Sixty-eight years after their World War II bomber crashed in Italy's Po Valley, the four-man crew of the Boston BZ590 were finally laid to rest with military honours in northeast Italy on Thursday (July 18).
The early morning burial service for the three British and one Australian crew member was held at the Padua War Cemetery.
Members of the Royal Air Force's Queen's Colour Squadron carried the coffins while the Last Post was sounded by a family member of one of the crew.
Australian air gunner, 21-year-old Warrant Officer John Penboss Hunt, had joined British pilot Sergeant David Kennedy Raikes, navigator Flight Sergeant David Millard Perkins and wireless operator and air gunner Flight Sergeant Alexander Thomas Bostock, all aged 20, on the fateful flight on April 21, 1945.
Relatives of the Britsh crew gathered at the graveside along with Australian Wing Commander Wes Perrett who had accompanied Hunt's family members to Italy. Hunt's half-brother Wes Madge attended the ceremony with his son, Ray Madge, playing the Last Post on the bugle.
Folded Australian and British flags were handed to relatives following the service.
"In a way the emotion has been ongoing for along time, if you know what I mean. It just makes it very special to be here today to have the headstones here with all the crew together. And the RAF doing the folding of the flag so precisely and everything so perfect with the service it meant alot actually," said relative Timothy Raikes, the brother of British Sergeant David Kennedy Raikes.
"Although I would say the crash site was more emotional to me, that I found very emotional," he said.
The Boston BZ590 took off from Forli near Rimini at 2045 in the evening local time and headed to the Po Valley on an armed reconnaissance, after targeting a river crossing on the Po, a defence ministry statement said.
It failed to return. The aircraft is believed to have been downed by anti-aircraft fire.
"I think of my parents who heard the news about ten days before the end of the war, they had lost their son, or missing anyway, they didn't know. All the world was rejoicing for VE day and they couldn't rejoice, they never knew," Raikes said.
"I feel lucky we do now know where he lies," he said.
Nearly seven decades would pass before the crew could be laid to rest.
In 2011, an Italian amateur archaeological society specialising in WWII aircraft searches unearthed the remains of the bomber near the Po river in Copparo, Ferrara province, discovering human remains and some personal items.