In February 2020, the Stichting Adoptiegraven Nederweert War Cemetery started to renew and digitize the old adoption register. With permission from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the goal is to provide all graves with an adopter. One of these adopters is Floris Hendrix (29). The Sunderland Echo in England published an article about the search for ‘his’ UK liberator on Saturday February 6, 2021.
Quest for a British Liberator
Inspirational mission to honor a WWII hero from Sunderland
A Sunderland aviator who died in WWII at the age of 19 will never be forgotten in a small Dutch community. Sergeant Vincent McKenzie’s bravery is honored by Floris Hendrix (29) who lives in Holtum in the Netherlands and adopted Sergeant McKenzie’s grave. McKenzie would have been 96 last Sunday if he had survived World War II. But he died on June 22, 1944 and was buried in the Nederweert war cemetery.
Sgt McKenzie was an artilleryman in the Royal Air Force’s 44th Volunteer Reserve Squadron, Group 5, and Floris made it his mission to look after the grave of the British hero. He lovingly cares for the grave and places flowers there on Vincent’s birthday. But Floris wants to do even more to honor the man from Wearside and hopes Sunderland Echo readers can help him. He explains: “The main purpose of my trip is to honor the fallen heroes who gave their young lives for the liberation of Europe. I want to get to know them, tell their stories, so as not to forget them. I visit their graves on special events such as their date of birth / death to bring flowers.
“The ultimate goal is to find a picture to give them a face. “
Can anyone participate in Floris’ quest? Thanks to Floris and ex-WRAF Brenda Kelly who helped him, we know some information about Vincent and his family. Vincent’s mother and father were married in 1916. They were John William McKenzie and Mary Alice Gillespie. Vincent was born in Sunderland on January 31, 1925 and he had a sister Catherine who was born in 1921. Catherine married Norman Smith and they had two sons who were also both born in Sunderland. When Vincent died in 1944, his parents were living in Southall, Middlesex.
Brenda told us, “Vincent was the brave gunner of an RAF Lancaster bomber and the crew was considered unique as the crew came from New Zealand, the UK, Canada, Australia and America.But their fate was sealed on June 21, 1944 when they left Dunholm Lodge, a grassy field in Lincolnshire. It was a night mission over Germany, but reports indicate their plane crashed while on a mission over Wesseling, Germany. Vincent was 19 when he died.
Brenda: “I really hope that there are still relatives or friends of the family who could have memories or moments to share with Floris and indeed the good people of Sunderland.Floris adds: “I have always had an interest and a fascination with World War II. I have already visited a number of American WWII cemeteries and museums across the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. “
A Lancaster Bomber, the aircraft used by Sgt McKenzie and his crew on their last mission. Floris then discovered that there were various adoption programs in the Netherlands and adopted the graves of an American soldier and four British heroes, including Vincent Mckenzie. Can you help Floris find a photo of Sergeant McKenzie? Can you give him a hand to make sure that a Sunderland hero will never be forgotten?
Ps Of the 363 graves, only a small number of graves are available. If you would like to adopt a grave, go to www.adoptiegravennederweert.nl and complete the digital registration form. Or send an email to [email protected]
Pictures: Floris Hendrix
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