Dutch WWII Spitfire pilot Leo Hendrikx dies aged 99

Leo Hendrikx was one of the last surviving 'Engelandvaarders'. Photo: RNAF
Leo Hendrikx was one of the last surviving ‘Engelandvaarders’. Photo: RNAF

A Dutchman who fled the Nazi occupation to serve as a Spitfire pilot with the British air force during WWII has died at the age of 99.

The Ministry of Defence said Leo Hendrikx was one of the last surviving Engelandvaarders—a group of around 1,700 Dutch people who escaped to England to fight with the Allied troops and help liberate their country.

Hendrikx left the occupied Netherlands in 1941 and travelled through France, Spain, Portugal and Canada before ending up in England at the end of 1942.

On April 1, 1945, a month before the liberation, his RAF Spitfire was shot down over Warnsveld in the eastern Netherlands.

Hendrikx made an emergency landing, sustained serious burns and was taken prisoner of war.

He spent two weeks in a camp before being liberated by Canadian forces on Friday, May 13, 1945—what he called ‘Friday 13th, my lucky day.’

For his role in the war, Hendrikx received a military decoration, the Draaginsigne Gewonden (Wearing Badge for the Wounded), awarded to veterans who have suffered physical or psychological injuries. He called it ‘a matter of recognition’.

Two years ago, at the age of 97, Hendrikx took his last Spitfire flight over his native village of Horn in Limburg.

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