when we jumped refers to the height at which the crew jumped, in this case 17000 ft, so given that the forward movement movement of the aircraft would have been in excess of this it is not surprising it felt a bit windy. However, by remarkably good fortune German meteorologists had not yet retreated from Leeuwarden, and were still routinely measuring winds aloft. On the 14th at 1700 hours CET the wind at 18000 ft was recorded as 230 degrees 50 mph, and at 0600 hours CET the following morning it was 220 degrees 45 mph.

    The surface wind at both De Bilt and Den Helder was recorded as S'ly 5-10 mph.

    My source is the German Daily Weather Report.

    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 5th June 2020 at 15:45.

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    Default Re: NZ425934 O. D. Pratt, RNZAF - 462 Sqn, RAAF evader Holland or Belgium 15 Oct 44?

    Brian,

    That's an extraordinary bit of good luck, even to within 1000 ft of the bale out height!

    So that means Pratt was being driven in the direction of Belgium and not Holland during his descent.

    Cheers,
    Errol

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    Default Re: NZ425934 O. D. Pratt, RNZAF - 462 Sqn, RAAF evader Holland or Belgium 15 Oct 44?

    I think you've misinterpreted my summary, Errol. As has you noted in #1 the crew abandoned the aircraft near/over Leuven, the Lancaster itself crashing about 6 miles to the west near Erps-Kwerps. Leuven is about 50 miles from Tilburg, on a bearing of about 200 degrees (using Google Earth) so, if the initial story had any validity, the wind during Pratt's descent would have blown him, and the rest of the crew, towards, not from Holland. For completeness I should add that the wind was more or less constant in direction between the ground and 17000 ft, although it was less strong at lower levels.

    However, from Col's link (http://www.462squadron.com/pages/squ...n_crew_23.html) Pratt must have come down near Brussels as he is reported as being in Number 8 RAF General Hospital Brussels on the 16th, and a further signal describes his admittance to RAF Hospital Wroughton the same day. Tilburg remained in enemy hands until 27 October (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operat...easant#Tilburg) so it is difficult to believe he could have reached Brussels, let alone Wroughton, in less than 24 hours had he indeed landed there.

    Apologies for repeating much of what has been written previously, but one thing sort of led to another.

    Brian

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    Default Re: NZ425934 O. D. Pratt, RNZAF - 462 Sqn, RAAF evader Holland or Belgium 15 Oct 44?

    Many thanks Brian for correcting my sense of direction.

    Seems that the newspaper story contains a good mix of fact and fiction and that the story telling may have been accompanied by a steady flow of the amber liquid!

    Cheers,
    Errol

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