ALLIED AIRMEN












During many centuries (tens of) thousands deceased found their last resting-place at the churchyards of Ferwerderadeel. By far most of them were inhabitants of the towns and they were buried  by family and friends at the churchyard surrounding the church and thus in the center of their town. As from the early 19th century their names are usually known from the church registers or gravestones are present.

However, there is a different story to a small number of those who were buried then being an inhabitant of Ferwerderadeel. They were not born in any of the towns nor did they ever lived in the municipality. In fact they had never been there. At the most they may have taken a peek from above and saw the coast-line of the Waddenzee and the small towns behind the dike. Until WorldWar II ended their lifes all of a sudden. On their way to or returning from a bombing-mission in Germany their planes crashed on land or in the sea. In latter case it could last for months before their corps washed ashore making identification sometimes impossible. The airman would be buried at the churchyard near the church in a grave of "an unknown soldier". The townfolks then took care of the grave as if one of their own relatives was buried there. For example, in Hallum the towncommunity placed a cross on the grave of an unknown English aviator.
After the war was over, a search for the name of an unknown soldier was sometimes successfull and could the relatives be informed enabling them to visit the grave.

As far as it is known eight allied airmen were buried in Ferwerderadeel during 1940-1945. They all were crew-members and were killed during a mission and as a direct consequence of the war. Three of them were buried at the churchyard of the Dutch Reformed Church in Hallum while one was buried at the churchyard of  Blija:

1)                 Unknown soldier

His body washed ashore on June 25, 1940 at the "Noorderleeg" (literally: "Northern emptyness") a lowland area at the outside the sea-dike near Hallum. Very little is known about him. In a letter from the mayor of Ferwerderadeel to the authorities in The Hague regarding the maintenance of the grave, it reads:
"Only the following information is known to us: his nationality is probably English (is be sure), was most likely an aviator (a booklet showing some figures, perhaps flight-hours, was in his possession) and no identity disk was found".
The unknown soldier was buried on June 26, 1940 at the graveyard of the Dutch Reformed church in Hallum (row 32, # 1). In his letter the mayor also mentions that the towncommunity "has placed a decent cross" on his grave and that "the grave was bought for 14 years with the option to buy it indefinite for fl. 20,- "

2)                 Robert Arthur Conrad Draper

            He was a Canadian airforce-officer and the son of Arthur George and Mrs. Ada Draper, from Vancouver (British Columbia) in Canada. His aircraft (a Lockheed Hudson bomber) crashed in the sea on April 18, 1942 west of Den Helder. The body of the 20-year young Robert Draper washed ashore near Ferwerd on July 12, 1942 and was buried the next day - "in the late afternoon of Monday July 13, 1942 at about five o'clock" - with military honor at the Hallumer churchyard (row 32, # 1A).
In his report municipal-constable Tjeerd Joustra mentions that Robert Draper was indentified by a German doctor by means of his indentity disk showing R.M. 7493. Some belongings such as "a steel watch and a wallet with money" were confiscated by the German authorities.

3)                 David Thomson Stanners

He was 21 years of age and a sergeant-aviator. His plane (a Vickers Wellington) did not return from a bombing-flight on Bremen on June 25, 1942. David Stanners' body washed ashore at the "Noorderleeg" near Hallum on July 12, 1942. He was buried at the same time as Robert Draper at the churchyard of Hallum (row 32, # 1B), also with military honor.
The report of his death mentions that on his body "a paper was found stating, as far as it could be read, that he was an English Sergeant Airman named Stanners". No more information was available "since the paper had become illegible due to the effect of the seawater".

4)                 Unknown soldier

His body was found on July 14, 1942 on the Frisian lowland at the seaside of the dike near Ferwerd. No identification was found nor could a German doctor who examined the body "with the assistance of two lower classified Germans" identify the body "because no marks were found". Thus his name remained unknown. In the report of constable Sijbe Leestma from Blija an accurate description is given of how this unknown airman was dressed:
"He wore a life-jacket crossed by straps of a parachute, grey overall, brown leather jacket, grey wool uniform with three chevrons of silver, black sweater over a khaki shirt with a collar and a black tie".
Further he had sailcloth-boots on with burned soles. His possessions, which were confiscated by the German authorities, were a golden watch, a wallet with English pounds, a cigaret-case and a lighter.
The unknown, most likely English, airman was buried with military honor on Thursday July 16, 1942 "in the late afternoon at about four o'clock" at the churchyard of Blija (row 23, # 8) on the southside of the church  (1)

(1)  He may be 37-year old Gordon Lake, crew-member of the plane of David Stanners (”Namen uit het verleden, herinneringen nu”, Hille Oppedijk e.a. 2005).

