Bone fragments discovered at crash site in Germany could be the last resting place of World War Two airman

The family of a fallen British soldier from the Second World War fought a lengthy battle with German development authorities. The family members of the Flight Engineer wanted to start the excavation of the site where his plane crashed during the war.


Few fragments of the bones have recently been recovered from the crash site. Six airmen are reported to have been buried at the site, which was under threat by German property developers. The developers were planning to bulldoze the farm and build a housing estate, when they were legally challenged by the family of a welsh airman Sgt. Ronald Barton.

The site where the plane crashed was lost after the Second World War, however as a result of an epic search by the relatives of Sgt. Barton the site was identified and efforts were made to carry out excavation.

The Search for the lost plane started when Sgt. Barton’s grand daughters Debbie Barlett, 48 and Julie Barton, 52 embarked on a journey to German countryside. They succeeded in tracking down the crash site to a field near Cloppenburg, in Northern Germany. The pair was shocked to discover that housing developers were planning to build estates over the crash site.


After the discovery the family of Sgt. Barton went through an excruciatingly long battle with the authorities to stop the developers from destroying the site. They eventually won the battle and development was stopped and orders were sent out to start an excavation at the site.

Debbie and Julie have also succeeded in contacting the families of two of the other five soldiers still buried at the site. Cloppenburg council made an announcement confirming that no building work shall commence on the site unless all the remains are found and removed, the Wales Online reports.

The crew was on their last operational mission to bomb the industrial city of Bremen. But their plane, a Lancaster PD241, was reported missing shortly after it took off from RAF Metheringham, Lincolnshire, on October 6, 1944. First news about the fate of the Lancaster and its crew came in 1946 when Red Cross reported that the plane had crashed in German countryside. An RAF search team found two bodies from the site, the bodies of Flt. Lt. John Colclaugh, 35 and Rear Gunner Ronald James Paul were recovered and flown back to Britain. They are now buried in Becklingen War Cemetery.

Other six crewmembers, listed as missing with ‘no known graves’ include:

  • Sgt. James Anthony, 21 (Mid Upper Gunner)
  • Pilot officer Clyde James Royal (Bomb Aimer)
  • Gordon Stewart Grogan (Wireless Operator)
  • Sgt. George Bowering Kirby (Navigator)
  • Lt. Stewart (Pilot)

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE