Inspiring mission to honour a Sunderland Second World War hero - and you can help him
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The bravery of Sergeant Vincent Mckenzie is being honoured by Floris Hendrix, 29, who lives in Holtum in Holland and has adopted Sgt McKenzie’s grave.
Sgt McKenzie would have been 96 last Sunday if he had survived the Second World War. But he died on June 22, 1944 and is buried in Nederweert War Cemetery near Eindhoven.
Sgt McKenzie was an air gunner in the RAF Volunteer Reserve 44 squadron, Group 5 and Floris has made it his mission to care for the British hero’s grave.
He lovingly tends the grave and places flowers on it on Vincent’s birthday.
But Floris wants to do even more to honour the Wearside man and hopes that Sunderland Echo readers can help.
He explained: “The main goal of my journey is to honour the fallen heroes who gave their young lives for the liberation of Europe. I want to get to know them, tell their stories, so they are not forgotten. I visit their graves on special events like their birth/death date to bring them flowers.
“The ultimate goal is to find a picture to give them a face.”
Can anyone hep with Floris’ quest? Thanks to both Floris and ex-WRAF Brenda Kelly who is helping him, we know some information on Vincent and his family.
Vincent’s mother and father married in 1916. They were John William McKenzie and Mary Alice Gillespie.
Vincent was born in Sunderland on January 31, 1925 and he had one sister Catherine who was born in 1921. Catherine married Norman Smith and they had two sons who were also both born in Sunderland.
At the time of Vincent’s death in 1944, his parents were living in Southall, Middlesex.
Brenda told us: “Vincent was the brave air gunner on an RAF Lancaster bomber and the crew was believed to be unique in that it was made up of New Zealand, UK, Canada, Australia and an American.”
But their fate was sealed on June 21, 1944 when they took off from Dunholm Lodge which was a grass airfield in Lincolnshire. Theirs was a night mission over Germany but reports stated they crashed on a mission over Wesseling in Germany. Vincent was 19 when he died.
Brenda said: “I do hope there are living relatives or friends of the family who may have some memories or momentoes to share with Floris and indeed the good people of Sunderland.”
Floris added: “I always had an interest and fascination about the Second World War. I have already visited some Second World War American graveyards and museums throughout The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.”
Floris then found out that there were various grave adoption programmes in Holland and he adopted the graves of one American solider and four British heroes including Vincent Mckenzie.”
Can you help Floris to find a photo of Sgt McKenzie? Can you provide a helping hand for a man who is making sure a Sunderland hero is never forgotten?
If you can, email [email protected] and we will pass on the information to Brenda and Floris.