Remains of British pilot killed in Korean war handed over at Panmunjom

By Michael Rank

The remains of a British pilot who was killed in the Korean war have been handed over to British officials at Panmunjom, after being buried for several years near Pyongyang.

The North Korean news agency KCNA said the body of Desmond Hinton had been disinterred at the request of his family, who in March “asked for bringing his remains back home.”

“Authorized by the DPRK government, the Panmunjom Mission of the Korean People’s Army conducted a series of survey which led to accurately unearthing and ascertaining the remains of Hinton and relics left by him and buried them on the spot with care as requested by his bereaved family and provided the family members with facility so that they might visit his grave,” it added.

Several years ago Desmond Hinton’s brother David, relying on reports of how Desmond was shot down over Pyongyang on January 2, 1952, managed to track down his remains and, with the help of the North Korean army and the British embassy, arranged for them to be buried near where his aircraft came down. He visited the site in 2004 and told me he was content for his brother’s remains to lie buried in North Korea.  I reported on this remarkable story in some detail here.

But the family have apparently had a change of heart recently about leaving Desmond’s remains in North Korea, although none of them was immediately available for comment.

Although Desmond was a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force he was one of 41 RAF pilots flying for the United States Air Force when he died.

A British Ministry of Defence spokesman said it could not be confirmed that the remains were those of Desmond Hinton, and that they would be subject to DNA testing.

“We can confirm that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has passed remains to the British authorities. We are unable to confirm the nationality or identity of the remains at this time. A detailed forensic analysis will now take place. We are very pleased with the cooperation we have received from the authorities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” he said in a statement.

The spokesman said that as far as he was aware no family members were present at the handing over of the remains at Panmunjom. He added that it would be usual for the remains to be buried in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan, South Korea, but it was up to the family to make the final decision once identity had been confirmed. Some 885 British troops lie buried at Busan, more than any other nation.

KCNA said this was the second set of British remains to be sent across the DMZ. It said that “The remains of J. Edmuns, a second class private of the British Army, were handed to the British side on October 30, 1995” but gave no details. The British Defence Ministry spokesman said he also had no details of this, although a British diplomat said he was aware of such an event in the 1990s.

KCNA said in an unusually conciliatory report, “Expressing deep gratitude to the government of the DPRK for having made every sincere effort for this humanitarian undertaking, the British side predicted that such cooperation would mark a good occasion in developing the relations between the two countries.

“The Panmunjom Mission of the KPA clarified the stand to render positive cooperation in the future, too in unearthing and sending back remains, the humanitarian work for healing the wounds caused by the past Korean War. ”

Additional information:
This story was covered in The Guardian, Daily Mail, and Yonhap.

Mr. Hinton’s remains were buried in Kuso-ri near the Sunan Airport. You can see a satellite image of the village here: 39°14’26.55″N, 125°42’58.17″E


3 Responses to “Remains of British pilot killed in Korean war handed over at Panmunjom”

  1. Albert c wyllie-Shovlin says:

    Well done Michael, perhaps someone might investigate the MIA’s
    that the Chinese sent to Russia, and who ended up in Siberia as
    slave labour, where they joined allied personnel from POW camps
    “Liberated” by their Russian “allies” in WW2.The Wehrmacht kept very precise files on Pow’s, these are, or should be, still evident, unless destroyed. The Allied governments off the time were aware about this, but were complicit in the suppression of it, as they did not want to “upset” the Russians. These men fought and suffered for their Countries, and were then treated as excrement by their political masters. What an indictment for the politicians of that time. Today nothing changes the Korean MIA’s
    and Veterans are consigned to the dunghill of history, no kudo’s
    in remembrance there, forget it,and the cover ups might never surface,men expected to fight in -40F temp below, wearing tropical uniforms, no ammo, no food, no heat, not enough men, incompetent senior officers, friendly fire, that wasn’t, the list goes on and on, no return parades, no special hospitals, no treatment for mental aberrations, never mind, they are in their eighties now, they’ll soon be all gone, and out off our hair!
    good riddance!!

  2. Toryburch123 says:

    YES! I finally found this web page! I’ve been looking just for this article for so long!!

  3. Michael Rank says:

    Two photos of the handing over of the remains here
    They were taken by Associated Press Television News (APTN) which remarkably has a bureau in Pyongyang, staffed by local North Koreans. They mainly take photos/film of foreign visitors (Jimmy Carter and the like).