When he was just a child of three Charles D. Crowe immigrated from Wales to Canada with his parents. When World War II broke out Charles became a pilot officer (air gunner) in the 432nd Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force. In the fall of 1944 his squadron was based in East Moore, Yorkshire, England.
On the evening of September 15th, 1944 allied air crews launched a bombing raid on Kiel, Germany. Kiel, capital of the northernmost German state Schleswig-Holstein, was the site of several camps that provided slave labor for local industry during World War II. Because of its status as a naval port and as production site for submarines, Kiel was heavily bombed by the Allies during the war.
Charles and six other crew members, flying in a Halifax VII aircraft, were returning from the bombing run when their plane collided with a Halifax III aircraft of the 466th Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force (also flying a crew of 7).
The crash occurred at 1:05 am (16 Sep) over the island of Als (Occupied Denmark, Nørreskove Forest). Wreckage from the two aircraft was found in a wide area between Elstrup, Østerholm and Hundslev. Five engines were found just north of the village of Hundslev.
All 14 crewmen perished. None of the crew could be identified, but most of their remains were collected by German Wehrmacht soldiers. The remains were brought to the German barracks in Sønderborg and on the next day taken to Aabenraa where they were laid to rest in Aabenraa cemetery on September 18th, 1944 (Aabenraa Cemetery (Denmark) near the south-east Jutland coast about 25 kilometers north of the German border). The burial was without ecclesiastical assistance, and there was no ceremony in connection with the interment, which not even the gravedigger of the cemetery was allowed to attend.
When the Wehrmacht and the Danish police had left the crash site area, a forester named Angelo and his woodmen searched the forest and collected a number of human remains. On the evening of 16 September these were buried in a small mound in the forest. Angelo said a short prayer and a propeller blade was set on the grave, engraved with the words "Here rest allied airmen 15.9 1944. Rest in Peace". On 5 June 1945 the forest mound was consecrated as a grave site.
The propeller was left there until after the war when it was replaced by a small stone with the text: RAF 19-9-1944. The propeller blade is now at the Sønderborg Slot Museum.
In August 1946 the British authorities decided to move the human remains to the cemetery in Aabenraa. Angelo and other local people strongly opposed this but after a couple of months of writing back and forth the mound was opened and the human remains taken to Aabenraa by the British military. The small stone can still be seen in the forest and each year on the evening of September 16th a ceremony is held in the forest by the mound.
(Charles was the Great-Uncle of actor Russell Crowe)