Biography: Earl Stewart Rheaume

On February 20, 1914 my dad was born in Ottawa Ontario, to Lillian and Eddie Rheaume.

Dad attended Devonshire Public School, where he was awarded the Certificate of Honour, after completing his third year in 1926-27.  Dad graduated with honours, from Glebe Collegiate in 1932.

Dad met his later to be wife, at a Saturday evening church dance.  Dad asked the then, Dorothy Ristow for a dance, she agreed, and they danced together, the remainder of the evening. 

Their courtship eventual led them to elope and marrying in a civil ceremony on January 31, 1936. Their two best friends attended. The four celebrated with dinner, drinks and dancing.

Those were the depression years where rationing, unemployment and tough times touched most families, including dad and moms.

Dad would take on any employment that he could find. He was happy to do so, and worked at the Clark Dairy Limited and later the Ferris Transfer.

Their first son Graham, was born on August 10th 1936 at the Salvation Army Grace Hospital. Graham died at 4 ½ years, of End Stage Nephritis, on March 23rd 1941.

I (Earle) their second son, was born some three months later, on June 27th also at the Salvation Army Grace Hospital.

Dad applied for enlistment in the RCAF on November 28, 1940. He met all qualifications for Aircrew duties – either as a Pilot, Observer or Wireless Operator Air Gunner. He enlisted in June 1941, receiving his training at No. 1 Wireless School at Montreal; Manning Pool, Toronto; Camp Borden and Fingal, where he received his air gunner’s wing in June 1942. He arrived overseas one month later joining up with RCAF Squadron 431 (Iroquois).

June 12 1943 at 2:45 AM – Wellington HE 392 Crashed:
While returning to home base at Burn Yorkshire, England, from a bombing raid on Dusseldorf, Earl and his four crew members aboard their Wellington HE 392 bomber, were attacked by a German Night Fighter. The Wellington was last seen in flames and diving toward the earth. It crashed on the land of Mr. Komen at Schagen Netherlands.
The remains of only one of the five-member crew was recovered and buried the same day: Dad (Grave #183, Row 10, in Petten, District Zype). The bodies of the other four-crew members were not recovered. 

Royal Netherlands Air Force Aircraft Recovery Team (ARG):
On September 10, 1991 the Royal Netherlands Air Force Aircraft Recovery Team (ARG) began carrying out excavations at the crash site, and discovered the remains of the four missing crew.

Together again after fifty years:
On June 16, 1993 a full military funeral honours, including British, Netherlands and Canadian military and officials, reunited the four-crew members with my dad, after fifty years of separation.

L C Scott Flt/Lt. CHAPLAIN:
“I knew the whole of this crew well, as it is my custom to see them off at night and very often meet them on their return in the morning. Earl,  I knew particularly well, as he very often played the piano for me at my church services and was always very ready and willing to do so. Also his gift for playing the piano was a valuable asset to us here, both in the Concert party and also at dances”.

Members of the crew of Wellington HE 392
Squadron Leader W E Mulford  RAF  (Pilot)
Flying Officer C A MacDougal  RCAF  (Navigator)
Warrant Officer 11 J G Breen  RCAF  (Bomb Aimer)
Flight Sergeant E S Rheaume  RCAF  (Air Gunner)
Sergeant J R Bell   RAF(VR) (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner)

~ Earle Rheaume

The Early Years



Operations Record Book 
Earl Rheaume and his four crew buddies of 431 Iroquois Squadron.
S.L  Mulford - Pilot
P/O  MacDougall - Nav.Sgt. Breen - B/A
Wt. Officer II Breen – Bomb Director
Sgt. Bell - W/Op. A/G
F/Sgt. Rheaume A/G

Sorties flown by this crew:

Date:  Description: Up: Down: Type of Aircraft
Apr 4, 1943 Sea Search 11:15 14:30 Wellington X HE 475-A
Apr 10,1943 Frankfurt 23:10 07:00 Wellington X HE 183-J
Apr 14, 1943 Stuttgart 21:05 04:50 Wellington X HE 183-J
May 16, 1943 Mine Laying 21:35 04:15 Wellington X HE 392-L
May 25, 1943 Dusseldorf 22.50 04.50 Wellington X HE 392-L
June  2 1943 Mine Laying 23.58 05.45 Wellington X HE 518-J
June 12/13 Dusseldorf 23.25 Did not return Wellington X HE 392-L
June 11/12 1943, Target: Dusseldorf, Aircraft: Wellington X HE 392-L 
This aircraft was airborne at 23.25 hours since then nothing has been heard.

