POST NUMBER 600: Two brothers fighting fascism (5)

This is my 600th post. Enjoy !!!

On Saturday, February 13th 1943,  Robert Renwick Jackson was flying his Boston III Intruder, serial number AL766, towards Nantes in western France:

His mission was to drop propaganda leaflets for the occupied French, so they could read the real truth about the war for themselves.

Alas, Robert Renwick Jackson died that night along with his navigator. The upper and rear-gunner, Sergeant TS McNeil, survived and became Prisoner of War No 27276 at Lamsdorf, then in German Silesia but now in south-western Poland. Here’s a typical POW camp:

And here’s a hut nowadays:

The second casualty in the Boston was Peter John LeBoldus, the navigator, who would have been sitting in the nose of the aircraft. His name is virtually unknown in England, but he is better known in Canada. His parents were John LeBoldus and Regina LeBoldus née Weisberg, German Catholic immigrants who had six sons and six daughters. John was a hardware and implement dealer. The family lived in Vibank in Saskatchewan. One of the highlights of Peter’s very short life must have been taking tea with the Queen Mother and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret at Windsor Castle with a group of newly arrived Canadian Airmen in England.

On this particular night, Peter John was preparing for the mission and his brother Martin, also a member of 418 Squadron, but working as a mechanic, had helped him put on his flying clothes and his parachute harness. This was the last time the brothers ever saw each other. This is Peter LeBoldus:

Peter John LeBoldus is buried next to his friend, Robert Renwick Jackson, in Grandcourt War Cemetery.

Sadly, Peter John was not the only member of the LeBoldus family to die in the war. John Anthony “Johnny” LeBoldus was a member of 142 (RAF) Squadron, where he was an air gunner in a Vickers Wellington Mk X, serial number LN566, squadron letters QT-D, “D-Dog”. They took off from RAF Oudna in Tunisia on November 24th 1943 to bomb a ball bearing factory at Villar Perosa near Turin, at the very limit of their range. Extreme weather with wind, cloud, fog, rain, and ice caused the loss of 17 aircraft and 73 men were killed. “Johnny” LeBoldus was one of them:

The third LeBoldus brother to die was Martin Benedict LeBoldus, the same man who had helped his brother, Peter John, with his flying clothes and his parachute harness before his death in Boston AL766. Martin Benedict was killed on February 20, 1944 at the age of 31. He was the flight engineer in a Handley Page Halifax Mark II of the Canadian 419 ‘Moose’ Squadron in Bomber Command, serial number JD114, squadron letters VR-V, “V-Victor”. On February 20, 1944 he and his colleagues took off at 23:12 from RAF Middleton St George near Darlington to bomb Leipzig and they were never seen again. Six other men, with an average age of twenty four, were also killed. John Leslie Beattie, Thomas Gettings, Alfred Harvey Hackbart, Donald Clifford Lewthwaite, Douglas Keith MacLeod and John Ralph Piper.  A total of 79 bombers were lost that night. Here’s Martin Benedict LeBoldus:

Mr Leboldus wrote a very bitter letter to the Secretary of the Department of National Defence for Air about the death of his sons:

“Other boys spending their time of war in Canada, yes hundreds and thousands walking the streets of Canada for years, and all our three boys were in the front line of attack. I have my doubts whether this is right and just. Plenty of those who offered three four years ago never seen any fighting nor smelled any powder, why all mine have to do it?”

Certain other Canadian families no doubt felt the same way. They included the Cantin family, the Colville family, the Forestell family, the Griffiths family, the Kimmel family, the Lanteigne family, the Milner family, the Reynolds family, the Rich family, the Rivait family, the Stodgell family, the Wagner family and the Westlake family, all of whom sacrificed three sons to the cause.

Nowadays the LeBoldus brothers are not totally forgotten. Canada is a vast land so it is comparatively easy to give names to hitherto unnamed geographical features. They are called “geo-memorials” and there are now more than four thousand of them. Leboldus Lake in north-western Saskatchewan is named after Peter John Leboldus. The Leboldus Islands there are named after Martin Benedict Leboldus. The link between Leboldus Lake and Frobisher Lake is called the Leboldus Channel after John Anthony Leboldus. What a pity that we don’t do that over here in England.  What a pity there are no streets in either Nottingham or Solihull named after Robert Jackson, killed at the age of 22, fighting for his country.

(Picture of the black Boston borrowed from wp.scn.ru.)

