EXTRACTED FROM  V.A.C.-A.C.C. (Veteran Affairs Canada) REGISTERS

In memory of
Flight Lieutenant
who died on July 25, 1944.
Military Service:
Service Number: J/7612
Age: 27
Force: Air Force
Regiment: Royal Canadian Air Force
Unit: 406 Sqdn.
Additional Information:
Son of Richard and Sadie Burgess, of Biggar, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Burial Information:
Grave Reference: N/A
In memory of
Flight Lieutenant Navigator
who died on July 25, 1944.
Military Service:
Service Number: J/9133
Age: 27
Force: Air Force
Regiment: Royal Canadian Air Force
Unit: 406 Sqdn.
Additional Information:

Son of Duncan and Kathy MacPherson, of Wallenstein, Ontario, Canada

Burial Information:
Grave Reference: N/A


William Mac Pherson & Raymond Burgess




Riaillé tomb or grave on 11th december 2004 A Mosquito


 "Get down ! Get Down Mister Huard !" shouted Mrs. Bainvel, who was doing her daily walking on a path close to the pond of " La Forge de la Provostière " at Riaillé, on July 25th 1944 towards 15:15 hours. Being tangled up by his reins around his arm prosthesis, Mr. Eugene Huard Senior could only duck and heard the plane, in flames, crash down at 150 meters from where he was driving his harvester. After an aerial battle of a few minutes against two German fighters, based close to Varades, the "Mosquito" fighter-bomber was shot down (1).

Raymond Richard Burgess’ death at 15:15 hours was reported at the town hall by Mr. Eugène Huard Senior (46) and William Neil Mac Pherson’s death, at the same hour, was reported by Mr. Amand Brunet Senior (65) from " La Forge de la Provostière ". The circumstances are well remembered, but testimonies differ on the number of people from Riaillé present at their burial from 100 to 400 people (2) and reasons for the German detachment presence: monitoring and inspection of the funeral procession or demonstrating military honors?  You will find, below, a testimony collected from principal witnesses Mr. Eugène Huard and Mrs. Marie-Thérèse Knittel, better known in Riaillé by her maiden name: Marie-Thérèse Brunet. They lived at "La Forge de la Provostière" not far from where the plane came down.

"The plane crashed 150 meters from the field where the Huard family worked.  At first, it was not possible for anyone to approach the plane because of the flames and the ammunition explosions. Mr. Eugène Huard Senior remained on site. His son Eugène Huard Junior (20), went to stable the horses. He saw Mr. Berthelot from "Bourg-Chevreuil" village and Miss Marie-Thérèse Brunet who were arriving, the former on a bicycle the latter running. When Mr. Eugène Huard Junior returned, he noticed that the Boy Scouts, who were camped nearby, were putting out a fire which had started in Mr. Amand Brunet's corn field and the presence of his family, the Brunet family, and Mr. George Bouriaud who was in hiding and among the last ones to escape the S.T.O. in Germany

Finally, when the explosions and the flames had ceased, they discovered that the bodies of the unfortunate aviators had been burnt and mutilated. The remains of each one of them were collected and put into two separate sheets.

Approximately one hour and a half after the plane crash, the two German pilots (3) who had shot down the “Mosquito” emerged from the road toward Sorgne in the company of an interpreter. They did not salute the mortal remains of the two aviators, but rolled them over with their feet and searched their pockets for their identification papers and money. The papers gave the pilot’s name as: Raymond Richard Burgess, and navigator’s name as: William Neil MacPherson. A short while later, a German officer of the " Kommandatur "arrived.  He saluted the corpses and ordered that the municipality arrange a burial in the cemetery, but without a procession.

The remains of the bodies were transported by Mr. Eugène Huard Junior with the assistance of a cattle cart and put in his father’s barn, which is currently owned by Mr. & Mrs. Jean Cottineau. A vigil was held over the bodies by the inhabitants of "La Forge de la Provostière" as was the custom until the following day, July 26th. Three French policemen came from Ancenis around 3 o'clock in the morning to guard the wreckage of the plane. They visited Mrs. and Miss Brunet who were keeping watch over the bodies and drank a cup of coffee with them that had no sugar because of the rationing.

The following day, Wednesday July 26th, Mr. Eugène Huard junior, with the black mare named "Fanny", went to the village of Riaillé to get the hearse. Mr. Pierre Boucherie made the coffins (4). Mrs. Brunet and her daughter Marie-Thérèse lifted the sheets containing the aviators remains and put them into the coffins.

