‘It would bring closure to our family’

Limavady pensioner Patricia McCluskey with the newspaper from Holland which covered her journey their for the VE commemoration last weekend. INLV2115-035KDR
Limavady pensioner Patricia McCluskey with the newspaper from Holland which covered her journey their for the VE commemoration last weekend. INLV2115-035KDR
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A Limavady woman is planning to have a Mass celebrated in memory of her war hero cousin in a move she believes would bring closure to her family.

After more than 70 years from when Patricia McCluskey last saw her first cousin, Flight Sergeant Francis Anthony McCluskey, the well known Limavady woman travelled to the Netherlands to visit his graveside as guest at a special ceremony in his honour.

Frankie McCluskey was 16 when he left his Ballymoney home in 1938 to join the RAF. He went on to become a Flight Sergeant.

On the night of the 6 October 1942, he was killed when the aeroplane he was in was shot down over Holland on its return from a raid on Osnabrook, Germany. Tragically, Flight Sergeant McCluskey’s parachute did not open and he was killed when he came down among trees in the Prattenburg Estate, beside the town of Rhenen.

Jannie van Beek-Pol was just 15 years old when she found the body of the RAF airman, who was buried by the German Army with full military honours a few days later in the town.

Before fleeing from an oncoming German patrol, however, Jannie retrieved the airman’s cap. This year it was returned to the airman’s family.

It was a poignant event where Patricia met Jannie van Beek-Pol for the first time.

Now, Patricia believes a Mass in memory of her cousin would bring closure to her family.

“I know now he is buried properly, and that I have seen his grave, and I feel very proud of Frankie. It’s important to honour the war dead. A Mass would bring closure for us,” said Patricia.

The medals of Flight Sergeant Francis McCluskey will be on public display for the first time, beside the cap, as part of the forthcoming WWII exhibition “Fate of our Nations”, which runs at Ballymoney Museum until 31 October.