Bougin, Cobb and Newhouse

Nearly one year later, a second Blenheim crashed in Oegstgeest in an area border with Leiden near the Nachtegaallaan. The airplane finally came to a halt upon hitting one of the greenhouses in the City’s Nursery (Stads Kweektuin). It had been 15:14 hours on Easter Monday, 14 April 1941, that the bomber of the 21st Squadron took off from the airbase at Watton in Norfolk. The squadron had been stationed there since October 1940, their objective to attack targets in hostile coastal areas. The pilot on board, who was also the commander in charge, was 18- or 19-year-old Sergeant Edgar Newhouse. The fact that his age was not mentioned in the ‘Casualty Details’ suggests that British army authorities, who were known to be quite methodical, had not registered his date of birth so that it would not be too apparent that he was under age and would not meet the minimum age requirement of 18 years. The second crewman on board was radio-operator/gunner Sergeant John Montague Charles Bougin, 26-year-old son of William Charles and Florence E. Bougin and husband to Hilda Mary Bougin-Thomas.

They lived in Wollaton Park, Nottinghamshire, England. The third crewman on board was Sergeant Victor Albert Cobb, 22-year-old son of Albert Victor and Ethel May Cobb and husband to Kathleen Violet Ethel Cobb. They were living in East Ham, Essex, England. Their mission above The Netherlands was to bomb the electricity-generating station either in Leiden or Haarlem.


A light bomber: Bristol Blenheim IV.

German funeral with military honour

Their airplane crashed at about 17:00 hours. The exact cause could never be ascertained because German army records gave contradictory reports. One possibility was that anti-aircraft guns had brought the Blenheim down while other reports suggested that it had been shot down by a fighter plane. However, one thing that was certain is that all the crewmen perished. On 17 April 1941, their bodies were laid to rest with military honor next to the crewmen of the above-mentioned Blenheim. At the time, only Bougin’s name was known. The other two airmen were buried with ‘Unknown Flyer RAF’ inscribed upon their cross.

At the time, Hilda Bougin was pregnant, giving birth to a daughter named Hazel several months later. Thus the child never got to know her father. Exactly 50 years after his burial, Hazel made the journey to Oegstgeest with her husband to visit her father’s grave. Throughout the following years, she would repeat this journey various times to participate in the annual commemoration for those servicemen who had died in Oegstgeest. After her death, her husband Chris Gough, who naturally never had met his father-in-law, would continue this tradition by visiting the churchyard in Oegstgeest.

Just like the burial for the crew of the first Blenheim, on 30 July 1942 the mortal remains and wooden crosses were transferred to the sites where the men now lie buried.

Hazel Bougin
Fifty years on seemed an appropriate time to make the pilgrimage to Oegstgeest, which is about a mile north of Leiden, Holland, to the grave of Sgt J.M.C. Bougin RAFVR. How to give due deference to the grave of a man she had never met? Hazel approached her forthcoming holiday with a certain amount of, not quite trepidation, more an uncertainty of her own emotions. Her fears were groundless; yes, it was a moving experience but very worthwhile and the remainder of the wonderful holiday was to be a delight to record for posterity.

Uit ‘Thatched roofs and swans’, A journey in Holland and Germany, Hazel & Chris Gough 1991

Graves of the three airmen with wooden crosses: the names of the pilot and the navigator were onknown at that time.


Right: Radio-operator/gunner John Bougin

The three gravestones in their present state.

Mayors in wartime

Thus three Englishmen were buried on 17 April 1941, at that time with German military honor, at the Groene Kerkje cemetery.

Mayor A.J. van Gerrevink at  a later commemoration.

Moreover, it was fitting that a civilian authority serve as speaker. That would be the Mayor of Oegstgeest, A.J. van Gerrevink. The Mayor was, however, only allowed to use a speech which had already been censored by the Germans. He did not adhere to this regulation and took the opportunity to praise the British aircrew. The same day he was arrested and imprisoned in Valkenburg until 15 June 1941. On 15 July 1942, Mayor Van Gerrevink was replaced by a member of the NSB, German sympathizer O.L.J. Sikkens. Deputy Mayor T. van Egmond, member of the Anti-Revolutionary Party (which later merged to become the CDA) was responsible for installing Sikkens. Although he had many qualms about this, he knew that refusing would escalate rather than alleviate the difficult situation. Thus, following tradition, Van Egmond agreed to present the Mayor’s Chain of Office to the new office holder. He prepared himself thoroughly for the occasion. In his speech he emphatically pointed out the mayor’s given tasks with respect to all members of the citizenry, not only to certain members of a small group. When he hung the Chain of Office around Sikkens’ neck, this Calvinist reminded him that ‘one day Jesus Christ will ask you to stand accountable for your tasks on this earth’.

On 5 May 1945, Van Gerrevink was re-installed as Mayor, three days later Sikkens was arrested by the BS and taken away. Van Egmond was named an honorary citizen of Oegstgeest.

Now, more than a half century later, during his commemoration speech on 11 November 1999, former Army Chaplain and member of the Oegstgeest War Graves Committee Rev. P. Sierat referred to the attitude of Van Gerrevink, saying: ‘May we have the courage to do what is necessary and to say what must be said’.