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KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945

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9 years 9 months ago #816 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Great news...The KH250 communal crew grave has been found. Sanjib Kumar Roy, the editor of the local newspaper Andaman Sheekha, interviewed elders in the village closest to the crash and burial sites, and he was then taken to the grave. As suspected, it was in an area inundated by the tsunami, and because of subsidence of the land it is frequently flooded in this tidal marsh. When visited on Saturday, however, it was above water.

You can see in the photo that the grave is in poor condition. The concrete (I think) top to the marker, sitting upon a brick base, is shattered, but I can still make out what I believe is a large cross motif, raised above the flat covering.

The crash site itself was not pinpointed, but it is in the swampy ground adjacent to the crash, most likely. I have heard no eyewitness accounts yet.

Sanjib has found a book on local Andaman history which states that the crewman who died as a POW (not named in the book, but it was Harold WYNNE) was injected with poison and killed before the British reoccupied the area. I suspected that he had been murdered by his captors; his date of death is 17 Aug 1945, after the Emperor announced that the war was over.

This story will continue to develop. My long-term goals are twofold:

1) to find kin of as many crewmen as I can. (I'm currently in touch with only the family of skipper Rowland TOTHAM).

2) to lobby the UK to recover these remains, as should have been done many decades ago.

I do hope that the MoD will recognize that the KH250 remains are at an obvious gravesite. It is not a wreck excavation that is requested, just a retrieval of human remains from a communal grave. There is no question that this is a gravesite.

I have so far received one photo of the grave (credit: Sanjib Kumar Roy).

Cheers,

Matt

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9 years 9 months ago #818 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
An intriguing coincidence to share.

It was 17 November when I notified the family of skipper Roland Totham that his crew's communal grave was found.

This was the same day - Tuesday of this week - that Roland's 94 year old aunt died, hours before the news of the grave reached the family.

17 November is Roland's mother's birthdate.

17 November is Roland's widow's birthdate.

17 November is Roland's widow's son's birthdate.

The mathematicians will define such coincidence in terms of probabilities...

Cheers,

Matt

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9 years 9 months ago #823 by MartinB
MartinB replied the topic: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945

Gary wrote: Oh and 17th November also happens to be my Birthday, not that any of you sent me a card :(


Everyone was skint after buying cards and presents for my birthday two weeks earlier :D :D :D

MartinB

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9 years 9 months ago #830 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Happy belated birthday to Gary and Martin.

Real quick...I'm sleep deprived...Here's another photo of the grave. It shows how it is right on the edge of the swamp, and occasionally water inundates it. Very, very poor, and I sure hope something can come of it.

Through a couple of genealogically savvy readers on the RAF Commands Forum, I was able to learn the name and address of the rear gunner's daughter. I got her phone number from the BT directory and called, but she is gone until mid-week. I was encouraged to phone back, so that's very positive. Will keep you all informed.

Cheers for now,

Matt

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9 years 3 months ago #929 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Time for a short update, spurred on by the fact that Ron Manley posted a forum message about 24 hours ago, in the "Introductions" category of the forum. I replied there, and to keep everything together, I'm copying Ron's message and my reply below, as part of the original KH250 "H" topic. (No disrespect to you is intended, Ron!)
The messages follow. I should add that I mention Sue Raftree. I don't hold her responsible for the slow pace to date.
Cheers,
Matt
+++++++++++++++++++++++
KH250 H Hawkeye
Hello
A big thank you to Matt Poole for all his information regarding the above flight.
Whilst researching my family tree, looking for information about Robert B. M. McPherson, my uncle, I came across Matt's details.
A vast majority of Robert's brothers, sisters and his wife and daughter are still alive and kicking, and are absolutely delighted to have this information, only ever knowing that he was killed in action.
To date the family have had no explanation from the M.O.D. as to why they have not been told officially that there is a known war grave.
Does anybody know who I need to make contact with at the MOD to take this matter further.
Thanks in anticipation
Ron
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Hi, Ron,
I corresponded with Kevan, who must be your brother; he said Bob McPherson was his mother's brother. Been going on four months since I had a long phone chat with Dorothy, Bob McPherson's widow. Since then I've received word that the British High Commissioner's office in Delhi is planning to send someone to the gravesite outside of Port Blair, S. Andaman Island, in June -- if visas can be arranged. So this is going to drag on and on, but at least there is some action.
I don't know, for certain, to whom you should write to protest the failure of the system to have notified the family of the graves, oh, 65 years ago when the British found out. I have found several other cases like this in the Far East. I am in correspondence with a representative of the MoD's Joint Casualty and Compassionate Office; Ms. Sue Raftree is her name, and she is the point of contact for this case. Write to me at feb2944 AT aol.com (remove spaces, change AT to @) for a bit more.
Anyway, there's still hope that the remains one day will be exhumed. I can feel myself aging, however...the waiting, waiting, waiting. It was Nov. when I first contacted Sue about this very clear-cut case of a known Liberator crew grave's existence in a country, India (the Andamans are a part of India) which maintains good relations with the UK.
If you don't mind, I'm going to copy your message and this reply and tack them on to the existing KH250 message thread, in the

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9 years 3 months ago #943 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Hi, Gary and the gang,

Ron Manley (kin of Bob McPherson) has been a huge help. He found the kin of Harry Johnson from the KH250 crew, and the Johnson family has been experiencing the same emotional rollercoaster ride that the Totham and McPherson kin have felt. There is elation and sadness, and also anger that the casualty recovery system failed so miserably after the communal grave had been found right after the war. No family members even notified.

Harry Johnson's four siblings and his widow are all deceased, but his son may still be found. The Johnson kin found so far had lost touch with him roughly 15 years ago. The son had a son and daughter who had moved to Canada at some point. The story is still unfolding. Still much to learn, connections to be made, info shared.

Ron has also found a 2nd cousin, once removed, of Leslie Benfell, the ball turret gunner. Leslie, unmarried, had one sibling, a sister who is deceased. She had two sons in the 1950s. They were births registered in Blackpool, surname Windham, but they have not been located yet.

It turns out the FIVE of the men from KH250 had flown a complete tour of ops aboard Lancasters of 101 Sqn, Bomber Command. Courtesy of the Totham kin, I have a crew photo in which, so far, three men have been identified, all killed with the loss of KH250. They were Rowland Totham, Harry Johnson, and Bob McPherson. Most like one or both of the other crewmen who went on to fly in KH250 for that one op are also in this photo: Harold Wynne (died as a PoW, the sole survivor of the air combat) and Harry Emerson. A better copy of the photo might reveal a letter code on a brevit which could help in the identifications. Harold was an AG, while Emerson was a Navigator, wearing an O (Observer) or N brevit, I think.

Courtesy of the Totham family, I even have a photo of what almost certainly is the forward fuselage of their regular Lancaster on 101 Sqn. The photo (very poor print) shows the letter T under the front turret, signifying the individual aircraft letter code. There is nose art which is washed out a bit in the print, plus the words PRESS ON REGARDLESS. Also 60 bomb symbols. Totham

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