Historic aircraft wreckage unearthed

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The wreckage of a Second World War aircraft flown by a Canadian crew on a secret mission to Nazioccupied Poland in 1944 has been unearthed from a muddy field near Krakow, Poland, exposing bones, personal belongings and other reminders of their heroic but illfated bid to supply insurgents during the Warsaw Uprising.

Sixtytwo years after German gunners brought down the Halifax bomber JP276 on Aug. 5, 1944 killing the five Canadian and two British airmen on board a team of Polish archeologists and historians from the Warsaw Rising Museum, acting on a tip from a warera resistance fighter, used groundpenetrating radar to locate the crashed plane on the outskirts of the city of Tarnow, Poland.

The probe "showed that there was a 20metrelong object, threetofive metres below ground," Piotr Sliwowski, the museum's chief historian, told CanWest News Service on Friday. "It turned out that there is only a few tons of scrap, but we also found personal belongings, badges, maps, containers with ammo and cardigan pullovers. The most important were, of course, human remnants which gave it another, deeper dimension.

"We not only found pieces of aircraft, but the airmen heroes deserving our greatest respect."

The bomber, commanded by RCAF Flight Lieut. Arnold Raymond Blynn of Kingston, N.S., had taken off from an Allied air base in Italy as part of a supply squadron to deliver food, ammunition and other essentials to Polish troops and citizens trying to overthrow their Nazi occupiers.

The uprising began in Warsaw on Aug. 1, 1944, but in early October after more than 250,000 Polish civilians and resistance fighters had been killed, many in mass executions the Germans reasserted control. At the war's end in 1945, Poland fell under the control of the Soviet Union.

Sliwowski said the crew of JP276 had completed their airdrop at an insurgency supply post 60 kilometres southeast of Warsaw, but were shot down while returning to Italy.

The Royal Canadian Air Force members killed were Blynn, Flying Officer Harold Leonard Brown of Crediton, Ont., Pilot Officer George Alfred Chapman of Toronto, Flight Sgt. Arthur George Liddell of Montreal and Flight St. Charles Burton Wylie of Instow, Sask.

Two flights sergeants with the Royal Air Force Kenneth James Ashmore of Dublin, Ireland and Frederick George Wenham of Bournemouth, England also died in the crash.

Records indicate the bodies of the men, all assigned to 148 Squadron of the RAF, were initially buried in local graves and later transferred to a Commonwealth war cemetery in Krakow.

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In 2002, the Polish Air Force and Canada's embassy in Poland organized a ceremony in Krakow honouring the Canadian, British and other Allied airmen who gave their lives trying to assist insurgents during the Warsaw Uprising. Among those attending the event were Chapman's sister, Catherine Jolly of St. Catharine's Ont., who had spearheaded a successful campaign to erect a commemorative plaque in Krakow listing the names of the crew of JP276.

"The ceremony was absolutely outstanding," she said at the time. "I had no idea they would go to so much trouble to honour these men who gave the ultimate sacrifice. We knew so very little about what happened to my brother, and my parents were so badly hurt when nothing could be told, that we never spoke of him."


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Source: CanWest News Service 2006