A wedding ring belonging to a British pilot who was shot down over Albania during the World War II has been returned to his sister more than 70 years after he was killed.
Dorothy Webster received the ring from Albanian man Xhemil Cala at a special service in the Albanian capital Tirana yesterday, along with a box of debris from her brother’s fateful flight that went down in 1944.
Webster said: “Seventy years we've waited. We can't believe that we're here today celebrating this after all this time.”
Derbyshire-born Flight Sergeant John Thompson’s Halifax bomber plane crashed north-east of Tirana in October 1944, as he and his seven-member crew transported assistance to local anti-Nazi fighters.
Nearly 16 years later, the ring and debris were discovered by Jaho Cala while he was walking in the area near the Sinoi Mountain, north-east of Tirana.
He kept his find secret for over a decade, worried that the communist authorities who governed Albania at the time would take it from him.
On his son Xhemil’s wedding day in 1971, he handed the ring over and said, “This is not mine and is certainly not yours; it has a rightful owner, who you will have to find in due course.” When his dad died, Xhemil Cala got in contact with the British embassy that identified the ring through the inscription, “Joyce & John”, as belonging to Flt Sgt Thompson.
The British embassy along with the Albanian Ministry of Defence then agreed to organise a ceremony that would see Webster reunited with her brother’s ring.
Speaking after the ceremony, Xhemil Cala said that he was ecstatic that the ring had finally been given to its rightful owner.
“I will go to his grave and say rest in peace for your dying wish has been fulfilled,” he said.
According to Webster, the family never found out what had happened to Thompson due to the secret nature of the mission.
“All these years it has been a story of loss,” said Thompson's nephew Alan Webster.
“We now know almost everything that happened. It's a sense of closure. We know where John is. He's over there in the mountain.”
The family now plan to visit Albania again in the next few months to visit the crash site.Reuse content