Dutch Visit to Carew Cheriton Control Tower and Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre

The daughter of a Dutch airman has returned to Pembrokeshire with family members to visit her father’s grave – 81 years on.

Mrs Dorine Molenaar-van Kooji was joined by two daughters and two sons in visits to Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre and Carew Cheriton Control Tower, where her father had served in wartime.

Lieutenant Marinus Renardus van Kooji was among Dutch Navy personnel who flew their Fokker floatplanes to Britain after the German invasion of The Netherlands in 1940.

Aircraft and airmen were despatched to Pembroke Dock to form two squadrons in the RAF, Nos 320 and 321. While 320 remained at Pembroke Dock, 321 began flying Anson and then Hudson patrol aircraft from Carew Cheriton. Later in 1940 the squadrons amalgamated at Carew Cheriton and in February 1941 Lieutenant van Kooji was killed, along with three crew colleagues, when a Hudson crashed on take off there. All four Dutchmen are buried at Carew Cheriton Cemetery.

At Pembroke Dock, Heritage Centre Team members Rik Saldanha and Trevor Clark led a tour of the Centre, focusing especially on displays on 320 and 321 Squadron, including two large crests donated to the squadrons’ birthplace.

And at Carew Cheriton they were welcomed by aviation historian Deric Brock and his father John, by Control Tower volunteers and Cresselly Royal British Legion representatives. Standard Bearer Denzil Griffiths dipped the Standard during a minute’s silence at the graveside and a floral arrangement in the colours of The Netherlands flag, made by branch member Mrs Margaret Rowlands, was placed on the grave.

A schoolboy in 1941, John Brock vividly remembered the funeral of the Dutch airmen in the village cemetery.

Said Deric: “The Dutch connection is very special to both communities and we were delighted to welcome the Molenaar family. Mrs Molenaar had visited once before, with her late husband, 35 years ago.

“Thanks to the family we now have photographs of Lieutenant van Kooji when stationed at Pembroke Dock and of the Hudson, named’ Ypenburg’, in which he was a crewman in February 1941. These are special additions to both our archives.”

The family stayed at Tenby, by special coincidence in the same hotel on The Esplanade where Lieutenant van Kooji had been billeted in wartime.