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Stoke Holy Cross airman from second world war traced, thanks to Evening News' help

Christopher 'Kit' Chandler. Submitted picture

Christopher 'Kit' Chandler. Submitted picture

Submitted

A New Zealander has traced the family of a Norfolk airman who was the sole survivor of a crash in the second world war, thanks to help from The Evening News.

Darryl Robertson asked us to print a letter in the paper earlier in the month calling for help in finding the family of Flight Sergeant Navigator Christopher ‘Kit’ Chandler.

Mr Chandler was part of the crew of an RAF bomber that was shot down over Markelo, a small town in Holland, on March 1, 1943.

Markelo is planning a 70th memorial event and the unveiling of a sculpture next year in honour of the men from the three bombers that crashed around the town in 1943.

Eighteen men died in the three planes and there were just three survivors including Mr Chandler, and the people of Markelo want to invite relatives of those who died and the survivors’ families to the historic event.

Flight Sergeant Chandler was with 35 squadron on a bombing mission to Berlin that left from Gravely base in the UK.

The B11 Halifax bomber W7877TL-0 was hit over Holland by a night fighter and crashed killing six people. Mr Chandler was later captured and taken to Stalag Luft 3, Kopernikus prisoner of war camp in Poland.

Mr Robertson said he found out where Mr Chandler came from after discovering a letter sent to his parents in 1944, addressed to the Reverend WBH Chandler, at The Vicarage in Stoke Holy Cross, near Norwich.

He was then able to find the Chandler family following a tip that Mr Chandler’s brother was a minister in Nottinghamshire.

He added: “I was able to track his brother’s and wife’s death certificates, and then a nephew told me that Christopher had one son alive and one adopted daughter.

“He also sent me a first class picture of Christopher. Without the Evening News’ help I may well still be looking.”

Mr Robertson, from Nelson, New Zealand, began the research initially to find out more about his father’s cousin and close friend, Andrew McEwin, who died in another of the bombers that crashed near Markelo in the war.

He has since helped many of the families of the deceased find out more about their relatives and in some cases to visit their loved ones’ graves in Markelo.

A key moment in his research came when he contacted New Zealand’s ambassador to Holland, David Payton, and subsequent New Zealand ambassadors have continued to nurture a relationship with the people of Markelo.

In 2010, Defence Minister Wayne Mapp made an official visit and Prime Minister John Key has written to thank the small group that drives the effort to honour the memory of the dead airmen.

Mr Robertson, meanwhile, has continued his research into all of the men who were either shot down or survived the three crashes near Markelo.

He said: “For some of the families it has been a life-changing experience to find out the effort that Markelo has shown in honouring these men. It has been greatly rewarding for them.”

Are you trying to trace a lost member of your family? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk.

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