RAF crew buried in Iceland 60 years on

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The Independent Online

Four Second World War airmen were buried yesterday in a small graveyard near the Arctic Circle, to the sound of "Flowers of the Forest", a lament dating from the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and played by a lone piper.

Four Second World War airmen were buried yesterday in a small graveyard near the Arctic Circle, to the sound of "Flowers of the Forest", a lament dating from the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and played by a lone piper.

Their plane had crashed into a snow-capped mountain in Iceland nearly 60 years ago and their bodies had been lost until less than a week ago.

The full military burial and memorial service at the Fossvogur Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery in Reykjavik was attended by mourners including 10 relatives of the dead men, Royal Air Force officials and dignitaries from several countries.

An RAF Nimrod maritime reconnaissance aircraft from RAF Kinloss in Scotland, followed by an Icelandic coastguard helicopter, conducted a flypast over the graveyard as a tribute to the dead fliers.

The wartime RAF crew was entombed in a glacier when its Fairey Battle light bomber crashed in the north of the country in May 1941.

Last year's exceptionally warm summer in Iceland melted the ice to reveal the location of the crash site. Last week a mountain rescue team from RAF Kinloss was able to retrieve the bodies from the site 3000 feet up the mountain.

Personal possessions were found alongside human remains including a toothbrush, a collar with the name of one of the airmen inside, and a wallet. Most moving of all was an inscribed pocket watch with its wording perfectly clear: "A. Round. From Dad. 14.2.34."

Flying Officer Arthur Round, a 26-year-old New Zealander, the pilot of the ill-fated bomber, died with his navigator Flight Sgt Reginald Hopkins, 21, from Southampton. Both served with 98 Squadron, which had been based in France but was transferred to Kaldadarnes, in south-west Iceland, to guard against a German invasion.

They took off from Akureyri airport in fog after collecting Pilot Officer Henry Talbot, 24, and Flight Sgt Keith Garrett, 22, who had been receiving treatment on a hospital ship. They crashed about 30 miles from the airport. A week later, an RAF team found the bodies but because of the weather, the itcould only hold a service at the site and place a small cross on the spot.

After the RAF pulled out of Iceland two months later the precise location was lost. But Hardur Geirsson, curator of Akureyri Museum, found the site following a 20-year search. He tracked down the original accident investigation report, which included a map grid reference. He said: "We were shocked to find wreckage, small sad human remains and personal possessions, all perfectly preserved by the ice."

Experts say it is impossible to tell why the plane crashed but a severe mechanical fault was the most likely cause.

Yesterday, Arthur Fickling, the namesake nephew of the plane's pilot, said: "Today is bringing an issue to a final close. It now means we have been given a final resting place." Among the offerings were six red roses sent from New Zealand by Round's childhood sweetheart, Nan Poole, 83. "Thanks for many happy memories, dear 'Arsa', your old pal Nan," the card read.

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