Châteauneuf : en souvenir de l'aviateur anglais Donald Hoddinott tombé au champ d'honneur le 6 avril 1944

Rédigé par Alan dans la rubrique Opération spéciale
Photos Tony et Alan

Le 6 avril 1944 sergent Donald Hoddinott était à bord d'un avion « Halifax » en provenance d'Angleterre, au cours d'une mission au profit de la Résistance. Touché par les tirs ennemis vers 3h du matin, le Halifax perdait de l'altitude et l'équipage comprenait six hommes sauterent à l'hauteur de « chez-Guignard » et furent recueillis par les maquisards avant de regagner le sud de la France. Mais le parachute du sergent-aviateur Hoddinott ne s'ouvre pas et il s'écrasa sur le piton rocheux surplombant la vallée de « Fontaury ».
A lieu-dit « Fontaury », en bordure de la D84 (Châteauneuf - N10 au nord de Barbezieux) il y a une stèle érigé honorant la mémoire du Sergent Hoddinott.

Le monument est composé de deux plaques. En avril 2010, pendant la cérémonie franco-britannique du 66e anniversaire, une photo du sergent Donald Hoddinott en porcelaine a été ajoutée. (2016 : la cérémonie sera le 9 avril à 10 h 30).

L'équipage aérien :
  • Lieutenant Frank Cleaver, pilote
  • Sergent Raymond Hindle, ingénieur de vol
  • Officier Norman Wyatt, navigateur
  • Sergent Alan Matthews, mitrailleur
  • Sergent John Franklin, radio
  • Sergent Donald Hoddinott, artilleur arrière






During the evening of 5th April 1944, the crew of the Halifax Mk V Bomber of 644 Squadron, based at Tarrant Rushton in Dorset, boarded their aircraft at 2230 hrs. Their mission was to drop arms, ammunition and explosives to the maquis operating in the Charente Maritime region.

Flying at low level to find the Drop Zone the aircraft came under fire from Germans occupying an airfield near Cognac. Flt. Lt. Cleaver took evasive action but with the starboard wing on fire the aircraft began to lose altitude. Realising how low the aircraft was Cleaver gave the order for the crew to bale out. He remained at the controls and with little time left to parachute himself he attempted to land the aircraft in a field in the dark. 

The Halifax crash landed and he was able to escape from the plane before it exploded. Flt. Sgt. Donald Hoddinott suffered injuries on landing probably due to jumping at too low a height to parachute safely. The Germans took him to a hospital but he died of his injuries. He was buried at Cognac.

Flt. Lt. Cleaver, Flt. Sgt. Franklin and Sgt. Hindle all returned safely to England with the help of the Resistance and the 'Pat O'Leary' evasion line via the Pyrenees over to Spain and then back to England via Gibraltar. Plt. Officer Wyatt evaded capture for a short time but was captured and made a prisoner of war.

Sgt. Matthews evaded successfully and joined the maquis d'Armelle (from the end of August 1944 part of the maquis Bir Hacheim) operating around the area of Douvesse and Bouteville, fighting along side them until September 1944.

Flt. Lt. Cleaver and Sgt. Matthews each have a chapter telling their story in their own words in a book published in 1992 - Home Run : Great RAF escapes of World War II by Richard Townshend Bickers. I've got a copy on the way and will post an article telling their story when it arrives.

2015 : This year the ceremony at Fontaury in memory of Sgt Hoddinott will be held at 10.30 am on the 4th April.


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A lire également :

Chateauneuf : le 70e anniversaire de la mort du Sergent Donald Hoddinott honeré dignement (lien)
Avions alliés tombés sur le sol français - période 39-45 (lien)