18.08.1944 No. 401 Squadron Spitfire IX MK284 Fl/Lt. Fairfield
Operation: Armed recce
Date: 18th August 1944 (Friday)
Unit: 401 Squadron RCAF (The Rams)
Type: Spitfire IX
Base: RAF Staplehurst, Kent
Location: Cerqueux, France
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Charles Ernest Fairfield J/12542 RCAF Age 21. Killed
We are extremely grateful to François Dutil (438 Squadron Archivist) for supplying photographs and information to Aircrew Remembered in October 2017. All photographs shown within this page are available to relatives at a higher resolution (as are most of those named within this page) - courtesy of François.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Allied forces were forcing the Germans to retreat and the Battle of the Falais gap started on the 18th August with the allied air forces attacking German armoured columns and other transport.
3 aircraft from the squadron were hit, the others:
Spitfire IX NH260 Flown by 28 year old, Sq/Ldr. 'Charlie' Hugh CharlesTrainor DFC. C/1697 RCAF - crash landed in Normany - returned on the 25th August. The following month, on the 19th September flying Spitfire IX JK795 baled out following engine failure, taken PoW. (1)
Spitfire IX ML141 Flown by 26 year old, F/O. 'Tex' Robert Munro Davernport J/18048 RCAF. Earlier on the 09th January 1944 flying Spitfire IX MH827 shot down by flak, managed to evade capture returning to his unit in April 1944. (2)
It seems that Fl/Lt. Charlie Fairfield was also a victim of flak and came down in the village of Cerqueux, France.
At the time the Germans were still in the area and came across his Spitfire, upside down and in a field.
An officer serving in the Waffen SS, Mssr. Eugene Finance, from Mittelwihr in the Alsace region (on the eastern region of France - bordering Germany and accepted into the German Army) wrote to the brother of the pilot and explained the circumstances:
(Webmaster note: we do have copies of this correspondence with thanks to François)
Mittelwihr, 16th May 1993
"In reply to your letter of 13 May, I am sending to you information concerning the death of First Lieutenant Charles Ernest Fairfield of the Royal Canadian Air Force, the 18 August 1944.
As an Alsacien, I was incorporated in to the armoured division of the Waffen SS. After the Russian campaigns, where I found myself with 19 men of my company, in the pocket of Kamnez Podolsk in March/April 1944, from where we were successfully relieved after one month by divisions brought up rapidly to attack the exterior of the ring surrounding us. From there we were transported to Belgium. The 6th June 1944, after spending ten days or so north of Bruges, in case of eventual allied landings on the mouths of the Rhine and the Escaut which the Germans esteemed to be near, particularly in light of the real battles developing in Normandy. We were therefore taken by train towards Paris and from there by road for three nights toward the Normandy front.
The 7 July 1944, I found myself in a field of Colza near the Abbey of Ardennes, where in the evening, my small group watched the bombing of Caen by 500 four engined bomber aircraft. After the failure of the attack on Hortain to cut the American lines, in an effort to retake Avranches, thing began to develop very rapidly which created a pocket at Falaise. The 20 July (Alec's note: this is where the dates do not gel..) 1944, two Canadian Bren Gun carriers really wrought havoc (he is using a very typical French military slang to describe this), pierced our front at Bras and Hubert Folie, and they immobilised our truck (two rounds through the radiator). With a lot of luck we managed to escape the pocket of Falaise the 18th August 1944, just before the complete closure of the area. After having been awakened and "hitting the ground running by a tank of the 1st Polish Division (this tank suffered heavy defeat two days later at Coudehart-Montormel). We had passed nervous days and a short night in the village of Champeaux, near Camembert), our flight took us by Meulles to the cross roads of Orbec, with one of the roads leading to Cerqueux. Under menace from aircraft, on a blindingly bright sunlit day, we hid in an orchard in front of the first farm. A Sherman tank captured by the Germans was in the orchard, and as fighter aircraft kept turning overhead, we hid under this tank It soon dawned on me that these aircraft were looking for a downed comrade, whose airplane had been shot down in a field about 100 meters from our position".
Above L-R: Col (ret) Albert R. Brum (half brother). He served for Canada in WW2 and in US special forces in Vietnam, Honorary Colonel (438 Squadron) André “Andy” Lord, Fl/Lt. (ret) Vic McMann (438 Squadron Typhoon pilot)
"As soon as I arrived on the scene, I ascertained that there was indeed an aircraft lying there, with the wheels in the air. The pilot was lying next to the aircraft, dead, perhaps he had been extracted from tile aircraft by other German soldiers. I remember that he had the lower jaw (maxillary inferior) completely shattered".
"A young soldier had already removed his fur lined boots, another held his identity card in his hands, and I asked him to give it to me. The card carried the name of Charles Ernest Fairfield of the Royal Canadian Air Force, born 1921 (I do not remember the exact birthdate). I kept this card with me for a long time, despite the danger it represented, but I think I must have lost it later, during the battles for the Ardennes in December 1944.
I went therefore to the first farm on the road to Cerqueux, on the right hand side of the route, and I asked the farmer to make sure that he be buried as quickly as possible, particularly in light of the intensely hot weather that we were experiencing.
Evening came, and I had to leave towards Orbec across the river Seine, through Belgium and Germany and to other battle fields.
My first vacation after the war was spent going back to Normandy and to pass by Cerqueux little village, small Mayors house closed, nobody to be seen. In the little cemetery in front of the church, there was no trace of the grave of the aviator! The next day, on the road to Falaise-Caen, I spotted on the left side of the route, a white marker. My curiosity thus led me to the Canadian Military Cemetery of Centheaux. It was with deep emotion that I found the name of "my Lieutenant" in the alphabetical list at the entrance to the grave yard, and finally his grave at the bottom and on the left, and could no longer hold back my own tears.
Several years later, second trip to Cerqueux, the wife of the Mayor advised me that there had indeed been a Canadian aviator buried in their cemetery but that his body had been transferred. On my third journey (I kept Normandy deep in my heart..), in 1984, I met the Mayor of Cerqueux, and learned that his wife had since passed away. The Mayor, Mr. Marcel Boudin-Des Vergere, was taken prisoner of war in Pomerania, and was kept in the same camp as Sergeant Francois Mitterand, today the President of the Republic!
I spoke to the Mayor about the aircraft that crashed not far from his house which had a wing ripped off by one of the rocks that he had crashed into. He told me that the wing had already been torn off when the aircraft crashed, probably due to the anti-aircraft fire. I could still see the traces the ground, where the aircraft had slid to a stop between two rocks; these traces could still be there today.
As soon as I got back to Alsace, by letter I sent the coordinates of the grave at Cinthaux and the names of Lieut Fairfield. The Mayor replied on the 28th October 1984, thanking me for this information which he assured me were very precious for the archives of his community. Excuse me if this has been a bit long, and here is hoping that the projected cairn will the light of day in 1994.
My best salutations",
(1) Hugh CharlesTrainor DFC and Bar. DSO Passed away on the 04th July 2004 age 88.
(2) Robert Munro Davernport DFC. MiD. Passed away on the 16th May 1988 age 70.
Fl/Lt. Charles Ernest Fairfield. Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery. Grave XXV.C.2. Born on the 13th April 1923 in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, England, the son of Ernest Fairfield and Dorothy May Fairfield (née Tonkin), of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Husband of Annetta Bertha Marie Fairfield (née Brum) Moved to Toronto, Canada to study aeronautics prior to joining the RCAF on the 04th July 1941.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Francois Dutil, other sources as quoted below: