Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: What was Operation Fontain Francaise? SOE?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    14
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default What was Operation Fontain Francaise? SOE?

    Hi All,

    Does anyone know what Operation Fontain Francaise was? I believe it had something to do with the SOE and was happening in March 1944. A 199 Sqn Stirling I was researching has that it was lost on 4th March 1944 and its mission was ''Operation Fontain Francaise''?

    God bless from
    Russell Brown

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    1,645
    Thanks
    2
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Default

    Could it not be a mission TO Fontaine-Francaise in the Burgandy region?

    A
    RAF Armoured Car Companies 1920-45 http://www.rafacciraq.com/

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    200
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Hi,
    Special Duty Operations in Stirling Mk 111, EE957...EX-Q. Squadron 199 RAF. On 3/4 March 1944 T/O from Lakenheath at 2050hrs on Operation Fountaine Francaise, aircraft shot down by ME110 in general vicinity of drop zone. Due to low altitude only four of crew were able to parachute before the aircraft crashed at Echevannes between Gemeaux (Cote d'Or) and Is-Sur-Tille, two small villages 20km and 23km respectively NNE of Dijon.
    Flt/Lt Kevin Bernard O'Connor RNZAF pilot killed. Buried at Is-Sur-Tille Communal Cemetery.
    Sgt G.W Green Flight Engineer POW.
    P/O R.B Charters DFM RCAF Navigator, evaded.
    F/O Edward George Brown Air Bomber, killed. Buried Gemeaux Communal Cemetery.
    Flt/Sgt D.A Chisholm RNZAF W/Op/Ag, POW.
    Sgt Lawrence Eric Crick RAFVR Gunner, killed. Buried at Is-Sur-Tille Communal Cemetery.
    P/O A.P Chisholm RNZAF Gunner, POW.

    Source PDF File compiled by Roy Tebbutt of Carpetbagger Aviation Museum, Harrington, UK.

    Hope this helps.
    Regards,
    Rob Jerram

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Orleans, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,351
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 4 Times in 3 Posts

    Default

    CHARTERS, Flight Sergeant Robert Burns (R115419) - Distinguished Flying Medal - No.199 Squadron - Award effective 3 April 1943 as per London Gazette dated 16 April 1943 and AFRO 809/43 dated 7 May 1943. Born 9 May 1918 (birth date on MI.9 report); home in Richmond, Virginia or in Brampton, Ontario; enlisted in Toronto, 22 July 1941 and posted to No.1 Manning Depot. To No.1 ITS, 20 August 1941; graduated and promoted LAC, 8 October 1941 but not posted to No.4 AOS until 26 October 1941; to No.4 BGS, 31 January 1942; graduated and promoted Sergeant, 14 March 1942 when posted to No.2 ANS; graduated 13 April 1942 and posted next day to “Y” Depot. To RAF overseas, 30 April 1942. Further trained at No.19 OTU. Commissioned 20 August 1943. Promoted Flying Officer, 1 March 1944. Repatriated via Rockcliffe, 7 June 1944. To “Y” Depot again, 17 July 1944. Taken on strength of No.3 PRC, Bournemouth, 3 August 1944. To RAF overseas, Promoted Flight Lieutenant, 1 October 1944. Repatriated 9 July 1945. To Mountain View, 15 September 1945. To No.66 OTU, 22 November 1945. To Release Centre, 2 April 1946; retired 9 April 1946. Award presented by King George VI 12 October 1943. Cited with Sergeant A.J.W.R. Coupar (RAF, also awarded DFM). Photo PL-19710 shows six Ontario personnel following investiture - Sergeant D.V. Smith (Toronto), P/O R.B. Charters (Brampton), P/O F.R. Zulauf (Milverton), P/O R. Dorland (Islington), F/L C.D. Perkins (Fonthill) and FS H.J. O’Connor (Napanee). Photo PL-19712 taken 5 November 1943 shows the following after investiture at Buckingham Palace: Front Row” Warrant Officer W.G. Evan of Makinak, Manitoba (no award but accompanying friends), FS H.J. O’Connor DFM of Napanee, Sergeant D.V. Smith DFM of Toronto, Warrant Officer E.A. Taylor DFM of Vancouver, FS D.J. McCoy DFM of Carruthers, Saskatchewan, P/O F.R. Zulauf DFM of Milverton, Ontario; Back Row: P/O R.B. Charters DFM of Brampton, Ontario, P/O E.H. Thomas DFM of New Westminster, P/O R. Dorland DFM of Islington, Ontario, F/L C.D. Perkins DFC of Fonthill, Ontario, P/O D.R. Pearce DFM of Edmonton, P/O E.C. Stewart DFM of Camrose, Alberta, and P/O R.A. Shannon DFM of Winnipeg.

