15/16.03.1944 426 Squadron Lancaster II DS771 OW-P Plt.Off. Simard
Date: 15/16th March 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: 426 (Thunderbird) Squadron RCAF Motto: "On Wings of Fire"
Type: Lancaster II
Base: RAF Linton-on-Ouse, North Yorkshire
Location: Boblingen Forest near Stuttgart
Pilot: Plt.Off. Arthur Gerald Sylvain Simard J/86165 RCAF Age 23. Killed
Flt.Eng: Sgt. William Arthur Hammond 927501 RAF Age 29. Killed
Nav: Plt.Off. John Philip Brooks J/87931 RCAF Age 22. Killed
Air Bmr: Fg.Off. Henry Kenneth Young J/27272 RCAF Age 29. Killed
W.Op/Air Gnr: Fg.Off. Richard Bursleigh Black J/11844 RCAF Age 23. Killed
Mid Upper Gnr: Plt.Off. Ivan William Martin J/90279 RCAF Age 21. Killed
Rear Gnr: Plt.Off. Lorne Edgar Yeo J/88648 RCAF Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the night of 15/16th March 1944 some 860 Bomber Command aircraft left their bases in the UK to raid the southern German city of Stuttgart. The force was routed over France and almost to the Swiss border before turning north east to line up the attack on Stuttgart. This served to delay the German night fighters but when they did arrive, brutal air combats ensued. 27 Lancasters and 10 Halifaxes were lost, 4.3% of the force. This was not considered a successful raid mainly because of the winds which had the dual effect of causing the Pathfinder Force to drop its markers early and cause the inevitable creep back.
DS771 was claimed by Uffz Bruno Rupp 4/NJG3 - South West of Stuttgart: 5,800m at 23:28.The aircraft crashed at Steinenbronn, South West of Stuttgart (Baden-Württemberg). (Nachtjagd Combat Archives 1944 Part 1 - Theo Boiten)
Despite some hitting the centre of town, most of the bombs were dropped in the south west suburbs and in open country southwest of the city, near where Herr Gottlieb Mayer had a small cottage. Despite many years of researching Bomber Command losses, Herr Mayer's letter and the sentiments expressed therein come as a surprise. It is published here for the first time in its entirety.
Report On Crash Of British Aircraft On 15/16th March 1944 In Forest Boblingen Nr. Stuttgart (U.S. Zone)
by Gottlieb Mayer, 154, Bismarck Strasse, Stuttgart - Vaihingen
"Immediately after the heavy air raid on Stuttgart, 15/16th March, 1944, we, the two undersigned, went through the vast wooded areas of the Boblinger forest for the purpose of looking for shot down airmen and giving help to the injured. The latter, regrettably, was impossible since all eight airmen were dead when we discovered them. We took, at the time, photographs of these airmen at their places of death and the identity discs which they wore in the hope to be able to do a last favour to the next-of-kin after the war was over and to be of some assistance to the RCAF Missing Research Units.
My actions were discovered by the German Secret Police through a letter which I wrote to my friend, Walter Rapp, who was, at the time, at an internment camp in England. I was arrested, my home was searched and unfortunately the original negatives, the photographs and identity discs were confiscated, all but two which are attached hereto and were kept in my garden house outside the town. I was released eventually with a severe reprimand.
The time has come now that the war is no longer separating nations and even the German people dare hope they will be trusted and humanly recognised again by others and so we will write down this story for the next-of-kin of the dead airmen and for the Royal Canadian Air Force.
On the outskirts of the Boblinger forest in the fields near the village Musberg, lies our weekend house, about 15 kilometres away from the town centre of Stuttgart. During the last years of the war, when the air raids became more frequent and heavier we used to spend our nights there. On Wednesday the 15th March, 1944, we sat together in our little home and I read now my diary:-
The 15th of March was almost over, quiet and peacefully. Outside it became winterly once more and a white carpet of snow lies over forest and fields. We sit in our warm little hut and enjoy the peace of the evening. There, at 23:00 hours the alarm was sounded, we just do the necessary arrangements and then they are already there, waves of enemy aircraft over us. The hell broke loose. Anti-aircraft fire all around - and the aircraft release bomb after bomb and mine after mine. Our little meadow and the whole forest look as if they were ploughed. Twice we hear a terrible noise in the air - then a tremendous explosion as if thousands of bombs fell at the same time. Somebody is crying through the clamour that may have been a crashing plane.The hale of bombs finds no end. Suddenly - through the small slits in the cellar windows it shines - light - fire. Our little hut must be on fire. We jump out of the cellar to see and help and put out some small fire bombs which fell on and around the house. Incendiary bombs are stuck in the ground every second yard and burn - explosions everywhere of HE bombs so that we are forced to return to the sheltering cellar. On the near edge of the forest a mine crashes down - not far away another heavy bomb - any second we could get hit. And this hell lasts for one and a half hours. Our nerves cannot stand it any longer - a minute seems to be an hour. Slowly the noise of the enemy engines ceases. There - again the clattering of bombs - very near. Inside our little hut it bursts and crashes. The window panes break, the lamp, crockery, the clock and everything else falls off the walls and cupboards and splinters and crashes on the floor. Then there is quiet! - And we endured it once more and are still alive.
