UK

UK And US Veterans' Search For Crashed WW2 Bomber Crew

The American Liberator B-24 bomber was forced to crash land in West Sussex after taking heavy anti-aircraft fire in France.

American and British veterans are helping to dig up a field in Sussex, where a bomber crashed during the Second World War.

The American Liberator B-24 was forced to crash land after taking heavy anti-aircraft fire on a bombing run to France, two weeks after D-Day, in June 1944.

The plane limped across the English Channel and seven of the crew were able to escape.

But it went down about a mile from Arundel, killing the remaining three crew.

Some 77 years later, the American Veterans Archaeological Recovery (AVAR) aims to find out more about what happened and to bring their fallen compatriots home to the US.

The excavation process involves a digger removing piles of soil from a wide trench, which the team then painstakingly sifts through for clues and evidence of the missing men.

Dr Stephen Humphreys is part of the AVAR team and outlined the importance of the dig.

"Our mission here in 2021, is to come back and recover the remains of those three individuals and bring them back to the United States if we're able so that we can give closure to those families and to the rest of the nation.

"One of those individuals, I should mention to you, was partially recovered in 1944 so really we're searching for the other two."

The diverse excavation team will remain on site for four weeks.

US Army veteran Gregory Ashcroft said the dig was a "sombre" experience for those involved.

"In the American military complex we have a very strong sense of bringing ours home.

"So it's a very sombre experience for us to be able to be here in this field and be able to help repatriate some American soldiers back to our home.

"And you know it hasn't always been that way, but I think once we made the decision that was the proper thing to do we've really amped up our drive to bring home every American that we can."

AVAR believes working on archaeological sites can be a great recovery tool for veterans and the dig has acted as a chance for those from both militaries to work together and learn from each other.

Squadron Leader Suzy Watts is based at RAF Cosford and said working alongside the American veterans has been a "really interesting" experience.

"It's been really interesting because the way that the Americans view the recovery of their personnel - even the archaeological practices - are slightly different.

"So it's really interesting not just from a military perspective of learning each other's language - because believe it or not we do speak a different kind of English - but also just learning how we operate differently in different militaries, also how we operate differently archaeologically and also just how we view ourselves as individuals in the military and veteran space."

The team will spend four weeks digging through the site, seeking to find out what happened 77 years ago but, most importantly, with the hope of returning the victims to their homeland.