Scottish Pilot’s Missing Body Might Still Be In Lancaster Wreck In The Netherlands

On the night of the 12th of June in 1943, 503 aircraft from RAF bomber Command carried out a raid on the German city of Bochum in the Ruhr. The center of the city was severely damaged in the raid, during which 24 aircraft were lost.

In the early hours of the 13th of June, a Lancaster bomber of 49 Squadron based at RAF Fiskerton in Lincolnshire was returning from the raid when it was attacked by a German fighter aircraft over farmland at Marienheem in Holland. The pilot attempted a crash landing, but the Lancaster’s wing hit a telegraph pole and the aircraft crashed, killing all seven crew members.

German troops forced local villagers to dig graves for the crew in the nearby cemetery at Raalte, but there are only five graves. The bodies of Pilot Officer John Hutchison and the mid-upper gunner Sgt Edward Pearson were not identified.

The pilot’s nephew, military historian Colin Cripps, has since carried out an extensive search for information about the remains of his uncle and Edward Pearson.  Two theories exist.  One is that the bodies of the missing men were so badly damaged they could not be identified and may have been buried in the same grave as Charles Dudley, the flight engineer. The other possibility is that the bodies remained inside the wrecked aircraft, and were buried with it when the crash crater was filled in, The Scotsman reports.

The crew had joined 49 Squadron at RAF Fiskerton only four days earlier and were on their second bombing mission from the base. It was a cruel twist of fate that they were spotted by the German fighter at that point, 190 miles from the English coast and a third of the way home.

Colin Cripps is determined to discover the facts about the missing men’s last resting place. He wants the Dutch Air Force to excavate the Lancaster’s wreckage to see if there are any human remains inside. If that doesn’t provide any answers, he wants to have the Raalte cemetery graves opened, in case his uncle and Edward Pearson were indeed buried alongside one of the other crew members.

Colin has been in touch with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who told him that the graves were exhumed in May 1945, and only one body was found in Charles Dudley’s grave. Colin’s search continues.

RAF Fiskerton was closed as an airfield in 1945 and is now used mainly for agriculture.

Ian Harvey

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