Lest We Forget

OK, time to be serious.

During the build up to D Day, 6th June 1944, the Royal Air Force was called upon to provide tactical photographs of Northern France. These photos were to monitor German troop movements, defences and strategic targets vital to the success of the mission to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation and tyranny.
Only aircrews of the highest calibre and skill flew these incredibly dangerous missions, which demanded the highest precision. The aircraft were totally unarmed and often had all armour protection removed as well, speed and experience being the only protection. Additionally, most missions were also flow during daylight hours as night photographs did not contain sufficient detail.
Various types of aircraft were utilised at different times, principle were super fast versions of the famous Supermarine Spitfire, but by 1944 the fastest plane in the sky was the De Havilland Mosquito. Affectionately known as “The Wooden Wonder” or just “Mossie”. This incredible aircraft was built using composite layers of lightweight types of wood and powered by two supercharged Rolls Royce Merlin engines, giving a top speed of just over 400mph.

20130621-215841.jpgThis is wartime photograph of a Photo Reconnaissance Mossie.
On the 5th June 1944, MM243, a PR Mossie Mk IX of 140 Squadron RAF, set out in daylight to photograph German defences in the Le Mans area.

It never returned.

Near the target it was shot down by accurate anti-aircraft artillery and crashed near the town of Bauge. Both crewmen died.

They were Flying Officer Jesse Bertram Reynolds (Pilot), Flight Sergeant Franck Earnest Brown (Navigator).

Jesse was 26, Franck 21.

Jesse had flown 16 previous photo recon missions, Franck 28.

They are buried in adjacent graves in Bauge Cemetery.

At the location where their aircraft crashed there is a simple memorial and plaque to their memory, maintained by the local community.
Today, I detoured to visit the site, pay my respects and leave a poppy cross.

20130621-221602.jpg

20130621-221639.jpg The memorial lies on the edge of a small wood and it is difficult to imagine what the scene must have been like when the Mosquito crashed.
The place is strangely tranquil, birds were joyfully singing and the whole area had an almost ethereal feel. I’m not very religious these days, but there was definitely a presence to be felt, a warm peaceful presence.

I think that the simple inscription sums it up well, translated it says;
“They have given their lives for our freedom”.

The rest of this road trip and the freedom it encapsulates, is dedicated to Jesse and Franck.

We will remember them.

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6 thoughts on “Lest We Forget

  1. Hi, jesse Bertram Reynolds, known as Bert was my Dad. I was less than 6 months old when he was killed. I have visited his grave with my wife and two children on two occasions but was unaware, until today, that a memorial had been erected, or indeed that his plane was shot down. I was pleased to read your comments and to know that your road trip was dedicated to my dad and his navigator.

    • Hello Michael.
      Thank you so much for contacting me. I read your message with tears in my eyes and feel truly humbled. Your story amplifies the human tragedy and waste of war and really brings home the colossal sacrifices made for people like me to enjoy freedom.
      The memorial is set about 400yards East of the D938 just South of Baugé en Anjou, it is signposted from the road and accessible up a small track. If you put in 47.530768, -0.091539 on Google Maps it will show you the exact spot, which you can also see on the satellite view. As you will have seen from the photos, the local people keep the memorial quite smart, your Dad and his Nav. are certainly not forgotten. I was privileged to be able to leave my own small tribute to them.
      My own Father served as a Flight engineer in 7 Squadron (Pathfinder Force), flying Lancasters, hence the air force connection and interest.
      Thank you again for getting in touch. Your message has really hit me quite hard emotionally and it has taken me quite a few hours to write this short, inadequate, reply. I promise that I will never forget them.
      Best wishes, Dookes.

  2. Hi, I and two others have been trying to trace Michael for some months. This was on behalf of a French author and Aviation historian. our search came to fruition two days ago when we heard from Michael in Italy. Our search for the next of kin of Franck Baker was unsuccessful as the family line died with him despite searching many Parish records the trail ended.
    It was very nice to read your comments about the two valiant aviators who gave their lives for their country. My personal thanks for creating the website.
    Regards

  3. We felt it was important to take time to visit this memorial and pay our respects to two young men who risked so much for us all. We looked up the background details to find out more about the story behind the memorial. Very moving.

    • It is good that these young men are not forgotten.
      Earlier this year I found their graves in the local village cemetery and was able to spend some time in quiet reflection.
      I didn’t feel that photographs were appropriate.

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