Campaign for decent burial for Eastbourne airmen

Peter Buck
Peter Buck

An RAF historian and author is campaigning to get two airmen from Eastbourne a proper burial after their plane crashed near Berlin in 1943.

Alan Cooper has written to former Allied Forces governments in a bid to see the Halifax bomber HR930 recovered and the crew given a final send off.

Donald Hempstock

Donald Hempstock

The servicemen are all entombed in the plane which was shot down during a night raid in 1943.

The aircraft vanished beneath the mud but in 2002 a team of archaeologists located the site when the land dried out, pushing wreckage to the surface.

Mr Cooper writes “Two of the crew were buried at the time but five including two from Eastbourne, Peter Buck and Donald Hempstock, are still missing as the aircraft sank in a bog and has never been recovered.

“But as the aircraft is now coming to the surface and German archaeologists have from many years of research said without question that this is Halifax HR-E of 158 Squadron, they are prepared to excavate it and give the five men a proper burial.

Let’s have action and not just futile words

Alan Cooper

“But the Ministry of Defence and, it would appear, the Australian and Canada Defence offices, will not fund such a search. The policy is when and if the men are located they will fund the cost of a funeral for the five men. Two are from Australia and one from Canada.

“I have just had an email from the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada in reply to one I sent him in November.

“What he said was that as the aircraft was owned by the UK and they do not fund recovery of historical aircraft, in this case no mention of the remains of five men just an aircraft they have to abide to this.

“However they go on to say in the event that the British MoD issue a licence to recover the aircraft by private endeavour, scientists from the UK, Australia, and Canada will work together to recover, identify, and intern any remains found of the airmen.

“One seems to contradict the other in that they will not put up the funds for the recovery but if someone privately did they would not only support it but offer scientists to help.

“So it’s a policy about money and not the remains of five brave men who 72 years ago gave their lives to make sure the world stays free and now although we say every year ‘We will remember them’ do we really?

“Let’s have action and not just futile words.”

The ill-fated plane sunk into a marsh near Gollin.

Sergeant Donald Roy Hempstock, the son of Charles and Winifred Rose Hempstock, was just 21 years old when the plane went down. He held the role of the air bomber in the crew.

Including the two men who were dragged from the wreckage by enemy soldiers before it sunk, the team comprised of three nationalities: Australian, Canadian and three British – Roland Hill from Leicester and the Eastbourne pair.