The sky is flaming red. Steinenbronn, Musberg and Vaihingen are in flames. Dazed and dazzled we walk around, check our hut and walk around to the meadow. The incendiary bombs still burn in the ground, phosphorous bombs glow on the white snow which now got the the marks of our feet all over it. In the middle of the meadow is something which may be part of a crashed plane. But we must wait until it gets light - we can't go on now because we don't know if there are any timed bombs around.
About two o'clock the "all clear" sounds faintly from the neighbouring villages. About half an hour later another terrible explosion. A German night fighter came home, it must have been damaged and crashed before reaching its base.
In the early grey morning hours of Thursday, the 16th March, 1944, we started our search. Round about the hut were parts of a plane, big ones and small ones. Over on the edge of the forest a mine crashed and two HE bombs. We search through the next part of the badly damaged forest and again find parts of a plane and in a subsequent plot, a seat with parachute but no body.
In the meantime, one of us reported this crash to the burgomeister in Musberg and we continued our search all day long, although we should have gone to our work, plot for plot and part after part in the hope we may find an airman who was yet alive and needed our help. About three hundred yards inside plot Rottannenbusch we found the first airman. He lay on his back and appeared to sleep. He had no visible injuries, just a little on both legs where the skin came off when he fell through the trees. The right eye showed a slight bruise. He wore his flying jacket and trousers, also his stockings but no shoes. His identity disc read Can R156776* Airman AGS Simard RC RCAF
He lay there, peacefully and smiling - dead! We did the best we could do for him, bedded him carefully beside the tree where we found him, covering him with pine branches and prayed as his next of kin would have done. Simard wore a plain silver ring, and had many photographs in his breast pocket of himself and others, perhaps his mother or sister or fiancee. We only took a passport photograph of himself for means of identification later on. He had no letters on him or anything else in writing, but some coins and a cheque. In his other breast pocket he had a sealed parcel in waterproof paper which contained maps and foreign currency, perhaps for any emergencies. All these items were confiscated by the German military authorities or the Police after the recovery of the bodies. One of his two discs was retained by us, because we never knew what the Police would do or not do and we did not trust them.
Although our boots and stockings were soaked with snow water we continued our search. Near the high trees in the same plot we saw the second airman, who was the only one who was still fully dressed with Mae West, hat, etc. It was airman IW Martin Can R203508* RC RCAF. We presumed that this was the pilot, because of his clothing and were wondering whether the seat with the parachute which was about 500 yards away, had been his.
Airman Martin lay on his back, like his comrade, without any visible injuries. His right hand rested on the floor, and next to it were two candy wrappings. He was tall and beautifully built like the first one we found and had gentle features. We felt so sorry for him and grabbed his pulse whether there was still any sign of life. He didn't look dead at all. Had he been alive after the crash - often we asked ourselves the same question. What about the candy papers beside him or did they fall out of his pockets? We bedded him with all human love in between pine branches and said a prayer for him and his poor parents. We took one of his discs to prove later on to the next of kin that this was their son.
Unfortunately, as pointed out before, the photographs we took were confiscated by the German Gestapo and we are not able to give a last photo to the next of kin. If it is desired, however, we can supply photographs of the spot where these airmen were found.
On the strength of our report to the burgomeister five policemen arrived the same afternoon and accompanied us on our further search. Since we knew the forest very well we lead the small recovery party. In plot Rottannenbusch we found a bundle of clothing, bloodstained and found it was another airman without arms or legs. This was the worst mutilation of all the eight.
In Schafklinge we found the fourth airman, beside a little path through the forest. His body seemed to be in perfect condition and he was fully dressed. Then there was an alarm - and an air raid on Ulm which stopped our recovery work for hours. Towards the evening, the fifth and sixth airmen were found, also in Schafklinge. One of them must have fallen on a 16 cm thick pine tree, which broke and penetrated through his back and was protruding from the chest.
Night came and we had to wait until the following day to finish our search. It took us another half a day until we found all eight airmen of this crew. One of them was an English airman who was of smaller build and height than the Canadians.
The police force and Wehrmacht kept all the belongings of these dead, only the second identity discs and the single photograph of Simard was all we had in our possession. But unfortunately owing to the house search by the Gestapo all these items had been lost and only Simard's and Martin's discs were saved in our little hut and they are therefore enclosed herewith.
We recovered the bodies from the forest in trucks and buried them in the cemetery at Leinfelden in the presence of German military guards and French PoW's. A picture of the burial is also enclosed.
