|09-05-2005, 02:22 PM||#1 (permalink)|
AKA: Chief Muppet
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Great Britain
WWII bomber crew laid to rest in Berlin
The crew of an RAF bomber shot down over Berlin in 1944 have been laid to rest with full military honours.
Halifax LW430, of 640 Squadron, took off from RAF Leconfield on 24 March 1944, part of a 1,000 bomber raid on Berlin. The aircraft had completed its bombing mission and was on its way home when high winds blew it off course. It was intercepted by a German night fighter and shot down. The aircraft crashed into a tree before coming to rest in a field, killing all on board.
The crew of Halifax LW430 were Pilot Officer William Collins McLeod (pilot, from Glasgow); Sgt Norman Leslie Cooper (navigator from Taunton); Sgt Sidney William Wheeler (air bomber from Bristol/Swindon); Sgt John Charles Burdett (wireless operator/air gunner from Basildon); Sgt Angus Phillip Webb (flight engineer from Whitstable); Sgt Jack Northwood Boston (air gunner from Bideford) and Sgt Ronald Archibald George Turner (rear gunner from Monks Risborough).
In September 2003 wreckage of an aircraft was uncovered by a German search and recovery team, along with human remains. The RAF set about tracing relatives of the crew and yesterday around 25 family members - brothers, sisters and friends – were at the Berlin War Cemetery to see their loved ones finally laid to rest.
Airmen from the Queen's Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force carried the single coffin, draped in the Union Flag, which contained the remains of the crew. Their grave is marked by one headstone.
Sgt Burdett's sister, June Llewellyn, from Basildon in Essex, said:
"At first we wondered what had happened to John. We hoped he had been taken prisoner or was maybe trying to make his way home.
"But gradually we accepted that he had probably been shot down and would not be coming back."
Mrs Burdett carried her brother’s RAF log book with her to Berlin, given to the family by the squadron after the war had ended. The last entry is a poignant one – it simply reads 'Death presumed'.
"The log book is an incredible family heirloom which we will keep forever,” she said. “It shows his life in the RAF right up until he died so we will always treasure it."
Speaking after the funeral, RAF spokesman Michael Mulford, said:
"It proved a beautiful tribute to the seven men who gave their lives serving their country. It was particularly touching having not only family and friends of the crew here to see their loved ones buried, but also members of the German recovery team, as well as a friend of the pilot who shot the aircraft down. It really was in the spirit of peace and reconciliation."
Prior to the funeral, a memorial stone statue had been unveiled at the crash site, outside the village of Saxony, near Torgau, approximately 100 miles south of Berlin. by the man who led the recovery operation, Jens Bechler. Family and friends of the crew saw a plaque unveiled in their honour.
A service of remembrance, led by the Reverend Wing Commander Paul Owens, was conducted at the site. The service was followed by the dedication of the memorial plaque, built by the German recovery team who excavated the aircraft. The plaque is a simple design, made from local stone, with a citation honouring the crew.
The crew of Halifax LW430 were on their 19th mission and would have been stood down from operational service if they had completed twenty sorties. They had been flying together as a crew for nine months.
Bill Wheeler, brother of Sgt Sidney Wheeler, travelled to Berlin to see his brother honoured with the rest of the crew. Bill, from Winterbourne Monkton in Wiltshire, said of the ceremony at the crash site in Torgau:
"It was a very good way of giving us closure after such a long time. It was very touching and poignant that the German recovery team carried out the search and excavation work, as well as building the memorial that we now see at the crash site."
Reverend Owens added:
"This is a beautiful monument. It is important that we continue to strive for peace in Europe and throughout the world. Today really is a symbol of that peace."
|berlin, bomber, crew, laid, rest, wwii|
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