Bram "Bob" van der Stok

"Great Escape" winner &
Holland's most decorated WW2 flyer


OBE,   MiD, 
Officer Order of Orange Nassau w/ swords
Bronze Lion,
Tthe Flying Cross (x2),
The Bronze Cross,
Officer Order of Leopold II w/ Swords,
War Cross (Poland)
Croix the Guerre (Belgium),
Croix the Guerre (France)
& an Honorary Commodore of the
US Auxiliary Coast Guard

Born 13 (30?) October 1915, Pladju, Sumatra
Joined the Royal Dutch Air Force in 1936
Claimed 1 destroyed & 1 damaged with them
Fled Holland in June 1941
Joined the RAFVR in September 1941
Attended OTU
Bob Vanderstok
Posted to 41 Squadron in February 1942
Shot down 12 April 1942 on Circus 122 (Spitfire BL595)
Sent to Stalag Luft 3 & subsequently became one of only three airmen to reach Allied lines after the "Great Escape"
Given command of 322 (Dutch) Squadron in March 1945
He led that unit until October 1945
Emigrated to the USA in 1950
Died 8 February 1993 in Virginia Beach, Virginia


Bram van der Stok (Born October 13, 1915 in Pladjoe, Sumatra, Died 8 Feb 1993 in Honolulu, also referred to as Bob Vanderstok, was the most decorated aviator in Dutch history, as well as one of three to escape from the German POW camp Stalag Luft III and make it back to England.

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 enamored 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 was attacked by German forces in 1940, Bram scored the first victory when he shot down two Messerschmitt Bf 109s while on patrol over De Kooy airfield. After the Netherlands' capitulation, he made three unsuccessful attempts to escape to England, before finally reaching Scotland by raft in June 1941. He was awarded the Dutch Bronze Cross for his actions by Queen Wilhelmina, and flew briefly in the 91st Squadron before being transferred to the 41st Squadron where he racked up another six kills to become an ace pilot.

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 later moved to the USA with his wife Petie and their three children. There he worked as an OB-GYN in Syracuse, New York - 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 1987 published "War Pilot of Orange". He later joined the US Coastguard, took part in 162 rescues and was honored 3 times for his involvement in rescues before his death in 1993.

In the movie "The Great Escape," he was "transformed" into the character of Sedgwick, played by James Coburn.


from an email I received -

"I live in Virginia Beach and knew Bram (or Bob as he preferred to call himself) personally. The last few years of his life, he lived at the Harbour Gate Condominiums in Virginia Beach. I met him through his sister Annie (or Anky as she was known), who also lived there. Anky was a friend of my husband and mine (she died in 2001). Bram moved here from Honolulu after the death of his second wife, Edith, on Feb. 8th 1988, to be closer to his only remaining family, sister Anky. He had many fascinating stories to tell about his experiences during WWII. He even gave me a signed copy of his book, "Oorlogsvlieger van Oranje" (War Pilot of Orange) which I treasure.

His birth and death record can be found on the following site: familysearch.org/eng/default.asp
Type in Vanderstok in the 'last name' field and Bram's name will pop up, among those of Annie and Bram's two wives, Lucie and Edith. On another website I found out that Bram was married to Lucie from 1945 to 1969 and that they had three children, Ingrid, Robert and Monique. What is notable is that Bram, Edith and Annie all died on February 8th. In different years, but still, quite remarkable."

I agree, very strange - & thanks Nicole, for the info !


Victories Include :

10 May 1940

14 Mar 1942
10 Apr 1942
one Me109
one Me109
one Me109 
  3  FW190s
(Fokker D.XXI 234, Wieringermeer)
(Spitfire BL428 of 41 Sq., Fecamp)
(Spitfire BL595 of 41 Sq., Boulogne)