S/L Mulford joined 431 Squadron on November 23rd 1942, and flew two other sorties NOT shown above, with the exception of the Navigator the crew on these missions was different.



Royal Air Force Station 
BURN,   Selby,    Yorks,
12th  June,   1943
Mrs. D. Rheaume,
123 Preston Str.

Dear Mrs Rheaume

It was with deep regret that I had to ask Air Ministry to inform you this morning that your husband, R.111159 Sergeant Earl Stewart Rheaume, was missing as a result of operations against the enemy.
Since he took off last evening no news has been received of him or his crew, but please rest assured that immediately any news comes through I will let you know. Your husband had been under my command nearly six months, during which time he proved himself to be a first rate air gunner, and this was his eight trip with the squadron. The whole Squadron joins with me in expressing my deepest sympathy with you at this very anxious time.

If there is anything I ca do, do not hesitate to let me know. I am attaching a list of your husband's comrades who were in the aircraft with him, in case youi would like to communicate with their relatives.

Yours sincerely,
Wing Commander, Commanding,
431 R.C.A.F. Squadron


Crash Number: 631
Date and Time: 12/06/43  02:46 (a.m.)
Make of Aircraft: Wellington Mk. X
Home Base: Burn Yorkshire, (England)
Military Detail: 431 Squadron
License:  HE392
Crash Location: Zijpe (The Netherlands)
Crew:  1 killed in action, 4 killed in action (kia)
Reason:  Shot down by a BR110 from Leeuwarden (Northern Holland)

MULFORD, William Edwin … years, kia
Squadron Leader   Nationality: English
Pilot    Hkplnr.: RAF 37202

MACDOUGALL, Colin Angus … years, kia
Flying Officer   Nationality: Canadian
Navigator   Hkplnr.: RCAF J/22548

BREEN, James Gerald  … years, kia
Wt. Officer II   Nationality: Canadian
Bomb Director   Hkplnr.: RCAF R/108675

RHEAUME, Earl Stewart  … years, kia
Flight Sergeant   Nationality: Canadian
Machinegun Operator  Hkplnr.: RCAF R/111159

BELL, James Richard  … years, kia
Sergeant    Nationality: English
Radio Op./Machinegun Op. Hkplnr.: RAF (VR) 1127149

The aircraft crashed in a pasture six to seven hundred meters west of the Slikkerdijk (dike) and approximately two hundred meters south of the J. Visser farm; at the time owned by the Reformed Orphanage, now cropland of W.H. Koomen.

Dusseldorf, Germany

The flight book of First Lieutenant Bredereck (from Germany) confirms:
 Wellington, 12/06/43, 02:46 (a.m.), 5 kilometers northeast of Schagen (village), 3,700 meters
 (with Lieutenant Grimm) 11./NJG1 shot down in flames
 Witnesses: Inspector Brimmer, First Lieutenant and Officer Schreiber, 10./Ln Rgt.202

Aircraft taken down at 02:45 (a.m.) that day 12-06-1943
Source: LBD Koedijk via Holland National





File No. 4312/320/15/21
Royal Canadian Air Force
Chaplain Services
21st, June 1943.
Mrs. E. S. Rheaume,
123 Prescott Street
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Mrs. Rheaume,

You will already have heard that your husband is missing on active service on the night of the 11th and 12th of June and I send you my sincere sympathy and hasten to assure you that his loss and that of the rest of his crew is felt by the entire squadron.

I knew the whole of this crew well as it is my custom to see them off at night and very often meet them on their return in the morning. Earl I knew particularly well as he very often played the Piano for me at my Church services and was always very ready and willing to do so. Also his gift for playing the piano was a valuable asset to us here both in the Concert party and also at dances.

I have had your husbands personal belongings gathered up and in the course of time his next of kin will be communicated with about them by the authorities at Ottawa. This however will take some months I expect, so if you do not hear do not be alarmed about them.

We all of us in the squadron join with you in the hope and prayer that we may have some word of the safety of your husband of the rest of the crew. 

I personally pray that you may be given strength and courage to face the difficult days ahead - days of waiting - days of uncertainty - days without any word or definite knowledge - but still days in which we can hope that good news may be forthcoming. Should that good news not come I think you can rest assured that your husband did his duty and did it well.

If there should be anything further that I can do to help you will you please let me know.

With deepest sympathy.

Leonard C. Scott


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