The crew of Lancaster Bomber PB 255 was made up of six RAAF personnel and an RAF Flight Engineer.
The oldest on board was only twenty five, Mid Upper Gunner Cyril Deed, who had enlisted in Hobart early in 1941. He had left a girl behind, Philma Howard, from Ulverstone. The couple were engaged, and planning to marry as soon as Cyril returned home.
On Christmas Eve 1944 the plane took off from its UK base at Binbook to take part in a raid on the German city of Cologne. However, it was hit by enemy fire over Holland. An attempt was made to return home, but the Lancaster exploded in mid-air near the Dutch village of Oostelbeers.
The Rev. J.M. Morgan, Roman Catholic Chaplain of a Canadian Field Park Company, visited the crash site soon afterwards and was met by a horrific sight. Burned and frozen body parts of the crew, largely unidentifiable, had been collected and piled onto a farm cart. There was no alternative but to bury the men in a communal grave. Their remains were interred in the Catholic churchyard on December 27.
Meanwhile relatives, including Cyril Deed’s widowed mother, received news that their loved ones were ‘missing, believed killed‘. In the months that followed, army officials dealt with repeated, anguished pleas from home begging to know more.. But how could they add the burden of such horror to the already grief stricken families? And how could those mutilated bodies ever be identified? Eventually, Chaplain Morgan was able to provide some answers;
The following photo shows a local Dutch woman faithfully tending the grave after the war. Her dedication is such a moving tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in fighting for the liberation of The Netherlands and the free world.
On the second anniversary of the crash, a memorial was published in The Canberra Times by the mother and sister of Rear Gunner Graham Day. It read;
To the memory of Flight/Sgt. Graham Fowler Day, and a tribute to the Lancaster crew (460 Squadron), killed December 24th, 1944 at Oostelbeers, Holland. Aged 20 years.
The Lancaster flew into darkness that Christmas Eve, but his family added a poignant, final line;
Splendid you passed, the great surrender made. Into the light that never more shall fade.
MAY ALL THOSE YOUNG MEN WHO DIED REST IN PEACE.