Herdenking 10/05/2015 Neerlinter - Drieslinter.

75-jarige herdenking

Op zondag 10 mei werd de verjaardag van de inval van Duitse troepen in België en de bevrijdingsdag met een grootse plechtigheid in Neerlinter en Drieslinter herdacht. Aan het oorlogsmonument te Neerlinter werd hulde gebracht. In Drieslinter spitste de herdenking zich toe op twee gedenkplaten: één voor de gesneuvelde soldaten en één voor de drie gesneuvelde geallieerde vliegeniers die in 1944 tijdens hun missie verongelukten in Melkwezer en Drieslinter.

Voor de viering bracht het herdenkingcomité en de gemeente Linter niet alleen de families van de gesneuvelde dorpsgenoten bij elkaar, maar eveneens de families van de drie verongelukte vliegeniers uit drie verschillende continenten: Amerika, Australië en Europa.

 

Bron: Britse dagblad (Daily Express) van 10/05/2015

Heroes honoured: VE Day pilot's relatives visit site of his fateful 1944 crash

THE family of a British airman killed in action are marking VE Day by visiting the village in Belgium where he died.

By JOE COATES, IN BELGIUM

PUBLISHED: 00:01, Sun, May 10, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARK KEHOE

Alfred Ashcrofts medals were sent to his wife in a small box complete with a letter from the King

Relatives of Flight Lieutenant Alfred Edward David Ashcroft, 24, a navigator and wireless operator from Surrey, were traced after an appeal by the Sunday Express. 

He was killed with Australian pilot William Searle Vale, 27, when their Mosquito came down in a field near Drieslinter on October 6, 1944. 

They were returning to RAF Swannington in Norfolk after a raid on Bremen and Dortmund in Germany. 

A few months earlier American pilot Olger Ivan Aal, 21, was killed when his Thunderbolt plane was hit by anti-aircraft guns while strafing a German airfield in nearby Melkwezer. 

The sacrifice of the three airmen fighting to free people from German occupation touched villagers so much they are still remembered decades later. 

My uncle, who I never met, feels so much more real to me after coming here. Before I just had a few bits of paper and some medals in a box but I feel closer to him now I can fully understand his story

Carolyn Mason

Officials in Linter, the new name given to seven villages including Drieslinter in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, began a mission to trace relatives of the war heroes to attend an unveiling of a plaque honouring them in a ceremony today. 

The Sunday Express was approached to help after the Belgian authorities contacted welfare charity SSAFA, formerly known as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association. 

They were struggling to trace relatives of Mr Ashcroft until a story was published in February and Wing Commander David Bramley from the Surrey branch of SSAFA was contacted, allowing him to get in touch with a niece, Carolyn Mason, of North Devon and a cousin, Chris Toase, from Gloucester. 

The family of Mr Vale were easy to find as they still own the family farm he lived on in Picola north of Victoria. Relatives of Mr Aal were also quickly traced in Washington, Minnesota and North Dakota. Mr Bramley said last night: “We could not have cracked this without the Sunday Express. 

We did not know where to go and without help Britain would not be represented at this event, which would have been awful.”

The retired RAF pilot travelled to Belgium with Mrs Mason and her husband David. 

They were joined by Mr Toase and his daughter Stephanie, who is serving in the Royal Navy. Seeing the plaque and crash site for the first time was a highly emotional experience for Mrs Mason, Grace Harding, the sister of Mr Vale, and Irvin Aal, a cousin of the American pilot. 

Mrs Mason said: “My uncle, who I never met, feels so much more real to me after coming here. Before I just had a few bits of paper and some medals in a box but I feel closer to him now I can fully understand his story. 

MARK KEHOE

Mrs Carolyn Mason holds her uncle’s portrait as she visits the site of his death yesterday

“Seeing the plaque for the first time with Grace standing by my side felt right, as that was how Alfred and William were when they flew together.” 

Mr Ashcroft joined the RAF as a trainee pilot in April 1939 but became an air gunner, forming a successful partnership with Battle of Britain ace Squadron Leader Edward Wolfe which gained him a commission and a Distinguished Flying Cross. 

After retraining as a navigator and wireless operator for the RAF’s new Mosquito planes, he flew 95 operational and training flights with Mr Vale. Mrs Mason said she had to sit down when she heard of the plans for a memorial. 

“It was very touching and humbling to find so many people in this village still care about what for us has been a family tragedy.”

Mrs Harding, 82, of Nithalia, Victoria, said: “I still remember the day we got the telegram saying he was missing in action and the next day another one saying his plane had crashed.” 

Lisette Wouters, of Linter Remembrance Group, said: “We are very proud that the families of the three airmen are all here today.”