Belfast Telegraph

Belfast war hero who died fighting the Nazis is set to have a street named after him... 1,000kms from his home

By Rebecca Black

Almost a thousand kilometres from his home, a Belfast man is being celebrated as a hero.

RAF Flight Sergeant Engineer Charles Philip Kelly (20) from Cregagh in the east of the city died on April 25, 1944 while taking part in a bombing raid of a key German transportation system.

He was part of a crew of seven aboard a Lancaster bomber who took the fight to the Nazis on their home turf, attacking transportation at Karlsruhe in western Germany.

It was on the flight home that 115 Squadron was attacked by a German Messerschmitts at 5,600 metres over northern Belgium as they headed for their base at Witchford in Cambridgeshire.

Sergeant Kelly's Lancaster crashed around 3km outside the city of Mechelen close to Antwerp in the Flanders region.

All seven crew were killed. It was their eighth mission.

The young flight engineer was first reported as missing in the Belfast Telegraph in June 1944 before the heartbreaking truth became known.

He was believed to have been initially buried where he died before his remains were later moved to the Schoonselhof Cemetery along with 1,557 Allied fallen.

Now, 70 years later, Sergeant Kelly is set to be honoured with a new memorial and even a street named after him in Flanders by a group of Belgians who want to celebrate his life. A poignant memorial already stands to the men beside a river where they died, but more plans to honour them have been devised.

The crash site is being redeveloped for housing and industrial use but locals are determined not to forget the seven airmen who took on the Nazis in the skies overhead.

There is a plan to name buildings or streets after the seven.

So far the Belgians have been able to get in contact with the families and obtain good quality photographs of six of the men – Robert-Roland Cagienard, Frank Desmond King, Albert-Clayton Letcher, William Shorten, Joseph-Murdock MacLeod, Frederick Albert Foster – but have not been able to find Sergeant Kelly's descendants.

His parents Charles and Margaret Kelly lived in an ex-servicemen's home in Somme Drive until the 1950s when they moved to the Chesham area off Ardenlee Avenue.

It is believed Sergeant Kelly may have had a sister and the Belfast Telegraph is keen to trace any relatives, and particularly to find a good quality picture of the young RAF man.

Belgian man Filip Doms is leading the effort and told the Belfast Telegraph that locals want to keep the memory of the RAF men alive.

"Thanks to the many sacrifices we have the freedom today that we find so normal," he said.

"I'm a member of several organisations which are trying to keep the memory alive so what happened in the dark years of Nazi occupation will never be forgotten.

"We are just missing a good quality photo of Charles Kelly to make the crew complete.

"I hope you can help me."

Meanwhile, thanks to the efforts of campaigner Ken Switzer, Sergeant Kelly is also set to be honoured at a war memorial just yards from where he grew up.

Castlereagh Borough Council voted at their February meeting to add his name to the WW2 tablet at Thiepval Avenue, Cregagh.

  • Anyone who is a descendant of Sergeant Charles Kelly of Somme Drive, Cregagh, or thinks they have information which may help Mr Doms can write to him at Residentie Offendonk, Den Haes 8a box 04, 2860 Sint-Katrelijne-Waver, Belgium, email crewphoto@ outlook.com or contact Rebecca Black on 028 9026 4358 or email rblack@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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