7th June 1944
Supermarine SPITFIRE Mk VII
MB883 (code NX-?)
Plélo, "Les Fontaines" (22)
(contributors : Véronique Veyrié, Roland Bohn, Jimmy Tual, Michel Pieto)
Pilot : Warrant Officer WOODEY Jack Edward
born on 5 March 1920 in Bowral, an Australian town in Wingecarribee County, eastern New South Wales.
Service Number - 411625
Memorial, Runnymede, Panel 259
(File, testimony letter dated November 21, 2015)
An English plane shot down over Châtelaudren.
All the old people in Châtelaudren remember the “tampered” metal tank that was used as a boat for the inhabitants of the Moulin Neuf, the Guillet and Barbe families. Who, among the young people of the 1950-1960 period, was not invited for a cruise on the mill river ? What was the history of this famous tank ? Where did it come from ? How tall was it ? By who and when was it collected ? So many questions to which I will try to answer with the complicity of a witness.
Mister René Guillet
René Guillet, merchant in Plélo, lived when he was young at the "Moulin Neuf". His house was built on the reach of the mill, which was about 50 m below. He was then 4 years old. He clearly remembers the event he experienced in live. Let him tell the story :
About a month after the landing, in June 1944 (*), during the first half of July, one morning around 11 o'clock, I was swimming in the meadow below the Cadio wood and the farm of "Kerrio" (1). Suddenly we heard the sound of an aircraft with misfires. My mother came out of the house, called us and asked us to come back. In fact, the aircraft was on fire, and the way it was flying proved that it was no longer controlled. At the same time, German motorcyclists followed the imprecise direction of the distressed aircraft. We saw it falling about 200 to 300 meters further on, in the small wood of "Nogoero", below Arsène Gaseoin's house, almost at the opposite side of the "Annexe" (2) and the car cemetery.
The Germans quickly arrived on site. The pilot was dead. However, the soldiers were convinced that he was not alone on board. Therefore they searched all the surroundings, but also under the straw at the "Moulin Neuf" at "La Dosse". This aircraft, which mission was to strafe the German train arriving from Guingamp to Châtelaudren station, was hit by the German Flak located at "La Guererie" (not far from the station). This train had already been attacked shortly before by a group of resistance from the Plouagat bridge.
Several people witnessed the event, including the inhabitants of the "Moulin Neuf" (Guillet, Barbe), of the "Fontaines" (Hilary), "Kerrio" (Mottais), the "Annexe" (Bidault) "Boequelo", "Le Goalec". Many of the houses near the impact were searched by the Germans, who prevented the curious from approaching the wreck. The Germans spent a whole week in the area. They dismantled the aircraft, recovered the engine and all the weaponry.
About two weeks after the crash, Joseph Barbé and André Barbe, sometimes accompanied by Jean and Étienne Guillet, went on site. They recovered the aircraft's fuel tank (intact), numerous mica plates (aircraft windows). They opened the top of the the tank and fitted it with a keel, and designed a relatively stable canoe (for 2 adults). Only the paddles were missing to go on a cruise. This canoe, after having been used for work but also and above all for leisure, had survived at least ten years. Every year, at the beginning of June, he was entitled to his traditional layer of tar. As for the mica, waste collectors used it to make jewelry (rings), but also used it to light houses (small pieces of broken mica were placed in a bowl and burned) ”.
It is probably the auxiliary tank of the Spitfire
* it seems that Mr. Guillet confused the dates in his memories, the aircraft having been shot down the day after the D-Day and not one month later.
(1) - Anti-tank trenches had been dug by the Germans in front of this Mottais farm.
(2) - Annexe : flat land between the "Path of the Annexe and Le Loff", used as a dumping ground for garage owners to store their old cars.
NATIONAL GENDARMERIE REPORTS
Report N° 219 of 7th June 1944
Minutes reporting judicial information. The shooting of a van by an unknown aircraft, six killed and other seriously injured.
Today, June 7th, nineteen forty-four at 12:30 p.m.
Gendarmes at the residence of Châtelaudren, department of Côtes-du-Nord, dressed with our uniforms and in accordance with the orders of our chiefs, returning from a tour, from municipalities, we were warned by express that an automobile van had just been strafed on the national road N° 12 from Châtelaudren to Saint-Brieuc, at the place called "Le Rossignol" in Plélo by an unknown aircraft and that there were wounded and dead. We immediately went on site where we gathered the following information.
Mrs TURBAN (Françoise), born Leclerc (Marie) aged 58, from the "Rossignol" in Plélo, born at the same place on June 14, 1895, declares : "Today, June 7, at around 12:30 p.m., while I was busy with my household, I heard the sound of a machine gunning on the national road N° 12, very close to my home ; shrapnels, shards and various debris were thrown up to my house. I went out and found that a Renault automobile van, registered under number 2506-GV 4, carrying newspapers and numerous travelers, was stopped at the left shoulder of the road towards Saint-Brieuc; the tires were flat and the body riddled with shrapnel. There were people killed, 3 men and 3 women, 4 other people were seriously injured and 5 others slightly. I did not see the aircraft, despite some flew around in the morning. The strafing only lasted for a few seconds and that's all I can tell you about of these machine guns. The people killed were directed to the town hall of Châtelaudren and the seriously wounded to the Guingamp clinic. "
We went to the town hall of Châtelaudren, where, in the presence of the mayor of Châtelaudren and Plélo, we noted the identities of the 6 victims as follows.
1° - Hachemi Zerouici, born February 8, 1895 in Oran (Algeria), living in Cité Guichen in Morlaix (Finistère), profession driver.
2° - De St-Pierre Fernand, born April 1st, 1891, in Ploufragan (Côtes du Nord), living in Saint-Brieuc, 20 Brest street.
3° - Mrs Le Bihan, born Rault Azeline Anne Marie, born December 19, 1880 in Lamballe, Bazais street, ID number 1435.
4° - Mrs Rouxel, born June 21, 1869 in Taden, (Côtes du Nord), living in Quévert.
5° - Viandier Marcel, Auguste, car driver, born July 12, 1905 in Rennes (Ille & Vilaine), living 8 Louis Blériot street in Rennes.
6° - Mrs Renault, Mrs Rouxel's daughter, living in St-Servan (Ille & Vilaine).
The bodies of Mrs Rouxel and Mrs Renault were transported to Guingamp by Mr Niel Jean, 22 Pontrieux street in Guingamp, to be buried in this city. Mr Le Cam, funeral director in Guingamp, also transported the body of Mr. Viandier to Guingamp for the newspaper L'Ouest-Éclair in Rennes, to be buried in Rennes. The bodies of Mr Achemi and Mr de St-Pierre were buried in Châtelaudren on June 9, 1944.
Then, we have written these minutes in four dispatches, the first after visa from the receiver of the registration, to the Public Prosecutor in Saint-Brieuc, the second to Mr The Prefect of the Côtes du Nord in Saint-Brieuc, the third at the aussenkommando in Saint-Brieuc, the fourth in the archives.
When we arrived at the "Rossignol" in Plélo, we noticed that the national road N° 12 was plowed by bullets and small 22 mm shells over a length of approximately 100 m. On the left shoulder of this road towards Saint-Brieuc was a Renault automobile van, registered on N° 2506- GV 4. The tires were flat, the boiler was pierced with numerous holes as well as the green color tarpaulin that covered the body. Blood was still flowing on the body of this vehicle. Inside, among bundles of newspapers, there were bundles and objects belonging to the victims of the strafing. All these objects were removed by us and deposited at the town hall of Châtelaudren to be returned to the parents of the victims of this accident. The bodies of the killed and wounded persons having been removed by the first rescuers who arrived on the scene before us, we were unable to question any wounded. The damaged van, covered with a green tarpaulin belung to the newspaper "L'Ouest-Éclair" of Rennes and bore the following inscription on the back : "Agence Régionale l'Ouest-Éclair, 32, rue du Pré Botté - Rennes ". This vehicle being an obstacle for traffic, was parked in a service road not far from the scene of the accident.
Report of Châtelaudren National Gendarmerie
Châtelaudren, 7th June, 1944
Around 11:30 am, passenger train n° 1580, heading towards Saint Brieuc, was strafed by unknown aircrafts, near the village of Plouagat. The mechanic and the driver were slightly injured ; one in the left hand, and the other in the forehead. These people living in Saint-Brieuc have returned to their homes.
That same day, at the same time, these same aircrafts strafed 3 linked locomotives and a German Flak wagon parked at Châtelaudren station. A German railway employee was killed (KLEIN Christian, born July 14, 1887 in Oberkassel. Identity plate n° 19115-Haupt-Verkehrs-Direktion Paris. Last known rank : Lokomotivführer. Killed in action on 7/6/1944), and two French (mechanic and driver) were injured. The latter were transported to Saint-Brieuc, the place where they originated. The same day, around 12 noon, the car transporting the newspaper Ouest-Éclair from Rennes. See former report.
The same day, around 12 noon, one of the aircrafts having strafed the locomotives at Châtelaudren station, hit by gunfire from the German Flak stationed at Châtelaudren station, fell near the place called "Les Fontaines" in Plélo. The German soldiers guarding this aircraft prohibited the soldiers of the brigade from approaching it.
INFORMATION NATIONAL AUSTRALIAN ARCHIVES
RAAF personnel attached to Royal Air Force Squadrons and WWII support units who are missing with no known grave sites.
Source : NAA (National Australian Archives) : 0705, 166/44/141
Aircraft type : Spitfire - Serial number : MB883
Radio call sign (?). Unit : 131 Squadron RAF
Summary : Spitfire MB883 belonging to RAF 131 Squadron (County of Kent) from Culmbead (RAF) near Taunton, Somerset, was last seen on a mission east of Morlaix , in France.
