With the help of our friend, Philippe Cheron, we located a witness -- Monsieur Jean Amard -- who knew the site where a Spitfire landed days after D-Day. As an eleven-year-old boy he claimed he arrived in the field of his family's farm around 1600 hours to find the fuselage empty and stripped of both its wings. He had been told the aircraft, in normal flying attitude, plowed through a hedge of trees three metres off the ground, tore off both wings and crash-landed in the field about 1230 hours. Jean Amard hopped in the cockpit and pretended to fly the aircraft. He did this only once. Monsieur Amard took us to the location in a field of wheat to show us where this took place.
Later, the Mayor of Benouville -- His Worship Alain Lepareur -- furnished a recent aerial photograph of the area and lo and behold, there is a clear discolouration in the terrain at the exact spot where M. Amard had indicated.
When we left France we believed this was the crash site of F/L Frank Clark, but upon returning to Canada and reviewing what had been written about the collision, it might have been W/C Lloyd Chadburn's aircraft. I wrote to CWGC and RAF HQ and received the following official report written 15 June 1944 -- two days after the fact;
Can J-4924 F/L F J Clark, Spitfire IXb NH415
(1) 421 Squadron took off from landing strip B.2, four miles north-east of Bayeux at 1700 hours on the third patrol of the day. This operation was a patrol of the Assault Area. The squadron was led by the OC S/L W A G Conrad.
(2) Flight Lieutenant Clark was flying Red 2 position to the OC.
(3)The squadron was flying on a westerly course five miles north of Caen at 1730 hours. A formation of Spitfires was seen approaching at the same level at cloud base which was 1200 feet.
(4) The OC turned slightly to avoid the leader of the other formation and he passed about 25 yards on the starboard side. At that point the leader of the other formation and F/L Clark who was Red 2, both saw that a collision was inevitable. Both banked steeply to starboard and the aircraft met head-on. A wing was torn from F/L Clark's aircraft. It flamed about the cockpit, dove straight down, crashed and blew up.
(5) This aircraft was fitted with Merlin 66 engine 162927/A.448274.
(6) It was later discovered that the other aircraft was piloted by W/C L V Chadburn, DSO, DFC and bar. His aircraft disintegrated in the air.
(7) RAF Station signal T.794 dated 13/6/44 refers.
signed by F/O L Hennesey for S/L W A G Conrad.
So it looks as though it was neither Clark's aircraft nor Chadburn's. Whose was it? There are a few candidates:
|6 June||164 Squadron Typhoon Ib MN454||F/O A E Roberts KIA -- shot down north-east of Caen|
|10 June||65 Squadron Mustang III FB102||F/L R A E Milton EVD -- hit by flak near Caen|
|15 June||403 Squadron Spitfire IX MK574||F/O R E Reeves Safe -- hit by flak, baled out north of Caen|
|7 July ||350 Squadron Spitfire IX MJ338||F/O R L Muls Safe -- force-landed near Caen in Allied territory|
|18 July||198 Squadron Typhoon Ib EK187 ||F/S L W Sellman Safe -- hit by flak, baled out north-east of Caen|
|18 Aug||65 Squadron Mustang III FX993||F/L B I Hillman Safe -- shot down by fighter, baled out north-east of Caen|
Given M.Amard's insistance it was a Spitfire, it looks as though the crash site was either F/O Reeves' aircraft or F/O Muls'. However, since Benouville is north-east of Caen, could the site be F/O Roberts' Typhoon, F/S Sellman's Typhoon or F/L Hillman's Mustang?