Texel memorial for USAF B-17 crew

I cycled past this stone today on the Dutch island of Texel. I discovered that it was a memorial in memory of a group of US Air Force men who were killed when their B-17 bomber crashed on April 1945. A plaque beside the stone records the names of the eight crew members who were killed. Two others survived.

The stone is located beside a cycle path (6) at Watermolenweg, Den Hoorn, en route to the ferry port for Den Helder at ‘t Horntje.

Information via website tracesofwar.com F. Wibbeke.


Examining a UK Military Police Land Rover at Wimbledon Common

A recent stay in Wimbledon and visit to Wimbledon Common along with a visit to Gap Road cemetery made me think about what the area was like during the Second World War. One description emerges from the contents of a BBC website.

Military Land Rover

WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar’

John Ingham WW2 People’s War 6th November 2003.

The Canadian soldier in uniform paused from pushing his bike as we left Ann’s Pantry with our meagre ration of boiled sweets. “I’m on holiday. Do you know where I can stay?” he asked, cheerfully enough.

It was a sunny day in September 1940 and we were in West Place the row of old-world cottages on Wimbledon Common. Besides the sweet shop, the boss of the Roman Well Laundry lived there, and there was the yard of Hill’s, the builders, where I sometimes used to play. I accepted the soldier’s gum, “You could live in the bush house we’ve built on the Common” I answered.
He agreed without hesitation and for several mornings I would walk from my home at 4 Northview with a bowl of porridge and some apples. In return the soldier would show our gang how to make a sling tough enough to bring down wildlife for food, like he said he did in open country in Canada. He’d make whistles from a fresh sapling branch by first slipping off the bark, cutting the nicks and then sliding the bark back in place. And he’d tell us wondrous stories.

It was an idyllic time for an eight-year old boy. As yet there were no bombs. But it couldn’t last, though not because of Hitler. One morning as I carried out breakfast a policeman with two Canadian soldiers, who turned out to be armed Military Police men, asked me the question I can hear to this day. “Certainly, I’ve seen a soldier. We are looking after him in our bush house.”

They took him away and as he left escorted by the three in uniform, he gave me a glance. Only later, overhearing my parents whisper the word Deserter, did I realise what I had done. And I remember crying.

Not long afterwards my parents decided we should be evacuated and my mother hired an open lorry driven by a man named Slim. We children sat on a settee among beds and clothes. Thankfully it did not rain and the German bombers steered clear too!

We returned before the war ended, in time to shelter from incendiary bombs on the Common. The ack-ack gun by the windmill brought down a Heinkel which burned to pieces on the Royal Wimbledon Golf Course and our front window was blown in.

When the war ended our Northview gang built the biggest-ever bonfire. I still live half a mile from the actual place of this tale, and I might even find the actual bush!


Continuing the stories of servicemen buried in Wimbledon. Flight Lieutenant Douglas Buckie service no. 134731 is buried in the Netherlands. The RAF Volunteer Reserve Pilot from no.2 squadron died in an operation over Arnhem in December 1944 a few months after the Battle.

According to the Royal Canadian Air Force RCAF Aylmer website, he went to the No. 14 Service Flying Training School at Aylmer, Ontario. It was one of many built across Canada under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan during World War II.

Buckie was awarded a ‘mentioned in dispatches’ in November 1942.  I am grateful to the RCAF Aylmer source for pointing out that this information was part of their research, and not part of a Dutch WWII website where I originally accessed the information and the CWGC picture below. Further information can be found at: http://rcafaylmer.blogspot.com/

Grave of Flight Lt Douglas Buckie.  Source: CWGC Website

At Gap Road cemetery in Wimbledon, London his grandmother paid for a memorial to be erected to commemorate him, so he must have had a connection with the area.

Memorial for Flt Lt Douglas Buckie


Trooper William Reid. Pic. Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry.

Remembering Trooper William Reid aged 21 from Inchicore in Dublin.

Regimental badge

A member of the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, he was killed 75 years ago on Sunday 10th September 1944 when his C Squadron tank was hit at the Doornboom crossroads during the battle to secure the bridgehead over the Albert Canal at Geel in Belgium.

Captain John E. Mann MC

The rest of the crew, the commander Captain John E. Mann MC, Trooper Ernest Winchester and Trooper John Saunders, were also killed. All were buried by the unit’s chaplain Reverend Leslie Skinner in St Apollonia’s churchyard at Stelen two days later, where they still lie.

