Halifax Bomber Crew Remembered 75 Years On

A Second World War RAF bomber crew has been honoured with a special ceremony at the site where they were shot down 75 years ago.

In 2016, a group of historical researchers discovered parts of the 76 Squadron Halifax in Southern Germany, near the village of Speyerdorf, deep inside a wood.

Descendants of the crew of six British and one Canadian airman attended the memorial and watched the stone being unveiled.

It was only two years ago that parts of the plane were found at the site.

Flight Sergeant Geoff Brown, Halifax's tail gunner.
Flight Sergeant Geoff Brown, Halifax's tail gunner.

Chris Boylin attended the ceremony to pay tribute to her uncle - Flight Sergeant Geoff Brown, Halifax's tail gunner. She said:

“We never knew what happened to our uncle.

“They didn’t know which mission he was on and I now have his log book and in it says death presumed.”

76 Squadron bomber was shot down near Speyerdorf in south Germany.
Halifax DK 165 had actually attacked the Skoda plants at Pilzen early on the 17 April 1943.

Years after the crash, records and eyewitness accounts would lead Erik Wieman back to the site.

The former Dutch marine belongs to a research group that works with archaeologists.

Mr Wieman, from Rheinland-Palatinate Historical Research Community, said:

“The first attack was probably by a night fighter and the second attack was probably from the airfield over there.

"Flak was already flying very low and it was then split into many parts."

Sergeant Kenneth Webb
Six of the crew were killed including the pilot, Sergeant Ken Webb.

His nephew was named after him and is one of the families Mr Wieman had traced.

Ken Webb, Sergeant Kenneth Webb's nephew, explained what it as like to visit the crash site:

"To come here actually standing in the woodland knowing it’s almost identical to what it would have been when they came down on that morning.

“There is a whole series of photographs taken on the 17 April 1943 of the actual crash site.

"And you think yes but all around the trees are just like the trees now.”

17th April 1943 halifax crash site
A photo of the crash site in 1943.

The trees broke the fall of Sergeant Les Mitchell, who was trapped in the rear section as the aircraft broke up.

His son, Steve Mitchell, talked about what the memorial meant to him:

“These trees saved his life and that’s why I’m here. You know, I feel it’s a way to honour him, this is the part where his life almost ended.”

However, Flight Sergeant Stanley Braybrook and other crew members lost their lives at the crash site. They were buried in a local cemetery and had an unexpected carer.

Andrew Braybrook, Flight Sergeant Stanley Braybrook's nephew, said a young German girl would lay flowers on their graves.

“One young German girl came each day and put flowers on their graves in Speyerdorf cemetery because she felt for them – six lonely airmen far from home.”

Hede Kraus, at the age of 11, laid flowers on six German airmen's graves.
Hede Kraus, at the age of 11, laid flowers on the six airmen's graves.

She eventually confessed to her mother about what she was doing, her reply was:

“She told me that every person arrives in the world as an innocent – they only become bad later. If you think this helps you then you should carry on visiting.”

The airmen will be remembered at the site, with a memorial stone resting beneath the tees. 

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