Speech by Kåre Egholm Pedersen on 25 May 2013 at the Memorial stone to 7 airmen of  LAN R5679  På dansk 14 JUN 2013

  Air Force Chaplain Kåre Egholm Pedersen made this speech before the unveiling of the Memorial Stone. After the unveiling he said A Soldier's Prayer.

On the night before 25 September 1942 at 0122 hrs. the British bomber Lancaster R5679 crashed west of Grønhøj. So briefly it can be said why so many people are gathered here today for the unveiling of the memorial stone to the 7 airmen who perished in the air crash. It is to maintain for posterity and future generations that once there were people who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

The detailed technical circumstances of the air crash and the names of the many people who have been involved so that we can stand here today will be for others to mention. Some people present here have been involved since the idea was conceived and others know everything about aviation and types of aircraft. So in my speech
I prefer to dwell on what comes first - the habit of erecting a stone and why we do it.

I think it is because every generation has experienced something that has made such a big impression that people have thought that the world would be poorer if
the memory of this was not maintained in some way. Something inalienable had to be passed on, something important. The inscription on the stone borrows from the weight of the stone and in this way it gets a special significance. A memorial stone says: remember! Others before you have done their part.

Memorial stones can relate about great persons who have done something special for their area or their country - or as in our case today - point at a historical event
which in a moment changed the lives of a number of families far from here - and families quite near this place.

First of all I think of the families of the 5 British and 2 Canadian victims of the shoot down: Bevan, Coldicott, Cormack, Dyson, Morrison, Duffield, and Emerslund.
Only the bereaved relatives can really testify what their losses meant in the following years. Here I particularly think of David Geddes and Mike Brewser who I know are with us today - together with other family members whose names are unknown to me.

The shoot down of Lancaster R5679 also left its marks in this area. Here I particularly think of the Laigaards who have owned Grønhøj Kro for generations, actually
since 1864. It must have been a tremendous and appalling experience when the plane crashed so close that it lit the sky. The eye witness Gudrun Laigaard has told vividly about the event to Viborg Stifts Folkeblad in 2009. On that occasion she stated that the burning plane passed so close over the roof of the inn that she thought
that it would crash into the building. Shortly afterwards came the Germans who must have seen what happened from the nearby then German Fliegerhorst Grove.
All members of the crew were buried in Frederikshavn on 29 September 1942.

70 years have passed since that fatal night. Besides the pole at the crash site I think nothing has drawn attention to the courage and spirit of self-sacrifice that
motivated the 7 crew members. Now there is something to make us remember with the Memorial Stone and the RAF Memorial Room - thanks to a lot of good and
kind people of the Lancaster Team and this area and of course the economic support and interest from many good people including David Geddes and Mike Brewser.

You do not have to be a local patriot or in other ways to be involved in history to be moved by it. There is something special about the spirit that drove the airmen out on their dangerous mission at night over enemy occupied territory. It reminds me of a part of John, chapter 15, where Jesus talks to his disciples of the commandment of love. He then tells them:

"Greater love than this no man hath that a man lay down his life for his friends."

I know very well that the 7 English speaking crew members hardly knew any of the good people then in Grønhøj. Yet they were friends due to the alliance between our countries. In my view this impersonal element makes their sacrifice greater. You may risk a lot for the ones closest to you, but for people you do not know personally
you normally want a good reason. Something that goes beyond personal friendship to serve a greater cause.

I believe that you cannot have served as a soldier or an airman during World War 2 without having realized how dangerous the task really was. Every time they took off they must have had the unpleasant consciousness that they might fail to return safely. Yet they did what they had to do because they found it important to fight the
foes of freedom.

In our time we rather talk about calculation of risk than of courage of heroes. We are so used to everything being governed and controlled. Maybe we are entering
the era of the drones with what that brings along of advantages and disadvantages. But the need for vigour and courage is still highly valued, whether it is at the political
or the tactical level. No real war is won at a desk. They knew that then in the RAF, and I believe it is also a part of the story that we introduced to when we or future passers-by stop at Grønhøj Kro and look at the names on the stone. In the most beautiful way it testifies that the most important is not to survive, but to live while you fight for what you believe in.

We will remember them.

Thank you for your attention.

A Soldiers's Prayer:

O Lord, be near to us who serve in the defence.

Bless our work for peace and justice, against disruption and injustice, and cruelty and violence. Strengthen our companionship and unity, and save us from letting each other down in distress and danger.

Be with those who have to lead and command, give them vision and decisiveness and care for people they are in charge of.

We thank you God for our country, our family and friends, and all who are fond of us.

O Lord, we ask you:

Save us and those nearest to us from illness and all evil. Be with us when we are threatened and are anxious for our lives and health.

We ask for that in the name of Jesus Christ.