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The Swallow Harbor

In early September 2017, in National Park De Alde Feanen, the salvaging of an old World War II plane wreck was started. The English Lancaster was hit by anti-aircraft fire 75 years ago and then pursued by a German night fighter. While burning, the plane then drilled into the low moor bog. The recovery of the bomber was necessary because the site needed to be cleaned up. In fact, the plane was partially located in the old Leeuwarden landfill, and this area is contaminated. The province of Friesland, municipality of Leeuwarden and It Fryske Gea worked together to salvage the plane. The excavated plane and the history of its last flight is reopened at the National Park De Alde Feanen Visitor Center.

A beautiful monument has been unveiled at the site of the crash: The Swallow Harbor


Swallow Harbor depicts the story of the young aviators. They fought for our freedom and flew to Bremen on September 4 and 5, 1942, to bomb aircraft factories there. 251 planes left from England, but not everyone made the crossing back home on this last flight. The planes are represented in the design by 251 nest holes in a semi-circular, stone wall in which swallows can nest. Of these nest holes, 12 remain closed, symbolizing the number of unreturned aircraft. Bank swallows are “weather forecasters” and “home bringers.

The monument has beautiful details. For example, the monument is constructed of English bricks, which fits perfectly into the natural environment of National Park de Alde Feanen. The nest holes are filled with metal capsules provided with a message. And the material of the capsules consists of the remelted parts of the exhumed aircraft. Even the size of the English Lancaster was of inspiration to Nynke Rixt Jukema. The 32-meter-wide swale has the same wingspan as the crashed bomber.

The Missing Airman Memorial Foundation charted the history of this last flight and its crew members:


On the night of Friday, Sept. 4, 1942, 251 aircraft, including 17 Lancasters, took off from bases in southwest England. Bomber Command’s targets were the Focke Wulf aircraft factories in the German city of Bremen. The Allies did not get off scot-free: twelve British bombers were lost during this operation. Lancaster R5682 -base of departure was the English airfield Syerston- was targeted over the Frisian Wadden Islands by German anti-aircraft guns. The Messerschmitt Bf 110, a German night fighter based in Leeuwarden, did it again.
Flames beat out of the British plane, and at 2:51 a.m. it crashed before it had reached Germany and could have ejected its bomb load over Bremen. In the Alde Feanen (Old Fen), between Warten and Eernewoude, southeast of Leeuwarden, the aircraft bored into the swampy ground. It ended up partly in the Frisian capital’s landfill and partly in a narrow watercourse, the Neare Saiter (Glen Saiter). Three of the seven crew members were killed. The crew members are buried in Warten and in Eernewoude, and the third has never been found.


The National Park De Alde Feanen visitor center houses a permanent exhibit. This impressive exhibit is free to the public. Click here for opening hours and more information.