Date: 24/25th July 1944 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: No. 300 Squadron (Polish)
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Faldingworth, Lincolnshire.
Location: Orleans, France
Pilot: P/O. William W. Robinson J/19883 RCAF Age ? Injured, evaded capture.
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Ernest Leonard Morter 1800371 RAFVR Age? Killed
Nav: F/O. C. M. 'Joe' Forman J/25870 RCAF Age ? Injured, evaded capture.
Air/Bmr: F/O. James Irving Duguid J/29676 RCAF Age 22. Killed (1)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leslie Trevor John Page 1581304 RAFVR Age 28. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. James I. Rheubottom R/196199 RCAF Age 19. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Samuel Dunseith R/151859 RCAF Age 23. Injured, evaded capture.
Sadly the friend of Don Christopher, Samuel Dunseith passed away in April 2013 aged 92 - reunited with his crew for the last time.
REASON FOR LOSS:
This aircrew began operations in May 1944 with 626 Sqn. based at RAF Wickenby in Lincolnshire. Pilot William Robinson flew 2nd dickey on May 24th with the crew of P/O Torrance on a mission to Aachen. On May 27th they flew their first operation (to Aachen again) as a full crew.
The crew L-R: Sgt. Leslie Trevor John Page, Sgt. Ernest Leonard Morter, Sgt. Samuel Dunseith, Sgt. James I. Rheubottom, P/O. William W. Robinson, F/O. C. M. 'Joe' Forman, F/O Thomas F. Gallagher (courtesy Don Christopher and the family of Sgt. Samuel Dunseith)
(1) Note:Their usual bomb aimer was F/O Thomas F. Gallagher J/28805 RCAF)
According to the Squadron ORBs, they flew six more missions, all in the same aircraft, Lancaster III PA989 "U2". Their last mission with 626 Sqn was on June 11th, 1944. PA989 was lost on a mission to Russelheim on Aug 25, 1944.
In mid-June, they were transferred to Faldingworth with several other Commonwealth crews, sent to bolster the ranks of Polish 300 Sqn. At that time, 300 Sqn had been only able to muster up to eight crews for Bomber Command. These crews were kept in "A" Flight while the other Commonwealth crews formed "B" Flight.
Coincidentally, they arrived at almost the exact same time as Lancaster B Mk. I, LM178.
According to 300 Sqn. ORBs, the crew flew this aircraft, BH-U "Uncle" exclusively until they were shot down.
Their first operation with 300 Sqn was flown on June 22/23 on the marshalling yards of Reims, France. Their next several missions were on more marshalling yards and V1 rocket sites in France. Their 10th and final mission was their first foray into Germany, Stuttgart, on the night of July 24/25.
Sam Dunseith, the rear gunner, remembers preparing for this mission. He was seated in his turret, getting ready, when Joe Forman came around the wing with a young man following him.
300 Squadron Lancasters over Holland
Their regular bomb aimer, Tom Gallagher was apparently too ill to fly that night. Forman said, 'Sam, this is Jimmy Duguid, our bomb aimer for tonight.' Sam reached between his four Browning .303s (he had removed the centre perspex panel), shook his hand and said, 'Pleased to meet you Jimmy.' When Sgt, Dunseith related this story, he looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and said, 'That was the first and last time I ever saw the guy.' It was Jimmy Duguid's second mission. He had been pilfered from another new RCAF crew for that night's mission. Such are the vagaries of war. Tom Gallagher went on to survive WWII and returned to Canada. He passed away in Toronto in August 1997 at the age of 75.
The model made by Don Christopher (who submitted this article) presenting it to Samuel Dunseith.
LM-178, BH-U "Uncle" (nicknamed "Luck of the Irish" by Gallagher) took off at 20:37hrs. from Faldingworth for their bombing mission on Stuttgart. It was their 10th mission since the transfer to 300 Sqn and most of the crew's 18th mission overall. It was a clear but hazy night, with no moon. Near Orleans, France at 00.11 hours, they were attacked from the starboard rear quarter by a German JU-88 night fighter, flown by Major Paul Semrau (2) of II/NJG2, based out of Chateaudun. The Lancaster was raked along the fuselage and right wing with 30mm cannon fire, smashing the upper turret and setting the wing ablaze. Pilot Robinson ordered them to bail out. They were flying at a height of 2,300 metres when they were attacked.
The crew whilst at OTU (courtesy Don Christopher and the family of Sgt. Samuel Dunseith)
Sgt. Dunsieth had managed to briefly return fire before his turret was disabled and he was slightly wounded. Being rotated to starboard and then disabled, the turret doorway was almost impassable but he was just able to squeeze back into the fuselage, activating his Mae West in the process. When he grabbed his parachute and opened the double doors over the rear wing spar, he was met with a frightening sight. The photo-flash had been ignited in the attack and the interior of the aircraft was burning furiously, half of the bomb bay already being burned away. His friend and mid-upper gunner, 17 year-old Jimmy Rheubottom was hanging dead in his turret. Dunseith pulled open the rear door and jumped out into the burning slipstream, only to have the door slam shut on his foot and leave him hanging by one leg. He wiggled out of his flying boot and fell away from the aircraft. In the front of the Lanc, F/O. Forman was just handing pilot Robinson his parachute. They were both blown clear of the aircraft as it exploded.
Freteval Evaders in Cleveland -1946 (courtesy Don Christopher and the family of Sgt. Samuel Dunseith)
Meanwhile, Sgt. Dunseith was continuing to have problems. As he fell away from the burning bomber, he pulled the D-ring on his parachute. It came off in his hand. He looked down to discover that the front of his chute was on fire. Beating out the flames with his hands, he reached into the chute pack, found the ripcord string and pulled it. Amazingly, his chute opened. Even more incredibly, he and Joe Forman landed only a few feet from each other in the same field.
Stuttgart taken on the 26th July 1944 -
Only they and F/O. Robinson escaped the burning aircraft.
Dunseith had suffered severe facial burns from the fire and was already losing his vision. He and Forman hid in a small wood overnight and in the morning decided that Sam needed medical attention. Their plan was that Forman would help get him to a nearby farmhouse (of Francine LeSerre) where he would count to one hundred before knocking on the door, giving Joe time to escape. In fact, Ms. LeSerre hid him and had his wounds tended to by a local veterinarian.
She contacted the Maquis who eventually moved him (and also Joe Forman) to Freteval forest, on the very edge of the German nightfighter base at Chateaudun. They and almost 60 other evaders were eventually liberated by US soldiers in mid-August. Dunseith was blind from his infected burns during this whole time.
They were returned to England on August 18th where Sgt. Dunseith received further medical treatment, recovering completely. F/O. Robinson had been wounded and captured and was in hospital when the Allies arrived. When the Germans were evacuating the prisoners, a French nurse hid him in a closet and he was found by the Americans as well and returned to England. The rest of the crew, James Duguid, Ernest Morter, Leslie Page and James Rheubottom are buried with honour in St. Laurent-des-Bois, near where their aircraft crashed.
Joe Forman returned to Ontario, Canada where he became a teacher. He died on October 10th 2006. Sam Dunseith returned to Canada and bought a farm near Woodstock, Ontario, and is the only surviving crew member of Lancaster LM178.
Memorial to the lost crew members of LM178 in St. Laurent-des-Bois
(2) This was the 32nd abschusse for Major Semrau (39 victories at this time) who was killed by a Spitfire flown by Fl/Lt. Sleep, from 402 Squadron on the 8th February 1945 at Twente airfield.
F/O. James Irving Duguid. Orleans Main Cemetery. Plot 1. Row A. Grave 5. Son of Joseph Irving Duguid and Olive Duguid, of Notre Dame de Grace, Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada.
Sgt. Leslie Trevor John Page. Orleans Main Cemetery. Plot 1. Row A. Grave 8. Son of John and Elizabeth Page; husband of Cecilia Page, of Herne Hill, London, England.
Sgt. James I. Rheubottom. Orleans Main Cemetery. Plot 1. Row A. Grave 7. Son of Alice Nixon, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Sgt. Ernest Leonard Morter. Orleans Main Cemetery. Plot 1. Row A. Grave 6. No further information currently available.
(3) Rheubottom Lake north east of Nejanilini Lake in Manitoba was named after Fl/Sgt. Rheubottom in1974.
Researched by Don Christopher for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to all the relatives of this crew. All information is taken from R.A.F. Squadron ORBs, RAF Loss and Evasion reports filed by the survivors, and interviews with Sgt. Sam Dunseith and his family members. Thanks as well to the assistance of the forum members of WW2F.com.
The model, of BH-U as constructed by Don Christopher and presented to his friend, Samuel Dunseith.