The Elmer Bagnall Muttart Story

2004.8 Harlingen June 001

Photo: Muttart’s grave in Harlingen  (Photo courtesy of Pam Alexander collection)

July 28, 2017.  The story of WWII pilot Elmer Bagnall Muttart from Cape Traverse, who saved the Dutch village of Wons and his crew after being shot down in October 1941, touches the heart of everyone who hears about it.  For Pieter, it’s an especially relevant story, given his Dutch roots.  As he explained when this project first began, “I was born during the Hunger Year of 1944, when there was little or no food.  So many people starved to deathThe Canadians not only liberated us from Nazi rule, they saved us from starvation.

The research into this story began in October 2016. Shortly after the first article about the project appeared in the County Line Courier, Ralph Muttart brought us a posting from 2011 on Flickr photo sharing from Harlingen, written by bed and breakfast owner Richard Merkx.  There was a photo of Muttart’s grave in Harlingen, and Merkx had written: “About 5 years ago, an English gentleman and his daughter came and stayed at our bed and breakfast ‘Het Kapiteinhuis’ in Harlingen.  His surname was (Flight Sergeant) Alexander and he was the navigator on the plane piloted by Mr. Muttart.  They were shot down by a German nightfighter over Harlingen 13/10/1941.  The whole crew could bail out because the pilot stayed with the plane until the last moment, thus avoiding crashing into the village of Wons and killing many innocent people.  We took Mr. Alexander to the Harlingen Cemetery to pay his respects, an emotional moment for him as he had wondered all his life where his Pilot had been buried.  According to the many people around Pingjum (where Mr. Alexander landed by parachute) and Wons, it was a heroic act by the Pilot that saved his crew and the citizens of the village.

This was enough to get Pieter’s interest and he got in touch with Mr. Merkx, who in turn put him in touch with Pam Alexander, the daughter of the now deceased Mr. Alexander.  Then we learned that Muttart’s sister Helen was still alive, and contact was established with her as well.  We then learned of historians in The Netherlands doing research on the planes that crashed during WWII and Bauke Posthuma was kind enough to share some of his findings.  Pieter ordered a book from The Netherlands, a diary kept by schoolteacher Mr. De Boer, and published as “History of Wildinghe” in Dutch (Dutch title: ‘Van Wildinghe’s Historie’), in which he recorded the events of October 12, the night of the plane crash. It was like peeling an onion.  With each layer that unfolded in this story, it became clear that Muttart was a hero.

Next, the non-profit Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation in The Netherlands and the non-profit Tryon & Area Historical Society here on Prince Edward Island partnered to raise funds for a memorial plaque to be placed in Wons, The Netherlands in October 2018.

We hope you enjoy this very special fourth article that ran in July 2017, “The PEI Pilot Who Saved A Dutch Village” in the County Line Courier.    CLC July 19 p20 WWII Pilot Saved Dutch Village

Following the publication of this article, CBC PEI interviewed Pieter about Muttart and this project, and that’s the subject of the next blog entry.

If you have photos or documents you’d like to share, please email them to  Comments or stories?  You can share them by email or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

17 thoughts on “The Elmer Bagnall Muttart Story

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  8. I remember that night of Oct. 12-13 1941 very well. We lived in Tjerkwerd, now in Halifax Canada.
    At the time we did not know the details. But a couple of months ago I was in contact with the owner of the tall ship “Wylde Swan” from Makkum for some information about the 75 Anniversary of the Liberation. I received also a link about that crash, We also met a far relative of Elmer’s when I told the story about that crash. This was news to them. It is a small world.


    • Dear George,
      Thank you for your comments. We would be very interested to hear more about what you remember of that night of October 12-13, 1941! If you haven’t already seen our short documentary about the memorial panel placed in Wons to honour Flight Sgt Elmer Muttart and the crew of Halifax L9561 this past October, here is the link:
      It is a small world indeed.
      Pieter and Daria


      • Dear Peter and Daria,

        Thank you for getting back to me. Thank you for the link. I also received all the information from the owner of the tall ship de Wylde Swan from Makkum. We also met a far relative a couple of weeks ago here in Halifax. We immigrated to Canada in 1951 through Pier 21. For the past 11 years I have been a tour guide at the Pier 21 museum. If you put my name on Google you will find some interesting items. How I met a war veteran who was one of my liberators etc, etc. Also google Liberation75Lesson1. The Dutch embassy in Ottawa put it on the internet for Canadian schoolchildren. I will be speaking at Govnt. House in Halifax on March 31 and Hope to mention Flight Sgt. Muttart.

        May 5 we have a big do in Halifax about the 75 Liberation. If you come to Halifax sometime, love to meet you.

        As far as the night the plane came down I well remember, but do not have any other details except that my father said when the plane flew by it was as if the air was sucked out of the house and then the noise when it hit ground.



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