Following the salvage operations of Halifax LW682 in Sep 97, the Belgian Aviation History Association (BAHA) turned its attention to the creation of an aviation museum and a memorial which would commemorate the crew of that bomber. BAHA had played a prominent role in the recovery of LW682 and the three lost crew members. With a modest contribution from the Squadron Association, BAHA members designed and constructed a unique memorial utilizing, as a centre piece, an engine recovered from the downed Halifax. The date for the dedication ceremony was set for 15 May 99. Formal invitations in this regard were sent to the Canadian Embassies in the Hague and Brussels. The Chief of the Air Staff, LGen D.N. Kinsman, was advised and he directed his office to arrange for Air Force representation which coincided with ongoing celebrations marking the service's 75th Anniversary. Veterans Affairs Canada provided the wreaths which would be placed by the Association and Air Force representatives during the ceremony as well as making available a supply of Canada pins.
The Association Team consisting of the Chaplain, Father Harry Schmuck (who served as an air gunner with 426 Squadron during the war), and the President, Larry Motiuk (LCol, ret'd), arrived in Brussels on 12 May. They were met by Jean-Louis Haegeman who took them to Geraardsbergen where they met with the BAHA Organizing Committee; Cynric De Decker (Chairman), Peter Vanderbarren, Stefan Delannoit and Jean-Louis Haegeman. Details regarding the Order of Service were discussed and minor changes to the program were made.
Mr P. Vanderbarren (in tan jacket), Master of Ceremonies, addresses the assembly.
Chaplain H. Schmuck delivers a prayer, scipture reading and a homily.
Mr D. Summerhayes lays a wreath at his father's grave.
Mr J. Hammond at his uncle's grave.
At 1100 hours the second part of the proceedings took place at the Memorial Cairn located about a mile from the Cemetery. Leading the procession to the site was a cavalcade of vintage Second World War military vehicles. After the Colour Party and Standard Bearers took their positions, the national anthems of Canada and Belgium were played. The crowd of over 200 people were then welcomed on behalf of the BAHA Committee by Peter Vanderbarren. Next the gathering was addressed by Burgemeester F. De Chou, Mr Robert Todd from the Canadian Embassy in Brussels, and by Col Chester.
The unveiling of the Memorial followed with Jay Hammond, Doug Summerhayes, Hugh Taylor and Cynric De Decker performing the task. The Memorial was then blessed and dedicated by Chaplain Harry Schmuck.
Unveiling the Memorial.
Geraardsbergen Memorial to the crew of Halifax LW682, a Bristol Hercules XVI 18 cylinder radial engine rated at 1615 hp, recovered from the crash site.
Wreaths were laid by: Col Chester on behalf of 426 Squadron and the Air Force; Larry Motiuk for the Association; Burgemeester De Chou for the town of Geraardsbergen and the Belgian people; and Stefan Delannoit on behalf of BAHA. Closing remarks were made by Cynric De Decker who called upon Jim Blondeau to sing his song "The Belgian Forest". The song was written and popularized during the recovery operation in Sep 97. After the ceremony all were invited to visit an exposition of aviation artifacts assembled at a large garage which is adjacent to the Memorial.
Burgemeester F. De Chou, Mr K. Kjarsgaard, Col T. Chester,
LCol L. Motiuk (ret'd).
Members of the Belgian Aviation History Association.
At noon those attending the ceremonies made their way to the Town Hall for a reception hosted by the Burgemeester. Following the reception BAHA held a luncheon for 70 Belgian and Canadian guests at a nearby restaurant. At each place setting was a Canadian pin supplied by Robert Todd from the Brussels Embassy. During the luncheon Peter Vanderbarren accepted, on behalf of BAHA, an RCAF Ensign from Larry Motiuk. The Ensign will be flown at the site of the Memorial.
Wilbur Boyd Bentz, F/S, Pilot, RCAF, of Penticton, B.C., aged 23.
Thomas Wessel Taylor, F/O, Navigator, RCAF, of Chisholm Mills, Alta, aged 29.
Clifford Stanley Phillips, F/O, Bomb Aimer, RCAF, of Valparaiso, Sask, aged 25.
Jack Edwin McIntyre, WO1, Wireless Op/gunner, RCAF, of Biggar, Sask, aged 23.
Roy Ellerslie, Sgt, Flight Engineer, RAFVR, of Doncaster, Yorkshire, aged 37.
John Wilson Summerhayes, Sgt, Mid-upper Gunner, RCAF, of Brantford, Ont, aged 23.
Fred Roach, Sgt, Rear Gunner, RCAF, of Leamington, Ont, aged 25.
Joseph Edward Jean Guy Arbour, F/S, Mid-under Gunner, RCAF, of Montreal, Que, aged 32.