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RAF Short Stirling Recovered

RAF Short Stirling Recovered

The son of an RAF gunner whose plane vanished during the Second World War may finally be able to lay his father to rest after the bomber was discovered by chance 77 years later.

Sgt Leonard Shrubsall was one of seven crew members on board the Short Stirling Bomber when it was shot down while returning from a raid on Berlin.

His wife Beatrice was three months pregnant when she received a telegram informing her that her 30-year-old husband had failed to return from the operation on March 29, 1943

Sgt Leonard Shrubsall, pictured far right, was one of seven crew members on board the Short Stirling Bomber when it was shot down while returning from a raid on Berlin.

Now his son, Richard, 76, has learned the bomber is to be recovered at the end of the month from Lake IJsselmeer in the Netherlands where it was shot down by a German night fighter, used in times of poor visibility, with his father’s remains ‘very likely’ to be inside.

A map shows how the plane took off from RAF Downham Market, then crashed in the Netherlands returning from the raid in Berlin on March 29, 1943.


Richard, from Iwade, Kent, said: ‘The plane was found submerged in this freshwater lake. At first, it was thought the aircraft was a BK710, but when it was looked into further it was the BK716, which was my father’s plane.

In 2008 a Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution team went to help a boat with engine trouble in Lake IJsselmeer, The Netherlands’ largest lake, just north of Amsterdam.

As the crew raised the anchor they found a part of an aeroplane’s landing gear had become attached.

The captain alerted Johan Graas, the Dutch chairman of the Aircraft Recovery Group 1940-45 which locates missing war planes and salvages parts for a wartime museum. They launched a full-scale investigation the following year.

Divers found an array of debris and items including a pen, cigarette case and a tail section of the fuselage belonging to a Short Stirling bomber bearing a barely legible identification number.

Mr Graas’ team initially thought the number was BK710, a plane belonging to 149 ‘East India’ Squadron.

But closer inspection by Dutch police forensics revealed the tail number was actually BK716 of 218 ‘Gold Coast’ Bomber Squadron which flew bombing raids out of RAF Downham Market, in Norfolk.

A cigarette case from the wreckage bearing the initials JMC, for the plane’s wireless operator James Michael Campbell, confirmed its identity.

The recovery team had to backtrack and break the news to the BK710 crew members’ relatives that they had confused the planes.


Click here to read the Daily Mail’s full story by Tom Pymon.

Updated: August 5, 2020 — 1:03 PM

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