Alone in his transparent
A speck in space,
He sits, poised in his airy
At his back the unknown,
Before him the unfolding
Of his journey.
Guardian of seven lives,
Taut with the concentration
He swings his turret through
the vigilant arcs,
Eyes straining for the fighters,
Braced for the violence
LOVE SHINES OUT FROM
Toronto Globe and Mail June
4, 2004-08-06 by Nathalie Bibeau
he flew bombers over the land where she sought cover.
Years later, the two found
On the second floor of a
drab, over lit nursing home, I found the last chapter of one of the most
famous military stories in Canadian history.
I was working on a CBC documentary
commemorating the 60th anniversary of D-Day, June 6th 1944. it was a drizzly
morning in February, the nurse at the desk was impassive, and Jim Kelly
was in a room at the end of a wide, barren hallway. He sat in an oversized
wheelchair, with his long legs crossed at the knee, he was so thin and
narrow the space around him looked swollen. Dressed neatly in a plaid shirt
and suspenders, he was leaning back holding the newspaper close to his
chest. His wife, on one of her long visits, was sitting close to the window
Sixty years ago, Jim flew
Lancaster bombers over Nazi occupied France. In the spring and early summer
of 1944, he was the wireless operator on a crew whose last mission would
become one of the legends of the Second World War.
On the night of June 13,
1944, while on their 13th mission, they were shot down. In the few minutes
it took for their burning bomber to fall out of the sky, as most of the
crew at the front bailed out, a grim drama unfolded in the rear. The tail
gunner, Pat Brophy, was trapped in his turret, plummeting to certain death.
His friend mid-upper gunner Andrew Mynarski, had safely reached the escape
hatch and was about to jump when he turned around and saw Brophy. He crawled
over to him through a wall of flame, and tried to pry him free. Clawing
at the door with his bare hands, he was on fire from the waist down. What
transpired in those few moments 13 minutes past midnight, is one of the
most selfless acts of valour in the history of war and it would earn Mynarski
a posthumous Victoria Cross.
Jim Kelly, sitting before
me that February morning, was the last man left alive from that mission,
which is why I was here. But there was one last story waiting for me in
that little room.
While Jim talked of D-Day
and his excitement over crushing the Nazi advance, he noticed his wife
leaning over his tray, quietly mashing a banana into a bowl for him. He
stopped and said to her, “That time was different for you, wasn’t it?”
Regine – bold and charming
– is Jim’s second wife. She’s German. She spent the war married to a German
Naval Officer, and living with her mother in Aurich, a town 30 kilometres
from the North Sea coast directly under the flight path of Allied bomber
“At eight months pregnant,
I was riding my bicycle begging the neighbours for food, jumping into ditches
every time I thought the planes were getting too close,” she said. Her
village was never the target, but the bombers flew overhead day and night
on their way to the industrial heartland of the Reich. The quaking sound
of those bombers haunt her to this day. “The air drummed, the house trembled
--- first with the sound of engines, then alarms. It happened so often,
I kept my baby in a laundry basket to be able to run down to the cellar.”
In the spring of 1944 while
Regine’s husband was away fighting she and her daughter fled farther inland
to the Harz Mountains to get out from under the war.
Jim, in the meanwhile was
miles up in the sky, and just as fear stricken. He was a kid who had enlisted
at 17 to fight the Nazis, and left his young wife in Winnipeg. Within months
he was part of the greatest air armada in history. On big raids there could
be a thousand Lancs in the air at once in a bomber stream one mile high,
one mile wide, and ten miles long.
It was cold, the flights
were long, and he was usually sitting on at least 8000 pounds of bombs.
“I could hear and smell the flak exploding around me, and when I looked
outside, I saw airplanes blowing up,” he said, never knowing if it was
a friend until he got back to the squadron base. All he could do was count
down the time that they had left: “I only have this many hours to live
through – just this many.”
After they were hit the night
of the 13th, Jim parachuted out of the flaming plane and landed safely
in a field. He was taken in by a family and spent three months as a fugitive
with the French resistance.
