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Derk

Another remembrance......

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After a raid on Essen in the night of May 23th 1943, Halifax II HR 836 of no 51 Squadron, RAF Snaith, was attacked over my village Oegstgeest near Leiden in the Netherlands.

Oberfeldwebel Heinz Vinke, flying an ME110 nightfighter from Bergen Airfield near Alkmaar, a very experienced pilot, put an end to the flight home of the brand new Halifax, out on its first mission. At 02.24hr in the early morning of May 24th, the big bomber crashes in the Morsebelpolder, less than a mile from where I live. The crew doesn't stand a chance: Fl.Off. John Edward Rigby (pilot, 21), Fl.Off. Thomas Herbert Green (bomb aimer,25), Fl.Sgt. Henry Graham Freeman (navigator, 24, RCAF), Fl.Sgt. Merto Earl Zapfe (tail gunner,20, RCAF),

Sgt. Allister Milner Hood Black (mech., 25), Sgt. Aubrey Edgar Perrin Rochester (radio,gunner, 33) and Sgt. Henry John Gibbs (gunner, 18) all die in the crash. The plane buries itself very deep into the peat and only the tail remains above the ground. The Germans bury Green, Graham, Zapfe and Black at the nearby cemetary of the 700 y. old Groene Kerkje ("Green Church"). Very litlle is found of Freeman , Gibbs and Rigby and in the official Groene Kerkje War Cemetary of today their gravestones are standing very close to each other. Only part of the wreckage was removed, the rest remaining too deep under the ground

Almost 66 years after the crash, 8 days ago on May 4th, the occasion was remembered.......

At the exact spot of the crash, a beautiful monument was unveiled, in the middle of what is now a road in the modern Haaswijk neighbourhood, where Freeman, Gibbs and Rigby remain buried for ever in the wreckage, almost 7 meters deep under the ground.

In a moving ceremony, in the presence of members of the squadron- including the commanding officer Wcdr Richard Matthews and family members of the crew from the UK and Canada, the Mayor of Oegstgeest as well as family members spoke a few words and Gr.Capt David Paton cited a poem by Laurece Binion on behalf of no 51 Squadron (nowadays flying ELINT Nimrods out of RAF Waddington):

 

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old"

"Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn"

"At the going down of the sun and in the morning"

"We will remember them......"

 

A pair of RNlAF Historic Flight Harvards performed a flyby.

May the crew rest in peace, they will be remebered...........

 

Derk

 

see www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mCRO77RaQQ&feature=channel and www.youtube.com/watch?v=79Bve8Zi2pI&feature=channel or just look under Youtube with tags "Halifax" and "Oegstgeest"

Edited by Derk

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