Bid to find family of Northamptonshire airman shot down during Second World War raid

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Efforts are being made to track down the relatives of a Northamptonshire airman who was shot down and killed over Germany during one of the Second World War’s “forgotten tragedies”.

Researchers in Germany have found the crash site of a Lancaster bomber which came down near the central Rhineland town of Speyer on the night of September 23, 1943, on its way back from a bombing mission.

Among those on board the plane was gunner Sgt Dion Harris, the son of Fred and Alice Harris of Wymington.

Investigators are searching the crash site for any personal items belonging to the air crew, and also hope to erect a memorial to them on the site once their work is finished.

But they desperately want to contact any surviving relatives of Sgt Harris to hand over anything they find.

Erik Wieman from the crash site research team said: “Last september my partner Peter Berkel and myself found the crash site of an Australian Lancaster bomber.

We do not want this place to be forgotten again. Nobody should pass by not knowing what happened here.

Erik Wieman

“It crashed near Speyer, Germany. It was shot down by a German nightfighter plane.

“It was an Australian bomber from 460 Squadron RAAF / Royal Australian Air Force, code DV174.

“There was a mixed crew of RAAF and RAF personnel.

“Its mission was to bomb the city of Mannheim. On the way back it was shot down.

“We have already contacted one family in Australia (the Morrison family).

“Another crew member killed in the crash was Sgt Dion Clive Harris, airgunner, son of Fred and Alice L Harris of Wymington.

“The crash occurred in the night of September 23, 1943.

“The crash site was found by us, almost to the day, 72 years later.

“We are metal detecting the crash site and it is possible we will find personal items of the crew or items that relate to a particular person.

“We already have found many plane parts.

“We would like to find all the relatives to tell them what happened and where, give them all the information we have about the crash and to hand over personal items and parts of the plane so they can find closure.

“When our work is finished at the site we would like to plant a memorial stone at the site with a plaque with all the names of the soldiers who died here.

“We do not want this place to be forgotten again.

“After the site (hidden in the woods around Speyer) was cleared by the German military in 1943 the site was forgotten.

“Nothing was remembered of the tragedy that happened there – until now.

“We want to change that and remember the soldiers who died there.

“Nobody should pass by not knowing what happened here.”

If you are a relative of Sgt Dion Harris, or know someone who is, please contact us at the Northants Telegraph via email and we will pass on the details to the research team in Germany.