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Previous history of the monument

Up till now, there is nothing in Westbeemster to remind us of the largest wartime incident in the municipality of Beemster, North-Holland. However, already in 1947 Jan Scheringa Dirkszoon, the father of Jan Scheringa on whose land the airplane crashed, petitioned for a monument in commemoration of the seven men who were killed or listed missing in action.

Occasion was a letter which the Scheringa family received in January 1947, written by a certain Miss Jopie van Beek, living in Santpoort near Haarlem. A year earlier she, together with other people, visited the Scheringa’s and the crash site behind their farm. In her letter she writes that she has visited the parents of one of the victims of this crash – unfortunately she doesn’t mention a name – and that these parents expressed the wish to visist the location of the crash sometime in 1947. Important in this letter is the following quotation:

“Now it is the sad circumstance that this family, and probably also the families of the other young pilots who died in this crash, would expect a small sign of commemoration of the site where their loved ones lost their lives. I know that on the land of your son there is a spot where some remains have been buried. Would you please be so kind to write whether meanwhile somewhere, be it on the grave yard [next to the church] or at the location where the plane crashed, a sign has been placed in commemoration of these boys killed? If not, could you try to raise interest with the mayor for this, because I am sure you could understand how tragic it would be for fathers and mothers not to find a grave or anything else that looks like.”

January 12th, 1947, Jan Scheringa senior wrote a letter to the mayor of Beemster, Mr W.C. Ninaber. Also from this letter we quote:

“Several parts of a human body have been found by the germans [not: Germans] and have been buried on the land. An enormous amount of rubbish was spread over the land which we as much as possible have assembled. Among these some little portraits, a half-burned map, a part of an English letter, etc.
The undersigned would be obliged to hear your opinion on erecting somewhere a little sign of commemoration for these so sadly killed.”

The mayor’s answer came quickly and was clear enough. He said this was the first time he had heared about people who had been killed in this accident; so far he had received no official message about it. The Germans apparently did not contact the Dutch Red Cross. And then about a sign of commemoration:

“Regarding the erection of a sign of commemoration, there is the difficulty that no bodies were recovered which means that no certainty exists what persons have been buried on the spot. Best would be to restrict to a sign of commemoration of the accident itself, however such locations are numerous in our country and are already there in our municipality. It seems to me for the time being not advisable to start with placing such signs of commemoration.”

Seventyfive years later we think it is a pity that the initiative of Jan Scheringa has not been taken up, however, it is never too late to erect such a monument as yet.

There are two larger locations that do give attention to the victims of this crash. At the field of honour of the Nieuwe Oosterbegraafplaats in Amsterdam two allied grave stones with three names of killed airmen in Westbeemster who were buried here by the Germans on June 29th, 1943. Leonard Bennett, Ronald Mepsted and Lawrence Porritt and more than 300 other victims are remembered ceremonially here every year on Remembrace Day, November 11th. (J.H. Addison, the first name on the left stone, was also killed in an air accident on June 26th, 1943, but not in Beemster.)

The Beemster men missing in action – Cyril Connah, John Dillon, Jack Naile and Charles Reynolds – have been memorialised on the panels of the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey, United Kingdom, a monument to more than 20.000 airmen among the members of the Royal Air Force and of the Commonwealth. Via the internet these four names and all the others can be read at the website of the Runnymede Memorial. Of the men missing in action the names of their parents and where they lived have been recorded. Also their service numbers are given.

Neither in Amsterdam nor in Surrey is the location of this fatal incident mentioned. However, even after 75 years it is not too late to honour their remembrance clearly visible. The names of these young men must be remembered in perpetuity in recognition of their ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.