Thursday, July 03, 2008
Our main goal for today was to visit the Commonwealth War Graves cemetry at Jonkerbos in Nijmegen. Buying a train ticket from Amsterdam Central to Nijmegen was straightforward. We didn't have to change trains either.
At the Nijmegen train station we were told to take lijn 3 or 4 which we did. I had written down on a piece of paper where we wanted to go and the driver indicated that he knew where that was and that he would let us know when we got there.
Eventually he indicated that we should get off the bus; he pointed forward and then left. We nodded that we understood what that meant!
He had let us off at what seemed to be a local cemetry so we set off on foot to find our destination. En route we checked with a man at a crematorium who indicated that we should go left, walk for about a kilometre and the cemetry would be on our right, How wrong can you get it?!
Half an hour later I walked into a workshop and sort further directions. There seemed to be some debate amongst the adults about where the cemetry was. In the end the boss' son was assigned to take us by car to where he thought it was we wanted to go. He was on the button and we were very grateful for his help. We were in the right area of the city so we weren't far away!
Our reason for coming to Jonkerbos Cemetry was to visit my uncle Leonard Hickford (Mickey); my grandmother's son from her first marriage. He was a Flight Sergeant and an air gunner in the RNZ Airforce and was shot down while returning from a bombing raid on 21 July 1944. As was the case with so many war casualties, he was only 21.
You might be able to see the poppy we placed at the foot of his stone. We laid poppies on the graves of all 21 New Zealanders in the cemetry.
On our previous visit to a war cemetry near Albert in northern France to visit one of Lynne's uncles who died in WW I we were quite unprepared and didn't take enough poppies but we did more homework this time and took enough for all the New Zealanders. There were too many here for us to have taken a poppy for everyone but we could see that some soldiers had already had visitors.
Here I am beside Mickey's head stone.
Mickey's head stone is in the last row of this quadrant of the cemetry, 3rd one in. He is buried in the same row as others who were killed on the same day/night. Presumably they were all in the same plane because there was a pilot, navigator, and gunners all in the same row.
We also wrote in the visitors' book.
War is never pleasant but we can give thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for making Mickey's last resting place a peaceful and beautifully maintained one surrounded by tall trees.
Posted by Paul at 12:37 PM