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Vinkel and Kaathoven Memorial

On June 22/23, 1943 in a field close to the village of Kaathoven, Netherlands, a Halifax, DK141 ZL-N, of 427 Squadron was intercepted and shot down by a German nightfighter. The previous night another Halifax of 158 (RAF) Squadron was destroyed mid-air and wreckage fell approximately 20m from that of the 427 aircraft. Sgt. Jim Spencer, the Flight Engineer, of the 427 aircraft was the only crew member to survive. He was later captured and finished the war as a POW. All other crew members perished.

158 Royal Air Force Squadron Crew

Crew Position Rank Name Age Home
Pilot P/O C.H. Robinson 25 RNZAF
2nd Pilot Sergeant E.H. Fisher 21 RAF
Flight Engineer Sergeant S.G.B. Hayes 24 RAF
Wireless Operator Sergeant H.F. Barham 22 RAF
Navigator Sergeant G.A. Hill 21 RAF
Bomb Aimer Sergeant W.T. Dunning 33 RAF
Mid-Upper Gunner Sergeant D.D. Cuthbert 28 RAF
Rear Gunner Sergeant G.B. Mycock 20 RAF

427 Royal Canadian Air Force Squadron Crew

Crew Position Rank Name Age Home
Pilot Flight Sergeant J.D. Hamilton 22 RCAF
Flight Engineer Sergeant J.A. Spencer(POW) 24 RCAF
Wireless Operator Sergeant N.G. Whiting 21 RAF
Navigator Warrant Officer II J.J. Reansbury 22 RCAF
Bomb Aimer Sergeant G.D. Sharp 25 RAF
Mid-Upper Gunner Flight Sergeant G.L. Tyrone RCAF
Rear Gunner Flight Sergeant P.J.A. Dennis RCAF

Seventy years later, these two events, the crews of the downed aircraft and the gratitude of the Dutch people were memorialized by a ceremony and unveiling of a memorial close to the two crash sites. The dedication was part of a full day of remembering.

Parts of both aircraft were discovered by Adrian Zantvoort assisted by Ton Bosmans and Ebert van Wanrooj . Restrictions on recovering aircraft parts for identification were placed by the farmers owning the two fields. Crops took first priority. Adrian is a Bomber Command amateur Historian and has done extensive research on wartime crashes in the South Eastern part of Holland. He has an archive which contains 250 files with details on aircraft, crews, operation and accounts of witnesses and ex crewmembers. He was the driving force to honour the 427 and 158 Squadron crews with a memorial.

Recovery and identification of the aircraft parts led to further investigation and identification of the crew names and later when the memorial was a reality he identified the relatives and issued an invitation to attend the unveiling. However, only UK residents were able to attend.

His next step , aided by others interested in his project, was to involve the local authorities. On Saturday June 22, 2013 he organized with their financial and supportive participation a day of remembering.

Along with British relatives, Major Fleming and Pvt. Laura Sharpe from 427 Squadron were able to attend . The New Zealand ambassador, British Attache and F/Sgt Johnson from the Canadian embassy in Brussels were also in attendance.

The full day planned for the Memorial dedication had many emotional but proud moments. The day began with a bus tour of the surrounding country side with a commentary from our guide, a local retired Headmaster, meneer Hombergh. We commenced in Vinkel at the grave site of a local Resistance fighter killed in 1944. Several wartime sites were also visited and we stopped at the site where the 501 Parachute Division were mistakenly dropped in Operation Market Garden. The tour was followed by a church service conducted by a young priest accompanied by a beautiful choral presentation by a large local choir. This service and the unveiling of the memorial later was dedicated to the people of Vinkel who lost their lives in WW II.

Participating in the service were the local retired Headmaster, our bus guide later, the Mayor and the visiting dignataries as well as relatives and town citizens. All of the service was conducted in Dutch followed by an English translation. As we left the church, the local band led us to the memorial unveiling and as the memorials were unveiled the church bells rang out across the town.

Then it was off to lunch. The sponsored lunch took place at a very nice local restaurant after which we were driven to Kaathoven, the site of the memorial to the crews. It was moving to see that the site was already well attended by local people, young and old. They stood in silence awaiting the ceremony. At the bottom of a street, a block away from the memorial, the priest, relatives and dignataries, formed up and walked to the memorial site. Over a hundred of nearby village and town people joined in the parade to the memorial.

Although the memorial service was not lengthy, it was respectful and dignified. On a table in front of a simple memorial, people from the area had laid their own wreathes and crosses. Additionally wreathes were laid by the dignataries. Adrian Zantvoort then spoke to the crowd in English,

"These were ordinary men and ordinary people like you and me but they did extraordinary things and we should be grateful to them for their sacrifice"

The priest then blessed the memorial with these words,

"Bless this place and the fate of these men who fought for our freedom."

To link 70 years to 2013, a reading by a young Dutch teen concluded the ceremony which was then followed by a Fly Past of a twin engine (looked like a Cornell)and a Harvard l0ok alike.

We were then welcomed to a farm adjacent to the site where a large tent had been erected since the weather was cold and somewhat blustery. Coffee and very tasty cupcake desserts were served for all who had attended the ceremony. Inside the farmhouse, a video screening room had been set up and the story , as a documentary, of the two downed aircraft was shown. Several of the older town people began animated discusssions with the visitors in a mixture of Dutch and English regarding their memories of the crashes as well as the recovery efforts.

The day ended with an offer for relatives to select a memento from a table which displayed pieces that had been recovered from the aircraft .

It was a generous gesture by the Dutch organizers to show their appreciation for the part played by these British and Canadian crew members. It was a proud moment to realize that 70 years later an RCAF and RAF crew was still being recognized as being a part of the fight for freedom.

Adrian after checking my report, kindly advised me that credit should be clarified regarding others invloved in this wonderful event.
"The town councillor Mr. Rini van de Ven was responsible for the Hotel Nuland special rate. He was also responsible for arranging the financing of the memorials. Mr. and Mrs. Brouwers(where we met after the memorial ceremony at Kaathoven) was responsible for the drinks, cakes, and gardening around the memorial. I designed the memorial helped by Mr. Peter Naylor and my son Colin was responsible for the design of the infoboard. I tracked and got in touch with all the relatives, Embassies, yourself and Maj. Gary Fleming of 427 Squadron and I arranged the Fly Past. Ebert van Wanroij, Hans Brouwers, Carlo van Nistelrooij and myself are responsible for the entire memorial."

Photos from Vinkel and Kaathoven

More information on Adrian von Zantvoort

427 Squadron Operations Report, June 22/23, 1943

Fourteen aircraft were detailed for a bombing attack on MULHEIM. W/Cmdr Burnside returned early due to gyro trouble and F /Sgt Higgins returned after crossing the Dutch Coast due to Navigation trouble. Of the other twelve aircraft, only eight aircraft returned safely. The other four aircraft are listed as missing. The aircraft were piloted by F/Lt Webster, P/O Cadmus, Sgt Hamilton and F/O Reid and their loss will be surely missed in this Squadron since they were an integral part of our Squadron's life.

Operations Routing June 22