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Lost Bomber Crew to Be Buried in the Netherlands

Press Release RAF Media and Communication

Lost Bomber Crew to Be Buried in the Netherlands

The remains of missing crew members from a Second World War Stirling bomber that was shot down in August 1942 will be buried with full military honours at 11:30hrs on Thursday, 31th August in Ambt-Delden cemetery, Delden, in the Netherlands. The burial will take place almost 64 years to the day that Stirling (W7624) was lost. The remains of the British and New Zealand airmen were discovered last year after an excavation by the Royal Netherlands Air Force at the crash site, which was near Bentelo in the Netherlands.

A memorial service will take place at 10:30hrs at the Oude Blasius church in Delden.
Members of the Queen’s Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force will lead the funeral procession, with Air Marshal Sir Clive Loader, Deputy Commander in Chief and COMAIRSTRIKE at HQ Strike Command, representing the Chief of the Air Staff. Ms Rachel Fry, the New Zealand Ambassador to the Netherlands, will represent the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

The Reverend (Squadron Leader) Tim Wright Bsc RAF from Brunssum, assisted by the Reverend RA Wiersma, will conduct the service. At the cemetery a trumpeter from HQ Music Services will sound the “Last Post” and a Dutch bag-piper from the local community will play a lament. At the cemetery there will be a flypast by a Tornado GR4 aircraft from No: XV(R) Squadron, from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.

In the afternoon, at 15:00hrs, a memorial to the crew of Stirling W7624 will be unveiled at the crash site in nearby Bentelo.


Stirling W7624 of No 15 Squadron took off from RAF Bourn, Cambridgeshire at 21;00hrs on 27th August 1942 for a raid on Kassel city, Germany. On board were:

Pilot Flt-Sgt H Barton-Smith
Navigator Flt-Sgt K Wakefield
Air Bomber Sgt L E Moss (New Zealand)
Flight Engineer J V Robinson
Wireless Operator Sgt P S Sharman
Mid Upper Gunner Flt Sgt E F Talbot
Rear Gunner Flt Sgt A Smith (New Zealand)

The Stirling was reportedly attacked by a German night-fighter and afterwards crashed near Bentelo, in the commune of Delden, five kilometres west of Hengelo in the Netherlands. The body of Flt-Sgt Smith, the rear gunner, was recovered at the time. He is buried in Ambt Delden cemetery. Two unidentified bodies, believed to be members of the crew, were also found and buried in the cemetery at that time.

Of a force of 306 aircraft that took part in the Kassel raid, thirty one were lost: twenty one Wellingtons; five Stirlings; three Lancasters; one Halifax and one Hampden. Many of the losses were attributed to night-fighter action.

In May 2005 the Royal Netherlands Air Force excavated the site of a crashed WW2 aircraft that was consequently identified as Stirling W7624. During the excavation human remains were discovered.

In accordance with MoD policy, and the wishes of the families, the remaining crew members will be buried in a single coffin with a single headstone next to the grave of Flt Sgt Smith. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission will provide the headstone, engraved with the crests of the Royal Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the words: “Three crew of Stirling W7624”. The crew of Stirling W7624 are commemorated on the Runnymede memorial, which overlooks the river Thames on Cooper’s Hill at Englefield Green.



Formed as a training unit at Farnborough on 1 March 1915, No. 15 Squadron crossed to France in December of that year equipped with BE2Cs for corps-reconnaissance duties. One unusual task the unit undertook was the dropping of ammunition by parachute to troops on the front line during 1918. After the War, the squadron succumbed to the inevitable disbandment. The Squadron reformed at Martlesham Heath in March 1924, but it was little more than in name, as their aircraft were part of the A&AEE trial fleet. This arrangement continued until 1934 when the squadron was reformed at Abingdon with Hawker Harts. It was shortly after this, that on the insistence of its Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader TW Elmhust DFC, that the Squadron became known as XV Squadron.

