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Thread: Grave of an unknown in Slijpe, Belgium

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    Default Grave of an unknown in Slijpe, Belgium

    Gentlemen,

    In the churchyard in the hamlet of Slijpe, Belgium, a single unknown RAF servicemen is buried. No mention of date or rank. This grave was originally marked with the name S/Ldr George St. Clair Boyd Reid, RAF, Spitfire MK453, 91 Sqn, died 28-10-1944, until the wreck of MK453, and the body of S/Ldr. St. Clair Boyd Read, were found in April 1996. He was buried in Adegem Canadian War Cemetery. It is now assumed that the grave in Slijpe belongs to Sgt. Michil A.R.L.M. De Hepcee, Nr. 1399178, RAF Belgium, who went MIA with Spitfire BM652 of 350 Sqn on 13-11-1943 during a Rhubarb to the Lokeren, Gent area. Assumed crashed near Slijpe. Sgt. De Hepcee is remembered on Runnymede, Panel 147, and via a special memorial, nr. III/19, on Evère Field of Honour, Brussels.

    Can any of the collegues from Belgium tell something about WW2 MIA research in Belgium? Would the Belgians use DNA technology to identify the remains in this grave? Has that been considered, and if so, why has it not yet been done?

    Regards,

    Rob

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    Rob,

    You may want to contact a Belgian aviation archaeology team like BAHAAT (see http://users.pandora.be/airwareurope/en/start_e.htm).
    I'm sure they have the knowledge about how things are handled when remains are found or what ways are used to make a final identification.
    If you want I can forward your question to a person who has personal experience with searches here in Belgium and who knows about the legal framework.

    Regards,

    Leendert

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    Thanks, Leendert. I shall forward the question to Cynrik. If you had some-one else in mind, then your help is most appreciated.

    I brought the matter up here, as part of a wider topic of MIA research in Europe.

    Regards,

    Rob
    Last edited by Rob Philips; 18th August 2008 at 19:53.

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    Rob,
    Michel de Hepcée also a problem for Cynrik. He tells about in his latest book "Vleugels boven het Meetjesland" (pages 129-134). Even with snapshots of a supposed crash location near Waerschoot.
    Regards,
    Henk.

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    Thanks, Henk. The general question remains about the status of MIA research in Belgium, and this question has been forwarded to Cynrik.

    Applied to the De Hepcée case: DNA could be the clue. Applied to the general question: can DNA technology be used in Belgium, and if so, by whom, and if not, why not? I can easily find out the "whom", but I would like to hear about the current policy in Belgium, whether cemented down in laws or not, from those who have real knowledge about this subject.

    Forum members: please note the effort given by Henk to get things right, expressed here by going through the trouble of producing funny characters on a keyboard that is not laid out for that...

    Regards,

    Rob

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    Default Grave of Unknow

    Hello,

    I do know that there is a small office in charge when a person is found in Belgium.
    I saw a reportage regarding the burial of 5 Australians soldier from WWI whose bodies were found. Out of the 5 , 2 could be indetified by DNA research. The research was done in Belgium. Who order the investigation I do not know.

    Question :

    The grave with an unkown airman already exisct and is under CWGC, is it realistic that itcome under the CWGC to investigate ?

    Best regards

    René

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    Thanks, René, appreciated.

    It would be realistic that the CWGC, or better the MoD, would investigate, and that would have, and probably has, happened sixty years ago, but that shall not happen today. These cases were declared closed decades ago, and this policy has not changed since then. However, the MoD shall respond in a serious way to claims for the identity of a RAF casualty buried somewhere as unknown, if another party submits such a claim.

    Slijpe is a special case. The assumed identity is of a Belgian RAF aviator. The grave is not in regular care of the CWGC, as it is a single grave in a non-CWGC cemetery, the Slijpe Communal Cemetery. CWGC cemeteries are legally parts of the UK, and UK law applies there. UK law does not apply in Slijpe cemetery, and the assumed nationality of the casualty is Belgian. Nevertheless it would be prudent if the Belgian service authorised for such matters would coordinate any actions regarding this grave with the MoD.

    If the evidence suggesting that this grave belongs to Sgt. Michil A.R.L.M. De Hepcée is strong enough, then I suggest that you guys talk to the designated Belgian authority about a plan for identification. The MoD might well allow a qualified external party to do this job. If they would not, then it is up to the Belgians to make up their mind about the preferred action, regarding an assumed Belgian national in a grave in a Belgian cemetery.

    Regards,

    Rob

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    Default Grave of an unknown in Slijpe,Belgium

    Hi Rob,Henk,Réne and Leendert,

    A few months ago I happened to be in the Slijpe-area and went to visit the local cemetery, to investigate the grave of the unknown airman.
    The cemetery itself carries a sign that it is a CWGC-cemetery at the entrance and is also mentioned on the CWGC-website:
    http://www.cwgc.org/search/cemetery_details.aspx?cemetery=70988&mode=1

    As I hadn't prepared my visit to the cemetery I didn't have any idea where the grave in question would be located and although it is an old and small cemetery I was not able to find the grave in question. The text on some graves was completely unreadable...

    Any idea were the grave in question is located at the cemetery ?

    best regards

    Luc

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    Hi Luc,

    The CWGC sign indicates that there is a Commonwealth burial in that cemetery, not that the cemetery itself is a CWGC cemetery. This arrangement came about as follows:
    1. Locals in many places had expressed the wish to care for graves of Allied servicemen who fell in their area for their liberty.
    2. The British formulated a policy, shortly after WW1, to leave the casualties buried where they had fallen, rather than repatriate all those graves.
    3. Where local care could not be seen as guaranteed, meaning in Axis countries, or where numbers were so high as to require new and dedicated war cemeteries to be founded, graves were concentrated in such concentration cemeteries.
    4. This policy was not always followed in a very strict way. It has happened that part of the war graves were evcuated for concentration elsewhere, whilst the other part was left in place, after locals had protested against an evacuation of graves that had not been discussed with them.

    War graves in communal cemeteries quite often have prominent positions. Next to the entrance, or next to the church. In Slijpe this is not the case. The grave is in the center back of the churchyard, against the wall. Text on the headstone: "An airman of the 1939-1945 war". No mention of service, rank or date. It is the only CWGC headstone here, and can be spotted by its white colour, although several weeks ago it appeared that a cleaning job is called for.

    Regards,

    Rob

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    Default Spitfire Slijpe

    Rob, have you ever made any headway with this grave and the possible pilot?

    I have a Belgian researcher that is very familiar with the above described case and the death of this Belgian Spitfire pilot.

    Maybe we can help with more info. Danny

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