Sunday, January 26, 2014

Commonwealth and Dutch War Graves in Westduin, Den Haag

Following our visit to the Australian War Memorial back in November 2013. I was struck by the way in which every day one of the Australian fallen in all wars are publicly commemorated during a solemn and moving service completed by the playing of the Last Post.
Australia War Memorial Canberra
On my return I have been researching British and Commonwealth War Graves from the Second World War in The Netherlands. My plan at some point in 2014 is to visit to Nijmegen.
I should not have been surprised really to find that I have a war graves cemetery very close by. In fact less than 10 minutes walk away from my apartment. This is the Westduin Cemetery, today I took the short walk to the cemetery to pay my respects.
The Westduin Cemetery links back to Australia as there are representatives from the colonial forces buried here in addition to British servicemen.
Westduin Commonwealth Cemetery
The majority of the graves are of aircrew, often the 5 man crew of a bomber who perished together as comrades in arms.
 Buried here are 87 casualties - 70 of whom are identified, amongst there are 6 Canadians, 5 Australians and 1 Czech.
There is of course a story behind every gravestone, one of which was  561257 Sgt Victor Spurr, 40 Sqn. RAF who perished with all of the crew when their  Bristol Blenheim IV was shot down on 10 May 1940 returning from a bombing run on Ypenburg aerodrome in the Hague. The Blenheim stood little chance against the well armed Messerschmidt 109's which harassed them constantly.  
 Blenheim IV
The was pilot Sgt Thomas Downes and his crew who flew in a  Handley Page Hampden for Bomber Command. Their plane came down in poor weather off the coast of The Netherlands on 12 February 1942 following an unsuccessful attack on the two German ships the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.

In my researches about Westduin I discovered another story which will form my next post. This is because the cemetery also has a significant Dutch War Grave where 47 members of a Dutch resistance group called The Stijkelgroep are buried. 33 members of the group were executed by the Germans in Berlin on 4th June 1943.
 Johan Stijkel (1911-1943)

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