The Municipality of Almere or Gemeente Almere
Almere is a young modern city that falls within the metropolitan area of Amsterdam, built on reclaimed land. Situated in the province of Flevoland, building began in 1975 on land that was once the bottom of an inland sea, creating an urban area that is, on average, five.
Ancient Romans knew the area as Flevo Lacus, Lacus being the Latin word for lake. This was potential evidence of an earlier settlement; however, it is not confirmed given that the area was possibly under water. It was not until the late 19th century when the first Dutch plans were proposed to drain areas of the inland sea and reclaim land for farming purposes. Initially met with a lack of interest, drastic food shortages during the Great War changed people’s minds. Overcrowding in urban areas also became an area of concern for the Dutch government in the 1960s. So, in 1971, the government broke ground on plans to build a new city — Almere.
Almere is a city with plans for the future, prepared for expansion, and sustainability. However, the municipal government also intends to preserve its history, supporting projects like the recovering BK716 within the National Aircraft Wreckage Recovery Programme. 2019-20 marked 75 years since the Liberation of the Netherlands and Almere presented the story of BK716, cementing the crews’ sacrifice for the freedom of the Dutch people.
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British and Dutch Government Perspectives on War Graves
War grave is a term that covers many different types of sites. It could be an area dedicated to fallen soldiers that have not been brought home but remembered in the place they died. War cemeteries, such as those in Normandy in France and Jonkerbos in the Netherlands, often commemorate many different nationalities. War cemeteries may also represent single nationalities, such as the Cambridge American Cemetery at Madingley in England. They could equally apply to individuals returned to their families and buried in their local church yard. Aside from these common types of war graves another definition applies to losses at sea.
According to the British Ministry of Defence, all shipwrecks and underwater military aircraft are considered “protected places” and are covered under the Protection of Military Remains Act of 1986. This act strictly governs the terms under which the sites may be visited and interacted with. If there are known or assumed human remains, then licensing will not be approved for any activities at the site. The site then becomes officially known as a war grave. This act applies to all water, such as inland lakes and reservoirs, and British Territorial waters around the British Isles. Thus, there is no repatriation of the bodies or their remains.
Not all governments apply the same policy as the British Military of Defence. In the Netherlands the government supports the recovery of wrecks and any possible remains so that surviving relatives may have closure in knowing the outcome of their loved ones. To achieve this, the government has set aside an annual budget with the goal of conducting three recoveries per year.
Using research information provided by the Dutch Study Group Air War 1939-1945 (SLGO), it is estimated that there are approximately 5,500 aircraft lost in the Netherlands. To prioritize these wrecks, recovery concentrates on those that may have identifiable links to the lost crew. Of the 5,500 aircraft it is estimated that 7% might contain physical remains of their crews, such as personal items. The list of potential recovery sites is further reduced when likelihood of finding human remains is considered — only 0.007% of total wrecks. Of these remaining sites, further priority is given to sites where the remains may be linked to living relatives. Additionally, the complexity and cost of the recovery plays a factor in the consideration by the local municipality when determining priorities. In September 2019, the National Programme for Aircraft Recovery began with two wreck sites.
For the crew of BK716 and others, the fact that they were brought down over the Netherlands gives their families a unique opportunity for closure not afforded by all countries.
The Role of the Aircraft Recovery Group
Who and What is the Aircraft Recovery Group?
The foundation Stichting Aircraft Recovery Group (ARG) 1940–1945 was founded in 1986. This is a volunteer group that is interested in all air activities that occurred over the Netherlands during the Second World War. The ARG is based in Fort Veldhuis, Heemskerk, North Holland, Netherlands where they have an established air war museum. Over the previous decades, the ARG team have pursued the eyewitness accounts of locals and survivors to create a detailed history.
The main drive behind the ARG is its founder, Johan Graas. Graas has been interested in the discovery of aircraft artifacts since he was a teenager. A key event in his interest was being informed about an American life jacket found with a name marked on it. During a family gathering, a relative told him about it, and his passion for discovery began, and he went in search of the site. Acquiring a metal detector, and returning to the site, the first metal fragments were found about ten centimetres under the surface of the soil. Machine guns and a propeller were also found and were shown to have come from a Consolidated B-24 Liberator, an American heavy bomber.
However, it was not just the metal artifacts that caught the interest of Graas, but the fact that people had been involved. Flight crews were comprised of young men with families and expectations of their lives ahead of them. So, what made them sign up to take part in this war? Especially since they were often far from home, and away from people and places they were familiar with. The people became a part of the story that needed to be told. Thus, the lifelong quest to find these artifacts and research the lives of those involved began.
