Pilgrimages of Grace: A History of the Croft Aerodrome by A. A. B. Todd, self-published. Contact Alan Todd Associates, 41 Woodland Road, Darlington Co. Durham DL3 7BJ, England
Airforce, The Magazine of Canada’s Air Force Heritage Vol. 27 No. 1, The Raid on Happy Valley by Alan Soderstrom
National Archives of Canada
No. 434 (Bluenose) Squadron by Wing Commander F. H. Hitchins, Air Historian
Internet Wed Sites: A variety of sites generally found by key words such as; Bomber Command, Halifax, R.C.A.F. Daily operations reports,
Margaret McIntosh: log book of Alex Divitcoff and various photos
(1) The following is the address given by Mr. Debuc, the Burgmaster of Couvin at the unveiling of the memorial in Pesche on May 8th, 2003. The translation from the original French was provided by the Town
We are gathering to honour and respect those courageous aviators memory (Messers Pearce, Parrott, Janzen, Kurtzhals, Divitcoff and Olafson) who gave their lives so that we can today live in peace. We are especially proud to pay homage to Mr. Brown, the only survivor of that crew.
Today, on May 8th – the Anniversary Day of the end of the war in Europe – it is an honour and a great pride for my colleagues of the district council, for our population and myself to welcome you on this ground, rich in historical associations. We are happy to greet the families of the missing fliers and tell them how much we enjoy having them here today. We thank you for coming and especially for your honouring your lost relatives. We are so grateful to you for that.
I would also like to acknowledge the presence of some Bomber Command veterans, some former Belgian 40/45 pilots, some former prisoners of war as well as some Canadian and Belgian military authorities.
Finally, I would like to thank all of you absolutely and for wanting to share our feelings in remembering all the heroes of those tragic years.
On this Armistace Day, after experiencing a major conflict in Iraq, today’s event and memorial unveiling dedicated to the Canadian bomber crew will enable us to remind our youths and all those who haven’t experienced the 40-45 years, that brave people from Canada, America, England and elsewhere gave their blood so that today, we live in a free democratic Europe.
Therefore I will quote some words I read in a daily paper: “There were seven of them, they were about 20 years old with their lives ahead and full of dreams. Like all youth, they were dreaming of building a house, a family and a safe and good world to live in. They didn’t know that on December 18th, at dawn, their dreams of peace would vanish in a country they did not even know but in a country they wanted to be free.”
It is a good thing to remember how much we needed the Allies to give closure to the debacle with true democratic values.
We have to keep in mind their solidarity and brotherhood spirit, their sense of duty, of courage and self-sacrifice. We all wish those sacrificed lives can forever remain sacred for peace and freedom in the world.
Colonel Bouzin will now speak but before that I would like to thank Mr. Maurage, thanks to whom we are meeting here today. Your sense of good citizenship by which you remind us of those gallant soldier’s actions, is particularly important to us.
Unveiling this memorial is more than a symbol. It shows we cannot and may not forget the PAST. These hours of remembrance will help us understand the present time and defend democratic values as those fliers did.
May our future generations never forget this!
(2) Mr. Eric Bouzin, a retired Air Force Colonel, was unable to attend the ceremony because of ill health but made his speech available in English for the families of the crew who were in attendance.
Mister Burgmaster, Municipal Magistrates, dear families, officials from the R.C.A.F., WWII veterans, Forces representatives, ladies and gentlemen. As you have emphasized in your address, Mr. Dubuc, we are gathered here to honour these gallant airmen. Paying them the tribute they so highly deserve on the very spot where they met their fate. For those young fellows, not only came voluntarily from a very far away country, beyond the great waters, but they wanted to be part in the struggle, they personally could have ignored, against the nazi evil. The outcome of which, for us Belgians as well as for millions of other human beings, meant freedom or slavery.
As a crew they belonged to 434 bomber squadron of the R.C.A.F. stationed in those days in Great Britain. On board their Halifax airplane, they were en route for a bombing raid into very hostile territory. Alas, they never reached their target, fate having decided otherwise, brutally cutting short their young lives, in the skies above us.
You, dear families of those heroes, accompanied by the sole survivor of this odyssey, Mr. Herbert Brown**, made the journey from your respective homelands, above all to express, with grief, personal homage to your loved one’s memory. For you Mr. Brown, by your presence at this ceremony, you pay a moving tribute to your comrades in arms, forever gone up yonder.
However, and thus honoured by your sole presence, you also came for the inauguration of this remarkable commemorative stele, dedicated to this gallant crew, and which we owe to its tireless, talented and dedicated creator, Mr. Hector Maurage, whom, on your behalf and in my own name, I salute, congratulate and heartily thank. We are also grateful to Couvin’s Municipality, as well as Florennes’ Air Force Station Commander, who gave assistance to Mr. Maurage’s compelling, elaborate and time consuming task.
Now, having performed our ceremony of remembrance, with your permission, I would like to take this opportunity to present to this assembly an outstanding Belgian wartime figure, who despite getting on in age, gracefully insisted on attending this remembrance ceremony. I cite Mr. Leopold Heimes.
In order to stress the feats of this remarkable, but so discreet personality, one must go back over sixty years and remember the “Battle of Britain”, July 10th to October 31st, 1940, the outcome of which, in our favour, changed the course of history and saved humanity.
Alas, Sir Winston Churchill, bless his soul, then Britain’s P.M. paid tribute to these British and Allied airmen who so gallantly and devoutly faced the onslaught of the German’s powerful Luftwaffe, with his historic words; “Never in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Well, not only, Mr. Heimes IS one of those few, but he is also the VERY LAST SURVIVOR of the 29 Belgian airmen who so brilliantly took part in the “B-of-B”. Thus, it is a great privilege for us all that he is amongst us today, for his presence enhances the homage we are rendering these brave Canadian airmen, whose destiny ended tragically on that night of December 1944.
To conclude, let us say that it is most imperative that we all bear in mind, and I particularly aim at our youth, that it is the courage, determination, devotion and sacrifice of all those who so eagerly fought the enemy during those dark hours, amongst whom the crew we honour, Mr. Heimes and Mr. Brown, which allows us today to enjoy peace, freedom and democracy. Lest we forget.
** Note – They were mistaken in believing that Bert Brown would be attending the ceremony.
(3) Brian Hart spoke to the participants on behalf of the relatives of the crew. He made the following remarks in French:
The families and relatives of the six Canadian fliers who lost their lives here so many years ago wish to thank the people of Couvin for honouring them here today with this monument and ceremony.
We thank you for remembering them; their courage, their commitment and their sacrifice.
They were young men. They were from across the great land of Canada, from farms and cities. They came to Europe and left behind their childhood dreams and loved ones to do what they must do because they believed in the cause.
Thank you for remembering when it would have been so easy to forget.
I remember. We remember. Always.