Air Task Force Romania pays homage to fallen RCAF veterans in Bucharest

News Article / August 18, 2014

By Captain Christopher Daniel

"Today is a solemn moment for us to remember and reflect upon the deeds of our fallen airmen who gave their lives for peace during the Second World War,” said Colonel Pierre St-Cyr, Canadian Defence Attaché to Romania, as he stood near the cross at the gate of a cemetery in Bucharest.

Senior officials from the Air Task Force (ATF) Romania, the Canadian Defence Attaché and the Chargé d'Affaires of the Canadian Embassy in Bucharest laid wreaths at the graves of two Second World War Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) airmen at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery Bucharest on August 1, 2014.

“It’s a privilege and an honour for us to be here to recognize our fallen RCAF comrades,” said Lieutenant-Colonel David Pletz, commander of the Air Task Force. “An opportunity like this is incredibly rare, so we’re proud to have been able to pay homage to them in a solemn visit.”

Flight Sergeant Reginald Thomas White Marsh was a pilot on Wellington X LN857 in the RCAF. He enlisted in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1942 and, after training in Windsor Mills and Victoriaville, Quebec, and Debert, Nova Scotia, received his wings as pilot and bomber in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Posted to 142 Squadron, Royal Air Force, he was 23 years old when he made the ultimate sacrifice during an air mission on the Ploiesti Oil Refinery in Romania on August 10, 1944.

Warrant Officer Class I Leslie Frederick Dutton was an RCAF navigator who served with 40 Squadron, RAF. He joined the RCAF in Toronto on November 14, 1941 and was posted to the RAF in 1942.

On May 7, 1944, Wellington Mk. X, serial ME878, call letter ‘X’, took off from its home base of Foggia Main, Italy, for Bucharest. After completing its bombing run, the aircraft was hit by flak and was left uncontrollable. It crashed at Vartoapele, 11 kilometres south of Belciug; Warrant Officer Class I Dutton was one of the four airmen who died in the crash (the date of his death is recorded as May 8).

“It is quite challenging to find personal details or stories about the soldiers buried here,” said Emily Dobre, assistant to the British Defence Attaché in Romania. “Of the 90 service personnel buried at this site, the vast majorities are from the Royal Air Force, or were assigned to the RAF from Commonwealth countries. You may be able to find some information in the British National Archives, but in most cases records are limited.”

She also said that they organize a Remembrance Day ceremony every year on the Sunday closest to the 11th of November.

“We invite British and Canadian nationals visiting Romania to come to the Commonwealth War Cemetery to pay respect to our fallen heroes, bring flowers and offer a moment of silence,” she said.

The ATF is the air component of Operation Reassurance, which is Canada’s contribution to NATO Reassurance Measures and promotes security and stability in Central and Eastern Europe.

“While the ATF is serving here in Romania, it is thus appropriate that we visit the graves of Warrant Officer Class I Dutton and Flight Sergeant White,” said Colonel St-Cyr. “Their lives are an example to us, they shall never grow old… we will remember them.”


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