The discovery, recovery and identification of the Durston crew and their plane Lancaster ED867



The discovery, recovery and identification of the Durston crew and their plane Lancaster ED867


Account from 2003 in German and English of research started in 1997. Shows aerial photo of crash site. Excavations in 1999 discovered parts of aircraft and remains of crew which were then buried in Berlin war cemetery in year 2000. Reports correspondence with information and covers information found in captured enemy documents. Includes analysis of remains and shows routes of possible aircraft. Concludes with account of discovery and of the last flight of crew. Report from Australian Sydney Sun Herald newspaper on 5 August 2001 with account 'Peace at last for lost crew of ED867'. Contains photographs and diagrams.





Twelve page printed document with photographs, maps and diagrams


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The discovery, Recovery and Identification of the
Durston Crew
and their plane
Lancaster ED867

"The Sun Herald" in Sydney, Australian, 5. August 2001

Peace at last for the lost crew of ED867


In 1944 a Lancaster bomber with four Australians aboard flew from England for

its final mission over Nazi Germany. It never came back. What happened to the

Australian airmen on ED 867 has remained a mystery. All that their families have

been told for the past 57 years is that the men were missing in action.

Until now

Thanks to the dedication of a group of German amateur historians and the

forensic detective work of Australian defence officers, the mystery of ED 867 is

close to being solved. The Germans have found the wreckage of the Lancaster

near their town of Qranienburg, 30km north of Berlin. They dug down for 3m and

found the remains of three, possibly four, crewmen still inside the wreckage of the

plane. A wing revealed the serial number: ED 867.

Australian forensic experts will soon go to Berlin to try to make final identifications

of the airmen so they can be given a marked grave and buried with full military


The Lancaster bomber of the Royal Australian Air Force's 467 Squadron, crewed

by four Australians and three British airmen, took off from Waddington, England,

on January 29, 1944, on a bombing raid over Berlin. It was their 27th operation

and was to be the Australian crew's last mission. The pilot, Flight Lieutenant Ivan

(Joe) Ourston, 32, of Windsor in Queensland, had been told he had already

completed his number of missions and could be transferred out. The chances of

being killed in raids over Germany were so high that airmen were limited to 30

missions. But the Aussies had made a pact that they would all finish together. So

the commanding officer told Ourston and wireless operator Pilot Officer Robert

Ludlow, 31, of Glen Niven, Queensland, gunner Flight Sergeant Phillip Gill, 20, of

Coorparoo, Queensland, and gunner Flight Sergeant Jack Sutherland, 22, of

Prospect, South Australia, that this would be their last mission before being

transferred to other duties.

It was a tough one. Berlin was heavily defended and the Germans threw up all

the flak they could at the bombers. Ourston’s plane was bringing up the rear as he

had to photograph the result of the raid. It would draw maximum enemy fire. As

they made their final approach to Berlin over the town of Oranienburg the

Lancaster was hit by flak or fighters and crashed in flames. Three bodies were

quickly found and later buried near the crash site. After the war, one was

identified as Englishman Flight Sergeant Sidney Griffiths and he was reburied in

the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Berlin. The two others, whose nationalities

have not been determined, were placed in graves marked "unknown airman.

Back in Australia, Ourston's sister, Betty James, was told he was missing in

action. She has carried his photo in her wallet ever since, hoping that somehow

he might still be alive. It was not until Mano Schultze, 33, a local cabinet maker

and amateur historian, last year started searching the fields around Oranienburg

for crashed warplanes that answers to the mystery started to surface. "The area

had been set aside for military manoeuvres by the East German Army and was

only opened up to the public recently," he said. "We found parts of 14 warplanes

that had crashed around the town. We decided it would be our mission to identify

them all so relatives could know what happened to their missing men. "Some

were Russian, some American, some British. We found part of a wing of the

Lancaster just sticking above the ground. We dug and found the serial number

ED 867. "With the help of the German Army we dug further and found the

remains of three, possibly four, men about three metres under the ground. It

seems the plane exploded on impact and so it buried itself deep in the ground."

The German Army gave the airmen a temporary grave and notified British

authorities. RAF records gave the name of the crew and dental records indicated

the remains found were of Flight lieutenant Ourston.

In October defence experts from Canberra will go to the site to examine the

remains. It is hoped all the remaining bodies can be finally identified and reburied

with full military honours in the Berlin Allied War Cemetery alongside 252 other

Australians. The bodies of all seven crewmen appear to have been found now

and, even if individual remains can't be identified, they are no longer missing and

can be buried in a grave marked with the names of the full crew of ED867.

Betty James, 83, said finding her brother's body after almost 60 years had at last

brought peace to her and the family. 'When you lose someone like this you are

still waiting and wondering. You wonder where he is, was he captured, was he

kept overseas?" she said from her Adelaide home. "I always thought he was lost

over the sea. We weren't told much about how it happened. "Now we are at

peace because he is going to be officially buried. I am not looking for his body to

be brought home, just for him to be buried. It closes a chapter. It's peace of

mind." She said her brother, a motor mechanic, had been a steadying influence

on the crew because he was regarded as the old man. He was 32. He had a

girlfriend waiting at home. Betty James's son, Greg Bickford, said he had heard

three crewmen had parachuted out and later died in POW camps. Mr Bickford

said: "That story seems to have been disproved. My uncle trained pilots at

Bankstown before they sent him to Britain. He never came back, but his photo

has been on our family's mantelpiece ever since. "It has been marvellous for my

mum to put an end to the chapter of what happened to her brother."

Ross Stanford, 83, was a pilot in A-flight of the 467 Squadron alongside Ourston.

"It grips you a bit after all this time, particularly when you knew that bloke and

used to see him every day for six months. Joe was a quiet, steady man. He was

a regular guy" Some 1,300 Australian airmen arc still listed as missing in action

over Germany in World War 2.



“The discovery, recovery and identification of the Durston crew and their plane Lancaster ED867,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 14, 2024,

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