    "One night in March 1943, Sergeant Coupar (RAF) and Flight Sergeant Charters were captain and navigator, respectively, of an aircraft detailed to attack Essen. On the outward flight one engine of the bomber became overheated but Sergeant Coupar flew on to the target and bombed it. Shortly after crossing the Dutch coast on the return journey the aircraft was attacked by an enemy fighter, sustaining much damage. The wireless apparatus was rendered unserviceable and the inter-communication and hydraulic systems were put out of action causing the bomb doors to open and the undercarriage to hang in a downward position. In spite of this, Sergeant Coupar coolly and skilfully evaded the attacker and set course for base. During the remainder of the homeward flight, Flight Sergeant Charters, who had been wounded in the chest, displayed great fortitude, remaining at his post to continue his navigational duties. Sergeant Coupar eventually flew the damaged bomber to an airfield where he effected a successful crash landing. Both these airmen displayed great courage and skill in harassing circumstances."

    CHARTERS, F/L Robert Burns, DFM (J18469) - Croix de Guerre (France) - No.171 Squadron (AFRO gives unit only as "Overseas") - Awarded as per AFRO 1619/45 dated 19 October 1945. Later attained rank of Squadron Leader. Public Records Office document Air 2/9645 has citation.

    "This officer has taken a very active part as navigator in operations over France, both before and after D Day. On the 3rd March, 1944, after being shot down over France, he eluded the Germans, with the ready assistance of the French people, walked back to his own lines and finally reached England. After a very short rest he returned to his unit. Flight Lieutenant Charters' work, both in the air and on the ground, have been of the highest order and his courage and tenacity of purpose have been an inspiration to his captain and crew."

    NOTE: In January 1997 the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society (Canadian Branch) presented to the National Aviation Museum a "dossier" (actually more like an album) with extended autobiographical notes on members (catalogued in the museum as D.805 C3 L96 1995 NMM). This included much information on Charters' evasion. W.R. Chorley, Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War (1944 volume) states that the aircraft on which he was shot down was Stirling EE957, EX-Q, of No.199 Squadron, which raises the question of why No.171 Squadron is associated with this award. Typographical error ?

    Public Record Office WO 208/3319 has his MI.9 report (S/P.G.-1894) compiled from interview on 2 May 1944. It noted that he had left Gibraltar on 1 May 1944 and arrived at Whitchurch on 2 May 1944. Others in crew were F/L K.B. O’Connor (pilot, RNZAF, killed), F/O E.G. Brown (bomb aimer, killed), Sergeant Green (flight engineer), Flight Sergeant D.A. Chisholm (WOP, RNZAF, POW), P/O A.P. Chisholm (rear gunner, RNZAF, POW) and Sergeant L.E. Crick (mid-upper gunner, killed).

    "I was a member of a crew of a Stirling Mark III which took off from Lakenheath (Suffolk) on 3 March 1944 about 1730 hours on a special mission. On the return flight we were attacked by a night fighter about 2330 hours, and were ordered to bale out.

