Dutch memorial groups search for families of two Kirkcaldy airmen shot down in WW2
Two groups in the Netherlands are searching for the families of two fallen airmen from Kirkcaldy buried in their towns after being shot down while carrying out bombing missions to Germany during WW2.
Memorial and veterans associations from the towns of Montfoort and Harderwijk, have meticulously cared for the airmen’s final resting spots since the end of one of the bloodiest conflicts the world has seen.
Now, eight decades on, they are looking to track down any living relatives still in Kirkcaldy to let them know that the names of these young men have never been forgotten.
On Thursday, May 13, 1943, 24-year-old, RAF bomb aimer, Sergeant William Arthur Murray, from Kirkcaldy, took off from RAF Station Ridgewell, Essex, at 00:30 hours briefed to attack Duisburg, a city in Germany's Rhineland, in his Short Stirling bomber BF523, along with six crewmates.
Of the attacking force of 517 aircraft, a total of 1599 tons of high explosives were dropped on the city, but, while returning to base flying at roughly 7200 feet the aircraft was attacked by a German Bf110 night fighter and shot down.
It crashed into the IJsselmeer – a closed off inland bay in the central Netherlands - near Nijkerk at 03:28 hours, becoming the 41st aircraft to be downed that morning.
Sgt Murray was found later that month near Elburg on May 26, and laid to rest in Harderwijk Cemetery, Oostergaarde.
Ruud Slangen, a Royal Netherlands Army veteran and chairman of a Dutch veteran association, has been searching for the identities and families of the 45 allied airmen laid to rest in Harderwijk to be able to honour these men in a proper way.
He said: “I had the privilege to be present at the unveiling of the monument in the IJsselmeer in memory of the 117 fallen allied aircrew members that crashed in the vicinity of Harderwijk, in April 2012.
"During the ensuing years, no events took place at the location of that monument, no ceremonies - just the occasional flowers laid by unknown people, but nothing more.
"Raising this at one of our meetings, a local veteran mentioned 45 graves in the Oostergaarde Cemetery in Harderwijk.
"Originally there were 57 graves including those of 12 American airmen buried from the USAAF whose bodies were exhumed in 1946. Some went back to the USA, others were buried in American cemeteries in Belgium and the Netherlands.”
After travelling to Oostergaarde and talking to the cemetery caretakers, Ruud formulated a plan that he put into action at the next association meeting to honour these men.
"A permit from the council was requested, a piper and bugler were found, appropriate music was made available on a stereo system and national flags, wreaths, flowers etc. were organised.
"The first ceremony was scheduled for Saturday, November 12, 2016, and after evaluating the ceremony, a few questions came up, who were these men, where did they come from, what did they look like, what was the story behind their headstones?
"Of the 45 airmen, 35 were from the United Kingdom, five from Canada, one from New Zealand and one from South-Africa – the names and nationality of the other three is unknown.
"A search on the internet started and a local man came up with 13 pictures of individual airmen, and after one year of searching six were still not found.”
After discovering one of the airmen was from Kirkcaldy, Ruud reached out to the Fife Free Press to help him with his quest.
"I decided to use Facebook and posted on a page called Kirkcaldy Connected asking for possible relatives of Sergeant William Arthur Murray to find out who he was, and what happened during that flight of his Short Stirling bomber.
"The search goes on to let relatives know the names of these young men are not forgotten – the search goes on for the story behind a headstone.”
In February of the same year, another Kirkcaldy airman, RAF wireless operator/air gunner, Sergeant George Chirrey Adam, was shot down over the town of Blokland (now in the municipality of Montfoort) during the night of February 3-4, 1943.
He was just 26-years old.
George lived at 60 Dunnikier Road with his mother, Jeanne, where she stayed until around 1954.
The Memorial Committee of Montfoort, where Sgt Adam is laid to rest, is searching for for any living relatives of his in the Lang Toun or the surrounding area to honour him and his fallen crewmates.
Kees Bazuine, a member of Memorial Committee of Montfoort, said: “During the Second World War many British bombers flew over the Netherlands to bomb targets in Germany.
“For the crew this was a life-threatening undertaking as German night fighters were constantly on standby to attack British bombers.
“One of these bombers was the Short Stirling BF415, in which George Adam and seven of his colleagues flew back from Hamburg to their home base in Ridgewell UK, on the night of February 3-4, 1943.
“Over the hamlet of Blokland in the small town of Montfoort the bomber was downed by a German night fighter, after which it crashed on fire – all eight crew members were killed, including George.
“They were buried in the general cemetery here in Montfoort. The graves are well maintained and respected.
“As Memorial Committee of Montfoort we want now, after more than 78 years to realise a memorial at the place where the bomber crashed.
“We would also like to get in touch with still living relatives of the crew members – this in order to compile a publication and lesson plans for schools.
"We sincerely believe that the lives of this brave bomber crew should not be forgotten, and that a fitting memorial with information is the least the population of Montfoort can do.”