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Glider Monument at Mariekerke, Belgium


Jeeper704
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On September 17, 1944 a Waco glider carrying 5 men of the 101st Airborne Signal Company and a British Corporal of the Royal Signals crashed at Mariekerke (near Sint-Amands & Bornem), Belgium.
Unfortunately all men and the Glider Pilot were killed in this crash.
This glider was on its way to a landing zone north of Eindhoven, near Son, Holland.

Due to a mid-air collision with another glider which caused the trailer (filled with radio equipment and telephone wire) to break loose and shift forward, the Waco was out of control and went down. It hit trees on the edge of a field before smashing into the ground.

Two men - the Glider Pilot (437th TC Group - 83rd TC Squadron) and the British Corporal - had been thrown out of the glider before it crashed and were found on a nearby field. The Corporal was unconscious but showed signs of life and was taken by a British jeep to a nearby hospital (the area was already liberated by British Forces early September).
He died shortly after arriving that the hospital.

Their names:
F/O Samuel C Welch (Glider Pilot)
Cpl Frederick A Sellers (British Royal Signals)
Pvt Thomas F Vella (101st Abn Sig Co - 101st AB Division)
Pvt Joseph Dottavanio (101st Abn Sig Co - 101st AB Division)
Pvt Gustave O Gerwig (101st Abn Sig Co - 101st AB Division)
Pvt Michael Jugan (101st Abn Sig Co - 101st AB Division)
Pvt Stanley M Zajelka (101st Abn Sig Co - 101st AB Division)

The men were buried at the local cemetery.
After the war, the Americans were re-buried at the American Military Cemetery of Neuville-en-Condroz, near Liège. The Englishman remained at the local cemetery of Sint-Amands.

In 1994 - September 17 - a monument was inaugurated in the presence of the sister of one of the soldiers. Every year, around the 17th, there is a small commemoration.

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The helmets were just for photographic purposes.
The left helmet came from the wreck, it shows faintly the insignia of the 101st Abn Sig Co.

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It gives a short description of what happened back in 1944.

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A small cross made from the wreckage and a crushed helmet was placed at the spot where the glider went down.
The cross stayed there a few years after the war.
The one in the picture is a newly made (with Belgian helmet).

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They were witnesses of this crash.

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It was turned into a wheelbarrow.

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This was the helmet on the original little cross.
It probably belonged to Pvt Thoams F Vella.

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This is Pvt. Thomas F. Vella.
He was one of the men killed in the glider crash.

His sister - Josephine Vella - was present at the inauguration of the Glider Monument and has become a very close friend of mine.

Erwin
(Sorry for the bad scan.)

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This is a still from a newsreel taken at Ramsbury Airbase on September 17, 1944.
Here, you see men of the 101st Airborne Signal Company marching to their gliders.
The first two soldiers are the British Signalmen; Corpoals Harold Spence and Frederick Arthur Sellers.
Frederick died of wounds in the hospital where he was taken to after the crash.

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Here, you see Sergeant Meeker briefing men of the Signal Company.
Front row:
First from left: Pvt. Thomas F. Vella (survived Normandy)
Second: Pvt. Stanley M Zajelka
Third: Pvt. Joseph Dottavanio

Erwin

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  • 3 weeks later...

Some pictures from the last commemoration (September 17, 2006):

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Thanks to this "Comité" - I am part of it - and the local community, the Glider Monument was inaugurated back in 1994.
We also see to it that it is maintained and every year, we hold a commemoration there.

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One of the eye-witnesses of the results of the glider crash.

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This group presented arms when the floral pieces were placed at the monument.
They also showed a drill presentation.

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  • 1 month later...

Well, the info plate lasted 6 months.

Last weekend, it was destroye by vandals. crying.gifthumbdown.gif

It can't be repaired and hopefully we can manage to replace it with a new one.

Luckily the bigger plate with the names on it was left untouched.

 

People seem to have no respect at all for graves and memorials these days ...

 

(A very p.ss.d) Erwin

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  • 3 months later...

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Next commemotation will be on September 15, 2007.
I can't be there, because I will be out of the country for about 12 days then.

Erwin

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  • 4 weeks later...

Erwin this is a great post, thanks for the information. The picture of Sgt. Meeker, do you have that or is it a capture of the film that you made? I'd like to use it for something if you will allow me. Please email me off forum for a full explanation... john@ww2airborne.com.

 

Thanks

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  • 1 year later...

Just back from the yearly Commemoration ..... the 15th so far.

