News item | 23-06-2022 | 14:45

    Exactly 81 years after their death, five Czechoslovak soldiers, who died in the night of 22 to 23 June 1941 near Nieuwe Niedorp, are reburied at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission military cemetery in Bergen op Zoom. In the presence of their next of kin and a large number of authorities, including the Czech and Slovak Defense Ministers, respectively. Jana Černochová and Jaroslav Naď, the Dutch Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Hanke Bruins Slot and the Czech ambassador, Kateřina Sequensová, will give the crew a final resting place.

    Minister Hanke Bruins Slot (Internal Affairs and Kingdom Relations): “Today we were able to rebury five heroes who made the highest sacrifice for our freedom. The National Plan for the Salvage of Aircraft Wrecks means that relatives of soldiers from the Second World War can pay their last respects to their loved ones and conclude their search. It is valuable that we can make this contribution. The aircraft salvages also make it possible to pass on the story of the Second World War to young people and to link this to the place where they grow up. It shows that freedom and democracy cannot be taken for granted.”

    In addition, the aircraft salvage also makes it possible to pass on the story of the (air) war to young people and to connect them to the place where they grow up. The salvages are also a starting point for the conversation about broader current themes such as democracy and show that freedom should never be taken for granted.”

    The plane (Vickers Wellington T2990) that the Czechoslovakians flew in was one of 70 bombers that bombed Bremen in the night of 22-23 June 1941. On its way back, the aircraft was intercepted by a German night fighter and shot down. It crashed in flames and only one of the crew members managed to save himself with his parachute and was taken prisoner of war. The other five crew members had been reported missing since that night. At the salvage, 80 years later, mortal remains were found, as hoped. The Salvage and Identification Service of the Royal Netherlands Army has subsequently determined that these belong to all five missing persons. F/Sgt Jan Hejna, P/O Vilem Konštatský, F/Sgt Alois Rozum, P/O Leonard Smrček and F/Sgt Karel Valach are no longer missing.

    National Program Salvage Aircraft Wrecks with Missing Pilots

    More than 5,500 aircraft were lost in the Netherlands during the Second World War. Remains of a large part of this are still in Dutch soil. Recent research has shown that the remains of crew members are probably still present at approximately thirty to fifty places in the Netherlands. The National Program for the salvage of aircraft wrecks supports municipalities where these so-called ‘promising salvages’ are located with money and advice. The program is funded by the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. Five aircraft have since been recovered, and in four cases the missing persons have indeed been found.

    The military cemetery, CWGC Bergen-Op-Zoom War Cemetery, where the five Czechoslovak soldiers are reburied, has 1284 graves and memorialized victims, of which 1189 were identified.

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