Identity of grave of Ein Deutscher Soldat is unveiled - 75 years on from pilot's death
PUBLISHED: 11:54 18 May 2018 | UPDATED: 11:54 18 May 2018
For 75 years a grave in Lowestoft Cemetery had been marked “Ein Deutscher Soldat”.
But now, after decades of research from an aviation historian, the identity of the unknown German serviceman has been unveiled.
No longer unknown, the identity of Leutnant Eberhard Pleiss has now finally been confirmed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
And on Saturday, during an emotional visit, the niece of Eberhard Pleiss – a pilot in the German Luftwaffe, who died in 1943 – visited the grave in Lowestoft.
Nicky Frowen, a paramedic control centre operator from Southampton, made the journey to Lowestoft 75 years on from his death. She was invited by aviation historian Bob Collis, who has spent the past 35 years researching the details of the events of May 11, 1943.
Leutnant Eberhard Pleiss was on his very first operation – a mine-laying mission over the North Sea – when the Do 217 bomber crashed into the water 300 yards off Ness Point.
All four crew were killed and over the weeks that followed two bodies were washed ashore and buried in Lowestoft Cemetery. One was eventually identified as Willi Stocker, but the other could not be identified other than that of a Luftwaffe Leutnant.
Mr Collis said: “During the 1990s a bizarre series of coincidences brought Pleiss’ sister, Erica Slater, into contact with me. The family knew about the grave of Willi Stocker but had no knowledge of the second unidentified man being buried there. They visited in May 1993 and on the 50th anniversary of his plane going missing were able to visit the grave.
“Last year the Commonwealth War Graves Commission finally agreed to replace the headstone with one bearing Eberhard Pleiss’ name and details. Despite wonderful work by Waveney Norse’s cemetery manager Simone Gallant, we were told the headstone would take another four months to arrive so would not be in place for the 75th anniversary.”
He added: “Nonetheless, the fact it is going to happen is a great source of comfort to Nicky and her mother, who lives in Victoria, Australia. It will be the final chapter in an extraordinary story which began 75 years ago in the wartime skies over Lowestoft and is about to be played out in our cemetery later this year.”
On Saturday Nicky Frowen was taken by Mr Collis and members of the Jack Rose Old Lowestoft Society to Ness Point, to see the place where her uncle’s bomber had crashed in the sea.
Stemmed poppies and a crocheted poppy wreath were provided by Linda Hughes of the Poppies by the Sea organisation at the graveside, where a short memorial service was held.
Mrs Frowen brought with her a multi-coloured pencil, which her uncle had given her mother a short time before he went missing. Historian Bob Collis said: “The research is all about different types of history.
“It is about the wartime history in the context of the Blitz and the German raids on Britain, it is about local history with the crash in the sea and the two German crewmen buried here, and finally it is about family history, giving this man’s family closure after 75 years of doubt and simply not knowing what happened to Eberhard.”