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

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6 years 11 months ago #1187 by Gary
Gary replied the topic: Re: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
That's great news Matt, well done and thanks for your dedication to the families.

I'm hoping to introduce some new tools to assist with the collection of research info, watch this space. Anyway this is the last big change for as long as I can see at this point, there are no planned major updates to the software, this version of Joomla was a core change hence the length of time it took, finding tools that would do the conversions and testing was the hard part the actual migration only took a couple of hours.
Gary

'Yea, Though I Fly Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I Shall Fear No Evil. For I am at 50,000 Feet and Climbing.'

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6 years 11 months ago #1189 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: Re: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Thanks, Gary. Your personal email to me explained the time-consuming role of webmaster. You're more like a swashbuckler fending off all the evil viruses, etc. Glad you're not giving in...for now.

Cheers,

Matt

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6 years 11 months ago - 6 years 11 months ago #1193 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: Re: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Having found the kin of all 10 missing men, the next task was to find the kin of Harold Wynne, who has a known grave. My friend Elizabeth Williams gathered genealogy details lickety split, and then Ron Manley mined ancestry.com using the latest findings. In no time, the family has been found, but Ron is awating an email from this first family "find".

So far it's not a real close connection, but it's family -- grandchildren of Harold's aunt. It's possible we will reach an even closer kin.

11 men aboard KH250 set out on an op to bomb Port Blair on 17 May 1945. None came back. Their families now have been found, and for 10 there is the possibility that identifiable remains will be recovered when the MoD-sponsored dig takes place. Even if remains have turned to dust, these families now know the story, at long last.

With Wynne's family, if the contacted kin responds to Ron, or if other kin are found (we have a good list of kin to seek out, if necessary), we will share some great photos from his tour on Lancasters of 101 Sqn (along with four of the casualties who made the switch to the Far East for their second tour), and several photos from India. We will offer them a chance to learn more details of what happened on 17 May 1945, and then what we know of Harold's imprisonment and later death at the hands of the Japanese. (We won't force these details upon them, for obvious reasons, only offer them the chance to learn.)

A crew photo is attached, plus a separate photo of screen pilot Jim Duckworth. All but Duckworth are in the crew photo. Bill Kennard, an air gunner, was told he was not needed on this op (probably, in part, because Duckworth was flying as screen pilot and with little fighter threat Kennard's weight was unnecessary...more bombs, perhaps). He is front row, right. It tore him up that he survived, while his crewmates (and Duckworth) disappeared.

The eleven who did not come home (numbered to match photos):

1 Pilot 177155 F/O Rowland TOTHAM DFC (RAF, from England)
2 2nd Pilot 1522985 F/Sgt John Herbert MCDOWALL (RAF, from England)
11 Screen Pilot 197862 P/O Robert James “Jim” DUCKWORTH (RAF, from England)
3 Navigator 1804316 F/Sgt Harold Walter EMERSON (RAF, from England)
4 Bomb Aimer 187828 F/O Ieuan Anthony “Tony” MORGAN (RAF, from Wales)
5 Wireless Operator 655366 W/O Harry JOHNSON (RAF, from England)
6 Wireless Operator 977546 W/O Hugh CAMPBELL (RAF, from Northern Ireland)
7 Front Gunner 179043 F/O Frederick Edward “Ted” RUMSEY-WILLIAMS DFC
(RAF, from England)
8 Ball Gunner 1557907 Sgt Leslie BENFELL (RAF, from England)
9 Mid-Upper Gunner 1516012 F/Sgt Harold WYNNE (RAF, from England)
10 Rear Gunner 1380358 F/Sgt Robert Murdock Bannerman McPHERSON (RAF,
from England)

Attachment Tothamcrew3c.JPG not found



Attachment Duckworthcropnumbered.JPG not found



Regards from sunny (for the next few minutes only) Maryland, USA,

Matt
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Last Edit: 6 years 11 months ago by Gary. Reason: Added the photos to the post

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6 years 2 months ago #3985 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: Re: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
I thought it time to post a brief status report on the KH250 crew recovery project. It's a long, frustratingly slow bureaucratic slog. The RAF G/Capt in New Delhi who is on the case is very forthcoming with information, but the UK is reliant upon the Indian government to conduct the actual grave exhumation. Per the G/Capt in September:

