Presentation aims to give closure to relative of Second World War airman
By Virginia Beaton,
Flight Lieutenant Frank Dotten was just 22 years old when he was killed when his plane crashed during a bombing run over Nuremberg on March 17, 1945.
Seventy-five years later, Ervan Gould, F/Lt Dotten’s nephew, received a framed gravestone rubbing from the gravesite of the uncle he never had the chance to meet.
“We made this happen,” said Tim Friese, a colleague and friend of Gould. During a presentation held in the gallery of the Halifax Seaport farmers Market on Saturday, November 7, Friese described the events that led up to the presentation.
A history buff who volunteers with the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust and The Memory Project, Friese had researched the location of the grave with help from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 576 Squadron of the Royal Air Force, and a business owner who lived near the Durnbach War Cemetery where F/Lt Dotten was buried. The business owner made the gravestone rubbing and mailed it to Friese, who then had it framed for the presentation.
Gould, together with a group of friends from Halifax Port Authority, watched as Friese showed a series of photos and documents depicting F/Lt Dotten’s military career.
Among them was a record that indicated all the sorties F/Lt Dotten had flown, a photo of him from November 1944 with his crew from 576 Squadron, and a photo from the visitation book at the cemetery, showing where a local resident had signed the book for Ervan Gould, in honour of the occasion.
After the event, Gould said he was completely surprised to receive the gravesite rubbing as a memento. When his colleagues and friends had invited him to the presentation, “I didn’t know why or what to expect,” he stated.
Gould grew up hearing stories about his uncle. F/Lt Dotten was a native of Hants County, Nova Scotia, joined the RCAF during the war and was flying with 576 Squadron of the Royal Air Force when he was killed. It was a shattering experience for his family, he noted. “My grandfather had joined the Canadian Army during the First World War. He was only 17 but he lied about his age to get in. He never talked about his war experiences.”
Nobody in Gould’s family was ever able to visit the cemetery in Germany where F/Lt Dotten was buried, which was a source of sadness, said Gould. “My uncle’s name is on the headstone of my grandparent’s graves in Selma, in Hants County.”
Now that Gould has the framed headstone from his uncle’s final resting place, he says, “I will appreciate this for the rest of my life.”