By the time Jim made it home
the Nazi empire was unravelling and Regine was fleeing back to the coast
to escape the Russians who were squeezing in from the East. It was sheer
anarchy. “The years after the war were almost worse than the war itself,
once we learned what Hitler had done,” she said. In 1953 Regine, her husband,
Ernst, and their daughter, were accepted into Canada as immigrants.
For more than half a century,
Jim lived happily with his wife, Lee, and their two children. Regine
worked in restaurants and chocolate factories, her husband was a barber,
and they raised their daughter Anke, as a Canadian.
Four years ago, there was
a Christmas party in the basement of the condo building where Regine and
Jim were introduced. Both had by then lost their spouses; they were alone.
When the party ended, they took the elevator and realized they lived on
the same floor.
It started with Jim taking
home leftovers from Regine’s; it progressed to Sunday dinners. One impulsive
morning, two years later, 78 year old man, Jim, and an 80 year old Regine
walked into city hall, yanked two witnesses off the street and said their
Parkinson’s disease had devitalized
Jim’s voice and hand gestures, but all of life was concentrated in his
eyes, so that when he spoke, I could see the kid in him waging an insurrection.
He was playful, sharp witted, and kind. Regine was indomitable, warm, and
loyal. I admit, I was totally charmed. Sixty years ago these two people
were bobbing corks in a ferocious tidal wave, but on that February
morning, they were just in love.
When Regine had finished
mashing the banana, she lathered on the whipping cream. Jim flashed her
a beaming grin, and she was radiant. This is how the last chapter closes.
Two polarized war experiences converging in this quiet, unremarkable room.
And no one in the North York nursing home seemed to have any idea.
Jim Kelly, last survivor
of a mission that would enter Canadian schoolbooks, died five days after
I saw him. On May 17 Regine joined him.
June 28, 2004. Discussion
Between Mr.W. Vanzant
and Robert Henderson,
Homefront Archives &
Flight Sgt. Vanzant was Mid-upper
Gunner on Halifax DK258, lost to a German night fighter during a raid against
Nuremberg, Germany, August 27/28, 1943. They flew with 434 Bluenose Squadron
(in Excelsis Vincimus)
The Nuremberg, Germany, bombing
raid was made by 674 aircraft – 349 Lancasters, 104 Stirlings, and 221
Halifax. Eleven of each type were shot down by Night Fighters and flak,
for a loss of 4.9% of the total force. The bomb pattern fell across the
South-Eastern and Eastern suburbs, with a loss of 65 people on the ground.
Though the target was cloudless, it was a very dark night. While the Pathfinder
bomb markings had been accurate, a “creep back” of the bombing pattern
occurred which could not be corrected by the Master Bomber due to poor
communications between the aircraft.
Lost with the aircraft was
the Pilot, WO2 R116497, Thomas Frank THOULD, 21 years, from Winnipeg.
Also killed was R105328, Flight Sergeant (Air Gunner) Milton Ray LEDGETT
22 years, from Brooklin, On. Both men wee buried in the War Cemetery at
Canadian survivors of the
loss, who became Prisoners of War were:
Warrant Officer H.D. MALLORY
(acting as 2nd. Pilot to gain experience).
Flying Officer McREADY
F/Sgt W.M. VANZANT (Upper
Two non-Canadian crew members
were taken prisoner.
F/Sgt. VANZANT parachuted
to safety, and on landing, took evasive action to avoid capture. He managed
to cross on heavily travelled road in his efforts, but was captured by
civilians the following day.
During his interrogation,
F/Sgt. VANZANT recalls the interrogators told him I detail about his unit
and himself.. On the wall of the interrogation room was a very large map
of Canada, with every military station identified, among other things.
Sent to Stalag 4B, Muhlburg,
Germany, the memories are not pleasant. He recalls an instant where one
of the many starving Russian prisoners kept in the camp to perform the
most unpleasant duties, rushed after a cart load to grab a handful of garbage.
He was shot in the back by a German guard, and died instantly.
On a separate occasion, closer
to the end of the war, an American Mustang was in combat near the PoW camp
with German aircraft. The Mustang chased a JU88 over the camp, fired too
soon, and the shells hit a watching PoW, killing him.