CWGC Cemetery Stelen Pic. Ricky van Dyck (ww2talk.com)

The padre was the first chaplain to land on the Normandy beaches on D-Day in June 1944 with the unit.
Geel is twinned with Tydavnet and Monaghan.

Grave of Trooper William Reid (ww2talk.com)

Rank: Trooper
Regiment/Service: Royal Armoured Corps
Unit Text: Nottinghamshire Yeomanry
Age: 21
Date of Death: 10/09/1944
Service No: 14427894
Additional information: Son of John and Annie Reid; husband of Kathleen Reid, of Inchicore, Dublin, Ireland.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Brit. Plot, grave 15.
Cemetery: GEEL (Stelen) Churchyard

A tank of the Sherwood Foresters Yeomanry at Stationstraat Geel on 10th September 1944. Pic. Willem van Broeckhoven in ‘September Helden’ (Geerings G).

75th anniversary of Battle of Geel is marked by the Belgian Defence Forces


On the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Geel we remember those members of the Irish Guards and others buried in the CWGC cemetery in Geel.

They were killed in the advance across Belgium (following D-day in June 1944) establishing a bridgehead across the Albert and the Meuse canals in Geel in September 1944. Fourteen are buried at the CWGC British cemetery in Geel. Twelve headstones are pictured here. They include a Guardsman Simpson from Portadown Co. Armagh. Thanks for the pictures Leo Haeseldonckx We will remember them.

Guardsman E. Shearer

21 yr old Guardsman Edward Shearer (no family details) died on 14/09/44 3rd Battalion Irish Guards.

Guardsman William Simpson from Portadown

Guardsman William Simpson aged 20 from Portadown 3rd Bn Irish Guards died 07/09/44.

Guardsman J. Barlow

24 yr old Guardsman Jack Barlow from Macclesfield 3rd Bn Irish Guards died 07/09/44.

Guardsman E. J. Breslin

28 yr old Guardsman Edward Joseph Breslin 3rd Bn Irish Guards (a Donegal name).

Captain William R.R. Bruce, aged 32, 3rd Bn Irish Guards died 07/09/44.

Lance Serjeant T. Davidson

Lance Serjeant Thomas Davidson aged 29 from Nottingham 3rd Bn Irish Guards died 07/09/44.

Lance Corporal W. Houghton

Lance Corporal Wilfred Houghton, aged 24, 3rd Bn Irish Guards died 14/09/44.

Guardsman L. Hutchman

Guardsman Lawrence Hutchman aged 35 from Pontypridd 3rd Bn Irish Guards died 14/09/44.

Sgt Tom Johns aged 28 3rd Bn Irish Guards died 07/09/44.

Lt Humphrey O. C. Kennard

Lt Humphrey Oscar Coleridge Kennard from Chelsea, London 3rd Bn Irish Guards died 14/09/44.

Lance Corporal JJ O’Neill

Lance Corporal John James O’Neill aged 22 from Liverpool 3rd Bn Irish Guards died 14/09/44.

Guardsman Alan Parsons aged 22 3rd Bn Irish Guards of Tydd St Giles Cambridgeshire died 07/09/44.

Lance Serjeant John Proe

Lance Serjeant John Proe of Whiston, Lancashire aged 23 died 07/09/44 3rd Bn Irish Guards buried in Geel.

Guardsman Rudolph Edwin John Stone died 3rd Bn Irish Guards (no age or family details) died 07/09/44. We will never forget them.


Moving away from WWI to WWII but staying in Belgium, this is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Geel. A number of commemorative events are taking place, including a weekend of re-enactments and other activities.

Belgium Remembers

The Battle of Geel occurred on 10th and 11th September 1944. Many of the British soldiers who fought in the Sherwood Rangers and other regiments such as the Irish Guards are buried in the CWGC cemetery in Geel. This town in Belgium is twinned with Tydavnet and Monaghan. I notice that one of the casualties was a Trooper Reid from Dublin. He is buried at Stelen churchyard.

