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KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945

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1 year 2 months ago - 1 year 2 months ago #5646 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: Re: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Geoff, thanks for your post ages ago. Twice I though messages I'd written would be posted here, and twice my long updates disappeared after I hit the "Submit" button. Gary, I can't put my finger on it, but there's some issue. I logged in successfully moments ago, but then I was told to log in again. Don't know if this is part of the problem that prevented me from previously posting, but somehow I have overcome this -- this time. Dodo Matt did forget to first copy and save the earlier messages in a Word file. I have made sure to copy this version, however!

I'm too disgusted to write another long message. In short, Indian bureaucracy continues to rear its ugly head, but stellar efforts led by Tracey Bowers of the UK MoD's Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre will ultimately prevail. (Tracey, a devoted ex-British Army public servant, NOT a bureaucrat, replaced a classic bureaucratic slug. We are very fortunate to have her at the helm.) It had been determined that a site visit to reconnoitre the grave and the Port Blair facilities required for forensic work was essential prior to an exhumation happening, but the Gvmt of India was problematic. Tracey succeeded in jumping through all the hoops to acquire the necessary work visas for the team's site visit scheduled for last November, but having not received 100% of the necessary GOI permissions, she had to cancel the entire trip a couple of days before the team's intended flight would have departed the UK for India.

Since then, she has juggled everyone's schedules, and new dates have been chosen. The work visas, fortunately, are still current, so Tracey doesn't have to fight that battle. Now it's just the GOI permissions game that must play out. It is certainly hoped that the initial trip won't have to be cancelled a second time! To quote from Major Clipton at the end of "The Bridge On the River Kwai": "MADNESS! MADNESS!"

We are keeping specific dates hush-hush. I think this is a wise decision.

Cheers,

Matt
Last Edit: 1 year 2 months ago by Matt_Poole. Reason: Clarification

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1 year 2 months ago #5647 by Smith 565
Smith 565 replied the topic: Re: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Hello Matt, good to hear from you again, although the news itself is not good.

The respective authorities involved should hang their heads in shame, except I don't think they possess any concept of that emotion. How's its so difficult, you would wonder, but there we are.... I look forward to any updates on this, but won't hold my breath.

Regards,

Geoff

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1 year 2 months ago #5648 by Gary
Gary replied the topic: Re: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Keep at it Matt, thanks for the update.
As for your site issues, type faster :P
But seriously I'll take a look at the timeout of the permissions but I think it's something daft like 60 minutes, it could be your browsers timeout.

'Yea, Though I Fly Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I Shall Fear No Evil. For I am at 50,000 Feet and Climbing.'

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1 year 2 months ago #5649 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: Re: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Thanks, Geoff and Gary.

Hmm...timing out may have been part of the problem, Gary. I type fast, but I may have left for a while and then returned to finish my typing. Anyway, if this message posts, then I would say don't spend any time on the issue. Chalk it up to gremlins and/or an American computer lamebrain.

Cheers,

Matt

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1 year 1 month ago #5650 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: Re: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Hi, gang. I've copied what follows from what I posted Feb 13th on Facebook. I must emphasize that NO recovery has taken place, and it's still not definite (from what has been told to me) that there will be a dig. There are still factors at play here. However, where we are right now is quite pleasing.

Cheers,

Matt
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
I am pleased to report that last week a UK Ministry of Defence-organized team of three (an archaeologist & anthropologist from the UK, and an RAF Group Captain from the British High Commission in New Delhi) traveled to Port Blair on S. Andaman Island in the Indian Ocean to successfully survey the communal gravesite of an RAF 355 Squadron B-24 Liberator crew (serial number KH250) and plan for the future exhumation of remains. It has taken years to reach this milestone...over nine years!

The logistics have been, and will continue to be, quite challenging, and there are no guarantees of a perfect ending, ultimately, but I am impressed with the expertise and focus of those involved.

I’d previously posted on Facebook in 2018 in reference to this project. If anyone wants to read more and see some photos, look for posts dated 12 May, 17 & 18 May, 27 June, and 9 & 10 Oct.

The team visited the medical institute in Port Blair city, where remains will be stored – if found in the waterlogged soil after nearly 74 years. DNA testing will be in the UK, I think. The team met with the appropriate local authorities, including the Deputy Commissioner, the Chief Secretary, and the Police Chief, all with positive results.

The Andaman Public Works Department has been tasked with building an earthen dam around the gravesite in order to hold back the tidal waters while the dig progresses. This, apparently, has worried the landowner. Fingers crossed that he will be treated with the dignity and respect that he deserves, and that his concerns will be addressed to his satisfaction.

Tracey Bowers of the UK MoD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, with whom I have been working on this project in the recent past, has been a godsend. She is just one of many in the British Government who have risen to the challenge. Tracey has impressed me with her dedication to this very difficult project; I think of her, first and foremost, as a public servant, not as a bureaucrat (defined as: "perceived as being concerned with procedural correctness at the expense of people's needs"). Thankfully, so many in the British Government who are involved have also proven to be public servants.

Following his return to New Delhi from Port Blair, the Group Captain emphasized to Tracey that the team was treated with exceptional kindness and with a spirit of cooperation every step of the way. In particular, Sanjib Kumar Roy, editor of the newspaper "Andaman Sheekha" in Port Blair, should be singled out. He went to great lengths to shepherd the team along the twisting path required to accomplish the in-country planning. His invaluable assistance allowed the team to maximize their time spent upon business during three short, busy days in the Andamans. Thank you, Sanjib!

My mottos on this project, from the start in late 2009, have been “HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL” and “NOTHING VENTURED, NOTHING GAINED”. While I can’t predict that, ultimately, human remains will be found, and then identified as non-Indians (the Government of India’s requirement before any recovered remains can be interred in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery as KH250 casualties), I am very pleased at the recent progress. Onward, I say, to the next phase.

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1 year 1 month ago #5651 by Smith 565
Smith 565 replied the topic: Re: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Hi Matt,

Thanks for the update, particularly as I don't do Facebook! Lets hope it does mark a positive step forward.

Geoff

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