August 10/45 - Halifax LW170 rested on
the surface seven hours before it’s descent to the ocean floor off the
North West coast of Ireland. (This might be the only picture of a “floating”
Halifax LW170 put in 24 Ops with 424 Squadron
between May 27/44 and August 4/44. Particulars of dates, targets, and crewmembers,
are listed on the 57 Rescue (Canada) Web site.
After the final operation with 424 Squadron
LW170 was sent away for major maintenance and engine replacements. From
here she was seconded to RAF Met squadron 518 and for the next year flew
long distance meteorological patrols. On August 10, 1945 while on a Bismuth
weather sortie LW170 experienced a major fuel leak and was unable to return
to base. A text-book ditching was performed by her crew at 9am and she
floated for 7 hours, sinking into the deep at 4 P.M. Her crew were safely
rescued 1 hour later by a banana freighter, the Jamaica Producer.
Karl Kjarsgaard, Project
Manager, 57 Rescue (Canada) with a prop blade from RCAF Halifax LW682 which
his recovery team saved from the bog in Belgium in 1997, along with the
bodies of the 3 missing airmen which were given a full military funeral
57 RESCUE (CANADA) August 14, 2004
(The following is an abridged version
of Karl’s report to those gathered at Nanton August 14, 2004, on the proposed
recovery Halifax LW170)
Progress Report by Karl Kjarsgaard, Project
This is a special anniversary day for this
is the last day of the combat career of RCAF Halifax LW170 sixty years
ago today. On August 4, 1944 Halifax LW 170 of 424 Squadron RCAF participated
in the bombing raid on Bois de Cassan and Trossy-St-Maxim, V-1 flying bomb
sites. There were 291 aircraft on this raid and the majority of the heavy
bombers involved were Halifaxes, 169 to be exact. Throughout all the major
air battles and campaigns where Canadian Squadrons and Allied Squadrons
fought the Halifax was always there.
Here we are setting out on a most historic
quest to find and recover RCAF Halifax LW170 thanks to the sponsorship
and partnership of the Nanton Lancaster Society.
“Press on regardless….”
On to Business – These are the HALI-FACTS
To all of our member sand supporters of
57 Rescue (Canada) for this special project I can report good progress
in certain areas and mediocre progress in others.
On the technical side I have received a
full evaluation of the search and rescue data from the original LW170 ditching
and crew rescue in August, 1945 which is critical to the locating of the
Halifax in the deep waters of NW Ireland. This was done by Bob Kutzleb
of Syracuse, New York, an exert in undersea location of aircraft. His record
recovery of several deep water recoveries is an US Navy F-14 Tomcat from
9500 feet. Bob generously donated his time and energy to construct the
best search box to find Halifax LW170 and was pleased with the historical
positioning raw data provided to him by yours truly. We have his full report
and are ready to utilize his search criteria to find LW170.
On another positive technical development
Dag Ammerud, the mastermind behind the lifting of Halifax NA337 from 750
feet in Lake Mjosa, Norway, has acquired new location technology which
could reduce the number of days searching for LW170
I am disappointed in the progress on the
financial end with regard to getting a corporate sponsor. There have been
several applications by 57 Rescue (Canada) to major corporations in Alberta,
Ontario, and Manitoba, but all declined to help sponsor this historic project.
Our good neighbours and friends in the
U.S.A. are rallying to our cause. I have had memberships and donations
from them with the greatest support from Bob Bluford, a minister and B-24
Liberator pilot with the 8th Air Force. He pledged $1,000.00 in the name
of Mel Compton, the American in the RCAF who flew LW170 in June 1944, and
has challenged all new members and his fellow Americans to donate the same
in the name of an American in the RCAF who was killed in action. He is
well aware that these “American Patriots-Canadian Warriors” are not remembered
and there are over 700 US citizens killed in the service of the RCAF. Reverend
Bluford and I will be meeting soon in Richmond, Virginia to lobby for official
political and corporate support for our Halifax LW170 Project in the United
States. Will it be easier to find support for the RCAF Halifax Project
in the States than in Canada? I hope both nations will answer our calls
To all of you who have sent cheques from
all over Canada and the U.S.A. for memberships and donations to our cause.
Please be advised that I have NOT (as of August 14, 2004) cashed your cheques
as we are waiting for our charitable status to be confirmed. I am presently
paying for travel and promotional expenses from my own pocket. We have
over 100 Members now and have had almost 5000 visitors to the 57 Rescue
(Canada) website. http://www.57rescuecanada.com
Six Sacks of Potatoes
Back L to R – Grandy,
Front - Neil,
Firestone, (George Deeth, 2nd pilot not in picture)
September 25, 2004 marks a special anniversary
for a crew of 407 Squadron who crashed landed in Norway sixty years ago.
