Body discovery stuns cousin

By Rosaleen Macbrayne

By ROSALEEN MACBRAYNE

After nearly 60 years, Mt Maunganui resident Raymond Baker had put memories of his long-lost cousin into the back of his mind.

But it all came flooding back yesterday when the 81-year-old opened his Herald to the news that the remains of war pilot Flying Officer Arthur Round had been discovered in northern Iceland.

"I got a shock. I thought, 'Oh, God, they've found Arthur'," said an emotional Mr Baker, who had to read the article half a dozen times.

"Poor Arthur. I wish it didn't have to be like this.

"I'm glad they found him but it is hard to comprehend."

He recalled vividly how his devastated Aunt Mary kept her missing son's bedroom as a shrine, his clothes lying on the bed where he had left them when he went overseas.

"You weren't allowed past the doorway. No one could touch anything," Mr Baker said.

"It shook me to see what happened to her.

"I knew Arthur had been killed but we didn't talk about it in those days."

Mr Baker's father and Mr Round's mother were siblings.

The cousins, one living in Dunedin and the other at Newlands in Wellington, met up as young men not long before Mr Round left New Zealand in 1938 to join the Royal Air Force.

"He was a wee bit older than me and a heck of a nice guy," Mr Baker said.

Mr Round, who had learned to fly with the Wellington Aero Club, was going to England to teach fighter pilots.

When the Second World War broke out he was one of the first New Zealanders to battle the Germans.

Two years later, Flying Officer Round was killed with three British airmen when their RAF Fairey Battle plane crashed in fog into a glacier.

Although a search party found the wreckage, the bodies vanished beneath snow and ice.

Last year, the chance find of a map used by the original searchers, combined with global warming, yielded the well-preserved human remains.

Next month, an RAF mountain rescue team will recover the bodies and bury them with honours at the military cemetery in the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik.

Mr Baker had enlisted in the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1939 and used to visit the Wellington relatives on his trips between his home in Dunedin and his posting in New Plymouth.

Trained as a wireless operator and air gunner, Warrant Officer Baker remained in the Air Force after the war and tried unsuccessfully through the years to find out what had happened to his cousin.

Mr Baker is now the only one left of his wartime colleagues and battling bad health. He believes some memories are better left alone.

"But it has started coming back to me.

"I'm glad they have found Arthur but I wish he was still alive," he said through tears.

"I would love to shake his hand and say, 'Good to see you again'."

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