I have now had a couple of useful meetings with the Indian Military on the subject of KH250. The reaction from the Indian Navy was positive. However, for anything to happen, authority must first be gained from both the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), as this case involves a foreign nation, and the MOD. It is further complicated by the fact that the military forces on the islands are part of a joint command presently commanded by an Indian Army Lt Gen. I am slowly making my way through the bureaucracy, I’m afraid it is not going to be a quick process. Much of the discussions I have had and advice I have received point to the fact that this is the wrong time of the year. The monsoons are still very active in the region. That said, my aim will be to secure some form of agreement of support in principle that will, I hope, lead to military engineers surveying the site to assess what support is required.

So the beat goes on, and there is a hint of hope. I just feel sorry for the elderly loved ones of the casualties.

Cheers,

Matt

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6 months 2 weeks ago - 6 months 2 weeks ago #5637 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: Re: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
BIG NEWS -- FINALLY the UK Ministry of Defence has won the approval of the Indian Government for the exhumation, then military reburial, of the remains buried in 1945 in the communal grave, now flooded. It has only taken about eight years. As the area is currently enduring monsoon conditions, the dig will not take place until the monsoon's conclusion – probably this autumn.

After over 70 years there may be no remains found, but hopefully, ultimately, remains will be reinterred in Kirkee War Cemetery, India. And there is a caveat imposed by the Indian Government. Should any remains be found, digging must stop immediately. The remains must be forensically identified as non-Indians before the digging can resume. And if this non-Indian link is made – individual DNA identifications are not required – then the remains, and any additional remains found after digging resumes, will be given a full military burial.

So, then, this case is complicated, but at least there will be a dig. I have researched the burial site in depth, and without a doubt the grave was where the KH250 airmen were buried after being killed on 17 May 1945.

Repeating old details, briefly, my research led to the rediscovery of the grave, which was severely damaged in the 26 Dec 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Furthermore, the quake which triggered the tsunami caused land subsidence in the area of up to one meter, and the grave, once on high ground adjacent to a tidal marsh, has been flooded constantly ever since. See the photo.

I am indebted to Sanjib Kumar Roy, editor of the English language newspaper “Andaman Sheekha” in Port Blair. He volunteered to go out to the nearby village and snoop around, and immediately he was taken to the grave. Aparna Singh, another local resident and an associate of my university friend, returned to take additional photos and to compile further details from villagers. I made contact with the kin of all ten men whose remains were potentially buried in the grave. Sadly, some have passed away waiting to hear that their loved ones’ gravesite would be exhumed. My great friend and co-conspirator as we lobbied the UK government, Ron Manley -- nephew of rear gunner Bob McPherson -- is one of them; he passed away on my birthday, this past Jan. 10th. His death is a hard pill to swallow.

I just learned today that Sanjib has again volunteered to canvas the villages near the burial site, this time with the goal of uncovering old photos of the grave before it was damaged in 2004. In particular, we hope that one particular needle-in-a-haystack will materialize -- either the actual marble plaque engraved with the names of the KH250 casualties or else a photo in which the names are legible. The plaque disappeared some time before the tsunami hit.

What are the odds of uncovering such gems? Probably low, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I wish I had thought of this much sooner.

The MoD's Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre will be bringing the kin of all ten men together in the near future for a meeting to discuss the project and to answer questions.

The waiting game continues, and fingers are crossed, but finally we have a definite green light from the Indian government.

Any photos I'd previously posted have disappeared, but here is one of the flooded grave, dating to 2010.

Cheers,

Matt
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Last Edit: 6 months 2 weeks ago by Matt_Poole.

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6 months 4 days ago #5638 by Smith 565
Smith 565 replied the topic: Re: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Matt,

I had followed the thread on this crew with interest and some frustration, although it cannot have been as great as yours and that of the families.

Thanks for the update and lets hope, at long last, something happens. There is a strange dis-function out there between the kindness and helpfulness of the local people, and the petty fogging bureaucracy of the authorities. Such a shame, but hopefully this crew will at long last get a proper burial place.

Geoff

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