44 Squadron Hampden I L4087 Ditching 20 July 1940

Further to this remarkably detailed story in last September’s newsletter, I was visiting Southern Norway last August with a friend and our hosts suggested we take a two day visit to Northern Denmark. The aim of the trip would be to visit the northernmost point of Jutland, Skagen, where the Skagerrak (North Sea) and Kattegat (Baltic Sea) meet. To achieve the aim would involve a three-hour early morning ferry crossing from Kristiansand to a small port on the northwest coast of Denmark, Hirtshals, including a large buffet style breakfast; a night stop in the ferry company hotel in Skagen and a return ferry crossing the following day, including a large buffet style lunch. We readily agreed and a package was booked. After the morning crossing, we disembarked ready for an afternoon of pure tourism. We drove the 20 miles from the ferry to the town of Skagen, then made our way out to a parking area about a mile from the point of the peninsular. There we transferred to a dune buggy and were driven over the gradually narrowing spit of pristine, sea washed sand, to about 200 meters from where the two seas met. It was a dull, overcast and windy day and the spray flew from the turbulent water, but the North Sea water was a sandy green and the Baltic water a fine marine blue. The mixing waters could be seen for a long way out to sea.

Immediately our hosts suggested the trip, I raised with them the story of our Squadron Aircrew buried in Skagen churchyard and asked if they would they have any objection to us attempting to locate the graves. Their willing cooperation meant that the visit to Skagen would take on an extra dimension. As we drove through the town, I spotted a cemetery on the left-hand side of the road. The perimeter wall was impressively long and we noted a gate which was a road into the cemetery.

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We took that road on our return and parked by a chapel, which was firmly locked, and there seemed no one about despite it being a midweek afternoon. We set off to search what was clearly a very large area and I spotted a gardener on a tractor a couple of hundred yards away. I set off to intercept him but on turning a corner in the multiple square, beautifully maintained gardens, I came across a large three bladed propeller guarding five Commonwealth War Graves, just as depicted in the photograph in the Newsletter. After a close inspection of the headstones we identified Sgts Nixon and Miller as the two graves on the righthand side.

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Gathering round we doffed our hats and spoke the immortal words: ’ They shall grow not old………..’. It was a poignant few moments and a considerable thrill to have identified the precise location of our Squadron aircrew and honoured them accordingly. Their final resting place is a most beautifully kept and peaceful location.

John Laycock
Witham St Hughes, December 2019

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