Rededication ceremony for five members of the Lancaster DS678 crew

A rededication service for five members of the crew of Lancaster DS678 took place at 11:00 on 27 June at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Niederzweheren Cemetery, Germany.

Lancaster DS678 of 115 Squadron, Royal Air Force, took off on the night of 24 March 1944 to attack Berlin but was shot down over Germany. Two of the crew survived and were taken prisoners of war but the other five members were killed. They were buried at the time in the PoW cemetery at Ohrdruf and after the war efforts were made to bring their graves into a Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery.

However the area came under Soviet control and access proved impossible until after the reunification of Germany in the 1990s. As the graves cannot now be located, the five members of the crew together with other casualties whose graves could not be found, are now commemorated on Special Memorials at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Niederzwehren Cemetery.

The cemetery was begun by the German forces in 1915 and originally used for the burial of 3,000 French, Russian and Commonwealth soldiers and civilians. During the 1920s it became one of four permanent CWGC cemeteries in Germany and 1,500 graves were brought in from 190 other burial grounds including Ohrdruf Cemetery.

The CWGC Special Memorials bear the names of Pilot Officer Leonard McCann, Royal Canadian Air Force, Sergeant William Bowey, Sergeant Victor Watson, Sergeant Donald Keeley and Sergeant John Burke, Royal Air Force, and are engraved with the circumstances of their original burial.

The service was organised by the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, Ministry of Defence and was attended by family members, British Defence Staff, Regimental representatives, CWGC staff and local dignitaries.

CWGC Commemorations Manager, Mel Donnelly said “These Special Memorials allow us to commemorate the five members of the crew of Lancaster DS678, alongside other Commonwealth war casualties in the CWGC’s Niederzwehren War Cemetery. Even though their graves in Ohrdruf cannot now be found, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission ensures that all those who served and fell are commemorated by name. Today we renew our commitment to remembering the sacrifice of these brave men forever.”