Months were spent hoping against hope that John had become a
POW. Esme began visiting and writing to the Air Ministry as well as squadron
headquarters at Croft hoping it would yield some news that he was still
"John" Fern and Esme
Gradually she began to
accept that John had in fact been killed along with six of the crew (Ben
Marceau being the only survivor). Following the war she traveled to Canada
and met John's widowed father at his Saskatchewan farm and in a final act
of closure made a personal trip to the war
cemetery at Reichswald to find her husbands grave.
Wedding Photo :
Best Man Gibson Scott left of groom, F/L George Halcro at far right.
The following letter was written by
Esme Fern to Mrs. Jones, the wife of William Jones, the
crew's Flight Engineer.
Dear Mrs. Jones,
I am terribly sorry not to have replied to your letter before now, but
much has happened in the past few weeks-hence the delay in writing. I know
just exactly how you feel and what you have been through and offer my
John had spoken often
of your husband and as you probably know, he was the only English boy in
the crew, but I never did manage to meet him. Had I known your address, I
would have written long ago. Strangely enough, my father-in-law in Canada
received a list of all crew and next of kin whereas I did not receive any
notification whatsoever. As I am in the services, your letter had to be forwarded, which
caused some delay-but after receiving the following news, I was sent home
2 weeks ago, and have been under the doctor since.
I am at a loss to know
how to word this and only wish I could have written before and so have
prepared you for the letter you must have received yesterday from the Air
Ministry-the same as myself. Mrs. Copeland-the wife of one of John's crew
heard from her in-laws in Canada that Ben, one of the crew, was safe and
after her father had made extensive enquiries, he eventually learned that
the rear gunner was in hospital at East Sheen. After making a
fruitless journey to the hospital only to find Ben had gone out and that
he had been in hospital approximately 7 weeks. Ben called on Mr. Tomkins later
in the week and explained what happened.
Apparently they were
flying at 17,000 feet after going over the target, clouds were very low
and they were on the return journey home when they unexpectedly ran into A. A.
barrage and the flak caught the front of the kite-the force of the
explosion blowing Ben out at the rear of the plane. Fortunately he had a 'chute
that opened automatically and his injuries were the loss of an eye
and his jaw broken in 3 places. I have not seen him but understand he had
been very badly shaken as I can well imagine. Until I heard from A.M.
yesterday I was still convinced that despite Ben saying there was no hope
for the others a miracle would happen and that somewhere our dear
ones would be safe. But the A.M. have now put it in black and white and
according to them a German officer told Ben he was the only survivor
he (Ben) did not mention this to Mr.Tomkins.
I just cannot believe
its true-there are so many questions I should like answered-but they will
forever be unanswered. Life is hard and fate plays terrible tricks but we
must try and bear up-though for me personally the future looks very black, without
having the one person I love with me and it must be so with you.
John and I had been
married exactly 3 months when the news came through and were keenly
looking forward to our leave in Scotland-he had been in this country over
3 years and practically every leave we tried to make bonny Scotland, but
at the last minute something always prevented us. It seemed we were fated
not to go. If only all the boys could have baled out as Ben managed to-why
it had to be John's kite is beyond me-they had been on so many trips and
had been in many tight corners-it just doesn't seem fair that they should
have been taken, especially when they had almost finished their second
tour. This cursed war, it takes so many young lives, always it
seems the finest and best of boys.
John's brother has
recently arrived in this country and has been spending leave here-and I am
hoping to go to Canada in the near future. John and I had made so many
plans-that is something I shall never do again. I will give you Ben's address, in
case you feel like writing-maybe there are some things you would still
like to know. I am so sorry I have written this in rather a crude manner, I
only hope you can understand the above. If there is any consolation to be found, it
is in the knowledge that death was instantaneous-they could not have
suffered at all. Ben's address is-J19723 F/O Marceau, RCAF Wing. Queen
Victoria cottage hospital, East Grinstead, Sussex.
It is hard to
understand that Marceau had been in hospital so many weeks without letting
any of us know what happened-maybe he just couldn't face it, not having
any good news for us, poor chappy, he must feel pretty awful. I had also
made many trips to CROFT HQ and AM but always the same answer "no
news" when all the time they knew Marceau was in hospital. I shall
always be pleased to hear from you anytime and though it is easy to say
"be brave" we must all try to cherish the many happy memories
each of us must have of our loved ones, with my deepest sympathy.
Yours very sincerely,