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Tributes to war hero Jan, the last Dutch WWII fighter pilot

Tuesday, 14th May, 2019 7:10am
Tributes to war hero Jan, the last Dutch WWII fighter pilot

Jan receiving a replica Fokker fighter plane from General Shnitger of the Dutch Air Force. (Photo: Tony McElhinney)

By Helen Riddell 

THE last surviving Dutch fighter pilot from WWII, war hero Major Jan Linzel, has died, aged 103, in Castletownbere Community Hospital.

Major Linzel, who lived with his wife and son in Shrone, Glengarriff, since 1978, died last Sunday, surrounded by his family. 

In 2015, Major Linzel celebrated his 100th birthday in Glengarriff with friends and family and was honoured with a 30-strong brass band from the Royal Netherlands Air Force who travelled to Glengarriff to serenade him for his birthday, accompanied by the Dutch ambassador to Ireland, Paul Schellekens.

At the age of 24, and the youngest pilot in his squadron, Major Linzel took part in a mission which took off from Ypenburg in the Netherlands to fight the Luftwaffe.  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, Major Linzel 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. 

In 2015, a private plane sent by the Dutch government to Cork Airport, brought Major Linzel and his wife to a commemoration in Ypenburg to mark the 75th anniversary of the German invasion of Holland.  

Major Linzel was awarded the Dutch Cross of Merit, the Airman’s Cross and four British awards for his bravery.

Major Linzel’s wife Marianne had heard numerous stories of Ireland from her grandfather who had worked on the Ardnacrusha dam in Clare in the 1920s, and had always wanted to visit the country. 

The couple eventually made their first visit in the early 1970s and fell in love with West Cork.  

They later returned with their young son to make Glengarriff their home. 

 Major Linzel’s death has made headlines in the Netherlands, where the Dutch Defence Ministry released a statement announcing he had passed away. Major Linzel is survived by his wife Marianne, son Otto, daughter-in-law Josie and granddaughters Emma and Mary Ellen.