German Airman’s Funeral, December 1939

t15087This photograph shows an RAF parade at the burial of a German airman in Thornaby Cemetery the picture is dated 12th December 1939.

At the head of the leftmost line of marching airmen is my Grandfather Sidney H. Leek, he has two badges on his greatcoat sleeve, one on the shoulder and one on the upper arm, he would have been around 40 years of age when this picture was taken but the company may have been reservists, my Grandfather had been in the RAF during the 1920s so he probably had reserved status.

I seem to remember that a service for the German airman was held at Thornaby cemetery a few years ago and it was well attended.

Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

4 thoughts on “German Airman’s Funeral, December 1939

  1. It is difficult to match all of the details associated with this picture and I suspect that there has been some confusion at some time in the past as German planes did not bomb Teesside until June 1940. The first Germans buried in Thornaby Cemetery died on 1 November 1940.
    If the year of the photograph is correct, then there was only one military burial in Thornaby in 1939. That burial was of Pilot Officer Douglas Haig Robertson, a 21 year old New Zealander serving with 220 Squadron flying out of Thornaby. P/O Robertson was one of 4 crew training in a Hudson when it stalled on approach to Thornaby on 8 November 1939. The plane crashed in Cambridge Road, Linthorpe with the death of all the crew. It seems strange that his burial should be over a month later, but he was the only military burial in Thornaby by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1939.

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  2. Your grandfather appears to have the insignia of an LAC (leading aircraftsman) on his upper arm and having already had service in the RAF in the 1920’s could have been recalled in his early 40’s at the start of WW2.

    My father-in-law Alexander J. Ruddy fought in France during the first world war from 1916 in the Army before transferring to the Royal Flying Corp which then became the RAF in 1918. At the out break of WW2 at the age of 41 he returned to France with the British Expeditionary Force before being evacuated at Dunkirk. He finished his service as a corporal in 1945.


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