During a recent trip to Belgium & The Netherlands we decided to visit Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemeteries for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are a few bomber crashes on my research list where crew members are buried elsewhere in The Netherlands, however their Canadian Crewmates were moved to Bergen-op-Zoom. Secondly, I was passed a kit bag by a family member for a man who is buried here (more on this to follow) & thirdly as I was visiting anyway it would be nice to lay memorial crosses on the graves of the men who served with 102 (Ceylon) Squadron as I am the Squadron Association Archivist & a member of their management group.
In fact, there are actually two cemeteries at this location which sit side by side on Ruytershoveweg & per the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Website are named ‘Bergen-op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery’ & ‘Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery’ both having different layouts they sit about 3km east of the town of Bergen-op-Zoom & although the Cemeteries sit really close to the A58 Motorway the trees that line Ruytershoveweg do cut down the noise making a visit to both cemeteries a peaceful one.
The deaths of many of the men who lie in these two Cemeteries were mainly incurred in the fighting that took part to clear the north shore of the Scheldt & the capture of the Island of Walcheren.
Both Cemeteries were designed by Philip Dalton Hepworth a British Architect who was appointed one of the principal architects of the Imperial War Graves Commission (Now the CWGC) in the area of North West Europe. Hepworth would also go on to design the Bayeaux Memorial in 1955 which commemorated the missing British Forces in the Normandy Campaign & the Dunkirk Memorial in 1957 which commemorated men of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) who lost their lives during the fall of France.
Bergen-op-Zoom Canadian Cemetery
As you walk through the gates of the Canadian Cemetery, shelters sit to the left and right just before the stone of remembrance, within the shelter to the left sits the register box. As you walk ahead towards the cross of sacrifice sections sit to your left & right extending outwards.
A cross to one side reads ‘To our Canadian Liberators’ & bears the maple leaf
A plaque on one of the shelters reads ‘ The land on which this cemetery is located was donated by the Dutch people as a permanent resting place for the Sailors, Soldiers & Airmen whos memory is honoured here’
In 1950 whilst the cemetery plans were being finalised the cost of each grave including the headstones was given as £12 2d & the estimated cost of constructing the entire Cemetery was given as £15,371.
The CWGC website states that this cemetery contains 1118 Commonwealth Burials but that 31 of these are unidentified.
5 are Australians
968 are Canadians
6 are New Zealanders
109 are from the United Kingdom.
They served with the following forces: -
131 in the Air Force
983 in the Army
4 in the Navy
Whilst in this Cemetery I laid a Memorial Cross on behalf of 102 (Ceylon) Squadron Association on the grave of Pilot Officer Charles Rae Barr of the Royal Canadian Air Force who died on 17th June 1942 you can read my write up about these men on the 102 Squadron Website.
I also laid poppies on the graves of a few men whos crews I hope to research in the future.
Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery
As you walk through the gate of the Cemetery the stone of remembrance sits in the middle with benches to both sides. Walking up the middle the gravestones sit to the left & right & past this sits the cross of sacrifice which has pergolas on both sides. Beyond this are more sections to the left & right & to the rear of these sits the shelter which contains the Register Box.
Within this cemetery there also lies 7 men from the First World War; a British Airman & 6 unidentified members of the Royal Navy.
Close to the entrance/exit a plaque details the liberation of Belgium & the Netherlands & the advance to Germany between September 1944 & May 1945, a map is also included.
Images ©AAFR 2022
In 1950 whilst the cemetery plans were being finalised the cost of each grave including the headstones was given as £12 1s & the estimated cost of constructing the entire Cemetery was given as £18,179
The CWGC website states that this cemetery contains 1284 Commonwealth Burials but that 116 of these are unidentified.
Of these: -
12 are Australians
2 are Belgians
46 are Canadians
23 are New Zealanders
20 are Polish
1 is South African
1093 are from the United Kingdom.
They served with the following forces: -
445 in the Air Force
627 in the Army
3 in the Merchant Navy
122 in the Navy
Whilst in this Cemetery I laid Memorial Crosses on behalf of 102 (Ceylon) Squadron Association on the graves of :-
Sergeant John William Brown RAF who died 17th June 1942,
Flight Sergeant George Frederick Fargher RAF who died 10th September 1942,
Pilot Officer Garfield Davies RAF who died 13th May 1943,
Sergeant Thomas Eric Judd RAF who died 26th June 1943,
Sergeant David Albert Harrie Gough who died 26th June 1943
Sergeant David Wilfred Jennings RAF who died 17th June 1944 you can read my write up about these men on the 102 Squadron Website.
I also laid a poppy on the grave of Flight Lieutenant James Alan Swanson who died 10th November 1944 & who's kit bag I own.
Lest We Forget
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