We Remember - Oscar Brown

UPDATE (October, 2014)
We've recently been contacted by Ton Bosmans the gentleman in Holland who looks after Oscar's grave site ... amazingly Ton, with the help of a metal detector, has discovered Oscar's name tag in a farmer's field where the Lancaster bomber crashed.  See the tag below.  Inscribed on the back is Gladys Slater's name who was Oscar's fiance.  Oscar & Gladys' families have been notified of this unbelievable find. Thank you Ton.
 
 

In the main hallway of Balfour Collegiate hangs a plaque honouring the 90 boys and men of Balfour Collegiate who paid the ultimate sacrifice in World War II.  As we approached Remembrance Day 2011, Balfour staff and students honoured these soldiers by researching who they were, where they came from and where & how they died. We remember ...
 
The first man we'd like to honour is Flying Officer (David) Oscar Brown.  This is his story.
 
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Oscar Brown was born on July 19, 1914, in the Rose Plain District, 6 miles north of Regina.  His parent's names were David & Jean Brown. He was the youngest of 3 children. Oscar had an older brother named Karl and a sister named Mary. Karl sadly drown when he was 10 years old. Mary lived to the amazing age of 96! Oscar grew up on a homestead with his family farming  two sections of land.  Oscar's family was one of the first in the area to raise a herd of Angus cattle. In Regina Oscar lived at 2251 Lorne St. Oscar attended Balfour Technical School in 1940 to take a Motor Mechanics course. He also Normal School in Regina to be able to become a teacher. During his time at Balfour his father's occupation was listed as farmer. Oscar's first teaching job was in Briarcliffe, Saskatchewan where he taught grades 1 to 10.  Oscar went on to work at General Motors in Regina before the war.  Oscar enlisted in 1942 and received his flight training in Trenton, Ontario.
 
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 Oscar Brown's Regina College records (courtesy Universtiy of Regina Archvies)

 During World War II David was a navigator on a Lancaster bomber.  Oscar, along with his 6 companions, were shot down over Hunsel, Netherlands at 1:16 in the morning on July 21, 1944.  None survived.  Oscar Brown is buried in Limburg province, in the town of Hunsel, at the Hunsel Roman Catholic Churchyard.

 
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 The following is a summary of what is known about Oscar:
 
 
 
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More specifically, Oscar flew on a Lancaster ME 858 bomber out of the 514 Squadron . This squadron was based out of Waterbeach, Cambridge, UK. (Throughout the war this squadron flew a total of 3675 operational sorties, with a loss of 66 aircraft.)
 
On the evening of July 20, 1944, Oscar and his crew were on a bombing run to Homberg, Germany, the objective:  to bomb the Rheinprussen synthetic petrol plant. Oscar's plane was lost on it's way to the target, only it's 2nd mission with only a total of 48 hours on the plane. According to Dutch historian, Ton Bosmans, the Lancaster's complete bomb load was on board when it crashed.  Only a few bombs exploded in the open field outside the village of Hunsel. The Lancaster was also carrying a large 4000 HC (Cookie) bomb. It did not explode.
 
The Lancaster ME 858 JI-J was shot down by Unteroffizier Gustav Sarzio flying a Bf 110G-4.
 
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Gustav Sarzio - 1944
 
According to eye witnesses, "The airplane was hit in one of the wings and exploded high in the air. None of the crew members was able to leave the Lancaster. Parts of the plane are laying in a circle of 500 meters around the crash site." 
 
