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.
All proceeds support the Juno Beach Centre, Canada’s Second World War Museum in Normandy, France and allow us to continue to offer this content to listeners across Canada!
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
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.