During 1938, the Squadron was one of the first to receive Battles, and it was with these that XV Squadron flew to France in September 1939. In early 1940, the Squadron returned to the UK and re-equipped with Blenheirns flown an the ground attack role. By the turn of the year, these had been traded in for Wellingtons, and shortly after that XV Squadron became one of the first Stirling heavy-bomber units. One famous aircraft flown by XV Squadron was named 'MacRobert's Reply', an aircraft donated by Lady MacRobert in memory of her three sons killed in RAF service. Lancasters arrived during 1943, and the Squadron remained part of No. 1 Group's main force for the remainder of the war.

Other heavy bombers were flown in the shape of Lincolns and Washingtons, but in 1953, XV Squadron moved into the jet age with Canberras. During the Suez crisis, the Squadron dropped more bombs than any other Canberra unit, but was disbanded in 1957. In September 1958, the Squadron reformed at Cottesmore as the second Victor squadron, but six years later was again disbanded. In 1970, XV Squadron reformed as a Buccaneer strike unit based at Laarbruch. After 13 years, the Squadron became the first Germany-based Tornado GRl squadron. With the withdrawal of some Tornado units from Germany under 'Options for Change', the XV Squadron number-plate was assigned to the Tornado Weapons Conversion Unit at Lossiemouth shortly after disbanding at Laarbruch in April 1992. For further information on the Squadron’s wartime history please visit


Always remembered as the first of the four-engine bombers to join the RAF, the Stirling suffered from design limitations which affected its performance and load- carrying capability. As a consequence, its service with Bomber Command was marred by heavy losses when used on operations alongside the higher-flying Halifaxes and Lancasters. For more information please visit


The Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre is the focal point for MoD casualty reporting and related issues. The Section also processes applications for licences for the recovery of military aircraft, responds to questions concerning historical aspects relating to casualties from all Services, and has responsibilities regarding the maintenance of inter-war and post-war grave headstones.

Historical aspects relating to casualties from all Services can range from tracing relatives of aircrew who were lost in battle in the war years where remains have been discovered, to answering queries about entries in books of remembrance. Interment or memorial services as appropriate are arranged by the Section, in collaboration with UK military units and/or British Embassies. In recent years such services have been conducted in UK, Germany, Denmark, Belgium and Iceland.


The Commission was established by Royal Charter in 1917. Its duties are to mark and maintain the graves of members of the forces of the Commonwealth who were killed in the two World Wars; to build memorials to those who have no known grave and to keep records and registers, including, after the Second World War, a record of the Civilian War Dead. For more information please visit


During the Second World War more than 116,000 men and women of the Air Forces of the British Commonwealth gave their lives in service. Approximately one-third of all who died have no known grave. Of these, 20,450 are commemorated by name on the Runnymede Memorial, which is situated at Englefield Green, near Egham, 32 kilometres west of London.

The design of the Runnymede Memorial is original and striking. On the crest of Cooper's Hill, overlooking the Thames, a square tower dominates a cloister, in the centre of which rests the Stone of Remembrance. The cloistered walks terminate in two lookouts, one facing towards Windsor, and the other towards London Airport at Heathrow. The names of the dead are inscribed on the stone reveals of the narrow windows in the cloisters and the lookouts. For more information on the Runnymede Memorial please visit


The Queen's Colour Squadron is part of the RAF Regiment. It has an operational and ceremonial role. In its operational role, it is a field squadron responsible for the defence of RAF and other assets on the ground from enemy forces. In its ceremonial role, the Squadron provides Guards of Honour for members of the Royal Family, visiting Heads of State and civil and military dignitaries.

Tasks undertaken by the squadron have included Royal guards of honour for the Amir of Qatar, the King of Saudi Arabia and Presidents of America, France, Germany, Italy and the USSR. In addition, during its brief history the Squadron has had the honour of performing public duties covering no less than 20 periods since 1977, at St James' Palace, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle.

The Squadron also provides Carpet Guards, Lining and Funeral Parties, and takes part in the major Battle of Britain services and the Cenotaph Parade on Remembrance Sunday.


The Last Post is one of a number of bugle calls, as part of military tradition, that mark the phases of the day. Where "Reveille" signalled the start of a soldier's day, the "Last Post" signalled its end. It is believed originally to have been part of a more elaborate routine, known in the British Army as the "tattoo", which had its origins in the 17th century.


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