Dad had been in contact with Dutchman, Hille Oppedijk before he died. Hille was extremely interested in the crashed Stirling which came down on the night of the 7 June 1942 with my dad and the rest of the crew on board… not far from Blija.
Hille had contacted dad through someone else and they corresponded for a while about the plane and its crew. Hille had in his possession a flying helmet which he sent to dad… and it was this I found after dad’s death.
I thought it belonged to dad… and it was only after tracing Hille through one of the local papers, The Leeuwarden Courant, that I found out that it belonged to someone else… crew member Frank Henigman of the RCAF. I was instructed to look inside where I found, in very faded blue ink, the name of Frank who was the 2nd pilot on that night. I was SO disappointed… but I felt that I could no longer keep it!
If the family of Frank Henigman were going to feel as I’d felt holding what I thought was dad’s flying helmet… then it should go to them!
So, I set about tracing him through the RCAF and ex-RCAF in Canada… and after a while was able to make contact with his family with their help. I parcelled it up and sent it… in great trepidation as I didn’t want it to be lost on the way. It arrived safely and his daughter was able to send me some details of Frank’s life.
Part of me wishes I’d still got it… I’m sure that Hille feels the same… but it’s where it should be, with his family.