Harold Sherman Peabody

Fiddick, Peabody, Doe

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 a 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 Dr. Michael Childs and Principal Michael Goldbloom.

Bishop’s University Remembers Sherman Peabody

Bishop’s University students shed new light on 73-year family mystery

Harold Sherman Peabody, a pilot during WW II, left Eastern Townships in 1941 and never returned home

Harold Sherman Peabody
Harold Sherman Peabody

Harold Sherman Peabody, a pilot during WW II, was not on the plane when it was shot down by a German night-figher in 1944. It’s believed he was captured and brought to a concentration camp in France. (National Archives Canada)

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 as they to all went to their graves.

“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.

ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 21450

Date:29-JUL-1944

Time:01:30
Type:
Avro Lancaster Mk IOwner/operator:622 Squadron Royal Air Force
Registration:
L7576C/n / msn:GI-K
Fatalities:
Fatalities: 5 / Occupants: 7Other fatalities:0
Airplane damage:
Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:
Pot-de-Vin, between Cirey-sur-Vezouze (Meurthe-et-Moselle) & Petitmont –    France
Phase:
En route
Nature:
MilitaryDeparture
Airport:
RAF Mildenhall
Destination airport:
Stuttgart
Narrative:
Airborne 22:00 28 Jul 44 for a mission to Stuttgart. Crashed into woods.
Crew:
F/O (J/22396) Harold Sherman Peabody RCAF presumed killed after captured 31 July 1944.
F/O (52167) G.J. Wishart RAF confined in the hospital due to injuries.
F/O (J/29847) James Harrington Doe – RCAF presumed killed after captured 31 July 1944.
F/O R.L. Fiddick RCAF OK & evaded.
Wop/AG: Sgt 1547679 Arthur Payton 30 RAFVR killed.
AG: Flt/Sgt R/220221 Richard Godfrey Proulx 21 RCAF killed.
AG: Sgt 1813417 Percy William Buckley 18 RAFVR killed. 
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. 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.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 on 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 GermansWhitworth 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 may be brought to Struthof, which was a concentration camp in Azas, France…but it’s very hard to have 100 percent certainty of what happened,””We think they were maybe picked up by the Germans and may be brought to Struthof, which was a concentration camp in Azas, France…but it’s very hard to have 100 percent certainty of what happened,” Whitworth said.

Harold Sherman Peabody

Harold Sherman Peabody the son of Mr. and Mrs. Harold A. Peabody of Portland Street Sherbrooke. At 22 years of age, Pilot Officer Peabody was educated at Sherbrooke High School and at Bishop’s University in the late 1930s. He was especially active and prominent in sports during his school and college days. Hew was outstanding in golf and was the holder of both the junior and senior championships of the Eastern Townships. Prior to listing in the Royal Canadian Air Force, he was assistant armament instructor at the Windsor Mills Airport. He enlisted in Active Service on November 20, 1941, and was first stationed at the Brandon Manning Depot, later going to the Initial Training School at Toronto; afterwards proceeding to the Elementary Flying School at St. Catherines, Ont., and lastly to Yorkton, Sask., form which school he was graduated and received his wings in December 1942 and promptly promoted to the rank of Pilot Officer.

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 honors 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.

”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.

Flying Officer Harold Sherman Peabody
Burial:
Runnymede Memorial
Englefield Green
Runnymede Borough
Surrey, England
Plot: Panel 247.

The plane did not explode. Eyewitness accounts talk about what happened to Peabody?
The plane is 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. Guns also 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 a letter addressed 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.

Madame Madeleine Schultz:

This angel rises above all the horror of all this. Madame Madeleine has been putting flowers on the crash site and the memorials in the cemetery in Petitmont daily since the plane crashed.  I will keep a special place in my heart for this dear women always as she is 95!

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