                                                                                                                                             ***
 

At the churchyard of the Dutch Reformed church in Ferwerd also three airmen were buried. They were members of the crew of an American B-17 bomber. After an attack on the harbor of Emden the plane crashed on a piece of grassland northwest of Ferwerd. Five crew-members were found. Doctor A.H. Smit from Ferwerd was able to treat two of them but the other three were found dead:

5)                 John E. Gallo

He was identified based on the identity disk which read:
                             John E Gallo
                             12142299 T42 43 A
                             Marie Gallo
                             2391 37 TH. ST.
                             Astoria L.I. N.Y. C.
After his body - along with the other two bodies - was released by the German authorities, it was instantly taken care of by the municipality of Ferwerderadeel, placed in a coffin and transported to the churchyard of Ferwerd awaiting the funeral. On Monday December 13, 1943 at 09:30 a.m. John Gallo, Augusto Pereira and Arthur Klemp were buried at the churchyard of Ferwerd (row 36a, # 1), north of the churchtower. In October 1945 the remains of John Gallo were transferred to the U.S.A. for re-burial.

6)                 Augusto Pereira

He could not be identified immediately due to the missing disk. However, a note from the municipality to the Dutch Red Cross learns that on December 14 the German military airbase "Fliegerhorst Leeuwarden" had been able to identify him, based on the logbook, as Augusto Pereira (registration # 11110850).
Along with his fellow-crewman Pereira was buried at the Ferwerder churchyard (row 36a, # 2).
In October 1945 the remains of Augusto Pereira were re-buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten (plot N, row 22, grave 16).


7)                 Arthur E. Klemp

  Like John Gallo he could be identified by means of his identity disk:
                             Arthur E Klemp
                             36253377 T.42 33A
                             Ruth E. Klmp
                             R I. I
                             Ripon Wisconsin P.
Arthur Klemp too was buried at the same time and along with both his fellow-crewmembers at the churchyard of Ferwerd (row 36a, # 3).
In October 1945 his remains were re-buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten (plot O, row 21, grave 12).

8)                 Arne O. Bergum

On Sunday afternoon, May 7, 1944 notice was given to the mayor that a body of an airman had washed ashore at the lowlands close to the farm of the Andree family near Ferwerd. Next day the matter was investigated and as it appeared the body was of an American aviator who had been reported "missing in action" since December 22, 1943 after his B24 bomber had crashed in the Waddenzee, east of the isle of Texel.
His identity disk showed the following:
                             Arne O Bergum
                             0-747568 T43-43 O
                             Fred O Bergum
                             Box 10
                             Sanders Mont P.
His body was taken to the mortuary at the churchyard of Westernijkerk where it was buried on Wednesday May 10, 1944 at 04:00 p.m. (row A, below # 11).
In October 1945 the remains of Arne Bergum were also re-buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten (plot P, row 4, grave 17)

In the "statement of killed allied soldiers" dated April 27, 1945 it is noted that all the abovementioned airmen were buried in the presence of a minister and the mayor and that all known information had been passed on immediately to the Dutch Red Cross.

