03/04.04.1943 No. 408 Squadron Halifax II JB866 EQ-T P/O. Sirett
Date: 3/4th April 1943 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 408 Squadron (Goose RCAF) (motto: 'For Freedom')
Type: Halifax II
Location: Opheusden, 6 km. South East of Rhenen, Holland
Pilot: P/O. Ebenezer Alfred Sirett J/16946 RCAF Age 24. Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Kenneth Oliver Brice 922835 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Nav: W/O2. Maurice Gordon Church R/114615 RCAF Age 27. Killed (2)
Air/Bmr: P/O. Grant Alexander Fletcher J/17222 RCAF Age 27. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. John Dugald McBride J/9850 RCAF Age 34. Killed (3)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Gilbert Davies Boyer R/90535 RCAF Age 26. Killed (4)
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Franklyn Roy Burke R/104185 RCAF Age 22. Killed
Update September 2019 relatives of F/O. John Dugald McBride have now contacted us!
REASON FOR LOSS:
The aircraft took off from RAF Leeming at 19:52 hrs. Attacked by a German night fighter and crashed at 22.45 hrs at Opheuesden (Gelderland), 6 km South East of Rhenen, Holland. Sgt. Brice the only RAF crew member came from the Isle Brewers in Somerset. He was a school friend of Edwin Chorley the brother (Bill) of the author of 'Bomber Command Losses', which are simply the best reference books for this part of our history, we are proud that we credit his work as supplier on many of our reference pages.
We also have supplied Bill with updates that we are informed about. In return he sends updates on his publications.
The story as told to a Canadian newspaper in 2003:
'The crew's efforts were thwarted when a German night fighter, piloted by German nightfighter ace Hptm Hans-Dieter Frank from 2./NJG1 attacked their bomber.
Frank's attack on the bomber commenced shortly before 2245 hrs. According to eye witnesses living in and around the village of Opheusden, Netherlands P/0 Sirett's plane was circling above the southern edge of their little village heading west. The bomber was heavily engulfed in flames and prior to turning to the north jettisoned several bombs. The plane was descending very rapidly as It veered to the east. Several of the witnesses's felt the pilot was attempting an emergency landing in a farmer's field located adjacent to the Rhine River that flowed north of the village.
The plane crashed with a tremendous force disintegrating as it landed. Several articles were found in the village of Opheusden within a short distance from the crash sight, These included the aircraft's tail wheel, a dinghy, an airman's jacket and a parachute lodged in a tree.
It was early morning at the Sirett farm located near the little village of Franklin, Manitoba. The schoolteacher boarding at the Sirett home and who later became Lloyd's wife had not left for work. Mrs Sirett was busying herself around the kitchen when the telephone rang. Lloyd the second oldest son answered the call. On the line was Franklin's C.P.R telegraph operator, his voice low and subdued- It was a message that so many people dreaded during the war years. The telegram was to advise the family Ebenezer was missing in action, "It was the worst news I've ever received, it really shook me. I knew I was not capable of facing mother with the news" Lloyd exclaimed A weak and sinking feeling came over Lloyd. " I raced over to get my brother William and his wife Vera and told them of the tragic news I had just received and together we told my mother," Lloyd said.
"One could only imagine the emotion's in the Sirett's home if you had never experienced the same circumstances A few days later the family were advised by a delivered telegram, the aircraft Ebenezer was piloting had been shot down April 3,1943. The crew of seven were all killed. The airmen were buried near the crash site. The German occupational troops conducted the burials in the parish priest garden near the Roman Catholic church located in the Dutch village of Uden April 4,1943 - The bodies were exhumed in September 1946 and reunited with 697 of their fallen comrades in the Uden War Cemetery in Holland. The family was quite surprised when a few of Ebenezer's personal belongings arrived home several weeks later. Included in the parcel was Ebenezer's logbook which Lloyd still has today, a cherished keepsake.'
Pictured left: Hptm Hans-Dieter Frank from 2./NJG1
A few months ago Lloyd received a letter from The Foundation "Uden War Cemetery" secretary Antoon Verbakel.
The aims of the foundation are to make contact with the relatives to advise them of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of their family members, the location of the crash sites and the previous burial of their loved ones. The Foundation had completed several investigations and were inquiring if Lloyd's brother Ebenezer had owned a silver lighter with the initials E.A.S, inscribed on it.
The lighter was found by a farmer following the clean up of the crash site located in his field. He also located what he believes to be a personal belonging of F/O. John Dugald McBride J9850 who came from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and was a member of Ebenezer's crew.
All efforts to locate a relative of McBride's have failed to this date and they wondered if the Sirett's had ever been in contact with the McBride family. Unfortunately they have not, until now....
Further information on F/O. John McBride submitted by relatives, Louisa Coates and Ruth Zuk, September 2019:
"John Dugald McBride was born December 9, 1909 in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. John’s parents were John Carr McBride of Ballycastle, Ireland and Jane McLachlan McTavish of Lochgilphead, Scotland.
John had two sisters and was the middle child in the family. His older sister was Margaret McBride, who was born in 1901 and married Clarence Coates. Margaret and Clarence had one son, Donald Francis Coates. Donald married Sally Carling and had four children: David, Louisa, John and Diana Coates.