2 / 0 / 4


Obituary - "Daily Telegraph" 1993

Bram van der Stok, who has died in Hawaii aged 77, was one of only three Allied airmen prisoners of war to make the "home run" to Britain after the "Great Escape" from Stalag Luft III. Of the 75 who escaped from the camp in Lower Silesia on the night of March 24, 1944, all but Flt Lt "Bob" van der Stok, Sgt Per Bergsland and Pilot Officer Jen Muller were recaptured Angered by the escape, Hitler ordered 50 of those recaptured to be shot. For almost a year before the escape van der Stok had helped with the construction of three tunnels, named "Tom", "Dick" and "Harry"; Tom was discovered, Dick was abandoned, Harry was used. When the great night came some 220 escapers prepared to crawl through the tunnel, but disruptions - due to its falling short, to cave-ins and to a heavy Bomber Command raid on Berlin - restricted the escapers to 75. Van der Stok was the 18th to emerge from the tunnel, posing as Hendrik Beeldman, a Dutch draughtsman taking home leave from Siemens.
He wore a dark blue Royal Australian Air Force greatcoat, Dutch naval trousers and a beret. His passes were lodged in an imitation leather wallet made by Flt Lt G W Walenn, head of the camp forgery department - and one of the 50 murdered officers. When he walked to Sagan railway station van der Stok was asked by a German civilian what he was doing in the woods. He replied that he was a Dutch worker, afraid that the police might arrest him for being out during an air raid. "It's all right if you're with me", said the German, who escorted him to the station, where he had to wait three hours because trains were delayed by the raid on Berlin. Thirty-six hours later he arrived at Utrecht, after changing trains at Breslau, Dresden and Halle. His parents and other members of the family were living there, but van der Stok resisted the temptation to go home and holed up two streets away in a friend's house. After six weeks he was fed into the Dutch-Paris Escape Line and smuggled by skiff across the Maas and into Belgium. He then bicycled to Brussels, where he was put up by a Dutch family for six weeks until the Line could send him on by train. Van der Stok had by now changed his cover story, and represented himself as a Flemish worker in a Belgian firm. When he reached Toulouse he sold his watch to raise money towards the 10.000 francs required for guidance across the Pyrenees. His guide, though, was shot dead in a skirmish with frontier guards. Van der Stok fell in with a maquis band which led him through the mountains to the edge of Spain. From Madrid he was passed to Gibraltar, and then flown in a Douglas Dakota transport to Bristol. Bram van der Stok was born on Oct 13, 1915 on Sumatra, where his father was a Shell engineer. He spent his boyhood there, in Holland and the Dutch West Indies. After finishing his education at the Lyceum Alpinum in Switzerland he studied medicine at Leiden University. But rowing and ice hockey distracted him from his studies and in 1936 he joined the Dutch Air Force. Commissioned the next year, he joined a fighter squadron. After a year he transferred to the reserve and resumed his medical training, this time at Utrecht University. He was mobilized in 1939 and in May 1940 fought as a fighter pilot until the Dutch capitulation. He was then permitted to continue his medical studies. He formed a resistance cell, and made three unsuccessful attempts to reach Britain. On the fourth attempt he reached Scotland in a boat in June 1941, and Queen Wilhelmina decorated him with the Dutch Bronze Cross. Van der Stok was commissioned into the RAFVR and posted to No 91, a Spitfire squadron based at Tangmere. Shortly afterwards he was transferred to No 41 Squadron, flying Spitfires from Westhampnett. Promoted flight lieutenant, he became a flight commander and was credited with six victories before baling over France. "Only six kills", said his German captors. "You are just a beginner".
At Stalag Luft III his medical knowledge obtained him a job in the hospital. A first escape attempt was thwarted when a fellow PoW, unaware that van der Stok was hoping to dig his way out under the barbed wire fence, climbed on to his hut roof to retrieve a German cap he had stolen. This alerted the guards and van der Stok was discovered. A second attempt was foiled when guards discovered his forged pass had not been updated. After the Great Escape van der Stok rejoined 91 Squadron and took part in D-Day and anti-V1 operations. In 1945, following a period with 74 Squadron, he moved to No 322, a Dutch squadron serving in the RAF and based in Holland. This enabled him to visit his family and learn that his two brothers had died in concentration camps and his father had been blinded by the Gestapo. After the war he joined the Dutch air staff at The Hague and helped introduce the new Dutch Air Force before returning in 1946 to Utrecht University, where he finally qualified as a doctor in 1951.
Later he emigrated to America with his wife, Petie, and their three small children. He specialized in obstetrics and gynecology at Syracuse, New York, before joining Nasa's space lab research team at Huntsville, Alabama. In 1970 van der Stok moved to Honolulu, where he practiced medicine, joined the US Coastguard and took part in 162 rescues. Van der Stok published "War Pilot of Orange" (1987). He was appointed MBE in 1945 and received numerous other awards.


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On these pages I use Hugh Halliday's extensive research which includes info from numerous sources; newspaper articles via the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC); the Google News Archives; the London Gazette Archives and other sources both published and private.

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