207 SQUADRON ROYAL AIR FORCE HISTORY

Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery
& the Rijken family

Eindhoven is located 31 kilometres south-east of 's Hertogenbosch and 14 kilometres south-west of Helmond. The Cemetery is in the suburb of Woensel in the northern part of the town. Approaching from Helmond on the A270, follow signs for Eindhoven. At the third set of traffic lights after Helmond turn right onto the road connecting Eindhoven to Valkenswaard. Approximately 1.5 kilometres along this road signposts will be seen indicating the route to Woensel War Cemetery.

Kees Rijken’s father was a municipality official at Eindhoven Town Hall for over 45 years. Kees, who is an Honorary member of 207 Squadron Royal Air Force Association writes: During the war my father worked for the General Affairs department that had to deal with the contacts between the German authorities and the municipality. On March 29th 1941 a staff member of the Ortskommandantur (comparable with the Town Major we had after we were liberated in 1944) asked my father to see that a grave be dug in the Ehrenfriedhof (military part) of the municipal cemetery. An RAF Flight Lieutenant was to be buried at 1500 hours.

The German official showed my father the identity-disc of the fallen airman, who appeared to be John Siebert, RAAF and RC, No.36155. The Town Hall officials did not then know, as they would later, what the second A in RAAF meant. But the letters RC were understood. To ensure that John Siebert would be buried in consecrated ground a Roman Catholic priest was asked to be present at the funeral.

Though the Germans had forbidden any publicity about the forthcoming funeral, the rumour that an English airman would be buried that afternoon had quickly spread so that thousands of people assembled along the road to the cemetery and in the cemetery.

A German chaplain, a military band, a firing party and the Dutch priest were present. German Luftwaffe personnel carried the coffin - covered with the British flag - to the grave. The German military band played Ich hatte einen Kameraden (‘I had a comrade’) and a salute of honour was fired.

After the funeral the Dutch people crowded round the grave and clearly showed their sympathy with the fallen airman, and their antipathy towards the Germans, by wearing red white and blue or orange knots. Many flowers were laid on his grave.

On March 31st a staff member of the Ortskommandantur called again at the Town Hall. He expressed his astonishment about the presence of so many civilians at John Siebert's funeral.

The Ortskommandantur, he said, did not have objections to the presence of Dutch civilians at a funeral of British airmen - but the people should behave as is customary during an interment. Parents should look after their children better. The conduct of the inhabitants of Eindhoven was improper, particularly because some of them were smoking.

Many burials of allied airmen would unfortunately follow John's. The Germans shifted all these burials to the early morning-hours, and all access points to the cemetery were closed.


L-R: Kees Rijken, Jim Taylor (survivor of the Siebert crew), and Mrs Ans Rijken at East Kirkby, October 2003: Lancaster NX611 in background

The other 12 airmen from No. 207 Squadron buried there are:

Lancaster ED600 EM-P
26.5.1943

F/O Philip Drayton
Sgt Keith Frost
Sgt George Bottomley
Sgt Ivor Hall
Sgt Douglas Genever
Sgt Thomas Stoddart
Sgt Eric Barker

Lancaster W4120 EM-L
31.8.1943

P/O John Hickling
Sgt Eric Preston
Sgt Maurice Atkinson
Sgt Thomas Barnett
Sgt Thomas Moore

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission almost four-fifths of the men buried here belonged to the air forces, and lost their lives in raids over this part of Holland or in returning from Germany, between 1941 and 1944. Men of the land forces who are buried here died between September 1944 and May 1945. The 79th and 86th British General Hospitals were located at Eindhoven during almost all that period. There are now nearly 700, 1939-45 war casualties commemorated in this site.


Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery, War Graves: note the tulip laid at each grave by the young people of Eindhoven

Annual Commemoration of the Dead of the 1939-1945 War

In Eindhoven the Annual Commemoration of the Dead of the 1939-1945 War is held every year on the evening of the fourth of May, at the General Cemetery. It takes place in front of the graves of a Dutch soldier and of Allied airmen whose aircraft came to grief in the neighbourhood of Eindhoven.

