Missing Airmen with Sean Summerfield

| July 1, 2020

Juno Beach and Beyond
Missing Airmen with Sean Summerfield

In the summer of 1945, the war in Europe was over, but the search for airmen who had gone missing over nearly six years had just begun. While hundreds of thousands of Canadian service personnel returned to Canada and demobilized, Canadians who had lost family and friends during the war grieved. Yet others held out hope as their loved ones were missing in action. This situation was most prevalent in the air force, which saw many of its crews vanish without a trace over the sea or enemy territory. Over 17,000 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) died during the Second World War. Of this number, an estimated 7,000 were missing in 1945.

Today’s guest, Sean Summerfield, joins us to uncover how the Commonwealth air forces provided closure to tens of thousands of missing airmen’s families. After examining the broader efforts of the Missing Research and Enquiry Service (MRES), Sean takes us through the mystery of Lancaster bomber L-7576. Crashing in the Vosges, a range of low mountains in eastern France, the fates of two of the seven crew members took nearly 75 years to come to light. Sean has consulted MRES reports, war crimes investigation records, and French documents and correspondence to determine the fates of Flying Officers Harold Sherman Peabody and Arthur Harrison Doe. The result is an incredible story of how Canadians and French came together to bring closure to families and commemorate the lives of these RCAF airmen.  

Three Canadian crew members of Lancaster bomber L-7576. The pilot, Flying Officer Harold Sherman Peabody, is flanked on his left by Flying Officer Lev Fiddick (bombardier) and right by Flying Officer James H. Doe (navigator). Missing are Flying Officer G. J. Wishart (RAF, flight engineer), Flight Sergeant Richard Proulx (RCAF, mid-upper gunner), and Sergeants A. Payton (RAF, wireless operator) and P.W. Buckley (RAF, rear gunner).


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Time Stamps

3:58 A Family Request

7:07 The Missing Research and Enquiry Service

13:10 Lancaster L-7576

28:02 The First Investigation

31:32 War Crimes

45:40 The Success of the MRES

48:21 Remembering Lancaster L-7565

Guest Biography

Sean Summerfield received his Master of Arts in History from the University of Waterloo in 2018. His research report, “Swallowed into Dusk: Missing Airmen during the Second World War”, followed his investigation into the death of Flying Officer Sherman Peabody on behalf of the pilot’s family. Sean served for nearly 14 years in the Canadian infantry and is a veteran the War in Afghanistan. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.


The following links offer more information on the topics discussed in this episode:


The Roseland Spitfire with Tom Hennessy

Aerodrome of Democracy – A Visit to the CH2A Hangar

OSCVI’s War Dead with Dave Alexander

The Typhoon Project with Harry Hardy


The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

RCAF Bomber Squadrons Overseas

The Normandy Campaign


Juno Beach & Beyond is hosted and edited by Alex Fitzgerald-Black, the Juno Beach Centre Association’s Operations and Outreach Manager.

Mackenzie King’s speech to British Parliament from the British Pathé YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SlEvclY5LE&t=48s

Artillery firing sounds from the CBC News: The National YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsCSQ4uWR1Y

Female veteran’s voice (Eileen Green, née Short) Courtesy of The Memory Project, Historica Canada: http://www.thememoryproject.com/stories/383:eileen-green-nee-short/ 

Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech from Jonathan Thomas’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jB5wZtV1MWM

Spitfire sound effect from Jason Kirby’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgZI4tAoMN0

Dramatic Interlude by Alexander Nakarada | https://www.serpentsoundstudios.com

Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com

Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)


Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at jbca@junobeach.org.

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