Pressemitteilungen 15 July, 2003, BBC News


Burial for WWII bomber crew



A military funeral has been held to commemorate the crew of an RAF bomber shot down over Germany in World War II.


Pilot officer Sidney John Griffiths, from Cardiff, was among a seven-man crew gunned down as his Lancaster bomber approached the German capital Berlin, in January 1944.

Pilot Officer Griffiths was found dead at the scene, but the remains of the rest of the seven-man crew were not found until 2000. The remains of the three Britons and four Australians have now been identified, leading to Tuesday's service in Berlin to remember the airmen.

RAF Group Captain Nigel Vaughan-Smith said it had been a "poignant" service. "I feel honoured to have been given the opportunity to say on behalf of the RAF a farewell to these brave and valiant comrades who sacrificed their lives for us so many years ago," he said.

Pilot Officer Griffiths' brother Gerald Griffiths flew to Berlin to attend the ceremony. Mr Griffiths, 78, who served in the RAF for three-and-a-half years, said: "Having visited Sid's grave once before when I retired in 1984, I had long since got over the initial shock of his loss. I believe that my family was fortunate that Sid was found because it allowed the family to grieve. Although there was sadness at the time, it offered a form of relief to the family which the families of the other airmen did not have. I was really pleased when the RAF told me that they wanted me to be part of the visit to Berlin, because I realised I would get the chance to meet the families of the other crew members who lost their lives."

Lancaster ED 867 took off from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire on 29 January 1944 to carry out the bombing raid over Berlin. After the plane was shot down, Pilot Officer Griffiths was found and buried in a local cemetery. His remains were later moved to the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery.

Three years ago, the remains of Flight Lieutenant Harold Fry, 21, of Ilford, and Sergeant Francis Aver, 23, of Walthamstow, London were found along with the four Australian members of the crew.

Tuesday's service, which included the unveiling of a plaque by Australia's Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Angus Houston, took place at the crash site near Oranienburg, Germany.

It was followed by a burial at Berlin War Cemetery. Both services were conducted with full military honours.

Members of the Queen's Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force, and personnel from the Royal Australian Air Force, led the funeral procession.