The Discovery of David Raikes' Plane in Copparo (FE)

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by Andrea Gatti e Simone Guidorzi

The Discovery of David Raikes' Plane, the Douglas A-20K Boston Mk V Serial Number BZ590:

Felonica July 17th, 2013 – Padua July 18th, 2013

Il Douglas A20 Boston Mark V

The Douglas A20 Boston Mark V

The Plane and its History

The Douglas A-20K light bomber (an American-built aircraft which in the "Boston" version was supplied to the Commonwealth forces) serial number BZ590 (the serial numbers ranged from BZ580 to BZ669, as the "Mark V" model was built in only 90 examples ) belonged to the 18 Squadron Burma (Burma) of the 232 Wing RAF (Royal Air Force) dependent on the DAF (Desert Air Force) in turn dependent on the MAAF (Mediterranean Allied Air Force).

21 April 1945

David Kennedy Raikes il pilota, David Millard Perkins il navigatore, Alexander Thomas Bostock l' operatore radio, John Penboss Hunt, australiano, il mitragliere.

David Kennedy Raikes the pilot, David Millard Perkins the navigator, Alexander Thomas Bostock the radio operator, John Penboss Hunt, Australian, the gunner.

The Douglas A-20K Boston Mark V serial BZ590 took off from the Forlì airfield at 8.54pm to attack a target in the Taglio di Po area with cluster bombs, represented by a crossing point of the large river. The bombing mission was followed by armed reconnaissance in the Po Valley against specific targets. In all likelihood the aircraft flew over the Po river towards the west and was hit by the anti-aircraft batteries of Polesella, garrisoned by artillerymen of the German Luftwaffe and the Ar.Co. (Anti-Aircraft Artillery) of the National Republican Air Force of the RSI (Italian Social Republic).
Plausibly the plane attempted to return to the Forlì airfield, but managed to travel only a few miles, suddenly crashing in the Copparo area. John Penboss Hunt, Australian, was the gunner; Alexander Thomas Bostock the radio operator; David Millard Perkins the navigator and David Kennedy Raikes (21 years old, one older than his three companions in misfortune), the pilot.

La zona di Italia interessata dalla missione del BZ590

The area of ​​Italy affected by the BZ590 mission

Post-war research

The investigations carried out did not lead to tracing any burial corresponding to the crew of the Douglas A-20K Boston Mark V serial number BZ590 and therefore in 1949 the crew was registered as missing. All four crew members are remembered at the Malta Memorial in Valletta (Malta), which commemorates the 2,298 Commonwealth airmen missing in the Mediterranean Theatre.


“Archeologi dell’Aria” - a private association of passioned - identifies the point of impact based on testimony supported by the discovery of several small fragments of aluminum on the surface.


The recovery remains set aside in terms of priority because the testimonies tell of a series of recoveries of material in the post-war period, including a lot of aluminum and probably both engines.

July, 2011

Following a series of investigations and survey excavations by Archaeologists of the Air of Copparo and Air Crash Po of Cremona, the decision was made for total recovery.

July 23, 2011

The excavation was completed thanks to the intervention of the North Apennines Po Valley Park, represented on the occasion by the Museum of the Second World War of the Po River of Felonica and by Gotica Toscana Onlus of Scarperia.

Who "Pippo" was?

Starting in 1944, the night skies of central-northern Italy began to be crossed by an aircraft with an unmistakable roar. The collective imagination traced him back to a single device and, with clear reference to his nationality, nicknamed him Pippo. In reality, Pippo was represented by different devices and, what's more, of different models and nationalities. The planes in question were twin-engine aircraft belonging to the USAAF (United States Army Air Force), the RAF (Royal Air Forces) or the SAAF (South African Air Forces) designed to perform night flights. The models used for this purpose were Martin A-30 Baltimore, Douglas A-20 Havoc, Douglas A-26 Invader and Northrop P-61 Black Widow supplied to the USAAF and De Havilland DH98 Mosquito, Bristol Beaufighter and Douglas A- 20 Boston supplied to the RAF and SAAF. The missions entrusted to this type of aircraft had the task of patrolling enemy territories during the hours of darkness, intervening against targets of opportunity. The interventions could consist of simple firing of flares, or of machine-gunning and bombing actions.