Killed in the crash were:
 
  • Sergeant WILLIAM EDWARD BLORE - Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Air Gunner) - Service No: 2221318 - Age 36
  • Flying Officer DAVID OSCAR BROWN - Royal Canadian Air Force (Navigator) - Service No: J/35242 - Age: 30
  • Sergeant NORMAN DERHAM - Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Flight Engineer) - Service No: 1896733 - Age: 25
  • Sergeant HARRY MATTHEWS GLANSFORD - Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Air Bomber) - Service No: 1542381 - Age 23
  • Sergeant GEORGE HENRY HOLT - Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Wireless Operator) - Service No: 1127147 - Age 22
  • Sergeant HAROLD EDWIN LONG - Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Air Gunner) - Service No: 3030276 - Age 20
  • Flying Officer DOUGLAS MILLAR - Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Pilot) - Service No: 53841 - Age 28
 
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The grave stones of all 7 members of the Lancaster ME 858 crew.  Hunsel, Netherlands
 
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Bomber Loss Card (courtesy RAFmuseum.org)
 
The kind villagers of Hunsel stole the bodies of the men and buried them as mentioned above before the Germans could take them. The Germans bombed the church in reprisal.
 
The following information was provided by Dutch historian Tom Bosmans - pictures of the wreckage, information regarding the bombs on board, etc. (Ton is the gentleman who looks after the grave site of the seven airmen to this day ... Ton's father, Huub, was an apprentice carpenter at the time of the crash and helped make coffins for all the men. As Paul Derham, grandson to flight engineer Norman Derham, recently said "They (Ton & his father) are 2 incredible men who work non stop in the memory of the crew of the plane.")
 

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Operational history

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Operational history (con't)

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bomb load description

     

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Lancaster bomber engine

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Lancaster bomber crash wreckage

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Lancaster wreckage c/w German guard

     
 Click thumbnails above for larger photos
 
In May of 2009 the town of Hunsel, Netherlands dedicated a new memorial to the Lancaster ME 858 crew. According to the website WW2museums.com:
 
The memorial is located opposite Schansstraat 4 in Hunsel and commemorates the crash of Lancaster ME 858 of the 514 Squadron, in the night of 20 to 21 July 1944, when it returned from Homberg. The memorial exists of a stone with a V-sign (Victory of Freedom (Vrijheid in Dutch)). These are parts of one of the wings of the crashed Lancaster. The sign above the plaque is made from metal from one of the engines which was found some years ago. The memorial stands less than 50 metres away from the crashsite of the Lancaster. The crew is buried on St. Jacob Churchyard in Hunsel.
 
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Mr. Paul Derham & Mr. Ton Bosmans (l. to r.)

2009 Memorial Dedication & Lancaster Bomber Flyover
 
Other Lancaster bomber video/info links:
 
The government of the province of Saskatchewan has named a Saskatchewan landmark in honour of Flying Officer David Oscar Brown.  The landmark is called 'Brown Channel' and it is located at the following latitude & longitude:
  • latitude:  55 degrees, 37'
  • longitude:  106 degrees, 26'
 
Author and pilot, Doug Chisolm, has this to say about the landmark tribute ...
 
"Brown Channel on Pinehouse Lake was named in his memory by our province and I prepared a geo-memorial tribute for the family with the aerial photo which I had recorded. As part of the Churchill River, it is a very beautiful site, a few miles north of from the community. I am quite familiar with the area, as I have installed 2 bronze memorial plaques at other geo-memorial sites not far from Brown Narrows."

 

Doug's 2001 book 'Their Names Live On' outlines the lives of 89 of Saskatchewan's war dead, complete with stories and pictures from family members.
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Oscar Brown's write-up at Saskatchwan Virtual War Memorial
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The Balfour Collegiate family remembers - Oscar Brown.
 
Special thanks to the following for providing some of the above information:
- Mr. Ton Bosmans, Netherlands
- Mrs. Janette Fawcett, niece of Oscar Brown (Lacombe, Alberta)
- Mr. Donald Slater, brother of Gladys Slater (fiancee of Oscar)
- Mr. Paul Derham (grandson of Flight Engineer Norman Derham)
- Bill Barry (Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial)
- WWII forum - ww2f.com
- WW2museums.com
- Doug Chisolm , author, photographer (LaRonge, Saskatchewan)
- Age Shall Not Weary Them  - Saskatchewan Remembers its War Dead by Bill Barry with Doug Chisholm and Beth Parsons