View Full Version : Dutch unearth Wellington

2nd Oct 2002, 15:08
Nice to see that nearly 60 years later some people still remember.

The Times - October 02, 2002

Dutch unearth war heroes' bomber
By Charles Bremner

A SEVEN-YEAR hunt has unearthed the wreckage of a wartime Wellington bomber in fields near Amsterdam, together with the well preserved remains of three Canadian crew members.

Details of the find were disclosed by the Dutch authorities yesterday after the three men’s families were notified that their RAF 428 Squadron bomber had been found. It crashed on May 5, 1943.

The Wellington, under the command of Warrant Officer Benjamin Moulton, 30, of the Royal Canadian Air Force, was shot down at 2am by a Messerschmitt 110 fighter as it returned to its base in Yorkshire, from a 600-aircraft raid on Dortmund.

Moulton, from Brockville, Ontario, was regarded as a local hero because witnesses said that at the last minute he steered the stricken aircraft away from Wilnis, 11 miles south of Amsterdam, as it descended in flames towards the town.

Captain Hans Spierings, of the Air Force recovery unit, said that the pilot’s action had probably cost him his life: “The people in the town all say that Moulton stayed in the plane to avoid hitting the town and this still has a great impression on the citizens. In their mind, Moulton was a hero.”

Two crew members bailed out and were taken prisoner, but Moulton and Flight Sergeants Joseph White and Joseph Thibaudeau, both 21, went down with the aircraft near Wilnis. Parts of Moulton’s body were found at the time and buried in a local cemetery, but the other two men were listed as missing.

The Wellington was brought up last week by an excavation team from the Royal Dutch Air Force. It was lying more than 12ft deep in a peat bog in a reclaimed field below sea-level.

The operation was the climax of a drive launched in 1995 by a group of local residents to find the remains of the bomber that narrowly missed their village in 1943. In a campaign that attracted national attention, the group fought an initial refusal by the local authorities to allow the search and the building of a monument. Captain Spierings said: “When we found the remains, it was a moment of emotion for me. These men were my colleagues — they, too, were in the Air Force.”

Jan Rouwenhorst, a history teacher who set up the foundation to find the Wellington, said yesterday that the aim had been to honour men who died fighting for freedom.

“We knew human remains were inside. We thought it our moral obligation towards our liberators 60 years later for them to have a grave known to their families.”

The foundation raised money from local and central government and lobbied to convince the State to authorise the search and the excavation.

The wreckage was located on September 2 and the digging took three weeks. Among the items found was a map of the South of England. “When we opened it, it said, ‘Areas dangerous for flying in are not indicated on this sheet,’ ” Mr Rouwenhorst said.

Among other items retrieved were a pair of unused silk parachutes, phosphorous incendiary bombs, machineguns and ammunition.

A ruler with the name of Sergeant Gordon Carter, the navigator, was also found. Carter and Sergeant Harvey Hodinott, the radio operator, survived the war in a prison camp. Carter returned to Canada and Hodinott settled in Scotland. Both have since died.

The peat bog had ensured that the human remains of the crash victims were identifiable, Mr Rouwenhorst said. He added that unlike other hunters of wartime wrecks, his group was not interested in the wreckage itself.

The relatives of White, from Thorold, Ontario, and Thibaudeau, from St Eustache near Montreal, are still absorbing the news. Samuel White, 75, recalled how his underage younger brother had persuaded his mother to sign a consent form to let him go to war. “My mother died a thousand deaths,” Mr White said. “She cried every day for years until she died. She blamed herself.”

Mr White hopes that his brother will be reburied near the spot where his aircraft went down. “That’s where he’s been for nearly 60 years.”

Serge April, the Canadian Ambassador to the Netherlands, said that the men would be buried with all honours, “fitting for what they did and how they died”.

2nd Oct 2002, 16:30
The Dutch nation as a whole seem to have an uncommonly decent attitude towards those who fell on their soil - earlier this year I visited Guy Gibson's grave in Steenbergen. He's buried next to his navigator (James Warwick) and a local couple look after the grave, keeping it neat and tidy and even laying flowers regularly. The are where his Mosquito crashed is now an industrial estate, and the streets there have appropriate names - Dambusterstraat, Gibsonstraat, Warwickstraat, Mosquitostraat... and explanatory plaques at several points too.

Iron City
2nd Oct 2002, 18:37
Seems like these brave fellows could do a lot worse than the local cemetary with their PIC. Makes a little corner of a foreign field always a little bit of Canada, doesn't it.

3rd Oct 2002, 03:49
Thanks for posting that ORAC. It's very touching to know that after all this time the Dutch still have such a truly decent attitude toward those who fought and died in a war so far from home.:(

The Dutch homage to fallen Canadians is in stark contrast to the appalling ignorance shown by Canadian Minister of Defence. Recently, during the ceremonies commemorating the WWII raid on Dieppe, he admitted that he'd never heard of the fiasco. When a national newspaper questioned his qualifications to hold the post of Defense Minister, he replied with a letter in which he mentioned the Canadian war memorial at Vichy. Ignorant sod.:mad:

Lu Zuckerman
3rd Oct 2002, 04:36
I don’t know if I have my facts straight as at 71 years of age it is difficult to get anything straight.

I believe the raid on Dieppe was documented in a book called Green Beach. A team of Canadian commandos was charged to determine the capabilities of the Germans relative to RADAR. They had a RADAR site located on a cliff overlooking the English Channel. The term fiasco was used by Pigboat in the previous post. And a fiasco it was due primarily to poor reconnaissance prior to starting the mission. I say this because my son and I visited the site of the action. I could not believe the number of concrete machinegun pill boxes guarding the approaches to the RADAR site and to top that off the troops had to march across a small bridge which was a choke point and all of the machineguns were sited in on that bridge.

When we visited the site the cliff had eroded and the RADAR installation had dropped onto the beach. The back of the building had broken and it was partially submerged at high tide. The walls were concrete and brick and were about four feet thick.

Included in the attack team was a Canadian electronics specialist who was to make the determination of the Germans’ technical level. He happened to be Jewish and the team was told to shoot him if capture was imminent.

Most of the Canadian deaths took place on the bridge both going to and coming from the RADAR site.

The Canadian Government has created along with the French inhabitants of Dieppe a memorial to the fallen soldiers.

3rd Oct 2002, 16:30
While this is getting off thread, I believe that the majority of the casualties sustained at Dieppe were Canadian and were on the beach itself. The South Saskatchewan Regiment was annihilated.

If I remember the story correctly the electronic specialist was Jack Nissen, a Flight Sergeant in the RCAF. I have heard that, although he never accepted a commission, he made a contribution to the radar war quite out of proportion to his rank.

He was still alive up to a few years ago.