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In his report "regarding the crash of an airplane near Ferwerd" policeman Bauke Reitsma states that on Saturday December 11, 1943 at about 12:45 hours he was at the Lage Herenweg in Blija when:
"at the time and location as mentioned, I saw in the direction of Ferwerd an airplane gliding rapidly downwards untill it went out of my sight to the Northwest of Ferwerd, behind the sea-dike. Instantly after it disappeared I saw a blaze rising from behind the sea-dike, soon followed by heavy, black smoke from which I concluded that the plane that just had crashed must had caught fire". 
Reitsma rushed by bicycle to the fire and arriving at the sea-dike noticed "that a large airplane, probably in an attempt to make an emergency landing, had crashed on a piece of grassland  behind the sea-dike, been torn apart and partly burned. Parts of the plane and it's equipment were scattered all over while I found five crew-members lying in between the wreckage.
Next, Reitsma made sure that a doctor, the mayor and his commanding officer were informed, in the meantime keeping people at a distance. Once the mayor and doctor Smit from Ferwerd had arrived "latter ascertained that three airmen were dead whereas the other two were wounded and treated by the doctor. German soldiers who had arrived also, told me that my presence was no longer required after which I left".
The wounded - A.G. Laney and D.J. Miller - were taken by the Germans to the Bonifatius Hospital in Leeuwarden. Laney was slightly wounded and was taken prisoner-of-war. He did survive the war. The badly wounded Miller died on his way to the hospital and was buried at the "Noorderbegraafplaats" in Leeuwarden.
Bauke Reitsma also mentions that "after getting permission from the Germans the three sheep who were killed due to the plane crash were removed by the owner (Andries Franses Steegstra) and taken to the butchery in Ferwerd".

***

Police-officer Tjeerd Joustra reported about "two parachutists, probably from an American airplane" at Hallum. On December 11, 1943 at about 13:30 hours he was informed that "just before a parachutist had landed near Hallum. I went to the location immediately and in the house of Alle Dijkstra, laborer near Hallum at # 466 and well-known to me,  I encountered an American parachutist who was taken there, wounded, by some laborers".
Joustra was ordered by the local commanding officer of the German Airforce who had arrived in the meantime, to go to the farm of H. Faber along with a couple of soldiers. There a second parachutist was found. "This one could not walk. However, on a bicycle and in between two persons he was transported to the home of abovementioned Dijkstra". This way of transportation was necessary because the ambulance couldn't get to Faber's farm whereas Dijkstra's house was alongside a metalled road.

Joustra ascertained that the two men were 24-year Robert E. Beatty from Pennsylvania and 21-year old J.B. Kernochan from New York.
"According to statements of witnesses both men jumped off an American bomber which crashed elsewhere in the municipality and burned down".
After been treated by doctor Manuel from Marrum both wounded airmen were transported by the Germans in an ambulance to another location (most likely Leeuwarden).


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Finally the crash of an American B-17 bomber in the fields near Marrum on August 24, 1944. Nine of the ten crew-members have been missed ever since. It may be possible that the complete crew jumped off the plane while flying over the isle of Schiermonnikoog but that is not sure at all. Only one of them washed ashore at the coast near Wierhuizen in the province of Groningen and he was identified as 2e lieutenant E.R. Bromage.
Constabulary sergeant W. Kuipers wrote in his report that on August 24, 1944 at about 13:45 hours in the fields near Marrum "a four-engined  airplane, probably an American bomber, had crashed in the grassland about 75 meters behind the farm where Ruurd Riegstra lives".
"The plane crashed in such a way that most of it pierced into the ground and it caught fire instantly. A considerable part of the grassland was covered with wreckage. Hardly anything at all was left of the airplane while there were no bodies of crew-members. Even though the weather was quite clear there had been no sign of any parachutists coming down so it must be assumed that the crew-members were burned to ashes in the plane ór they had jumped off before the plane entered our municipality. German soldiers from Marrum were already present when I arrived and had already secured the area. With the exception of the crew, no other persons were wounded or killed while any damage was only to the field where the plane had crashed".


After the war a few attempts were made to recover the airplane but - apart from a propeller-blade - they were not successful. At the same time no remains or belongings of the crew were found. Alltough their names are known it is still uncertain whether they found their last restingplace in a field of grassland near Marrum or perhaps somewhere else, like in the Waddenzee.

 


 



Sources:


-   Archive of the municipality Ferwerderadeel: Summary dated April 27, 1945 of allied soldiers buried in Ferwerderadeel.


-   Various reports of the municipal police of Ferwerderadeel and the constabulary
of the province of Groningen, dept. Dokkum, sub Ferwerderadeel.


-   Hille Oppedijk and Harry Feenstra : “Namen uit het verleden, herinneringen nu”.


-   Website Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten.



©   Stichting Erfskip Terpdoarpen
      Andries Dijkstra