Bomber crash site set to be ex­ca­vated

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - by Will Ack­er­mann will.ack­er­mann@trin­i­tymir­

THE fam­ily of a miss­ing Sec­ond World War air­man have won a battle against Ger­man prop­erty de­vel­op­ers plan­ning to bull­doze the site where his plane crashed more than 70 years ago.

Flight en­gi­neer Ron­ald Bar­ton, 34, and his com­rades, are be­lieved to be ly­ing in the wreck­age of their Lan­caster bomber be­neath a farmer’s field in Ger­many.

The eight men of Lan­caster PD214 were fly­ing home from their 30th and fi­nal bomb­ing mission over Ger­many in 1944 when they crashed.

Their fi­nal rest­ing place was only re-dis­cov­ered this month, af­ter an epic search by sur­viv­ing rel­a­tives of Sgt Bar­ton.

His grand­daugh­ters, Julie Bar­ton, 52, and Deb­bie Bartlett, 48, tracked down the field, near the town of Clop­pen­burg, in north­ern Ger­many two weeks ago.

They also dis­cov­ered the field had been sold to a hous­ing de­vel­oper, which planned to dig up the ground with me­chan­i­cal dig­gers on Mon­day.

Af­ter tense ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Ger­man au­thor­i­ties, Sgt Bar­ton’s fam­ily won their battle to stop the bull­doz­ers for an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tion be­fore build­ing work be­gins.

The grand­daugh­ters made an emo­tional visit to the crash site a fort­night ago and met eye­wit­nesses who, as chil­dren, saw the plane’s burning wreck­age set fire to their farm.

The bod­ies of two Bomber Com­mand air­men were re­cov­ered by Ger­man sol­diers af­ter the crash and the six oth­ers who per­ished, in­clud­ing one from Hayes End, are be­lieved to be among the wreck­age.

Ms Bar­ton said: “The eye­wit­nesses are con­vinced there are still peo­ple in the ground and lots of the plane. The Ger­man au­thor­i­ties were plan­ning on tak­ing ground­pen­e­trat­ing sonar read­ings to make sure there are no un­ex­ploded bombs be­fore al­low­ing the bull­doz­ers and me­chan­i­cal dig­gers to move in.

“We have been im­plor­ing them to do a proper ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tion to stop hu­man re­mains be­ing des­e­crated.

“Af­ter a lot of ne­go­ti­a­tion we have con­fir­ma­tion the Ger­mans will do a proper in­ves­ti­ga­tion on Mon­day and Tues­day with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Ger­man War Graves Com­mis­sion.

“My sis­ter and I will be there and we want any re­mains treated with dig­nity and re­spect. The Min­istry of De­fence told us it will carry out DNA testing if sub­stan­tial re­mains are re­cov­ered.”

On Oc­to­ber 6, 1944, Lan­caster PD214 set off from RAF Mether­ing­ham, in Lin­colnshire, on the crew’s last op­er­a­tional mission – a mas­sive bomb­ing raid on the Ger­man industrial city of Bre­men.

No more was heard from the plane af­ter take­off, and the crew was listed as miss­ing. The In­ter­na­tional Red Cross re­ported it crashed and the Ger­mans re­cov­ered two bod­ies.

In 1946, an RAF in­ves­ti­ga­tion team ex­humed the two bod­ies and iden­ti­fied them as Aus­tralian trainee pi­lot flight lieu­tenant John Col­clough Bar­low, 35, and rear gun­ner sergeant Ron­ald James Paul, 20. They are both buried in Beck­lin­gen War Ceme­tery.

The other six men who were on board that night were all listed as hav­ing “no known grave” and are re­mem­bered at the RAF me­mo­rial in Run­nymede.

One of the miss­ing men was mid up­per gun­ner flt. sgt James An­thony Fell, 21, who was mar­ried to Phyl­lis Beatrice Fell, of Hayes End.

Pho­tos by Wales News Ser­vice

n MIXED EMO­TIONS: The fam­ily of a miss­ing World War Two air­man from Hayes End found the site where his plane crashed – only to learn it is set to be de­stroyed by Ger­man prop­erty de­vel­op­ers this week

n CRASH SITE: Flight en­gi­neer Ron­ald Bar­ton, 34, and his seven com­rades were fly­ing their fi­nal mission over Ger­many in 1944 when they crashed while head­ing for home

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