Rheal Robineau – The rest of the crew

There were 7 crew members on Rheal Robineau’s plane. When it was shot down in February 1944, Rheal and the other Gunner died, probably before the plane even crashed. The other five parachuted to earth (some just barely) and were captured by the Germans. They spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft III. Stalag Luft III is the same prison from which there was a major prisoner escape that became the movie: The Great Escape. Once the war was over the returning crew members had to make statements about the crash and those statements are listed below:

Aircraft: Halifax III

Serial No: LW-597

Code: QO-C

Target: Augsburg

Pilot: Lt A. Lubold O-886266 pow

Flt/engineer: Sgt L. Bean 1803536 pow

Navigator: F/O A. Turton J-23342 pow

Bomb Aimer: F/O R. Richards J-25697 pow

Wireless Operator: Sgt J. Cannon 1561875 pow

Mid upper gunner: P/O G. Robineau J-91090 +

Rear gunner: Sgt W. Thompson 1553058 +

Time off: 21:40 Time down: missing

Bomb load: 40 x 30 lb and 630 x 4lb incendiaries.

Service File: Crashed 1.5 km south west of Frankenhofen (L48/X-377713). Witness states that an aircraft came from the direction of the target in flames at approximately 02:00 hours. When over the village it made three large descending spirals, finally crashing in the woods, 1.5 km south west of the village.

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NAME. Bean L. F

HOW MANY OPS. 1

DUTY. Flt/engineer

We left base, East Moor, after dark, somewhere around 21:30. Fairly cloudy weather, but clear, 3/4 moon above 10,000 feet. Only light flak was encountered until the target, but even here we seemed to be above most of it. We flew all the way at approximately 21,000 feet. We arrived at the target on time but no flares had been dropped by P.F.F so the skipper having flown over the target circled back into bomber stream. Flares were down by this time. We bombed the target and turned onto track. Approximately, half hour later, skipper asked me to check that bomb doors were isolated on the hydraulics. I went back to check, taking my log to fill in. As I plugged into the intercom, I heard the skipper warning the gunners that there were fighter flares going down ahead. As far as I remember we stayed on course and did not weave. A few minutes later, approximately 2:00 I heard a banging noise underneath and the overload tank in the bomb bay exploded. I then heard the skipper give the order to bale out and went forward and handed him his chute, as he was leaving his position. I then got my chute and went to follow him into the nose, but stayed on the steps. Later when the aircraft had dropped quite a height the wireless operator managed to open the hatch. The order of leaving the aircraft was wireless operator, pilot, navigator, bomb aimer and myself (flt/engineer). After pulling the ripcord I blacked out and remember nothing until I came to in the snow. I had no chute or harness or Mae west and 2 German landwatch with shotguns were standing around, apparently waiting for me to recover. When the tank exploded, it blew the floor in and the flames came through. Window was being dropped. Upward firing guns.

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NAME. Turton A. G.

HOW MANY OPS. 1

DUTY. Navigator

Airborne 21:44 hours 25.2.44, shaken by flak crossing Schelte Islands. No known damage. Bombed target at 22,800 feet T.A.S. 237, Hdg. 060″ (12 cans I.B.’s 4 lb.) at 01:22 hours 26.2.44. Bombing time was 01:18 – 01:21 hours but delayed as pilot altered course to avoid flak before the run up. Set course from target 01:23 hours, aircraft 01:28 hours to 260ET. 0140 hours – aircraft to 263ET. 01:42 hours hit in belly by unseen fighter while flying in lanes of flares. Other bombers were visible ahead, but gunners didn’t see fighters attacking from below. The pilot immediately ordered abandon aircraft. I reached for my chute on the table and was flung to the floor as we went into a spin. I got my chute on with great difficulty. Five of us were huddled on the floor in the nose, unable to move. The aircraft levelled out into a flat spin. The wireless operator and I folded the navigation bench and I opened the hatch with considerable difficulty. Someone went out as soon as the hatch was open, then I went out. I opened the chute after counting to five then was in the air for about 20 seconds. I landed in several feet of snow. Hearing engines, I looked up and saw the aircraft going over at about 300 feet in a wide flat turn to starboard. She was well alight from wing to tail. I could see through the fuselage. She did a half circle and crashed and exploded in woods about 3 to 5 miles off. She burned and ammo etc. exploded for half an hour.

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NAME. Richards R. A.

HOW MANY OPS. 3

DUTY. Bomb aimer

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On the night of 25/26 of Feb. We were briefed for Augsburg. On crossing the coast at Over Flakke we were hit under the mid upper gunner’s turret by flak but it didn’t cause any damage. On arriving at the target we did evasive action to get out of large searchlight batteries and flak which was quite heavy on our course. We bombed the target at 01:17 hours which was 1 minute after zero hour. After proceeding from the target we were attacked by an ME-210 from underneath. He hit us in the reserve tanks and all controls were lost. The time was 01:40 hours. As soon as the kite was hit the pilot hollered to bale out as he, the navigator, wireless operator and flt/engineer and myself were thrown down in front on the escape hatch. We spun straight down all the time being unable to move due to the force, then when we were about ready for the crash the aircraft began to flatten out by itself. We quickly opened the escape hatch, the pilot out first, then the wireless operator, then the navigator got stuck in the hatch and I had to help him out by giving a good hard push at about 800 to 1,000 feet. My chute no sooner opened and I was in a big snow bank without my flying shoes. I got up and I was faced with a number of men and boy with shotguns all pointing them at me. I was taken to a house where I met the flt/engineer. The rest of the crew were found within the day and then we were taken to Dulag at Frankfurt. Aircraft crashed on fire as it was going down. Window being dropped. Nitrogen petrol tanks.

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NAME. Cannon J.

HOW MANY OPS. 1

DUTY. Wireless operator

Take off was at 21:00 hours on Feb. 25th 1944. Everything went okay until about 15 minutes after leaving target when we were hit by fighter. To my knowledge no warning was given from gunners, so no evasive action was done. No clouds in sky. Nearest big town – Ulm. On being hit we lost control of aircraft and went into steep dive, wasn’t able to open hatch until aircraft levelled itself out at about 3,000 feet.

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