Lourens Marinus Meijers

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Lourens Marinus Meijers

Birthdate: (82)
Birthplace: Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
Death: July 31, 2002 (82)
's-Gravenhage, South-Holland, Netherlands
Immediate Family:

Son of Pieter Gillis Meijers and Jannetje Agatha Tollenaar
Husband of Private

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Lourens Marinus Meijers

Overgenomen zie : http://www.holywellhousepublishing.co.uk/Engelandvaarders.html#Meijers

Lourens Marinus Meijers

Lou Meijers (nickname 'Loekie' - 'Lucky Lou'?) was born on the 27 January 1920 at Groningen in the north of the Netherlands near the German border. His father, Pieter Gillis Meijers, was an agricultural engineer at a proefboerderij (an agricultural research station) and his mother, Jannetje Tollenaar, taught agriculture at the high school in Groningen.

Lou Meijers was a first year medical student at Groningen University in May 1940 when the invasion took place. On the 14 May he told his parents he was leaving and cycled off without any clear plans. It was more than 200 kms to Scheveningen but he left that evening aboard the Zeemanshoop. His parents were very worried and it was a long time before they heard that he had arrived in England.

Lou and the other three student crew members were befriended by Freddie Knottenbelt, the secretary of the Netherlands Emergency Committee, and visited him at his beautiful house at Roehampton in south London. They were guests of the Provost at Oriel College, Oxford, where Maarten Knottenbelt was a student for ten days. Karel Dahmen recalled walking along the banks of the Isis philosophising about the meaning of life and Lou Meijers arguing that they were only here to propogate. In the atmosphere of the time any foreigner was suspected of being a fifth columnist or saboteur and Lou Meijers was taken to a police station and locked up until the Provost, Sir David Ross, vouched for him.

After working for two months as a farm labourer in Oxfordshire Lou Meijers returned to London and got a job as a messroom servant on the SS Prins Maurits, a small 1,287 gross tons merchant ship, owned by N.V. Maatschappij Zeetransport of Rotterdam. On Saturday the 7 September 1940 the Prins Maurits was berthed in the Surrey Commercial Docks during a massive night bombing raid by 300 aircraft. It was on fire and largely abandoned by its crew and berthed near a burning warehouse when Meijers and the third engineer cut the ship loose and floated it into open water saving the ship. He was awarded the Kruis van Verdienste (Cross of Merit) for his initiative and bravery.

By the 1 November 1940 when he was issued with a National Registration Identity Card he was already serving in the Dutch army but inspired by the young men fighting the Battle of Britain over London he volunteered to train with the Royal Air Force. This was only possible after the 16 January 1941 when it was arranged that Dutchmen could fly with the RAF Volunteer Reserve without losing their nationality. There was an urgent need to train pilots and navigators as well as build more planes and there was a huge expansion in training facilities. Lou Meijers spent most of 1941 being processed through this training programme.

L.M. Meijers (third from left) at No 2 Initial Training Wing of the RAF at Cambridge where he received his basic military training Courtesy of Pieter Meijers

After basic military training with No 2 Initial Training Wing of the RAF at Cambridge he began basic flight training on De Havilland Tiger Moths with No 1 EFTS (Elementary Flight Training School) at Hatfield in May 1941 and moved onto advanced training in the Miles Master two seat monoplane, a good preparation for flying Hurricanes and Spitfires. In October after 70 hours flight instruction he received his Wings at No 9 SFTS (Services Flying Training School) at Hullavington in Wiltshire. Following advanced training in fighter tactics and a period at 57 OTU (Officers Training Unit) at Hawarden in North Wales he was posted to 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron as Flight Sergeant Meyers in January 1942.

Although on paper part of the Military Air Arm (Militaire Luchtvaart) of the Dutch Army (the Dutch Navy also had an air service, the Marine Luchtvaart Dienst or MLD) he was flying a Spitfire MkVb with a regular RAF fighter squadron whose pilots came from all the allied nations, "a regular League of Nations". 602 Squadron was based at RAF Redhill, Surrey, and commanded by Squadron Leader B.E. "Paddy" Finucane DSO, DFC and Bar, a 21 year old ace fighter pilot credited with 26 kills:

In January 1942, Finucane was given command of No. 602 Squadron RAF at RAF Redhill. On 20 February 1942, Finucane was slightly wounded in the leg during a strafing mission with his new command. Four Focke Wulf Fw 190s fell to his guns in March 1942. Finucane's fame spread beyond RAF ranks and "model airplanes of his Spitfire with the vivid green Shamrocks were sold all along Piccadilly Circus and The Strand." He became the youngest Wing Commander in the RAF on 27 June 1942, leading the Hornchurch Wing. Wikipedia

