Many thanks to Russell for passing on the following information from Kees Kroon regarding a ceremony of remembrance that took place last Thursday at Wierden Cemetery, in Holland.
Whilst the ceremony remembered 25 airmen that rest in the cemetery, special interest went to the 4 crew of Stirling Mk.I BK.604 AA-S, who lost their lives whilst participating in Operations against Hamburg on the 3rd of February 1943.
Poppies from Down Under in Wierden.
On Thursday 21 April 2016 at 13.30 hrs. about 25 interested people came together at the old cemetery in Wierden to witness the ceremony of commemoration for the 25 airmen resting in Wierden, especially for those from the Short Stirling bomber from no. 75(NZ) Squadron RAF. This aircraft was shot down in the night from 3rd to 4th of February 1943 and crashed at the Goorseweg in Enter. Four crew members lost their lives and rest in Wierden, the other four became prisoners of war.
Among those present were representatives from the community council and Historical Association from Wierden and from the R.Nl.A.F. Association. They were joined by the pupils from group 7/8 (age 10 – 12) from Immanuel school Wierden which has adopted the graves bringing a floral tribute every year. Originally this ceremony was planned on ANZAC-Day (25 April) but due to the school holiday that week is was moved some days forward.
Organizer and master of ceremony was Mr. Kees Kroon, board member of the HKW, the Historical Association Wederden (the old name for Wierden) and president of the regional department of the Royal Netherlands Air Force Association.
Mrs. Ria Broeze, president of the HKW, welcomed all present (especially the school children and emphasised the importance of remembering those who gave their lives for our freedom, one of the many items that the HKW carries high in its banner.
Her speech was followed a short explanation from Kees Kroon, about the ceremony and how things had developed during the past months after he and Mr. Diederick ten Brinke (from Enter) had met and had discovered that they had very much in common regarding the air war 1940-1945. Diederick has been in contact for many years with relatives of sergeant Terence (Terry) Murphy, Air Bomber of the “Stirling-from-Enter” and collected a tremendous amount of detailed information about the bomber and its crew, a truly magnificent accomplishment. To this information was added what was known by the Hist. Ass., keeping the Murphy-family informed step by step.
This resulted in a letter of gratitude from the Murphy-family to the children of group 7/8 of the Immanuel school which was presented to them a few weeks ago and which was greatly appreciated.
After these introductions Diederick ten Brinke gave an very detailed and revealing reproduction of the events that led tot he crash of the bomber. The target, the way the Stirling was attacked and shot down, the fate of the crew members, the “German side of the event, everything was explained in detail an illustrated by pictures giving all present a very good idea of what happened on that fateful night. Perfect research, resulting in a very moving story that was listened to with great attention and that was highly appreciated.
Next step was the distribution of 25 poppies (for the 25 fallen airmen resting in Wierden) to the children plus representatives of the community council and Hist. Association from Wierden, after which these were placed on the graves. This was followed by one minute of silence, both very dignified and emotional events.
In total the Murphy-family and NZ-RSA send 50 poppies and the remaining 25 ones were given tot he pupils, a gesture that was received with great enthusiasm and a stimulus for the school to maintain the yearly floral tribute to the fallen airmen for many years to come.
Kees Kroon emphasized that contact with other relatives of crew members from the “Stirling from Enter” have been found and contacted, may be resulting in further developments and Ria Broeze closed this short, but dignified and moving ceremony with many thanks to all present (especially the children) and a very appropriate poem, with an invitation for coffee/tea at the Historical Association nearby.
In writing this post it strikes me simultaneously that this sort of ceremony, with this level of local engagement takes place in many locations in Europe and it would be nice to hear from anybody who does this sort of thing.
Simultaneously, it makes me wonder if the same is done in this country in the towns and villages where airmen lay – if it’s not, I think it should be. Perhaps if someone reads this and shares my opinion, click here to see the location of 75(NZ) Squadron airmen who lay at rest in the UK.