Lost World War Two airman’s wedding ring returned after 70 years

Dorothy Webster holds the ring of her dead brother 23-year old British pilot Sgt. John Thompson, in Tirana Monday, March 9, 2015 . Thompson crashed in Albania Oct. 29, 1944 while transporting materials to the local anti-Nazi partisan fighters. Sgt. John Thompson, a British World War II special operation pilot, was considered missing in action for more than 70 years. Not anymore. On Monday, his 92-year-old sister Dorothy Webster received his ring from a family in Albania together with a box of debris from his Halifax bomber that crashed in the eastern European country on Oct. 29, 1944 . (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

Dorothy Webster holds the ring of her dead brother 23-year old British pilot Sgt. John Thompson, in Tirana Monday, March 9, 2015 . Thompson crashed in Albania Oct. 29, 1944 while transporting materials to the local anti-Nazi partisan fighters. Sgt. John Thompson, a British World War II special operation pilot, was considered missing in action for more than 70 years. Not anymore. On Monday, his 92-year-old sister Dorothy Webster received his ring from a family in Albania together with a box of debris from his Halifax bomber that crashed in the eastern European country on Oct. 29, 1944 . (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

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The family of a lost World War Two airman have at long last been reunited with his wedding ring - 70 years after he went missing in the Albanian mountains.

Following an appeal in the Matlock Mercury for family of the Flight Sergeant John Thompson to come forward, the paper was able to get in touch with several long-lost relatives of the flight engineer, of Darley Dale, who went missing during a mission over Albania in October 1944, aged 23.

Among them was his sister and oldest surviving relative, 92-year-old Dorothy Webster, of Matlock Green, who travelled over to Eastern Europe this week along with other family members to be reunited with the ring.

Chris Casey, of the US Embassy in Tirana, Albania, originally contacted the Matlock Mercury last year with news that a wedding ring inscribed with the names ‘John and Joyce’ had been found near the wreckage of an RAF Halifax Ml11, from the 148 Squadron.

The ring had actually been discovered in 1960 by Jaho Cala who, afraid of informing the Communist authorities of its existence, hid it in his home for decades.

Eventually, he asked his son Xhemil Cala to find out who it belonged to, and the son approached the British and American embassies in Tirana.

The wreckage of the plane was discovered by a team of British and US officials in October last year - then the search for the owner of the ring began.

Flt Sgt John Thompson met his sweetheart Joyce Mozley, from Hackney, in London, while she was at St Elphin’s School, in Darley Dale.

The pair married in June 1944, but only spent a weekend together as man and wife before he was posted abroad.

It is now known that he was part of a crew on board a plane dropping supplies to resistance fighters in Albania when it hit a mountain range and crash.

The flight sergeant was declared missing in action and his family was left to imagine what had become of him over the decades that followed.

Kevin Thompson, whose father Joseph Henry Thompson had been John’s brother, said getting the ring back meant the family could finally have some ‘closure’.

“I was always told by my dad that noone knew where he was and that the ring has been found and given back to his sister is great,” he commented.

Dorothy, one of only three of John’s ten siblings who is still alive, was also presented with a fuel gauge from the aircraft and a rock from the mountain into which it crashed at the ceremony on Monday.