Flight Seargeant Meyers joined Squadron 602 in the same month as Finucane and had to learn quickly to survive. On his second flight he became separated from his squadron at 7,000 ft over Boulogne and returning home across the Channel he spotted four groups of three aircraft flying in formation and thinking they were his squadron headed towards them but when he got closer he saw the black crosses instead of RAF roundels and, too late, recognised them as Focke Wulff 190s. He fired both 20mm cannons and all four machine guns and headed home as fast as he could without knowing whether he had hit them. 'Lucky Lou' Meyers!

In June 1942 after five months combat experience (and two weeks before Wing Commander Finucane was killed) he was one of three Dutch pilots posted as instructors to No 55 Operational Training Unit at RAF Annan in Dumfrieshire, twenty miles north west of Carlisle. Having gone through the complete RAF training programme himself he knew the operational skills newly qualified pilots needed if they were to survive long enough to become skilled fighter pilots. From December 1942 to January 1943 he was himself being trained, at the Central Gunnery School in Sutton Bridge, near the Wash in Lincolnshire.

Central Gunnery School at Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire, 1943

 Flight Seargeant Meyers (the RAF anglicised his name) is is in the rear row on the left

The course members included Wing Commander Daniel le Roy du Vivier Courtesy of Pieter Meijers

On the 12 June 1943 Flight Lieutenant L.M. Meyers was posted to 322 Squadron whose pilots were mainly Dutch, initially at RAF Woodvale, Formby, near Southport.

Lucky Lou Meyers' logbook Courtesy of Pieter Meijers

He was based at West Malling in Kent intercepting the V1 flying bombs and trying to bring them down by "wing tipping" before they reached London. Flight Officer L.M. Meyers served with 322 Squadron until the 29 April 1945 and was credited with bringing down one V1 and awarded the Vliegerskruis (Flying Cross). When he enlisted he had agreed to serve until 1948 and he was a reserve Captain in the Military Luchtvaart after leaving.

Flight Officer L.M. Meyers, third from right, with fellow officers of RAF Squadron 322, the Dutch Spitfire Squadron Courtesy of Pieter Meijers

F/Lt L.M. Meyers described the voyage of the Zeemanshoop in a letter he wrote to Th de Booy, Secretary of the KNRM (Dutch Lifeboat Association) on the 11 Jan 1946 and de Booy based his account of the voyage in Tusschen Mijnen en Grondzeeën (G.A. van Oeerschoot, 1947) on this letter and a letter from Wim Bellinfante. Lou Meijers wrote in his personal copy "don't throw this book away, it means a great deal to me".

He restarted his medical training at Groningen and qualified as a doctor in 1953. Since it would have been too expensive to start his own medical practice he joined the PTT, the Dutch Post and Telephone company, as a bedrijfsarts (company doctor). He lived in Zwolle and The Hague where he met his wife, Petra Selma Cohen. She was Jewish and lost many of her family in the Holocaust. They married in 1958 and had two sons, Pieter and Jan. The war was not talked about much in the family but he mentioned his escape and on cycle tours with his sons at weekends often visited Scheveningen where he had left the Netherlands aboard the Zeemanshoop on the 14 May 1940. He died at The Hague on the 31 July 2002.

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Pieter Meijers, still lives in his parents house, but has donated most of his father's papers (including his pilot's logbook) and wartime photographs to the Netherlands Institute of Military History (NIMH) and these were invaluable in writing this account of F/Lt L.M. Meyers service in the RAF. In January 1945 he was interviewed for a propaganda broadcast by Radio Oranje which was recorded on vinyl and transcribed. This vivid first hand account, soon to be made available as a digital audio file, helps bring the bare facts alive. Dutch readers will enjoy the article about Lou Meijers wartime service published by the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu) in its journal De Vliegende Hollander 2011 67(5) May, 200-2. Another useful source is the book by W.J.E. Kock published by KLu in 1968 on the 25th anniversary of the founding of 322 Squadron.

This account of Lou Meijers life would not have been possible without the assistance of Dr Erwin van Loom of the NIMH and Pieter Meijers.

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Lourens Marinus Meijers's Timeline

January 27, 1920
Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
July 31, 2002
Age 82
's-Gravenhage, South-Holland, Netherlands