Bram van der Stok : biography
Bram van der Stok, MBE (30 October 1915 – 8 February 1993), also referred to as Bob van der Stok, was the most decorated aviator in Dutch history, as well as one of the three men to escape to freedom in "the Great Escape" from German POW camp Stalag Luft III.
He spent his childhood between Sumatra, the Netherlands and the Dutch West Indies. After finishing his education at the Lyceum Alpinum in Switzerland he studied medicine at Leiden University where he became enamoured with rowing and ice hockey, and in 1936 he joined the Royal Netherlands Air Force where he flew a Fokker D.XXI, and continued his medical training at Utrecht University.
When the Netherlands were attacked by German forces in 1940, Van der Stok scored the first victory when he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109 while on patrol over De Kooy airfield. After the Netherlands' capitulation, he made three unsuccessful attempts to escape to England, before finally reaching Scotland in June 1941, after escaping from Rotterdam as a stowaway on board of the Swiss merchant ship Saint Cerque, together with Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema and two others. He was awarded the Dutch Bronze Cross for his actions by Queen Wilhelmina and flew briefly in 91 Squadron before being transferred to 41 Squadron in February 1942 where he racked up another Bf 109 shot down and 3 'damaged' claims during March and April 1942.'Those Other Eagles', C. Shores, 2004, page 610
Stalag Luft III
On 12 April 1942, during 'Circus 122' Van der Stok was shot down while flying Spitfire Vb BL595 over France and parachuted into a waiting German patrol, who processed him. He was incarcerated in the newly-built Stalag Luft III, where he made a total of three escape attempts. The first was foiled inadvertently by another POW who drew attention to the escaping Van der Stok while retrieving a stolen German cap from the roof of a hut, and the second was thwarted when German officials noticed that his forged pass was out-of-date. In what later became known as the "Great Escape", he was the 18th of the total 76 prisoners that managed to escape from the camp. Out of these escapees, only three made it to neutral countries and freedom: Van der Stok, who crossed much of the European countryside before arriving in the safety of Spain, and two Norwegians, Per Bergsland and Jens Müller, who managed to escape to neutral Sweden.
Van der Stok traveled from Breslau train station to Dresden where he was stopped at several checkpoints, convincing the Germans that he was not one of the escapees. He finally reached Utrecht through Oldenzaal and met up with a member of the Underground who prepared him for his bicycle trek to another safe house in Belgium. There he adopted a new Belgian persona and traveled by train through Brussels and Paris, before reaching Toulouse where he was grouped with two American lieutenants, two RAF pilots, a French officer and a Russian, all being led by their French guide who led them across the Pyrenees to Lleida in Spain. The British consulate took possession of the Allied escapees and over three months after his original escape, Van der Stok finally arrived in Gibraltar on 8 July and was flown to Bristol on 11 July.
After his escape Van der Stok rejoined the RAF Spitfire 91 Squadron and took part in both Normandy and anti-V-1 operations. The following year he joined 74 Squadron for a brief time before moving in March 1945 to command the Dutch-manned RAF 322 Squadron based in the Netherlands, where he learned that his two brothers had been killed in concentration camps and his father had been blinded by the Gestapo.
Escape & Evasion Report F/Lt. Bram van der Stok, interview 10–11 July 1944
In this Report from The National (RAF) Archives one can, without any doubt, read that Bram van der Stok was captured by the Germans near St. Omer (North of France) on 12 April 1942. At the end of his escape he left Gibraltar on 10 July 1944 and landed at Whitchurch Airport (Bristol) on 11 July 1944. However in his book "War Pilot of Orange" Van der Stok wrote that he was captured 14 July 1942, and landed after his escape on English soil on 20 May 1944. These data are incorrect.
After the war
He was awarded the Order of Orange Nassau from the Netherlands and two years after the war he was inducted as a Member of the Order of the British Empire. He was offered the command of the new Dutch air force, but declined and instead finished his medicine studies.
He later moved to the U.S. with his wife Petie and their three children. There he worked as an OB-GYN in Syracuse, New York and as a GP in Ruidoso, New Mexico, though he later joined NASA's space lab research team in Huntsville, Alabama. In 1970 Van der Stok moved to Honolulu, where he practiced medicine, and in 1980 published Oorlogsvlieger van Oranje, later translated into English as War Pilot of Orange. He later joined the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and took part in 162 rescues before his death in 1993.
In the 1963 film The Great Escape, he was composited into the character of Sedgwick, played by James Coburn.
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