Eleanor and Wayne Kratzmann at the graves of Alfred Burns and Patrick Tiernan

May 15, 2014

“Though their lives ebbed away in our soil, they will forever live in our memories”

These words, inscribed in English on a memorial in a cemetery at Dodewaard in the Netherlands are dedicated to Australians Patrick Tiernan and Alfred Burns, who lost their lives when their Halifax bomber exploded over the town during World War II.

However for the delegation of 30 Australians who recently returned from the Dutch town, it will be the actions of the local Dutch community, the May 4 Committee and the local council which will live forever in their memories.

The Australian delegation consisted of members of the Burns and Tiernan families plus a small contingent from the South Burnett, including Murgon State High School.

After visiting cemeteries in Belgium, France and the Netherlands to honour the South Burnett’s war dead, the South Burnett group spent the last three days of the trip at Dodewaard to mark Dutch Remembrance Day and the 70th anniversary of the deaths of Tiernan and Burns.

* * *

South Burnett Mayor Wayne Kratzmann takes up the journey:

On Friday (May 2) we had an official meeting with the Mayor, Burgemeester Kees Veerhoek, and a tour of the Council Chambers.

They then took us to visit local businesses, including a tree plantation, a 500-employee logistics firm and a medical products sterilisation firm.

We were also taken to visit a former nuclear reactor plant, closed by public demand in 1998 after the Chernobyl accident.

It was scary but unbelievable. I asked the caretaker whether they normally do tours of the facility, and he said never except for this tour.

That night, we watched “The Flight of the Halifax”, a documentary put together by the May 4 Committee about the Halifax’s last flight … amazing.

We then presented the Patrick Tiernan books to the Mayor and representatives from the local school and the commemorative committee.

Kingaroy-Memerambi and Murgon RSL representatives Don Davey and Jim Kingston also presented medals to the committee.

We thought we couldn’t top that but then on Saturday we met the members of the Tiernan and Burns families, about 20 in all.

The Burgemeester unveiled the District’s new flag which incorporates the faces of Patrick and Alf.

Also unveiled was the propeller from Patrick’s plane which had only been found by a farmer ploughing his field a couple of months ago.

Then at 3:00pm there was the most incredible public commemorative event I have ever witnessed.

The whole town of Dodewaard turned out for the service, just spine tingling and amazing.

At the start, the Royal Netherlands Air Force flew over in Spitfires.

After the service – where I spoke as the guest speaker – the public was thanked and we presumed they had all gone home. But 10 minutes later as we walked down to lay wreaths at the graves, we turned a corner and all the citizens were formed in a line of honour for us to walk through with them saying “thank you’ to us as we went.

The graves were blessed and the wreaths laid.

The service made the Dutch national TV news that night.

On Sunday, their Remembrance Day, I thought we would just go as observers however Eleanor and I were asked to lead the parade though the streets of Dodewaard to their monument, an unbelievable honour.

I presented a magnificent Susan Goddard painting of the monument in Murgon, showing the Australian Hotel in the background, to the  Burgemeester and invited him to be our special guest in the South Burnett for Anzac Day 2015.

At our farewell on Sunday evening he announced he and his wife, as well as a deputation of business and community leaders will be coming next year.

[Photos: Eleanor Sharpe]

Murgon State High School principal Greg Smith and school captains Geoffrey Kinsella and Kirsten Upton with a memorial display mounted opposite the graves of Alfred Burns and Patrick Tiernan
The two mayors, Cr Wayne Kratzmann and Burgemeester Kees Veerhoek, with their wives, in the Town Hall before the unveiling of a memorial to Alfred Burns and Patrick Tiernan by relatives John Burns and Jillian Tiernan ... the memorial consists of a propeller blade from the men's Halifax which has been mounted on the wall alongside a plaque and medals
Burgemeester Kees Veerhoek with John Burns and Jillian Tiernan and the recently recovered Halifax propeller (Photo: Neder-Betuwe Municipality)
Dodewaard and Murgon students get to know each other ... from left, Paul Wassenburg, Marikne Hordijk, Myrthe Wassenburg, Sanne Vermeer, Lynn Janssen, Iris Vaessen, Geoffrey Kinsella, Kirsten Upton and Robin Wassenburg
The Australian delegation was featured in the local media and on TV
Murgon RSL president Jim Kingston at the Menin Gate ... prior to going to Dodewaard, the South Burnett delegation visited the Flanders fields, where so many Australians died, to place poppies against the names of South Burnett residents
Realising they were only a couple of hours from Dunkirk, the South Burnett delegation drove to the site of the perilous Allied retreat from France which occurred during some of the darkest hours of World War II
The South Burnett delegation at Uden Cemetery where Burns' and Tiernan's fellow airmen were interred

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