The monument
The crash



75 Years after the air crash
a monument has been unveiled
in Westbeemster

They gave their lives for our freedom

Westbeemster, june 26th 2018

On June 26th, 2018, at the church square in Westbeemster it was commemorated that exactly 75 years ago the British Lancaster bomber ED 988 crashed in a nearby meadow. The seven crew members were killed or missed in action. One of the engines broke off after the bomber exploded and was catapulted 280 m away to the square. It came to a standstill to the wall of café-restaurant 'de Kerkhaen', reason for the working group Monument Aircrash Westbeemster to have the memorial plaquette mounted to that wall.

They lost their lives
Sgt. Leonard Bennett, RAF age 31
Sgt. Cyril Connah, RAF age 22
Sgt. John Dillon, RAF age 22
Sgt. Ronald William Mepsted, RAF age 20
F/S Leslie Jack Naile, RAAF age 27
P/O Charles Pharaoh Reynolds, RAF age 21
F/S Lawrence George Porritt, RNZAF age 21

More than a year ago a working group was erected. Nic van Baar became chairman, Vincent Falger secretary, Pieter Beemsterboer treasurer, and the PR was done by Geert Heikens and Mrs Erny van de Kleut. The website monumentaircrashwestbeemster.nl provides information on the progress and new information comes in regularly. The website has an English version.

  Before the unveilment ceremony could be started, a lot of work had be done, varying from regular meetings, searching for contacts, approaching of sponsors, writing of press releases and letters to official institutions. Falger organised a small exhibition of photographs and documents.

From 18.00 hrs on invited guests arrived and were provided with a copy of the programme. Here we see two of the guests, Mr Malcolm Mason MBE, chairman of the Royal Air Forces Association Amsterdam Branch, and Mr Jim Beattie, RAFA Standard Bearer, studying the programme.


At 19.00 hrs the two guards of honour had taken position before the still not unveiled monument. The stood there straight-backed with their heavy standards for nearly one and a half hours.

At about 19.30 hrs all guests and other interested people had taken seats. More than 150 chairs were positioned, but that wasn't enough and several tens of people had to stand. Then two bells of the neighbouring Saint Joan's church scattered their bronze sounds over the crowd. It became solemny silent.

And then, totally unexpected, there was humming in the distance, and two planes of the Edam Busters flew by. The public waited in silence for their return. It was an impressive moment and the tone was set for this special gathering.

Dr Kees de Groot, chairman of the Beemster Historical Society, acted as the master of ceremonies and said welcome to all present and announced those who would speech. Dr Vincent Falger told in a short speech about the history of the catastrophic bombing mission, and Mr Nic van Baar about the why and how of the erection of this monument. He gave credits to Mr Wim Kooijman, author of a book about the fate of the ED 988, as one of the instigators of the initiative to erect this monument. All speeches were in Dutch as well as in English.

Before the unveilment of the monument took place, the brass ensemble of the Royal Beemsters Fanfare played beautifully two compositions, Santo (arranged by Wim Klaver) and December 7th (by H. Zimmer). After the unveilment the ensemble played a medley of the Australian, British, New Zealand and Dutch national anthems. These musical settings contributed very much to the sacred atmosphere of this impressive occaision.


Then the unveilment itself
This was performed by Mr Jonathan Porritt, second cousin of Flight Sergeant Lawrence Porritt, mid upper gunner, Royal New Zealand Air Force, assited by Mr Nic van Baar, chairman of the working group Monument Aircrash Westbeemster.


Scottish inhabitant of Beemster, Mr Vince Calder, recited the 'Ode of Remembrance', and after that the Last Post was blewn by Mr Martin Stroet. In the following minute of silence only the birds and a cow in the distance could be heared.


Wreath laying
Of course, there were English poppy wreaths, next to wreaths and flowers of Dutch officials. They were positioned on the typical country side straw bales. The general public laid wild flowers, taken from the nearby World Garden, giving it a natural and colourful touch.

The ceremony was over. All present were invited for a drink in café 'de Kerckhaen'. A last picture of the floral tribute in the late evening sun told the story of a very successful, well organised gathering to honour the seven crew members of the crashed Lancaster ED 988. In remembrance for always!

Ode of Remembrance
('For the Fallen', Laurence Binyon, 1914)
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them

Ode of Remembrance
(‘For the Fallen’, Laurence Binyon, 1914)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.


Wreaths were laid by:

  • Mr J.Ch. van der Hoek, Loco-Commissioner to the King of the Province of North Holland
  • Mrs A.J.M. van Beek, burgomaster of the community of Beemster
  • Ms L. Walker, Ambassador of New Zealand to the Netherlands, together with Ms Andrea Humphrys, Senior Liaison Officer, Australian Ambassy
  • Sqn Leader Richard Dix, 100 Sqn RAF, on behalf of the Ambassador of United Kingdom
  • Colonel Olov Spanjer, on behalf of the Royal Dutch Air Force
  • Flying Officer Matt Magee, 100 Sqn RAF, on behalf of 100 Sqn
  • Mr Malcolm Mason MBE, Chairman Royal Air Forces Association Amsterdam Branch, together with Mr D.R. Williams, Chairman of the Royal British Legion Holland Branch
  • Working Group Monument Aircrash Westbeemster