The Discovery

Many pieces of the plane remained on the ground including the engines which were immediately recovered to be used as raw material; a crater remained in the camp which burned for many hours due to the fuel and ammunition and no one dared to approach it. In the small crater, due to the temperatures developed, all the material melted and deformed and the remains of the other two airmen were largely destroyed together with the plane. The personal effects found in the ground, in fact, demonstrate that the other two airmen were at that point. The excavation and research methodology consisted of sifting all the earth and oxides coming from the small crater using sieves, categorically excluding the possibility that further human remains could have remained in the selected volume; It is thanks to this type of research that it was possible to trace the small personal objects. The examination of the bones found determined that they belonged to 4 people.
Excavation group: Archaeologists of the Air, Air Crash Po, Felonica Museum, Gothic Tuscany.

The Crew

When in 2011 we combined the data and information about, period and place of impact, testimonies, analysis of the recovered wreckage, we became able to identify the type of aircraft: a Douglas A20 Boston.
So we define the research field. The group of enthusiasts who meet online has set up a colossal hunt: which departments were equipped with that plane? How many were lost in those days? In which areas? The result is that in 1945 Squadrons Nos. 13, 18, 55 and 114 of the 232 Wing of the Desert Air Force and the 47th Bomber Group of the XXII Tactical Air Force were equipped with Bostons. The period, April 1945 narrows the field considerably, with an aircraft from the 47th BG and one from N° 18 Squadron being potential candidates. Among the recovered wreckage comes out a watch engraved with “H.J. Hunt 433038” and here is the Crash Report:

Source: NAA: A705, 166/18/624
Aircraft Type: Boston
Serial number: BZ 590
Radio call sign:
Unit: 18 Sqn RAF
Summary: Boston BZ 590 of No 18 (Burma) Sqn RAF, Central Mediterranean Force, took off from Forli drome at 2054 hours on 21 April 1945 to attack a river crossing target at Taglia Di Po followed by an armed reconnaissance of the Po Valley, Italy. The aircraft failed to return from this mission.
RAF Sgt Raikes, D K (Pilot)
RAF Flt Sgt Perkins, D M (Navigator Bombaimer)
RAF Flt Sgt Bostock, A T (Wireless Operator Air)
RAAF 433038 WO Hunt, J P (Air Gunner)
Following post war enquiries and investigations, it was recorded in 1949 that the missing crew had no known grave.

Of the four members of the crew, the scant information on the service record tells us that three were English: Sgt David Kennedy Raikes Serial number 1807677, 20, the pilot; Flt Sgt Alexander Thomas Bostock Serial number 1818442, 20, the radio operator and Flt Sgt David Millard Perkins Serial number 1801441, 20, the navigator. The fourth Australian: Warrant Officer John Penboss Hunt Serial number 433038, 21, the machine gunner, born in Sydney, assigned to the RAAF and seconded to the RAF. We also have a photo of them together but it fails to tell us who they were, what their passions were.

David Millard Perkins

David Millard Perkins

David Millard Perkins

David Millard Perkins, born in Honor Oak in July 1924. He had two sisters, Helen and Mary and a brother Gordon. We have an address for him, at least the last known one, Therapia Road, and that on the date of the accident his parents lived on Border Road in Sydenham. David joined the RAF at Euston on 13 January 1942 and was a clerk by trade. He was 5ft 11inches tall with dark brown hair and brown eyes. His role on board, with the rank of Flight Sergeant, was navigator and pointer.

Alexander “Alec” Bostock

Roy Plumb Presidente del consiglio comunale di Kimberley

Roy Plumb Chairman of Kimberley City Council

Alexander Thomas Bostock

Alexander Thomas Bostock

Alexander Thomas Bostock the Radio Operator, born in Forest Row in Sussex. Roy Plumb, Leader of Kimberley Borough Council in Nottinghamshire has "rediscovered" the grave of Bostok's parents in the local cemetery. After reading the news about discovery, its remains, and the appeal to search for possible relatives, during an inspection of the cemetery he noticed the name "Bostok" on a nearby headstone. As he got closer, he discovered that it was the tomb of William and Ada Bostock, Alexander's parents. Alexander's name is also on the tombstone.

