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Unfortunately the authorities have no reason to contact next of kin for the simple reason that they simply don't know, and if they knew they are not interested because of the huge costs of such a recovery operation. If a wreck is located by accident because of construction work then the Dutch Recovery Team is called in, but their first priority is: bombs or ammunition.
They can identify the wreckage but don't have the information regarding which aircraft crashed there. In these cases (if it's an RAF-aircraft) the British MOD is contacted. These past few years fortunately have seen a change in attitude of the Dutch Recovery Team as opposed to private organisation who pursue this kind of work as a "hobby". We have since worked closely together during a few investigations where we had identified the wreck, listed the possible missing aircrew as well as locating next of kin (as far as Poland) taking a lot of work out of their hands.
we can identify any aircraft wreck regardless of nationality, type or how badly the wreck is destroyed. This is truly on the job training, personally I have been involved with this for about fifteen years and you learn all the time. Some of our members have been doing this for over thirty years. This was something the Recovery Team was puzzeled about. For instance during a Lancaster recovery in the IJsselmeer one of the Navy divers held a piece of wreckage above the water, while it wasn't even on deck we shouted: that's an elevator hinge!
The guys of the Recovery team were still busy looking in their (commercially available) textbooks while we brought the AP's of that particular aircraft type as well as a file 4 inches thick.
Any aircraft can be identified in 95% of the cases. Just by recovering the serialnumber plate of by checking engine and machinegun numbers, but sometimes this can be tricky.
Hope this helps
Ian,Lots of activity here.. Good stuff folks :-)
Now then, just to add a little more mud...
Assuming you had found a set of dog tags, they were useless without at least 9lbs of body parts to go with them (Gruesome I know!) and even then, assuming you CAN gather 9lbs, there's bo certaintity that all the parts belong to one airman... Remember, we are dealing with about 17 tons of sharp and heavy parts suddenly stopping from a 300 mph dive (worst case scenario).
I'm new to all this. Trying to find info on my uncle-Sgt William Bruce of 428 (RCAF) Squadron. He was a navigator on Halifax11 JN-966 coded NA-V which collided over Middleton St George with a Lancaster from 103 Squadron after returning from a raid on Stuttgart,shortly after midnight on 27/11/1943. Will there be some sort of accident report on this, and if so will I be able to read it?I imagine that if a Hally was a mid air explosion, then individual crew members would be difficult to impossible to identify, and then, without any identifiable human remains, you would expect the crew members to appear on Runnymede.
If the kite hit the ground with a full bomb load, or even one bomb, then the combination of bomb & petrol, would also make identification of individual crew members nearly impossible, and again, they would probably appear on Runnymede.
If several aircraft are lost during a return from ops in close proximity, such as the overlap between 4 & 6 Groups and the close proximity of individual group airfields, then again, and, if the aircraft hits the ground with speed, and the resultant fire / explosion completely destroys both aircraft and crew.... can you see how, even over land, close to base, it could realistically be almost impossible to identify one aircraft from another let alone individual crew members.
And finally - the total loss of an aircraft... Well, not far from my geographical location in Central Scotland, there is still a Spitfire "missing" on nearby hills!! If an aircraft flew into some remote part of the British Isles, it could potentially lie undisturbed for years before it's discovery.
Well, there's my thoughts on the sad matter of "Missing Airmen".
Hope it helps?
(Do we need 'another' Halifax Forum?)