    "I came down in a wood at France 1:250,000, Sheet 17, O 1275. I was suspended by my parachute in a tree about ten feet from the ground, but managed to get over to the trunk, release myself and scramble to the ground. While I was coming down I saw the explosion of the aircraft which, I heard later, crashed near Is-sur-Tille (O 0884). I left my parachute in the tree, and having hidden my mae west and harness in some bushes in the woods, I started walking southeast. When I reached the next woods I heard people moving about, so I changed my direction to northeast till I reached the Forest of Velours (O 17). I walked the west edge of this wood for some distance, and then crossed the frozen fields to the main Langres-Dijon road. I by-passed Orville (O 1689) and rejoined the main road. Shortly afterwards I reached a railway crossing where I received help in the early morning of 4 March. I was later put in touch with an organization, and the rest of my journey was arranged for me."

    Errol W. Martyn, in Volume 2 of For Your Tomorrow (Christchurch, 1999) elaborates by saying that the SOE mission was code named FONTAINE FRANCAIS (supply dropping). His account of the shoot-down differs from that of Charters but has some interesting extra details:

    "Stirling III EE957/Q took off at 2050, attacked by a night fighter at low altitude near the first drop zone, and again in the vicinity of the second, when the starboard wing was hit and set on fire. Four of the seven crew successfully baled out before EE957 crashed between Is-sur-Tille and Gemeaux, two villages located about 20 kilometres north-north-east of Dijon. The pilot and the RAF mid-upper gunner, who perished in the crash, are buried at Is-sur-Tille, while the air bomber rests at Gemeaux. The RCAF navigator successfully evaded capture, but his three surviving comrades were taken prisoner, including RNZAF wireless operator Flight Sergeant D.A. Chisholm and rear gunner Pilot Officer A.P. Chisholm. After landing, Donald Chisholm saw at least three night fighters circling in the area, suggesting that the operation had been betrayed and a trap set to shoot them down."

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Glasgow
    Posts
    400
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Hugh

    171 Squadron was formed from C Flight of 199 Squadron in 1944 (Martin Middlebrook's book The Bomber Command War Diaries indicates it as September 1944). I have noted on a number of occasions when looking through the 199 ORB for ex-199 aircrew that from late 1944, they are not recorded in the 199 ORB although they have confirmed they were at North Creake during that time. I suspect that crews may have been transfered to 171 Squadron. Some have even "re-appeared" in 1945 with 199 which would suggest they were transferred back to 199 from 171.

    This may explain why 171 is recorded in F/L Charters records. If you want more details about his individual ops with 199, let me know. This is quite a bit of detail during 1943 but less detail after the Squadron had transferred to 100 Group in May 1944.

    Best wishes

    Douglas
    Last edited by Theletterwriter; 7th November 2010 at 12:21. Reason: spelling error

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Orleans, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,351
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 4 Times in 3 Posts

    Default

    Douglas;

    I am always anxious to expand the information in my data bases (which ultimately I try to share as widely as possible), hopefully without inconveniencing those like yourself who offer more. Even a sortie list for Charters would be welcome; anything beyond that would be pure gravy. You may wish to continue this via e-mail (halliday@bell.net).

    Hugh H.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Glasgow
    Posts
    400
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Hugh

    I will have a look and will get back to you asap.

    Best wishes

    Douglas

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Orleans, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,351
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 4 Times in 3 Posts

    Default

    In the intervening eight years I have been able to add something to the story of Pilot Officer Charters; the new entry for him reads:

    CHARTERS, Flight Sergeant Robert Burns (R115419) - Distinguished Flying Medal - No.199 Squadron - Award effective 3 April 1943 as per London Gazette dated 16 April 1943 and AFRO 809/43 dated 7 May 1943. Born 9 May 1918 (birth date on MI.9 report) or 9 May 1923 (birthday cited in obituary which states he was born in Brampton); home in Richmond, Virginia or in Brampton, Ontario; enlisted in Toronto, 22 July 1941 and posted to No.1 Manning Depot. To No.1 ITS, 20 August 1941; graduated and promoted LAC, 8 October 1941 but not posted to No.4 AOS until 26 October 1941; to No.4 BGS, 31 January 1942; graduated and promoted Sergeant, 14 March 1942 when posted to No.2 ANS; graduated 13 April 1942 and posted next day to “Y” Depot. To RAF overseas, 30 April 1942. Further trained at No.19 OTU. Commissioned 20 August 1943. Promoted Flying Officer, 1 March 1944. Repatriated via Rockcliffe, 7 June 1944. To “Y” Depot again, 17 July 1944. Taken on strength of No.3 PRC, Bournemouth, 3 August 1944. To RAF overseas, Promoted Flight Lieutenant, 1 October 1944. Repatriated 9 July 1945. To Mountain View, 15 September 1945. To No.66 OTU, 22 November 1945. To Release Centre, 2 April 1946; retired 9 April 1946. Became a flagman with Armstrong Brothers Construction, rising through tthe ranks to be President and Chairman of Ambro Holdings; Director of Ontario Road Builders and the Canadian Construction Association. Died 26 July 2014 in Toronto. Award presented by King George VI 12 October 1943. Cited with Sergeant A.J.W.R. Coupar (RAF, also awarded DFM). Photo PL-19710 shows six Ontario personnel following investiture - Sergeant D.V. Smith (Toronto), P/O R.B. Charters (Brampton), P/O F.R. Zulauf (Milverton), P/O R. Dorland (Islington), F/L C.D. Perkins (Fonthill) and FS H.J. O’Connor (Napanee). Photo PL-19712 taken 5 November 1943 shows the following after investiture at Buckingham Palace: Front Row” Warrant Officer W.G. Evan of Makinak, Manitoba (no award but accompanying friends), FS H.J. O’Connor DFM of Napanee, Sergeant D.V. Smith DFM of Toronto, Warrant Officer E.A. Taylor DFM of Vancouver, FS D.J. McCoy DFM of Carruthers, Saskatchewan, P/O F.R. Zulauf DFM of Milverton, Ontario; Back Row: P/O R.B. Charters DFM of Brampton, Ontario, P/O E.H. Thomas DFM of New Westminster, P/O R. Dorland DFM of Islington, Ontario, F/L C.D. Perkins DFC of Fonthill, Ontario, P/O D.R. Pearce DFM of Edmonton, P/O E.C. Stewart DFM of Camrose, Alberta, and P/O R.A. Shannon DFM of Winnipeg. RCAF photo PL-25023 (1) shows him.

    One night in March 1943, Sergeant Coupar (RAF) and Flight Sergeant Charters were captain and navigator, respectively, of an aircraft detailed to attack Essen. On the outward flight one engine of the bomber became overheated but Sergeant Coupar flew on to the target and bombed it. Shortly after crossing the Dutch coast on the return journey the aircraft was attacked by an enemy fighter, sustaining much damage. The wireless apparatus was rendered unserviceable and the inter-communication and hydraulic systems were put out of action causing the bomb doors to open and the undercarriage to hang in a downward position. In spite of this, Sergeant Coupar coolly and skilfully evaded the attacker and set course for base. During the remainder of the homeward flight, Flight Sergeant Charters, who had been wounded in the chest, displayed great fortitude, remaining at his post to continue his navigational duties. Sergeant Coupar eventually flew the damaged bomber to an airfield where he effected a successful crash landing. Both these airmen displayed great courage and skill in harassing circumstances.

    CHARTERS, F/L Robert Burns, DFM (J18469) - Croix de Guerre (France) - No.171 Squadron (AFRO gives unit only as "Overseas") - Awarded as per AFRO 1619/45 dated 19 October 1945. Later attained rank of Squadron Leader. Public Records Office document Air 2/9645 has citation.

    This officer has taken a very active part as navigator in operations over France, both before and after D Day. On the 3rd March, 1944, after being shot down over France, he eluded the Germans, with the ready assistance of the French people, walked back to his own lines and finally reached England. After a very short rest he returned to his unit. Flight Lieutenant Charters' work, both in the air and on the ground, have been of the highest order and his courage and tenacity of purpose have been an inspiration to his captain and crew.

    NOTE: In January 1997 the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society (Canadian Branch) presented to the National Aviation Museum a "dossier" (actually more like an album) with extended autobiographical notes on members (catalogued in the museum as D.805 C3 L96 1995 NMM). This included much information on Charters' evasion. W.R. Chorley, Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War (1944 volume) states that the aircraft on which he was shot down was Stirling EE957, EX-Q, of No.199 Squadron, which raises the question of why No.171 Squadron is associated with this award. Typographical error ?