The hearse, driven by Mr. Eugène Huard Junior left "La Forge de la Provostière" 4,5 km from the village of Riaillé . It was followed on foot by the Huard and Brunet families and two or three other people of the village of "Bourg-Chevreuil". As was the custom, the hearse stopped at the Mr. Biard’s level house (close to the new "Hôtel de Ville") to wait for the ceremony to begin.

At first, the parish priest had refused a religious service saying that the men were probably Protestants.  It was only because of the Mayor’s Assistant’s obstinacy, Mr. Pierre Gauthier, that he finally agreed to bless the corpses.

Contrary to what has been said in other testimonies, the coffins were not covered with the French flag and, although there were many flowers, no wreath in the shape of the Cross of Lorraine was placed. Miss Marie-Thérèse Brunet and her brother Amand took their place again just behind the coffins as the procession went along the road from the church to the cemetery. She did not see German soldiers honoring the procession with military salutations, but she did notice, as did Mr. Joseph Muloise, their comings and goings along the procession route.  She no longer remembers the number of people who were present. But from several other reliable testimonies, it seemed like the church was full (approximately 400 people) and that the funeral convoy included more than 200 people.

Ten days later on August 6th, Marie-Thérèse Brunet came to the cemetery in the company of her brother, Mr. Amand Brunet, Mr. Noël Bouvet (the mechanic of Riaillé), his 14 year old daugther and a couple from Saint-Sulpice-des-Landes to place a Cross of Lorraine wreath . The same people, with the exception of one, had gone by bicycle one month before for the burial ceremony of 27 members of the French Resistance (Maquis de Saffré) who had been shot by the Germans. Miss Brunet was also at the Meilleraye-de-Bretagne on August 4th for the religious ceremony celebrated in memory of the Templé brothers, 2 men of the Maquis de Saffré, shot by the Germans."

Mrs. Marie-Thérèse Knittel is now 86 years old. She has been placing flowers on the Canadian aviators graves for 60 years. She has not forgotten the sacrifice of their lives to deliver her country from the German national-socialist occupation !

(1) From Mrs. Pauline Boote/MacPherson a second "Mosquito" escaped the fight...

(2) Arthur Nerriec chief of Riaillé "gendarmerie" squad wrote on November 27th 1945 in answer to Mrs. Pauline MacPherson’s request for information of: …a numerous crowd...

(3) It was then that Miss Marie-Thérèse Brunet, who had asked the questions via the interpreter, learned that the combat had lasted only 3 minutes and that they were based near Varades at the Meauve’s big meadow.

(4) From witness Mr. Joseph Muloise, the coffins were assembled by M.M. Pierre Boucherie, Joseph Muloise and Raymond Gasnier).


Mrs. Pauline BOOTE (W N MACPHERSON’S widow) dossier transmitted by Miss Sophie BORCOMAN

1st November 2004, I was approached by Miss Sophie Borcoman and Mr. Douglas Kirk when had I come to pay my respects to the Canadian aviators tombs. Sophie told me she was a friend of Mrs. Pauline Boote, William MacPherson’s widow, who she considers like a grand-mother.  Residing near Peterborogh, Canada and not being able to travel, Mrs. Boote had asked  her to visit, in her place, the grave of her first husband.

Sophie showed me Mrs. Boote’s collection of pictures and documents from the period.  Mrs. Boote is now 82 years old. She gave me her permission to publish the photos on my internet site "Histoire de Riaillé". You will find below the photographs.  Until the 6th of April 1945,  Mrs. Pauline MacPherson was still hoping her husband would return not knowing that he had died on the 25th of July 1944 ! They had been married just a few months! ...

Mrs. Pauline Boote and Miss Sophie Borcoman hope that an association will take over for Mrs. Thérèse Knittel to flower the Canadian aviators graves.

They DIED FOR FRANCE ! The Mayor of Riaillé, in 1944, had believed it proper not to write this usual saying on the death register. There was, however, no risk, as Riaillé was delivered ten days later by the American army and the July the 2nd, 1915 law allowed it. The following Town Council forgot to put the Canadians names on the recent war memorial, even though they had died and been buried in the soil of Riaillé since 1944 !

The present Town Council, on the advice of the Mayor Mr. Patrice Chevallier has recently entrusted the Riaillé Veterans’ Association (Association d'Anciens Combattants de Riaillé ) to flower their graves.

THANKS from the heart to this Town Council and the Riaillé Veterans’ Association in the name of the people who have not forgotten !


