Remembrance Day, 2021

Remembering all the Pathfinders lost in the war, and those who survived but suffered from terrible memories in after years, and all their friends and families.


After three and a half months of ops at the worst time of the bombing war – the Battle of Berlin – the Coates crew’s luck finally ran out on Saturday, 25 March 1944. Their aircraft was shot down on the homeward journey from Berlin, at about half past twelve at night, near Luyksgestel, 12 miles from Eindhoven and close to the Dutch/Belgium border.

The crash was so violent that it was impossible to identify individual remains, and the crew – who were from 97 Squadron – were buried together in a common grave at Woensel General Cemetery.

The identity of their aircraft would be confirmed in August 1946 by the Missing Research and Enquiry Service, basing their findings on the meagre evidence surviving – a number on the starboard fin and a single signet ring which had belonged to a member of the crew.

The Air Ministry, breaking this dreadful news to parents of William Darby Coates (they had lost their oldest son, Gordon, at sea in October 1943 when his ship HMS Charybdis was torpedoed), wrote:

“It is hoped that the knowledge of your son’s resting place and that he lies in friendly soil may be of some comfort to you in your great loss.”