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Thursday, 18 July 2013

WWII bomber poet David Raikes and other three Airforce men are finally laid to rest

Nearly 70 years after they died, the four men of the crew of an RAF bomber will be buried with military honours at a ceremony in Italy. One was a young poet who had himself written poignantly about the pain of losing air force comrades.

Boston crew
All the men served in 18 Squadron, based near Rimini, in the north of the country, in the last days of World War ll.
One evening in April 1945, they took off on a mission to attack a bridge on the River Po, then carry out a wider reconnaissance.
By this time, the Allies had been fighting their way up through Sicily and the Italian peninsula for nearly two years.
Rome had fallen the previous summer.
Now, further north, German resistance was finally collapsing, and soon the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini would be dead.

The men aboard the Boston bomber were all very young. The oldest was only 21.
If they could have survived just 10 more days they would have seen the Allied victory in Italy.
And with the coming of peace in Europe shortly afterwards, their lives would have stretched out before them.
But they never returned from their mission. It is believed their plane was brought down by German anti-aircraft fire, and that everyone on board died in the crash.
Now, 68 years after they were killed, the crew is being laid to rest at a Commonwealth war cemetery in the city of Padua.
As relatives of the men look on, the strains of the Last Post will drift across the hundreds of white headstones in the cemetery.
Three of the flyers were British - the pilot, Sergeant David Raikes, the navigator, Flight Sergeant David Perkins, and the wireless operator and gunner, Flight Sergeant Alexander Bostock. They were all aged 20.
The crew's other gunner was an Australian - Warrant Officer John Hunt, of the Royal Australian Air Force - who was a year older.
The wreck of the plane was found by an Italian group called Archeologi dell'Aria - amateur enthusiasts who have so far found 16 missing aircraft.
Archaeologists digging a crater
The organisation's founder, Fabio Raimondi says a local man in his hometown of Copparo, near Ferrara, once told him a story about a plane coming down in nearby farmland at the end of the war.
The wreck had burned for two days, then the carcass was picked over for some of its more valuable metal.
But at some point it seems that either German or Italian forces covered much of the wreckage in the crater that the crash had caused.
Items recovered from the wreckage
"During the search, we found - in among the melted aluminium - a watch," says Raimondi.
"To my amazement, I discovered that on its back there was a number.
"I went online, typed it in, and I got to the Australian National Archive. I found out who he was... and that he had been missing in action."
Raimondi says that as he and his team dug down and worked to retrieve the remains of the crew, he thought of the relatives of the men who had never come home.
Members of Archeologi dell'Aria combing through wreckage
"It was very emotional, the work of several months for us volunteers," he says.
"To find and identify the remains of four flyers is very important. With the funeral we close this circle."The pilot, David Raikes, was an aspiring poet, and his family published some of his work posthumously.
Among the poems was a piece called Let it be hushed, in which he reflected on the loss of comrades - other crews that had failed to return from missions.

From BBC News


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