The ARG Today
The ARG is a volunteer-run organisation with 36 members involved in various roles and tasks within the group. Most volunteers support the maintenance of the museum so that it can be open for visitors. The group not only has members who have direct or first-generation memories of WWII in the Netherlands, but they also have young members who are eager to play their part in telling the stories of the people and planes involved in the fight for freedom. In doing so, they have reminded people of the many selfless actions that took place during WWII. The members range from 22 to 84 years old, many of whom have taken their involvement into their retirement years.
Johan, as well as being chairman and founder of the group, acts as the lead in new recovery sites, and completes many hours of investigations on any discoveries that occur. Johan is supported by three members who are qualified divers, should the wreckage be found underwater. This enables aircraft parts to be brought to the surface. Before any recovery takes place, Johan’s detailed investigations must determine whether human remains are still aboard the aircraft. If there is a high likelihood that human remains will be discovered, the local authorities will take on a larger role. They support the funding, assist during the salvage stage, while the military leads the operation.
The Air War Museum Fort Veldhuis was established by the group in 1989. The museum is open on Sundays during the summer months and offers displays active radio equipment. The equipment is often demonstrated to visitors. Other rooms were dedicated to the Kemp brothers, who were also heavily involved in preserving the stories of WWII Wormer, a polder near Zaandam, North Holland, Netherlands. One of the brothers, Bram, often created monuments to be placed at the site of a crashed aircraft.
The ARG have now been involved in over 50 aircraft recoveries and are currently investigating the Avro Lancaster ED603 site. Evidence will confirm human remains, and with the relevant authorities’ assistance, recovery and salvage will hopefully happen in 2023.
Johan Graas is passionate about these projects, deeply knowledgeable, and compassionate to the people—past and present—that are affected by each recovery. For further information, visit the ARG’s website at www.arg1940-1945.nl/.
In Time: The Loss and Recovery of a Short Stirling Crew would not have been possible without the assistance of an incredible group of experts and organisations. We would like to personally thank all the following people who volunteered their time to make this magazine a reality:
We would like to especially acknowledge the surviving family members of the crewmen who supported us throughout this and other projects.
- Barbara Bradbury – niece of John Campbell
- Andrew Nash – nephew of John Campbell
- Richard McCaw – nephew of Francis McCaw
- Janice and Richard Shrubsall – son/daughter in law of Leonard Shrubsall
- Edith McLeod and Fiona Williams – Sister/niece of Harry Farrington
- John Kennedy and his wife Sylvia Kennedy (nephew of Ronald Kennedy)
- John Wharton, cousin of Joyce Stout (niece and god daughter of Charles Armstrong Bell)
Ivo de Jong
Ivo de Jong is chairman of the Study Group Air War 1939-1945 (Studiegroep Luchtoorlog, SGLO). The SGLO was founded in 1975 and has more than 400 members who are interested in all aspects of aerial warfare in and over the Netherlands. The register of aircraft losses over the Netherlands, compiled by the SGLO, was the key to solving the problem of salvaging aircraft wrecks that may still contain missing crew members. Ivo provided a masterclass for the students about the strategic air campaign Western Europe.
Evert van Ginkel
Evert van Ginkel is an archaeologist and author and has been making exhibitions, audiovisuals and books about Dutch archaeology and history since 1983. He also wrote books commissioned by the municipality of Almere, including The Night of the Stirling. He provided a masterclass about the WW2 in the Netherlands, about the early days when Germany invaded in May 1940 with the post-war time.
Johan Graas, chair of the Aircraft Recovery Group
Johan Graas has done research of the wreckage for many years and found the living relatives of the downed crew. He has been a jury member for the arwork ‘Rise’ and his museum, Fort Veldhuis(https://arg1940-1945.nl/), holds an BK716 exhibition. Johan has provided much information to the students, to help out in creating this magazine.
Karl Kjarsgaard, curator at the Bomber Command Museum, Nanton Canada
Karl Kjarsgaard is a Curator at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada and the Director of Halifax 57 Rescue project (Support the Recovery of a RCAF Halifax Bomber by Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) (fundrazr.com)). Karl has helped out the students, by providing them information on how to do research on missing airmen, which sources are useful and the difference between military information between the countries. (https://www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/).
Hans Vierveijzer is the pilot of the life boat of the KNRM (Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution) who found the first part of the Stirling while lifting the anchor of a ship in trouble. Hans’ extensive knowledge and involvement in the story of BK716 has provided the students a lot of information for the magazine.
Remco van Diepen is historian and researcher at museum Batavialand and editor of Flevolands Geheugen and provided many photographs and background information for the magazine.