Johnny Hunt

John Penboss HuntJohn Penboss Hunt, an Australian from Shoalhaven in New South Wales, son of Benjamin James Hunt and Jeanette Ellen Hunt, was the oldest of the group at 21 years old. He was the only married one, his wife was called Jean Audrey Hunt of Lidcombe. He was part of the RAAF and seconded to No. 18 Squadron, with the rank of Warrant Officer he was the machine gunner

David Kennedy Raikes

David Kennedy Raikes dal libro "The Poems of David Raikes"

David Kennedy Raikes from the book “The Poems of David Raikes”

David Kennedy Raikes, born in Blechingley in Surrey on 3rd June 1924 but with roots in Treberfydd in Breconshire. There his grandfather had chosen "one of the most beautiful corners of Wales and had built there first a church, then a school and finally his house". David was the surprise, an internet search reveals our pilot as a highly regarded young poet and writer, The David Raikes Poetry Prize organized by Radley College is awarded every year in his memory. A book, published posthumously in 1954, “The Poems of Davis Raikes”, reveals an unexpected character to us. Our Pilot is masterfully described by Charles Wrinch in the introduction and gives us the portrait of the crew in the words of David himself, written after 29th June 1944 at the end of the training period, which from Southern Rhodesia first took him to Nairobi and then to Cairo.

Excerpted from THE POEMS OF DAVID RAIKES (Fantasy Press, 1954)

Andrea Gatti

“The choice of each crew member is a lot like a marriage proposal. The crew training meant a lot to me. And now I have a great crew, the best. It is a process that does not allow interference, the team forms itself and once formed we try, as far as possible, to keep it intact. It seems that he is the pilot who leads his crew by being the Captain. We are a different, unique crew, and you couldn't wish for better company, whether on the ground for a beer or in flight. Henry Moffat, my navigator is a pleasant and interesting person. Older than me, he is 31 and actually old for a flight crew, and he is married. He had made a few operational flights over Italy when he lost his pilot and had to start over. Before the war he was a customs officer in the civil service and, when he was telling me the other evening of some of his memorable journeys through Wiltshire, Devonshire, Cheshire and beyond, as he went on in the story I felt that we had the same understanding the things. Talking about how the morning fog rises in a certain village in Wiltshire – according to him one of the most beautiful in England, and being in Wiltshire I could imagine it – he made me feel quite nostalgic for all the images that overlapped in my mind . Henry was actually from Liverpool. Then there's Alec Bostock who is the one I know best. He is around my age and is one of the most mature and pleasant people I know. Always available, cheerful, ready to drag me out for a coffee or a drink, full of life, a true friend. Alec is from the Midlands. The so-called “dirty and bad” of depressed Nottingham. Johnny Hunt, an Australian, six months younger than me but with the Africa Star and the 1939-43 Star. He joined the Australian Infantry at the age I left Brambletye and fought with the A.LF in Tobruk, El Alamein and Syria. Not to mention the fighting with the Yanks in New Guinea. Back in Australia he is transferred to the Air Force. Individualistic like many Australians, when he puts an idea in his head there is no Air Commodore or red ribbon to make him give up. When we are in flight I am sure that on his part everything is always under control. He is a great person, one of those you would like to have close to you in critical moments. At first glance, in many ways, you would say that he is my opposite.. Meanwhile, Johnny is married and because of the things he wants to do. But if I think of a person who returns home after three and a half years of war overseas I believe that he is allowed everything, even a wife. In short, I have two married men in my crew and the average age does not exceed 21 years. I'm happy to be in this group, appreciate things and also look to the future.”

The crew remained together until the end although for the last flight Henry Moffat was replaced by another navigator: Flt Sgt David Millard Perkins.

July 17th-18th, 2013

L'orologio con inciso il nome Hunt

The watch engraved with the name Hunt

L'anello con le iniziali del sergente Perkins e dentro una dedica: «Chris with love»

The ring with Sergeant Perkins' initials and a dedication inside: "Chris with love"

On July 17th the delegation of the crew's family members was welcomed in Felonica at the Po River War Museum. The meeting at the museum, enriched with a new hall dedicated to the crew of the BZ590 where the finds found during the excavation operation are exhibited and where the story of the crew is told, was also an opportunity to give back to the family members present the personal effects found. The Museum has been housed since June 2013 in the restored Palazzo Cavriani in Felonica; restoration made possible precisely by the presence of the Museum itself.

On 18 July 2013, 68 years later, the crew was buried in the Commonwealth war cemetery in Padua in the presence of family members and authorities. During the ceremony David Raikes, nephew of Sergeant David Raikes, read one of his uncle's poems: “Let it be Hushed”. The title of the poem can be translated as "Let the silence fall". We offer you the translation by the University Linguistic Center - University of Padua published in "Il Bo, the newspaper of the University of Padua"


