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Canadian Liberator laid to rest in Zuilichem cemetery

Survivor of 1944 downed RCAF bomber

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

ZUILICHEM - A retired Canadian business executive who in April 1944 had survived the downing of his RCAF bomber over occupied the Netherlands, was recently laid to rest near the Zuilichem graves of his former crew members. Mike Cassidy had died in Toronto at age 81. He had arranged for his final resting place after first visiting the Netherlands again in 1985.

The already crippled Halifax III bomber - it had collided with another Allied plane shearing off its nose - was shot down by the German Wehrmacht and exploded just before it crashed on April 25, 1944 near Zuilichem, a community in one of the Great Rivers polders called Bommelerwaard. Five members of the crew of seven did not survive the crash. Tail gunner Cassidy and mid-upper gunner Ray Tanner had successfully bailed out by parachute. They eluded capture for two days and were held prisoner till the end of the war. The remains of the other five - four Canadians and an Englishman - were interred in the local cemetery.

Following the war, Cassidy returned to Canada and became a successful marketing executive. Later, he co-launched the Press Journal magazine. When that folded, Cassidy started Press Review magazine in 1977, a periodical he distributed to newsrooms all over Canada.

The ashes of Cassidy, believed to be the second Canadian to receive permission to be buried in the Netherlands, were added to the gravesite of his five wartime comrades. In a special ceremony attended by some of his family and friends, Cassidy’s name was added to the Zuilichem cemetery headstone next to Pilot Doug Watterson, of Windsor; Navigator Ed Webb, of Moose Jaw; Bomb aimer Arthur Redmonds, of Toronto; Flight Engineer, Art Hansford, of Lancashire, England; and Wireless Air Gunner, Bill Murphy, of Georgetown. Ray Tanner died about seventeen years ago.

The Zuilichem cemetery also is the site of a memorial to the local people who died as a result of the 1940-1945 war. Inscribed are the names of five casualties. L. van Oostrum-Hanegraaf was 64 when she died in January 1945 when a V-1 rocket exploded. C.J. Meijer-Klapwijk (25) died in December 1944 when her home was hit by a unexploded bomb. Dirks Verhoeks was killed in November 1944 when he and his family were watching low-flying aircraft coming over their house. H.J. Benckhuysen died in the notorious penal camp Ommen and Aart Hobo, a deaf man, was shot by the Germans because he did not respond to orders shouted at him and others.