Pressemitteilungen Media Release        10 Jul 2003                  MIN38/03

The Hon. Danna Vale, MP Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence



Four Australian airmen will be laid to rest in Berlin next week, more than half a century after they died, when their Royal Australian Air Force Lancaster ED 867 crashed during World War II, Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Danna Vale announced today.

"The mystery of Lancaster ED 867 is finally about to come to an end, both for the memory of these young Australians who gave their lives on 29 January 1944, and also for their families who grieved," Mrs Vale said.

ED 867 from 467 Squadron was shot down just north of Berlin following a bombing raid over the city. All seven crew-members, three of whom were from the Royal Air Force, were believed to have perished. It would take 57 years to discover their fate.

A German Aviation Historical group first discovered the aircraft wreckage in a wooded area of a German Army military practice range in 1997. The area was 40 kilometres north of Berlin near the town of Oranienburg. The area was in the former East Germany. Initial excavation of the site in 1999 by the Aviation Group and the German Army recovered a quantity of remains and some personal effects. Identification of the aircraft and crew remained unclear and the remains were interred at Berlin War Cemetery as Unknown British Airmen.

Through the subsequent investigative efforts of a relative of one of the crew in England, and the German Aviation Group, the aircraft was identified in 2001.

The combined allied crew were:

Flight Lieutenant Ivan Durston DFC, RAAF Pilot of Windsor QLD, age 32

Pilot Officer Robert Ludlow, RAAF Wireless Operator of Glen Niven QLD, age 31

Flight Sergeant Jack Sutherland, RAAF Rear Gunner of Fullarton SA, age 22

Flight Sergeant Phillip Gill, RAAF Upper Gunner of Coorparoo QLD, age 20

Flight Lieutenant Harold Fry, RAF Navigator of Ilford, Essex UK, age 21

Pilot Officer Sidney Griffiths, RAF Air Bomber of Cardiff UK, age 22

Sergeant Francis Aver, RAF Engineer of Merstham, Surrey UK, age 23

At the time of the crash in 1944, German soldiers recovered the remains of Pilot Officer Griffiths and buried him at a cemetery close to the wreck. In 1947 he was relocated to the Berlin War Cemetery. The remaining six crew members were commemorated on the memorial for the missing at Runnymeade in Surrey UK.

Further investigation, including forensic dental comparisons, enabled RAAF and RAF officials to declare that the remaining six crew had been found. Headstones for each of them will now be placed at the 1939-1945 Berlin War Cemetery, with their remains interred in a collective grave.

Ten relatives of the RAAF crew will depart Australia for Berlin this Friday, along with RAAF personnel from Air Force Headquarters. A full military funeral service is to be conducted on the afternoon of Tuesday, 15 July at the Berlin War Cemetery with the guard of honour comprising airmen from the RAAF and RAF. Also in attendance will be Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Angus Houston, along with family members of the deceased RAF airmen.