Tirana, Albania | 24 Oct 2018 (Tirana Echo) – Seven crew members of the 148 (special duties) squadron RAF who were on board the Royal Air Force Halifax JP244 aircraft have been laid to rest almost 75 years after they were killed carrying out a supply mission over Albania.
According to the UK Ministry of Defence, a burial service to honour the crewmen was held yesterday at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Memorial Cemetery inside Tirana’s Park in Albania and was attended by Her Majesty’s Ambassador, His Excellency Mr Duncan Norman MBE, family members and local Albanian dignitaries.
The service, organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), part of Defence Business Services, was conducted by the Reverend (Flight Lieutenant) Jonathan Stewart Station Chaplain RAFC Cranwell and supported by members of The Queen’s Colour Squadron RAF.
Tracey Bowers, JCCC said it had been a privilege to organise this service and to reflect on the bravery of these 7 young men.
“All were killed carrying out a mission supporting members of the special operations executive, the crew were from different backgrounds but flew together as a professional tight knit team with one common aim. Today we respect their commitment to duty and join with their families in honouring their sacrifice.” – he said.
The Defence Attaché, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Melotte, MBE added that: “The ceremony today not only brings closure to the families but demonstrates the continual and ever strengthening bi-lateral relationship between the United Kingdom and Albanian Armed Forces”.
The 7 crew members remembered were:
Flying Officer Edwin John Stubley RAFVR Pilot, Born 11 June 1921 in Bromley, Kent Enlisted 8 January 1942, Commissioned on 11 June 1943, Trained as a pilot in Canada, Occupation prior to service: Maintenance Hand.
Sergeant Charles Mabbs RAFVR Navigator, Born 21 July 1913 in Liverpool Enlisted 23 May 1942, Married Helena Maud Hughes on 25 June 1938, Two daughters Angela and Kath, Occupation prior to service: Pharmacist.
Sergeant Alfred Coote RAFVR Engineer, Born 20 December 1905 in Battersea, London Enlisted on 30 April 1943, Married Lilian Catherine on 25 June 1931, Occupation prior to enlistment: HGV Driver.
Flight Sergeant John Thompson RAF Gunner, Born 18 September 1921 in Matlock, Derbyshire Enlisted 4 May 1939, Married Ruby Joyce on 17 June 1944, Occupation prior to enlistment: Railway Porter.
Flight Sergeant Ernest Logan Brown RAFVR Despatcher/Bomber, Born 18 December 1916 in Edinburgh Enlisted 6 November 1941, Previously served with Grenadier Guards, Occupation prior to enlistment: Police Constable.
Flight Sergeant Austin Donnelly RAFVR Gunner, Born 27 February 1920 in St Helens, Lancashire Enlisted 16 December 1939, Occupation prior to enlistment: Glass Carrier.
Sergeant Richard Charles Knee RAFVR Wireless Operator, Born 1 December 1922 in Ranchi, India Enlisted 15 January 1941, Occupation prior to enlistment: Clerk.
The daughter of Sergeant Charles Mabbs, Kath Gammie who travelled with her daughter Fiona Fisher to the ceremony, said:
The nephew of Flight Sergeant John Thompson, Brian Webster, said “the ceremony is the final piece in the jigsaw of this amazing story, from the finding of the wreckage to the burial of the crew, we feel humbled and are grateful to all concerned.”
On the morning of 29 October 1944, Halifax JP 244, 148 (special duties) squadron RAF whose motto was ‘Trusty’ took off from Brindisi, Italy at 7.59am to carry out a supply dropping mission, code named “Operations Tinker”, to the Special Operations Executive in Albania. Some time later all communications were lost. The special operations record book noted: ‘Nothing further was heard from this aircraft and must be presumed lost. It was seen to drop its load on the target.’
Wreckage positively identified as being from a Halifax was found recently following wild fires in Albania. Subsequent research by the air historical branch and the JCCC could conclude these were from Halifax JP 244.
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Source: UK Ministry of Defence