The Germans had moved their U-Boat operation
from France to Norway. 407 Squadron whose crews had been monitoring submarines
in the English Channel, moved its base to Wick, Scotland.
During an anti-U-Boat patrol over the North
Sea one of their engines of the Leighlight-equipped Wellington failed leaving
the pilot, F/O Gordon Biddle with the only option, to reach the nearest
German Occupied Norway.
As they approached the coast they had to
pass over a small enemy convoy and, with only one engine, had little ability
to take evasive action. The ships opened fire on the aircraft and Harvey
Firestone, attempting to confuse the gunners, fired off Very lights hoping
that they would think that they were a friendly aircraft. This worked for
a moment but they were soon under fire again. By now the remaining engine
had been hit and a final message was sent by the wireless operator, Warrant
Officer George Grandy, and everybody got ready for a forced landing in
their crash positions.
The pilot was attempting to make a wheels-up
landing in what appeared to be the only spot possible. The Wellington hit
some trees with its port wing and then Biddle brought the tail down first
to slow them up and then he jammed the nose in. The aircraft slewed around
and then came to a sudden stop - they had landed in 65 feet. Grandy and
the radio fell on the top of George Deeth, Neil was thrown from his table
and had a gash in his head, but Biddle was OK, having been strapped in.
Harvey Firestone hit his head on the main spar. The crew were suddenly
surrounded by Norwegian Resistance Fighters who hurried them away from
the crash site. They had crashed close to a German garrison.
The Canadians were moved from one safe
hiding spot to another in the mountain regions. Subsequently some of the
Norwegian helpers were captured by the Germans and some were shot. During
this period of evasion, these brave Resistance Fighters shared their meagre
rations and faced death for their Canadian guests.
The Norwegian underground had clandestine
radio contact with the British and they code named the 407 crew “Six Sacks
of Potatoes”. After some weeks as evaders, the crew made their escape
under the close supervision of the Resistance Fighters. A rendezvous was
established with great danger to all, with a British Motor Torpedo Boat
in the North Sea, and the six Canadians were returned to England. After
de-briefing at Air Force Head Quarters in London, five of the crew were
returned home to Canada for security reasons and not permitted to return
to flying duties in the UK.
A Plaque commemorating this event and honouring
the courage of the Resistance Fighters has been placed on the site of the
Text on Plaque
1944: An Aircraft from Canadian Air Force
with a crew of 6 crash landed here on the hill
12. 10 – to Shetland with KNM VIGGRA.
Rescued by people with courage and cunning,
with the will to fight for freedom and peace.
I was remembering my latter days in the
Air Force recently. As part of Coastal Command I was stationed from
the West Coast at Ukulet, to Shellborne, N. S. and in 1943 was transferred
to #116 B & R which moved to Botwood, Newfoundland, then to Gander
and again to a posting to Eastern Air Command Headquarters in Halifax.
There were three other WAGS from this region, and all 4 of us had to keep
24 hour watch over the Signal Department. I was on duty one night
when this unusual thing happened and I think it would be of interest to
some of our group.
One of the girls who were keeping watch
on several frequencies, jumped up saying she had a MAY DAY, MAY DAY, MAY
DAY! I asked her if she had any other info and she said her contact
had told her he was a USAF pilot flying out of Maine, U.S.A., that he was
completely lost and had no idea where to head for. I phoned to the
Plotting Department and they said that they had also heard this and were
plotting his flight. We were to keep him talking as much as possible and
they would send directions for him to follow. This we did for 2 or
3 directions with the last one ending up that he was now lined up with
the main runway of Dartmouth airport. He was instructed to change to their
frequency and call them to identify himself for further directions.
We also told him that they were expecting him and would see him down safely.
A short time later the airport reported to our plotters that he had landed
The sequel to this is that an hour or two
later the Air Force guards on duty at the main doors of our building phoned
up to say that there was an American pilot at the door saying we had saved
his life and he would like to talk to the girl that kept him posted and
guided him in. I spoke to our girl and asked if she wanted to meet
him and she was agreeable so I released her to go down to the front door.
She returned shortly and was so happy she had met him. He was so thankful
for her help that he then handed her a box of chocolates he must have purchased
on his trip from Dartmouth to Halifax.
Ed. It is not outside the realm
of possibility that the above mentioned USAF pilot might read this article.
If you are still out there my friend, drop me a line. firstname.lastname@example.org
from Nanton Musium August 14th
Nose of Lanc.
Rear Gunner’s office
in tail of Lanc
Museum’s turret display.
Tail turret second from
Right is equipped with
hydraulics and is functional.
CAMPBELL – Dunchurch, Ont.
A Rear Gunner looks back after Sixty
During 1944 I made 37 trips over Germany,
Belgium, and France, transportation being provided by the RCAF in what
became known as “Halibags”, Halifax bombers operating out of Canadian Six
Group and stationed at Tholthorpe, Yorkshire. Our crew were members of
#420 “Snowy Owl” Squadron and shared the aerodrome with #425 Squadron better
known as the “Alouettes”.
