03.03.1945 411 (Grizzly Bear) Squadron, RCAF, Spitfire LF. Mk IXE MK950 Flt Lt. Richard Joseph Audet DFC and Bar
Operation: Armed Reconnaissance, Coesfeld, Germany
Date: 3rd March 1945 (Saturday)
Unit: 411 (Grizzly Bear) Squadron, RCAF, 2nd Tactical Air Force
Type: Spitfire LF. Mk IXE
Base: RAF Digby, Lincolnshire, England
Location: In the vicinity of Coesfeld, Germany
Pilot: Flt Lt. Richard ‘Dick’ Joseph Audet DFC and Bar J20136 RCAF Age 22. Missing
DFC gazetted on the 16th February 1943, Flying Officer Richard Joseph Audet. RCAF, 411 Sqn. Citation reads: “This officer has proved himself to be a highly skilled and courageous fighter. In December, 1944, the squadron was involved in an engagement against 12 enemy fighters in the Rheine/Osnabruck area. In a most spirited action, Flying Officer Audet achieved outstanding success by destroying 5 enemy aircraft. This feat is a splendid tribute to his brilliant shooting, great gallantry and tenacity”.
His Bar to DFC was awarded posthumously and gazetted on the 9th March 1945, Flight Lieutenant Richard Joseph Audet, DFC, RCAF, 411 Sqn. Citation reads: “This officer is an outstanding fighter. Since his first engagement, towards the end of December, 1944, he has completed numerous sorties during which he has destroyed a further 6 enemy aircraft, bring his total victories to 11; Flight Lieutenant Audet has also most effectively attacked numerous locomotives and mechanical vehicles. His skill and daring have won the greatest praise”.
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the 3rd March 1945, 411 Sqn was ordered to carry out an Armed Reconnaissance sortie in the Coesfeld area in Germany. A section of twelve aircraft, led by Sqn Ldr. John Neville Newell, 91328, the Sqn Commanding Officer, was airborne at 15:50 hrs.
At approximately 16:55 hours the section carried out an attack on an enemy railway. Flt Lt. Audet’s aircraft, believed to be hit by flak, poured glycol, burst into flames and went straight in from 500 ft crashing in a wood. Flt Lt. Audet was not seen to bail out and no R/T message was heard.
An interim report by a Field Investigation Section dated 3rd November 1947 assumed that Flt Lt Audet had survived the crash and had been moved together with another British airman, probably on the 4th March, from a flak unit based at Groß Reken, some 14 km SW of Coesfeld to Gelsenkirchen-Buer** Fliegerhorst (airfield) which was some 32 km south of Groß Reken.
* The report surmised that the other airman was most probably shot down over the same railway line on the same date, it appears that this target had been selected because of the fact that V2 missiles were being transported on this railway line. Investigation of other British fighter losses on or around this date and in this general area has proven to be inconclusive. At this time the identity of the other British airman has not been found.
** The site is now the Schalke 04 Football Stadium and complex.
Until some time in February or March 1945 captured Allied airmen were sent from Gelsenkirchen-Buer Fliegerhorst to Dulag Luft, Oberursel. When the railway line Buer-Frankfurt had been damaged PoWs were directed to Dortmund-Brackel* Fliegerhorst.
* The site is now the Borussia Dortmund Football Club training ground.
The investigators found a farmer who lived in Groß Reken who had witnessed a Canadian airman with a bandaged head at about 14:00 hrs on the day in question being taken away from Maria Veen, some 3¼ km to the east of Groß Reken by a Feldwebel (Sgt) and a former Ortsgruppenleiter (Local Nazi group leader) named Schürmann.
When the airman stopped at a road junction near the farm of the eye witness he heard Schürmann shout and saw him aggressively knee the airman in the back to direct him toward which road to take.
Although the investigation uncovered anecdotal information that an airman under escort escaped from a train by jumping out of the window somewhere between Köln (Cologne) and Frankfurt it was concluded that this encompassed an area of search so vast that research would be futile.
The recommendation, dated 18th July 1948, from No. 20 Missing Research and Enquiry Section (MRES), based at RAF Krefeld, was to close the case through lack of information and Flt.Lt Audet be commemorated and his name inscribed on the Memorial to the Missing.
Flt.Lt. Audet photograph from his Service record. Panel 278 (Credit: Andrea Ruddick)
Audet Lake in Wood Buffalo, about 67 miles NNE of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada has been named after Flt Lt. Audet.
Flt Lt. Richard Joseph Audet DFC and Bar. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 278. Born on the 13th March 1922 in Lethbridge, Alberta. Son of Paul and Edewisca Audet. Husband to Iris Christina (née Gibbins) Audet, of Pinner, Middlesex, England.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the VitzArchive database. Update to fighter claims by Ralph Snape (May 2021).