British accept remains found at WWII crash site
GRÜNSTADT, Germany — British military police took custody Tuesday of remains found at the site of a World War II bomber crash and will attempt to identify them for possible interment in a British war cemetery in Germany.
A spokesman for British Forces Germany said it could be years before the remains — believed to be from the crew of a British Lancaster bomber that crashed west of Mannheim in 1943 — are positively identified.
A press release from British Forces Germany’s headquarters said, in part: “In due course, if the remains are confirmed as those of the aircrew they will be buried with respect, dignity and full military honours in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery.”
German researcher Uwe Benkel organized and oversaw last month’s excavation of the bomber from a field on the edge of Laumersheim, about 10 miles west of Mannheim, after about two years of independently investigating the site. He turned scores of bone fragments found among the wreckage over to German police.
Benkel, citing British war records, said there is “no doubt” the wreckage was that of British Lancaster ED 427, which crashed in the area in April 1943 with its seven-man crew.
Lt. Col. Geoff Hinton, a spokesman for British Forces Germany, described the remains’ transfer from German to British authorities as an “administrative handover” without a ceremony because the remains haven’t yet been confirmed to be those of the missing British airmen.
Nonetheless, Benkel was disappointed to have missed the turnover after British forces moved it up an hour on short notice.
Hinton said there was no intention of making Benkel feel excluded, “because we are very grateful for … the part that he’s played in the process.”