View Full Version : C-47 Crash Memorial, France.

airfields man
11-03-2009, 21:37

airfields man
11-03-2009, 21:41
This memorial is near the village of Pleuven [ Finistere] 13 KM SE. of

airfields man
11-03-2009, 21:56
Don't know what happened there ??...13 KM SE of Quimper and 50 KM NW of Lorient. It was unveiled in April 1992. The aircraft crashed in the field behind. The plaque says, On 11 August 1943 an American C-47 shot down by two German fighters crashed here. The Crew were as follows, As you can see four were killed d.c.d sorti indemne means survived.

05-09-2010, 21:05
I live in the next village, though I was many years from being born when this happened,

Much of the story is here, a memoir written by the surviving airman, Sgt Bell:

Sadly, for many of you, the pdf is entirely in French.

This area of France is called the Finistère, or the End of the Earth for a good reason. Brittany is a small peninsula that sticks out into the sea. It is where Europe ends, and this place is close to the point. The Finistère is very rural, with a wild, rocky stormy coastline. The Bretons are not Gallic French, but French Celts, whose ancestors migrated to France from Britain in the 4th and 6th centuries. Bretons have the reputation for being a secretive and stubborn people, whose language is similar to Welsh, and whose music is... well.... For all that, the Bretons are patriotic French men and women, those who are not in Breizh Atao, the splinter party that is pushing for Breton independence. After all, we were a nation until 1532 when Brittany was incorporated into France. Bretons are not known for being cooperative, and we don't like being invaded. ;)

The crew had flown the C-47 all the way from the US without incident, hopping across the Atlantic. They had landed at Belfast, about to leave on their last leg to an airfield in England. They left on a clear day, followed directions, only to find themselves lost over France.

There is some mystery about the plane getting lost, which the pdf goes into. In the pdf Sgt Bell wonders whether their navigational instruments were tampered with during the stopover in Belfast, because despite the assurances from the Military Police and the Guard in Belfast that they would see that the plane would be secure, the plane had been broken into and some of the crew’s possessions stolen.

(I am certain that Sgt Bell’s suspicions are correct, just as I am certain I know the reasons why someone there would tamper with the instruments. However, here I am writing only facts, and my certainty is not proof.)

The lost C-47 was attacked by two Messerschmitts. Damaged and unable to fly, the plane crashed and burned on the spot shown in the photo. All the airmen, except Sgt Bell, were killed either by the German attack on the plane or in the crash. Immediately after the crash two sixteen year-old girls took Sgt Bell into the woods and hid him there. Local people and the Résistance assisted Sgt Bell who had a minor shrapnel wound in the thigh. They hid him and cared for him.

The local people organised a public funeral for the dead airmen and treated them as their own. The men were American, but when they died over France, they became our own. (I hope that concept is something that Americans can understand.) In this sparsely-populated place, 4,000 people turned up at the funeral to mourn these downed airmen. (I can't imagine where they all came from.) The women wore wreaths of flowers as a symbol of compassion and solidarity for the dead airmen. The occupying Germans were not happy.

There are three local men of note in this story; Joseph Salaün, director of Le Likès, the Catholic academy in the Medieval city of Quimper, Jacques Mourlet, a young wine merchant who lived in a remote farmhouse near Quimper, and Yves Le Hénaff, leader of the Dahlia network, the part of the local underground that specialised in transporting downed Allied airmen across the Channel.

Using Jacques Mourlet's car, Joseph Salaün transported Sgt Bell to safe hiding places, and to Quimper for medical care. On 9 September, the fishing boat Ar Voulac'h -- remember, this is Brittany, and that is not a French name but one in the Breton language -- left for England with Sgt Bell as one of the passengers.

A number of Allied airmen were rescued in this manner, as were people being pursued by the Gestapo.

Jacques Mourlet was imprisoned by the Gestapo in Quimper, but survived the war.

Fr Joseph Salaün was arrested by the Gestapo, and sent to Neuengamme concentration camp where he was tortured before being sent on a work detain to Germany. He was shot shortly before midnight on 17 December 1944.

Yves Les Hénaff, leader of the Dahlia network, was captured by the Gestapo and died as he was being transported to Dachau.

Sgt Bell survived the war.

The underground was extremely active in Brittany in many ways in Brittany. In this part of Brittany there was a need to rescue downed Allied fliers. We also had the Maquis. Anyone involved in the Résistance, caught assisting downed airmen, or aiding the Allies in any way would either be shot or sent to a concentration camp, along with their families. People assisted anyway.

I hope this answers the question, and that my Franglais is intelligible.

À bientôt,

Annick, from the Land of Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys

Dave Smith
06-09-2010, 19:49
Thanks for sharing that amazing story with us, Marie-Annick. Your English is perfect, and so is your sense of humour!

Best wishes from les Rosbifs at AiX

airfields man
06-09-2010, 20:34
Hi Marie-Annick, Many thanks for that information. The photographs were sent to me about five years ago along with many others in the preceeding years by a researcher into wartime air crashes. Haven't heard anything for a while..... maybe nothing new yet to report.

15-06-2013, 18:37
Thanks for sharing that amazing story with us, Marie-Annick. Your English is perfect, and so is your sense of humour!

Best wishes from les Rosbifs at AiX

A most belated 'Merci'.

Sadly, we have five British airmen buried in our village. I was told that their plane crashed into the sea and the bodies washed up on our beach. As in Pleuven, they were given a most public funeral Mass with people coming in from as far as 25km (I've been told), and buried in the village cemetery where they still lie. Their graves are lovingly tended, and are never without fresh flowers.

I've also heard that after the war, when their families came over to see about repatriating their men, they were moved by how well-tended these graves were and how welcome the villagers made them, the people in our very tiny village asked if they would let these honoured men remain in France. The families agreed. After all these years they still come to visit, and are made welcome in the homes.

You will find this interesting: http://tinyurl.com/n29vocr
The book is 'La Guerre 1939-1945 a Fouesnant: Historique et Anecdotes'

In it there are photos of the funeral in Fouesnant showing the mourners in queues round the village church, and the graves. I have this book, but it is in France and at this moment, I am not.

In Pleuven, they have since built a fine stone wall behind the standing stone menhir (where the plaque is). It's really beautiful.

My husband is English. His father was in the RAF during WW2.

À bientôt,


airfields man
15-06-2013, 21:29
Hello Marie-Annick, Many thanks again for your latest news which is very interesting and informative. Wonderful news to know that the five British airmen graves are being well cared for by the good people of your village. :-) The families of these men are no-doubt very grateful as surely all the members of this forum are too.