by David Raikes

Che cali il silenzio; che il profondo degli oceani si chiuda
su questi morti. Altri potranno lodarli,
Innalzare monumenti di marmo in loro onore.
Ma noi che volammo con loro e ridemmo con loro,-
Noi di altri equipaggi che, vivendo fianco a fianco,
lentamente abbiamo conosciuto
i loro lati più nascosti, avremmo preferito che non si toccasse
la ferita che abbiamo curato, l’amore che abbiamo sepolto laggiù.
Questi uomini hanno conosciuto momenti che voi non avete conosciuto,
né mai lo farete; noi abbiamo vissuto quei momenti,
e ne abbiamo parlato sussurrando nel cuore della notte;
una confidenza nata condividendo il pericolo.
E abbiamo condiviso i loro obiettivi; ma noi siamo tornati.
Con leggerezza ne parlavamo. Abbiamo fatto il loro zaino,
spartito le cose utili come sigarette e cioccolato, razioni messe da parte
per un momento di necessità che non è mai arrivato.
“Hanno tirato a sorte!” Qualcuno disse,
“è un peccato che indossasse il suo orologio;
era uno buono, venti sterline, disse
di averlo pagato in Egitto. Ora, vediamo,
a chi tocca stanotte. Ah, Taffy – ne hai uno buono!
Faresti meglio a lasciarlo a me”. E ridevamo.
Avevamo freddo? Freddo nel cuore. Si diventa così.
A volte sapevamo cosa era successo; come erano precipitati.
Non avveniva sempre per colpa del nemico.
Uno urtò contro la pista, piegò un’ala.
Il navigatore ci lasciò le penne e così l’artigliere.
Gli altri due ne sono usciti, un po’ scossi.
Bob si schiantò durante un volo di prova, volando basso
– Per lo meno pensano che sia andata così, non ne erano sicuri.
L’aereo bruciava violentemente quando lo trovarono;
Un uomo ne uscì, ancora vivo, ma morì
sulla via dell’ospedale. La perdita era nostra, –
Io condividevo un aeroplano con Bob.
Ne abbiamo preso un altro.
Ma alcuni non sono tornati. Non abbiamo mai saputo
se sono sopravvissuti – all’inizio erano solo in ritardo
finché i minuti non sono diventate ore, e ancora nessuna notizia.
Si andava a letto; ma svegliati dal turno successivo,
si chiedeva “Sono tornati?” e sentendosi rispondere “No”,
si tornava a dormire.
Al risveglio si cercavano i letti vuoti,
dicendo, “Dannazione, un altro zaino da fare”;
non mi è mai piaciuta quella parte, non sapevi mai
quali segreti quella spartizione poteva svelare.
Io cercavo sempre di lasciare il mio zaino pronto
in discreto ordine. Non sapevi mai.
Ma questo è passato. Il fiume che guarisce scorre
e lava via le ferite con il passare degli anni.
Non piangiamo più. Ci fu un tempo per le lacrime,
quando la Morte ci stava accanto, e non osavamo piangere.
Che i mari si chiudano su di loro, e si inabissino nell’oscurità.

Traduzione a cura del Centro linguistico di ateneo – Università di Padova pubblicata su “Il Bo, il giornale dell’Università di Padova”

Members of the Queen's Colour Squadron lower the single coffin into the grave [Picture: Mike Drewett, Crown copyright]

Members of the Queen’s Colour Squadron lower the single coffin into the grave [Picture: Mike Drewett, Crown copyright]

News about the Event in other Countries

The remains of the Boston BZ590 crew were laid to rest by members of the Queen's Color Squadron of the Royal Air Force at the Padua war cemetery in Italy, resting in a single coffin under four headstones. Relatives of the crew and members of the 18(B) Squadron currently deployed in Afghanistan attended the ceremony.

The Boston BZ590 of the 18 Squadron took off from Forlì, near Rimini, at 8.45pm on 21 April 1945. The objective was a crossing of the Po river at Taglio di Po followed by an armed reconnaissance of the Po Valley. The plane did not return to base and was believed to have been shot down by anti-aircraft fire. It crashed killing all four crew members, three British and one Australian, the gunner.
Photo by Mike Drewett 07768 598982

