As the United Kingdom voted on its future within the European Union, the families of the crew of R3236 flew out of Stansted to Bremen on 23 June 2016 for a weekend of events centred around the installation of the Memorial Stone at Jever Airbase, home of the German Air Force Regiment (GAFR) and close to the crash site of R3236. Curiously, the flight number of the plane taking the families on almost the same flight path that the crew would have taken in 1940, was 3632.
The GAFR kindly provided a coach for the families, driven by the ever smiling Danni. On arrival in Jever, the families visited the town’s archive, kept at Jever Castle. Here they viewed the original newspaper reports of the crash and the events that surrounded it.
Accompanied by Paul Harding of the Royal British Legion (RBL) and Heiko Schulz, Military Dean at Jever Air Base, the group were driven to the crash site in Upjever Forest. A beautiful peaceful site where a short service was held and poppies planted by all members of the party in remembrance of their loved ones. Also in attendance was Carsten Streufert, Superintendent of the Forest, seen on the far left of the group below.
The group then visited Jever’s cemetery where the crew were initially interred with full military honours by the German Luftwaffe. A service of remembrance and reconciliation, led by Heiko Schulz , was held in front of a replica of the wooden cross, erected by the people of Jever, that marked the grave of the ‘Five British airmen’.
A dinner at the Marienbräu restaurant rounded off an extraordinary day and was attended by many people from Jever who have helped us with this project: Charly Pfeifer (retired GAF Captain who has been our contact in Jever and recovered remains of R3236 from Upjever Forest), Heino Dirks (who was part of the Fire crew who tried to help the crew), Markus Graw (local resident and crash site expert who has done much research on our behalf), Marcus Christ (Military Chaplain), Lt Col Liebau (Battalion Commander), Roman Labisch of the GAFR who attended the original unveiling of the Memorial Stone at Ely Cathedral in April, Markus Köpke (Jever Heritage Centre),Uwe Oetken (stonemason), Carsten Streuffert (Upjever Forest Manager), Flt Lt Mike Gumbrell (RAF Exchange Officer). Presentations were made and thanks given for the support of the people of Jever and their friendship.
On the morning of 24 June, the families were the guests of the GAFR at Jever Airbase for the official unveiling of the Memorial Stone outside their Headquarters. As the UK decided that it did not want to continue its membership of the European Union, with the installation of the Memorial Stone, the families, the people of Jever and staff of the GAFR personnel pledged to start a new friendship honouring the past to safeguard the future. Speeches by Colonel Dorfmüller Commander of Jever Airbase and, on behalf of the families, Ted Fuller affirmed this.
Following the ceremony, the families visited the Airbase’s museum and were delighted to see that the inclusion of R3236’s story there. On display in the museum is a collection of wreckage from R3236 recovered from the Upjever Forest by Charly Pfeifer and the replica of the wooden cross that marked the crew’s first grave.
The families were honoured to be invited to attend a ceremony to mark 80 years of Jever Airbase, including a family fun-day for the base personnel at which the military band played Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines for their British guests.
After one last visit to the Memorial Stone, the families boarded the coach and set off for the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery at Sage, the final resting place of F/O Douglas Lindsay, P/O Ralph Ball, Sgt Alec Aitken, Sgt Alexander Glen and Sgt Jack Waterfall. After the ceremonies of the day, a distinctly sombre mood prevailed. At the graves, Royal British Legion flag bearer, Paul Harding led the families in Laurence Binyon’s great Ode of Remembrance … At the going down of the Sun and in the morning, we will remember them. The Cemetery is a beautiful, peaceful spot and the circle of remembrance was completed. The families united to honour their family members whose fate was not known for so long and has been unmarked for so many years.