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Dutch never forgot Canada?s sacrifice

BY KELLY LOUISEIZE In September of this year, almost 60 years after the Second World War, the Dutch government recovered the bodies of Canadian Warrant Officer Robert Benjamin Moulton, Flight Sergeants Joseph White and Joseph Adrien Thibaudeau.
BY KELLY LOUISEIZE

In September of this year, almost 60 years after the Second World War, the Dutch government recovered the bodies of Canadian Warrant Officer Robert Benjamin Moulton, Flight Sergeants Joseph White and Joseph Adrien Thibaudeau. They salvaged the HE 77 NA-K Vickers Wellington bomber from the bog outside the Dutch town of Wilnis.

Robert Charles Moulton, of Sudbury, who is the nephew of the late Robert Benjamin Moulton, will be flying to Wilnis Nov. 22 to pay his respects to his uncle.

The town wants to honour the Canadians by providing a new resting place beside the church, not far from the existing cemetery. The metal from the Vickers Wellington will be used in a monument.

?We are proud and thankful for the sacrifices he made,? Moulton said.

His late uncle is a significant person in Wilnis.

The town adopted him as its hero.

Every year on May 5, National Liberation Day, citizens of Wilnis put the Canadian flag at half-mast while the village band trumpets the Canadian anthem. Flowers are put on each Canadians? grave.

Jan Rouwenhorst, historian and member of Salvage Vickers Wellington 1943 committee, wrote to the Moulton relatives.

In his letter, he described the events which took place the night Robert B. Moulton died.

On May 4, 1943, pilot Robert B. Moulton took off from Dalton, Yorkshire, to participate in an air raid over Dortmund, Germany. After they dropped their bomb load, the crew was on their way back, when they were attacked by the German Luftwaffe.

Moulton?s plane was hit at 2:18 am May 5, 1943 by Messerschmidt-110. the Wellington began to burn.

Robert B. Moulton attempted to gain control of the plane, but it was losing altitude. He ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft.

Paul van Leeuwen was 16 at the time. He was busy drying fresh grass below in the country south of Wilnis when he looked up and watched the night?s events unfold.

Van Leeuwen watched as the burning plane barely missed the roof of a shed, then hit the bog approximately 100 metres behind him.

The plane?s wing carved a ditch in the wet moss. When the plane stopped, it was quickly covered by bog. All that remained of the crash was the bubbling water and a pungent smell of kerosene.

On the morning, the townspeople of Wilnis told another harrowing tale.

Rouwenhorst reported witnesses saw the plane heading straight for the centre of the village. However, it suddenly banked and instead veered and crashed in a cow pasture.

Villagers believe the pilot purposely steered the plane toward the bog to avoid injuring civilians

Parts of Moulton?s body were buried by German soldiers in a village ceremony the next day.

Sgt. Howard H. Hoddinott, wireless operator, and Sgt. Gordon Charles Carter, navigator, managed to parachute out to safety, but were taken prisoner.

Thibaudeau and White were missing in action (MIA) until the salvage of the plane commenced this year. The Dutch air force found the skeletal bodies of the two missing men and the rest of Moulton?s body in the entombed plane.

Moulton asked the salvaging committee why the Dutch people are going to great expense and time to salvage the plane and its Canadian crew ($1 million).

The response was, ?You never had to be liberated.?

Kelly Louiseize is a Cambrian College journalism student.