For a number of years a wreath has been laid on behalf of 207 Squadron RAF Association at the grave of Flight Lieutenant John Siebert DFC (RAAF) of 207 Squadron RAF. Jim Taylor was one of the survivors and for a number of years Jim Taylor laid the wreath on John's grave. Kees Rijken was privileged to accompany him. For a few years, whilst Jim Taylor's wife was ill, Kees and his wife Ans and laid the wreath on behalf of the Association.

In 1998 Jim was able to return to Eindhoven as a guest for the Annual Commemoration. During the Ceremony the Mayor of Eindhoven says some words about the necessity of commemorating "lest we forget". As is usual, after a silence of two minutes and 'The Last Post' the Mayor lays a wreath on behalf of the citizens of Eindhoven, who come out in great numbers. Further wreaths and flowers are laid by many military and civil organisations. At the same ceremony the young people of Eindhoven lay tulips on the graves of other Allied servicemen.

Jim Taylor died in 2011.


John Siebert's grave is just behind the large central wreath

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Avro Manchester L7303 EM-P: Dusseldorf, 27/28 March 1941
Pilot: Flt Lt JOHN ALOYSIUS SIEBERT DFC RAAF

Note that his grave, Plot FF, Grave 4, like all the 207 Squadron graves has a poppy cross planted in front bearing the inscription From 207 Squadron RAF Association.

John Siebert, aged 23, was the son of Francis Joseph and Ella Mary Siebert, of Kingswood, South Australia. He was the first Allied airman to be buried in Eindhoven after his 207 Squadron Avro Manchester, based at RAF Waddington, was shot down on the night of 27/28 March 1941. L7303 EM-P was attacking Dusseldorf : the rest of the crew were POWs - 2nd Pilot Peter Robson, Observer George Fomison, W/Op AG Jim Taylor, M/U William McDougall and R/G Peter Gurnell.

The remaining members of his crew were able to bale out in time. John Siebert stayed in his Manchester until everybody else had jumped to safety, The next morning it appeared that his parachute was only half open when he hit the ground.

Siebert's Manchester was shot down by Stabs Feldwebel Gerhard Herzog of NachtJagdGeschwader 1 flying a Messerschmitt Me-110. Stfw Herzog himself was killed in action on 20 October 1943 having shot down between 9 and 12 aircraft.

 

In May 2012 John Siebert's niece, Mignon Wegner, who has been living in Germany, took the opportunity to attend the ceremony.

She was delighted to meet Paul and Jeanne Schepers. Jeanne is the daughter of the Rijkens (see above). She and Paul continue the 207 link established by her family.


Mignon Wegner and Jeanne Schepers, May 2012
source: Schepers

 

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207 Squadron: Lancaster mkI ED600 EM-P, night of 25/26 May 1943
Took off at 2314 from Langar for an attack on Düsseldorf. Hit by flak and crashed 0235 at Melderslo (Limburg), 2km ENE of Horst, Holland.

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DRAYTON, PHILIP CHARLES BRADLEY

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Flying Officer (Pilot)
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Age: 29
Date of Death: 26/05/1943
Service No: 105169
Additional information: Son of Theophilus James Bradley Drayton and Eva Drayton, of Upper Norwood, Surrey.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot JJB. Coll. grave 64-66.

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GENEVER, DOUGLAS ALAN

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Sergeant (Nav.) [acting as Air Bomber]
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Age: 20
Date of Death: 26/05/1943
Service No: 1320927
Additional information: Son of William Albert and Julia Ellen Genever, of Clapham Common, North London.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot JJB. Coll. grave 64-66.

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FROST, KEITH JOHN

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Sergeant (Flt. Engr.)
Royal Air Force
Age: 21
Date of Death: 26/05/1943
Service No: 651754
Additional information: Son of William Robert and Nora Frost, of Herne Hill, London.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot JJB. Coll. grave 64-66.

