Search launched for remains of Suffolk-based crew who died in 1944 crash
- Credit: PA
American veterans are digging up a field in Sussex as they hope to recover the bodies of a bomber plane crew based at RAF Halesworth.
A B-24 Liberator was in a group conducting a bombing raid near Paris when it took severe damage from anti-aircraft fire in June 1944, amid the Second World War.
The pilots and crew, who were based at the now-closed RAF Halesworth, managed to fly the plane back to the English coast, but for reasons unknown it crashed in a farmer’s field in West Sussex.
Seven of the airmen aboard ejected from the aircraft - but it is believed three were killed after trying to make an emergency landing.
The bomber that crashed was part of the 489th Bomb Group, which flew B-24 Liberators out of RAF Halesworth for several months in 1944.
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The airfield, to the north-east of the town, closed after the war in 1946.
Seventy-seven years after the crash, American Veterans Archaeological Recovery (AVAR) has teamed up with the University of York in a bid to recover any human remains from the crash site so that they can be repatriated.
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A four-week excavation at the site of the crash near Arundel has been launched as a digger will remove soil from a wide trench and carefully deposit it on tarpaulins ready for examination.
Project leader Stephen Humphreys, chief executive of AVAR, said he hopes the mission will bring closure to any surviving family members stateside.
He said: "We can’t divulge a lot of specific information about the aircraft but I can tell you that the aircraft did crash in 1944 in a farmer’s field.
"That farmer took a deep interest in both the crash and in the story of those airmen and was a big part of preserving this site within the local community for the last 77 years so that this site would be here for us to come in and do this recovery mission in 2021.
"So our mission is to actually recover the remains of those service members who were lost when this aircraft crashed in 1944, have them identified… and hopefully give closure to some families if we can."