Above as described - does anyone recognise the chap on the extreme right? (Courtesy Louisa Coates)
John's younger sister was Ellen McBride, born in 1911 and married Raymond Brown. Ellen and Ray had one daughter, Ruth Ellen Brown. Ruth married Bernie Zuk and they had one son: Evan Zuk. John married Margaret Ellen (Nellie) Vickery and they had a son born in the mid-1930s. The son died as an infant.
Enlisted in the RCAF in 1941 and was killed with five other air crew when their plane was shot down and crashed in Opheusden in 1943.Nellie McBride remarried and became Nellie Vatzel. She and her husband moved to Vancouver.
From family accounts, John was outgoing and friendly and had a good sense of humour. His sisters grieved the loss of their brother and talked of him all of their lives. My grandmother Margaret spoke highly of John until she died in 1991".
The 'Ronson lighter' and P/O. Ebenezer Alfred Sirett of the RCAF.
Lloyd carries on the story:
"The lighter arrived on November 8th 2003 a few days before remembrance day services being held in Neepawa, Manitoba November 11th. "I can hardly believe that 60 years later I would be holding Ebenezer's lighter in my hands" Lloyd said. "When I took the lighter out of the box I had to fight back tears, it brought back so many memories" "I certainly appreciate the way they (The Dutch) have treated us and the way they remembered Eb". "It's been a real eye opener for me how people so far away can be so personal in your life".
"I recognised the Ronson lighter with the initials E.A.S. engraved on it. The lighter was a Christmas gift given to Ebenezer prior to his posting overseas."
Other than having a couple of dents the lighter is in relatively good shape after all these years. Mrs. Lena Jenkins and her husband Cliffe, residents of British Columbia were attending the memorial service being held at the Uden War Cemetery in May 2003. The couple met Mr Verbakel and during their conversation with him greed to make every attempt on locating the surviving members of the Sirett family on their return to Canada.
Thanks to the concerted efforts of the Jenkins couple the initial contact was made with Lloyd.
This Remembrance day will have a special meaning to Lloyd as he sands in front of Neepawa's War Memorial. His hand firmly grasping Ebenezer's lighter, happy thoughts of days gone by and the deep feeling of sadness experienced by him and his family during those turbulent times of war some 60 years ago will no doubt be racing through his mind.
Appreciation on receiving the lighter can't be over exemplified. Lloyd the only surviving member of the Franklin-area family of three boys and two girls feel it brings a little closure. "It's a long about way, the lighter is back home", said Lloyd, "I'm the last one in the family, so I'll hang on to it.
(1) Sirett lake in Manitoba is named after P/O. Sirett
(2) W/O2. Maurice Gordon Church family also lost another son
(3) Boyer Lake in Timiskaming District of Ontario is named after Sgt. Boyer
(4) McBride Bay in Saskatchewan is named after F/O. McBride
From L to R: unknown, Sgt. Brice, Plt.Off. Sirett. Standing in front of the what is believed to be the starboard main wheel of Halifax II JB866 EQ-T (Courtesy: Peter Bird)
P/O. Ebenezer Alfred Sirett. Uden War Cemetery 4.F.8. Son of Frederick Alfred and Mabel Adela Sirett, of Neepawa, Manitoba, Canada.
Grave inscription: "He Has Gone Where Wars Can Never Be Where Happiness Reigns Thro' Eternity".
(left: Courtesy: Peter Bird)
Sgt. Kenneth Oliver Brice. Uden War Cemetery 4.F.6. Born on the 11th April 1922. No further details known as yet.
W/O2. Maurice Gordon Church. Uden War Cemetery 4.G.13. Son of George and Annie Isabel Church, of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription: "I Have Fought A Good Fight , I Have Finished My Course , I Have Kept The Faith".
P/O. Grant Alexander Fletcher. Uden War Cemetery 4.F.5. Son of Dewitt Fletcher, and of Lena M. Fletcher, of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Grave inscription: "Born At Saskatoon, Sask., Canada, 26Th Day Of September 1915".
F/O. John Dugald McBride. Uden War Cemetery 4.F.10. Son of John Carr McBride and Jane McLachlin McBride, of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada, husband of Margaret Ellen McBride.
Sgt.Gilbert Davies Boyer. Uden War Cemetery 4.F.7. Survived by his wife Mrs. G.D. Boyer of Haileybury, Ontario
Fl/Sgt. Franklyn Roy Burke. Uden War Cemetery 4.F.9. Son of Anthony F. and Irene Burke, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Grave inscription: "Eternal Rest Grant Unto Him, O Lord ; May He Rest In Peace. Amen".
Dedicated to relatives of the crew with thanks to the following for further valuable information, The Neepawa Press of Canada, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Fred Paradie - 'Paradie Archive'. Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries (Updated 2014 version), The Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'. Thanks to Peter Bird for the photographs and DoB of Sgt. Brice, which were given to him by his neighbour, the sister of Sgt. Brice. Louisa Coates and Ruth Zuk for details on F/O. John Dugald McBride - September 2019.