    Public Record Office WO 208/3319 has his MI.9 report (S/P.G.-1894) compiled from interview on 2 May 1944. It noted that he had left Gibraltar on 1 May 1944 and arrived at Whitchurch on 2 May 1944. Others in crew were F/L K.B. O’Connor (pilot, RNZAF, killed), F/O E.G. Brown (bomb aimer, killed), Sergeant Green (flight engineer), Flight Sergeant D.A. Chisholm (WOP, RNZAF, POW), P/O A.P. Chisholm (rear gunner, RNZAF, POW) and Sergeant L.E. Crick (mid-upper gunner, killed).

    I was a member of a crew of a Stirling Mark III which took off from Lakenheath (Suffolk) on 3 March 1944 about 1730 hours on a special mission. On the return flight we were attacked by a night fighter about 2330 hours, and were ordered to bale out.

    I came down in a wood at France 1:250,000, Sheet 17, O 1275. I was suspended by my parachute in a tree about ten feet from the ground, but managed to get over to the trunk, release myself and scramble to the ground. While I was coming down I saw the explosion of the aircraft which, I heard later, crashed near Is-sur-Tille (O 0884). I left my parachute in the tree, and having hidden my mae west and harness in some bushes in the woods, I started walking southeast. When I reached the next woods I heard people moving about, so I changed my direction to northeast till I reached the Forest of Velours (O 17). I walked the west edge of this wood for some distance, and then crossed the frozen fields to the main Langres-Dijon road. I by-passed Orville (O 1689) and rejoined the main road. Shortly afterwards I reached a railway crossing where I received help in the early morning of 4 March. I was later put in touch with an organization, and the rest of my journey was arranged for me.

    Errol W. Martyn, in Volume 2 of For Your Tomorrow (Christchurch, 1999) elaborates by saying that the SOE mission was code named FONTAINE FRANCAIS (supply dropping). His account of the shoot-down differs from that of Charters but has some interesting extra details:

    Stirling III EE957/Q took off at 2050, attacked by a night fighter at low altitude near the first drop zone, and again in the vicinity of the second, when the starboard wing was hit and set on fire. Four of the seven crew successfully baled out before EE957 crashed between Is-sur-Tille and Gemeaux, two villages located about 20 kilometres north-north-east of Dijon. The pilot and the RAF mid-upper gunner, who perished in the crash, are buried at Is-sur-Tille, while the air bomber rests at Gemeaux. The RCAF navigator successfully evaded capture, but his three surviving comrades were taken prisoner, including RNZAF wireless operator Flight Sergeant D.A. Chisholm and rear gunner Pilot Officer A.P. Chisholm. After landing, Donald Chisholm saw at least three night fighters circling in the area, suggesting that the operation had been betrayed and a trap set to shoot them down.

    For the record, the website “Lost Bombers” describes the final sortie thus. Stirling EE957, No.199 Squadron (EX-Q) on SOE operations, 3/4 March 1944. This aircraft was initially delivered to No.196 Squadron on 11August 1943. To No.199 Squadron on 27 August 1943. Airborne at 2050 hours, 3 March 1944 from Lakenheath on Operation Fontain Francaise and set course for France. Shot down by a Me110 in the general vicinity of the DZ. Due to low altitude, only four were able to bale out before the Stirling crashed between Gemeaux (Cote d'Or) and Is-sur-Tille, two small villages 20 km and 23 km respectively NNE of Dijon. Crew was F/L K.B.O'Connor, RNZAF (killed), Sergeant G.W.Green (POW), P/O R.B.Charters, DFM, RCAF (evaded), F/O E.G.Brown (killed), Flight Sergeant D.A.Chisholm, RNZAF (POW), Sergeant L.E.Crick (killed), P/O A.P.Chisholm, RNZAF (POW).

    The following appeared in Globe and Mail of 5 September 2014 under headline BOMBER NAVIGATOR BOB CHARTERS RECEIVED TWO WAR MEDALS and byline of Tom Hawthorn.