Trooper William Reid from Dublin

From the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry 1939-45 page:

Remembering today….Trooper William Reid

Tpr. Reid, aged 21 from Dublin, Ireland, was killed on Sunday 10th September 1944 when his B Squadron tank was hit at the Doornboom crossroads during the battle to secure the bridgehead over the Albert Canal at Geel, Belgium.
The rest of the crew, Capt. John Mann MC, Tpr. Ernest Winchester and Tpr. John Saunders, were also killed and all were buried by Padre Leslie Skinner in Stelen churchyard two days later, where they still lie.

Geel commemoration for WWII

‘They are here!’ Remembering the liberation of Flanders by the Allies 1944/45


Lisnabreeny Memorial Photo: © Michael Fisher

Lisnabreeny Memorial Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Mourne granite memorial at the former American military cemetery at Lisnabreeny in Castlereagh has 148 names etched on three sides. As the crowd gathered on Saturday for the dedication of the monument, I noticed a namesake (but not a relation) among them: FISHER, PATRICK A S/Sgt.

Names on Lisnabreeny memorial: Staff Sergeant Patrick A Fisher Photo: © Michael Fisher

Names on Lisnabreeny memorial: Staff Sergeant Patrick A Fisher Photo: © Michael Fisher

I thought of him during the service and afterwards I tried to find out if there was any record of his military service. I found two servicemen of the same name from different states in the USA but both were listed as Privates when they joined in 1942. The older one was from Pennsylvania and would have been around 31 when he enlisted in 1942. In civvy life his occupation was described as “express messenger and railway mail clerk(s)”. I would welcome any further information either via the comments below or by contacting me on twitter @fishbelfast.

Ceremony at Lisnabreeny Photo: © Michael Fisher

Ceremony at Lisnabreeny Photo: © Michael Fisher

The ceremony was organised by Castlereagh Borough Council, which also reinstated the entrance to the former US military cemetery and provided the monument. It began with a formal parade from Lagan College, headed by the Mayor Councillor David Drysdale, who was driven in a former US Army jeep of the type used in World War II. The pipes and drums of 152 (Ulster) Transport Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps, followed with the other members of the Council, the Air Training Corps Cadets and members of local branches of the Royal British Legion.

WWII US Army Jeep in Castlereagh Photo: © Michael Fisher

WWII US Army Jeep in Castlereagh Photo: © Michael Fisher

The guests included the Lord Lieutenant of County Down, David Lindsay, the Acting US Consul General Gabrielle Moseley and the First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson. Wreaths were laid at the memorial at the end of the dedication service.

NI First Minister Peter Robinson lays a wreath at Lisnabreeny Photo:© Michael Fisher

NI First Minister Peter Robinson lays a wreath at Lisnabreeny Photo:© Michael Fisher

Councillor Drysdale explained the Council’s involvement with the site at the start of the ceremony.  He said:-

“Over the last few years, the Council has been involved in an extensive restoration project to reinstate the original entrance to the former Lisnabreeny American Military Cemetery and create a lasting commemoration to the American servicemen who lost their lives in the Second World War.  A dedicated monument has been erected as part of the project, which will provide an opportunity for the people of Castlereagh to visit the site for generations to come and learn more about these brave servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom today”.  

View of ceremony from jeep Photo: © Michael Fisher

View of ceremony from jeep Photo: © Michael Fisher

The service of dedication of the memorial was led by the Mayor’s chaplain, Pastor George Moffett. Lieutenant Colonel Travis Phillips, Assistant Army Attaché at the US Embassy in London expressed thanks to the Council for acknowledging the legacy of US military personnel who had paid the ultimate sacrifice in the Allied war effort. He said the recent restoration of the former cemetery underpinned the shared history and special ties of kinship between Northern Ireland and the USA. After an American Serviceman’s Medley sung by Donaghadee Male Voice Choir, Lt Col Phillips read the poem ‘His Rest is Won’.

Lt Col Travis Phillips US Army (centre) Photo: © Michael Fisher

Lt Col Travis Phillips US Army (centre) Photo: © Michael Fisher

After the wreath laying ceremony, the Mayor’s Chaplain led the Act of Remembrance, which was followed by a two minutes silence. “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them”. “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today“.

The ceremony concluded with the singing of the British and US national anthems.

