Bill Hillman's Monthly Military Tribute
AS YOU WERE . . .
WAR YEARS ECLECTICA :: NOVEMBER 2021
2021.11 Edition

Thanks to James Todd Rolfe:
My thoughts have turned recently to a group called the Wartime Pilots and Observers Association. From time to time, throughout my career in the Airforce, I had the honour of meeting some of these gentlemen, talking, drinking, singing, and listening to their stories.

The Association originated following WWI, and continued to include veterans from WWII. My last interaction with them was at the Southport Officers’ Mess in 2007 or so. They were all getting on in years, of course, with fewer and fewer able to make the journey from Winnipeg. Over the years, they were an inspiration to me and many other students passing through Portage and Winnipeg. A bench at the Airforce Heritage Park is dedicated in memory of the Association.
In 1984, they erected a statue located at York and Memorial called Airman In Training, inscribed as follows:

AIRMAN IN TRAINING
THIS MEMORIAL IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF
THOSE AIRMEN AND INSTRUCTORS
WHO LOST THEIR LIVES
WHILE TRAINING IN CANADA DURING WORLD WAR II

ERECTED BY
THE WARTIME PILOTS AND OBSERVERS ASSOCIATION OF WINNIPEG
SEPTEMBER 9, 1984

R.C.A.F. - R.A.F. - R.A.A.F. - R.N.Z.A.F.

[back/arrière]

B.C.A.T.P. MEMORIAL
AIRMAN IN TRAINING

THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH AIR TRAINING PLAN CAME
INTO BEING ON DECEMBER 17, 1939. CANADA AGREED TO
PROVIDE MEN AND FACILITIES FOR THE TRAINING OF AIRCREW
FROM AUSTRALIA, CANADA, NEW ZEALAND AND THE UNITED
KINGDOM.
THIS PLAN WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE TRAINING OF 130,000
YOUNG AIRMEN FROM THE COMMONWEALTH, THE UNITED
STATES OF AMERICA AND OCCUPIED EUROPE DURING THE
YEARS 1940-1945.
THIS MEMORIAL IS ERECTED TO THE MEMORY OF THOSE
YOUNG AIRMEN AND INSTRUCTORS WHO LOST THEIR LIVES
IN THE CAUSE OF FREEDOM WHILE TRAINING UNDER THIS
PLAN.

ERECTED BY THE WARTIME PILOTS AND OBSERVERS
ASSOCIATION OF WINNIPEG AND DEDICATED AT THE 4TH
COMMONWEALTH WARTIME AIRCREW REUNION ON
SEPTEMBER 9, 1984

1914 - 1918 1939 - 1945

The trigger for these memories was, as for many people, a song. This song was played and sung as the last song of the evening on every occasion I had the honour of being in their company.
I have stood amongst giants, and am grateful for the privilege.
https://youtu.be/G-6aSU2UBWA


Wing Commander Alfred ‘Ken’ Gatward
after his return from leading an anti-shipping operation with 404 “Buffalo” Squadron RCAF.

With coffee and cigarette in hand, hair disheveled and oil stains on his battle trousers.
This photo was reputedly taken after Gatward’s final op with 404. Note that his tie has been clipped in honour of the occasion and that it’s possible the cup does not contain coffee as he seeks a refill. (vintagewings.ca)

‘Dropping a huge French flag on top of the Arc de Triomphe’
RAF pilot Flight Lieutenant Ken Gatward and his navigator, Flight Sergeant George Fern, volunteered for the audacious mission, which was planned following intelligence reports that German troops were parading down the Champs-Elysees every day between 12.15 and 12.45 pm.

On 12 June 1942 Gatward and Fern took off in their Bristol Beaufighter from Thorney Island, West Sussex, flew over the English Channel into occupied France and headed towards Paris at low level. Gatward later recalled, “I’ll never forget the astonishment of the crowd in the Paris streets as we swept low at rooftop level. They had been taken completely by surprise.

