Although the remains of Burlington’s Dennis Haig Kurtz and the Second World War aircraft in which he was flying were discovered in the Netherlands in 1942, his wallet lay buried in a field for another 56 years.
In 1998, a Dutch farmer unearthed Kurtz’s wallet and the engine and propeller belonging to the Wellington bomber HF852 shot down by a nightfighter on its return from a mission to bomb Dusseldorf, Germany.
The name Dennis is clearly visible on the tattered driver’s licence and there was only one Dennis on the crew, according to Dutch Second World War aviation archeologist Thijs Hellings, who recently excavated the site.
Hellings is a member of several groups, including Planehunters Recoveryteam and Documentation Group Volkel, that research the air war that took place between 1940 and 1945, littering the countryside with downed aircraft.
Our main goal is to document them, find out which plane crashed where and how and then we go further and try to provide family members with detailed information of the circumstances of the deaths and sometimes escapes of their relatives, said Hellings.
Even after all these years, family members are keen and moved to tears to find out what happened to a relative that went missing.
Kurtz was initially listed as missing but later confirmed dead and buried in Eindhoven General Cemetery in the Netherlands. He was 24 years old.
For whatever reason after the wallet was discovered and reported, nothing further was done until the matter was recently brought to Hellings attention. He is currently writing his report on the excavation and its findings.
Kurtz was one of 11 siblings who grew up in Burlington.
After the war, his war diary, was given to his sister Patricia Crocker, who died in 2003.
Kurtz, was a sergeant and bomb aimer in the five-man crew that lost its life. The other crewmen, all in their 20s, were from Ontario, Newfoundland and California.
When found, Kurtz’s wallet contained coins, remains of some paper money and the remains of other, yet to be identified, documents.
Personal effects are an uncommon find but returning them to the family is the aim if recovered, said Hellings, who contacted the RAF 51 Squadron History Society in Canada in an attempt to find a living relative.
Plane parts we stumble upon are treated with preservatives, pieced together and used for permanent displays in museums or in exhibitions.
Nephew to receive wallet
Jerry Large, a lifelong Burlington resident and Kurtz’s 75-year-old nephew, will be the recipient of his uncle’s wallet.
Large was surprised after being contacted with the information about his uncle’s wallet.
It will be interesting,d said Large, whose mother Anne was Kurtz’s older sister.
His recollection of his uncle is vague but he does recall seeing him at his grandmother’s house (where the Miranda Apartments on New Street now stand) chopping logs for firewood.
There are numerous relatives in the local area, said Large.
Kurtz’s name is one of 82 inscribed in block letters on the cenotaph in front of Burlington City Hall honouring the men who died fighting during the First and Second World War.