A POLICE officer who helped trace surviving relatives of World War Two airmen after their remains were found in a Dutch lake has been honoured.

Sergeant Paul Mawson of Durham Police has received a Commendation from the Bomber Command Museum of Canada for his work tracking down relatives of two men missing in action since 1943.

The Short Stirling bomber BK716 was shot down in 1943 as it returned from a raid over Germany, with the loss of seven airmen, two Canadians and five from the RAF.

In 2020, the missing plane was recovered after being found submerged in Lake Markermeer, near Amsterdam, with the remains of the crew still on board.

The Northern Echo: Monument Canadian Embassy Netherlands Picture: DURHAM CONSTABULARYMonument Canadian Embassy Netherlands Picture: DURHAM CONSTABULARY

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While the families of the missing Canadian airmen were traced through records, researchers in the Netherlands drew a blank finding some of the County Durham crew, Charles Armstrong Bell, originally from Langley Park, and Sergeant Ronald Kennedy, also from County Durham.

The Bomber Command Museum of Canada contacted Consett Police in the hope that officers could help and, using his own time, Sgt Mawson put his investigative and social media skills to the test to track down the missing families.

As a result, relatives of both men came forward and were offered the chance to attend a ceremony in Holland in October, where a memorial to the men was unveiled by HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands.

The Northern Echo: Sgt Paul Mawson Picture: DURHAM CONSTABULARYSgt Paul Mawson Picture: DURHAM CONSTABULARY

A further memorial stone near the spot of the crash was unveiled this month.

In his Commendation letter, Karl Kjarsgaard, director of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada, wrote to thank Durham Constabulary for Sgt Mawson’s efforts in locating surviving relatives.

He said: “Imagine the relief and thankfulness of these people in these families in the UK when this contact was made”.

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He added: “It is the people in a team that make the difference between status quo and excellence. Sgt Mawson’s initiative and results speak for themselves”.

Sgt Mawson, who now works at the control room at force headquarters, said: “In policing you get used to dealing with difficult and interesting challenges, but this was certainly one of the more unusual I’ve had.

The Northern Echo: he crew of the bomber were photographed earlier in the war in front of another aircraft Picture: DURHAM CONSTABULARYhe crew of the bomber were photographed earlier in the war in front of another aircraft Picture: DURHAM CONSTABULARY

“But I’m just pleased that after all this time we were able to help these families find out what happened to their loved ones and ensure that, all these years later, these young airmen have been given the recognition that their bravery deserves”.

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