The Full Story - ROTOS 2, 3, & 4

There will an addition write up and more photos added to Roto Two in the near future.


Dalgleish Unleashed

John and Robin Dalgleish in Europe and the United Kingdom

John and Robin departed from Pearson to Heathrow on 20 July, complete with the travelling set of 15 brass poppies.  Their plans were to visit eight headstone sites in France, Belgium and Holland, over five days, and then return to the UK to visit with family.  From Heathrow, they found the Eurostar Tunnel Train and then rented wheels in France.  They had a firm itinerary and lots of ground to cover.
14.Photo – John and Robin in Europe

Day 1

They arrived on the morning of 21 July and from Heathrow headed for the St. Pancras Station on the Piccadilly Underground Line.  This got them to the Eurostar Train Line and after a very long day, they arrived at Lille, France.  In addition to the headstones, they also wanted to visit the famous Vimy Ridge Memorial, Dieppe Beach and the Juno Beach Centre in France. 

They stayed overnight at a hotel in Lille and in the morning picked-up their rental Peugeot 307.  Their first stop was at the Vimy Canadian Memorial and they spent a few hours visiting and exploring the site.  One of the guides they met was a University of Guelph student working there for the summer. Then they headed south to the cemetery at Abbeville, France and spent about an hour taking photos of the brass poppies at the headstone of S/L JD Morrison (400) and F/O JK Spaetzel (411).
Soon after, they travelled to Dieppe and photographed the headstone of F/L DM Grant, DFC (400).  There was some time to browse the Dieppe city centre and the 19 AUGUST 1942 Memorial Museum.  Note that P/O Burlingam (400 Sqn.) was hit by ground flak while flying recon missions over Dieppe on 19 August.

In the museum, there were the remains of a Spitfire propeller which had been pulled from the English Channel near Dieppe as well as other RCAF artifacts and displays. They also spent some time reading the memorials at Canada Square located next to the imposing Chateau de Dieppe.

Robin at Canada Square, Dieppe

Day 2 

On Day 2, they headed south to Le Havre and the headstone of F/O F.J. Parsons (400).  The Canadian War Graves Commission on-site map and directions ensured an easy find in spite of this huge community cemetery.  The cemetery was near the ocean and the morning fog had not quite lifted so that the headstone photos were a bit darker than the previous day’s. 

After driving south to the Caen area they spent the afternoon walking around Courseulles-sur-Mer and the Juno Beach Centre. Then it was off to Bretteville-sur-Laize for the photos of F/O W.H. Jessiman (400) and the P/O T.W. Tuttle (411) headstones.
It was a gorgeous sunny afternoon and super weather for cross-country driving through the farm fields surrounding Caen ... there were lots of harvesting machines taking up the narrow roadways.

Then they headed further east to the F/O R.W. Clarke (400) headstone at the Epinay Church yard.  Epinay is a small cross-roads farming village - about 12 km south of Bernay.  They immediately saw the headstone from the roadway ... next to the old stone church.

When they entered the churchyard and approached the grave, they had a pleasant surprise.  The citizens of Epinay had, in 2014, commemorated F/O Clarke’s death with a museum quality plaque including his photo, the 400 Squadron crest, and his life story.

The narrative talked about his dogfight with a Messerschmidt above the town before his Mustang crashed into a nearby wood (La Butte du Moulin) on that fateful day in June 1943.

Their evening was spent walking around the nearby village of Orbec, France.

Day 3

On Day 3, they made the long drive north to Koksijde, Belgium, a beautiful beach town just north of Dunkirk, and the Coxyde Military Cemetery for the photograph of P/O D.G. Burlingam’s (400) headstone.  They spent the remainder of the day walking the beaches and exploring the dunes at Nieuwpoort along with the thousands of Belgians enjoying the hot summer weather on the coast.

The next morning they headed for the churchyard in Baak, Netherlands for  F/L W.W. Kennedy's (400) headstone ... the last photo in Europe for them.  

