RAF bomber crew laid to rest after 72 years

The remains of the crew of Lancaster ED427 are carried to their final resting place in the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery at Durnbach.     Picture by Mike Drewett
The remains of the crew of Lancaster ED427 are carried to their final resting place in the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery at Durnbach. Picture by Mike Drewett

More than 70 years after their Lancaster bomber was brought down over Germany, an RAF crew has been laid to rest with military honours.

Lancaster ED427 - piloted by Flying Officer Alexander Bone, from Horsham - was one of 36 bombers which failed to return from a mission to bomb an arms factory in Czechoslovakia in April 1943.

The plane, which also contained navigator Sergeant William Yelland, wireless operator Sgt John White, flight engineer Sgt Norman Foster, bomb aimer Sgt Raymond Rooney, mid upper gunner Sgt Ronald Cope and rear gunner Sergeant Bruce Watt, of the Royal Canadian Air Force, is thought to have been brought down by flak.

At the time, the German authorities took away most of the wreckage and two bodies, and filled in the crater that remained.

In 2012, an eyewitness guided a civilian team to the crash site near the village of Laumersheim, south west of Frankfurt, and they excavated it in September that year.

Human remains found at the crash site have now been buried at Durnbach war cemetery in southern Germany. The two crew members who were buried during the war were re-interred with their comrades.

Relatives of F/O Bone travelled from Horsham, South Africa, and Denmark to witness the ceremony.

Alex Bone’s niece Libby Risby, from Horsham, attended and gave a reading of ‘High Flight’ by John Gillespie Magee of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The first two lines of the poem (‘Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth / and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings’) are inscribed on Alex Bone’s gravestone.

“It was just wonderful, the whole thing,” she said, “I don’t think any of us will ever forget it.”

She said F/O Bone had been held in high esteem by his family, as shown by the number of nephews and nieces he had who are named after him.

Libby was full of praise for the Queen’s Colour Squadron members who carried the coffin to and from the church, and across the large cemetery.

“It was absolutely amazing,” she said. “I don’t think any of us knew what to expect, but it was just perfect - the way that they’d been drilled.

“I think we just all found it absolutely amazing - it was just beautifully carried out.”

Alexander Bone, a nephew of F/O Bone who also travelled to Germany for the funeral, said the beautiful Bavarian forest and hills had provided a perfect backdrop for the burial.

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“It was all so well organised,” he said. “The War Graves Commission look after the cemetery - it was immaculate.”

Also attending to represent the family were Alexandra Bone (niece), Margaret Fitzroy (niece), David Bone (nephew), and Caspar Bone (great nephew).

Brigadier Rider CBE, defence attache to the British Embassy in Berlin, gave a reading at the service while Uwe Benkel, the researcher who led the team which excavated the crashed bomber, was also able to attend.

Peter Menges, who witnessed the crash and guided the researchers to the site, was sadly unable to attend for health reasons.

“We all want to go back because we didn’t have a really good look around the graveyard,” said Libby.

“Myself and a cousin are definitely planning to go back next year, to pay our respects, but also to have a look around.”

(From left) Alexandra Bone, Alexander Bone, Margaret Fitzroy, Padre Colin O'Dell, Libby Risby, David Bone, and Caspar Bone.

(From left) Alexandra Bone, Alexander Bone, Margaret Fitzroy, Padre Colin O'Dell, Libby Risby, David Bone, and Caspar Bone.

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F/O Alexander Bone funeral

F/O Alexander Bone funeral

Rifleman Keith Redshaw from 5 Rifles plays the last post. Picture by Mike Drewett

Rifleman Keith Redshaw from 5 Rifles plays the last post. Picture by Mike Drewett