MacRobert's

Reply

The cemetery in Odense is another focal point of the MacRobert's Reply story, as the crew are buried here following the crash of the plane in Gals Klint Forest. I thought it would be good to provide a page dedicated to their graves, and to show how the site has developed over the years. My thanks to Eric Jensen, Carsten, and Finn Buch for providing some of the original photo's you see here. 


This is a piece taken from the book "Træk fra Odense under den tyske Besættelse" by Søren Hansen in 1945. It is the only first hand account I am aware of, and portrays the scene of the funeral of the brave young men who had laid down their lives in defence of the right to freedom of another country. A true sacrifice, and never forgotten (on either side of the North Sea).


It was kindly submitted and translated, by Carsten Høj Rasmussen, a friend of the MacRobert's Reply site from Denmark. Of course it omits Sgt Maycock from the obituary as he was only later to be discovered to be part of the crew when Sgt Jeffs (the sole survivor) told the authorities he had been on that fateful flight.


The following seven English flyers:

Sergeant Sharp

Sergeant Butherworth

Sergeant Nicholson

Sergeant Spriggs

Pilot (Officer) Hall

(Officer) Booth

and Officer Ryan


were buried the 21th May at seven o'clock from the chapel.


The fliers on the night of the 18th May chrashed with their aeroplane by the Little Belt near by Little Belt Bridge. The coffins arrived to Odense on the day of the funeral at about half past five and were received by a German guard of honour.


The coffins were carried into the chapel, and remained there wrapped up in the English flag and under German guard of honour. At seven o'clock the coffins were carried out by german soldiers, while it was precluded from the organ. At the place in front of main entrance of the chapel the coffins were received by the german guard of honour. While the guard of honour present arms and saluted, the killed were remembered, after that the funeral procession with the guard of honour in front moved to the big common grave.


In the first row was dug two doublegraves, and in the backrow was dug one grave to three of those killed. After the coffins were placed above the graves, a German army chaplain pronounced the blessing and made an oration in which he reminded about the peaceful competitions in which the different countries had competed in by the great Olympic Games. The army chaplain pointed out that this peaceful competition now was succeeded by the war. But as long the war is fought in a way where we burry our enemies in a way like today, the war is something different from vendetta. The army chaplain mentioned, that the killed had fighted bravely for their country, and perhaps they have mothers who lament their sons. He expressed the hope, that the day when German soldiers meet the dead in a foreign country, there also will be mothers who lament these.


After the oration the army chaplain said the Lord's Prayer and officiated at the graveside ceremony. The present German Officers also threw earth on the coffins. After this the coffins were slowly lowed into the graves to the tones of a bugle. With full military honours the german guard of honour saluted above the graves and the procession left the cemetery. During the officiatation at the graveside ceremony the bells of the chapel was ringing. Present at the funeral from Denmark were Captain Buch, Senior Lieutenant E. W. Jørgensen, and Superintendent Frost. On the graves were laid wreaths from Odense Counsil, the Chief Constable in Odense, the 6th Regiment, Consul Muus, the staff of the churchyard and the German army. During the celebration the churchyard was closed off by the Danish police.


(Shortly I will add the full size pictures so that you can click on the thumbnails shown here..)


The crew of W7531 in Odense church - May 1942
The bodies of the crew lie at peace in Odense church, with a German military guard of honour prior to their burial at the cemetery below. A remarkable photograph only recently discovered in June 2002.




The Burial of the MacRobert's crew - 21 May 1942

The original burial guard of honour is seen here during the burial procession from the Odense chapel.




The Burial of the MacRobert's crew - 21 May 1942

The original honour guard salute by the German army at the original burial



The Burial of the MacRobert's crew - 21 May 1942

The original burial is seen here reported in the Danish newspaper Fyens Stiftstidende. It reads 'Seven English airmen buried in Odense this morning' (at this point there was no reference to Sgt Maycock as he was not known to be on the crew until the Danish Authorities were informed by the survivor, Sgt Donald Jeffs, after the war. Only 7 dog tags were found at the crash site). 


You see the German army chaplain making a speech in front of a coffin. Among the German military you see some Danish officers taking part in the burials (until 29th Aug 43 the Danish army was not disarmed). But the burials in Odense were not a public event.



The Original Crosses 

The original graves were marked by simple wooden crosses before the newer headstones were erected. There is no central column yet, and the site is newly laid out.

The Central Column

The original wooden crosses have now been replaced by newer, but still wooden, markers, and the central column with the dedication has been erected. The inscription reads 'In memory of the British and Canadian airmen who gave their lives in the battle for freedom during the war 1939 - 1945'.


It has always been a tradition to carry out a memorial service at the Commonwealth War Graves plot in May every year. It is something that is very much alive still after 60 years.


The cemetery today

This is one of the photos I took in May 2002, and it shows the new headstones now erected. The headstone at the rear immediately left of the column is a new addition; it is for Sgt Ronald Maycock who was not previously named on the wooden crosses. He wasn't known to be a member of the original crew until the survivor, Sgt Jeffs, advised the authorities that he was 'missing'.



Still remembered

The people of Denmark still hold a genuine 'debt of gratitude' to those brave men who gave their lives in the war trying to defend the Denmark from the occupying forces. Even those born well after the war want to keep the memory and the tradition alive , and the RAF always attend the ceremony to remember their fallen comrades. The dedication and commitment of the Danish people to this task is hugely appreciated by all those who have a link to those past days.