N. Bouvet    the 23th december 2004


Family Farm in 1918 Bill at Family Farm around 1918 The Cousins : Ron, Ross, Harvey, and Bill (William Neil) MacPherson
in 1919
Bill Mac Pherson, William Hargrour, Chris Eynofson Bill Mac Pherson & Raymond Burgess William, Pauline, and their landlord
or their last tea time

Pauline's visit at Winkleigh Devon base


First graves at her visit


William's parents in 1946


Pauline Mac Pherson in 1946
at Riaillé


Final tombs
Photograph sent to family



First graves at her visit





Additional official cross
Photograph sent to family


Canadian's inscription on Bill's parents tomb


Tombs in 29th september 2006


Pauline on her 20


Family Farm in 2006 and William Duncan MacPherson
he is the William Neil MacPherson's nephew

Pauline on her 82




Handkerchief with the Cross of Lorraine Crochet gloves


The Brunet family had hidden 20 young men in succession during the war who had refused to join the S.T.O (Service du Travail Obligatoire) in Germany or who were fleeing the German police for Resistance actions. This was the case for the Doctor Henri Mainguy and his mother and sister who took refuge in the Huard Family house. A short time after having left his hiding place at " La Forge de la Provostière ", he was arrested on the 12th of December 1943 by the S.D. (Sichersdienst = S.S. Security Service) at Plerguer (35) and sent in succession to the concentration camps of Buchenwald, Dora, Laura, Buchenwald, Nixei, Weida, Dora and Bergen-Belsen. Fortunately, he returned home from this ordeal and after the war, he opened a dental surgery at Riaillé and then at Saint-Mars-la-Jaille.


His mother, Mrs. Mainguy, made with the silk and strings of the aviator’s parachute (that had been saved by the flames) a small handkerchief and two gloves. At this time, the parachutes were made with natural silk ! By recognition for the Brunet family, who took care of them, she offered these objects to Miss Marie-Thérèse Brunet.

Mrs. Marie-Thérèse Knittel, who kept them preciously, has in her turn given them to Mrs. Pauline Boote who had been Bill MacPherson’s wife


(Presse-Océan, L'Eclaireur de Chateaubriant, L'Echo d'Ancenis)

Summer 1944…Two Canadian lieutenants killed on July 25.

Sixty years after, the people of Riaillé remember… and especially Joseph Muloise who, on this day, had found some body remains not far from where the Canadian Mosquito had been down by two German fighter pilots.

 A few seconds of fighting

It was on July 25, 1944. During this beautiful afternoon of July, a Mosquito plane with two-light and fast motors emerged above the village of Riaillé… For who discovered it  first, it seemed to come from the direction of Varades. Ten seconds later, two German fighters were silhouetted in its wake. Arriving at the altitude of the Poitevinière pond, above the village of Encloses, one of the fighters gained altitude and suddenly fired on the Canadian plane, riddling it with bullets.

After making an arc, above the village of Meilleraie, the Mosquito, already on fire, came to hang above the oak tree tops of the nearby forest, before being crushed in an explosion of fire and a huge noise very close to la Provostière.

Remains were discovered for about fifty meters in the vicinity…

in a nearby corn field, Eugene Huard and his children were harvesting. A group of Boy Scouts, who were camped not from the crash, arrived quickly, as did Marie-Therese Brunet who lived not far away. Joseph Muloise and some other young people of the village came on bicycles, with their Red Cross arm-bands…

Alas, any intervention was impossible. The column of fire which rose was visible from very far, and the ammunition which exploded without stopping made people move away who had arrived at the crash site.

When all was consumed, the two charred bodies were discovered. The inhabitants of the village brought sheets to bury the two aviators. The scouts even started to dig the tombs.

An official ceremony

One hour passed and the German plane’s pilots appeared. They had taken off from the large Varades meadow, which had been transformed into an air base. After discussion, the mayor was authorized to  bury the two bodies in the country cemetery, “but without official ceremony”. During this time, the two bodies had been put in Jean Cottineau’s barn and the carpenter Muloise was tasked with making the coffins.

The German order would not be respected. The following afternoon, at a religious ceremony in the parish church, were gathered a great number of Riailléens. A dozen wreaths covered the coffins. Among those, was one made by Marie-Therese Brunet, in the shape of Cross of Lorraine. It was made only with wild flowers.

In the funeral convoy that took the direction of the cemetery, the presence of three German soldiers could be seen. But it all took place peacefully ! …

For 60 years, the bodies of Lieutenants Burgess and MacPherson have rested side by side in cemetery of Riaillé. Marie-Therese Brunet (today Mrs. Knittel) maintains and flowers the graves regularly. Various patriotic associations also gather at the graves for some ceremonies.

Stan. (Article published in August 2004, Noël Bouvet’s translation)


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