On the 5th of june 2013 an email was dropped in my mailbox.
In this email, Pascal Daulne, former alderman (now Mayor) of the Manhay community, said he has had a conversation with a landowner about a plane that had crashed in a meadow during the war 1940-1945. If I was interested I could contact that landowner and search with the metaldetector.
That email would be the start of a great and long adventure.
A week later my oldest son, Tom, and myself went to the landowner for the first time. We met Victor Yansenne, while he was strolling on his land. Victor was 6 years old when he witnessed the plane coming down. According to him, it was a B17 that crashed on december 25th 1944. The whole crew was killed. The plane itself was removed right after the war by a scrapyard company.
When Tom and myself entered the crashsite for the first time, we were surprised. We had our metaldetectors and a few buckets with us, but did not need them. The terrain was filled with small pieces of debris. The first thing that I picked up, was (so I was told by avaition expert Paul Nordavind from the Netherlands later) a piece of the Norden Bombsight, situated in the nose.
At that first day, Victor told us his goal right away: He wanted to identify the plane and he wanted to know who was in it.
Because of the complexity of this case (we had no clue what/wich plane it was), we had contact with one of the guys of Planehunters Belgium in the same month. He could not help us. I send an email to the Belgium Aviation museum, but never got a reply. According to Victor, one of the neighbours used to have a wing. We believed it was sold only briefly before our search.
I told my team, who consisted mostly out of Dutch guys and an English guy, what we were dealing with and it was clear we were determined to find out what plane it was and who was in it.
During the months, most of the teammembers visited the crashsite and loads of stuff came up. Most of them unidentifiable, because of the lack of knowledge. But we stayed focussed on our goals: identifying the plane and its crew.
After each digging session, we would clean the stuff and would start looking it up on the internet.
Meanwhile we made a list of all B-17’s that crashed in the area. Teammembers Michel, David, Tom and myself spent hours and hours, studying on those lists. David bought the book “The B17 Flying Fortress History” (Roger A Freeman with David Osborne) and I looked at every B-17 that was build.
We could not find it…