Remains of airmen whose plane crashed during WW2 exercise found

Second World War airmen, Pilot Officer Alfred Robert William Milne and Warrant Officer Eric Alan Stubbs,

The remains of Second World War airmen, Pilot Officer Alfred Robert William Milne and Warrant Officer Eric Alan Stubbs, were found in north Yorkshire farmland. - Credit: Norfolk Constabulary

The remains of two Second World War airmen whose plane crashed during a training exercise from RAF Beccles have been returned to their families.

The human bones were discovered at the remote location near Chop Gate, in the Hambleton district in north Yorkshire, on March 31, 2020.

North Yorkshire Police launched a criminal investigation into the discovery of the remains along with military memorabilia near Chop Gate. This led to the arrest of a 72-year-old man. 

The criminal investigation was not related to the airmen's deaths but followed the discovery of the RAF memorabilia along with the remains. Some of the items of military memorabilia were found in outbuildings.

But police have confirmed that the man will not face any charges after the Crown Prosecution Service determined that there is not enough evidence to pursue suspected offences.

The remains have now been identified as two Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve air crew who were killed when their Mosquito aircraft crashed on the North York Moors near Bransdale, Helmsley, on October 11, 1944.

Undated handout photo issued by North Yorkshire Police of Pilot Officer Alfred Robert William Milne,

Pilot Officer Alfred Robert William Milne, 22, from Mitcham, Surrey who's remains were discovered along with another Second World War airmen on north Yorkshire farmland. - Credit: PA

Pilot Officer Alfred Robert William Milne and Warrant Officer Eric Alan Stubbs, both aged 22, were on a training exercise from RAF Beccles in Suffolk to RAF Turnberry in Ayrshire.

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North Yorkshire Police said the men, who were both from Surrey, were reunited with their families and given military burials on August 12 last year.

Detective Inspector Carol Kirk, the North Yorkshire Police senior investigating officer, said: “At the beginning of this investigation, I don’t think any of us thought we’d be able to identify who the remains belonged to, let alone return them to their families and be given military burials with the dignity and respect that they deserved.

“Even without being able to progress the investigation to court, we still believe this is a significant achievement.

“I have recently had contact with both families and they wish to pass on their thanks to all those involved in bringing Alfred and Eric home.”

Undated handout photo issued by North Yorkshire Police of Warrant Officer Eric Alan Stubbs, 22, from

Warrant Officer Eric Alan Stubbs, 22, from Guildford, Surrey, who's remains were discovered along with another Second World War airmen on north Yorkshire farm. - Credit: PA

DI Kirk added: “On behalf of the investigation team, I thank North Yorkshire Police, Ministry of Defence Police, Army and RAF colleagues who have played a part in this highly complex and challenging operation.”

She also thanked residents “whose daily lives were disrupted for many weeks while this activity was ongoing at the location”.