Irish air ace shot down in 1941 to find peace at last

Discussion in 'Stories' started by v2, Sep 7, 2007.

  1. v2

    v2 Well-Known Member

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    Irish RAF sergeant John Kehoe was just 19 when the World War II bomber he was in was shot down by a pursuing German Messerschmidt over northern Holland.
    There were no survivors of the encounter and his remains, and that of one of the other three crewmen killed in the crash, have lain in the wreckage beneath a field since 1941.
    Since then, his family has fought a tireless campaign -- and it was the death-bed wish of his mother, Ellen -- to bring his body home to be buried.
    At first, it seemed a near impossible task but 88-year-old Margaret (Peggy) Walsh from Tullamore, Co Offaly, was determined to honour her late mother's wishes.
    And yesterday, the dream of burying John, known as Jack to his family, beside his mother came closer to being realised as a €1m excavation project, sanctioned by the Dutch state, began at the crash site. The wreckage will be raised to examine remains and have the family's request for repatriation fulfilled.
    His two nieces and the daughter of his wartime sweetheart were at the site to see the start of the dig.
    The Wexford-born Flight Sergeant John (Jack) Edward Kehoe lay in -- four metres deep, covered by potatoes, and then a tulip field -- was pinpointed some years ago and a simple wooden cross was erected.
    In Holland, such sites are usually left undisturbed, or recovered remains are interred in one of the country's many war cemeteries.
    The cost and feasibility of excavating the wreck held up the work. It also involved getting permission from the family of the other airman killed, Briton Stanley Mullenger.

    Remember

    However, this was a special case and the Dutch authorities say they cannot remember a request like it before.
    Peggy Walsh and her daughters campaigned vigorously to have Jack Kehoe's remains brought home to have "a Christian burial and be laid to rest next to his mother in consecrated ground".
    They were assisted throughout by the Irish Embassy in The Hague, which will later be involved in repatriation arrangements.
    With the support of DARE, a Dutch foundation dedicated to examining the history of air battles above Dutch territory and farmers Dick and Luc Schilder, on whose land the plane was shot down, the family finally found the spot where he lay.
    There were numerous false leads and disappointments along the way. It was thought a road had been built over the crashed Hampden bomber.
    Confusion was added because his name had been misspelled on a stone commemorating dead airmen in northern Holland. Jack Kehoe's ID plate (dog tag), found locally, was so crumpled that he was named as "JEK Shoe" instead of JE Kehoe.
    As excavation machinery moved onto the site yesterday, his two nieces and the daughter of his wartime sweetheart were there to see the historic dig.
    Niece Margaret Tracey, who lives in Naas, Co Kildare, said her mother would have been too emotional to attend the recovery of her brother's body.
    "But she came to Holland many times searching for Uncle Jack.
    "After all this time, we cannot believe it's the beginning of his final journey home; it's what our grandmother always wanted; she never got over his death or never knowing where he was," said Margaret.
    Her younger sister Carmel McGrath also attended the ceremony at Berkhout, together with Sheila Hamilton, daughter of Kehoe's wartime sweetheart and fiancee Mary Wrighton.
    "My mother said uncle Jack had miraculous medals and a rosary with him and she wants them back," Margaret told Captain Paul Petersen, the Dutch Royal Air Force officer in charge of the excavation.

    Delicate

    In the coming weeks, a specialised search team will examine the soil inch by inch for clues. The operation is especially delicate because of fears of unexploded bombs aboard or in the ground nearby in the field, which backs on to the village.
    The residents of Berkhout have been incredibly supportive, say the family.
    "The brothers on whose land it is are wonderful, people lay flowers at the spot every year, the villagers have taken us to their hearts. People in Holland have never forgotten the sacrifices made to defeat Hitler, they suffered so much and are so grateful," said Sheila.
    "My mother told me Jack, whom she always called Paddy, was the love of her life, they were planning to marry; they met when he was doing radar training at the RAF base.
    She told him he didn't have to volunteer for such a dangerous mission -- they were returning from a night mission over Essen in Germany -- but he told her he wanted to go."

    source: Independent.ie
     
  2. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
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    Another Allied airman goes 'home'....... :salute:

    Charles
     
  3. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    May he always find green valleys.
     
  4. Bf109_g

    Bf109_g Member

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  5. R-2800

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  6. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Its never to late to be brought home to family
     
  7. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    It is way past overdue to go home!

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  9. mkloby

    mkloby Active Member

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  10. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    :salute:

    By the way, I enjoy reading a lot of your signatures.

    "Can't get away this time!" :)
     
  11. Aussie1001

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    May you find eternal peace pilot.... :salute:
     
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