Statement Flt Lt Bearman, RAF
In his statements, Flt Lt Bearman (RAF) said: “On the morning of June 7, 1944, I was flying as No. 3 in a formation of 4 aircrafts with Warrant Officer Woodey who was No. 4. The group moved east to west between St Brieuc and Morlaix, France, in an attempt to fire at locomotives and other military targets. Woodey was flying very close to my left and I could see him, unless an attack took place and the group then fell back in loose formation ; Woodey was the last to attack. When a train was attacked, I noticed a tracer bullet (?) coming from the ground and going under my wings. The Flight Commander called on radio to check that Woodey and I were okay, but there was no answer from Woodey. It was the last time I saw him. During the train attack which took place later, I noticed that someone behind me had been hit by a (retaliatory?) shot but I am unable to say whether it was Woodey or not.
Signed C.E Bearman, F/Lt F 3823 (signed) Flight Lieutenant, Adjt, ( ?) Leader, commander of 131 Squadron (County of Kent).
Letters to Woodey family
131 Squadron (County of Kent)
R.A.F station Culmbead
Nr Taunton, Somerset, England
8 June, 1944
Dear Mr Woodey,
It is with deep regret that I write to inform you that your son did not return from an offensive operation yesterday. You must have been informed officially, but I am writing to express our sympathy on behalf of all our officers and the men of this unit for what must have been terrible news for you.
However, I have great hopes for his safety because after an attack on a ground target, he was heard on the radio saying his aircraft had been hit. Some pilots said they saw him flying after that, but no one saw him for sure leaving the formation and we noticed his absence only when we crossed the enemy line. All of this makes me believe that he must have thought his aircraft couldn't continue, and therefore landed behind enemy lines. Needless to say that my hopes are in this direction and that soon we will be sure that he is safe and sound.
The news of his disappearance must be a shock to you and his loss is indeed a shock as he was an excellent element for the squadron and an asset as a fighter pilot. I'm afraid we don't have any further information at this time, but if we do, I will write to you immediately. If there is anything I can do for you, please feel free to write and I will be happy to help.
I.D Macdougall Squadron Leader
Mr.A. Woodey, 49 Park Road, Bowral, New South-Wales, Australia
Sent later to (?) on 29 July, 44
M.M 29-6-44 Enc- 7A
M .V . 9981 Loss section
391 Lit Collins Street
5 June, 1944 (?)
Regarding the possessions of your son, Warrant Officer Jack Edward Woodey, who is missing in action after the air operations of June 7, 1944, I must inform you that a car belonging to him has remained in his old squadron. Due to the difficulties in storing such items and the impossibility of returning them to Australia, it is usual to keep them for approximately 3 months from the date of the disappearance of a person. If it turns out that he is still missing, that kind of item is sold and the amount is credited to him. However, you have the option, if you wish, of appointing a person of your choice in the UK to take delivery of the car rather than having it sold. If this is your wish, it is imperative to communicate to our services the name and address of the person chosen before July 20, 1944. After this date, the sale will take place, as stipulated above.
Yours friendly, M.C Langslow, secretary
Mr. A. Woodey, 49 Park Road, Bowral, New South-Wales
Crew : RAAF 4 11625 Warrant Officer Woodey, J.E (Pilot).
In 1949 it was attested that Warrant Officer Woodey had no known grave.
ROYAL AIR FORCE INFORMATIONS
In Warrant Officer Woodey's file, it is noted a different serial than the one recorded in the ORB of AIR 27_942_12-131 Sqdn. Spitfire MD165 ; we find this same Spitfire on June 18. This aircraft was destroyed in a crash on January 14, 1945.
Mission Rubarb 272 : take off from RAF Culmhead airfield near Taunton, Somerset. Flight formation of 8 Spitfires over Lamballe then divided into two flights of four planes : attack on trains to the east and west of Lamballe. Zone between Lamballe, Landerneau and Morlaix. Spitfire MD171, F/L Rudland G.P., Spitfire MD187, F/S Rigg A.D., Spitfire MD144, F/O Luckhuff L., Spitfire MD134, F/S Williams J. A. Take off at 10:30 am, return at 10:55 am.
Mission Rubarb 273 : same destination, take off at 10:35 am, return at 12:40 pm. Lamballe area in Rennes. Spitfire MD186, F/L Moody V.K., Spitfire MD884, W/O Clatworthy P.F., Spitfire MD120, F/L Bearman C.E., Spitfire MB883, W/O Woodey J.E.
Map designed by Daniel Dahiot
Translation ABSA 39-45 - Véronique Veyrié - Wednesday16 December 2015
Documentation source : Roland Bohn
Report of the gendarmerie - archives of Saint Brieuc - Jimmy Tual - Michel PIETO
ORB : AIR 27_942_12-131 Sqdn