Burial honour for crash pilot

Charles 'Butch' Moritz with his parents C J and Ada Moritz and his sister Dee shortly before leaving for England.
Charles 'Butch' Moritz with his parents C J and Ada Moritz and his sister Dee shortly before leaving for England.

A COUPLE who discovered the remains of a Second World War American fighter pilot in Lincolnshire have travelled more than 4,000 miles so they could go to his funeral in the USA.

Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group (LARG) member John Marshall-East and his wife Catherine shelled out hundreds of pounds to make the lengthy trip to Effingham, Illinois to see 2nd Lt Charles Moritz laid to rest with full military honours.

Lt Moritz – known as ‘Butch’ – went missing on June 7, 1944 when his P51 Mustang bomber collided with another aircraft during a training exercise.

In September 2011 LARG had been excavating Newton next Toft farmland for the aircraft flown by Robert Magnusson, who had parachuted to safety – but instead found Lt Moritz’s aircraft, and his remains, buried 18ft underground.

The group found the pilot’s dog tags, military identification, lighter, family business details and his wallet still containing money. All of these things have since been taken back to Lt Moritz’s family.

John said: “It was completely different to any military funeral in the UK. He had full military honours – there was a fly-past, members of the Illinois Patriot Guard, Vietnam veterans and people from the American equivalent of the Royal British Legion. There were a lot of local dignitaries and residents – about 150 people in total.

“People were standing outside of their houses with their hands on their hearts.”

John and Catherine were invited to a brunch held by Lt Moritz’s family ahead of the funeral.

John said: “I was asked to stand up and tell everyone about the day we found Butch.

“The pain and anguish of losing ‘Butch’ has been passed down the family. The story went down very well.”

The wreckage from the crash will eventually go on display at Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre in East Kirkby.