The Stirling aircraft project
The Stirling Aircraft Project is a charitable organisation ran by volunteers. Headed by John Lathwell, he and his team are passionate about the Short Stirling. For over 25 years the group have been building a reconstruction of the aircraft. The discovery of BK716 was a turning point for their work. Parts of the wreckage was donated to the project and in doing so has answered so many questions about how the aircraft were originally built, in some cases parts of BK716 will be used in the reconstructed aircraft. This invaluable information has allowed the group to ensure that the aircraft they are building will be as accurate to an original Stirling as possible. A completed section of their aircraft is on loan to the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum. As well as the BK716 providing information to the project, John and his team have also provided invaluable information to the participants of the e-magazine.(https://stirlingproject.org.uk/).
Bob van Wijk
Bob van Wijk is a passionate researcher of two RAF aircraft crews associated with his Dutch father’s experiences as a teenager in WWII Netherlands: Lancaster ED761 DX-Z (Bomber Command) and Blenheim L9447 LA-Y (Coastal Command). He has provided the students with information about the German pilot and the events of the night of the crash. He lives near Woodstock, Ontario in Canada, and is proud and humbled to be part of the e-magazine project of respect and remembrance for the crew of Stirling BK716 HA-J.
Paul Mawson is a Sgt of Durham Constabulary who was previously involved in finding the relatives of Charles Armstrong Bell and Ronald Kennedy. Paul kindly introduced the team to family members of Charles Armstrong Bell, who were able to provide information for the articles.
The Helmut Schmidt University/University of the Federal Armed Forces Hamburg is a place of science. She lives the idea of education through science. Like its founder and namesake, it understands science as "a search for knowledge committed to social responsibility". The university positions itself in an international research landscape through competitive basic and applied research. The quality of their teaching arises from the free research activities of their scientific members. With excellent research and teaching, the university is a science partner of the federal government and strives to open up further, especially in the context of European integration. At the same time, it strengthens Hamburg as a science location. It is committed to the ideal of a diversity of disciplines and scientific cultures as well as international scientific cooperation.
The university provides its military and civilian students with specialist expertise and science-based critical and judgmental skills. Its degrees are equivalent to those of civilian universities, and in this way it makes a significant contribution to the attractiveness of the Bundeswehr as an employer. Through research and teaching, she also develops the academic basis of the citizen in uniform and the inner leadership. The university thus makes a significant contribution to the qualification of officers for complex tasks in a multinational environment.
University of Centre Peterborough
University Centre Peterborough (UCP) was established in 2007 and in 2020 became the HE delivery arm and wholly owned subsidiary of the Inspire Education Group. It has campuses in both Peterborough and Stamford.
As a smaller institution, UCP has been able to create a learning environment which differs from other larger universities, and our strength comes from our smaller size, enabling us to put students at the heart of everything we do. We support their development and help them in achieving career and personal ambitions through an effective learning partnership. We are committed to developing graduates research interests and actively look for collaborative opportunities for them to extend their knowledge and participate in networks . The mission of UCP is to ‘engage, enable and empower students to meet the challenges of the future’.
UCP has four distinct faculties: Arts and Social Science, Education and Business, HE Teaching and Partnerships and Science and Technology. There are 30 courses offered which includes the History and Archaeology degree. Further details about University Centre Peterborough and our courses can be found at (https://ucp.ac.uk/).
Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning is one of Canada’s top public research colleges. It is located in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, and has been providing education to The Regional Municipality of Waterloo since 1967. They offer certificates, diplomas, advanced diplomas, graduate certificates, and bachelor’s degrees in computer science, apprenticeships, business, culinary arts, creative industries, health and life sciences, and engineering and technology. Conestoga also offers local, national, and international field placements in most programs so that students can gain real-world experience in their communities, their country, and around the world. More than half of adults living in The Regional Municipality of Waterloo have attended Conestoga College at some point in their lives—making it a great place to begin your education before attending an Ontario university or finishing your education afterword.
Design and Development E-magazine
Chapter - History
- Overview of the second world warPhoto from Public domain
- The occupation of the NetherlandsPhoto from Museum Batavialand
- Air war: The United Kingdom and the NetherlandsPhoto by Gerrit Zwanenburg
- History of the Royal AirforcePhoto by (© Collection NIMH)
- Second World War Bomber CommandPhoto by (© Collection NIMH)
Chapter - BK716 Story
- History of 218 (Gold Coast) SquadronPhoto from Imperial War Museum
- The Short Stirling IIIPhoto by the ARG
- The CrewPhoto from Public domain
- The Mission and CrashImage by Jeroen Rep
Chapter - The Discovery
- A puzzling findPhoto by Lex Beers
- Telling the StoryPhoto by Lex Beers
- Interpreting Difficult NarrativesPhoto by Christian Koenig