Estruplund - the crash, the burial and more   See Photos from 4th May 1995       På dansk          Updated:  08 SEP 2014

The crew of Lancaster PB143 perished just 70 years ago on Operation 30 AUGUST 1944. After the Memorial Service in Estruplund  Susanne von Lowzow, Estruplund, kindly sent the manuscript of her speech on 4th May 1995, 50 years after the Liberation of Denmark, when war veterans from Great Britain and Australia crowded in Estruplund Church:

I have been asked to tell you about the event on August 29th 1944 and what followed. Although I have not experienced World War 2, I have read a lot about it,
and in particular I have read what has been written about Lancaster PB143.

The second part of the story, the burial and the rising of the headstone, has been told to me by my grandmother and grandfather, who lived in the near-by village,
Store Sjørup.

It all started on the night of August 29th 1944 when Lancaster III PB143 JI-B took off from RAF Waterbeach near Cambridge at 21.05 hours. It was to carry out
bombing operations over Stettin along with another four hundred and one Lancasters and Mosquitoes of Groups 1, 3, 6 and 8, Bomber Command.

Already when the planes were over the northern part of Denmark, the Sea of Kattegat and Sweden the bomber formations were attacked by German night fighters.

Shortly after midnight PB143 was hit.

Pilot Officer Thomas Trevor Charlton managed to get the plane on a western course. He hoped that it would be possible for him to reach the shore of Jutland.
There he would attempt to make a forced landing or let his crew jump out.

However the plane crashed at the beach just north of here and exploded on impact. No-one survived.

One member of the crew managed to jump out before the crash, but drowned and was found one week later on an island, Læsø, in the northern Kattegat.

The villagers of St. Sjørup saw and heard the crash, and some of them ran to the beach.

Among them was my grandfather Holger Hansen. A terrible sight met them and soon they had to disappear, as the Germans turned up.

My grandfather was the local teacher, consequently he lived at the school and was also attached to this church as a parish clerk. In fact for more than 40 years.

But as the days went by, the Germans did nothing to gather the remains of the crew for burial, in fact they did not want this crew or any other victims - to have a proper burial.

However there was a strong feeling among the villagers that they wanted the aircrew in consecrated ground.

It was not until Sunday the 17th September 1944, 19 days aften the crash, that the six crewmembers were buried in this churchyard.

In the meantime the villagers, among those my grandfather, had protested to the Germans several times. Of course they found that it was degrading to let the
bodies lie on the field for so many days.

But until this Sunday morning the Germans would not listen. Now, at seven o’clock someone knocked at my grandfather’s door and asked him to hurry up.
The burial was to be, and it was to be now.

The curate, Mr. Nielsen, and others from the village had gathered the remains from the fields and they gave the crew a Christian burial.

They were not allowed to sing a hymn at the grave, but they said the Lord’s Prayer.

Subsequently several of the locals felt that a gravestone should be put on the grave. But there was no money for that.

However in the nearby village, Ørsted, the editor of the local newspaper launched an appeal. And as it turned up, a rather large amount of money was collected.

A gravestone was bought, but still remained the task of finding the names of the crew. The responsibility for this was given to my grandfather, and as a matter of
fact I still have the original letters to and from the British Legation and Embassy in Copenhagen from that time.

It seems he started his search in June 1945. He writes The British Legation and asks if they can help him to find the names of the crew in question. The Legation
answers that it would certainly help, if he could furnish them with the type and number of the machine.

In August 1945 the British Legation in a letter regret that they have still no names.

But in September it seems that my grandfather has forwarded an identitydisc, and the British Legation is of the opinion that it will be of some help.

Later in the same month the Imperial War Graves Commission asks for details as to the exact form of the Estruplund memorial. But still no names.

Finally, the 20th November the Missing Research and Enquiriry Service has provided the names of the crew. In the same letter they inform my grandfather  that
two RAF representatives will be present at the ceremony, the villagers were planning in connection with the completion of the headstone.

On a cold day in the month of November the memorial service was hold. Pictures from that day show that a huge crowd of people was present.

The church was decorated with the Danish and the English flags, and an English flag was also placed over the headstone until the unveiling.

My grandmother, who is now 92 years old, tells me that it was a very moving event. She still remembers every detail.

In gratitude the community council has maintained the grave - in a beautiful condition, we think. Often you will see fresh flowers on the grave.

During the years families of the crew have visited the grave, and I think that everyone has been satisfied with what they have seen.

I myself have met the sister of Sgt P.T. Devlin a couple of years ago, and she said that she was happy to see that her brother was lying at such af peaceful place.

I sincerely hope that everyone present here this evening will share the same feeling.

We will remember them!