Star Spangled Banner

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Air Vice Marshall, David Niven of the Royal Air Force added:-

I am proud to be asked to place a wreath, on behalf of all three Services, at this dedication ceremony.  We are, in mid-September, commemorating the service and sacrifice of our servicemen during the Battle of Britain, a battle which prevented the invasion of the United Kingdom. We are also remembering, at the Service of Dedication of this cemetery, the sacrifice of our American Allies who served and died, here, in Northern Ireland. They came from the United States to fight alongside us, in our hour of need, when the rest of Europe had been over-run by the Nazi war machine.  The sacrifice of our American Allies, commemorated in granite, and standing proud in the rolling Castlereagh hills, shall never be forgotten.”

A spectacular end to the ceremony was provided by a restored B-17 Flying Fortress bomber Sally B, which made a number of low level flypasts en route to the Flightfest in Dublin the following day.

Restored entrance to former US Military Cemetery Photo: © MIchael Fisher

Restored entrance to former US Military Cemetery Photo: © MIchael Fisher

On  26th January 1942 the first American troops arrived at the Dufferin Dock  in Belfast as the first phase of Operation MAGNET, the defence of  Northern Ireland, As agreed between President Roosevelt and Prime  Minister Winston Churchill during a meeting in Washington DC in December 1941. Over the next three years there were seldom less than 120,000 US  servicemen in NI at any one time. A  US Special Army Observer Group had been acting as an American Military  mission in London since 1941. This group approached the war office in  London on 9 December 1941 to obtain burial grounds for American forces  in the United Kingdom.

Two plots were initially set aside for emergency  burials in Northern Ireland, one in Derry and the other in  Belfast. The Belfast plot, located within the City Cemetery, and  extending to one sixth of an acre was chosen. The  first American servicemen to die in Northern Ireland were 3 members of  the US Navy who lost their lives in an accident at the American Naval  Base in Londonderry. The first burial in the Belfast City Cemetery plot took  place on 12th March 1942. From then until October 1942 a total of  41 American servicemen were interred there. At that  stage the plot had reached capacity and it was decided to ship deceased personnel across to England for interment until an alternative  could  be found.

Burial at Lisnabreeny 6th May 1944 of Pte Steve Fellin 56th Field Artillery Bn, 8th Infy Division

Burial at Lisnabreeny 6th May 1944 of Pte Steve Fellin 56th Field Artillery Bn, 8th Infy Division

On  2nd December 1943 a ten and a half acre plot of land at Rocky Road was  officially opened as the (link to photo chimneyrockb26crash.com) Lisnabreeny American Military Cemetery. It  was decided to re-locate all deceased personnel to this new site, and  between 23rd May 1944 and 1st June 1944 all of the 41 bodies previously  interred in the City Cemetery were exhumed and re-interred at  Lisnabreeny. By the end of the war a total of 148 American servicemen  were buried in Lisnabreeny, the majority being Army Air Force but also including US Army and US Navy personnel

The  Cemetery was accessed via a red brick entrance with iron gates on the  Rocky Road. A white gravel driveway, lined with cherry trees, led to a  flagstaff where the Stars and Stripes was hoisted daily. The graves were  laid out in rows with 25 to each row, and each grave had a simple white  marker, either a Cross or a Star of David, depending on religious  denomination, bearing name, rank, unit and date of death.

The Cemetery  was looked after by 5 US Army personnel with a minimum of 2 on duty at  any one time. A Nissan type hut was located on site and provided storage  and office space for maintenance equipment and Cemetery records. The  Cemetery was maintained to a very high standard with grass regularly  mown, trees and shrubs clipped and pruned, and the stone paths borders  whitewashed weekly. Following  the end of the war, the Cemetery continued to be maintained right up to 1948 when all deceased were exhumed, and either transferred to the  permanent American War Cemetery in Cambridge, or repatriated to the  United States, at the request of their families. At that point the  cemetery was deactivated. Some more information on the cemetery can be found on this American source:

Graves registration activities of the Quartermaster Corps in the European Theatre (of WWII) began in December 1941, when the United States asked the British War Office about burial facilities for our military personnel expected to arrive in 1942 in Northern Ireland, where they would aid the British in their defence of that part of Ireland. Sadly, as was expected, American lives were lost after the men arrived. These burials had been in swampy ground in local cemeteries, but the U.S. Army negotiated with the British and secured a plot of land at Lisnabreeny, a suburb of Belfast, where the Americans were reinterred“.

From “A Salute to Patriotism: The Life and Work of Major General Howard L. Peckham”, who worked for the American Graves Registration Command in Paris, quoted by his daughter, Jean Peckham Kavale in A Personal Look at U.S. Army History.