Published: 11:07, 16 September 2020
| Updated: 11:15, 16 September 2020
The wreckage of a plane that vanished in the Second World War is finally being recovered and one of the crew member’s sons and his wife say they are “amazed” by the progress so far.
Sgt Leonard Richard James Shrubsall, from Iwade, near Sittingbourne , was one of seven crew members on board the Short Stirling Bomber when it was lost returning from a raid on Germany.
The BK716 aircraft had flown out from Downham Market in Norfolk when it went missing on March 29, 1943.
Gunner Sgt Shrubsall’s wife, Beatrice, was three months pregnant when she received a telegram informing her that her 30-year-old husband had failed to return from air operations.
His son, Richard, now 76, always thought his father’s aircraft had been shot down over the North Sea until he learned the bomber was discovered last year.
The operation to recover it, from Lake IJsselmeer in the Netherlands, started on Monday, August 31.
It is expected to take four to five weeks.
Richard, who lives in Iwade, said: “The plane was found submerged in this freshwater lake. At first, it was thought the aircraft was a BK710, but when it was looked into further it was the BK716, which was my father’s plane.”
He added that the seven families of the crew had been informed and were led to believe their remains were still on the plane.
Richard’s wife, Janice, also 76, said: “The recovery started on the 31st. They have lifted the engine block, so they know it’s definitely the BK716.
“We’ve had a letter from Holland and they are concentrating on finding the crew members.”
When asked how she and her husband felt about the recovery, Janice said: “Every day something’s happening. Every day we are getting a phone call.
“Everybody is so interested in the progress of this and the people in Holland are keeping us in the loop of everything that’s going on. It’s just amazing.”
Janice said the lift was supposed to be done in March, but it had been put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She added that she and her family would also be going to the Netherlands after the recovery operation.
“We are definitely going to go,” Janice said.
“Quite a few members of the family will be going. We’re hoping to go October time.”
She added: “We have learned that we won’t be able to bring the remains back here for a burial.
“There will be one communal memorial over there.”
Almere City Council in Holland is funding recovery of the aircraft.
A typical Short Stirling carried seven crew members – two pilots, a navigator/bombardier, a nose gunner, a flight engineer, and two dedicated gunners.
In addition to the crew, theplane could carry 14,000 pounds of bombs or cargo.
When Richard and Janice were first told the plane had been found, the couple said they were “flabbergasted” .
“It just came out of the blue, we had no idea whatsover,” Janice said.
“We just thought it had been shot down over the North Sea, that’s all the family had ever thought until the past year.
“We used to live in Lower Halstow and the letter informing us of the find went to our old house.
“It was forwarded to here and that’s where it all started.”
Janice said she and her husband were “ecstatic” that the aircraft was being recovered.
“It is emotional though,” she added. “We think Richard is the only child of the crew members left.”
Sgt Shrubsall’s name is engraved on his parents’ grave at Milton church and he’s also remembered at the Runnymede Air Forces Memorial in Surrey.