Remembrance: Part 3

Remembrance in Holland: Part 3

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 three of giving thanks to some of the Canadians who made the ultimate sacrifice in The Netherlands.

Limmen, North-Holland:

Warren Robert Zeller(25) of Montreal, Quebec - Died September 9, 1944

This graveyard overlooks a flower museum that in spring, hosts thousands of bright flowers. At this time of year though, workers are out planting tulip bulbs and doing maintenance. I imagine other times of year this place is quite lively and brilliant. On my way here, I passed hundreds of children on bicycles riding home from school, singing, joking, and causing mischief. Their grandparents undoubtedly experienced the horrors of the Second World War. 

They say that you don't know freedom is until you have lived under "Occupation" and are liberated, something the Canadians played a role in, here in The Netherlands. I sometimes think that's why the Dutch do what they want and say what they want, with no regrets, just living free of apology.

Pilot Warren "Big Bob" Robert Zeller of Montreal was married to Janet Foster Zeller and the son of Walter P. Zeller, who founded the Zellers retail chain in Canada. "Big Bob" is buried next to his navigator Herbert Reginald Tribbeck of Great Britain. Together, they manned a de Havilland Mosquito. Apparently the same aircraft was almost destroyed by an enemy rocket while being flown by a different crew earlier in 1944. The damages seen in the photo below were repaired and it continued its journey in the war, until crashing at 11:40 p.m. on September 8th, 1944. 

Their damaged  Mosquito  from earlier in the war.

Their damaged Mosquito from earlier in the war.

"Big Bob" and his navigator were on a night mission to Vechta, Germany. Records say the crash was due to "very bad weather," and they were potentially struck by lightning which caused a bad landing into a field in Limmen, Netherlands. Their munitions exploded on landing, killing both. Their bodies were recovered by locals and buried two days later in the place I stood.

One of their aircraft's propeller blades between their resting places

One of their aircraft's propeller blades between their resting places

Painting by  Bram de Jong  featuring their Mosquito over Holland; Canadian "Big Bob" on left and the Englishman Herbert on right.

Painting by Bram de Jong featuring their Mosquito over Holland; Canadian "Big Bob" on left and the Englishman Herbert on right.

I rode my bicycle back home to Haarlem and upon doing my research find that these men flew for Squadron 418, "The City of Edmonton Squadron". As a proud Edmontonian, finding this information gives me goosebumps and some insight into what these men, whose graves I stand over, experienced in the war:

They did not fly in the protective swarms as did the other fighter or bomber crews; rather they ventured alone into the night’s sky to patrol the perimeters of the enemy’s airfields and shoot him down as he began his night raids.

418’s fame began to mount in 1943 when they converted to the DeHavilland Mosquito. They were the only Canadian unit given free rein to “intrude” into the enemy’s lair from the fjords of Norway, through the Mediterranean, to the steppes of Eastern Europe. They performed a multitude of roles that was unparalleled in the history of aerial warfare. These ranged from dropping money and supplies for clandestine operations, to the lightning quick strikes at grass-top height against railway yards and airfields. They were also in the fore in the defence against the new scourge of the civilian population - the V1 and V2 rockets.

It was during this period that 418 was adopted by the City of Edmonton and became known as the 418 City of Edmonton Squadron. The enemy was promptly notified of this change when bricks wrapped in issues of the Edmonton Journal were dropped during one of the subsequent raids. With the war’s end, 418 was the top fighter squadron in the RCAF and its units score was one of the highest in all the Allied Air Forces. The pilots and navigators were referred to as the “finest in the World”.

~ Brian

*Some information obtained from flight records at