Second World War bomber crew laid to rest

The RAF Queens Colour Squadron lowering the coffin
The RAF Queens Colour Squadron lowering the coffin

A Burgess Hill woman travelled to the Netherlands to see her cousin, an RAF airman who died in a World War II bomber crash, laid to rest with military honours.

Cindy Hines, 55, travelled to the service with her husband Mike, 55, son Elliott, 22, and nephew Julius, 18, to see Sergeant Philip Eldridge laid to rest on Tuesday, June 28.

Sergeant Eldridge, aged 29, Sergeant William Hawkins, aged 23, Sergeant John ‘Jack’ Jones, aged 30 and Sergeant Gerard Walters, aged 20, were part of a seven-strong crew, of 158 Squadron, who took off in Halifax DT795 from RAF Lissett, Yorkshire, on April 3, 1943.

“They attacked the Krupp armaments factories in Essen, Germany, with 347 other planes but were downed by the Luftwaffe on the home leg, crashing in the Apeldoorns Canal in Wapenveld, the Netherlands, and killing the crew,” said a statement from the RAF.

“Following extensive research by local historians, the Dutch authorities discovered their remains during a September 2014 excavation.

“Three crew members were buried at Amersfoort at the time and another was later buried as an unknown airman – thought to be Sgt Eldridge at Heerde (Wapenveld) General Cemetery. The plot at the cemetery now has four individually-named headstones for Sgts Eldridge, Hawkins, Jones and Walters.

Cindy and Mike Hines. Photo by Ken Pike

Cindy and Mike Hines. Photo by Ken Pike

“The ceremony was carried out by an RAF Padre and the Queen’s Colour Squadron, of RAF Northolt, with the service arranged and co-ordinated by the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, part of the UK Ministry of Defence.”

Speaking afterwards, Cindy said: “The service was very moving, and very respectful. It’s wonderful that the crew have been remembered in this way and we’re incredulous at how many people have kept their memories alive all these years.

“We found out about my cousin’s burial last year when the Ministry of Defence got in touch, so to find that a relative has been remembered after all these years – and that we’d lost someone in a bomber crash in those circumstances – was incredible.

“To find that he has been remembered, along with his crew members, after all this time has been very moving, as has the efforts of the local people in Wapenveld, I really don’t think they could have done more.”

UK CROWN COPYRIGHT / MOD. Courtesy of Air Historical Branch (Royal Air Force).

UK CROWN COPYRIGHT / MOD. Courtesy of Air Historical Branch (Royal Air Force).

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