A letter came from Canada
One morning in January a letter
The Royal Danish Consulate General in Toronto arrived at
Museum Østjylland via
The Municipality of Randers.
The sender was Mrs. Nora E. Hibbert, the sister of the fallen Canadian
airman James Reid Bradley. He fell in service during World War II.
rests in the Memorial Grove in Randers North Cemetery.
By Mathilde Storvang,
Stadsarkiv. (Randers City Archives)
Recently Nora E. Hibbert and her son visited
Randers. They went to see the Memorial Grove in Randers North Cemetery.
It was the first time she was in Randers
to see the grave of her
fallen brother - 73 years after he fell in combat. She was very moved by
the way the Memorial Grove is kept, and about the reception he had
has had in his last resting place.
A grateful greeting to Randers
When Nora E. Hibbert had
returned to Canada she wrote a letter to express her deep gratitude for
the kindness people in Randers have shown to her brother.
was sent to The Danish Consulate in Toronto that passed it on to The
Municipality of Randers, Museum East Jutland and Randers North Cemetery:
My brother, who was a navigator flying
from Norway, was shot down by the Germans. The very kind people of
Randers have a memorial stone for him in its
churchyard along with other
Danes who were killed by said Germans.
My son and I visited my
brother's memorial and we appreciate, very much, the loving care the
people of Randers give to the site.
If it is possible, could you
please let the people of Randers know how much the family of the
Canadian flyer James Reid Bradley appreciate, very much, the care
kindness shown to our brother / uncle.
The previous history of an air crash
The story of Nora Hibbert's brother Flying Officer James Reid Bradley
and his connection to Randers started on the night before 17 September
1943. That night
Bradley and 6 other crew members were aboard the
bomber HAL JD165. The plane was a
Halifax, which is a 4-engined bomber
built by Handley Page.
Halifax together with
Avro Lancaster constituted the stock of the British fleet of
heavy bombers during World War II. Primarily the RAF used the Halifax
for nightly raids on Germany and occupied territories. That night the
crew and plane were on their way with supplies for the
In the area around Aarhus Bay the plane was spotted by a
German night fighter and shot ablaze. Then it ditched off Norsminde
4 of the 7 crew members survived the air crash
and they were rescued by 4 Danes who came in a fishing boat. The crew
members were perishing with cold after
having drifted around in the cold
sea in their life jackets.
On land they were taken to
Kro where they were welcomed with great hospitality. However, shortly
after they were fetched by the Germans and taken to
German Prisoner of
War camps. They were Sergeant S. Francis and the Flight Sergeants
Jones, D.R. Quinlivan, and
L.A. Trotter (the latter was heavily burned).
In November Wireless Operator, Sergeant
Johnston of this crew was found drifting in the Kattegat. He was taken
to Frederikshavn where he was buried on Saturday 13 November 1943. One
of the air gunners, Flight Sergeant G.E. Snook, disappeared into the
sea. 16 days later the body of Flying Officer James Reid
washed ashore near Helgenæs.
On 4 October 1943 Randers Amtsavis
stated: "Body of Canadian airman washed ashore on Helgenæs (here). Last
Saturday morning the severely decomposed body
of a Canadian airman
was washed ashore near Særbæk on Helgenæs. It is presumed that he came
from a plane from which parts of wreckage drifted ashore on
Sletterstrand about a week ago. The body was laid in a coffin and placed
in the Særbæk House." (Here,
here, 700 m north west of Helgenæs!)
Later the same day his name was written
into the burial register of Randers North Cemetery. During that day
German soldiers had taken the coffin to Randers.
Nothing was written
in any newspaper in the following days, but that is very well in keeping
with how the Germans handled those matters during the Occupation.
Memorial Grove in Randers North Cemetery was established right after the
liberation in 1945, and James Reid Bradley was interred there on 23 June
Burial of Allied airmen
When the Germans occupied Denmark on 9
April 1940 burials of Allied airmen became the subject of a number of
German directives. Till 1943 burials could still
be carried out by a
Danish clergyman and attended by representatives of Danish authorities.
At the end of 1943 the air war over Europe changed and conditions
aggravated towards the end of the war. It also influenced the way in
which the Wehrmacht
viewed burials of fallen Allied airmen. In
the first place Germans with a number of directives tried to exclude
Danish attendance at burials of Allied airmen.
With increased Allied
bombing raids on German cities the German attitude become more bitter.
The airmen of the enemy were called "Terrorflieger" which meant
measures in connection with burials of Allied airmen shot down over
Denmark. According to the new rules Germans were to refrain from any
form of honours
and ecclesiastical attendance.
In this country
it took some time to implement the stricter rules, as German officers in
Denmark continued standard military customs at burials.
also About AirmenDK:
The German attitude to burials in
3 burials in
FAF Summary. Links:
Captions at PHOTOS AND ILLUSTRATIONS in the original article
"Der kom brev fra
Canada" pdf Randers Amtsavis 18 FEB
THE MEMORIAL GROVE
The Memorial Grove in Randers North
Cemetery. Every year flowers are laid on the graves on 5 May on the
occasion of the Liberation of Denmark and on
2 December, the date when 3 members of the resistance movement,
Anders W. Andersen,
Sven C. Johannesen,
and Oluf Kroer,
were executed. They were 3 people
of the area who participated in
the sabotage against the
railway bridges near Langå which were blown up on 17 November 1943.
Photo: Randers City Archives.
THE 3 TOWERS
Randers in the old days. (The 3 towers are
the municipality arms of Randers)
THE GRAVE OF A GERMAN SOLDIER
German soldiers who died while
they were posted to Randers were also buried in Randers North Cemetery.
A total of 28 men between 16 and 58 years of age
were buried here.
It was a tradition that the soldier's helmet was placed on the cross.
Later the soldiers were taken to a common grave in another cemetery.
Photo: Randers City Archives.
THE HALIFAX BOMBER
James Reid Bradley was a member of the crew
of a Halifax plane that was shot down over Denmark. Photo from archives.
HR871 has a special story.)
Nora E. Hibbert's letter that she wrote in
gratitude to the town after her visit in 2016. Photos: Randers City
THE FIRST GRAVE
The first grave of Flying Officer James Reid
Bradley. He was buried in Randers North Cemetery on 4 October 1943.
On 23 June 1945 he was transferred to
Memorial Grove in the cemetery, where he now rests with local members of
resistance movement. Photos: Randers City Archives.