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History Buffs Find Flyers' Remains

Posted on Monday, September 16 at 17:26 by

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Capt. Moulton's remains were recovered the next morning, near the bog that engulfed the plane, while Sgt. White and Sgt. Thibaudeau were buried with the plane, which plowed into the peat where it's been ever since.

For the past seven years, a group of amateur historians and interested citizens have been lobbying the area government to allow a salvage of the crash site so the Canadian war heroes could be given headstones and proper funerals. They finally received permission this summer and the salvage began on Sept 2.

Human remains were uncovered two days after the ground was broken, closer to the surface than experts anticipated.

"This was not expected to happen so early in the process" said Jan Rouwenhorst, secretary of the group Foundation Salvage Vickers Wellington 1943.

The salvagers also found remains the second week. They turned them over to the Royal Netherlands army's Recovery and Identification Service.

In the first week, the salvage crew unearthed a 13.5-kilogram phosphor bomb alongside several smaller ones, some of which spontaneously combusted at the moment of excavation. Traditionally, the Vickers Wellington bombers carried a box of small bombs intended to ignite fires.

In addition, they found a medical aid kit with one intact ampule of morphine.

In week two, they found a wooden propeller blade, some engine cylinders and several hundred rounds of machine-gun ammunition. They also discovered part of a crew member's flight cap, including the headset.

Diggers also uncovered the self-sealing lining of the fuel tank, which is punctured with 15- and 20-millimetre holes, suggesting the history books, which say the bomber was downed by a German Messerschmitt nightfighter ME 110, are correct.

Mid-week, they uncovered three machine-guns. Perhaps most interesting for members of the public, 1,200 of whom have visited the salvage site so far, was the retrieval of two well-preserved silk parachutes.

Members of the Foundation Vickers Wellington 1943 hope more remains will be found as the salvage proceeds. If the remains of Canada's lost airmen -- Sgt. White and Sgt. Thibaudeau -- can be identified, they will be turned over to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The commission, which has chosen cemeteries in the Wilnis area, will then work with Veterans Affairs to arrange spring funerals. White's brother Samuel, 73, who still lives in Thorold, plans to attend with his son Joe, who was named after his hero uncle, and his grandson Joe.

© Copyright 2002 The Ottawa Citizen

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