Gatward flew at just 30ft down the Champs-Elysees and Fern dropped the French Tricolour on top of Paris’ famous monument. Gatward then flew on to the Gestapo’s Paris HQ, the former Ministere de la Marine, raked it with 20mm shells – scattering its SS guards in panic – and Fern dropped a second Tricolour on the building. The daring duo’s spectacular raid boosted the morale of oppressed Parisians and, when the news broke at home, lifted the spirits of the beleaguered British too. Gatward was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and both he and Fern were feted as heroes.

London-born Gatward, who had joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1937 and started the war as a sergeant pilot, went on to command No 404 Sqn, Royal Canadian Air Force. In August 1944 he led the Sqn on a raid against enemy shipping in Norwegian waters which earned him a second DFC. He also earned the Distinguished Service Order the same year.

Ken Gatward retired from the regular RAF as a Group Captain in 1967, then immediately rejoined the RAF Volunteer Reserve as an instructor in the rank Flight Lieutenant, enabling his return to his first love – flying. He died in 1998 aged 84. (abroadintheyard.com)

(Photo via 404 Squadron site)


Colourised version © copyright Paul Reynolds.
The often forgotten Squadron Ground Crew

Members of No.1 Squadron RCAF ground crew tend to a Hawker Hurricane. While Leading Aircraftman P.J. Thurgeon removes the port wheel, because of faulty brakes, Sergeant Bob Fair checks to see if the craft should go into maintenance to be repaired. Often forgotten, No.1’s ground crew worked tirelessly to keep the aircraft in good repair; without them the squadron could not have flown.
July 1941.

(Nb. Red fabric patches were daped over the gun ports in order to prevent moisture (rain or fog) from entering the open gun ports in the wing and freezing on the gun breeches as the plane took off and climbed rapidly into the colder air.The first bullet simply cut a hole in the tape. Armorers usually left taping over the gun ports to the last, after they had cleaned and reloaded the guns, so the intact red patches were a sign that the fighter was ready for action again.)

(PHOTO: Courtesy Library and Archives of Canada)

A quick dedication to the last surviving Dambusters pilot, Sqn.Ldr. Les Munro, who has died at the age of 96.

The legendary ‘Dambusters Operation’ of RAF 617 Squadron flew from RAF Scampton, near Lincoln, in 1943 and successfully used “bouncing bombs” to attack German dams.  There are now only two surviving crew members of the Dambusters missions.

On the night of 16 May 1943, 19 bombers left RAF Scampton near Lincoln in three waves.
The first headed to the Mohne and the Eder Dams, the second and third to the Sorpe Dam.
Out of the 133 crew that set off, only 77 returned, including Sqn Ldr Munro, who made it home after flak destroyed the internal and external communications in his Lancaster bomber over the Netherlands
He had been briefed to attack the Sorpe Dam by releasing the bomb from the lowest possible height, while flying at 180 mph (290 km/h) The Sorpe Dam was damaged but the Mohne and Eder Dams were destroyed, flooding the Ruhr valley.

These young German soldiers, likely taken directly from the rank of a local Hitler Youth group, were captured somewhere outside of Leipzig Germany in May of 1945. The recent discovery of a 600+ negative grouping from a chaplain in the US 9th Armored Division yielded this gem of an image. The emotion and raw sadness of the war can be seen in the eyes of the boy smoking the cigarette in the left side of the photo. They can’t be more than eight or nine years old.
 
 

Reference: Colourized Photo Credits given on the source Webpage:
www.warhistoryonline.com

CANADA IN WWI :: THE BATTLE OF VIMY RIDGE
A MAJOR CANADIAN VICTORY

AS YOU WERE. . .  ISSUES FEBRUARY to JUNE 2021
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The 100,000 Forgotten Soldiers of WWI
Part 1
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The 100,000 Forgotten Soldiers of WWI
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September 2021
O Canada ~ The Maple Leaf

October 2021
Bomber Evolution

November 2021
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