Appeal for relatives of airman killed in action

An RAF Halifax of 77 Squadron similar to the one that crashed in East Berlin takes off from its base in Yorkshire. Picture by UK Crown/MOD

An RAF Halifax of 77 Squadron similar to the one that crashed in East Berlin takes off from its base in Yorkshire. Picture by UK Crown/MOD

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An appeal has been launched to find relatives of a Whitley Bay airman who died during a bombing run in the Second World War.

Flight Sergeant Norman Thompson Steele, 21, was the navigator on board 77 Squadron Halifax LK709 which failed to return from a bombing raid on Berlin on January 28, 1944.

Local eyewitnesses saw a Halifax bomber being hit by flak, crashing into the lake.

In 1959, German newspapers reported the recovery of the wreckage of a Halifax from a lake in the Eastern zone of Berlin together with four human remains which were handed over to British military authorities.

These unidentified remains were then buried in the Berlin Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery under a single headstone reflecting they were unknown airmen from the 1939-1945 War.

Following a recent review of historical records and on the recommendation of the RAF’s Air Historical Branch, it is now intended to have the headstone changed to reflect that those buried are crew members of Halifax LK709.

Nicola Nash, from the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, said: “We know from our records that Norman’s last known address in Whitley Bay was Monkseaton Drive but unfortunately, that is about all we know and despite our best efforts we have not been able to trace any family members.

“We would very much like to track down any of Norman’s relatives with a view to inviting them to a possible headstone re-dedication ceremony so any help that anyone can give us would be much appreciated.”

Anyone with any information is asked to call Nicola on 01452 712612 extension 6063.