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Thursday, 24 August, 2000, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
RAF scours glacier for bodies
RAF Fairey Battle light bomber
The men were flying in a Fairey Battle aircraft
A Royal Air Force team is working to retrieve the bodies of four airmen buried in an Icelandic glacier for nearly 60 years.

The men were were killed when their Fairey Battle aircraft crashed into a mountain glacier in May 1941 at about 1,200 metres after getting lost in heavy fog.

I always had the gut feeling that they should not have been left up there

Major John Sim
The mangled wreckage and the men's remains were found by a local historian last year when the warmest summer for many years melted the ice.

An RAF team from Kinloss flew to Iceland last week to begin work to recover the bodies for full burial.

They were being helped by Icelandic coastguards and an American unit from the NATO base at Keflavik.

But the risk of fissures forming in the ice at the crash scene were reported to be hampering their efforts.

Military honours

The dead men were Flying Officer Arthur Round from New Zealand, and three British crew, Flight Sergeants Reginald Hopkins and Keith Garret and Pilot Officer Henry Talbot.

It is hoped the bodies will recovered in time for a burial with full military honours at the Fossvogur Commonwealth war grave cemetery in Reykajvik, Iceland on Sunday.

Two months after the accident the RAF pulled out of Iceland and the crash site became buried in ice.

But after a 20-year search the curator of the Akureyri Museum, Hardur Geirsson - fascinated by the crash after hearing stories about it as a teenager - found the glacial grave.

Although I had been looking for it for so long, I didn't feel happy when I finally found the aircraft

Hardur Geirsson
A friend of his found the original accident investigation report in the British Public Records Office which had the precise grid reference on it.

"We were shocked to find wreckage, small sad human remains and personal possessions, all perfectly preserved by the ice," Mr Geirsson said.

"There was a toothbrush, a collar with the name of one of the airmen inside, and a wallet.

"Everything was scattered around and although I had been looking for it for so long, I didn't feel happy when I finally found the aircraft."

Wrong decision

British servicemen climbed the mountain in search of the bodies immediately after the accident, but they were forced to retreat.

Major John Sim, a member of the original search party, told the Sunday Times newspaper he had always been haunted by the decision to leave the bodies behind.

"We had no body bags, no way of bringing the bodies down," he was quoted as saying.

"We returned with a padre and a makeshift wooden cross and conducted a service on the glacier. I always had the gut feeling that they should not have been left up there."

Neither the British nor the Icelandic authorities have released details of the exact wreckage site to prevent trophy hunters from visiting the scene.

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