Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 12:53 UK

Memorial honour for Dutch airmen

Willem Hijkoop (left) and Anton Marie ten Herkel
Willem Hijkoop (left) and Anton Marie ten Herkel died in August 1941

Two Dutch pilots who died when their bomber crashed in Fife during World War II have been honoured at a ceremony.

Anton Marie ten Herkel and Willem Hijkoop were killed instantly when their Lockheed Hudson went down in the grounds of Gilmerton House in 1941.

John Purvis MEP, whose family own the house, was three-years-old and playing nearby at the time of the crash.

He teamed up with neighbour Gordon Ball to trace the airmen's families and to organise the memorial.

Mr Ball, chairman of Cameron Community Council, discovered Mr Hijkoop, 30, had been a policeman who had fled the Netherlands to come to the UK.

Mr ten Herkel, 22, had been a pharmacist assistant.

The pair joined the Dutch 320 Squadron, based at RAF Leuchars.

Mr Ball is not sure why they crashed that day, but he suspects there may have been a problem with the aircraft.

They came from their home country not just to get liberty for their own country but to fight for us at the worst possible time."
John Purvis MEP

He added: "It has taken me nearly a year and half to get the information together and also to find the families of these two men."

The dead airmen are buried in the graveyard at Leuchars.

Mr Purvis said he remembered hearing the crash and running home to find the plane in flames.

He said: "My brother was almost on the site of the crash and had to run away with his cousin. My mother came rushing out of the house and broke her shoes.

"For years afterwards I wondered who the two young men were, who had been killed in this crash."

Mr Purvis said it was important for people to remember the sacrifice the men made.

"This was 1941 when we were right at the bottom of the war and having great problems and they came to save us. They came from their home country not just to get liberty for their own country but to fight for us at the worst possible time."

'Very proud'

The service at Gilmerton House, near St Andrews, was led by Rev Alan McDonald and saw a commemorative plaque being placed.

It was attended by Mr Hijkoop's niece, Marja van den Boogaard-Hijkoop.

She said that when her uncle first left the Netherlands her family did not know what had happened to him for about a year.

She said: "For me today is a bit emotional. I never knew him, he died before I was born. It's a pity I can't share this with my father, he was very proud of his brother."




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