20 September 2018

Grave of Second World War Pilot Redidicated 77 Years after Death

The grave of 26-year-old Flying Officer David Stein, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, was rededicated in France on Wednesday 19 September.

Flying Officer David Stein was reported missing on 30 October 1941 whilst flying a Westland Whirlwind aircraft with 263 Squadron. He had taken off from Predannack Airfield in Cornwall on a low-level “Rhubarb” mission to damage or destroy the operational ability of German air defences in France. He was hit by anti-aircraft fire over Morlaix aerodrome in Brittany and was last seen flying north east, away from the target, with one engine on fire.

It is now known that he crashed nearby and was buried alongside other Allied casualties by the German military authorities in Brest (Kerfautras) Cemetery, who were unable to identify him. His grave was later marked by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) as that of an Unknown Airman. Recent research proved a connection between the grave and the site where his aircraft was found.

The service, organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) and led by the Reverend (Squadron Leader) Rachel Cook, RAF was attended by members of Flying Officer Stein’s family, members of the RAF, CWGC staff and local dignitaries.

FO Stein’s cousin, Carol Taylor of Rotherham, South Yorkshire said:

“Our family know that David’s mother, father and sister would have been very grateful, as are we, that his final resting place has been found, and that so many people have joined us in honouring him.”

David Stein was born on 23 December 1914 in Lassodie, Dunfermline, Scotland. Prior to enlistment in August 1939 he was a tobacconist living in Edinburgh; his service records note he was a keen footballer and golfer, enjoyed the “occasional beer” and his hobby was motor engineering.

David began his flying training in April 1940 and passed his course with a higher than average score of 82.9%.  He was awarded his pilots ‘wings’ in June 1940 and commissioned as a Pilot Officer the following month. Promoted to Flying Officer in July 1941 he was just 26 years old when he was killed three months later.

Reverend Rachel Cook said:

Today, we formally honour the memory of FO David Stein in the presence of military colleagues and family. It is a real privilege to be able to do this. FO Stein gave his life in the service of others, we now come together to recognise this and to remember him before God. This brave airman now has a named resting place. May he rest in peace.”

David’s brother John also served in the RAF and was killed in April 1940. He is buried in Ramsey Cemetery, Cambridgeshire.

Steve Arnold, CWGC said:

“The Commonwealth War Graves Commission are honoured to mark his grave with a new headstone bearing his name and a personal inscription chosen by his family. We will ensure that the graves of David, his brother John and all those who served and fell are cared for in perpetuity.” Steve Arnold, CWGC

The majority of the 81 Second World War casualties buried in Brest (Kerfautras) Cemetery were members of the Air Forces of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Poland and the UK. Shot down during bombing raids over German occupied Europe or whilst attacking targets in Brest harbour or nearby airfields, the airmen were buried by the German forces in the military plot in the cemetery which had been established during the First World War. After the end of the Second World War efforts were made by the Graves Registration Units to confirm the identity of each of those buried here and today the names of only two airmen remain unknown.