December 2, 2019. This posting will be a guest posting by Robert O’Brien, who attended the unveiling of the memorial panel in Wons to honour Flight Sgt Elmer Muttart and the crew of the Halifax L9561. Robert is involved with a charity, The Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy (see https://www.churchillsociety.org/home/about-us/). On Friday, November 29, at its Annual Dinner, he shared the story of his recent trip to The Netherlands with the President and CEO of Historica Canada and actor RH Thomson, and presented them both with an English brochure, excerpted from the Dutch language booklet about the last flight of Halifax L9561 that was prepared by the Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation (see On The War Memorial Trail…..The Reception In Wons).
If you live in Canada, you will have seen one of the many Heritage Moments on TV, each one a short glimpse into an aspect of Canadian history (see https://www.historicacanada.ca/heritageminutes). R. H. Thomson (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._H._Thomson) is involved in The World Remembers 1914-1918 project (see https://www.everythingzoomer.com/arts-entertainment/2018/11/08/rh-thomson-the-world-remembers/).
Here is what Robert wrote in a report he entitled ‘The Memory of Elmer Muttart Lives On’: “The significance of Flight Sergeant Elmer Bagnall Muttart and the crew of Halifax 9561 who sacrificed so much so that others might live on October 12, 1941 continues to live on and be remembered. In Toronto on Friday November 29, 2019, at the 36th Annual Dinner of The Churchill Society, the story of Elmer Muttart and Halifax L9561 was shared again and remembered. The Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy holds its annual black tie dinner in Toronto to celebrate Churchill’s life and legacy and to reflect on the contributions countless men and women who fought and contributed to preserving democracy in World Wars I and II.
I was part of the delegation in Holland just seven weeks ago in Holland and as a Past President and director of The Churchill Society I shared and presented the special tribute brochure about Elmer Muttart and the crew of the Halifax bomber at the Dinner, which had been sent by Pieter and Daria Valkenburg. The brochure was presented to the keynote speaker Anthony Wilson-Smith, President and CEO of Historica Canada and noted Canadian political journalist and foreign correspondent.”
“Historica Canada has produced 98 ‘Heritage Moments’ which tell the story of important moments in Canadian history and each year reaches an audience of 27 million people. Mr. Smith showed the 250 in attendance at the Dinner three from the collection of Heritage Moments—a special tribute to Lucy Maud Montgomery filmed in PEI narrated by Past Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, the D-Day Tribute released this past June narrated by Peter Mansbridge, and finally a sneak preview of never seen before footage of a brand new special Heritage Moment commemorating the Liberation of the Netherlands on May 8, 1945. The video is still being edited and developed but the images the audience was able to see on November 29 were powerful—the struggle of the Dutch people, the arrest and detention of Jews and dissenters during the Occupation, the citizens gazing skyward to see Allied planes flying in the air to assist in taking back Holland, the bravery of the soldiers, the liberation of parades and presentation of tulips by grateful citizenry to the Dutch and the warm hospitality extended by the Dutch people to the Canadian soldiers. The video will not be completed and officially released until May 2020 and will be a film to look forward to.
Anthony, who was attending ceremonies at Hill 70 in Northern France last October when the Muttart commemoration was held, was appreciative to receive the special brochure and to hear the story of the bravery of Muttart and the crew of the Halifax L9561 bomber.
I also presented the brochure to talented and award-winning Canadian actor R H Thomson (well known for his roles as Matthew Cuthbert, Jasper Dale, and Dr Banting among many others) and the founder of a special project ‘The World Remembers 1914-1918’ whose mission for the past ten years has been to commemorate the men and women who died during World War I and to preserve their memory in Canada, throughout Europe, in schools and capitols around the world.”
“RH Thomson wrote the following day to express how much he appreciated reading the extraordinary story of Halifax L9561 and Elmer Muttart.
One last connection: The recipient of the annual Award for Excellence in the Cause of Parliamentary Democracy was former popular Mayor of Toronto and Member of Parliament for ten years, the Honourable David Crombie, who knew Elmer Muttart’s brother-in-law, the late Elgin Evans Coutts, also a pilot during World War II, who married Elmer’s sister Helen Muttart.”
Thank you to Robert O’Brien for sharing the story of Halifax L9561 at The Churchill Dinner and for taking the time to write the posting and send photos. It’s wonderful that one story about a name on the Cenotaph has resulted in so many remembrances. We look forward to seeing the Heritage Minute video about the Liberation of Holland. If you have photos or stories to share on the names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, please contact Pieter at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on the blog.
© Daria Valkenburg
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