They cherish the past      På dansk            Updated:  10 JUN 2011                   Today Anton Mikkelsen tends the memorial site, cleans the
                                                                                                                                           stone, cuts the hedge and cultivates the flowers - just like
                                                                                                                                                             Mrs. Anna did before him. (Photo: Martin Ravn)
Horsens Folkeblad on 30 April 1996 from J. Nøhr about  LAN W4330 - Vestbirk:                        

They cherish the past 
Married couple has tended the memorial for 40 years. 
 By Per Gregersen

VESTBIRK - It has taken half an hour every week for the latest 40 years - or about 40 full days -
to keep the memorial stone near Vestbirk in an irreproachable condition.

The married couple Anna and Anton Mikkelsen from Vestbirk, both 81, have tended the memorial stone
for a little more that 40 years. For the first many years mainly Anna did the chores. Anton took over 5 or
6 years ago.

The stone was erected in April 1951 on the initiative of the newly started Association of Residents of Vestbirk where Anton Mikkelsen was then the cashier.

- And to start with we took turns tending the stone and the flowers. Then we hired someone to do it for
a couple of years, and then Anna took over, Anton Mikkelsen recalls.

Shot down
The memorial stone is placed in an old field boundary on the site on Birknæsvej where an Australian Lancaster crashed on 21 April 1943 after it was shot down by a German night fighter. Before that the
plane exploded in the air and the 7 crew on board - 5 Australians and 2 Englishmen - perished.
Debris and parts of bodies were scattered over a large area.

The residents walked about in the area, when it was no longer sealed off by the Germans. They found
parts of the dead airmen who were buried in a common grave where the memorial stone stands today.
(Actually they were taken to Esbjerg and buried on 30 April 1943, see Sgt W. D. Mayoh and others. AS)

On 8 May 1945 a wooden cross was erected at the site. It soon began falling into decay - and it triggered
the idea of a lasting memorial. The stone, which comes from a local field, was dedicated on 21 April 1951,
8 years after the shooting down.

Remnants in the ground
The site of the stone belongs to the farm "Marielyst" owned by Anton Mikkelsen from 1947 and to about 10 years ago.

Actually you may still find pieces of wreckage in the ground several hundred metres from the site. And many years ago when we were draining the ground out there
we found in the ground a pocket of fuel from the plane, Anton Mikkelsen relates.

He is unable to remember the days around the crash in 1943 because he was living in Zealand during the war. Then Anna was working as a cook at the folk high school.

- But we were not told very much. The Germans sealed off all of the area, Anna Mikkelsen states.

The stone is still looking fine, and particularly at this time of the year there are many visitors - particularly Australians. It happens around 9 April, on the day of the crash 21 April, on 4 and 5 May - and then also on Anzac Day, 25 April. This is the day where Australians and New Zealanders commemorate their victims of war, and that is why the Australian Ambassador to Denmark Garry Conroy last week laid a memorial wreath at the stone on Birknæsvej.

Family visits
Tending the stone has given Anna and Anton Mikkelsen many contacts to the great country on the other side of the earth. A great number of Australians have visited
the stone, and after that they have had a cup of coffee at the Mikkelsens'.

 As late as last summer the younger brother of Sergeant B. Finnane, one of the airmen who had been shot down, came to Vestbirk to remember his brother.

The Mikkelsens think that it is important to keep the stone as a memorial about a time where conditions were not as peaceful as today. Today there are many young people in Vestbirk who do not have the same relations to the stone as older people - but interest in the past is still found. Anton Mikkelsen has visited the local free school to tell about the tragic background of the memorial stone.

It is still uncertain who will tend the stone when Anton Mikkelsen one day cannot or will not carry on.

- Formally it is the responsibility of the Association of Residents - and they will be the first to be told. You never know how long you can carry on, Anton Mikkelsen says.

Jack E. Wagner was buried in Marstal. See how his grave was tended for decades. See also how Mrs. Carla Pedersen in Karlslunde tended Keith W. Rainford´s grave.