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Belongings of World War Two pilots returned to their families almost 70 years later

Four RAF airman who died almost 70 years ago in Italy, but whose bodies were not found until 2011. Photo: ITV News/Family handout

It was a journey which began in the dying days of the Second World War - and will end 68 years later with the honours denied to them in death.

When 20-year-olds Sergeant David Raikes, Flight Sergeant David Perkins, Wireless Operator and Air Gunner Flight Sergeant Alexander Bostock and Air Gunner Warrant Officer John Hunt of the Royal Australian Air Force aged 21, took off from Forli near Rimini on April 21, 1945 they had no idea the war in Italy would be over four days later - and their own war would end that night in a field.

The four, part of 18 Squadron Bomber Command, were brought down by German anti-aircraft as they targeted a river crossing on the Po at Taglio di Po.

With no wreckage and no bodies they were listed as missing. For their families there would be no further news.

The torment of their wait summed up in a letter from Warrant Officer Hunt’s mother who described the six months since her son’s disappearance as “just hell”. She and many of the other relatives died without hearing anything more on their missing men.

The answers they had so longed for came in July 2011 when a team of amateur archeologists discovered the wreckage buried when they crashed.

Metal detectors revealed an engagement ring and an inscribed watch, excavation work unearthed human remains and the wreckage of Boston BZ590.

Today the local community in Felonica, Northern Italy, honoured those who perished by opening the Boston Room in the local museum.

In it are the parts of the plane and personal effects of those who lost their lives.

The rusted, warped metal work that survived the impact and subsequent fire. It will stand as a memorial to the commitment and sacrifice of Bomber Command.

Tomorrow decades on the men who set out to serve their country in another will be laid to rest - honoured by the country they died in and country they died for.