In November of 2017 a researcher in Germany found the site of a Second World War plane crash that killed 20 Canadians. Erik Wieman was researching the Canadian crew of another crash site in his village of Neuleiningen in Rhineland-Palatinate, when he took on his biggest investigation yet -- the Sept. 24, 1944 crash of a C-47 Dakota KG653 aircraft carrying 23 passengers. All were killed. It was among 15 Dakotas en route from England to Italy and ultimately to India to deliver troops building two new squadrons to help in the fight against Japan. One of those killed in this crash was James Ernest Allen of the former East Nissouri area.
The aircraft’s journey was plagued by bad weather and navigational issues, which pushed it off course over Germany where it was shot down from the ground in broad daylight. Bullets hit the wing of the plane, which broke off as the aircraft plummeted towards the ground. The gunman, a fighter pilot named Julius Meimberg, later wrote that he only intended to ground the plane.
Erik Wieman considers it a personal mission to locate downed wartime planes, spending hours combing through records and databases. He has co-founded a crash site research group and works to find the relatives of crash victims and memorialize the locations of their deaths. Wieman, a Dutch native whose grandfather fought the Nazis but who married a German woman and moved to Germany in 1992, worked with a local newspaper to find witnesses to the crash. He was shocked when 15 people, all in their 80s and 90s, came forward and offered to help. Decades after the crash, searchers combing an open field last November were able to find pieces of plastic windows, tire fragments and small pieces of aluminum – some still with camouflage paint.
In March of 2018 Colleen Carmichael (a Canadian who was assisting Mr. Wieman in his search for family members of the victims of this crash) contacted the Heroes of Zorra web site requesting our assistance as she had found the HOZ site and noted that there was a James Ernest Allen on the site along with his father and brother. After contacting two of my HOZ colleagues, Joyce Day and John Milner, and determining that they had no further information on Mr. Allen, I thought of my friend Ruth Rout and contacted her. Ruth remembered the Allen family. Not only did she remember them, but that they also had a sister. Ruth was able to give me the name of a niece of Mr. Allen’s, and that she currently resides in St. Marys. I contacted her and yes, it is the right family. As well she was able to give me the name of another niece who now lives in the Toronto area. It was wonderful to speak with these two ladies...to hear their excitement about this discovery, and hopefully for them to learn a little bit more about this relative that they only heard their parents speak about. Mr. Wieman and his team have been in touch with the two ladies. A dedication service of a memorial to these servicemen is planned for 2020.
James was the son of Ernest John and Marion (nee Baldwin) Allen. He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force at the age of 18 in 1941 and went overseas in 1943. His parents had lived at Lot 31 Concession 13 of the former East Nissouri Township and he had worked for Thomas Leadman of Browns Corners. When he enlisted he stated he was a painter.
Contributed by Shirley McCall-Hanlon
Heroes of Zorra Committee Chairperson