by our reporter eric molenaar
BERKHOUT - The remains of the two airmen that were exhumed in Berkhout last year will be buried in the commonwealth war graves at Bergen. After that a monument will be unveiled at Berkhout. Also in England the crew will be honoured.
This means that it's final
that the wish of the family of the Irish air gunner John Kehoe, to bury him
in the family grave at Tullamore, Ireland, won't be fullfilled.
A Hampden bomber that crashed on the 8th of November 1941 in Berkhout was excavated in September last year. That happened on request of the sister of Kehoe, the now 88 year old Margaret Walsh. She discovered the exact position of the crashed plane in 2005.
The remains of the two gunners Stanley Mullenger en John Kehoe were recovered very quickly, but the investigation by a special unit of the Dutch forces proved that the bones were so deteriated that a long and expensive comparison with DNA would be necessarry to find out who is who. From the forensic research it was determined that it actually is the remains of the two missing air gunners of Hampden P1206.
The two other crewmembers
of the middleweight bomber, pilot Chris Saunders en navigator James d'Arcy,
were buried immediately in 1941 in Bergen. Almost 67 jaar after the fatal crash
the crew will finally be reunited there. Because there's not enough space for
the four to lay next to each other it's an option to have the final resting
place for Mullenger en Kehoe behind the graves of Saunders en d'Arcy, probably
with the headstones back to back.
Jackie Purser-Saunders, one of the twin daughters of the pilot, thinks that would be appropriate. ,,Just like it was in the plane.''
She will attend the funeral at May 7th, together with her sister Frankie. From the official side, large delegations from England and Ireland will be at the commemoration. The British embassy is the contact for the press, but can't say much at this stage, because some of the family members are not informed yet.
Ireland will be officially represented by their ambassador Richard Ryan en secretary John Gilroy. From the British side representatives from the RAF and the 49 Squadron Association will come to Bergen. The Hampden P1206 belonged to 49 Squadron, which was based at RAF Scampton until 1943. In the association former crewmembers and their family members are united.
At Scampton church it is planned that a brass plaque will be unveiled later this year with the names of the crew of P1206. It's a simple brass plaque which the RAF has funded. Jackie Saunders is very pleased with it.
It's still tentative, but the programme shows that the ceremony begins on May 7th at 10 o'clock with a joint service of the Catholic Church and the Church of England in Bergen. The funeral, with military honour, at which a unit of RAF wil contribute, starts at 11. In the afternoon, at 14.00 hours, a monument will be unveiled at the Westeinde, near the place where the plane crashed. It will be a piece of natural stone with the one remaining excavated propeller of P1206 on top of it. On the foot there will be a plaque with the names of the crew. The stone with the propeller will stand in between small brick walls. Next to it, there will be an information shield about the mission.
Source: Noordhollands Dagblad, March 11, 2008