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First of all, the placing of flowers at Cpl. Sellers' grave.

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Speech of the chairman of the "Vella Comité" Jean-Pierre Casteels.
He gave an overview of what has happened in those 15 years.

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The Last Post.

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Flowers being placed at the Glider Monument.

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Jean-Pierre's niece reading a letter of thanks from the US Embassy.

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The new infomation plate (the other one was destroyed by vandals).

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Glider Monument.

Also present were 10 - 12 Jeeps from the "Spearhead" group and we had about 60 - 65 people attending.

Erwin

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Due to a mid-air collision with another glider which caused the trailer (filled with radio equipment and telephone wire) to break loose and shift forward, the Waco was out of control and went down.

Ehhh,… crying.gif

 

The US glider pilots were so many times deceived that assault gliding is safe task and CG-4A is perfect construction.

 

"We were informed that it was difficult to be injured in the CG-4A. With its box-like construction and large wings it would crumple and absorb the shock of a crash, sparing the occupants. […] After the first day of flight training two pilots were dead and several hospitalized. Subsequent deaths and injures were tactfully ignored – combat survival training had begun. […] The nose section of the glider was designed to swing upward and lock in place to allow unloading of a Jeep. This was accomplished by a Rube Goldberg arrangement with a cable attached to the rear of the Jeep and the nose section of the glider through a series of pulleys. After landing, the pilots would get out of their seats, unlock the nose section and the Jeep would be driven forward. The nose section would pivot upward, lock in place and the Jeep would come out ready for action. There was one drawback to this arrangement; it didn’t work. The nose of the glider invariably would not lock in the up position and as the Jeep was driven forward it would come swinging down, demolishing the windshield of the Jeep and decapitating the driver and passenger."

 

Glider Pilot Maj. James M. McCloskey

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Thanks for the update and pictures Erwin. I'm glad to see there is a new information plate and that the ceremony had a good number of people in attendance.

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  • 2 years later...
General Apathy
Next month there will be another commemoration at the Glider Monument.

I hope to be able to attend it.

 

Erwin

 

 

Hi Erwin, thanks for bringing this back to the top again, can't think how I missed seeing this before but I see that it was last posted on back in 2008 so it's been tucked away until today. :huh:

 

many thanks for taking the time to put so much interesting information together for your topic on the men and the monument. :thumbsup: ;)

 

ken ;)

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Thanks Ken and Ian.

Well, seeing how few comments this topic got, I decided not to bother putting photos or additional information here.

But these men deserve to be remembered in some way.

They would have played a major role in the operation if they had survived the trip over to Eindhoven.

The loss of these men, coupled with the loss of yet another glider made a big impact on communications between the troops in the field and high command.

 

Erwin

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Erwin,

 

I really want to make it this year! Perhaps we can meet up there? :thumbsup:

I'm pretty sure other Belgian forum members can make the trip too...

 

rgds

Bart P

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thanks to all that step in for all us Americans that can't make it across the pond. You all have our thanks and internal graditude. Robert

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  • 1 year later...

The Mariekerke tragedy is mentioned (pages 144-145) in the newest book on Market-Garden - "D-Day Minus – 17 September 1944. Pictorial History of the 101st Airborne Division Prior To the Invasion of Holland", ISBN 978-2-9540297-0-2.

 

One more tragedy where single glider pilot (against US law) at the CG-4A controls was unable to rescue glider in crisis situation. The US-operated CG-4As had mid-air collisions - the British-operated Horsas (with both pilots) not.

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Both books are worth to buy, I recommend them very much. This is unique historical material for all interested in M-G.

 

Over Mariekerke fundamental rules of aviation were broken, not to mention aviation law -- the rule "I see and I am seen" as well as CRM (Crew Resource Management). The CRM operates between two pilots only, not between a pilot and an abstract person in the co-pilot's seat. These are not modern rules despite today's terminology, during WWII these rules were the same.

 

In volume II (Orange Is the Color of The Day) you will see 11 photographs showing identical tragedy over Landing Zone W where mid-air collision took place between two other CG-4As with single GPs at the controls. All flight safety standards were broken. These are unknown cases in the British Glider Pilot Regiment.

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  • 1 year later...
  • 9 months later...

Recently, I visited the place of the monument and the crash again.

It was cold and misty.

The oak tree has grown a lot since.

And someone put a lantern next to the commemorative stone.

Here are some photos.

 

The Glider Monument.

 

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Erwin

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