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The crew members of an RAF Lancaster bomber who died when their aircraft crashed during the Second World War were honoured recently at a special service in Holland, after Fraser and Fraser’s researchers found the missing relatives of two of the airmen.
The aircraft, serial number ED470, was shot down on 23 September 1944 with the loss of six of the seven men on board. Its crash site then lay forgotten until 2013, when it was finally located by a group of Dutch archaeologists.
During their investigations the historians not only found remnants of the fuselage, armament and engines, but also discovered the gravesite of an unknown member of the crew, who had been buried in a local cemetery shortly after the crash.
With this additional information, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission decided to update the headstone from simply stating, “An Airman of the 1939-1945 War” to include the words, “Member of the Crew of Lancaster ED470”.
Commission staff planned a rededication ceremony and set about tracing relatives of the servicemen, but while they quickly found relevant individuals in both Australia and the UK, they drew a blank on the two crewmembers with the most common surnames; 19-year-old sergeant Tegwyn Roberts and 25-year-old sergeant Thomas Brown.
Fortunately, Fraser and Fraser saw the Commission’s appeal for assistance and our researchers were able to use their expertise on a pro bono basis to track down Sergeant Roberts’ family to north Wales and Sergeant Brown’s to Middlesborough, where his sister was still alive.
We also found out from Sergeant Roberts’ niece, Nerys, that the airman’s father had contacted the Air Ministry at the end of the war in a bid to discover details of what had happened to his son. As a result of this he had then received a letter from the surviving crew member, Sergeant John Miller, detailing the latter’s recollections of the tragic final flight.
Prior to the commemoration service, Nerys arranged with Ministry of Defence staff for a copy of this letter to be distributed to all of the crew families, providing them with a very tangible and poignant insight into the last minutes of Lancaster ED470.
Tracey Bowers, Head of the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre Commemorations Team was one of those who attended the ceremony in Holland.
“Nerys had a beautiful poem in Welsh that was written especially for a memorial the family held on what would have been Tegwyn’s 21st birthday,” she said. “The RAF Padre made reference to this during his address and also the fact that the six crew who were killed had come from all over the world, had different occupations, even different heights, but served together with one purpose.
“As always, when we work in The Netherlands the local community support these events as they still feel a sense of gratitude for the sacrifice made by those killed for their freedom – it really is very humbling.”