    The bomber dropped supplies for Resistance fighters in occupied France before being attacked from above. A Messerschmitt fighter raked the starboard wing and engine, setting both afire. The pilot ordered the crew to bail out into the night sky.

    Bob Charters, the navigator aboard the Stirling bomber, followed the bomb aimer out the front escape hatch. The aircraft had been flying low to make the drop, so his parachute had barely opened before the navigator was crashing through tree branches.

    He knew his first task was to hide his parachute, but he was unable to extricate it from the tree that broke his fall. Any Germans seeking the air crew would undoubtedly spot the chute.

    “I ran as fast as my nervous legs would carry me for the first hour and certainly did not stop for any length of time until daylight,” he later wrote in an unpublished memoir.

    Mr. Charters, who has died at the age of 91, would be on the run from the enemy for more than a month, part of which was spent in full view of the German occupiers, including drinking alongside soldiers at a café.

    His hair-raising escape from capture depended on the bravery and cunning of the same French Resistance fighters for whom his crew had dropped supplies. The navigator, a pilot officer by rank at the time his plane was shot down, would be awarded the Croix de Guerre by France after the war. A year before being shot out of the sky, he had been been awarded a Distinguished Flying Medal for valour by the king at Buckingham Palace.

    That ceremony seemed remote as morning dawned on March 4, 1944. The airman followed his training – travel by night, hide away by day. He spent his first full day in France secretly observing a promising residence.

    “I had watched a railway crossing guard’s home for an entire day and after dark I got up enough courage to knock on the door and ask for help,” he wrote. “My poor schoolboy French was of limited assistance, but as I was still in uniform, he asked me into the house at once.”

    The railwayman explained he could not hide him for fear discovery would lead to calamity for his family. He asked his wife to prepare a meal. Mr. Charters was sent into the cool night with a beret atop his head, a heavy overcoat over his battle dress, and a full belly after feasting on eggs, dark bread with salt pork and a steaming cup of ersatz coffee.

    After he begged for food from Burgundy peasants for a few days, word got out to the local Resistance about an airman in their midst. A couple in the village of Is-sur-Tille fed him and provided hot water for a bath, as well as a warm bed. He slept for 12 hours.

    After a week spent hidden in an upstairs bedroom, or in the root cellar, Mr. Charters was moved to Dijon, where he was hidden in a furniture store warehouse that also served as a depot for supplies dropped by the Royal Air Force, as well as armaments stolen from the Germans. Meals arrived in packages, or in a briefcase. He spent three weeks in a third-floor attic, the tedium broken by a rare visit to a café to sip wine, where he and his handler were once surrounded by Germans, who one presumes were accustomed to the locals not speaking in their vicinity.

    Forged documents – including a work permit, a travel pass and an identification card – were prepared for Mr. Charters in the name of Robert Jean Duchesne, a deaf-mute watchmaker. He travelled to Paris by train without incident, a contact at the station taking him to an apartment, where several men interrogated him to ensure he was not an enemy plant.

    “After a few hours of what seemed to be close arrest, I was officially welcomed by three or four men in the usual French fashion with kisses on both cheeks,” he wrote. “This seemed strange to me but in the circumstances was most reassuring.”

    He moved daily in Paris, a “bag of potatoes” to be delivered from one safe spot to another. At last, he was once again placed aboard a train, this time to Toulouse, where he was taken to a farmhouse with five other evaders on the outskirts of the city. A Basque guide led them on a winding trek through the Pyrenees to the Spanish frontier, about 150 kilometres to the southwest.

    After three nights and four days of hiking, the guide directed the six men to a road below them, which was in Spanish territory. After taking their French currency, as well as compasses and silk escape maps, the guide left them.

    Spanish police arrested them soon after they reached the road. They spent two days in a village jail before being released to a British air attaché. Mr. Charters spent several days in Pamplona in a compound with other non-commissioned officers, the only restriction being a nighttime curfew. He took in a bullfight and attended a concert in a park by a German military band. A bus trip to Madrid was followed by a journey to Gibraltar, then a flight to England, where he discovered his bank account had been frozen in the belief he was dead.

