South East Wales

Search for families of David Ellis and other Lancaster crew

Four members of the crew - from left to right:- Sgt. John Phillips, Flight Sgt. Douglas Tresidder, Flight Sgt. Robert Naffin and Sgt. David Morgan Ellis
Image caption Four members of the crew of the Lancaster ED328 - Flt Sgt David Elis is on the right

A search has begun to find relatives of a Welsh airman and other crew of a downed World War Two bomber discovered in Germany after 70 years.

Flt Sgt David Morgan Ellis, 32, from Pontypridd, was the oldest in the Lancaster when it was shot down after a mission over Berlin in 1943.

German aviation archaeologists finally located the wreckage in dense woodland 25 miles away.

The nephew of a gunner who died is now trying to find all the families.

Ian Hill, from Crewe, Cheshire, said his mother Alwyn, 81, had finally received "closure" after finding out what happened to her brother, Sgt John Phillips, the youngest on the Lancaster.

He said: "My mother was 11 when her eldest brother died and the discovery of the plane has given her real comfort and, finally, some sense of closure.

Squadron base

"We now know that the bodies of the crew were treated with the utmost respect by the Luftwaffe and buried with full military honours."

Three Britons of the RAFVR and four Australians in the RAAF were on the Lancaster. The families of three crew have already been traced, but Mr Hill is trying to find relatives of Mr Ellis and four other airmen.

He was the son of David and Jane Ellis and married to Iris May Ellis, from Cwmgorse in Carmarthenshire. It is not known if they had any children.

The Lancaster, on its 19th Bomber Command mission, went down near Lanke north of Berlin, as it was returning to the squadron base at Ludford Magna in Lincolnshire after a night bombing raid.

Iron Cross

It was intercepted by the Messerschmitt of Major Werner Husemann, who is still alive aged 94.

Image caption The Berlin war cemetery where the crew are now buried

The German who had received the Iron Cross from Hitler attacked the Lancaster from underneath and its fuel tanks were hit, causing a mid-air explosion.

Mr Hill said they had tracked down an eye witness who showed them where the Lancaster came down in dense forest.

"Dr Hans Richter was only 14 at the time but his memory is so vivid. It was an extremely traumatic experience as it took place over his head.

"He said he saw a chain of light going from the German night fighter to a large black four-engine plane.

Image caption Sgt John Phillips' sister Alwyn Hill with Dr Hans Richter who witnessed the crash

"Next there were sparks and a huge red fireball and then the plane came down in parts after exploding."

Mr Hill said the young German's father was the head of the local fire brigade which had to tend to the crash site and exhumed the bodies.

"It was wonderful to learn they were laid out in the village hall and buried in the local cemetery with full military honours by the Luftwaffe and treated with respect."

In 1946, the bodies were moved to the war cemetery in Berlin.

'Share experience'

Last month Mr Hill took his mother to Germany to place poppies on the graves of the crew.

He added: "Before this discovery, all we knew was they had crashed somewhere around Berlin and were buried in the Berlin war cemetery in 1946.

"It would be really nice to try and share the whole experience and give the rest of the families what we have had - to go and see the plane and crash site."

The sales manager said: "At the end of the day these guys gave their lives for the freedoms we have today. It's nice to be able to pay some respects and keep their memory alive."

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