Riny and her family (parents, 4 brothers and 2 sisters)
saw the airplane come down. They were in hiding in a shelter in the
ground (like most families).
When it got light and they took a look outside, they saw cows standing
around “something” in the meadow. This turned out to be
a parachute with a man lying underneath. He was dead and had lost a
Soon two German soldiers came. They took the parachute, the watch, ring
and anything they could use, kicked the body and left…
Mother Claassen was very angry because of this lack of respect for a
dead man. She made a bunch of flowers (red roses and little white flowers)
and her son John (14 years old) placed those on the body of the killed
airman. They knew this was a dangerous deed but showing no respect to
the dead was far worse as far as they were concerned..
Some time later, when the Germans came to collect the body, two SSers,
one with an crippled leg
(both billited at the nearby monastry "De Kreppel")
came to the Claassen house, being very angry. They shouted and yelled
at mother and wanted to know who had placed the flowers at the body.
They had the bunch of flowers in their hands. Mother said she had nothing
to do with this.
Then they saw the rambler roses outside and tried to fit the cut off
roses to the plant, but Mother Claassen had placed a bunch of flowers
on the dining table and told them she always did this.
The Germans then went to the neighbours, the Gubbels family, Willem
Sillekens and Van Horne and then back again to the Claassen house and
looked for the little white flowers. They did not look for these the
first time round and in the meantime the children had pulled them out
of the ground, roots and all, and put them under the dunghill because
it was too dangerous to make a “fresh” hole in the ground.
The fact that the Germans could not find these white flowers may have
saved their lives.
The Germans were very angry but mother kept denying she had anything
to do with the bunch of flowers. The soldiers then placed mother against
the wall, next to the rambler roses, aimed their rifles at her and asked
her once more to admit that she had placed the flowers on the body.
Mother was so angry that the last thing she would do was admitting to
that. She kept her calm and kept on denying. All this time the children
After a short while, the Germans threw the bunch of flowers on the ground
Afterwards this bunch of flowers was dried and kept for years and the
children never ever forgot this day!
Shortly before the liberation a raiding party came to the Van Horne
place and asked where the Claassens lived. Van Horne sent them the wrong
way and luckily they never came back.
The children all moved away, Harie the oldest to New Zealand in 1953,
John to Canada
in 1958, Alfons and family in 1977 and Wim with family in 1978 also
to Ontario Canada.
In 1980 Riny and husband moved to Ontario Canada and built a house there.
When it was finished the first thing they did was plant rambler roses.
They looked for 3 years to find the little white flowers and when they
found them, they finally had a living memory of the heroic deed of their
mother! The Claassens had always thought that the airman had been from
Canada and in order to do something in return, Riny has since been involved
in voluntary work. As she herself said: there is a reason for everything!!
When Riny told this story to me it soon became clear that the soldier
concerned was the New Zealand Flight Sergeant Keith Smith.