Remains of RAF airmen found in German field
The remains of five British airmen have been found nearly 70 years after crashing in a muddy field outside Frankfurt, Germany, during World War II.
The discovery was made possible with the help of an eyewitness who saw the Lancaster bomber crash in April 1943 after returning from a raid on the Skoda armaments works at Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, according to The Telegraph.
It took hours of digging by volunteers to uncover the bomber after Peter Menges, now 83, led them to the site outside the village of Laumersheim, near Frankfurt, where he’d seen the plane crash and explode after being hit by German anti-aircraft fire.
“A Rolls Royce engine and landing gear of the Lancaster bomber was found followed by ‘hundreds’ of fragments of human bones in what would have been the cockpit,” according to The Telegraph.
The bomber was one of three dozen aircraft which didn’t survive the mission that night.
The impact of the crash created a large crater in the ground.
The German military recovered two of the bodies from the wreckage and buried them. After the war, the British Air Ministry tried to find the final resting place of the remainder of the crew but had no luck.
Uwe Benkel, who led the effort, began researching military plane crashes a quarter-century ago and now leads a voluntary recovery group that has examined 400 crashes and recovered the bodies of 38 airmen.
His goal is to “bring comfort to their families who knew nothing of how or where they died,” according to The Telegraph.
Benkel only recently began looking into the long-missing Lancaster and found Menges.
“Peter lived in the next village. He saw the plane coming down on fire and saw the explosion. His parents didn’t allow him to go and see the plane that night,” he said. “He went the next morning and the German military were there. From what he saw the majority of the parts were on the surface and taken away.
“There was a big crater in the ground, within a couple of days it was filled in with rocks and dirt and was covered up for the next 69 years.”
After Menges showed Benkel viewed the location, it was examined with metal detectors and radar photos.
The team dug more than 15 feet over a 325-square-foot area and found sections of the fuselage, cockpit, landing gear, a tire, a burnt parachute, tools and ammunition, the publication reported.
(HT: A Blog About History)