JEP helps Islander to learn wartime fate of her uncle

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Dutch aviation archaeologist Piet Snellen sought the JEP’s help – along with other British regional newspapers – to complete his research into the crew of an RAF bomber that crashed close to his home more than 70 years ago.

Although June Summers Shaw knew she had no connection to Jersey-born airman Sergeant Air Gunner William Marett, she nonetheless contacted Mr Snellen in relation to her uncle, Peter Montgomery, whose aircraft was also shot down over Holland. Within 24 hours Mr Snellen replied and provided more information about Mr Montgomery than she had been able to find in her entire life.

‘I grew up with a picture of my uncle Peter on the mantelpiece of the fireplace in my late aunt’s home but no one ever spoke about him,’ she said.

‘My mother and her siblings found it too upsetting to talk about him in their lifetime as he was the baby of the family, but I feel as if I now know something of him from Piet.’

Like Mr Montgomery, Mrs Summers Shaw – who has lived in Jersey for 42 years – was born in Renton, in Dunbartonshire in Scotland.

Mr Montgomery was 20 years old when, in March 1945, the Lancaster on which he was a crew member was on a bombing mission to Germany. Until Mrs Summers Shaw contacted Mr Snellen, all she knew was that her uncle had been shot down over Holland and was buried in a Dutch war cemetery.

‘Within 24 hours Piet had responded to say that my uncle was not one of those on the plane he was investigating, but that he had traced his grave and found lots of material on his flights and the crew he flew with,’ she said.

‘My uncle, although shot down over Holland, was buried across the border in Kleve, Germany, in the Reichswald Forest Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.’

Mr Snellen also discovered that Mr Montgomery’s Lancaster had been shot down by Major Heinz Wolfgang Schnaufer, who was known as the most successful night fighter of all time, having shot down 121 aircraft – predominantly RAF four-engine bombers – in 164 missions.

Shortly after successfully hitting Mr Montgomery’s Lancaster, the German air ace shot down another bomber in the formation, causing the death of 13 British airmen in just six minutes.

More than 55,000 members of Bomber Command died in the Second World War, with Major Schnuafer accounting for several hundred.

‘Piet very kindly went to the grave later that week and laid flowers and a Scottish poem entitled “Will You Forget” from the family. We ended the poem with the words: “We, the family, will not forget”,’ said Mts Summers Shaw.

She is due to visit Holland in April to meet Mr Snellen and pay her respects at her uncle’s grave.

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