At just 20 years old, Gerard Stanley Walters should have had his whole life ahead of him. Instead, he was killed when his aircraft crashed in the Netherlands 72 years ago.
Gerard, who grew up in Stratford, had enlisted into the RAF in November 1940, at the age of 18. He rose to the rank of sergeant and was on board an RAF Halifax bomber with six others on April 3, 1943, when it was reported as being hit by German anti-aircraft fire. The plane had left RAF Lissett in Yorkshire to take part in bombing raids of Nazi-occupied Europe.
All seven men were killed when the plane came down over a dyke in Wapenveld, 10km from the city of Zwolle, in the north of the country. Their bodies lay there until late last year, when the Dutch authorities carried out an excavation of the site and found some of their remains.
Now an appeal has been launched by the Royal Air Force and the Ministry of Defence to track down any surviving relatives of Sgt Walters.
Louise Dorr, from the Ministry of Defence’s joint casualty and compassionate centre, said: ““We know from our records that before joining the RAF, Gerard was employed as a dairy hand and that his last known address was in Stratford.”
Born in June 1922 to Albert Stanley and Jane Walters, little is known about Gerard’s early years. He had a brother, Albert Reginald Walters, who Louise believes may have lived in the Thurrock area.
She added: “Unfortunately that is about all we know about him and his family and that’s where the trail goes cold.
“Despite our best efforts we have not been able to trace any family members.”
The search for Sgt Walters’ family is part of a bid to invite the surviving relatives of all seven on board the flight to a possible future re-internment ceremony.
If you can help, call Louise on 01452 712612 extension 5465.