The Digital Monument

Haorld C. Magnusson During the night of the withdrawal, the Royal Engineers and the Royal Canadian Engineers worked together to get as many men of the 1st Airborne Division on the other side of the river.

The first 3 Canadian stormboats (engine-powered boats) were launched at 21.45 hrs. Each boat was operated by three engineers. Boat number One had an extra passenger, C.O. Lieutenant Martin, who went across to coordinate the operation from the northern bank of the river.

This boat got a direct hit by a stray mortar bomb, killing all three of the crew and Lieutenant Martin.
Sapper Magnusson was in boat 1.

Czeslaw Gajewnik On November 14th 1944, the bodies of Harold C. MAGNUSSON (Canada) and Czeslaw GAJEWNIK (Poland) were found in the river Lek (the name of the river Nether-Rhine changes at Wijk bij Duurstede) at Tienhoven.

Two boys, Adrie van den Berg and Hans van Straten, both eleven years old, had a rowing boat. Adrie was the son of Janus van den Berg, who was the ferryman for the Tienhoven-Jaarsveld ferry-service. For larger cargoes he had the ferry and for smaller jobs he had the rowing boat. In these dreadful months, quite regularly, all sorts of things came floating past and on this particular day it was a large number of bags of flour. The inner part of the contents turned out to be dry, and the flour was still good enough to make some kind of food, in these time when food was a scarce commodity.

the Rowing Boat
An old photo showing the rowing boat.

When they saw more objects floating in the water, the boys thought they would, again, be sacks of flour, but they were shocked when they realised they were two naked human bodies. Despite their young age, they were determined, to do their duty and try to get the bodies to the shore, near Koekoekswaard; there was a salmon farm nearby.

When they had brought the two bodies ashore, some German soldiers, who were billeted in the neighbourhood, arrived and they took the name tags off. Hans’ father, who was also the verger of the Tienhoven church, was ordered to come and the two bodies were taken to the church and laid in coffins, with leaden interiors.

The bodies were placed on a bier and stayed in the church for about two days. The boys did not know where the bodies had been taken to.

Hans van Straten today, showing the spot
where they recovered the bodies 60 years ago.

Until recently they did not know the nationalities of the two men: British or German.

Only a few weeks ago they were told that one of them was a Canadian and the other one was a Pole.

Magnusson’s body now rests in Gorinchem in the old General Cemetery. Gajewnik was re-interred in the Airborne Cemetery at Oosterbeek.