WW2 crashed bomber: Dental records to be used to identify airmen

By Nic Rigby
BBC News Online

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image copyrightJohan Graas
image captionJohan Graas headed up the operation to recover the wreckage of the plane

The leader of a team that helped recover the remains of airmen from the wreckage of a World War Two bomber hopes dental records may identify them.

The Short Stirling bomber, based at RAF Downham Market in Norfolk, crashed into a lake in the Netherlands in 1943 while returning from a raid on Berlin.

Johan Graas, who helped recover the plane, said the remains of the crew were being examined by specialists.

He hoped individual crew members could now be identified.

The plane, carrying seven airmen, was shot down and ended up in Lake Markermeer, near Amsterdam.

image captionThe airmen were photographed earlier in the war in front of another aircraft
image copyrightShrubsall family
image captionOne of those who died was bomber gunner Sgt Leonard Shrubsall - his son has welcomed the retrieval of the plane from the lake

Mr Graas said the operation had recovered "four engines and landing gears and a lot of fuselage but, most important, human remains".

"We hope dental records will help identify crew members."

Mr Graas said the recovery cost about one million euros (£910,000), which was paid for by the Dutch government.

image captionRAF Downham Market's operational life was confined to World War Two
image copyrightShrubsall family
image captionJanice and Richard Shrubsall are hoping to go to a commemoration event planned for March

Richard Shrubsall, son of gunner Sgt Leonard Shrubsall, has welcomed the discovery of human remains.

His wife Janice said the couple were "thrilled to bits" the bodies had finally been recovered.

Sgt Shrubsall's wife Beatrice was three months pregnant with Richard when she received a telegram saying her 30-year-old husband had failed to return from the operation over Berlin.

image copyrightJohan Graas
image captionFour of the bomber's engines were recovered
image copyrightJohan Graas
image captionVarious other parts of the Short Stirling Bomber have also been retrieved

A service of commemoration and the unveiling of a monument to the crew is due to take place in March.

Mrs Shrubsall said: "We are just waiting to hear more about it. We are hoping to go to the commemoration event."

image copyrightJohan Graas
image captionThe recovery operation at Lake Markermeer, near Amsterdam, was paid for by the Dutch government
image copyrightShrubsall Family
image captionSgt Shrubsall's wife Beatrice kept a tin which contained the telegram and letter from King George VI about her husband

The lost crew of Short Stirling BK716:

  • Sgt Charles Armstrong Bell, 29, from Bearpark, County Durham
  • Pilot Officer John Michael Campbell, 30, from Golders Green, north London
  • Flying Officer Harry Gregory Farrington, 24, from Niagara Falls, Ontario
  • Flying Officer John Frederick Harris, 29, from Swindon
  • Sgt Ronald Kennedy, 22, from Newcastle
  • Sgt John Francis James McCaw, 20, from Belleville, Ontario
  • Sgt Leonard Richard James Shrubsall, 30, from Iwade, Kent

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