RAF pilot death finally marked after 70-year wait

Ernest Russell Lyon, who died in France in 1944. Picture: Hemedia
Ernest Russell Lyon, who died in France in 1944. Picture: Hemedia
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A NEAR decade-long fight to have the final resting place of an RAF pilot marked by a named headstone has been won by the officer’s newphew.

Richard Lyon, from Cambridge, has campaigned to have his uncle, Flying Officer Ernest Russell Lyon, 21, recognised with a marked grave near the site of his death - a farmer’s field in France, where he was shot down by German gunners during the Second World War.

Ernest Russell Lyon was buried in Guidel Communal Cemetery two days after his death, but his grave was marked with a simple headstone that read: “An Airman of the 1939-1945 War, Royal Air Force, 19th July, 1944, Known unto God”.

For years, Russell’s nephew, Richard Lyon, from Cambridge, has spearheaded a drive to see this anonymous grave inscribed with the war hero’s name to preserve his memory.

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A ceremony will now take place next year where an engraved headstone bearing the late officer’s name will be erected.

Ernest Russell Lyon, who grew up in Edinburgh’s Colinton area and attended the city’s George Heriot’s and George Watson’s College, was 18 years old when he volunteered to join the RAF in 1941.

He had served with 234 Squadron for more than a year before being killed.

Richard Lyon encountered his uncle’s French grave after he began to search for his final resting place back in 2006.

However, Mr Lyon had to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that the unmarked grave was in fact his uncle’s last resting place - an impasse that was only breached when the Ministry of Defence changed its rules in 2012 to allow for “convincing evidencet” in such cases.

Mr Lyon said: “There was my uncle with no known grave and I just personally thought it was my duty to try to get the grave positively identified. Little did I know the path I would go down. If someone had said to me ten years ago that I would change MoD procedure I would have been speechless.

“But it’s absolutely satisfying, we are absolutely chuffed that it has ended this way. It’s going to be marvellous next year when we have the ceremony at the grave side. The only sad thing is my grandfather and my father will not be around to see it.”

An MoD spokeswoman said: “The MoD is committed to ensuring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country have a dignified final resting place, wherever possible marked with their name.

“We are pleased that we have now been able to agree to a memorial to FO Lyon stating he is ‘buried near this spot’.”

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