Bomber crew’s burial would provide closure

Sgt Norman Foster
Sgt Norman Foster

A Leamington woman whose father died while serving as an RAF Bomber Command flight engineer in the Second World War is hoping for closure on that tragic part of her life more than 70 years later.

Hazel Snedker, 74, of Borrowdale Drive, was only two years old when her father Sgt Norman Foster, 22, and his fellow crewmen aboard Lancaster ED427 were killed when the bomber was shot down by anti aircraft flak during the infamous raid on the Skoda armaments works at Pilzen, Czechoslovakia, in April 1943.

Mrs Snedker, whose mother died of an illness just a few years later and was raised by her grandparents, had thought the final resting place of the crew would never be known.

That was until 2012 when her husband Tony, 78, came across news on the internet that the bomber was being excavated at a field outside the village of Laumersheim near Frankfurt in Germany.

She is now waiting for a military burial for her father and the rest of the seven strong crew to take place at the Durnbach War Cemetery near Munich.

And she has been told the delay has been due to a number of burials for those once thought missing in action in the First World War taking priority as part of the centenary of the outbreak of the conflict.

Mrs Snedker said: “That is logical except with those who were killed in the Second World War a lot of their direct relatives are still alive while for the First World War most of them are not.

“I am the only remaining direct relative of those crewmen who would be able to make the burial - my father’s sisters are still alive but they are not well enough to get there.

“I feel the only thing I can do for my father is to see the burial.

“The wife of the man who has been leading the excavation told him it is the right thing to do because it is like the last chapter for those relatives who lost family members on that night.

“I really don’t know how they did what they did at that age, I really don’t.”

Lancaster ED427 was one of 36 bombers which failed to make it back to Britain on the night of the Pilzen raid.

The other crew members who died were pilot Alex Bone, navigator Cyril Yelland, wireless operator Raymond White, bomb aimer Raymond Rooney, and gunners Ronald Cope and Bruce Watt.

Two bodies were recovered after the crash - thought to have been those of Cope and Watt - and buried by the German military.

Eye witnesses reported the aircraft was on fire when it crashed - which could have been a reason why none of the crewmen were able to parachute to safety.

Throughout the excavation process historian Uwe Benkel, who has led the team of volunteers, has been in contact with Mrs and Mr Snedker.

The couple found out about the excavation just days before the Queen unveiled the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park - an event they attended.

Mrs Snedker said: “I was shocked to begin with and didn’t really want to know.

“I decided in the end that they were going to excavate whether I liked it or not but I do wish now we could have the burial to give us that closure. I’d think it would happen next year.”