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Lest We Forget
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Compiled and copyright © 2003 Richard Hoye

In Memory of

127532 Flying Officer
Arthur George (Jack) Maskall D.F.M.

who failed to return from air operations over Holland
1st of June 1944
Aged 33 years

Arthur George Maskall, better known to his friends and family as ‘Jack’, was the son of Sidney George and Lily Beatrice Maskall, landlord and landlady of the Five Bells public house in Cherry Hinton. He married Doris ‘Queenie’, and had a daughter Judith; they were living at 41 Langham Road, Cambridge.

Jack joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and was based with 57 Squadron at Marham, he was moved to 1483 flight at Newmarket, and then back to 57 Squadron at Marham, he then volunteered to join 161 special duties Squadron at Tempsford, which involved dropping special agents behind enemy lines and also landing and picking up agents from behind enemy lines.

Arthur George Maskall was awarded the DFM whilst he was still 751089 Flight Sergeant A. G. Maskall, which he received at Buckingham Palace on October the 27th, 1942.

Flying Officer A.G. ‘Jack’ Maskall was wireless operator of a Hudson mark three aircraft, serial number V.9155, squadron code MA.Q (Queenie), belonging to 161 squadron of Tempsford in Bedfordshire, that took off from this airfield at 23.34 hours on the night of the 31st of May 1944 on a special operation. He was one of six people aboard this aircraft, two of which were Dutch nationals that were to parachute down behind German lines on a very dangerous mission, but it seems there was a navigational error, or they were ill informed before setting off on this mission, and the aircraft flew low at 500 feet across one of the largest, and very well defended, German airfields on the continent, at Gilze-Rijen, on the most southern part of Holland, the Hudson was evidently hit by German antiaircraft machine gunners and caught fire in mid-air, five of the occupants were killed immediately the aircraft hit the ground at 01.20 hours on the 1st of June 1944, 300 metres south of Gilze, the sixth crew member was taken to a hospital in the town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch by German soldiers but had died before reaching there.

The German soldiers that arrived at the crash scene before anybody else were very angry that two civilians clad in mufti were on board this aircraft, along with about thirty carrier pigeons and their food. These soldiers refused to allow the Dutch police near the plane; they also refused to release any information about the occupants. ‘MUFTI’ is civilian clothing, especially when worn by a person whose clothing is normally a military uniform.

The two Dutch persons who were in civilian clothing were later identified as:-

Second Lieutenant Gerrit Jan Kuenen, born at Aalten, January 13th 1918, living at Beverwijk, Kastanjelaan 10.


Second Lieutenant Cornelis Martinus Dekkers, born at Breda, January 26th 1919, living at Roosendaal, Dahliastraat 3.

It was also later confirmed from London that Lieutenant Dekkers was in possession of a money belt containing 4850 guilders for his own use and 150 guilders for immediate use, both Dekkers and Kuenen had on them 25000 French franks and 25000 Belgian franks, these two officers were to have been dropped behind enemy lines as secret agents on a very dangerous mission during the early hours of the 1st of June 1944, Second Lieutenant Dekkers on ‘Operation Poker’, and Second Lieutenant Kuenen on ‘Operation Football’.

The five bodies found at the crash site were laid in coffins and then taken to a room at Gilze in the presence of German soldiers. At approximately 5pm that day, after the Germans had gone, the coffins were re-opened by Dutch police officers, as the bodies remained unidentified. All five bodies were burnt beyond recognition. In coffin one, the man was clad in uniform and provided with a metal disc mentioning W. M. Hale. U.C. R.C.A.F. J 6948. The man in coffin two was clad in uniform with the name written on his shirt and handkerchief as R. L. Wooldridge. W386/38, but this was later found to be untrue. In coffin three was a man in mufti dark brown costume, biggest part burnt. In coffin four was a man in multi, biggest part burnt, blue striped costume, this man wore a leather money belt, and the Germans had taken part of this belt and all the money. Coffin five contained a man in uniform, no other means of identification available.

The Germans issued orders saying the bodies had to be buried the following morning, June the 2nd 1944 at 06.30 am. So the five bodies were jointly buried on the common part of the Roman Catholic churchyard at Gilze, under the supervision of a Feldwebel (Sergeant and an Unteroffizer (Corporal) of the Feldgendarmerie (Military Police). The German soldiers saluted when they came into the cemetery, they saluted again as the coffins arrived, covered by a black cloth on a flat carriage pulled by a single horse. At the burial ceremony were the Burgomaster of Gilze-Rijen, Baron E. C. A. van Hovell, Sergeant Jan Grit, who was Brigade Commander of the Dutch constabulary and also local Commander of the underground forces in the village of Gilze, in the province of Noord-Brabant, also present were corporal H.C. Vlaskamp and corporal Coppietter and the constable M. de Visser. None of the German officers had noticed that the coffins had been opened without their permission. Just after the burial had taken place, a German almoner (military chaplain) arrived and apologized for being late, explaining to the Burgomaster that he had gone to the churchyard at Rijen and had heard the funeral was at Gilze. This German almoner then prayed with sincerity, saluted and went away.

The body of the sixth crew member that was taken to a lazarett, German military hospital), near the town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch was buried in the military cemetery at the village of Uden, this turns out to be the body of the air gunner, 133874, Flying Officer Michael Henry Hughes, born in England, September the 24th, 1920.
The remainder of the crew were exhumed from Gilze towards the end of 1945, on instruction from the Canadian authorities, and re-buried at the Canadian War Cemetery at Bergen-Op-Zoom, in Holland.

  • Coffin number one - Pilot J6948 Flight Lieutenant Warren McCauley Hale, of the Royal Canadian Air Force, born March the 16th 1920. Grave, block XI, pane F, grave I
  • Coffin number two - whose shirt and handkerchief falsely bore the name R. L. Wooldridge, was that of the navigator, NZ 416476, Flying Officer John Gall, of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, this man was American, born November the 11th 1923, at Maza, North Dakota, U.S.A. Grave, block X, pane F, grave II.
  • Coffin number five contained the body of Wireless Operator 127532 Flying Officer Arthur George Maskall, born August the 4th 1911 at Cherry Hinton, Cambridge. Grave, block VII, pane E, grave 12.
  • Second Lieutenant Dekker’s body now rests in Roosendaal Roman Catholic Cemetery, and Second Lieutenant Kuenen’s body rests in Beverwijk General Cemetery.

It is ironic that Flying Officer Arthur George (Jack) Maskall should have lost his life in an aircraft with the code letter Q for ‘Queenie’, his wife was always known as Queenie!

8 January 2003

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