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STODDART, THOMAS WILLIAM TREMBLE

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Sergeant (Air Gnr.) [Mid-Upper]
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Age: 26
Date of Death: 26/05/1943
Service No: 936820
Additional information: Son of Thomas and Isabel Stoddart, of Carlisle; husband of Vera Stoddart, of Carlisle.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot JJB. Coll. grave 64-66.

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BOTTOMLEY, GEORGE LANGDON

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Sergeant (Nav.)
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Age: 20
Date of Death: 26/05/1943
Service No: 1437922
Additional information: Son of Alban Langdon Bottomley and Ethel Priscilla Bottomley, of Haworth, Yorkshire.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot JJB. Grave 63.

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BARKER, ERIC HARRY FREDERIC

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Sergeant (Air Gnr.) [Rear]
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Age: 23
Date of Death: 26/05/1943
Service No: 931976
Additional information: Son of William Pattison Barker and Florence Mary Barker, of Macklestone, Staffordshire.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot JJB. Coll. grave 64-66.

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HALL, IVOR EDWIN GEORGE

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Sergeant (W.Op./Air Gnr.)
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Age: 22
Date of Death: 26/05/1943
Service No: 1314646
Additional information: Son of Albert and Florence Emily Hall, of Woodchester, Gloucestershire.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot JJB. Coll. grave 64-66.

   

 

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207 Squadron: Lancaster mkI W4120 EM-L, night of 30/31 August 1943
Took off at 2337 from Langar for an attack on Mönchengladbach. Shot down by a night fighter (Ofw Macke, 9./NJG4) crashing 0340 near Maarheeze (Noord Brabant), 16km SE of Eindhoven

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HICKLING, JOHN

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Pilot Officer (Pilot)
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Date of Death: 31/08/1943
Service No: 155795
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot EE. Grave 112.

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BARNETT, THOMAS

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Sergeant (W.Op./Air Gnr.)
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Age: 20
Date of Death: 31/08/1943
Service No: 1575833
Additional information: Son of Michael and Mary Barnett, of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot EE. Grave 110.

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PRESTON, ERIC ALFRED RICHARD

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Sergeant (Flt. Engr.)
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Age: 24
Date of Death: 31/08/1943
Service No: 1263575
Additional information: Son of Richard Thomas Preston and Emily Preston, of Llanfairfechan, Caernarvonshire; husband of Vera Mary Preston.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot EE. Grave 96.

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MOORE, THOMAS GEORGE

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Sergeant (Air Gnr.)
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Age: 35
Date of Death: 31/08/1943
Service No: 1811627
Additional information: Son of Charles and Elizabeth Olley Moore; husband of Ethel Doris Moore, of Clapton, London.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot EE. Grave 97.

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ATKINSON, MAURICE

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Sergeant (Nav.)
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Age: 23
Date of Death: 31/08/1943
Service No: 1500580
Additional information: Son of Maud Bayles, of Brough, Westmoreland.
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot EE. Grave 95.

 

Sgt Harold Alan Queen RCAF

age not known, who was the mid upper gunner, is buried in Grave XV, F10 in Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery Gelderland, Netherlands.

Sgt Kenneth Herbert Scott RCAF, the Air Bomber, the sole survivor, was taken POW.

LINKS

Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery (includes cemetery map)
207 Squadron Royal Air Force History
Siebert Crew tree dedication, Aviation Heritage Centre, former RAF East Kirkby, Lincolnshire 11 October 2003

Eindhoven cemetery images 4 May 2004: with thanks to Paul Schepers, Kees Rijken's son-in-law
Eindhoven badge: Jim Taylor
East Kirkby: Frank Haslam
Losses source: RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, by WR Chorley, Honorary Member of the former 207 Squadron RAF Association

last updated 10 May 2012: 31 Dec 13