Evelyn’s trip to Germany to bury her uncle – 72 years after his death

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Selkirk woman Evelyn Craig buried her Uncle George in Germany yesterday (Wednesday) – 72 years after he died.

Mrs Craig – born in 1946 – never knew her uncle, whose Lancaster bomber was shot down in November 1943 while on a bombing mission to Frankfurt, but on Wednesday, she and her husband Jim, who live in Back Row, laid to rest his remains, which were not uncovered until 2010.

Evelyn told The Southern that her mother Rose had never spoken to her of the war, but it was clear that she and her brother George were very close.

She said: “When we were told George’s remains had been found, all I could think of was my mum and how very upset she was when we went to Remembrance Day services.

“She had never had any information about his disappearance and bore it with a sore heart.”

Mrs Craig’s cousin Linda Ralph is a researcher who has quite extensively looked into her family history – so there is a lot known of the circumstances of George’s career and death.

Lancaster JB221 Pilot Officer George Smith(25) Flight Engineer

Lancaster JB221 Pilot Officer George Smith(25) Flight Engineer

George, one of four brothers from a fishing family in Buckie, was a flight engineer in the RAF, commissioned as an officer in October 1943 and the crew joined 97 (Pathfinder) Squadron in early November.

This was the height of the Battle of Berlin. They took off on their first operational flight with the squadron at 0030hrs on the night of November 25/26, and were shot down near Brandau by a night fighter ace called Von Bonnin, with loss of the whole crew.

Although some crew members were recovered immediately after the crash, four, including George, were never found and were commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

Linda had researched the crash and knew the general location where the Lancaster came down – one mile east of the village of Brandau.

In February 2010 Linda received a call to say that the crash site had been found, thanks to local student Felix Klingenbeck who had learned of the crash from an old local man who had witnessed the events as a child.

And yesterday, George was laid to rest with his three fellow crewmen at the Durnbach War Cemetery in Southern Germany. Evelyn and Jim travelled along with Linda and her husband and daughter.

Evelyn said: “I’m surprised to learn what the Ministry of Defence is doing to help families of servicemen who died all these years ago.

“It’s so respectful, what they are doing – contacting the families, arranging the service to be conducted by an RAF padre, with airmen carrying the coffin and organising the reception – it’s quite amazing.”

George – who was married only six months before he died and never had children – was the only one of his brothers not to survive the war.

His older brother Alec was attached to the Gurkhas. He lost a leg and was awarded the Military Cross. Another brother, Jim, was in the Gordon Highlanders. He escaped from PoW camps twice and became a hero of the French Resistance.