The heroic fight of the Fokker D-XXI No. 229
In May 1940 German forces invaded the Netherlands in a massive surprise attack that would only last five days. To oppose the German forces, the Dutch air force only had a few dozens of first-line fighters and bombers of the types D-XXI, G-1 and T-V. Quite a number of them were destroyed on the ground by surprise attacks of the Luftwaffe and only a handful of aircraft were able to engage the enemy. In spite of the inferior material of the Dutch air force, individual pilots scored not all too bad against the Luftwaffe planes as we will see!
One of these heroic missions was flown on 11 May 1940. The D-XXI pilot’s lt. Focquin de Grave, sgt. Koos Roos and sgt. Burger took off in their planes nos. 213, 229 and 242 to escort two Fokker T-V bombers nos. 850 and 856. The task of the bombers was to destroy the Maas bridges at Rotterdam.
The mission was a complete disaster. The bombers missed the bridges and on their way back 850 was shot down by German fighters. The 856 escaped, but only to be shot down on its next mission 2 days later!
Also the escorting D-XXI’s were heavily attacked by German fighters. The 229, flown by Koos Roos became separated from his comrades and was attacked by three Me-110 fighters. After his plane was hit several times, Koos prepared to bail-out by releasing his seat straps and the cockpit canopy. To his great surprise, the canopy hit the engine of the pursuing Me-110 which went promptly down with a smoking engine! Koos discovered that he still had full control over his plane and he escaped in a cloud. When he came out, he was directly on the tail of the second Me-110. He immediately opened fire and saw the rear gunner collapse in his seat. Also this plane went down with a smoking engine.
Next, 229 were hit again and Koos lost his consciousness. Lucky for him, he was thrown out of his plane and when falling down he regained consciousness realizing that ‘he was feeling lots of fresh air’!
With his right arm paralyzed, he managed to open his parachute with his left arm with very little margin since he was very close to the ground when the parachute opened.
Koos came down near the place where the 229 had crashed badly bleeding with a broken right arm, bullets in his leg and 20mm shell fragments in his head and left shoulder.
Also lt. Focquin de Grave was shot down; only sgt. Burger succeeded to land safely on his airbase. Focquin de Grave managed to crash land his 213 and he also survived his encounter with the Luftwaffe.
Sgt. Koos Roos survived the war, but he was tragically killed in the early fifties when he crashed with a helicopter.
His D-XXI was recovered from the crash site at Nieuwkoop on 22 June 1993. There always have been questions about the identity of the D-XXI flown by Koos on his mission. Some sources quoted the 215 and the 225, but only after the recovery of the wreck it became clear it was the 229. There have also been stories that Koos was finally shot down by Dutch anti-aircraft guns, but inspection of the wreck only revealed it was hit by German aircraft guns! Most likely, Koos was shot down by the third Me-110.The remains of the 229, in fact not much more than the engine and the front fuselage section including the cockpit, is now on display at the Stichting Crash museum at Lisserbroek, not very far from Schiphol airport.
Photos- Nico Braas Photo of Koos Roos courtesy ‘Stichting Crash 40-45’ Color profile: Srecko Bradic
C.C. Küpfer, Nederlandse vliegers in het vuur, KNVvL Bibliotheek no. 1, 1946.
F. Gerdessen, Fokker D-XXI (Part 1), Nederlandse Militaire Luchtvaart, 1988
Hugo Hooftman, Fokker D-XXI, Nederlandse vliegtuigencyclopedie no. 5, Cockpit Uitgeverij, 1978