THE salvage operation to recover the remains of a local war hero will take place in the coming weeks.

Sergeant and navigator Alfred Mortimer, who was 31 and from Thurnscoe, died near the town of Holwert in the north of the Netherlands on June 26, 1943.

They were intercepted by a Nazi ace night pilot after carrying out a bombing mission in Gelsenkirchen on their way back across the Wadden Sea to RAF Kirmington in Humberside.

The Chronicle revealed earlier this year that plans were forming to recover the Wellington Bomber and that his relations had been contacted by the Dutch authorities.

The Royal Netherlands Airforce will work in conjunction with a government department for aircraft salvage, Stichting Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation and Leesmans Speciaalwerken to oversee the complex and delicate operation.

The plane, which is believed to contain Alfred and four other members of the crew, is located below a sea dike, so the operation will be an arduous one.

A statement from the municipality read: “This operation is technically complicated.

“The safety of the dike cannot be jeopardised - to salvage the Wellington, the dike between Holwert and Ternaard must be removed over a length of almost 100 metres.

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“in the area where the aircraft is located, a construction pit will be installed to a depth of eight metres.

“A temporary water barrier made of sheet pile profiles retains the sea water during the salvage.

“This has the same safety requirements as the sea wall.

“So it must also be prepared for a storm that occurs once every 1,000 years.

“The recovery of the aircraft has to be ready before the start of the storm season on October 1, 2024.

“Leemans Speciaalwerken has carried out approximately 35 recoveries of aircraft wrecks from the Second World War in 40 years.”

Preparatory work has already started but it’s expected to gather pace in the next fortnight.

The team will also aim to recover a Nazi Messerschmitt as part of the same operation.

The statement added: “Work has started on a farmer’s plot in Holwert at the location where the processing location will be built. “This is the place where the excavated soil will soon be sieved to find small remains of the aircraft and its crew.

“Two aircraft will be recovered. The first is Vickers Wellington HE346 of 166 squadron Royal Air Force.

“This aircraft wreck is located in the dike section between Holwert and Ternaard - the remains of the five crew members are probably still on board this aircraft.

“The other aircraft is a Messerschmitt BF109 of the German Jagdgeschwader 1 and is located in Noarderleech near Hallum.

“This aircraft, with the pilot still on board, crashed on July 16, 1943 during an exercise above Noarderleech.

“Both the relatives of the five crew members of the Wellington and the pilot of the Messerschmitt are traced by volunteers from the Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation - many hours of detective work preceded this.

“A memorial service will be organised in due course for the relatives of the crew of both aircraft.

“There will be a page on aircraft salvage on the municipality’s website.”

See for this.

THE remaining family of Sergeant Alfred Mortimer are currently working on the logistics of a trip to the Netherlands so that they can pay their final respects to the fallen navigator.

Sgt Mortimer left behind a wife, Clara, who was a teacher at The Hill school in Thurnscoe.

The pair never had children.

However, Alfred’s niece, Carolyn Bell, currently lives in Elsecar.

She is hopeful of making the trip and told the Chronicle it would give the family some unexpected closure.

She said: “Quite a few family members want to be there.

“The excitement is building and there is a lot of planning to be done because everybody wants to go over there and pay their respects.

“I am disabled so it’s not easy to get around on public transport over there so we are trying to sort things out.

“It’s going to be a very strange trip but I feel like I am doing it for my mum.

“She would have thought it was amazing and in many ways it would have put it all to bed.

“I never thought the day would come - it really is incredible.”

The town of Holwert is right at the very north of the Netherlands, around a two-hour drive from the country’s capital of Amsterdam.

The rest of the crew’s families have also been invited over to attend a memorial and burial service, assuming remains are found.

The full crew was pilot Charles Mattress, bomb aimer Sgt John Priestley, wireless operator Sgt Norman Ronald Perry and rear gunner Sgt Tom Ball. They are all featured on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey and there is also a monument to the crew at Waddenzeedijk.

Sgt Mortimer’s name is on Thurnscoe’s war memorial in the village’s park.