No. 18 Squadron RAF – The History

RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2013

18 Squadron was a "medium bomber squadron" which served outside the United Kingdom for most of the Second World War starting in France between 1939 and 1940 and then serving in Malta, North Africa, Sicily and Italy. Until May 1939 the Squadron was equipped with Hawker Hinds before moving on to Bristol Blenheim Mk Is, which remained in various versions until the spring of 1943. With the outbreak of the Second World War the 18th, as part of the British Expeditionary Force, he was sent to France where he took part in the first disastrous ten days of the May 1940 Campaign before returning home and being used to counter the attempted German invasion of England. On 19 August 1941, during a mission over Northern France, the Blenheim Mk IV R3843 “F-Freddy” dropped a crate containing an artificial leg, the right one, for Wing Commander Douglas Bader at St. Omer airport. shot down with his plane ten days earlier. The 18th was transferred to Malta in October 1941 from where it took part in raids against Axis naval forces. In January 1942, reduced to just 5 aircraft, it was withdrawn to Egypt.
Photo During 1942, the Squadron was reorganized in England with new aircraft and new crews but with the same ground personnel. In November of the same year he was transferred again to North Africa and remained in the Mediterranean area for the entire duration of the conflict, following the Allied advance from Algeria to Tunisia and then participating in the landing in Sicily and the return to Italy. During the Italian Campaign the 18th was used for missions against installations in Northern Italy and the Balkans. by Mike Drewett 07768 598982


  • April 1936 – May 1939 : Hawker Hind
  • April1936 – May1939 : Hawker Hind
  • February1940 – September 1942: Bristol Blenheim IV
  • September1942 – April 1943: Bristol Blenheim V
  • April 1943 – July 1944: Boston III and IIIA
  • July 1944 – March 1946: Boston IV and V

A formation of five Blenheim Mark IVs (Z5893 'W' the closest) of No. 14 Squadron RAF flying over the desert. Top right, one of the Curtiss Kittyhawk escort fighters. A formation of five Blenheim Mark IVs (Z5893 'W' nearest) of No. 14 Squadron RAF in flight over the Western Desert. A Curtiss Kittyhawk, one of the escorting fighters, can be seen on the far right. CM 3108 Part of AIR MINISTRY SECOND WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION Royal Air Force official photographer.

Un Douglas A-20 Boston in volo di prova nei cieli della California prima del trasferimento in Gran Bretagna

A Douglas A-20 Boston on a test flight over California before moving to Great Britain

Assignment and Missions

  • September 1939 – May 1940: BEF Air Component, Francia
  • May 1940 – October 1941: Missions to the Channel ports, France and the Netherlands
  • October 1941 – January 1942: Malta
  • May – November 1942: United Kingdom
  • November 1942-August 1943: North Africa
  • August – October 1943: Sicily
  • October 1943 – end of the war: Italy


United Kingdom

  • 12 September 1936 – 30 September 1939: Upper Heyford


  • 30 September 1939: Beauvraignes
  • October 16th, 1939: Meharicourt
  • 17 May 1940: Poix
  • 19 May 1940: Crecy and Abbeville

United Kingdom

  • May 20th-26th, 1940: Watton
  • May 26th - June 12th, 1940: Gatwick
  • June 12th - September 8th, 1940: West Raynham
  • September 8th, 1940 - April 3rd, 1941: Great Massingham
  • April 3rd - July 13th, 1941: Oulton
  • July 13th - August 16th, 1941: Horsham St. Faith
  • August 16th - 27th, 1941: Manston
  • August 27th - Ottobre 12th, 1941: Horsham St. Faith


  • From October 12th, 1941 to March 21th, 1942


  • January 10th – February 5th, 1942: Helwan
  • February 5th-14th, 1942: L.G.05
  • February 14th - March 21th, 1942: Fuka

United Kingdom (new crews)

  • May 13th-15th, 1942: Dundonald
  • May 15th-20th, 1942: Ayr
  • May 20th - August 23th, 1942: Wattisham
  • August 23th - November 11th, 1942: West Raynham
  • November 11th-30th, 1942: Bilda

Algeria and Tunisia

  • November 30tth – December 5th, 1942: Canrobert
  • December 5th-17th, 1942: Setif
  • 17 December 1942-7 March 1943: Canrobert
  • 7 March -17 April 1943: Oulmene
  • 17 April -7 June 1943: Souk el Arba
  • 7 June -3 August 1943: Grombalia


  • 3-9 August 1943: Gela West
  • 9-24 August 1943: Comiso
  • 24 August -7 October 1943: Gerbini


  • 7-30 August 1943: Brindisi
  • 30 October 1943-16 February 1944: Foggia
  • 16 February -14 June 1944: Marcianise
  • 14-25 June 1944: Neptune/La Blanca
  • 25 June -18 July 1944: Tarquinia
  • 18 June – 18 October 1944: Cecina
  • 18 October 1944-7 March 1945: Falconara
  • 7 March -13 May 1945: Forlì
  • 13 May 1945-12 September: Aviano


  • 12 September 1945-13 March 1946: Hassani

Ref: Rickard, J (30 October), No. 18 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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