British historian seeks family of Kiwi soldier killed in WWII aircraft crash
It’s June 25, 1943, the middle of World War II, Holland. The Battle of Ruhr.
Eighteen Royal Air Force Lancaster aircraft were flying to join 457 heavy British bombers attacking the German town of Gelsenkirchen.
Among the fleet was West Auckland gunner Lawrence Porritt, 21, and six other crew on board a 100 Squadron Lancaster bomber. This would be its final flight.
At 12.54am on June 26, the aircraft was shot down on its way to Gelsenkirchen by a German night fighter – captained by Karl-Heinz Scherfling.
The bomber crashed 20 kilometres north of Amsterdam, in the Dutch district of Beemster, killing the entire crew.
Dutch civilians pulled three of the crew, including Porritt, from the wreckage but three hours later its bomb load exploded and no further bodies were recovered.
Nearly 75 years later, the Beemster Historical Society would erect a memorial in Beemster on June 26 to honour the seven killed.
British war historian for 100 Squadron Greg Harrison said it would be great to find family members of Porritt.
“We would be delighted to try and locate any of Lawrence’s surviving family and invite them to the service.”
Porritt was pictured with his crew in a photo (top), but it was not known which one he was.
“That’s one of the mysteries we hope to be able to clear up if we get any contact from relatives,” he said.
Porritt was born on April 23, 1922. He was the son of George and Linda Porritt, of Henry St, Avondale in West Auckland.
He attended Mount Albert Grammar School before enlisting in the New Zealand Air Force in 1941.
Porritt trained in Canada as an air gunner in 1942, was sent to the United Kingdom for flight training, and became a sergeant through RAF training.
He arrived with the 100 Squadron at RAF Grimsby in North Lincolnshire in May 1943.
In that month, he was promoted to flight sergeant and completed eight successful sorties, or attacks on troops, in Dortmund, Dusseldorf, Essen, Wuppertal and Krefeld.
Porritt was one of about 55,000 RAF Bomber Command men who died from 1936 to 1965.
“If any of Lawrence’s surviving relatives can be found, it would be a chance for them to come to the place where he made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom we have all enjoyed ever since,” Harrison said.
“Although, we are mindful of the long and expensive journey from New Zealand to Holland.”
Lawrence George Porritt was listed on the Auckland Museum’s Online Cenotaph database, but only his parent’s names were listed on the biographical information.
Porritt’s name was recorded on a memorial cross at St Judes Church, Avondale.
If you know of, or are, family of Porritt contact Greg Harrison in Wales at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0044 7564 714678.