Tribute paid to Canadian airmen who died in the Netherlands

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Tribute paid to Canadian airmen who died in the Netherlands

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 27, 2006 | 10:23 AM ET


Two Canadian airmen killed in the Second World
War were finally buried Wednesday in the
Netherlands near where they died and more than
60 years after their plane was shot out of the sky.

Flight Sgt. Joseph Thomas Lloyd LeBlanc from
Quebec and Flying Officer Sidney Glen Peterson
from Manitoba, died on May 25, 1944, when a
British Halifax bomber was shot down by a German
fighter plane in the Netherlands. Five other
airmen on board also died in the crash.

A coffin with the remains of Canadian Second
World War flyers is carried into a funeral
service at Jonkerbos War Cemetery in Nijmegen,
the Netherlands, on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2006.
The service for Flying Officer Sidney Glen
Peterson and Flight Sergeant Joseph Thomas Lloyd
LeBlanc was attended by family, including Roy
Peterson (center left), brother of Sidney, and
his daughter, Lisa (center right), who watch as
the coffin is carried into Our Lady Lourdes Church.
(Ermindo Armino/ AP)

Remains of the airmen and fragments of the
aircraft were recovered last fall from a swampy
area near the city of Nijmegen in an effort
funded by the Dutch government. At the time of the crash,
only one body was found.

A special funeral service with full military
honours was held Wednesday for the airmen in
Jonkerbos War Cemetery in Nijmegen. The cemetery
holds the remains of more than 1,600
Commonwealth military service personnel,
including more than 80 Canadians, who died during the Second World War.

A few family members of the fallen crew, some
Canadian, British and Dutch soldiers, a handful
of townspeople, and Canadian embassy officials attended the funeral.

All of the airmen whose remains were unearthed were buried in one coffin.

"It was quite a moving experience," Canadian
Michael LeBlanc, nephew of Joseph LeBlanc, said of the funeral service.

"As we were leaving the church, I was looking at
the faces of the Dutch people at the service,
and I was struck by how many had tears in their
eyes," he said. "I was struck by the deep and real sentiment expressed."

David Common, a CBC reporter in the Netherlands,
said a Dutch farmer saw the bomber crash into
the ground. He tried for 20 years to have the
aircraft and remains unearthed and his efforts
finally resulted in a salvage operation. It is
believed to have cost about $400,000.

Over time, the wreckage sank into the ground in
a farmer's field because of drainage and land reclamation projects.

Mona Parker, who lost her brother, Joseph
LeBlanc, in the crash and is his only surviving
sibling, said she is relieved that he was finally buried.

"He never really had a funeral even though the
family went to the graveside and did all the
usual things," she said. "So I guess, in
essence, it is closure for me. I'm the only one left in my family."

The seven airmen were part of a planned attack
on German rail lines in the days before D-Day,
the Allied invasion to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation.

LeBlanc, originally from Cascapedia, Que., was
28 when the plane crashed, while Peterson,
originally from Winnipeg, Man., was 21.

In the salvage operation, about 80 per cent of
the plane was recovered. The remains of the airmen were inside the bomber.

"It is truly an honour to be here today with the
family members of the airmen as they commemorate
and honour their courageous loved ones," Masud
Husain, charge d affaires for the Canadian
Embassy in the Netherlands, said at the ceremony.

"The torch of remembrance continues to burn
bright, as Canadians everywhere remember the
many sacrifices made by these airmen and their
comrades for the freedom we have today."
 
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