Pilot Officer Robert Dunham Reesor
On 2nd October, 1942…
It is with regret that we record Bob Reesor as missing today. Bob has been such a favourite with everyone on the squadron, while only 19 years old, he proved himself such a capable and aggressive pilot that he had only recently been recommended for a Commission. In all his actions he exemplified the highest ideals of the RCAF and the people of Pouce Coupe may well be proud of his record.
401 squadron RCAF, Operations Record Book.
PILOT OFFICER ROBERT DUNHAM REESOR was born in Ortonville, Michigan. According to the forms that he would have completed upon enlistment, his date of birth was 20th January, 1923. However, paperwork completed by his Mother, Ellen, for the administration of her son’s Service estate, gives the year of his birth as 1924 – possibly a simple error, or did he lie about his age?
One way or another, he enlisted in the RCAF on 5th February 1941, in Edmonton, Alberta, giving no previous work experience besides a Summer job as a clerk in a General Store and the details of his High School.
His Father Robert Elgin Reesor had worked as an insurance salesman but was already deceased when his son enlisted. The family had moved from Michigan to Pouce Coupe, British Columbia, in 1931. Robert had two brothers and one sister. He enjoyed baseball and hockey and was hoping to go to University and become a commercial pilot after the War.
During training his instructors noted Robert’s immaturity, but also praised his natural ability as a pilot. He was “young and full of fun.”
Reesor finished his training at No.11 Service Flying Training School at Yorktown and was presented with his Pilot’s Flying Badge on 13th September, 1941. He was sent overseas to England and went to 52 Operational Training Unit at Aston Down, to convert to Spitfires. In February 1942, Robert joined 610 squadron and then, on 15th June he was transferred to 401 squadron.
On 2nd September, while stationed at Biggin Hill, F/S Reesor was scrambled with P/O Morrison to intercept 2 FW190’s over the English coast. Morrison brought one down and Reesor got the other. The pilot of the enemy aircraft baled out at 15,000ft but although Reesor saw him inflate his dinghy, he seemed unable to climb in. However, Robert continued to give a mayday signal and circled until a naval launch arrived to rescue the German pilot. About a week later he received his adversary’s Mae West as a souvenir. Written on it was, “Presented by Hans Schmidt in appreciation of services rendered, to F/S R. Reesor.” The rescue crew had found him uninjured, and as he spoke perfect English, had assumed he was an RAF pilot! It was some time before one of the crew came up from below and said, “Sir, that bloke down below is a Fritz!” He was soon under armed guard. Reesor’s vanquished foe was Unteroffizier Konrad von Jutrzenka (1./JG26), flying Fw 190A-4 Werk Nummer 7039 coded ‘White 11’. No doubt the ‘Hans Schmidt’ signature on the lifejacket was a joke from the Air Sea Rescue launch crew.
401 squadron arrived at RAF Kenley on 23rd September, 1942.
On 2nd October, 401 and 402 squadrons were flying close escort to 43 B-17 Flying Fortresses of 97BG and 301BG targeting the Avions Potez Aircraft Factory at Meaulte, as part of a “Circus” operation. Returning from the target, 401’s Yellow section, led by F/O Morrison, were orbiting to cover the bombers’ withdrawal from the French coast, when they spotted enemy fighters. In the ensuing combat, Morrison claimed a Me109 probably destroyed and F/O Cosburn claimed a FW190 damaged. In return they lost Bob Reesor (flying Spitfire IX, BS177, YO-H) somewhere off the mouth of the Somme river.
Having no known grave he is remembered on panel 101 of the Runnymede memorial. Bobby was 19 years old when he died.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.