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Sussex serviceman among bomber crew laid to rest 68 years after plane crashed
A Second World War bomber crew were laid to rest yesterday – 68 years after their aircraft crashed during combat.
Wireless operator and air gunner Flight Sergeant Alexander Thomas Bostock, from Forest Row in Sussex, was just 20 when he took part in the ill-fated mission in 1945.
It was led by the plane’s pilot, Sergeant David Raikes, from Redhill in Surrey, and they were joined by Navigator Flight Sergeant David Millard Perkins, from Honor Oak in London, who were both also 20.
Their bodies were recovered in July 2011 after a team of archaeologists discovered the wreckage of their Boston Bomber five metres below ground in the Po Valley, Italy.
The crew of the Royal Air Force Boston Bomber were yesterday posthumously given full military honours at the ceremony in Italy, with their families watching on.
Mr Raikes’s nephew – also called David – read his uncle’s most famous poem at the service in Italy, published posthumously. “Let it be hushed,” runs the first line. “Let the deep ocean close / Upon those dead.”
For Roger Raikes, one of the young poet’s brothers, the burial helped bring a sense of resolution to the enduring loss.
He said: “It’s difficult to explain. We all knew – there was no mystery about what happened to him. But nonetheless, it is a relief to know it has been rounded off in the end. It is important for us to know how the members of our family died and when and where. It is not hugely important but it sort of wraps up a life.”
The burial was also attended by members of today’s Royal Air Force 18 (B) Squadron who currently fly Chinook helicopters, the British Embassy’s Navy and Air Attache, Royal Australian Air Force representatives, members of Archeologi dell’Aria and Simone Guidorzi, director and curator of The North Apennines Po Valley Park.
The British Embassy in Rome said relatives of the four men would be meeting for the first time, coming from the United Kingdom and Australia, in “a very moving occasion commemorating the life of these men who lost their lives at such a young age.”
Some of the aircraft wreckage and personal belongings were presented to the relatives during the opening of a wing of the River Po WWII Museum in the town of Felonica, dedicated entirely to the crash.
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