Dutch woman tends RAF strangerís grave
By JOHN COLES
Published: 14 May 2010
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A DUTCH woman has spent 45 years caring for the grave of a hero British airman she never knew.
Tiny Claessen, 79, first noticed the neglected resting place of Flight Sergeant Henry Hiscox as she visited her own father's grave nearby.
She weeded it and cleaned the headstone out of respect for the fallen hero who died in a Second World War bombing raid over Holland.
Tiny then returned EVERY week to leave flowers, plants and candles at the grave in her village of Beesel, near the German border.
She has now received an official letter of thanks for her "years of devotion and dedication" from RAF Air Chief Marshal Stephen Dalton after he heard her story.
Last week on the 65th anniversary of Holland's liberation, Tiny was visited by war veteran Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE, who gave her a photo of a Lancaster bomber as thanks.
Tiny said: "My mother told me to care for my father's grave when she was gone, then pointed at Henry's and told me to do his too. He gave his life so people like me could live free and happy. It was the right thing that he should be respected and remembered. It felt like he became a member of my family, like a brother.
"I never expected anything at all from anyone."
Rear gunner Henry, 35, of Newport, Gwent, was trapped in his Lancaster after it crashed in a nearby corn field.
For three days he blew his whistle for help, but locals were too scared of German reprisals to rescue him.
Farm workers found his body a week later and he was buried with a wooden cross and memorial, later replaced. Henry's parents visited the grave in 1949, but it was abandoned until Tiny came along in 1965.