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Remains of RAF airmen who died during WW2 buried during ceremonies

RAF airmen were laid to rest this week (Jacqueline Spijkerman, Netherlands Ministry of Defence)
RAF airmen were laid to rest this week (Jacqueline Spijkerman, Netherlands Ministry of Defence)

A number of ceremonies have taken place commemorating the sacrifices of Royal Air Force (RAF) airmen who died during the Second World War.

A number of full military burial services, organised by the Ministry of Defence, laid to rest several men at Jonkerbos War Cemetery in the Netherlands this week.

Among them was Flight Sergeant William Robert Stephen Hurrell, whose remains were buried 78 years after he was killed in action.

He was killed when his RAF Typhoon was hit by an enemy plane over Arnhem in September 1944.

Flt Sgt William Robert Stephen Hurrell (Family handout)

His remains were discovered in 2019 after Dutch authorities excavated the crash site on farmland near the village of Eefde, Lochem.

He was flying in a formation of six aircraft on an armed reconnaissance north of Arnhem when they were attacked by up to 60 enemy fighter planes.

The service was attended by members of Flt Sgt Hurrell’s family, who had travelled from Australia, representatives of the RAF, the British Embassy in the Netherlands, and dignitaries from the municipality of Lochem.

Personnel from the RAF’s Queen’s Colour Squadron (QCS) bore his coffin.

Other airmen were also laid to rest during ceremonies (Sgt Samantha Crowe, Imagery Technician, Canadian Armed Forces)

A further ceremony also laid to rest one airman’s additional remains.

Tracey Bowers, of the MOD, said: “It has been an absolute privilege to arrange this ceremony for Flt Sgt William Hurrell and I am grateful for the help given by the community of Lochem.

“I am honoured to stand alongside his military and blood family to pay him this final tribute.”

His great niece Brydie Hurrell, said: “We grew up knowing that Bill was shot down at the end of the war and that his parents had never found him. We knew he was in the Netherlands – we just weren’t sure where exactly.

“When we heard about the salvage project we were over the moon. Representing the rest of my family back home means a lot.

“Bill’s parents and his brother, my grandfather, died never knowing where he was, but we know have closure for them and for ourselves.”

On Wednesday, the RAF and the Royal Canadian Air Force also held a joint ceremony for the seven-strong British and Canadian crew of Stirling BK716 No. 218 (Gold Coast) Squadron.

The crew of BK716 (Crown copyright)

After leaving Downham Market, Norfolk, on March 29, 1943 for a raid on Berlin, their flight was designated “missing believed killed”.

The crash site was later located in Lake Markermeer and, in 2020, the remains were removed.

Those remembered during the service were: Flying Officer John Frederick Harris RAF, Flying Officer Harry Gregory Farrington RCAF, Flying Officer John Michael Campbell RAF, Sergeant Charles Armstrong Bell RAF, Flight Sergeant John Francis James McCaw RCAF, Sergeant Ronald Kennedy RAF and Sergeant Leonard Richard James Shrubsall RAF.

Liverpool-born RAF airman John Stuart Mee Bromley was also laid to rest 82 years after his aircraft was shot down near Dordrecht.

There was also a blessing ceremony held at Idaarderadeel (Wartena) General Cemetery for Pilot Officer Peter Clement Vellacott Joslin of Hornchurch, who died when his Lancaster bomber crashed in September 1942.