21 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, France, History, military, The High School

21 responses to “POST NUMBER 600: Two brothers fighting fascism (5)

  1. I am glad you are writing about these young men. It is sad that so many died at such a young age. You must have done a lot of research. Are there members of the families of these boys still living in Nottingham?

    • Not as far as I know. Robert Renwick Jackson was killed in his aircraft in 1943. His brother, John Trafford Jackson survived the war and died recently, leaving his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the normal way. As far as I know, none of the family live in Nottingham, because the two boys’ father moved to a northern suburb of Birmingham in the early 1930s.
      Let’s hope those children all know the story of their grand-uncle and grandfather, and understand that they have their freedom now, because of the sacrifices they made.

  2. GP

    Another to honor, we owe them so much.
    I will share this.

    • Thank you, you are very kind. Another young man, scarcely out of his boyhood, giving his life in the cause of freedom.
      My heart goes out to Mr and Mrs LeBoldus with their three sons lost, along with all those other families who suffered in the same way.
      One day, all war will cease, although I don’t think I will live to see it!

  3. Excellent post John. I’m with you on the naming of landmarks after these heroes. I know some streets are named after individuals on new estates but that seems few and far between.

    • Thank you for those kind words. I agree with you. I think that things bigger than minor roads on new estates should be named after our war casualties. I would suggest that schools, particularly those with a war casualty as an ex-pupil, should change their names. It would make it a lot easier if we linked this just to the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, but at least somebody would be remembered. At the moment a lot of schools are named after councillors from the 1960s or benefactors from years ago. What’s the point in that?

  4. Love reading your posts. Looking forward to the next 600.

    • Thank you. You are very kind. Inspired by your good self, I was thinking of doing a few about my Dad’s RAF jokes, all guaranteed to be 80 years old, but suffering a little perhaps from the fact that at the time, political correctness had not yet been invented. In those days, of course, if jokes upset somebody, they just had to get over it.

  5. I look forward to reading the next 600!

    • Thanks very much for those kind words. At the rate I produce my blog posts, I shall be 76 as No 1200 comes out! (if I’m lucky!).
      In actual fact I always spend a month doing blog posts and nothing else, and then, when I need some more posts, I spend another month writing the next batch.
      Titles which will appear soon include a couple of air museums, such as Newark and Strathallan in Perthshire, a few “Why no statue ? ” pieces and those puzzles called “What would you do next?” (if you were in a dilly of a pickle”). Phonetic Alphabets is more interesting than you might think (just) and “Soldaten” is a book by two German academics which examines how soldiers manage to massacre other human beings without any sense of guilt whatsoever. I’ve also got “The Carvings in the Tower” which refers to eight people who, before the Battle of Britain began, carved their names on a window ledge in our school tower. I look at what happened to them. Finally, there is “The Sandiacre Screw Company” which isn’t about massage parlours in the Erewash Valley, but tells the story of how one cannon shell from a German night fighter in 1943 robbed thousands of people of their jobs in the early 1970s.

  6. I can totally understand Mr Leboldus’ bitterness at losing all of their three boys in the front-lines. That other families suffered similar losses is incomprehensible.
    Last night I watched the movie “Hanover Street,” an American-British romance movie, set in London in 1943. The B-25 Mitchell bomber flown by the main American character in the movie resembles the one featured in your post.

    • I agree with you 100% over the LeBoldus family and the other families as well. I presume that the young men all volunteered, and then had the terrible misfortune to be killed in different theatres of the war.
      “Hanover Street” is a lovely film. although it’s a long. long time since I watched it (on VHS!). You are right about the Mitchell and the Boston, which were really quite similar and did very similar jobs. I suppose that if they had been bird or small mammals, we would have been talking about convergent evolution, which can produce, for example, two species of birds that are virtually identical, but which live thousands of miles apart.

  7. Steve Boyes

    Your observation about street names is so true and ties in well with your comments about “why no statues”. Statues require organisation and funds where as streets named after local heroes could be generated quite easily with the amount of house building that is going on. I would be quite proud if the street I lived on was named after a hero.

    • Yes, and so would I. With satnav we just don’t need Derby Road or Macclesfield Way any more.
      I think it may be a bit late to commemorate the casualties of WW2 or the wars of the 1950s but we could try something with the 454 casualties in Afghanistan. Schools could change their name to that of a former pupil. Sports centres or shopping malls could do the same.
      We certainly need to do better than we are at the moment..

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