The sole surviving Dutch fighter pilot from the Second World War, who now lives in West Cork, was flown back to his native Holland at the weekend to mark the 75th anniversary of the German invasion of his country.
A private aircraft chartered by the Dutch government arrived in Cork Airport on Saturday to collect Jan Linzel, 99, and his wife Marianne 82, and transport them to a special commemorative ceremony at Ypenburg in The Hague, where Jan had taken part in dramatic air battles against the Germans on May 10, 1940.
Jan, who was 24 at the time, and the youngest pilot in the squadron, managed to take out two Messerschmitt fighter planes before being hit himself, forcing him to bail out with a bullet lodged in his thigh.
He lost consciousness after pulling the ripcord of his parachute and landed in a field near Rotterdam, where he was eventually picked up and taken to hospital.
His injury grounded him for a while, and after leaving hospital, he turned his attention to starting up an illegal newspaper, but his passion for flying stayed with him.
Jan subsequently made a couple of hair-raising attempts to return to flying, one of which found him on a train with the Gestapo and another which saw him climbing the Pyrenees in an effort to get into Spain.
He eventually escaped to Portugal and took a boat to England where he joined the RAF — but only after he was given clearance following an interview with British Secret Service to prove he was not a spy — and flew for the remainder of the war.
Marianne said they were honoured that the Dutch had decided to mark Jan’s contribution to the war by flying him home for the anniversary. “The airforce invited him and it meant a lot to both him and them that there was still a survivor,” Marianne said. “He is the last one alive and he knows all the stories.”
Jan moved to Glengarriff 40 years ago and is due to celebrate his 100th birthday in December.
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