THE EXCAVATION - Occoches Sunday, December 11th, 2005
Preamble: The Public Record Office at Kew archives, near London, have given us details about the May 13th, 1943 raid above the Potez factory situated at Méaulte with 88 B17 "Flying Fortress" of the 8th USA Air Force . German fighters of JG 26, of JG 2 and JG 27 attacked the heavy bombers as well as the RAF fighter escort charged to protect them. We found the story occurred to 3 lost B17 (Allery, Amplier, Lucheux) and we learned that the RAF had lost five Mk IX Spitfire. We knew the fate of three of the British fighters but for the last two, we did not know the place of crash:
Spitfire Mk IX # BS 430 S / Ldr F. H. Boulton Squadron 416
Spitfire Mk IX # BS 410 F / O P. Kuryllowicz Squadron 315
"It is Believed this section of S / Ldr Boulton and Mc Sgt Kim Were bounced about at Doullens approx. 4:40 p.m. ".
This information gave the idea that there was a strong probability that this is the aircraft of S / Ldr Boulton who fell to Occoches.
Yet in this small village of Occoches, the rumor was that the pilot of the plane bailed out and was captured by the Germans was Polish!
Several villagers including Jean Brasseur, Gabriel Sueur and Mr Mentaverry knew the precise point fall from the plane.
We were therefore remained in doubt with regard to the Mk IX Spitfire buried in the Occoches marsh : 416 Squadron or 315 Squadron ?
This doubt would vanish thanks to the informations provided by several people. Laurent Viton (passionate about aviation history) transmitted to Pierre BEN the coordinates of the Polish historian Wojtek MATUSIAK (author of several books about Polish hunting) he knew him to have informations about the pilot of which Mk IX of 315 Squadron was buried in the Occoches swamp. Pierre BEN then came in contact with Wojtek MATUSIAK that communicated to him the coordinates of F / O Piotr Kuryllowicz well as some pictures of the 315 Squadron.
Research undertaken thereafter by Peter Ben and his small team, forming the new association "Somme Aviation 39-45 " would confirm the accuracy of this information and gave birth to a great human adventure.
Pierre Ben managed to contact via the Internet, F / O Kuryllowicz in Canada, a former pilot of the 315 Squadron - RAF Polish Squadron - Shot over our region on May 13th 1943.
The numerous contacts between the two men and the description of the environment of parachute made by Piotr Kuryllowicz eventually led to the probability, but not certainty, that this was him who had fallen in Occoches.
Indeed, the F / O Kuryllowicz, if he had no idea where he had fallen, told that he was taken with other parachutists (US) and in particular a German airman dead in a truck.
This story was corroborated with the story once tolb by some Doullennais (witnesses from the town of Doullens) about the consequences of this air combat and the presence of a German airman who died (probably the one who fell at Petit-Occoches), thus seeming to confirm the hypothesis that he 'was indeed "our man".
The story of his arrival by parachute on the ground also matched the record of John Brewer who ran in direction of this parachutist fell north of the village of Occoches on May 13h 1943 ... but this was not an absolute certainty.
Pierre Ben then decided one day to try to retrieve the remains of the Mk IX Spitfire wich fell in the Occoches marshes. After contact with Gabriel Sueur, former witness and with the agreement of Joel Patte, the village mayor, the decision was made to undertake the research. To identify with certainty the Spitfire, there remained only hope we exhume the serial of this aircraft. Optimistic wish but without any serious hope for until such evidence had never been found by the small team.
Story of the excavation - Sunday, December 11th, 2005:
It is 9:00 am when the small team arrives on the scene, in the Occoches marshes. It froze at - 4 ° C but the sky is a beautiful blue sky.
We witness the extraordinary sight of the sun rising in the mist and let us find a large crater in the ground, still present 62 years after the crash! The water that filled the crater is also frozen, which portends great difficulties. Many villagers are already there. After digging a trench to drain the water from the crater and after Ghislain Lobel and Joël Scribe have ensured once again that it is the location of the crash, the operator starts digging, but quickly his vehicle gets stuck. He will need to be pull by a tractor and manage to find a more stable and less moving place so that excavation can continue. We find many small parts in good condition but the engine broke apart. The shock of being extremely violent.
And then, extraordinary surprise, we exhume metal fragments curled that reveal traces of numbers and letters that allow us to reconstruct the following inscription: BS 410 This is the serial number of the Mk IX Spitfire belonging to 315 Squadron. This aircraft was flown by F / O Kuryllowicz! The recovered metal fragments are of course covered with earth and in very bad condition but they will find a fascinating original appearance after the intervention of our goldsmith Albert Berthet.
Cherry on the cake: the jumble of parts and mud, the Polish crest 315 Squadron will also be found! Also of note, a small piece of the RAF cockade and among the many pieces of the plane found, the presence of the famous crowbar (usualy secured inside the door of the Spitfire).
The F / O Kuryllowicz had told before the excavation, he had been saved by the crowbar he had used to unlock his jammed glass, to leave the plane and bail out. Pierre Ben immediately thinks that would be a great souvenir to offer tothe Polish pilot when he will come on the spot in Occoches, on May, 2006. Research will continue all day long to a depth of about 6 meters. This extraction is a total success because it helped to identify with certainty the Mk IX Spitfire fell this Thursday, May 13th, 1943 in Occoches marshes. The members of the small Pierre Ben's team process to the cleaning of the spare parts and Albert Berthet will give some of them a new youth.
Jean Brasseur living in Occoches, aged 13 in 1943, saw the plane crashing in his village but he also saw the pilot parachute. He ran with other young people towards him who landed near the Bouloies woods(commonly known by the inhabitants as "The ébouloir wood) between Neuvillette and Occoches.
Parachute hanging in a tree, the injured pilot, sitting down, trying to get rid of the harness ... but when these young people approach him, the German military also arrive by way of Neuvillette ... scaring young people.
The precise location of the fall of this pilot is to the west corner of the wood.
The testimony gathered by Pierre Ben with F / O Kuryllowicz perfectly matches that of Jean Brasseur.
He says he fell in a wood near a rough terrain which corresponds perfectly to the space of this area between the wood and Occoches.
He remembers very well the arrival of young people who had to turn back because of the arrival of German soldiers.
He remembers also seeing down other parachutists that could have been these American airmen from B17 down to Lucheux.
Last question however that we probably never bring response:
Who shot down the Mk IX Spitfire of 315 Squadron flown by F / O Kuryllowicz
Has he been shot by one of the German fighters attacking the B17 fell to Lucheux or was he accidentaly shot by firing American gunners on board those B17 which then flew over the northern region Doullens who were firing all their weapons to defend themselves?