Matlock RAF man laid to rest in Albania 74 years after plane crash

Matlock RAF man John Thompson, front, was laid to rest alongside his six crew mates at a ceremony in Albania, 74 years after their plane was lost during the Second World War.
Matlock RAF man John Thompson, front, was laid to rest alongside his six crew mates at a ceremony in Albania, 74 years after their plane was lost during the Second World War.

A Matlock airman has been laid to rest by the RAF almost 74 years to the day since he and his crew were killed when their plane crashed in Albania.

Flight Sergeant John Thompson was one of seven crew members from the 148 (Special Duties) Squadron who were on board the RAF Halifax JP244 aircraft when it was lost on October 29, 1944.

Flight Sergeant Thompson's nephew, Brian Webster, reads during the service.

Flight Sergeant Thompson's nephew, Brian Webster, reads during the service.

The wreckage was recently discovered following wildfires around the crash site, and was identified through research by the Air Historical Branch and the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC).

A burial service to honour the crewmen was held on Wednesday, October 24, at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Tirana Park Memorial Cemetery in Albania.

Thompson’s nephew Brian Webster was present, alongside the British ambassador to Albania Duncan Norman, and members of the Queen’s Colour Squadron.

Brian said: “The ceremony today is the final piece in the jigsaw of this amazing story, from the finding of the wreckage to the burial of the crew, we feel humbled and are grateful to all concerned.”

Born in 1921, John worked as a railway porter before enlisting in the RAF just months before Britain declared war.

He had married Ruby Joyce in June 1944, and served as a gunner on board the Halifax, which took off from Brindisi, Italy, on a supply drop for what would be its final flight.

The Special Operations Record Book noted: “Nothing further was heard from this aircraft and must be presumed lost. It was seen to drop its load on the target.”

Also on board were Edwin John Stubley, Charles Mabbs, Alfred Coote, Ernest Logan Brown, Austin Donnelly, and Richard Charles Knee.

The coffin passes the Albanian guard of honour.

The coffin passes the Albanian guard of honour.

JCCC spokesman Tracey Bowers said: “It has been a privilege to organise this service and to reflect on the bravery of these young men. Today we respect their commitment to duty and join their families in honouring their sacrifice.

“All were killed carrying out a mission supporting the Special Operations Executive, the crew were from different backgrounds but flew together as a professional tight knit team with one common aim.”

Defence attach� Lt Col Edward Melotte conducts a reading during the service.

Defence attach� Lt Col Edward Melotte conducts a reading during the service.