Matt_Poole replied the topic: Re: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
I guess I was a little lazy - and overwhelmed with other stuff - and I hadn't posted an update. Having just seen Geoff's last message again, where he specifically said he doesn't do Facebook, I realized I'd better post HERE, and NOW!
Geoff, I don't know for certain, but I think anyone can check out what I posted, and the responses, on my Facebook page, here:
For those who can't access Facebook, I'll repeat my initial posting from a few days ago - copied below. I've been doing a fair bit of frowning recently because of recent negative news and ongoing uncertainty, but I still maintain hope...
The Google Earth satellite image seen here is from 2011, when the grave could still be seen from above. Vegetation growth and the fact that the lid of the above-ground grave marker has been smashed and scattered by the forces of nature means that the grave is no longer seen in satellite imagery.
Regarding the project to get the grave of RAF Liberator KH250 casualties exhumed, at long last, from a single communal gravesite near Port Blair, S. Andaman Island, India, in the Indian Ocean:
The ultimate decision still has to be made by the UK Ministry of Defence…but…this roller coaster has derailed, at least temporarily. I’m disgusted, but I know better than to give up hope.
A scenario that I’ve seen as a distinct possibility for, oh, nine years has become a reality. Within hours of the dig beginning, the landowner and his family refused access to the gravesite, from across their property. Despite several attempts by the visiting UK team to resolve this in various meetings, the family would not budge. This meant that the team had no option but to return to the UK early. Utter failure. A major waste of money and time.
According to my friend and ally in Port Blair, newspaper editor Sanjib Kumar Roy, the landowner’s son created a scene in the Deputy Commissioner's office in Port Blair when he insisted that the land must be restored by the Andaman Public Works Department (APWD) after the completion of the grave excavation work, and, furthermore, he stated that the family would not allow access to the site from their land; instead, access would have to be from the outside, meaning from the tidal marsh side of the grave.
I’m particularly bitter about this, because although I understand the landowner’s reasoning – protecting the property against serious damage and a lack of commitment to a satisfactory restoration of the land post-dig – the fact that the family waited until the team’s SECOND VISIT ALL THE WAY TO PORT BLAIR FROM THE UK before putting forth demands is maddening. The amount of money that has been wasted was completely unnecessary.
I absolutely believe that a causeway can be readily built from the nearby road into the flooded area, and then around the grave and onto dry ground. This type of earth moving is routine procedure in the gold mining business – this, per the popular Discovery Channel TV series Gold Rush. Easy, really. Then the water can be pumped out on the landward side of the causeway, thus enabling the grave to be excavated without the need to traverse the landowner’s dry-ground property to get there. Removal/dismantling of the causeway after the dig's completion by the APWD is feasible, too.
Will the UK Ministry of Defence take the easy way out and simply abandon this project, claiming “blown budget” as the reason? Will the MoD budget for the job to be done in a manner which will be acceptable to the landowner and his family? A major part of the problem, allegedly, is due to APWD interference, and reputation.
I think I’d better button my lip and wait to see if the UK bean counters have hearts.
I feel so damn sorry for the kin of the ten casualties of Liberator KH250. We were unbelievably close to accomplishing the long-desired goal of performing a dig on the acknowledged grave of KH250 victims. I’m still hopeful that this will occur.
Here’s just one quick graphic showing a causeway built from the road around the grave. This kind of work is feasible, but if budget rears its ugly head AND the APWD won’t commit to a respectable cleanup, then that’s all she wrote!
ADDENDUM, April 10th: I really didn't emphasize this, but there's no guarantee that the landowner will ever agree to a plan of action for a grave dig, even if the site is approached from the water. It may be that there was deception from the start. Sanjib reminded me of the fact that the landowner's property extends far to the east of the road (to the right in the photo). Before the 2004 tsunami and earthquake (which caused land subsidence), all of this land was above water (as was the grave). I don't know if greed is a factor for the landowner and family. Could be.
Last Edit: 7 months 3 weeks ago by Matt_Poole. Reason: Just tweaking, and adding a bit about the satellite image, and making everything bold, because I, at least, think it is easier to read when all-bold.
Matt_Poole replied the topic: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Because others are tickled by connections, or coincidences, or however you wish to define it, I thought I should copy my at-the-moment compilation of the number 17's link to this project. Way back about 9 years and 4 months ago, I posted the few links I then knew, but things have grown since then. Yes, some of this is purely trivial, but I find the majority of these links fascinating. Maybe some of our readers will, too:
Numerous links have been recognized between the number 17 and a) the RAF career of RAF F/Lt Rowland Totham DFC and b) his family. Rowland was one of the pilots who died when 355 Squadron Liberator KH250 was shot down by anti-aircraft fire while attacking Port Blair, South Andaman Island.
The connections to the number 17 do not stop with the Totham family.
All known links between the casualties of KH250 and their families to the number 17 are as follows -- there may be more:
• Rowland died on the 17th (May) in 1945;
• Rowland’s RAF service number until he was commissioned as an officer was 1217998;
• Rowland’s RAF service number as a commissioned officer was 177155;
• Rowland’s mother, Maria Elizabeth Totham, was born on the 17th (November);
• Rowland’s widow, Irene, was born on the 17th (November);
• Dave Langley, Irene's son with Wilf, her second husband, was born on the 17th (November);
• The news that Rowland and his crew’s communal grave had been located reached his family on the 17th (November) in 2009;
• Gladys (Rowland & his sister Margaret's Auntie) died in 2009 on the 17th (November), aged 94 – the same day that the family learned of the communal grave;
• Margaret was married on the 17th (September);
• Christina, Margaret’s daughter, was born on the 17th (September); and
• Carol, Rowland's granddaughter, was born on the 17th (September).
Rowland’s ten crewmates have further distinct connections to the number 17:
• Of course, these ten men were, like Rowland, shot down on the 17th of May 1945;
• Of the ten, nine died on the 17th of May 1945;
• The exception was Rowland’s mid-upper gunner, Sgt Harold Wynne. Having been captured on the 17th of May 1945, Harold died on the 17th of August 1945 when executed with a lethal injection while a prisoner of the Japanese in Port Blair;
• W/O Tony Morgan, Rowland’s bomb aimer, was born on the 17th of May (1922), and he died on the 17th of May (1945)—his 23rd birthday;
• The commissioned officer’s RAF service number for F/O Ted Rumsey-Williams, Rowland’s front turret gunner, was 179043;
• The award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to then-P/O Ted Rumsey-Williams, later Rowland’s front turret gunner, was announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette on the 17th of November 1944; and
• All eleven crewmen aboard KH250, including POW Harold Wynne, are listed in Casualty Communique No. 659, printed in the 17th January 1946 issue of FLIGHT magazine – the official public outlet for RAF casualty status.
Additional links to the number 17:
• On the 17th of May 2015 – the 70th anniversary of the downing of KH250, Sylvia Davis (daughter of Lilias, KH250 pilot Jim Duckworth’s widow) and her husband Geoff discovered Jim’s wartime letters to Lilias tucked away in a green canvas bag in a recess at the back of a cupboard in Lilias’ bungalow. Sylvia and Geoff were clearing out Lilias’ bungalow after she had comfortably settled into her retirement home;
• After being widowed when Jim Duckworth died aboard KH250, Lilias went on to marry Ron (Sylvia’s father), who was born on the 17th (July);
• Lilias was born in 1917;
• During the Second World War, Lilias’ service number in the Auxiliary Territorial Service was W/170689; and
• Francis Harold Morris, Harold Wynne’s stepbrother, was born on the 17th (November).