01 – Robert W.H. Echlin age 36 (QR1001 EN)

01 – Robert W.H. Echlin age 36 (1904 – May 10, 1940)

On May 10, 1940, a Bristol Blenheim of the Royal Air Force crashed in Piershil. With a deafening bang, the plane landed in a potato field on the Oud-Piershilse road. Private Bram Douw was quickly on the scene and tried to free the heavily injured pilot, Hugh Rowe, from the burning plane. Klaas van Bergeijk, also arrived, cut the pilot’s straps loose and they managed to get him out of the plane together. Because of all consternation, they forgot the dome in the middle of the plane in which the gunner was.

The probably already deceased Echlin remained in the burning plane. The following day, 11 May 1940, the 36-year-old Canadian was buried with military honor in Piershil. Even after the war, Robert Echlin remained buried in Piershil and as a result, the cemetery behind the church was given the status of ‘Commonwealth War Grave’.


NB: research (by C. Gelderblom) has shown that Bob Echlin was born December 14, 1902 and died on May 10, 1940. That means that Bob was 37 years old when he died. However, the tombstone states that he was 36 years old.

Photos ‘Commonwealth War Grave’ – Piershil

On the stone is the saying “Per ardua ad astra”, the motto of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). It means as much as “through setbacks to the stars.” Of course it means that you have to overcome obstacles to reach the top. The grave of Echlin is regularly involved in commemorations. Similarly on May 10, 2000 when former members of the No. 600 Squadron from the R.A.F. visited Piershil. Under the watchful eye of many residents, Mayor Kolbach laid a wreath of red roses. Among those present was Hugh Rowe. Eighty-year-old Bram Douw, who saved the life of Rowe together with Klaas van Bergeijk, was present as well.

Commemoration 1990

Photos commemoration 2007

In Memory of Pilot Officer


77117, 600 Sqdn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve who died age 36 on Friday 10 May 1940.
Pilot Officer ECHLIN, Son of Edmund Burke Echlin and Margaret F. Echlin, of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; husband of Winifred Joan Echlin, of Ottawa, Ontario.
Remembered with honour
Commemorated in perpetuity by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

On Christmas Eve candles are lit throughout the Netherlands at war graves. This has been done in the Hoeksche Waard since 2016, at the Canadian cemetery in Holten this tradition has been going on for more than 25 years. It gave Dick Jansen from Burgum the idea to draw national attention to this promotion via Facebook. Thanks to his efforts, candles are lighted every year in hundreds of places in the Netherlands. The initiative is seen as a wonderful gesture at an emotional moment, for those who gave their lives in World War II for our freedom.

01 – Crashlocation Piershil: click here

1 Comment

Add a Comment
  1. I happened across this via Google.

    Bob Echlin was the youngest of my grandfather’s two brothers. That makes Bob my great uncle.

    Eddie, my grandfather (1899-1963), and Frank (about 1902-1990), the other brother, each had three–beautiful!–daughters. Great Aunt Joan was pregnant when Bob was killed. It was a boy! I’ve never met Paul.

    Thank you so much for your loving care of my uncle. Sending love from Toronto to Piershil!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *