This is a story about a plane and its crew that went missing in 1944, and was never heard from again, and how one ring helped to tell the story of what happened.
It all started on Oct. 29, 1944. British World War II pilots were supplying the anti-fascist fighters in Albania, when one plane went missing, and according to military records was assumed to have crashed.
Here is some footage of the planes that were supporting the resistance in Albania.
Recently, a villager out collecting herbs spotted wreckage of a plane, and reported it to the authorities. In October 2014, a U.S. and British team went into the Albanian mountains climbing the 6,000 feet to locate the wreckage.
Chris Casey, a doctor at the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, was part of the expedition. “Clearly what we found was enough to suggest we had found the remains of a big four-engine bomber,” he said to Reuters.
Casey was born in Britain and is an aviation enthusiast. He was frustrated at being unable to identify the plane or its crew.
The unlikely link came from Jaho Cala, an Albanian villager, his son, and a gold ring with the engraving “Joyce & John” that the villager had kept for safe keeping.
In 1960, Cala was in the mountains collecting wood and metal when he found the ring.
This was when the Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha had shut Albania off to the rest of the world.
“He gave it to me when I got married in 1971, but told me clearly the ring did not belong to our family, and I was to return it to its owner after communism ended,” Jaho’s son, Xhemil Cala, told Reuters.
Xhemil, while serving as a police officer, gave the ring to his commanding officer when he heard that he was going to visit Britain. But his commanding officer brought it back saying that he could not find the owner.
He then went to a regional government official, who then got in contact with the British embassy over two years ago.
“The ring… really helped us to solve this riddle,” Casey said to Reuters.
“A flight engineer, Sergeant John Thompson, and Joyce Mozley got married in June 1944, but only spent a weekend together before he was posted overseas,” Alan Webster, Thompson’s nephew, told Reuters at a ceremony in Tirana.
Gerd Kaceli, a military assistant at the British embassy, said “Thompson’s plane had dropped supplies to the Biza valley, but on turning west to return to Italy, it clipped the top of the mountain and crashed, killing the crew.”
Xhemil, at a ceremony in Albania’s Defense Ministry, knelt down in front of Dorothy Webster, Thompson’s 92-year-old sister, and handed her the ring, a fuel gauge, and a rock from the mountain the plane had crashed on.
Defense Minister Mimi Kodheli told Webster: “Your brother helped to liberate my country. He will never be forgotten.”
“I remember him very well, as if it were yesterday,” Webster told Reuters, adding she was “overwhelmed… getting all these keepsakes that we never thought we would ever get.”
It’s great to see other countries remembering our fallen.