The crew of a World War Two bomber, missing since their aircraft was shot down 63 years ago, will be buried with full military honours at 1200 hours on Tuesday (11th May 2004) in Bergen General Cemetery, Bergen, The Netherlands. The burial, which takes place on the anniversary of the crash, follows a memorial service at Petrus and Paulus Church, Bergen. A memorial will later be unveiled at the crash site in nearby Opmeer. Members of the Queen's Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force will lead the funeral procession, with Air Marshal Philip Sturley, Chief of Staff HQ Allied Forces Air North, Ramstein, representing the Chief of the Air Staff.
David Payton, New Zealand Ambassador to the Netherlands, will represent the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). The Venerable Geoffrey Allen will conduct the service. A bugler from the Royal Netherlands Air Force will sound the last post and a piper will play a lament. Subject to confirmation there will be a flypast by two Harvard aircraft from the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
Stirling N3654 of Number 15 Squadron took off from RAF Alconbury in
Cambridgeshire on 10th May 1941 for a raid on Berlin. On board were:
1. Wing Commander Herbert Reginald Dale RAF, Pilot, from Preston near Hull;
2. Pilot Officer Peter Reginald Stephenson Bird RAFVR, 2nd Pilot, from Gainsborough, Lincolnshire;
3. Pilot Officer Daniel McLean Campbell RNZAF, Observer, from New Zealand;
4. Sergeant Frank Augustus Sidney Smith RAF, 1st Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner, from Gillingham, Kent;
5. Sergeant Norman Howarth Nuttall RAFVR, 2nd Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, from Blackburn, Lancashire;
6. Sergeant Stanley Philip Plumb RAFVR, Flight Engineer, from Stroud, Gloucestershire;
7. Sergeant Eric Russell Lucas RNZAF, Air Gunner, from New Zealand.
The aircraft was attacked by a German night fighter and crashed into a ploughed field at approximately 0020hrs on 11th May 1941, 500 yards from the village of Opmeer near Bergen. It is believed to have been the first Stirling to crash on Dutch soil. The body of the pilot, Wg Cdr Dale, was recovered at the time. He is buried in Bergen General Cemetery.
Last year the Royal Netherlands Air Force excavated the site of a crashed WW2 aircraft that subsequently turned out to be Stirling N3654. During the excavation human remains were discovered along with a number of artefacts including flying suits, boots, a torch, gloves and a cigarette case.
In accordance with MOD policy, and in line with the wishes of the families, the remaining crew members will now be buried in a single coffin with six individual headstones next to the grave of Wg Cdr Dale. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission will provide the headstones. The crew of Stirling N3654 are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, which overlooks the River Thames on Cooper's Hill at Englefield Green.
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