Westkerke, Belgium Ceremony 29 October 2011
Seventy years later Belgium Remembers and pay tribute to the victims of a 408 Squadron RCAF aircraft a Handley Page Hampden (HP 52) that was shot down on 9 November 1941. The doomed aircraft crashed in a field in the nearby village of Roksem. Since there was no church in this small village the crew was given a funeral with full military honours by the Germans in the church yard at Westkerke.
The pilot was a Canadian, Pilot Officer John Cayley Wilson age 27 from Aylmer West, Ontario, Canada. The other three crew members that also perished are the Navigator Sergeant, Douglas Victor Markall, age 21 from England, Radio Operator Sergeant Douglas Frederick William Norton also from England and the Observer Sergeant Evan Bertram Te Makahi Robertson age 29 from New Zealand.
The ceremony was organized by the Westkerke Branch of the N.S.B. in cooperation and support from the City Administration of Oudenburg. The ceremony was conducted in three parts, the unveiling of a new memorial at the actual crash site, a memorial church service in Westkerke and a grave site service in the church yard of the church where the grave are preserved.
The ceremony started from the community center in Westkerke with the procession marching to the site of the crash about 1.5 kms led by our piper Diederik De Jeager and members of his band, our Colour Party and a local brass band where the new memorial was unveiled in a ceremony with many dignitaries present. Most notably was the Commanding Officer of 408 Squadron Lieutenant Colonel John Casey, presently stationed in Edmonton, Alberta and three members of his Squadron. The Ambassador of New Zealand and members of the Robertson family attended the ceremony. Also present were local mayors, representative of the Belgium Air Force, Ambassador from Great Briton, a representative from the Aylmer Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and local residence all taking part.
Following the unveiling ceremony we returned to the church in Westkerke where a dedication church service was held and finished with a graveside service in the church yard. The Commanding Officer and Ambassadors gave very touching speeches regarding the heroes that are laid to rest here. A floral tribute and wreaths were laid at both locations.
A reception was held following the ceremonies where we had the opportunity to chat with dignitaries and guests. Our participation was acknowledged with many thanks by the organizers.