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Posted on Tuesday 27 September 2022
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FAMILIES of Second World War airmen of RAF BK716 will be able to pay their last respects when members of the aircrew are finally laid to rest – thanks in part to the detective skills of an off-duty police officer.

Sgt Paul Mawson, of Durham Constabulary, will attend the burial service for seven servicemen whose remains were recovered from the wreckage of an RAF bomber shot down over the Netherlands in 1943.

The wreckage of Stirling BK716 was recovered in Lake Markermeer, near Amsterdam, in 2020 along with the remains of its crew.

Local historians began trying to trace surviving relatives of the five British and two Canadian airmen on board, but were unable to locate the families of two County Durham crew members: Charles Armstrong Bell, originally from Langley Park, and Sergeant Ronald Kennedy, also from County Durham.

Out of the blue, they contacted Sgt Mawson, then a beat sergeant based at Consett, who used his spare time and investigative skills to track down the surviving families of the local men.

As a result, relatives of both men came forward and now Sgt Mawson has been invited to join them as they pay their last respects while the airmen’s remains are finally interred at Jonkerbos military cemetery in Nijmegen in a ceremony to be held on September 28.

In an invite to the service, Lilian van Mourik, programme manager with the Dutch authorities organising the commemoration, said: “Due to his effort and dedication, the family members will be able to attend the crew’s burial in September. We would like to express our thanks for the amazing detective work he has done.

“It is incredible that after nearly 80 years, people like Sergeant Paul Mawson are willing to go the extra mile in helping family members and providing them with answers to what happened to their loved ones.

“It is important to have people who make a difference. His effort pays a heartfelt tribute to the lost crew and their family members”.

Earlier this year, a memorial to the crew of Stirling BK716 was unveiled in the Netherlands and Sgt Mawson received a commendation from the Bomber Command Museum of Canada for his work in tracing the families.

The burial service is being jointly organised by the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre and the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Sgt Mawson who now works at the control room at force headquarters, said: “It was really nice to receive the recognition, but the most important thing to me is that these young men can be laid to rest with their families around them – and to be able to stand alongside the families at that emotional moment is a genuine honour.”

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