December 26, 2021. Social distancing and the threat posed by the omicron variant altered many of the activities we like to participate in during the holidays. In The Netherlands, a Christmas Eve tradition is to light candles by the graves of Allied soldiers and Dutch resistance fighters who are buried in one of the War Cemeteries or in a municipal cemetery. For the second year in a row, the annual event still occurred, but without the public.
…A corrected gravestone for Barney Reuben McGuigan….
Alice van Bekkum, Chair of the Faces to Graves project for the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, wrote us that because of Covid no volunteers or children were allowed to place the candles. Instead, candles were placed by board members of the organization responsible for the Christmas candles. (See https://www.lichtjesavondgroesbeek.nl/)
Alice wanted to let us know that Fred Hulsman, a member of the Faces To Graves Research Team who lives near the cemetery, took a photo of the corrected gravestone for WW2 soldier Barney Reuben McGuigan, of Sturgeon, Prince Edward Island.
Barney had lied about his age when enlisting and his original gravestone did not reflect his age of 16 years at the time of his death. After Pieter and members of Barney’s family contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission with proof of Barney’s birth record, the correction was made.
The correction was amazing timing (a Christmas miracle?) as a photo of Barney was recently uncovered! (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/12/23/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-photo-search-for-barney-mcguigan-is-successful/)
…A candle placed at the Halifax L9561 memorial in Wons…
Remko de Jong, a resident of Makkum, coordinates the candle lighting ceremony in his village. He wrote to Pieter on December 24, and explained that “…Unfortunately, again this year candles were placed without an audience…..” Instead, candles were placed by Remko and his family and photos were taken by his son Robin. (For the 2020 candle lighting in Makkum, see: https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2020/12/29/christmas-eve-candle-lighting-in-makkum/)
In addition to the candles placed at the graves at 38 airmen who are buried in the Donia Protestant Church Cemetery in Makkum, located by Lake Ijsselmeer in the province of Friesland, a candle was placed at the Halifax L9561 memorial in Wons.
This memorial, unveiled in October 2019, honours the crew of Halifax L9561. WW2 pilot Elmer Bagnall MUTTART of Cape Traverse, Prince Edward Island lost his life on October 12, 1941, but the rest of the crew were able to safely bail out of the burning plane. (For a short documentary on the unveiling of the memorial panel and the crew of Halifax L9561, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71Rzg07kPw0&list=PLaJcEVojJra-ZwR6rvb-THj8Zr2QbUXLT&index=2)
…Over 7,600 Canadian soldiers are buried in The Netherlands!…
Kudos to the Dutch, who never forget the sacrifices made by Allied soldiers! There are over 7,600 Canadian soldiers buried in The Netherlands! Thank you to Remco de Jong for sharing his son’s photos, and to Alice van Bekkum for advising about the correction to the gravestone for Barney McGuigan.
If you have a story or photo to share about Canadian military personnel buried in The Netherlands, please contact Pieter at email@example.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1.
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© Daria Valkenburg