October 15, 2019. Over the past few years, plans for a memorial panel outside the village of Wons in The Netherlands to honour WW2 pilot Flight Sgt Elmer Bagnall MUTTART and the crew of Halifax L9561 have been underway. On October 12, 2019, the day of the unveiling of the memorial panel finally arrived, with a series of events organized by the Stichting Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation, a non-profit volunteer organization based in the province of Friesland! (See Unveiling of the Memorial Panel for Downed WW2 Plane Halifax L9561 in Wons)
Before the unveiling of the memorial panel in Wons, however, we went to Harlingen, with the first stop at the Harlingen General Cemetery where Muttart is buried.
The weather was very inclement, but luckily the rain held off while we were at the cemetery. Two members of the Royal Canadian Legion in The Netherlands were present to lay a wreath.
In addition to the wreath placed by the Royal Canadian Legion, flowers had been placed earlier on behalf of Pam Alexander and her sister Carolyn Moncur, whose father Reg Alexander was the navigator on Halifax L9561. The family of David Cotsell, flight engineer on Halifax L9561, placed a small cross. Flower bouquets were also placed by Pieter and Daria Valkenburg, Annie Lee and Elmer MacDonald, and Don Coutts, nephew of Elmer Muttart, on behalf of the Coutts family.
Don Coutts, nephew of Elmer Muttart, placed small flags of Canada and Prince Edward Island by his uncle’s grave. In memory of Elmer Muttart’s birthplace of Cape Traverse and his ancestor Lewis Muttart, who was the owner and captain of the Cape Traverse ice boat, Lori Eggert brought a T-shirt saying ‘Cape Traverse Ice Boat Crew’.
In addition to the families of the British crew members, ten Canadians made the trip to The Netherlands. The Canadian contingent gathered behind the grave of Elmer Muttart for a group photo. Flying proudly behind Elmer Muttart’s grave were the flags of Canada and Prince Edward Island.
Flight Sgt Elmer Muttart is not the only Canadian buried in Harlingen General Cemetery. There are 9 more known servicemen, and two unidentified servicemen. While we were there, Pieter, with the help of Alexander Tuinhout and Sietse Kuiper of the Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation, placed a Canadian flag at the graves of the two unknown Canadians and at each of these graves:
- William Raymond James BROWN, died September 29, 1941
- Donald Edward CAMPBELL, died June 26, 1943
- Francis Arthur DAVIEAUX, died July 14, 1945
- James MCDOWELL, died May 16, 1943
- Murray Hudley NESBITT, died May 13, 1943
- John Beverley PLEASENCE, died July 22, 1942
- William Maurice POPPLESTONE, died March 26, 1942
- Thomas ‘Tommy’ Clayton REID, died July 22, 1945
- Robert WISHART, died July 22, 1942
The ceremonies at the Harlingen General Cemetery over, we next went to the museum for lunch and presentations.
A big thank you goes to the caretakers at Harlingen General Cemetery for arranging the flags for this special memorial visit. Thank you also to the Office of Senator for Prince Edward Island Mike Duffy for providing the flag of Canada, and to Borden-Kinkora MLA Jamie Fox, Minister of Fisheries and Communities, for providing the flag of Prince Edward Island.
If you have information to share about the Canadian soldiers buried in Harlingen General Cemetery, please contact Pieter at email@example.com or comment on the blog.
© Daria Valkenburg