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Dead Airman's Watch Returned after 64 Years

Dead Airman’s Watch Returned after 64 Years

Willem Paalberends
holds the treasured watch the belonged to New Zealander
Flight Sergeant Glen Smith.
Click to enlarge

Willem Paalberends holds the treasured watch the belonged to New Zealander Flight Sergeant Glen Smith. Credit: RAF

The Queens Color
Squadron Carry the coffin of Stirling crew to the grave side
Click to enlarge
The Queens Color Squadron Carry the coffin of Stirling crew to the grave side – the remains of three unidentified airmen were in a single coffin with a single headstone next to the grave of Flight Sergeant Smith. Credit: RAF

New Zealand Defence Force
Te Ope Kaatua O Aotearoa

Media Release
01 September 2006

Dead Airman’s Watch Returned after 64 Years

A treasured watch belonging to a New Zealand airman has been returned to his family, 64 years after he was shot down over Holland.

Flight Sergeant Glen Smith was killed during the Second World War when the Stirling Bombing he was in was attacked by German night-fighters and crashed near Bentelo.

Flight Sergeant Smith was one of two New Zealanders and five British airmen killed when the aircraft crashed. Sergeant Leonard Moss was the second New Zealander onboard the plane.

Flight Sergeant Smith’s parachute failed to open and he died a short time after baling out of the aircraft. The unidentified bodies of two other crewmen were also found at the time.

Last year three sets of human remains were discovered at the crash site, after an excavation by the Royal Netherlands Air Force. They were buried this morning (NZT) next to Flight Sergeant Smith, with full military honours at Ambt Delden cemetery.

Family members of the two New Zealanders attended the funeral, as did members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

At the funeral the nieces and nephews of Flight Sergeant Smith were also able to meet the Dutch man who talked to their uncle moments before he died.

A short time after the crash Willem Paalberends, then 17, spoke to Flight Sergeant Smith who asked Willem to take his personal documents as he knew he was dying.

In fear of the Germans Willem wouldn’t take them. Instead Smith asked Willem to take his wrist watch and asked for a drink as he was thirsty. When Willem returned to Smith with a glass of milk, Smith had passed away.

This morning the watch was returned it to the safe keeping of Flight Sergeant Smith’s family.


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