Sussex

Spitfire crash pilot's remains laid to rest

The Spitfire Mk 1A and Pilot Officer Harold Penketh Image copyright Aviva Group Archive
Image caption Pilot Officer Harold Penketh died when his Spitfire Mk 1A crashed on a routine training exercise

The final remains of a Spitfire pilot who died when his plane crashed 75 years ago are being laid to rest.

A fragment of bone belonging to RAF Pilot Officer Harold Penketh was discovered when the aircraft was excavated in Cambridgeshire last month.

The rest of his body had been recovered shortly after the Spitfire crashed during a training exercise in 1940.

The remains are being cremated at Woodvale Crematorium in Brighton and the ashes interred in Hove.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it was mirroring the wishes of Pilot Officer Penketh's parents, who lived in Brighton when he died in the crash at the age of 20.

Image caption A service was held at Woodvale Crematorium before the ashes were interred at St Peter's Church
Image copyright Oxford Archaeology East
Image caption A minute's silence was held after a fragment of Pilot Officer Harold Penketh's bone was found during the dig

Sue Raftree, of the MoD's casualty and compassionate centre, said it had consulted his elderly cousins, who live in the north of England.

The ashes are being interred at St Peter's Church in West Blatchington, at a spot believed to be where the original remains were scattered.

Ms Raftree said it was not expected that more remains would be found during the dig at Holme Fen.

"The Spitfire went down 30ft so it would have been very hard in 1940 to confirm if everything was found of him," she said.

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Media captionWorld War Two Spitfire pilot, Harold Penketh's remains have been laid to rest.

"It was the war years and they didn't have the same resources and time as we do today."

An RAF padre will conduct the service at the crematorium. He will hold a joint service with the Reverend Daniel Smith at St Peter's Church.

"A tragedy which took place decades ago still has the power to stir the emotions, and we are pleased and privileged to be able to help bring a sense of closure to these events," said Mr Smith.

Ms Raftree said Pilot Officer Penketh's watch and cigarette case, which were recovered from the site, are to be returned to his cousins.

The Spitfire remains are expected to go on public display at a later date.

Image copyright Oxford Archaeology East
Image caption The propeller was removed on day five of the dig, as the excavation got down to the base of the crater left behind by the Spitfire crash

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