Relatives sought of Canadian airman downed 58 years ago

By Randy Boswell
Canwest News Service

December 15, 2008

At the height of a communist insurgency in Malaysia nearly 60 years ago,
a British warplane piloted by a Canadian airman went down in the thick
jungle of the South Asian peninsula.

Last month, at the request of relatives in Britain seeking to give
proper burial to the 12 crew killed in the August 1950 crash, British
and Malaysian officials rediscovered the site where RAF Dakota KN630
slammed into a remote ravine and recovered human remains and personal
possessions from the scene of the Cold War tragedy.

Now, British defence officials planning a reburial ceremony at a
Commonwealth war cemetery in Malaysia are attempting to locate any
British or Canadian relatives of Flight Lt. Edward Robert Talbot -- a
28-year-old Vancouver native flying with the Royal Air Force when the
crash occurred -- to conduct DNA comparisons to determine whether
Talbot's remains are among those found.

Arthur Lane, a British veteran involved in commemorating Commonwealth
crash sites in Malaysia, told Canwest News Service the search for
Talbot's relatives follows a successful November expedition in search of
the downed Dakota in the jungle near the northern city of Kota Bharu.

On Aug. 25, 1950, the twin-engined aircraft -- the military version of
civil aviation's popular DC-3 -- had flown from a base in Singapore to
drop smoke flares among enemy positions ahead of a planned bombing raid.
After completing the first part of its targeting mission and en route to
a second run, the plane piloted by Talbot apparently lost power and
plunged into the forest.

A rescue effort at the time led to the discovery of the plane's wreckage
and provided confirmation that all those on board -- Talbot, eight other
members of the British forces, and three Malaysian nationals -- had died
in the crash. The remoteness of the area and the presence of guerrilla
fighters prevented the searchers from transporting the bodies for formal
burial in a military cemetery.

According to the Malaya Historical Group, a Malaysian-based organization
working to identify historic military sites in the country, the renewed
effort to recover remains from the Dakota crash was sparked by a request
earlier this year to the British government by the brother of Talbot's
navigator, Sgt. Geoffrey Carpenter.

Intent on bringing "a forgotten chapter of history back to life," the
group said, a British-Malaysian search team travelled on foot through
the dense vegetation and located the plane -- now covered in mud and
leaves, but still partly intact.

Due to "58 years of monsoon climate and weather," according to the
searchers' account of the discovery, "the front section was washed away,
leaving the rear fuselage and starboard wing, and two engines with their
propellers."

Several bags of recovered remains and relics from the site were returned
to a military museum for analysis.

Last week, a ministry of defence official in Britain made a public
appeal for help in locating Talbot's relatives to enable proper
identification of the recovered remains.

He was described as a Canadian born in Vancouver in 1922. He is also
known to have been married to a British woman named Thelma Violet in
January 1947 and the couple had a daughter named Linda in November of
that year.

"Despite our best efforts, we have not been able to trace any family
members," Sue Raftree, a researcher with the British military's Joint
Casualty and Compassionate Centre, told a British newspaper. "We would
very much like to track down any of Edward's relatives with a view to
possible DNA testing."

Officials are planning to conduct a reburial ceremony next year at a
Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

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RAF Dakota KN630 slammed into a remote ravine in August of 1950.