'It's very rewarding': Groups keep the memory of war heroes alive
Published Tuesday, February 14, 2017 2:37PM EST Last Updated Wednesday, February 15, 2017 5:09PM EST
In a farmer's fields in the Rhineland region of Germany, volunteers armed with metal detectors discovered remnants from the Second World War.
Erik Wieman and his group have dug up hundreds of parts from Lancaster, Halifax and Stirling Bombers that were part of the British, Australian and American air forces.
"For some, these are only pieces of junk and I wanted to know the story behind it," says Wieman of IG Heimatforschung Rheinland-Pfalz. “I’ve always had these stories from my grandfather of these bombers that crossed Holland into Germany. Many of them crashed here.”
The group is currently researching 20 different crash sites. When wreckage is discovered, the parts are turned over to the local archeological society, but the process doesn't end there.
“Our main goal always at the end of research is a memorial so the place is not forgotten.”
The memorial includes a plaque at the crash site. Wieman also searches for relatives. Often a small part from the aircraft is given to the family as a keepsake.
“They are very emotional and very thankful and that's why we do so. They can have a place where we can tell them a story and they go home with more information.”
In St. Thomas, Ont., Colin Bamford is researching and sharing the stories of fallen Canadian airmen for the tribute website “Aircrew Remembered.”
It’s a quest that began while researching the death of his cousin, flight officer Norman Bamford and squadron leader Edward Hedgecoe. They were killed in a crash during a test flight in 1945.
“I never knew the details so I decided to try and find what I could about him,” says Bamford.
Through his research, Bamford met Hedgecoe's daughter and together they laid a wreath at a memorial in 2012.
“It brought home to me how so many aircrew were out there that lost their lives that still have family.”
Five years after his journey began, he's researched more than five hundred airmen. Their stories have been published on the group’s website for the world to see.
"It’s certainly very rewarding when I’ve received contact from a relative who expressed they've had no knowledge of what happened to their love ones.”
From Ontario to Germany, these groups are dedicating countless hours researching fallen airmen because they believe their sacrifices should never be forgotten.