    At last, he also learned the fate of his crew mates aboard the bomber. Mr. Charters was the only one of the survivors to evade capture; the flight engineer, the wireless operator and a gunner were all captured. The bomb aimer, Edward George Brown, 21, of North Harrow, Middlesex, who had preceded him out the escape hatch, did not survive the jump from the plane. A gunner, Lawrence Eric Crick, 21, of Pirbright, Surrey, and pilot Kevin Bernard O’Connor, 29, of Waipawa, New Zealand, both died in the crash of the bomber.

    The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, the day before his 22nd birthday. He volunteered for duty in the Pacific, but the conflict ended before he had a chance to serve in that theatre.

    In 1974, Mr. Charters made a pilgrimage to the cemetery at Is-sur-Tille, where two of his crew mates are buried. On a later visit to France, he was reunited with a dozen of his rescuers from the Resistance, none of whose real names he knew during the war, a security measure lest he be captured and tortured for information.

    Robert Burns Charters was born on May 9, 1923, in Brampton, Ont., to Ida Mary (née Harcourt), a nurse, and Clarence Victor Charters, whose family was prominent as local publishers and members of the Conservative Party. The boy’s grandfather, Samuel Charters, served as mayor of Brampton before spending 18 years as a member of Parliament.

    His father and grandfather played in lacrosse’s Minto and Mann Cup championships. Bob Charters played tennis and was a member of his high school’s basketball and football teams. After school, he worked as a grocery-store butcher. He worked on a farm briefly before enlisting in the Royal Canadian Air Force shortly after his 18th birthday.

    He trained at the Eglinton Hunt Club in Toronto, the air observer school in London, Ont., and the bombing and gunnery school in Fingal, Ont., before taking navigation courses in Pennfield Ridge, N.B. He flew aboard Avro Ansons and Fairey Battles in training in Canada before being sailing overseas. Mr. Charters was aboard a Whitley on a training flight in a thunderstorm when the engines failed. All five crew members survived the jump, though Mr. Charters had the right boot ripped from his foot when his parachute deployed. He scratched the foot badly as he trudged through gorse after landing.

    Assigned to the RAF’s No. 199 Squadron, Mr. Charters was navigator on a Wellington assigned on a bombing raid of the Krupp factory in Essen in the Ruhr Valley when the bomber was attacked from below by a fighter. Cannon and machine-gun fire holed the aircraft, knocking out the intercom and damaging the hydraulic system. The instrument panel was smashed and pilot Sergeant A.J.W.R. Coupar was cut by flying glass. Shrapnel and gunshots tore into Mr. Charters’s arm and chest.

    Despite the injuries, he guided the aircraft to an emergency field in England, where the pilot managed a successful crash landing. The pilot and the navigator were awarded Distinguished Flying Medals immediately for bringing the wounded aircraft and crew home.

    After the war, Mr. Charters returned to Brampton and took a job as a flagman on a construction crew. He worked his way up through the company’s ranks as a timekeeper, office clerk and instrument man before becoming a contract manager in 1954 and a vice-president in 1966. In 1971, he was named president of Armbro Holdings, which included a construction company and related businesses, as well as two transportation companies and a concrete business. He was named chairman of the board in 1978, a position he held for five years before retiring.

    Mr. Charters was also president of the Ontario Golf Association and a governor of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.

    He served as a director of the Canadian branch of the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society, a charitable group he joined on its formation in 1946.

    Mr. Charters died on July 26. He leaves a son, a daughter, five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and a sister. He was predeceased by Kathleen, known as Katie (née McKillop), his wife of 64 years, who died in 2011 at 87. He was also predeceased by a brother, a retired Canadian Army colonel, who died in 1997.

    When Mr. Charters surrendered his silk map and francs on the Spanish frontier, he kept his forged identity documents as a souvenir of his escape, not that he needed reminders of his service. Not only did he have two medals for valour, but from time to time another small piece of shrapnel would work its way to the surface of his scarred chest.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •