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Culture

WWII British Bomber Crewman to Receive Royal Air Force Burial

The remains of a crew member on a Halifax bomber were recently found at the crash site in southeast Berlin. Flight engineer John Bremner will be laid to rest in Berlin later this month.

A black-and-white photo of a Halifax bomber from 1945

The bomber's flight engineer will be buried in Berlin near the graves of other crew members

Fondly known to wartime squadron members in England as "Old Flo," the Halifax bomber met a violent end on Jan. 20, 1944 when it was shot down by a German Messerschmidt fighter over Berlin.

The 102 Halifax squadron based at Pockington in Yorkshire had 15 aircrafts taking part in raids on the German capital that night, of which seven were lost. It was the squadron's greatest single loss in bombing raids carried out in both world wars.

"Old Flo" was shot down by the German ace, Captain Leopold Fellerer, who gunned down four other British aircrafts that night. By war's end he'd destroyed 44 enemy planes, for which he was awarded the German Knight's Cross.

The body of Flight Engineer Bremner was found only recently when experts working at the woodland site where the bomber crashed in southeast Berlin finally identified his remains.

Funeral with full honors

Allied planes drop bombs over Germany during World War Two

Allied forces flew missions over all of Germany during World War Two

Now, 64 years after his death, Bremner is to be laid to rest with full Royal Air Force honors at the site, where the grave of the aircraft's second pilot, Sergeant Kenneth Standbridge, is also located.

The burial, following a church service in Berlin on Oct. 16, will be witnessed by Bremner's relatives and other crew members, as well as by two crash survivors: London-born pilot officer and navigator Reg Wilson and Sergeant John Bushell from Oakley in Bedfordshire.

Wilson, now in his late 80s, recently described the final moments of the doomed Halifax, "Her days ended on the night of January 20, 1944 after we had dropped our bombs from 18,000 feet (5,485 meters) above the center of the city."

Recalling the blast

German fighter pilot Fellerer had flown beneath the bomber, "firing cannon upward into our starboard wing fuel tanks, causing 'Old Flo' to catch fire from wing to wing, at 17,000 feet she went into a spiral dive. Then there was an explosion," Wilson said.

Wilson claimed the crash site wasn't discovered until May 2006.

"Of our crew of eight, four survived, all of us having had remarkable escapes, sustaining just a few cuts and sprains," he said.

Just seconds before the Halifax went into a dive, Wilson and bomb aimer Laurie Underwood had succeeded in kicking out the jammed escape hatch, and bailing out.

"A minute or so later, the pilot George Griffiths and rear gunner John Bushell were blown out with the explosion of fuel," he said. "Both were unconscious and in free fall, but regained consciousness enough to be able to open their parachutes fully, only a few hundred feet before they hit the ground."

Following the crash, the four survivors were interred in German prisoners of war camps.

Of the four killed, Standbridge and wireless operator Eric Church are buried in Berlin, and warrant officer Charles Dupueis, whose body has not been discovered, is remembered at the RAF War Memorial at Runneymede in Surrey, England.

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