Day 4

Day 4 started with another long drive through Belgium and into Holland past Arnhem to the small village of Baak. The cemetery was on the outskirts of the village and not near the church but the headstone was easy to find next to the chapel.

While at the churchyard, they meet a local couple and told them about the brass poppy project.  They shared some wartime stories with them including a very sad one.  The Baak village remained mostly unscathed as the 1st Canadian Army advanced and the Nazis were forced back towards the Rhineland.  However, nine residents were killed including six children when an unexploded bomb detonated in town.  The couple was very thankful for Canada's contribution to the liberation of the Netherlands.

John and Robin next walked around the village and went into the local cafe for a beer to cool off.  Here they struck up a conversation with a couple of older local gentlemen at the bar.  One told them a story about his family being displaced from their farm by the Nazis. He was born during the war but his older sister (by ten years) told him this story.
His father had hidden two horses in a large bale of hay near the farm but the Germans never found them while they occupied the farm.  A couple of big Canadian "farm boys" arrived during their advance and uncovered the horses within about half an hour of arriving at the farm.  He said they "sniffed" them out.  The story got a big laugh.  Everyone seemed happy to have a couple of "Canucks" visiting the village that day.

They spent the remainder of the day traveling to Xanten, Germany. This was very personal for John as his late father had fought in this area with the Essex Scottish Regiment during the winter of 1944/45. The Hochwold, Rhineland, Goch-Calcar Road and Xanten are all battle honours for his Regiment.  They drove to all of those places that afternoon.  Also, Major Fred Tilston won the Victoria Cross while fighting in the area.  John expressed, “It was great to be traveling the same countryside as my father did 72 years ago albeit under much safer and friendlier circumstances.”

Day 5

After spending the night at an inn in Bronkhorst, “the Smallest City in the Netherlands”, they headed back south towards Lille. Along the way they stopped at the Oorlogs museum in Overloon, Holland.  This is the Netherlands national museum of the Second World War and the country’s liberation.  At the museum they had another encounter with a Spitfire displayed above military vehicles used during in the D-Day invasions.

16.PHOTO - Overloon Spitfire

In the late afternoon, they headed back to Lille, France. Due to the recent attack in Nice they encountered a security checkpoint on the motorway at the Belgium/France border. After that brief delay they dropped off the rental car and caught the Eurostar train back to London that evening.

Day 6

Back in London on Day 6, they headed for Peterborough to begin their visit with relatives.  John made contact with Jill Moran at the Scopwick Church Cemetery near Digby, Lincolnshire and on Day 9 (Friday) they arrived to take the five photographs.  The cemetery has about 50 headstone including Sgt. JD Barbour, WO2 JA McMillan, P/O GF Brown, and Sgt. RM Murray all of 411 Sqn., and P/O John Gillespie McGee – author of the poem “High Flight.”

John, Robin and cousin Graham with Spitfire at Scopwick

Jill Moran and Radar Ops Centre, Digby

They also spent a couple of hours touring the WWII Sector Operations Centre at RAF Digby.   It looks exactly as it did during the Battle of Britain and when 411 Squadron was stationed there.   John considered that, “It was amazing, it looked like everyone had just put their radios, telephones and papers down and left the bunker.”

As a result of their visit to Scopwick, they modified their plans for the brass poppies and decided to take them back to London with them on Sunday and deliver them directly to the Brookwood Cemetery on Monday. 
The connection at Brookwood did not work out so the poppies were shipped by courier from Hounslow (near Heathrow Airport) to Del Solari at the Wrexham Cemetery in North Wales. They arrived the next day and an excellent photo of the F/O AA McKiggan (400) headstone was completed.  The poppies were then shipped back to Brookwood Cemetery and arrived on Tuesday 18 August.  In the meantime, John and Robin had arrived back home in Mississauga.

                                                                    Created by John and Robin Dalgleish
19.Photo – Del Solari at Wrexham

20.Photo – Kim Lowe and Debbie Hare at Brookwood