Memento heading to Holland

The Mayor of Ballymoney, Alderman Bill Kennedy and fundraiser Sam McClements, with the album. inbm16-15
The Mayor of Ballymoney, Alderman Bill Kennedy and fundraiser Sam McClements, with the album. inbm16-15

A photographic album recording events at Ballymoney War Memorial last November when the name of Sergeant Francis Anthony McCluskey, a local World War Two airman, was honoured by the people of the Borough is to be presented to an 87-year-old Dutch lady.

Sgt. McCluskey, who died when his Halifax bomber in which he was the air gunner, was shot down over Holland on its return from a raid on Osnabrook, Germany, in October 1942 did not have his name included when the Roll of Honour was added to the Memorial in 2000.

However, that unfortunate oversight was corrected and brought closure for a number of people including several key figures from Holland amongst who was Jannie van Beek Pol.

Had this 15-year-old not been out walking with her father in a forest near Rhenen,Utrecht, all those years ago most likely she would never have found Sgt. McCluskey’s hat which lay beneath a tree from which the unfortunate victim was found hanging.

Despite the presence of a German patrol, Jannie kept the cap safe and her wish was that one day she would see it returned to the airman’s family.

Sgt. McCluskey, who left his home in Union Street at the age of 16 in 1938 to join the Royal Air Force, was buried with full military honours by the Germans.

The persistence of a war historian and former Dutch Army officer Rhenen, Toon Blokland, who liaised with Ballymoney Museum, the Causeway Branch of the RAF Association, the Royal British Legion Ballymoney Branch and the Council to get information on Sgt McCluskey finally, produced the result everyone hoped for.

But even Mr Blokland needed a slice of good fortune in his quest for if it had not been for the programme ‘Your Place and Mine’ on Radio Ulster relatives of Sgt McCluskey might never have been found.

A cousin, Patricia McCluskey, made contact with the Museum after hearing an appeal on the radio and all loose ends were soon tied up leading to the ceremony at the Memorial attended by Patricia and her sister, Alice O’Brien as well as other close family members.

Unfortunately, Jannie was unable to travel to Ballymoney but sent her best wishes to all.

A montage of pictures from the day have been assembled and placed in an album which have been forwarded by the former Mayor of Ballymoney, Bill Kennedy, to the Mayor of Rhenen who will then pass it on to Jannie.

Alderman Kennedy said he was delighted at being able to provide a lasting reminder of a day which also included the unveiling of a sculpture of a WW1 soldier was unveiled. The statue was funded by Ballymoney & District Cultural Heritage Society, Ballymoney Council and others.