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Thread: 103 Sqn (Battle) FTR 14 May 1940

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    Default 103 Sqn (Battle) FTR 14 May 1940

    I have been curious for many years about the graves marked "Unknown Airman of the RAF" which can be found in many cemeteries in Europe - very many miles inland (so unlikely to be chaps washed up on beaches).

    One example is Remilly-et-Aillicourt Communal Cemetery (15 miles SE of Mezieres), there are 3 graves there, 2 identified RAF airmen from 14 May 1940, the Pilot and WOp/AG of a 103 Sqn Battle I L5516, P/O VA Cunningham and AC1 J Johnson, reported shot down 5km SE of Sedan - and one unknown chap.

    I have heard that some Battles actually did fly with only 2 crew, but I wondered if this one had a third crewman who was killed and for some reason had not been identified.

    I wondered if - with the list If these similar instances which I have compiled, I might have some luck in trying to ID any of these chaps with a good database and a better library (both available), I am not trying to second-guess the MREU bods who had enormous dedication and MOD resources but didnt have computers.

    Any thoughts ?


    As another example there is an RCAF Flying Officer buried at Durnbach War Cemetery and his headstone gives a date 6 Jan 1945. There are at least 8 possibilities I have found so far.

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    Hi Pete,
    From "The Battle of France-then and now" by Peter D Cornwell.He records that following losses on the Maastricht Bridges raid on 12/5/40,103 Sqn decided that to conserve aircrew they would fly with 2 man crews on low level sorties,the Observers being left out for those occaisions. For 14/5/40 he records 4 losses from which there were 2 fatalities(with one more dying of wounds in England in June '40).He has a photo of L5516 after a crashlanding nr Sedan with the crew of Sgt Beardsley and LAC G F Lewis returning unhurt.He records that the a/c that was crewed by Cunningham and Johnson was L5465 and it was hit by flak and exploded over "Le Chemin du Liry" killing all on board. He has a photo of their gravestones with a 3rd "Unknown" beside them,tightly together, which suggests a 3rd crewman in a small communal grave, but with his discovery that 103 had reduced crew size he shares your mystification and has no I/D for the 3rd man.
    EDIT:The 103 losses are also recorded by W R Chorley in his Bomber Command Losses Vol 1 but there are some differences.Chorley only records 3 a/c as lost and he places Cunningham and Johnson on L5516 with no 3rd crewman on any 103 Sqn a/c.L5516 is the only serial that coincides with Peter Cornwell.Neither Cornwell nor Chorley would claim infallibility but both enjoy a very high reputation for integrity so there is clearly confusion in the records that both were able to consult.
    Regards
    Dick
    Last edited by Dick; 21st July 2011 at 17:17.

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    Thanks Dick

    I might try a letter to CWGC to see if they have any info from MREU on the date of death or original place of burial of the 3rd man. Otherwise I guess its a matter of waiting until the MREU files are declassified, sadly that will probably be after I'm gone.

    I remember from working on Air27's some decades ago that the May/June 1940 era was horrendously incomplete on most which I inspected.

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