THE  DOVER WAR MEMORIAL  PROJECT

 

war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper
 

 

Articles

 

Donald Halke

"LOCAL HERO WILL BE REMEMBERED AT LAST" by Kathy Bailes

Dover Express image  Sixty five years ago, Dover secretary Phyllis Halke, 23, broke down as she received the news her brother was missing in action. RAF Sergeant Donald Halke was flight engineer on a Lancaster bomber on a raid over Schweinfurt in Germany. His plane was one of 34 that never returned from that mission in February 1944, and he is one of the many young men laid to rest at Durnbach war cemetery in Austria.

Now Phyllis will finally see his name installed, with 21 others, on a new plaque on Dover's war memorial. The plaque will be unveiled on November 11 at the Maison Dieu site with a ceremony starting at 10.40am, dedication at 11am, two minutes' silence, and a wreath-laying. It will be the culmination of two years' work by the Dover War Memorial Project, which ensures the town remembers its sons and daughters who have lost their lives during times of conflict.

For the great-gran-of-three, from Church Street, it is as if her little brother has finally come home. The 88-year-old mum to Dover District Council member Nigel Collor and his sister Hilary said: "That night, 34 planes, each with a crew of seven, did not come back. I saw it on the news next day and my stomach went over. We didn't know if Don was alive or dead. He had turned 21 on February 12 and was missing in action by February 25.

"At the end of November, we got a letter to say he was buried in an Austrian cemetery. I fainted. We were devastated. My mum always thought he was just going to come through the door one day. My dad went grey overnight."

Phyllis has managed once to make the trip to Durnbach with husband Harold, who passed away in 1997. But now she will have a place close by where her brother will be honoured and remembered.

Maggie Stephenson-Knight, who heads the war memorial project, said: "People will be quite emotional. It means so much to people to have those names honoured publicly."

When I got a letter to say his name would be on the plaque, I cried. I am so grateful the war memorial project made this happen and Don will be remembered in his home town. I remember when we were little and lived by the pier. In the holidays I would hold his hand and take him down to the clock tower until we went home for dinner. He was such a lovely boy.

"It will be an emotional day. There have been so many times I have stood by the memorial and thought about him not being on there and now he will be."

The dedication and blessing will be led by Reverend David Ridley and attended by town mayor Sue Jones.

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The inset box reads:

"Dover Express journalist Terry Sutton is among those who will see a relative named on the plaque. He says, "Roy John Sutton, my brother, was seven years older than me. He was educated at Dover County School - now Dover Grammar School - and began work with Kent County Council at Maidstone. He left when he volunteered for the RAF.He obtained his pilot's wings while on courses in South Africa and the UK and was killed while piloting an aircraft in 1942.

So many of his classmates were at school were killed during the 1939-45 war. I can not understand why Roy's name was apparently not included on the war memorial and I greatly appreciate his inclusion with so many other Dovorinas who gave their lives during that terrible war that brought so much grief"

This article first appeared in the Dover Express, p3, 29 October 2009
reproduced with permission

see also entry and memorial




Copyright 2009 Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved