Inquest rules death of Spitfire hero found in Cornwall 76 years after he crashed as accident
- WWII Spitfire pilot Daniel Cremin died after he and another plane crashed
- An inquest, opened after his remains were found, ruled his death an accident
- Squadron Leader Cremin died 24 March 1942 on a low-flying exercise
Heroic Spitfire pilot Daniel Cremin died after he and another plane crashed in mid-air, an inquest has heard – 76 years after his death.
Squadron Leader Cremin died 24 March 1942 on a low-flying nighttime, training exercise over Cornwall.
Both planes were completely destroyed and his family were sent a sealed coffin allegedly carrying his remains, which were buried at Wardour Roman Catholic Cemetery in Tisbury, Wiltshire.
But in June 2017, metal detectorist Stuart Palmer discovered the Australian pilot’s bones after digging down four feet at the crash site near St Erth, Hayle.
Squadron Leader Daniel Cremin, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery. An inquest in Cornwall ruled his death in WWII on a training flight was an accident
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The inquest was finally held and recorded his death as a ‘tragic accident’.
The coroner in Truro heard how Sq Ldr Cremin was a decorated pilot and was flying over fields when he was struck by another Spitfire being piloted by William Norman.
They both died in the collision and his plane crashed to the ground at Fryther Farm, St Erth, Cornwall.
Coroner Matthew Boyling recorded a verdict of accidental death said: ‘Daniel Cremin died as the result of a mid-air collision with another Spitfire and the death occurred on Fryther Farm.
‘The inquiry makes it clear that the cause of death is an accident and the inquest is going to record that.’
Daniel Cremin (2nd left) photographed here as a lieutenant, with fellow RAF members at a Royal Air Force base in Iraq. After his death, his family were sent a sealed coffin allegedly carrying his remains, which were buried at Wardour Roman Catholic Cemetery in Tisbury, Wiltshire
DS Nigel Green, of Devon and Cornwall’s Major Crime Investigation Team, told the inquest: ‘The police were called by a local chap, a metal detectorist.
‘He was excavating a farm and had dug down 4ft and discovered what he believed to be human remains. A neck bone.’
The find was sent off for examination and it was confirmed the bones were human – part of a femur – and the site was excavated further.
More bones were unearthed, including a pelvis, and efforts were made to identify the remains.
Undated family handout photo of Daniel Cremin and wife Patricia Whitmore (left) in Egypt. A coroner in Cornwall said: ‘Daniel Cremin died as the result of a mid-air collision with another Spitfire and the death occurred on Fryther Farm’
DS Green said: ‘We sought expert advice, they were unable to say which plane it was so we were looking for ID marks during the dig.
‘It was one of two persons, both of which were involved in the air crash. Both planes were severely damaged and burst into flames on landing.’
After the collision both planes were destroyed, and while Norman’s plane nosedived to the ground, Daniel’s lost a wing and spiralled to earth.
Examination of the impact zone led police to believe the crash site was that of Daniel Cremin’s plane.
Daniel Cremin (middle row 3rd right) with fellow RAF personnel. He was born in Australia and enlisted with the Royal Australian Air Force in 1936. He was commissioned in the Royal Air Force in 1938
DNA samples from Daniel’s son, Mark Cremin, who lives in East Sussex, confirmed the identity of the remains.
DS Green confirmed that Cremin’s remains have now been interned to his original grave.
No members of the his family attended the inquest, but speaking before the hearing, son Mark said he was informed last year that bones had been found by a metal detectorist.
He was just two years old at the time of his father’s death.
Sqr Ldr Cremin’s son, Mark, who has buried his father at the original burial site in Wiltshire
He said: ‘It’s a bit of mystery why they are having an inquest now. His remains, or so my mother thought, were buried in 1942.
‘Quite clearly, there was nothing in the coffin except sand bags.
‘I took his bones and interred them at his grave, where he has a Commonwealth War Grave headstone, at the Roman Catholic Cometary at Wardour in Wiltshire.’
Sqr Ldr Cremin was born in Sydney in 1917 and enlisted with the Royal Australian Air Force in 1936.
He was commissioned in the Royal Air Force two years later after being part of a pilot exchange scheme between Britain and Australia.
The inscription on Sqr Ldr Cremin’s grave in Wiltshire reads: ‘He left the vivid air signed with his honour’
In 1938 he served in the Middle East, being promoted to flight lieutenant two years later.
During that time, he met Patricia Whitemore near Cairo, Egypt and they secretly married in 1939. She returned to her family in Wiltshire when war broke out.
Mark was born in February 1940 but Sqr Ldr Cremin remained on duty in the Middle East.
He won a Distinguished Flying Cross in 1941 for his bravery during the siege of Habbaniya in Iraq.
That Christmas, he was able to return to Wiltshire to be with his wife and meet his baby son but then went to Portreath in Cornwall.
The inscription on Sqr Ldr Cremin’s grave reads: ‘He left the vivid air signed with his honour.’
His wife lived in Tisbury until her death in 1974.
His name is also listed on the Australian national war memorial in the capitol Canberra.
Squadron Leader Daniel Cremin, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery.
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