Family finally learns fate of Canadian shot down over Germany in 1944
More than 73 years after 23 Allied soldiers and airmen perished when the transport plane they were flying in was shot down over Nazi Germany, one of their families finally has answers about their grandfather’s last day during the war.
“All we knew (was) that our grandfather was shot down in a plane crash,” Linda Sargeant told CTV News. “I don’t think we knew where it was.”
“You hear all these different stories,” her sister Laura Sargeant added.
Born in England, Cpl. Frederick William Sargeant, who eventually settled in Toronto, was 37 at the time of his death.
On Sept. 24, 1944, the Royal Air Force Douglas C-47 Dakota transport plane he was flying in strayed far from its course in adverse weather as it travelled from England to Italy. Flying with 15 other aircraft as part of mission to eventually arrive in India to aid the fight against the Imperial Japanese Army, 23 soldiers and airmen were aboard, including 20 Canadians. But when enemy gunfire struck one of its wings near the German village of Neuleiningen, the plane plummeted to the earth, killing all aboard.
The victims were buried in the village’s cemetery before being transferred to Germany’s Rheinberg War Cemetery after the war.
Amidst the hellish violence of the Second World War, the deadly crash would have largely been forgotten were it not for the tireless work of Erik Wieman, a former Dutch marine who now lives in Germany where he dedicates himself to locating the debris of downed warplanes in order to provide more information to crash victims’ families and to erect memorials to the servicemen who lost their lives while flying over Germany.
Cpl. Sargeant’s granddaughters say they were amazed to receive an email from Wieman last weekend filled with information about the grandfather they never knew. The only mementos of the man they had before, they say, was one photograph and a few of their grandfather’s war medals.
Wieman is still looking for family members for several other Canadians on that doomed flight, including:
- Leading Aircraftman Robert Marcel Armand Couturier, 23, born Notre Dame des Anges, Que.
- Leading Aircraftman William John Scott Lundy, 19, born Vancouver, B.C.
- Leading Aircraftman Maxwell James Foch Good, 26, born Woodstock, Ont.
Wieman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a report from CTV News Montreal bureau chief Genevieve Beauchemin