Appeal to find family of missing Northumberland airman

A Halifax
A Halifax

The search is on for the families of six Second World War pilots, including one from Ashington, who failed to return home from bombing raids over Germany.

The Ministry of Defence is trying to trace relatives of the servicemen so they can attend their burial service in Berlin on April 27.

Three of the men were part of a seven-man crew on Halifax LK709, which failed to return home from a bombing raid on Berlin on January 28, 1944.

They were Flight Sergeant Norman Thompson Steele, Flight Sergeant Arthur Binnie Walker and Pilot Officer William Proffitt White. All three were recorded as having no known grave and their names placed on the Runnymede memorial.

Mr Steele was born on December 24, 1922, in Ashington. He was the son of Edward and Ann Sankey Murray, and married Laura Mckie, with their last known address Cross Row, Ashington.

Mr Walker was born on January 14, 1923, in Glasgow, to Arthur and Margaret Walker. His last known address was Battlefield Gardens, Glasgow.

Mr White was the son of Tom W.P. White and Mary Elizabeth Reading and was born in Shotteswell, Warwickshire. His brother, Lionel Tom White, was also killed while serving as a trooper in the Royal Armoured Corps.

Eyewitnesses remembered seeing a Halifax Bomber being hit by flak and crashing into a lake at about 3am on January 29, 1944, and four bodies were subsequently recovered.

The other three men - Flight Sergeant Dennis Frederick Burtenshaw, Flight Sergeant Kenneth Sidney James Chapman and Pilot Officer John Donald Range Cromarty - were on Lancaster JB640.

It took off for the German capital on the night of January 2, 1944, but was not heard from again, with the men all missing, presumed dead.

The squadron had intended to fly 18 Pathfinder Lancasters but only 14 took off, and one of those had to turn back due to engine failure.

Mr Burtenshaw was born on July 2, 1923, in Burwood, Sydney, Australia. He was married to Bridget Amelia Kelly in Morden, Surrey, and his last known address was Seddon Road, Morden, Surrey.

Mr Chapman was born in Westbury, Wiltshire, in September, 1923. He was the son of Edgar Sidney Chapman and Daisy Brewer and had one sister, Olive W. M. Chapman.

Mr Cromarty was born to Ernest Cecil Cromarty and Margaret Agnes Range on January 29, 1921, in Liverpool. His last known address was Berwick Gardens, Little Sutton, Cheshire.

Nicola Nash, from the Ministry of Defence's Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, said: "After all these years, we would love to be able to trace their families so that they have the opportunity to attend this burial service on April 27, in Berlin.

"Anyone who believes that they might be related, or can help with information to trace them, please contact us."