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Discovery of Second World War plane in Burmese jungle brings closure to Peterborough family

Plane of missing Peterborough Second World War pilot discovered
A Second World War plane discovered in a jungle in Burma carried a Peterborough pilot missing for more than 70 years.

Clare McWilliams’ war started in Peterborough but for 73 years it was unknown where it ended for the Royal Canadian Air Force Warrant Officer.

Like many Canadian aircrew during the Second World War, he was assigned to a British transport squadron. No.117 operated out of India, flying supplies to the 14th Army in Burma.

On June 1, 1944, the C-47 Dakota aircraft with McWilliams and six other men on board, went down somewhere over a jungle in Burma.

No trace of the aircraft was found so all those on board were listed as missing in action.

READ MORE: U.S. veteran keeps WWII promise, returns flag to family of fallen Japanese fighter

For years,Richard Labelle kept a photo of his great uncle Clare on the wall behind the counter of his family’s store in the Market Plaza Peterborough to honour his memory.

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Then late last month, he got an email from his aunt.

“Get a hold of your mom and your grandmother, they found Uncle Clare,” recalled Labelle.

American amateur historian Matt Poole specializes in researching aircraft missing in what was known as the China-India-Burma theatre of operations.

In doing so, he often finds out the fate of the people on board. He realized while he finds the search interesting, he discovered he had other things he needed to do.

He had been sent a photo of an RCAF ID bracelet found at a previously undiscovered crash site in Burma. It bore the name ‘H.E. Tackaberry’. H.E. Tackaberry had been on the aircraft with McWilliams when it crashed.

It’s presumed the remains of Clare McWilliams, along with Tackaberry’s, are still at the crash site.

“I think, ‘what is it doing for me?’ It’s the loved ones who need to know, so just like I did with Clare, I sought family members,” said Poole.

READ MORE: Second World War bomber plane touches down at Peterborough Airport

Occasionally, efforts are mounted to recover the remains of servicemen from crash sites. Poole says that all depends on the countries of the victims and the country where is crash site is located.

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Labelle says his grandmother Dorothy, Clare’s sister, says her brother should rest in peace where he lays.

“They had their service, they had their mourning, they had their grief, 73 years ago but she thinks he should stay where he is, because these were the guys he lived with, fought with and eventually died with, so that’s where he needs to be,” said Labelle.