French village near site of Second World War plane crash seeks sister city status

Prince Albert resident among the six casualties

Memorial in Thorey en Plaine where six airmen, including Jim Giles, crashed during WWII (Photo courtesy of the Executive Committee agenda)

A village in France linked to Prince Albert following an event 75 years ago is hoping to become sister cities.

The email and request from the village are included on Monday’s Prince Albert city council executive committee agenda.

Administration has recommended that it be received and filed.

The French village of Thotrey En Plaine addressed an email to the city in November of last year after talking to a pair of members of the Canadian Defence Attaché to France, Cpt. Stephan Nadeau and Col. Pierre Haché.

According to the villages’ email, an airplane carrying seven soldiers – six from Canada and one from England —was shot down while flying over the village during the Second World War while returning from Stuttgart, Germany.

The plane crashed in the woods on the outskirts of the village. Only one of the soldiers survived. Flight Officer G.R. Ellis parachuted to safety. He was taken as a German prisoner of war and was later freed.

The bodies of the victims were recovered by “courageous inhabitants of Thorey en Plaine” and were discretely buried in the intercommunal cemetery one village over.

A ceremony was held in 2014 to honour the six soldiers “who risked and lost their lives to defend our freedom.”

One of the victims was James Reginald Giles, who was born in Prince Albert.

“This sad event, therefore, links both our villages together,” the Village wrote in its email.

“We, the people of Thorey en Plaine, will always remember the soldiers who died that day.”

The village has mounted a commemorative plaque dedicated to those soldiers on its war memorial. They’ve also put up a monument at the scene of the crash, unveiled in a 2018 ceremony

‘The graves of your Canadian heroes are also well looked after,” the email said.

According to the village, Giles was born on Sept. 13, 1921, in Prince Albert. His father, Frederick, and his mother, Jessie, lived in Red Deer Hill

“Our mayor Gilles Brachotte and we, the members of the municipal council in Thorey en Plaine, are very enthusiastic about the possibility of establishing a sister city between Thorey en Plaine and your City of Prince Albert,” the village wrote.

“A common sister city project between us would keep the memory of these seven soldiers alive and would be of great value for the young people of our villages to keep Remembrance alive, despite the distance between our two countries.”

 According to the monument text, included in the email from the village, the site of the airplane crash is still visible as four holes exist, “devoid of vegetation,” created by the bomber’s four engines.