The crash site of a plane carrying a Scarborough airman which was shot down 70 years ago during the Second World War has been discovered in Germany – finally shedding some light on his death for his family back home.
Sergeant John Currey was just 21 when the Lancaster bomber he was flying in was shot down following a raid on Berlin on August 24 1943.
The crash site of the bomber was never known to the relatives of the seven men on board, but following a two-year investigation by Ian Hill, the nephew of Sgt John Phillips, the youngest member of the crew, the wreckage was located in dense woodland 25 miles north of Germany’s capital.
The news came as a shock to the family of Sgt Currey, who are now living in the Seamer area.
His niece, Jean Monkman, said that her mother, Molly Allen, had been shocked to hear about the discovery of her brother’s plane.
She said: “I was reading one of the national papers and saw the story and then saw that it mentioned my uncle’s name so I went round and told my mum.
“She was a bit taken aback to be honest. She was 11 when he died, the youngest of his brothers and sisters, and the family never really spoke of it so she knew he had been shot down but not much more than that.
“Uncle John was one of six children and only my mother and my aunt Nora are alive today.
“My mother has some of his diaries which mention the names of the other airmen who were on the plane with him when it was shot down.
“My aunt Nora has his war medals and the last letter he wrote before his death.
“We are now hoping to get in contact with Mr Hill to see if we can find out more and see what else we can learn about what happened to Uncle John.”
On August 23 the 101 Squadron Lancaster set off from RAF Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire, to attack Berlin as part of a force of 727 aircraft. It was one of 56 never to return, the greatest loss of aircraft in one night up until that point in the war.
It was believed that the bomber exploded in mid-air after being intercepted, spreading the debris over a large area and instantly killing the crew, including Sgt Currey, one of its air gunners.
Mr Hill and a team of German aviation archaeologists discovered the plane, helped by eye-witness Dr Hans Richter who was just a 14-year-old schoolboy at the time it was shot down.
His discovery also showed that the bodies of the three Britons and four Australians were buried with full military honours by the German Luftwaffe.
Mr Hill said: “It was wonderful to learn they were laid out in the village hall and buried in the local cemetery with full military honours by the Luftwaffe and treated with respect.”
In 1946, the bodies were moved to the war cemetery in Berlin.
It was also found that the man who shot down the plane was a German fighter pilot ace named Werner Husemann.
He was later awarded the Iron Cross by Adolf Hitler and is still alive today, aged 94.
A gravestone for Sgt Currey is located at the Berlin cemetery and his name also appears on the Oliver’s Mount war memorial in Scarborough.
However, following the discovery of the plane’s crash site Mrs Monkman said there are no plans to repatriate his body.
She said: “I have spoken to my mother and she thinks that he should remain in Germany with his comrades.”
Mr Hill added that he hopes the families of the other airmen will visit the site to get the same sense of closure that he has.