Alone in his transparent shell,
A speck in space,
He sits, poised in his airy kingdom;
At his back the unknown,
Before him the unfolding map
Of his journey.
Guardian of seven lives,
Taut with the concentration of survival,
He swings his turret through the vigilant
Eyes straining for the fighters,
Braced for the violence of surprise.
Philip A. Nicholson
LOVE SHINES OUT FROM DAY’S
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 shelter together.
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 staring out.
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
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 raids.
“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
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
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 vows.
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 & Museum
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 Durnbach, Germany.
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 Gunner)
Two non-Canadian crew members were taken
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
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 Air Force.
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 Dr. E.
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
Cafba stands for the Canadian Air Force
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 happened
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 question.
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 and resourceful.
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,
For registration forms and more information
9 Abinger Crescent,
Etobicoke, On. Canada
Web site http://burmabomber.org
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 Squadron
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
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,
Alternatively email to
of Fish Stories