On Sunday 5th June Tony and I climbed aboard the plane that would take us to Amsterdam, Holland – en route to a place that has become very significant to me over the past few years.
We stayed overnight in Amsterdam meeting Ger Boogmans and having a memorable drinking session and conversation for a few hours. Ger is the representative of the Bomber Command Association The Netherlands and although we’d been in contact for some time this was our first actual meeting. I don’t think either of us was disappointed in the other and Tony and Ger also hit it off straight away.
The following lunchtime we boarded a train bound for Leeuwarden where we’d be staying for a couple of nights and upon arrival checked in and realised that another group of three folk who were checking in, too, were some more folk who’d come on this pilgrimage to Leeuwarden and our destination on the following day. We introduced ourselves to Richard, Joyce and Paul Earngey who had flown from Australia to be there. Richard’s father was Ted Earngey, the navigator on the crew of W7471 the night that she was shot from the sky in 1942. We said we’d see them later and dumped our bags deciding to explore the area for the afternoon.
We weren’t disappointed… the place is both historic and beautiful. The Leeuwarden tower dates back to the 16th century, I believe, and leans at a precarious angle not quite rivalling the rather more famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Further exploration revealed an old school, ancient almshouses, an old Jewish School and other beautiful buildings that have been preserved with care and obvious pride. I’d like to have spent longer there wandering through the by-ways but we knew that back at the hotel that evening we were going to meet some very special people.
At the appointed hour people started to arrive, Linda Macnamara, the daughter of Sidney Macnamara the flight engineer, the Earngey family came to join us, Mary Ghrist – from the Stirling Aircraft Society, and much, much later the large party of nine of Andrew Tayler, son of the pilot Norman ‘Buck’ Tayler with his sisters and various sons and in-laws.
Before they arrived Douwe Drijver, Alexander Tuinhout, Hille Oppedijk, Harry Feenstra and Sietse Kuiper walked into the lounge and introduced themselves to us all. Douwe explained what would be happening the following day, Alexander provided more details and Hille brought gifts for everyone and told us how honoured he was to meet with us all! We felt humbled by this… surely, they were the men who kept the memories of our fathers and men like them alive for the current generation who have only heard about what the allied forces did during that dark time. They formed and belong to the Stitchting Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation who work tirelessly to honour the men.
In another post I’ll write about what happened on the following day… for now you can meet the folk who made that day so memorable.