New Zealand Embassy The Hague, The Netherlands
New Zealand Prime Minister acknowledges Dutch man’s dedication to the memories of allied war dead
On 24 March in the Dutch village of Dinterloord the New Zealand Ambassador to the Netherlands, Rachel Fry, delivered a letter of thanks from the New Zealand Prime Minister, Hon John Key, to Mr Johan Verhagen. The letter recognises the commitment of Mr Verhagen to the memory of New Zealand and other allied airmen who lost their lives in the Netherlands in the Second World War.
Mr Verhagen was a schoolboy during the war and witnessed first hand the efforts of allied forces in the liberation of Europe. He has gone to considerable lengths over many years to ensure that the sacrifice of the allied airmen is remembered. He has contacted almost 200 families of servicemen, and has often hosted family members, including some from New Zealand, on visits to the Netherlands. He has also gathered comprehensive records of allied air crashes in the Netherlands and assisted the relatives of deceased airmen in their own research. In addition, Mr Verhagen has developed a programme of school visits to educate new generations of the role of allied servicemen in the Netherlands.
Mr Key thanked Mr Verhagen on behalf of the people of New Zealand for his dedication, pointing out that his actions have strengthened the bond between the Netherlands and New Zealand and contributed greatly to keeping the memories of our common history alive.
Two of the New Zealand airmen whose families Johan Verhagen has helped lie at the site where their Lancaster bomber was shot down in Krabbendijke, in the province of Zeeland. They were the pilot Colin Marriott and the navigator James Barton. Johan Verhagen and Rachel Fry joined the Mayor of Reimerswaal Municipality, Jan Huisman and two members of the local Oranje Comite, Ina Paauwe-Dees and Jan Hoogstrata, in laying flowers at the memorial to the crew.