This afternoon’s speech by Rian van Dam, Mayor of Nieuwe Niedorp, at the Press Conference about the Wellington T2990 crash site excavation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the municipality of Hollands Kroon I would like to welcome you in our town hall. A special welcome goes out to the ambassador of the Czech Republic mrs. Kateřina Sequensová. The same goes to mister Jan Jonker, witness to the crash. Welkom meneer Jonker, wat fijn dat u er bent. Than in advance I want to thank family Groot -Van der Geest for their hospitality today, as we visit their grounds. Dank u daarvoor. And off course a friendly welcome everyone involved in this extraordinary project in one of our towns, Nieuwe Niedorp. For our special guests my story today will be in English.
During World War Two almost six thousand (6000) planes have crashed on Dutch soil. Approximately eighty-five percent (85%) of the plane wrecks have been salvaged back in the days. The exact location of many other crashed planes is unknown. This could mean that about four hundred (400) planes, even with human remains of the crew members, are still to be discovered. The identity of these young men and women is in many cases unknown, or they are registered as missing.
In places in which the plane crash site is clear, there usually is a marking by a monument or a memorial stone. These locations are recognized as war graves by our government. Next to possible presence of mortal remains and personal belongings, the wrecks contain possible heavy explosives, ammunition, weapons, asbestos, and other metals or fluids. These materials, alien to the ground, could be a threat to the environment.
Through our House of Representatives, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations started a program to salvage plane wrecks with missing persons from the war. In this program there are six promising sights. The plane that crashed, a British Vickers Wellington, at Nieuwe Niedorp on the twenty-third of June nineteen forty-one is one of them. The Wellington is only the fifth to be dug up in the context of this special program. And in special circumstances. The clay ground in which the plane is buried is different from the other sights. So more small parts are expected.
But even though the technical aspect of this program is exciting and sparks the imagination of what we will be discovered, it is merely the technical execution of the program. That doesn’t mean it is not important, that doesn’t mean it is not promising. But what I really want to say is that the program is about more than taking metals and rust from the ground. It is more than retrieving the remains of the soldiers who died on their mission. It’s about giving respect and the proper honor and respect to these young men.
In the summer of nineteen forty one (1941) the Royal Air Force acts out a bombing on Bremen. Seventy (70) twin engine bombers – Vickers Wellingtons and Handley Page Hamdens – find their way to Germany for this mission. They suffered two losses.
In the early morning one of the planes crashes in the Kostverlorenpolder in Nieuwe Niedorp. The machine had been in a fight with a German hunter. One of the crew members survived by leaping from the plane with his parachute. Captain Vilem Bufka was eventually captured by the occupier and remained in captivity until the end of the war. The five other members on board died far away from home.
And imagine that. Six young men. Fled to England, via Poland and France, from the Czech Republic occupied by the Germans. Where they once again committed themselves to fight for freedom, without knowing what the ultimate consequence would be.
Just ordinary guys. One a banker, one a policeman. Stepping on a plane. They know the plane by heart. They are not in it for the money, nor for the fame. They are not out there to hurt people. They are out there to help. Not their neighbours, not their family or good friends. No, they are on that plane far away from home. Not knowing the people below them. Not knowing the streets below them. Never ever have set foot on Dutch soil.
Imagine that. And imagine how brave, how strong and how unselfish these guys were. They are not just young men stepping on a fighters plane. They are heroes. Heroes who sacrificed everything. Heroes who paid the highest price. They died, so we can live in freedom.
So if you ask me why we are here today. It is because of this. It’s because the crew, these five brave young men who died, deserve this. They must be honored. And by honoring them, we honor all their fellow men and women. These five young humans symbolize all the brave and strong men and women who led us to freedom. Lest we forget.
These six young men fled their homes. Maybe even let their wives and children behind, their families. For the better cause. To do good. To help other people in need. To be a part of the fight for freedom. And not just for the people who are in danger at the moment. Not just for democracy on that moment in time. But for freedom of generations to come.
Today, let their names be known. For their relatives, out of respect, and to honour them.
• Alois ROZUM, born in nineteen twelve in Plzen (~pilsen). Flight Sergeant and second Pilot.
• Leonhard SMRČEK, born in nineteen hundred fifteen in Budišov. Pilot Officer, and Wireless operator.
• Vilém KONŠTATSKÝ, born in nineteen fourteen in Čelechovice. Pilot Officer and Navigator.
• Jan HEJNA, born in nineteen fifteen in Jaroměř. Flight sergeant and Front gunner.
• Karel VALACH, born in nineteen eighteen in Kroměříž. Flight sergeant and Rear gunner.
All died here in Nieuwe Niedorp on the twenty third of June nineteen forty-one. Let’s take a moment of silence for these great men.
Thank you. I wish you all a day to remember.