International appeal to find relatives of Second World War Norwich airman Sgt Sidney Smith for Dutch memorial unveiling
- Credit: SUPPLIED BY ARJAN WEMMERS
The hunt is on for relatives of a Second World War airman who died in action ahead of a memorial unveiling in Holland.
RAF pilot Sgt Sidney Smith, from Norwich, was 23 when he died after the Avro Lancaster bomber he was flying in exploded above a Dutch village on May 22, 1944.
The tragedy above Molenaarsgraaf killed six of the seven British crew members.
After being shot down by the Luftwaffe at 1am, the bomber's Packard Merlin V12 engine and propeller were buried 12 feet underground in a farmer's field.
One man who lives in Molenaarsgraaf made it his mission to excavate the aircraft parts –completed in April 2015 – which will be turned into a permanent memorial opposite the village church.
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Arjan Wemmers, 39, wants relatives of the seven crew members to attend the memorial's unveiling on May 20 next year.
He is yet to make contact with family members of Sgt Smith whose service number was 1466984 and was the son of Walter and Annie Smith.
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Mr Wemmers, an aircraft and Second World War enthusiast, said: 'Over the past few years I have met several relatives of the other crew members. If you meet them you see how important it is for them to commemorate the airmen.
'The memorial is very important because the young men gave their lives for our freedom.'
He also wants to find out more information about Sgt Smith from living relatives.
The crew of the 156th RAF Pathfinder squadron are buried on the grounds of the Molenaarsgraaf church – but Mr Wemmers wanted a more visible memorial.
'The propeller and engine are in unbelievable condition. If you see them you would hardly imagine they have been in the ground for 72 years,' he added.
He first came into contact with the story of the Lancaster bomber in 2006 while researching another wartime aircraft tragedy. It was understood the propeller and engine were in a farmer's field and after eight years of government discussions, permission was granted to excavate.
After the discovery, Mr Wemmers helped set up the War Memorial Molenaarsgraaf-Brandwijk foundation to keep the memory of the Lancaster bomber crew alive.
Seven volunteers have refurbished the engine and propeller which will be displayed in a glass case and mount.
If you are related to Sgt Smith contact Mr Wemmers by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have a military history story? Email email@example.com