The service for Pilot (Plt Off) Robert Alan West was held at Dunkirk City Cemetery, France, on Wednesday 24 Could, organized by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Center (JCCC), also recognized as ‘MOD War Detectives’.

At the ceremony, his extra remains had been placed in a grave that till these days had only been marked as the grave of an unknown airman. The plot has now been confirmed to include the previously unidentified remains of the young pilot which had been discovered shortly immediately after his death.

Tracy Bowers of JCCC mentioned:

This was a case combining each burial and re-dedication of the headstone. The help offered by the RAF Air Historical Branch (AHB) was essential in solving this difficulty. It is a sad reality that immediately after an air crash, the comprehensive remains of the victims may perhaps not be discovered at that time. But we have now managed to rectify this and hold a rededication ceremony for the final resting location of this brave, young pilot in the presence of his family members.

Also present had been ten members of the Plt Off West family members, representatives of the RAF, the British Embassy in France and dignitaries from Dunkirk.

The family members of Robert Alan West at the service

Shelia Davenport, Plt Off West’s niece mentioned:

The family members knew extremely tiny about Uncle Bob till they contacted us now we know so significantly about him and his life. We are grateful for the closure this ceremony offered for the family members.

Extra debris was found subsequent to components of the plane in the Zuidkoot location, about six miles east of Dunkirk. Following an investigation by RAF AHB and the RAF Museum, the aircraft was confirmed to be a Hurricane Mk.1. Individual artifacts at the scene offered clues to the victim’s identity.

The RAF AHB then examined 74 hurricane casualty files from 1940-42 and managed to rule out all but nine. Plt Off West remained exciting: according to his casualty file, he flew from RAF Hawkinge in Hurricane N2709 on 1 June 1940 on a patrol off Dunkirk. Seven aircraft of the 245th squadron had been element of the formation with the 43rd and 145th squadrons. Plt Off West was in the extremely rear of the formation when they had been attacked by a German Messerschmitt 215. It was not noticed to crash but was recorded as missing on the squadron’s return.

Following RAF AHB perform, DNA testing confirmed that the extra remains discovered belonged to Plt Off West.

Lastly, additional investigation has revealed that there is clear and convincing proof that Plt Off West’s earlier remains had been discovered and buried in this unknown plot in the town of Dunkirk shortly immediately after he died.

The service was led by the Revd (Lt) Robert Hadfield, Chaplain at RAF Lossiemouth. He mentioned:

The bravery of these like pilot Robert West, whose actions in help of the evacuation of Dunkirk saved hundreds of thousands of lives, should really be remembered forever. I am humbled to be a element of this ceremony, marking Robert’s legacy and honoring the sacrifice he and other people like him produced, providing their all for the advantage of other people.

RAF Trumpeter sounds Final post on duty

Mel Donnelly, CVGC Head of Commemoration mentioned:

“It is a privilege to ultimately be in a position to mark the final resting location of Pilot Officer Robert Allan West with the headstone that now bears his name.” It is particularly resonant that we can join his family members to rededicate his grave on War Graves Week, when the CVGC asks every person to try to remember the service and sacrifice of these Commonwealth servicemen and females we commemorate about the globe in perpetuity.

By Editor