The most tragic event occurred
on 30 April 1944. It was the practice of German Pilots from an airfield
located beside the PoW camp made a practice of “buzzing” the camp personnel
on a regular basis. On this occasion, a JU88 roared across the PoW exercise
yard, during which time the propeller of the aircraft struck W/O H.D. MALLORY
from behind, killing him. The aircraft then took out part of a fence ,
but managed to stay in flight. Buzzing of the camp ceased after that date.
W/O Herbert David MALLORY,
from Woodstock, N.B. was 22 years old at the time of his death.
The PoW camp was finally
over run by the Russians, and F/Sgt. VANZANT joined with another PoW to
walk away to Allied lines, scrounging food and avoiding enemy personnel
along the way/. A Russian group allowed them to cross a bridge after they
had identified themselves as Allies, and shortly after that, an American
Red Cross jeep approached them offering a ride. They were told they would
be flown out of the area the following day.
Shortly after that a burst
of tracer shells from three German machine guns forced the jeep to a sudden
halt. The Germans took over the jeep, and allowed the unarmed prisoners
to head back to the original PoW camp, on foot. After about two days at
the camp it was back to England and freedom via courtesy of the American
Among his souvenirs from
those hard times Mr. VANZANT proudly displays his Caterpillar Club lapel
pin – representing his emergency parachute jump from his disabled Halifax.
Victor Polichek and Duke
Dawe, Vernon, B.C.
Duke flew 200 hours on
the Nanton Lanc.
This is a picture of my
Dad's squad. He died in 1994. He is in the back row, far left. William
Lane. He trained at Trenton and was stationed in England. He was a tail
gunner on a Lancaster. My mother gave away all his air force info. I do
not know what squadron he was in or anything else. I know he was a crack
shot, because the air force wanted to keep him to train future gunners.
I have no details at all. Maybe you can circulate this picture and see
if there is any one still alive that could provide any details. I would
appreciate this very much. It is probably to late, but I still have some
hope. I have heard some of the stories of what these brave men went through.
William Lane back row
410-653 Major Mackenzie
Richmond Hill, Ontario
AIR FORCE BRATS ASSOCIATION
Thanks for the prompt reply
and information as to the rightful ownership of the graphic. I think it
is a great graphic and it needs to be exposed more. I will wait to hear
from Ross or yourself, with final approval, before I use it on the site
at www.cafba.ca and in our newsletters.
Cafba stands for the Canadian
Air Force Brats Association.
The association was originally
formed in 1996 under the banner name of Canadian Air Force Brat Network
as a result of a few brats getting together one evening and reminiscing
about their past on the various stations they had lived on in their youth.
One of the unanswered questions coming from that original meeting was "whatever
Thus the first beginnings
were started. By word of mouth news of the network was spread and plans
for a reunion were started. The sole purpose was to reconnect with kids
we went to school with so long ago, and to find answers to that famous
The first reunion was held
in Vancouver in 1997 and attracted 800 plus interested parties. In Jan
1997 I set up the first static web page that provided registration and
membership information only. Late in 1997 the name was changed to its current
name of Canadian Air Force Brats Association. The web site was expanded
and membership started to grow in leaps and bounds. Today the database
contains the names of over 10,000 BRATS that are looking to either reunite
with or be reunited with long lost friends.
There are numerous web sites
dedicated to a variety of military backgrounds. While our site is called
Canadian Air Force Brats Association, it is by no means limited to just
Air Force Brats any longer. The amalgamation of the Forces around 1965
saw the distinctive uniforms of the three services disappear and the local
brats growing up in "mixed" schooling situations. Was it Canada's first
attempt at multiculturalism?
We now have our own web site,
a newsgroup, a chat room a plethora of web sites that reminisce about our
youth and a true virtual BRAT family that is supportive, loving, dedicated
A recent comment on our newsgroup
sums up who we are: "Why I am proud to be a brat - so much in common with
so many. - Dennis LLoyd"
We are the children of those
who are honoured in the graphic that I have requested permission to use.
We understand the statement that is being made and we wish to pick up the
torch from the few remaining surviving war veterans.
Following is a copy of our
most recent newsletter. Thanks for your part in making our lives safer
and more enjoyable. I look forward to seeing your September issue.
Svend, we repeatedly told you, always ask permission
before you click!
