1. December 1954. On my first visit in 1954, I was one of eight members of our family to visit my uncle's grave; his plane came down in Entrammes, on the east side of Laval. We found that the 13 other grave sites had tombstone markers from the RAF and my uncle's did not. The explanation given to my parents was that Willem was a Dutch citizen. My parents followed up to have a tombstone made for Willem by the Dutch Government, which is what happened. (The RCAF and Australian Air Force did the tombstones for Beales and Henderson apparently without any need to follow up.)
a dozen representatives of five fallen airmen were there to pay their respects, through the good sleuthing of Jean-Louis Cholet of Souvenir Francais of the Mayenne, Jean-Luc Peslier of the AMAA and RCAF Cpl Pamela Turney (great-niece of Sgt. Fred Beales). Four of the airmen represented were from the Entrammes plane, and one large family came to pay their respects to Eddy Wicks from the St. Berthevin plane - his daughter Beryl Wicks and her husband Mike Hayes and their children and grandchildren.
3. June 2014. This year, on the 70th anniversary of the downing of the two planes four days after D-Day - on their fifth mission in the space of ten days - 20 people from the families of six airmen attended, representing six of the airmen, three from the Entrammes plane my uncle was piloting, and three from the St. Berthevin plane.
|Detail of monument (stele) to the crew that crashed in a field|
in St. Berthevin, NW of Laval, from the monument. The
pilot, Australian Pilot-Officer Tom Henderson, is mid-group.
This year, two well-designed monuments were installed and unveiled at the two crash sites. The families and local children and officials left flowers in front of the graves at the Vaufleury Cemetery and also at the monuments at the crash sites.
All of the families of the airmen are grateful to the French people in Laval for showing this respect to the airmen on the 70th anniversary of the two crashes. We are especially grateful to Jean-Louis Cholet of the organization Souvenir France (France Remembers) and Jean-Luc Peslier, President of AMAA (Amicale Mayenne de l'Armee de l'Air). Three other hosts from the AMAA were Michael Guegan, who told me he has a daughter in San Francisco; Michael Fontaine; and Georges Mezieres.