BY HELEN RIDDELL
ONE of Glengarriff’s most celebrated residents got a visit with a difference to his home last week.
A thirty strong brass band from the Royal Netherlands Air Force, joined by the Dutch ambassador to Ireland, Paul Schellekens made a surprise appearance outside the home Jan Linzel, a Dutch war hero, to celebrate his 100th birthday.
A party was held in the Glengarriff Park Hotel where guest of honour Jan was joined by his wife Marianne, their son Otto and wife Josephine and granddaughters Emma and Mary Ellen.
Other family members also travelled from Holland for the celebrations and were joined by the couple’s many friends from West Cork.
Jan’s wife Marianne said the party was ‘fantastic’.
‘It was wonderful for Jan to have his birthday officially marked by the Dutch Air Force which was a complete surprise for him. He is a very modest man, but he was delighted, it was a tremendous occasion, with all our family and friends,’ she said.
Jan is the sole surviving Dutch fighter pilot from WWII.
Aged just 24, and the youngest pilot in his squadron, in a mission which took off from Ypenburg, he fought off and took down two German fighter planes, despite being hit himself and suffering a bullet wound to his leg.
In spite of his injuries, he managed to bail out of his aircraft and deploy a parachute. He landed in a field on the outskirts of Rotterdam where he was picked up and brought to hospital.
After recovering from his injuries, Jan joined the Dutch underground, later escaping to Portugal and eventually taking a boat to England where he joined the RAF who he flew with for the remainder of the war.
Earlier this year, a private plane sent by the Dutch government to Cork airport brought Jan and his wife to a commemoration in Ypenburg to mark the 75th anniversary of the German invasion of Holland.
Marianne’s grandfather had worked at the Ardnacrusha dam in Clare in the 1920s and hearing his stories of Ireland, Marianne and Jan made their first visit in the early 1970s. On visiting West Cork, she says they fell in love with the area straight away.
The couple soon returned and for the past 36 years have made Glengarriff their home.