Last post for Canuck airmen, 59 years late
Date: Thursday, November 28 2002
Topic: International News
WILNIS, Netherlands -- In the silence after the last post, a rooster's crow brought gentle smiles to those gathered yesterday to bury three Canadian airmen shot down in the Second World War, their remains only recently retrieved from a watery bog nearby.
Hundreds of Dutch people, including schoolchildren bearing poppies and carnations, joined Canadian relatives and officials on a frosty morning for the funeral of the airmen who, many here believe, spared their community from harm by crashing the burning aircraft away from buildings.
They were Warrant Officer Robert Moulton, the pilot; Flight Sgt. Joseph Thibaudeau and Flight Sgt. Joseph White, who died May 4, 1943, when their Wellington bomber was shot down by a Nazi warplane over Wilnis, 18 km south of Amsterdam. The bomber quickly sank in the marshy lowlands and the whereabouts of those inside remained unclear for almost 60 years.
The wreckage was finally recovered this fall and the remains identified.
Yesterday, the small Dutch Reform Church here was bursting with 300 people who came to pay respects.
Three coffins, each draped with a Canadian flag and adorned with a dagger, stood in the centre with a military guard until the memorial service began. Homilies and prayers were offered in English, French and Dutch. Serge April, Canada's ambassador to the Netherlands, read the poem High Flight by Pilot Officer John G. Magee, Jr.
Canadian military personnel serving in Europe served as pallbearers, eight at each coffin.
Thibaudeau, of St-Eustache, Que., was 21 when he died. White, 22, was from Thorold, Ont., and Moulton, 30, from Brockville, Ont. Their next of kin flew in for the funeral from Canada, the United States and Scotland.
Most family members expressed bittersweet emotions. "I am sad, yes, but I am also relieved the state of 'not knowing' is finally over," said Jean-Claude Thibaudeau, 70, of Montreal.