Pressemitteilungen 15 July 2003, Associated Press

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)



Families of missing Australian, British crew pay respects following discovery of wreckage


By David Rising

BERLIN British and Australian relatives of the crew of a bomber that crashed near Berlin during World War II paid their last respects Tuesday to the men whose fate had remained a mystery for more than 50 years.

A single Royal Australian Air Force bugler played ``The Last Post'' after the oak casket with the remains of four Australians and two British crewmen was lowered into the ground at the Berlin War Cemetery. They were buried alongside more than 3,500 other Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen killed in the German capital during the war.

``I'm very satisfied and very grateful for all the help in putting our boys to rest,'' said Betty James, 85, whose brother, Flight Lt. Ivan George Durston, was the Royal Australian Air Force pilot of the Lancaster bomber.

``Now we've got something to remember him by,'' said James, who traveled to Berlin from Adelaide, Australia.

Gerald Griffiths, 78, of Bridgend, Wales, brought the flight log book of his brother, RAF Pilot Officer Sidney John Griffiths the only member of the crew whose remains were found at the time of the crash, on Jan. 29, 1944.

The bodies of the six others remained missing until 1997 when a German amateur historian stumbled upon the wreckage of the bomber while looking for another aircraft.

``I saw English words on it and knew immediately it could not be a German fighter,'' said the historian, Ruediger Kaddatz.

The plane, shot down on a night mission to bomb Berlin, was badly damaged. Its 4,000-pound bomb exploded on impact, as did the remaining fuel.

Identifying the plane took some detective work.

Kaddatz and his colleagues found aluminum foil chaff strips of metal dropped to confuse enemy radar in a technique first used in an attack on Hamburg on July 25, 1943. That led them to conclude the crash occurred after that date.

An archival aerial photo from Sept. 13, 1944, indicated a crash, helping them further narrow down the date, but there were still too many missing Lancasters that fit all their criteria for them to identify the remains of the airmen they had found.

The pieces of the puzzle came together later when Kaddatz's group received a letter written by Marion Bywater, an Englishwoman looking for information on her uncle, Flight Lt. Harold Fry, the plane's navigator.

Bywater had a 1945 letter from the British War Ministry that she found when going through her mother's possessions. It said her uncle's Lancaster crashed Jan. 29, 1944, near where Kaddatz found the wreckage.

Kaddatz's group was able to enlist the support of Australian authorities who cross-matched crew dental records with the remains and identified the airmen.