BURMA BOMBER REUNION AUGUST
14, 15, 16, 2005
For registration forms and
more information contact:
9 Abinger Crescent,
Etobicoke, On. Canada
SHORT BURSTS web page will
keep you up to date on this planned reunion. Stay tuned.
The following is a quote
from Larry’s letter:
“They say you should always
leave them laughing, so I am pleased to share this one with you from Ian
Scott in Blairgowie, Scotland. Thanks Ian.”
“As the Japanese pushed down
the Malayan Peninsula various aircraft made their way back to India. One
of thee was the Brewster Buffalo. At Digri Road, M.U. they were having
trouble with sand getting into the carburetor and wound up using Tampax
as a filter. After running out of Tampax, a young innocent P/O was sent
down to the nearest chemist to get some more. On entering the shop rather
frantically, he was greeted by a bright young Anglo-Indian girl who asked
him what he wanted. After replying that he wanted some Tampax, she asked
him “Will that be large, medium, or small?
“Well,” he said, “I really
don’t know. You see, it’s for Buffalo.”
REUNION IN YORK
Weldy Moffatt 427
Next year will be a major
anniversary of the end of World War Two. The executive of No.6 RCAF Group
Association Bomber Command feel this is the time to call a dignified finale
on our regular Reunions with one final event next year. However we are
opening our Reunion to all who served in 6 Group and any families that
wish to attend.
The Reunion will take place
over the weekend of 21-22 May 2005, based around the York area with a gathering
at the 6 Group Memorial at Elvington, Yorshire Air Museum on the Saturday,
special dinner at the officers mess at RAF Linton on Ouse already agreed
by the Commanding officer, and a service at York Minster. The scale of
these events will depend on your support.
It is difficult to plan so
far ahead but it would be a shame for the association to end up with a
“whimper” rather than a “roar.” L/Gen Reg Lane said at the Reunion in 2002
that a dignity should be maintained with any final event being planned.
Support for the Reunion is being enlisted from the Bomber Command Association
Canada and the Halifax Aircraft Association.. All those with a connection
to 6 Group are urged to attend.
Weldy Moffatt will be able
to pass on information as it becomes known to him.
The Ladies and the Lanc.
L to R Jean Greenaway,
Mildred Erickson, Gene Hackett, Doreene Moyles
Dear aviation enthusiast.
I would like to introduce
to You a brand new aviation gallery dedicated mostly to the WWII air aces.
The gallery You can find
on websites http://www.multiweb.cz/czfighters and also http://www.multiweb.cz/vladimir/aviat.htm
At this time You can find
there for example painting about Wellington of 311th "Czech" bomb squadron
and some else about czech WWII aces Otto Smik, Frantisek Perina and Miloslav
Mansfeld and also for example the samples about aces Piere Closterman,
Siegfried Schnell, Alex Vraciu .
Feel free to inform about
the conditions of commission inquiries and purchase of artwork.
You are right I have hit
your site during I found some visual materials for my paintings depicted
the theme of air gunners concretely tail gunners in Wellingtons.
I would really appreciate
it if you could include this in your publication.
Please feel free to insert
this as a letter to Ed or separate news article.
TELL US YOUR STORY
TS Eliot’s memorial in Westminister
Abbey London, has a fascinating inscription: "The communication of the
dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living."
It raises an intriguing
question: Can the dead communicate with the living? Many people have stories
of extraordinary happenings in their lives relating to deceased relatives
or friends that are inexplicable. It might be the appearance of a deceased
loved one, the discovery of a lost and precious item belonging to a deceased
person or a song with particular meaning, heard in a place of special significance.
The possibilities are infinite.
I am currently researching
the topic with a colleague for a book to be published in Europe and the
USA. I would be grateful if any of your readers might share any such experiences
with us, with a view to publication. All correspondence will be dealt with
the utmost respect and confidentiality.
PUBLICATION OF ANY STORIES
RECEIVED WILL BE SUBJECT TO THE FINAL APPROVAL OF THEIR AUTHOR.
Anyone wishing to share an
experience with us can write to the following address: -
3 Canal Close, Longford,
Co. Longford, Ireland.
Alternatively email to
Couple of Fish Stories