dr martens 8761 Dutch town memorial project includes former Monongahela man
Anton de Man is a man on a mission and nothing seems to deter him not even the elements.
“We have had a mixed bag of weather recently, but that hasn stopped the progress being made with the memorial,” said de Man, who is spearheading a project to honor Allied and Dutch military personnel buried in a cemetery in Strijen, The Netherlands, and other cemeteries in Holland. “We are determined to stay on schedule.”
Dedication of the memorial on June 6 will perpetuate the gratitude de Man and his countrymen have for the 87 Allied and Dutch military personnel who lost their lives in Holland while serving in Europe in World War II.
Among those to be honored is Flight Lt. Peter William Bickford, a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Bickford, who grew up at 431 Second St. in Monongahela, graduated from Monongahela High School in 1939 and worked as sports editor of The Daily Republican newspaper until he entered the service in April 1942. He was only 24 when his Lancaster Bomber LM93 crashed near Strijen on the night of Sept. 16, 1944, after a bombing mission over positions held by Nazi troops at Moerdijk in southern Holland, killing him and six other crew members. They are buried at the cemetery in Strijen.
Despite temperatures in the 30s, workmen recently poured concrete into the wood frame for the foundation of the memorial.
“We have to wait a few weeks to allow the concrete to settle before we can construct the base of the memorial,” de Man said. “It should be much warmer by then, although the workers of the Saboo construction company have been very diligent, no matter what the conditions might be.”
In line with the concrete work, de Man and longtime friend Jacob van der Hoek created and erected a sign to alert residents of the Oud Beijerland area about the dedication.
The sign reads: “On this place will come the war monument Hoekshe Waard. Date of unveiling June 6, 2015.”
“Jacob has been very helpful with our efforts to build this monument, especially with fundraising,” de Man said.
He also lauded Martens en van Oordt, the company constructing the memorial, and Barry Gorissen of that firm for donating his services.
“So many people are pitching in to make this dream become a reality,” de Man said. “There really aren enough words to express our gratitude.”
The June 6 ceremonies will have a distinct Mon Valley flavor with an American flag donated by Monongahela City Council being prominently displayed.
“It is most fitting that the American flag come from Monongahela, Peter W. Bickford hometown at the time of his tragic death,” de Man said.
Bickford was born in Bristol, England, in 1920 but moved to the United States as a child when his father obtained employment here.
“This is the time every year that we in Holland remember all people who gave their lives in World War II,” he said.
In providing the commemorative flag representing the United States, Monongahela will be part of an international touch at the Strijen and Oud Beijerland ceremonies, de Man said. He made a similar request of the family of Flight Officer Wilfred George Scanlan of Canada and they are sending a Canadian flag that has flown over the Canadian Parliament buildings in Ottawa. Scanlan, a native of Westport, Ontario, was a bombardier on the ill fated LM693. He was only 22.
The same is being done by the family of Pilot Officer Peter Lawrence Dooley of England, who also was killed in the 1944 Lancaster crash. He was only 19. His descendants have donated an English flag. Army
His sister, Barbara Laura Bickford Myers, who lives in Bristol, also grew up in Monongahela. She graduated from Monongahela High School in 1947 and returned to England shortly thereafter with her parents, William Colston Spence Bickford and Elsie Chapman Bickford. Her father worked as a freight engineer with the Pittsburgh and West Virginia Railway Co.
Peter and Barbara Bickford brother, the late Barrie Spence Bickford, also attended Monongahela schools and would have graduated from high school in 1944. However, he left school to join his brother in the RCAF. Barrie wife Pat and their sons live in Bristol.
Other members of the ill fated crew who were killed in the Sept. 16, 1944, crash were Pilot Officer Peter Lawrence Dooley, 19; Flight Officer Arnold Ney Johnson, 22; Flight Sgt. Uriah Bernard Butters, 21, Pilot Officer Donald George Flood, 20, and Pilot Officer Douglas Dawson, 19.
Bickford nephews, Tony Myers, Barbara Myers son; Peter James Bickford, Paul Bickford, Mark Bickford and John Bickford, the sons of Barrie Bickford; their families and the Bickford brothers mother Pat will attend the June 6 ceremonies, as will descendants of Dooley and Scanlan. Also set to participate is Dr. Jack France, a dentist in Tampa, Florida. France is the son of the late Floyd M. France, longtime editor of The Daily Republican, who was Bickford boss at the newspaper.
“We are looking forward to meeting the families and friend of those men who gave their lives in freeing our country from the grip of the enemy during World War II,” de Man said. “We want to reaffirm how important it is that we continue to commemorate their valor and sacrifices and that they shall never be forgotten.”
Aart Jan Moerkerke, the mayor of Strijen, emphasized that gratitude recently when he made a personal visit to the Myers and Bickford families in Bristol.
“He is a very nice young man and his visit here was quiet meaningful to our families,” said Tony Myers.