Four WWII British Flyers Buried in Northern Russia
MOSCOW (AP) _ Four British airmen were buried with military honors in the Russian Arctic on Wednesday, 51 years after they were shot down by German anti-aircraft on a flight to the Russian front.
Their bodies were found in 1991 in the wreckage of their Hampden bomber just above the Arctic Circle near the Finnish border.
Britain’s Royal Air Force flew in relatives as well as trumpeters and members of the Queen’s Color Guard for the funeral in Archangelsk.
Maj. Gen. Yury Solovyov, deputy commander of Russia’s northern army region of Archangelsk, saluted the flyers at the ceremony, London’s Press Association reported. Russian soldiers fired a volley of shots as the coffins were laid in graves at a military cemetery.
The 144th Squadron bomber took off from Sumburgh, Scotland, on Sept. 4, 1942, for the city of Murmansk in Russia’s Arctic north. The plane, among 32 RAF bombers sent to protect convoys on the Russian front, was shot down 165 miles south of its destination.
The pilot, Australian Flight Sgt. John Page, survived and was taken prisoner. The Germans claimed the bodies of the other crewmen had been pulled out of the wreckage and given a military funeral.
The truth came out in 1991 when the wreckage was discovered with the bodies still in it.
The remains were identified as those of armorer Leslie Harry Mallinson, 20, navigator John Douglas Smith, wireless operator George Kirby and gunner Roy Otter.
Mallinson’s body was identified by a gold, monogrammed ring on his finger. It was clutched Wednesday by his sister, Jean Jackson, as she watched the coffin lowered into the ground. She also wore her brother’s medals on her black jacket.
What became of Page was not known.