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Friendships Forged By War

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World War II veteran Paul Tunn, centre, with Dodewaard visitors, from left, Annelies Struik, Cees and Monique Van Meer, Paul Struik and Anke and Ries Hoogakker

South Burnett Mayor Kratzmann presents a copy of Liz Caffery's book "The Cobber From Murgon" to Patrick Tiernan's nephew Bob Tiernan

November 17, 2015

The Dutch and Queensland flags flew proudly side-by-side at Murgon RSL Club on Monday afternoon to signify the special relationship which has been forged between two towns on opposite sides of the world.

Murgon and the town of Dodewaard in the Netherlands are forever linked by war.

For more than 70 years, the townsfolk of Dodewaard have been tending the graves of two Australian airmen, Patrick Tiernan and Alf Burns, shot down over their town in June 1944.

The special commemorative lunch at the Murgon RSL Club on Monday was an opportunity to say “thank you” to at least some of the people who have been keeping the two fallen Aussies in their hearts.

Three Dutch couples were the special guests at the lunch. Paul and Annelies Struik, Cees and Monique Van Meer, and Anke and Ries Hoogakker are members of Dodewaard’s “May 4 Committee” which organises the town’s annual Remembrance Day commemorations.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the explosion of the Halifax bomber over Dodewaard, the May 4 Committee started to research the history of their two mystery airman.

Local mayor, Kees Veerhoek, emailed South Burnett mayor Wayne Kratzmann to ask if he knew anything about Patrick Tiernan.

Mayor Kratzmann admitted he very nearly deleted the email because at first he thought it was spam, but when he glanced further he realised the Neder-Betuwe mayor was asking about one of Murgon’s best-known families.

And so began a process which led to a small delegation from Murgon, as well as representatives from the Tiernan and Burns families, heading to Dodewaard last year for a special commemoration ceremony,

The Australians were overwhelmed by the hospitality of the Dodewaard community and invited their new Dutch friends to visit Australia in return.

May 4 Committee member Paul Struik said it was difficult to organise a time when Burgemeester Veerhoek could make it because of his official duties, but finally a date was set in November. Unfortunately, the mayor had to cancel his trip at the last moment because of the refugee crisis in Europe.

The three couples that did come over have been visiting with members of the Burns and Tiernan families. Their trip to Murgon was one of the last items on their agenda before their trip back home.

The Murgon RSL Club was filled with more than 100 people for the lunch, including local MPs and councillors.

Members of the Tiernan family were special guests as well as Yarraman resident Paul Tunn – another Aussie airman who flew that night back in June 1944 in a Halifax bomber. Unlike Patrick Tiernan and Alf Burns, Paul’s aircraft made it back to England.

A highlight of the afternoon was “The Patrick Tiernan Story”, a Powerpoint presentation by Nanango author Liz Caffery.

Copies of Liz’s book “Patrick Tiernan – The Cobber From Murgon” were then presented to the Dutch visitors, members of the Tiernan family and representatives from Murgon State High School and Murgon RSL.

This is a second edition of the book.

The first version, prepared before the Australians visited Dodewaard, has been updated with information about the visit, as well as the death of Sr Philomene Tiernan, who in a tragic coincidence was killed when her aircraft was shot out of the sky over Ukraine on her way home from the Dodewaard trip.

Liz was given a standing ovation by the crowd at the end of her talk.

Mayor Kratzmann presents a copy of "The Cobber From Murgon" to 2015 Murgon State High School captain Jenna Marschall for the school's library

Cr Kathy Duff and author Liz Caffery with laminated photos of Murgon which were given to the Dodewaard guests

2014 Murgon school captain Geoffrey Kinsella, who was part of the Dodewaard delegation, with Glenda Geraghty, from Murgon

Nanango resident Hanny Mous, who was born in the Netherlands, with Dodewaard visitors Anke and Ries Hoogakker

May 4 Committee president Paul Struik and Leo Geraghty unveil a gift to the South Burnett from Neder-Betuwe Burgemeester Kees Veerhoek ... Mayor Veerhoek was forced to cancel his trip to Australia at the last moment when he was tasked with finding homes in his municipality for more than a hundred Syrian refugees

Trying out the new bench ... Dodewaard visitors Ries Hoogakker, Cees Van Meer and Paul Struik with Mayor Wayne Kratzmann, second from right

Bob Tiernan and his daughter Ann share some anecdotes about Bob's uncle Patrick

Dodewaard visitors Cees and Monique Van Meer about to enjoy lunch

Murgon State High School principal Greg Smith with Jillian Tiernan, from Buderim

A warm welcome to Murgon from Dutch-speaking local resident, Lyn Vlaanderen, second from right, for the visitors from Dodewaard ... Paul Struik, Monique and Cees Van Meer, Ries Hoogakker and, at front, Anke Hoogakker

South Burnett mayor Wayne Kratzmann with Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington and Member for Callide Jeff Seeney

Compere for the lunch John Carey, from Stanwell, with Murgon businessman Mark Smith, from Mark Smith's Menswear

Mayor Kratzmann presents a copy of Liz Caffery's book to Murgon RSL president Trevor Sanderson

Jenny Hunt, from Brisbane, with her father, former World War II Halifax bomber crew member Paul Tunn ... Paul took part in the same bombing raid targeting a synthetic fuel plant in the Ruhr Valley as the one during which Patrick Tiernan was killed, although the two men were in different squadrons

Cherbourg Council CEO Warren Collins with former Murgon Mayor Bill Roberts ... Bill can remember the farewell party for Patrick Tiernan when he left to go to war

Dodewaard visitor Paul Struik with South Burnett Deputy Mayor Keith Campbell

Cr Damien Tessmann (who is again supporting Movember) with Cr Kathy Duff

Cherbourg mayor Ken Bone and his wife Marlene

Leo Geraghty and Murgon High School principal Greg Smith ... both were part of the original South Burnett delegation to Dodewaard

Murgon High School students Marcus Riddell (Year 11), Lesleigh Fisher (Year 12) and Cary Hebblewhite (Year 11) were helping out behind the scenes

Mayor Wayne Kratzmann presented copies of "The Cobber From Murgon" to Ries Hoogakker, Paul Struik and Cees Van Meer, as well as an extra copy to take back home to Neder-Betuwe Burgemeester Kees Veerhoek

The delegation from The Netherlands placed flowers and wreaths at the Murgon War Memorial ... at back, where it all began, The Australian Hotel which was formerly owned by the Tiernan family

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Waltzing Matilda

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[UPDATED with correction]


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