The Brabant village Oisterwijk and Operation Market-Garden

The crash landing of Spitfire PT996 in Oisterwijk

In the morning of Friday 20 October 1944 at 10.35 hrs a British Spitfire crash-landed in Oisterwijk due to engine failure.

The aircraft came from the direction of the city of Tilburg and made a hard landing on its belly on the street Oisterwijksebaan.

This aircraft, type Spitfire-MK IX, was piloted by the French pilot F/LT. Pierre Gallay of Groupe du Chasse III/2, “Alsace” of the Free French No.341 Squadron.

F/LT. Gallay had taken off that morning from airfield Wevelgem in liberated Belgium.

 

 

The experienced French fighter pilot Pierre Gallay underwent pilot training at the Royal Air Force during the beginning of the war.

Gallay had performed an emergency landing before in the beginning of his career in 1941.

This happened on 28 September 1941 in the UK near Chadwell in Shorpshire when he flew at 5 FTS (Flying Training School) at RAF Cosford.

Pierre Gallay flew in a Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft during one of his training missions.   

During the course of his flight he got lost and had to make an emergency landing (perhaps because of lack of feul) in Chadwell in Shorpshire.

Fortunately Pierre Gallay was not injured during the landing and he could returned back to his base again unharmed.

After his training period at the beginning of 1942 Pierre Gallay was transferred to GC1 "Alsace" in Damascus Syria in the Middle East.

In October of 1942 the free French pilots of GC1 and GB1 returned back to England were Pierre Gallay was transferred to No.341 squadron "Alsace".

 

 

In the morning of 20 October Pierre Gallay (callsign, Yellow 1) and pilot Michel Brunsshwig (callsign, Yellow 2 ) flew a reconnaissance mission in the area near the Belgium border at the city Tilburg.

During an attack on a German army vehicle at the Wilhelmina Canal at Tilburg the Spitfire of Pierre Gallay and Michel Brunsshwig came under German anti-aircraft (Flak) fire covering the skies at the edge of Tilburg.

During the attack Gallay’s aircraft became seriously damaged which forced him to land behind enemy lines.

He flew followed a direction away from the railway bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal and descended into to the direction of Oisterwijk were he eventually made a crash landing.

Pierre Gallay touched down right on the street Oisterwijksebaan just past the intersection of roads Laagheukelomseweg and Oisterwijksebaan near a farmhouse belonging to the van Riiswijk family.

The hard belly landing caused significant damage to his aircraft with parts coming loose during the rough landing.

Parts of the coolers and the air intake at the bottom of the machine broke away and also the undercarriage was badly damaged.

Even the onboard machine guns broke loose from the wings during the violent crash landing.

They were found on the ground in front of the aircraft not much later.

The four propellers also broke away and where found yards away in the vicinity of the aircraft.

This indicates however that his propellers were still turning during the crash landing because otherwise the propellers would have only have been bent on impact or only one or two would have broken of.

Holes in the fusalage by the anti-aircraft bullits were clearly visible over the entire lenght of the fuselage.

 

 

After the landing Pierre Gallay quickly left and abandon his aircraft and hide in a nearby ditch waiting what would be next.

He himself was a witness of the events that followed shortly after curious citizens of Oisterwijk approached his aircraft.

After a while he moved away and fled in to the direction of a local cafe called 'Mie Pieters’ with the assistance of a Dutch citizen.

He was hidden somewhere in a barn in the direct surroundings of that café and with the help of the local underground he stayed there in hiding for the next couple of hours.

 

 

During the occupation the Oisterwijk underground had been responsible for the hiding and transporting of many other allied airmen and personnel that found themselves behind enemy lines due to early landings.

During Operation Market-Garden for instance the local underground of Oisterwijk was able to help and hide many allied paratroopers, US Air Force and RAF personnel and other Allied servicemen in the forest between Oisterwijk and Boxtel after they had been forced to land behind enemy lines.

The forest was called ‘Kampina’ and further consistsed of many moors and heath.

Pierre Gallay was not hidden there however, instead the underground brought him to Wilhelminapark in the city of Tilburg were he was housed and hidden with a Tilburg family.

 

 

After Pierre Gallay had abandoned his badly damaged Spitfire in search for a better hidingspot more and more locals came to the crash site to have a close look.

The Germans also soon appeared on site in order to investigate the aircraft.

They did not find much of their interest and the locals were allowed to have a closer look at the aircraft.

After a while though the Dutch start doing this 'looking’ with the help of a hammer and screwdriver in the hope to retrieve a nice souvenir to take home.

Soon a real spectacle unfolded and the German soldiers, standing in front of the aircraft, would quickly regret their gesture to let the people approach the aircraft.

At some point a small boy climbed in to the cockpit and fouled around with the controls and switches.

As a result the boy accidentally fired the undamaged and still operational cannons in the wings and a salvo of 20mm bullets were fired into the direction of the German soldiers standing in front of the aircraft.

This particular version of the Spitfire was equipped with multiple cannons and machine guns in the wings.

In addition to four browning machine guns the aircraftwas also equiped with two 20mm hispano cannons.

After this exidental salvo the Germans made an end to the spectacle and immediately send everybody home.

They then pointed guards at the aircraft and returned to the village.

After a few day’s, when Scottish troops were reported on the outskirts of the village, the German guards at the Spitfire tossed a grenade in the the cockpit and left the aircraft.

They then returned to the village to help defend Oisterwijk against the Scottish troops.

 

 

Around that period a young Oisterwijker was able to take out the entire pilot seat from the cockpit to take it home as a souvenir.

For years Galley’s pilots seat stood in his bedroom besides his bed.

According to an agreement he made the seat would have gone to a museum but sadly this agreement would not stand after he passed away and family members ‘lost’ the seat.

Another young Oisterwijker, who actually was one of the first to arrive on the crash location, took a souvenir home.

It was a large part of the undercarriage, the right wheel cover.

 

 

With the help of the Tilburg underground Pierre Gallay stayed hidden in Tilburg until the end of the war. when Tilburg was liberated on 27 October Pierre Gallay was able to return to his squadron.

He arrived with his squadron on 29 Oktober, nine days after his crash landing at Oisterwijk.

Pierre Gallay stayed with his unit until 17 januari 1945 and then left the Free French Air Force.

 

 

Unfortunately Pierre gallay lost his live on 10 April 1950 when he crashed an experimental aircraft called the SNCAC NC. 1080.

This prototype aircraft was designed to take off from aircraft carriers and was a single seat aircraft.

For unclear reasons Pierre Gallay crashed the aircraft.

It was destroyed beyond repair and development of the aircraft was stopped immediately.

 

The Spitfire of Pierre Gallay at Oisterwijk after the liberation in 1944.
In the background behind the aircraft two allied soldiers wearing barrets.
Two somewhat unclear images of the Spitfire in Oisterwijk from an English archive.
De noodlanding van Spitfire IX-PT996 in Oisterwijk