I wasn't exactly sure how this would feel, riding a bicycle to quiet Dutch graveyards with a camera. It's a strange feeling really. Once I began this mission though, I felt a connection with the four Canadians I found in three nearby towns. We are all Canadian. These men never got to live long enough to see the nation called The Netherlands bounce back from the decimation it experienced in the Second World War. As a Canadian now living in The Netherlands, I'm grateful for the sacrifices that made a free, happy life in both countries possible.
This is part two of giving thanks to some of the Canadians who made the ultimate sacrifice in The Netherlands.
Keith Benedict Davidson(23) of Luseland, Saskatchewan - Died June 12, 1943
Howard Cedric Treherne(22) of Truro, Nova Scotia - Died June 29, 1943
It's a cool and rainy autumn day in North-Holland, a beautiful, windy province with vast sand dunes to the west near the North Sea and small, quiet towns inland. Beverwijk is one of these towns. When I first arrived at this cemetery, I walked around searching for the Canadians and eventually asked a groundskeeper for directions. He was impressed that I was visiting in the bad weather and that I could speak any Dutch. I hopped back on my bicycle, and rode to another entrance where there are older graves, taller trees and the Canadians I was searching for.
From my research, I learned that the Canadian soldiers found in these parts are often downed airmen who have crashed into the sea and washed up to be buried. These two Canadian men, both in their early twenties but from different aeroplanes, share that fate.
Keith's bomber and crew took off at 11:27 p.m. on June 11, 1943 from Wickenby (England) targeting Düsseldorf (Germany). They crashed at 3:15 a.m. west of Beverwijk, in the coastal sand dunes area near the beach. They were hit by German anti-aircraft fire situated on the Dutch coast and the entire crew was killed. They are buried in a row at Beverwijk General Cemetery: five British, one Australian and Keith from Saskatchewan, Canada. This was his first and final flight of the war.
Howard's bomber and crew took off at 11:09 p.m. on June 28, 1943 from Wickenby (England) targeting Cologne (Germany). They crashed at 2:36 a.m. into the North Sea, 30 km west of the town Zandvoort. The location was quite far from where they were first attacked by an enemy fighter-plane, so perhaps they tried to escape by flying away from the coast. Howard of Nova Scotia, Canada was found on shore and buried here in Beverwijk, while the other six in his crew were found further north and buried elsewhere.
These young men both were stationed at Wickenby Airbase in England. Did they know each other? Surely it's possible, and now they are the only two Canadians in Beverwijk Cemetary, a tragic fate. I am pleased that it was possible to find more information on these men than in my previous post, though there is surely more to their stories than these brief archived accounts of their deaths. I walked around the graves, brushed debris from their tombstones and paid my respects in the rain.
*Some information and archival images obtained from 626-squadron.co.uk