Harold Sherman Peabody
Whatever Happened to Sherman Peabody? Bishop’s, Nazis and a Strange Disappearance
Sherman Peabody of Sherbrooke was on the Bishop’s golf and hockey teams and a popular man on campus when World War II broke out. Leaving the school without finishing his degree, he became an RCAF Flying Officer and the pilot of a Lancaster heavy bomber.
On July 28, 1944 while taking part in a raid on Stuttgart, his plane was shot down over eastern France by a German night fighter. Two managed to parachute out, and three bodies were recovered at the crash site. That leaves two unaccounted for…
In 2016 the family of Sherman Peabody commissioned the History Department to find out the truth about his fate and that of his fellow crew member Flying Officer Doe. Over the past academic year three of our intrepid students have followed the trail of Sherman Peabody from the Old Library in McGreer, to National Archives in Ottawa, to the Public Record Office in London, to Cirey (pop. 48) in the Vosges Mountains of France. Their story connects a Bishop’s University student to Bomber Command, the French Resistance, SAS, the Gestapo’s war crimes… and to a small French village where the wartime crash of an RCAF plane still reverberates today.
On Tuesday, April 11 at 2.15 in Cleghorn Room Megan Whitworth and Sean Summerfield, two graduating History students, will be presenting their findings on the mystery of Sherman Peabody’s disappearance through a slide show and talk. ALL are welcome to attend.
Over 100 attended including Principal Michael Goldbloom
Harold Sherman Peabody, a pilot during WW II, left Eastern Townships in 1941 and never returned home
After 76 years since Harold Sherman Peabody left the Eastern Townships to join the military, his family members are starting to get some answers as to what may have happened to him.
Peabody, a science student at Bishop’s University in the late 1930s, joined the ranks of the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941.
The pilot never returned home to Sherbrooke, Que., and until recently, his family never knew what happened to him.
“This was one of those mysteries in our family that we never really pursued,” said Robert Peck, whose mother was Peabody’s second cousin.
“As young boys we used to visit the home of Sherman’s parents, and it was like a shrine,” said Peck. “His mother and father would say, ‘Maybe he’ll come home one day.’…And I think they kept that hope alive.”
Robert Peck and his brother, Jonathan Peck, enlisted the help of a group of students at Bishop’s University, and funded the research to find out what actually happened to their late family member.
Peabody survived plane crash
Born in the U.S., Peabody moved to Sherbrooke with his family at the age of three, and enlisted and fought overseas as a Canadian citizen.
In the early morning of July 28, 1944, over Lorraine, France, the Lancaster Bomber that Peabody was flying with his six-member crew was shot down by a German night-fighter.
Several of the crew members died, but Peabody’s remains were never found.
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”We kind of went from the hypothesis that maybe he’d hit his head, was in a hospital somewhere in Europe, didn’t remember who he was,” said Meagan Whitworth, one of the students involved in the project.
Whitworth said the group went through archival work and interviewed people in the small village of Saint-Sauveur in France. Some had eye-witness accounts of the plane crash.
“What we found was that Peabody was actually not in the plane when it crashed…According to the reports of what was found at the crash, the state of the plane…some open army rations were found east of the plane crash and these rations could not have been opened by other survivors as they had injuries which prevented them from walking long distances,” Whitworth explained.
Captured by the Germans
Whitworth said the researchers found reports of allied airmen in that part of France in German army records.
“We think they were maybe picked up by the Germans and maybe brought to Struthof, which was a concentration camp in Azas, France…but it’s very hard to have 100 per cent certainty of what happened,” Whithworth said.
Family grateful for findings
Robert Peck said he and his brother Jonathan Peck were very moved to hear about the group’s findings.
”We would have liked to have found his remains, where we could have ensured he was buried with military honours and so on,” said Robert Peck.
The brothers say they plan to go to France to thank the villagers for their collaboration in the project, and specifically to thank one 94-year-old woman who’s been tending the graves of the men of Peabody’s crew who died or disappeared when their plane crashed.
|Flying Officer Harold Sherman Peabody|
|this group is probably someone we should get in touch with – specializing in history of Sherman’s squadron https://www.facebook.com/No-622-Squadron-WWII-History-Page-784098965017373/?fref=nf
and a photo of his gravestone in Runnymede Memorial in Surrey UK. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=15260868&ref=acom
What happened to Peabody?
The plane did not explode. Eyewitness accounts talk about the
plane being on fire, but no explosion was reported. Bombs were found still
intact in the plane and detonated later by the Germans.
Only three bodies found at crash site
- Gons found near the crash site
Peabody jumping before
The head of the French Resistance (the Maquis) in the region, Réné
Ricatte (also known by his alias of Jean Serge), writes in his book
“Viombois”, that he was informed that the Germans had captured and
shot two allied airmen but that a third had escaped, presumably
Fiddick. However, his source is never named.
In letter addn•ssed to Father Rohr, who was the priest in Cirey-sur•
Vézouze and interpreter for Fiddick, it is written that, according to what
Fiddick told the letter writer, Peabody, Doe and Wishart had all
jumped from the plane before him.
This letter is not signed so we do not know its origin. M. Niss, Who helped Fiddick escape, remembers helping two allied airmen bury their parachutes that night.
The hypothesis that Peabody did not die in the plane crash during the night of 28th of July 1944. Although nothing can be confirmed completely, the evidence of rations,
eyewitness accounts and memoirs point towards him not being in the plane when it
crash landed near pot-de-Vin.
FIDDICK, Lew January 20, 1917 – November 14, 2016 Lew passed away peacefully in is 100th year after a brief illness. Born and raised in Cedar, BC, he is predeceased by 5 siblings; wife, Ethel and daughter, Maureen. Survived by sons, Larry (Judy), Rod (Denise); son-in-law, Drew; grandchildren, Catherine, Reid (Natalie), Erin (Tim), Kyla (Jason), Greg (Fiona), Brett (Emily), Holly (Bryn); great-grandchildren, Chloè, Sophie, Ben, Finley, Brittney, Adam. Graduating from Cedar School Lew worked as a logger in Nanaimo falling large trees by hand – he was still bucking and splitting wood in his 80’s. Lew was a WWII vet, joining the Air Force he became a bomber pilot posted to RAF Bomber Command Flying Lancasters. In 1943 – 1944 Lew flew 19 missions over Germany. In July 1944 while returning from a sortie over Stuggart he was shot down, parachuting behind enemy lines into France. Evading capture he was taken in and hidden by a French family who linked him with the Maquis and eventually with a group of SAS operatives. The next 3 months found Lew involved in sabatoge operations against German occupiers. SAS Captain Henry Druce and Lew crossed enemy lines taking sensitive information back to England which assisted advancing US troops. Lew was made an honorary SAS member for his war time contributions. After the war Lew became one of Canada’s first Federal Forest Rangers retiring after 35 years as Head Forest Ranger. In retirement he kept busy on his acre property in Gordon Head where he lived up to his last few days. A fine model as a parent, grandparent and gentleman. A big thank you to his caregiver, Joyce for making it possible for Lew to remain at home. Thanks to the staff on 8N RJH and Dr. J. Maskey for the wonderful care and support. In January the family will be celebrating Lew’s life on what would be his 100th birthday.
James Harrington Doe
Father Joseph born on 4 Aug 1894. Joseph married Mary Josephene Robertson and had 2 children. He passed away on 29 Nov 1974 and Mary born 1894 passed away in 1978 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Gerald Peabody MacKay