The original reports i read regarding the crash of Rheal’s plane during WWII implied that he survived the crash and later died in a German hospital. This is apparently not the case. After the war the RCAF did further investigations on the crewmembers who died in combat in order to find their grave sites. The Report below is the one concerning Rheal’s death in the February 1944 crash.
From: No. 3 M.R.E.U. B.A.F.O.
To: Air Ministry, P.4. (Cas), 73/77 Oxford Street, London
Date: 20th January, 1947……Investigation Officer: F/Lt. McKitrik……..Section: 17
A.M. File Reference: P.414208/44/RCAF Eng. A.M/ Cas. Enquiry No: G.1176
Unit Reference:………. Section Reference: 17MRES/G.1176
Aircraft Type and Number: Halifax LW. 597 Date and time: 0200hrs. 26.2.1944
Position of Crash: 1 1/2 km S.W. of Frankenhofen
Map Reference: Sheet N.48/X377.713
Crew………………………………………………………….Particulars of Burial
Sgt. Robineau, G.E. A/G (Can) Mass grave. Joint cross. No inscription
Sgt. Thompson, W. A/G (Eng) Mass grave. Joint cross. No inscription
1st Lt. Lubold A.L. Pilot (Amer.) Safe
F/O Richards, R.A. A/B (Can) Safe
Sgt. Cannon, J. WOP/AG (Eng) Safe
F/O Torton, A.G. Nav. (Can) Safe
Sgt. Bean, L. F/E (Eng) Safe
Cemetery and Map Reference: Cemetery at Frankenhofen. “X” 385.720.
Articles Found: Nil
Any Further Action: As requested.
Results of Investigation and Finding:
Exhaustive investigations in the Ersingen-Risstissen areas revealing no trace of any aircraft. I proceeded to the Rathaus Ehingen (“X” 47.67) and i examined the relevant files for the whole of Ehingen landkreis. The only incident recorded there which refers to British aircraft was a report from the Buergermeister at Frankenhofen (“X” 38.72) concerning a supposedly American 4 motored bomber which crashed near there on the night 25/26:2:1944. Heir Reisch, clerk to the Landrat, who is at this moment engaged in compiling a record of Allied Personnel buried in this area for the French Authorities, assured me that this was the only aircraft to crash at that time in the whole Ehingen area. The following is a report i took from from Hernn Eierstueck, Buergermeister of Frankenhofen: “ About 02:00 hours on the night of 25/26.2.1944 I was standing outside my home watching the air attack against Augsburg, when suddenly i noticed an aircraft approaching me in flames, flying from the direction of the target. When over our village it commenced to make large descending spirals and in all it circled Frankenhofen three times before it finally plunged into the woods about one and a half kilometers S.W. of the village. Search parties immediately went out to look for any fliers who might have parachuted in our parish and also to visit the scene of the crash. There, lying among the widely scattered wreckage two badly mutilated and charred were found but not removed. Within an hour of the crash three flyers were brought to my house, all three having been captured in the immediate neighborhood of the village. Of these three one was definitely a dark haired officer, one was a blond Sgt. and the other was presumably a Sgt. with dark hair, but i can’t be certain of this as he was wearing a white sweater. All three were tall and slender and very young, not being much more than 20 years of age.
These men spent the night in my house and about 8:00 next morning they were taken to the Rathaus where two of their comrades later joined them. Of these two, one had been brought from the village of Daechingen (“X” 39.40). This man was smaller and fatter than the others and had dark hair and i believe that he too was an officer. He arrived about 9:00 o’clock and at 10:00 o’clock the fifth man was brought from Bremelau (‘X” 33.73) and he too was said to be an officer. At 08:30 hours a party of men with an officer arrived from the Luftgau at Ersingen (“X” 57.68) and they later removed all five prisoners to the airfield at Ersingen. The officer told me that this was the only aircraft to to crash in the area during the night. Some police from Ehingen were left to guard the aircraft. The two dead airmen were buried on 3.3.1944 in the local cemetery and a few days later the complete aircraft wreckage was removed by a detachment from Ersingen.”
Herr Hohenlen, of Ehingen, a member of the aircraft guard when interviewed told me that he had spoken with the officer (Haupt. Maul) who came on 26.2.1944. This officer stated that the pilot was an American and there were at least two other Canadians among the prisoners so that it was commonly assumed that the aircraft was an American one operating with the RAF. The two dead airmen, who were lying near the front of the fuselage when found. From the identity tags found it was assumed they were Canadians and they were buried as such. No names were passed on to the Burgermeister and so the airmen were buried as unknown Canadians, but no inscription was placed on the wooden cross at the grave as the Burgermeister hoped to hear from the Luftwaffe at Ersingen.
From the above evidence it is quite apparent that this is in fact Halifax LW.597 and it is requested that the grave be now registered. Owing to vagueness in the Cas. enquiry the investigations in this case were started and completed by this section, although we have finally located the position of crash in the French zone.