May this report show that there were Germans, who despite the hardship of air raids did not feel any hatred or anything like it but did what they could do with natural and human feelings and with due regards to the heroism of enemy soldiers who fought for their country. May it show further that these Germans did not refrain from saying and writing openly what they had done for these 'enemies' and even went to jail for it.
The two undersigned are willing, at any time, to give information to the RCAF and the next of kin, if it should be required.
2 May 1947 - signed Gottlieb Mayer - signed Elisabeth Riegraf. 154, Bismarck Strasse, Stuttgart - Vaihingen".
The service files of the six RCAF casualties offer no evidence to indicate that Herr Mayer's letter and kind offers were ever passed on to the families or acted upon by the RCAF. Nothing further is currently known about Herr Mayer or Frau Riegraf but enquiries are being made in Stuttgart.
* Simard, Brooks, Martin and Yeo were posthumously commissioned Pilot Officers.
Burial details and Crew Biographies:
Plt.Off. Arthur Gerald Sylvain Simard. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 4.F.8. Born 24 January 1921 in Tilbury, Ontario, Canada he was the oldest son of Arthur, a sales manager for Electrolux, and Blanche Flore Yvonne (née Lanoue) Simard of Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He came from a large family, with three brothers and three sisters.
His mother had 13 siblings. On 24 February 1936, while attending the Windsor-Walkerville Technical School in Windsor, he had occasion to help rescue a distraught woman who had attempted to end her life by jumping into the freezing Detroit River (see attached newsclippings above). He and a friend were subsequently recognized for their heroism with an award by the Royal Canadian Humane Association in October of 1936. Upon the presentation of framed certificates, local Magistrate Colonel David Marr Brodie made the comment "It is a magnificent thing when lads of your age set such a high value on human life that you would go to the rescue of a drowning person, and more so when it was under such trying circumstances as existed in this instance. I hope the influence of what you have done will remain with you all your lives and reflect in your careers. It is not often that it is given to men to perform such fine and noble deeds".
On enlistment in the RCAF on 21 February 1942, he had been working as a stock clerk for the Chrysler Corporation of Canada's Chatham, Ontario factory. 1944 would strike a further blow to the Simard family when on 31 August, son Reginald, a private in the Perth Regiment, was killed in Italy, three days before his 21st birthday.
Sgt. William Arthur Hammond. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 4.F.13. Born in Lexden, Essex on 6 April, 1914 Sgt Hammond was the youngest child of George and Lucy Elizabeth (née Dangerfield) Hammond of Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk. At the time of his enlistment in the RAF at Uxbridge in September 1939, he had been managing a garage in Sudbury, Suffolk.
Plt.Off. John Philip Brooks. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 4.F.11. Born Toronto, Ontario, Canada on 28 March 1921 Plt.Off. Brooks was the youngest son of barber John Albert and Mary (née Belcher) Brooks of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. At the time of enlistment on 19 May 1942 he had been employed as a furnace operator for the Dominion Bridge Company, Toronto.
Fg.Off. Henry Kenneth Young. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 4.F.7. Born Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on 15 June 1914 Fg.Off. Young was the son of Ray Ephraim Watson and Katie Agnes (née Cattermole) Young of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He married Bernice Rose Beardsley at St. Boniface, Manitoba, Canada 25 October 1941. At the time of enlistment on 23 June 1942 he had been employed with his father as a shipper for the Thomas Eaton Company's Winnipeg store.
Fg.Off. Richard Bursleigh Black. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 4.F.12 Born Innisfail, Alberta on 19 August 1920 Fg.Off. Black was the son of Anson Osler and Marion Elizabeth (née Moore) Black. His father had passed away in 1936 so Richard and his brothers worked the family farm. In late 1944, younger brother, J/85057 Plt.Off. Stewart Blair Black, was awarded the DFC for his time on No. 12 Sqn. On enlistment in the RCAF on 24 June 1941 Richard stated he had managed the family farm since his father's death.
Plt.Off. Ivan William Martin. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 4.F.9. Born Maple Creek, Saskatchewan 21 January 1923 Ivan Martin was the son of farmer Levite Denis and Lydia Loretta (née Ellerman) Martin of Horsham, Saskatchewan, Canada. Like many in this crew, he too came from a large family with four brothers and three sisters. He enlisted in the RCAF at Regina on 5 November 1942.
Plt.Off.. Lorne Edgar Yeo. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 4.F.10. Born in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada 30 August 1923, Yeo was the youngest of nine children of molder Richard John and Bertha May (née Short) Yeo of Tyrone, Ontario, Canada. At the time of enlistment on 10 November 1942, Lorne was apprenticing at the Goodyear factory in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.
Researched for Aircrew Remembered in April 2019 by Dave Champion and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources as shown. Thanks to John Jones for the Night fighter claim details.