Downed WW2 bomber found holding remains of an Australian airman

Excavations unearthed the remains of a World War II Lancaster NN775 bomber that crashed in boggy terrain at Bunsbeek, about 45 kilometres east of Brussells, Belgium.

Aerial photo of the site of excavations (by The Canberra Times)
Aerial photo of the site of excavations (by Johan Bloemers via The Canberra Times)

Flight Sergeant Allan Olsen was one of seven crewmen killed during the crash, as the bomber was shot down on its way to bomb a German petrol refinery. He was a 21-year-old wireless operator and air gunner clerk and died alongside five UK officers and Jamaican officer as the aircraft was downed when the crew carried out a bombing raid at Gelsenchirchen.

Flight Sergeant Allan Olsen (by National Archives via The Canberra Times)
Flight Sergeant Allan Olsen (by National Archives via The Canberra Times)

Several bodies were recovered from the Lancaster wreckage shortly after the crash and were buried in a group grave in the Heverlee War Cemetery in Vlaams-Brabant with seven headstones.

Sieving of the soil (by The Canberra Times)
Sieving of the soil (by Johan Bloemers via The Canberra Times)

As the excavations continued Flight Sergeant Olsen’s remains were one of three pulled from the plane, as mayor of Glabbeek, Peter Reekmans said in a statement.

The remains (by The Canberra Times)
The remains (by Johan Bloemers via The Canberra Times)

The former clerk was born in Toowoomba, the son of locomotive fireman Louis Olsen and his wife Carrie. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in Brisbane in 1942, aged 18.

Excavations at the site (by The Canberra Times)
Excavations at the site (by Johan Bloemers via The Canberra Times)

The Australian and British ambassadors to Belgium attended the site of the excavation, carried out by the Glabbeek municipality, the Belgian Aviation History Association Archaeology Team and the Plane Hunters Recovery Team.

Archaeological work at the site (by The Canberra Times)
Archaeological work at the site (by Johan Bloemers via The Canberra Times)

Sergeant Allan Olsen were honoured during a ceremony with assistance of military personnel draping an Australian flag over a small box with the remains. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is going to take custody of any additional remains recovered with any remains added to the existing burial at Heverlee.

Discovery of a propeller of the Lancaster bomber (by The Canberra Times)
Discovery of a propeller of the Lancaster bomber (by Johan Bloemers via The Canberra Times)

(after The Canberra Times, National Archives & Johan Bloemers)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *