NEWS: A search for living relatives of WWII Erdington Aircraftman Maurice Joseph Berry

Words by Ed King

A search is on for living relatives of an Erdington aircraftman who died in the Second World War, hoping to invite them to a special memorial ceremony to be held in May later this year.

The Airfield Construction Branch Association (ACBA) have reached out to Erdington Local, looking for help in finding any friends or family members of Maurice Joseph Berry Aircraftman 2nd Class – who lost his life in a bombing raid whilst serving at RAF Ashford, Kent, in 1944.

Alongside Aircraftman Berry, a total of 20 people died in the raid on RAF Ashford – after a German Bomber dropped a 1000lb bomb on the construction camp whilst the men were on active service at the base.     

14 servicemen were killed immediately with a further six losing their lives following the attack. All the airmen were Volunteer Reservists attached to 5003 Squadron.

Founded in April 1918, the RAF grew to around 1.2m personnel in the Second World War – following the merger of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in the final stages of the First World War.

In the Second Ward War the RAF were also heavily supported by the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), established in 1939, which made up over 15% of the RAF at its peak and saw reportedly 2000 women signing up each week.

The RAF played a significant role in Second World War, as advances in German aircraft and airborne warfare gave birth to the German Luftwaffe – who had been secretly trained in the years in between the First and Second World Wars.

This ‘fight for the skies’ culminated in the Battle of Brittain and what is referred to today as ‘The Blitz’, air fought conflicts which lasted from July 1940 to May 1941 and were the German army’s precursor to their planned land invasion of Britain – named Operation Sea Lion.

However, by spring 1941 the Luftwaffe suffered significant losses and German plans for an invasion of the British Isles were scrapped.

Many of the Spitfire planes and Lancaster Bombers flown in the Second World War were made at the Castle Bromwich Aerodrome, on what is the Fort Dunlop site and Castle Vale estate today – with roads across the area named after the people and planes from Erdington that were so pivotal in Allies’ victory over the Third Reich and Axis powers.

Maurice Joseph Berry was born to Joseph and Alice Berry, who lived in Erdington. Maurice is buried at Witton Cemetery and it is believed he may still have family living in or around North Birmingham – or that people in the area might know how to locate any living relatives.

Anyone who has any knowledge of Maurice Joseph Berry or could help locate any living relatives is asked to contact ACBA Associate President Geoffrey Chesher-Brazier by emailing 5003squadron@gmail.com – or phoning 07481 992 2279.

A memorial service will be held in the St Mary parish church in Ashford, scheduled for 19 May, to honour the 20 fatalities from the raid at RAF Ashford, with a subsequent service held at Ashford War Memorial.

A letter sent by Mr Chesher-Braizer to Erdington Local concludes: ‘It will be greatly appreciated if you would assist us in locating living relatives of these young men who gave their lives in order that we may live in peace.”

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