I write this piece in honour of Pilot Officer
(then Sergeant) Bob “Whitey” White DFC, who was the designated mid-upper
gunner in the crew in which I was the rear gunner, although at various
times he and I would exchange positions. Our Captain was Warrant Officer
Bill McAdam, DFC.
Bob White was very keen and very sharp.
My recollections of him here begin with a part of his personal story, which
he shared with me in answer to my question about some prominent scars on
his left forearm. Bob lived in the West Midlands, and while still too young
to join the RAF, endured an enemy bombing in which he sustained the injuries
but, nonetheless, crawled under a shattered building to rescue, from the
arms of her dead mother, a baby girl whom he kept track of for the rest
of his life (Bob passed away in 1995.
On May 27, 1944, we were assigned to bomb
Bourg Leopold in Belgium. On the way out to the target area the German
fighters were both present and busy and I personally witnessed a total
of nine of our aircraft go down. In one case, the fighter must have followed
his victim’s descent, for I could see tracer bullets pouring out of the
bomber’s rear turret right until the bomber hit the ground and disintegrated
in a ball of flame.
About five minutes after we had made our
drop and headed for home our mid-upper turret burst into action. My turret
was facing directly to the rear and before I could swing to starboard it
was all over, but I did manage a glimpse. It seems the JU 88 had made a
90 degree turn towards us on our starboard beam. The gunner’s response
to that move is a “no deflection” shot. What I could not see, Whitey and
the co-pilot (Bombardier) could. What they reported at the later debriefing
was this. “The Junkers starboard engine burst into flame and then a piece
of the tail section flew off.” I saw him wiz by behind us and that was
it. How badly he was damaged we shall never know, but we escaped!
The following month on June 12/44, our
target was Cambria in France, and the drop zone was lit up like a Christmas
tree. On our way out of the target I clearly saw and reported the presence
of a Focke-Wulf 190, whose nose was painted white. The fighter flew West
to East right through the illuminated area. We subsequently altered course
and headed North West for the English Channel. About half way there, the
mid-upper turret once again came to life, and while I was again out of
position I saw the tracer from Whitey’s guns over my left shoulder. The
German had fired his first burst just above his target. Whitey’s response
must have spooked him into making a steep bank to his port side . Since
he had come in from the starboard beam his subsequent bank exposed his
belly to a fusillade of ammo, and I could see our tracer actually bouncing
off his underside! We had been told that the 190 had a protective lead
shield and here was proof enough; but its effect was to make us feel as
if we were fighting a war with popguns. However, I can imagine the German
pilot could hear the multiple thuds in his cockpit, and if he reached home
safely that night, I guarantee he had to change his underwear!
Bob White went on to join the Pathfinder
Squadron after he completed his tour with us and finally did receive his
well deserved Distinguished Flying Cross.
It is a matter of interest that the Cambria
raid referred to above was the same raid during which Air Gunner Andrew
Mynarski, VC, lost this life in a heroic attempt to save that of a fellow
crew member, following an attack by a JU 88. I suppose every age has its
heroes. We certainly had ours!
(Ed. Following the war Clifford
Campbell became an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada retiring
at Dunchurch, Ontario.)
Nanton Museum Memorial to Bomber Command
Letter from Ted Hackett
Good evening John.
Here is the message I sent to Nanton and
their reply. I guess you just have download the whole thing and put it
in to the next Newsletter. I went into the web site he gave us and
the whole thing is laid out there...probably the one to print. Cheers Ted.
From Ted Hackett to Dave Birrell, Nanton
Good afternoon Dave.
I was talking to my MLA the other day
and the discussion got around to the humungous amount of money the government
has to give away. The subject of the Museum and the Lancaster came
up, he said that he had never visited but he had heard of the Museum.
I suggested that the memorial to the Canadians who died while serving
with Bomber Command deserved some financial help. It would make a
nice birthday present. He told me of the many programmes that are
available for such things and that they were a 50-50 deal. I contacted
John Moyles, who puts together our newsletter "Short Bursts" each month
and suggested that we start a campaign among our members to help raise
money for that project. He thinks that is a good idea and he wants
me to write something up for inclusion in the October issue. Could you
send me some information on the planned memorial and, if possible a copy
of that drawing of the memorial. I believe there was a picture of the planned
memorial in one of the latest issues of your newsletter but I believe it
is the one I sent to a friend in New Zealand. Any assistance you can give
me would be much appreciated.
Thanks and have a nice day(it is miserable
From Dave Birrell to Ted Hackett
Thanks for your note and enthusiasm for
A complete summary of the project is available
on our website at http://www.lancastermuseum.ca/memorialgranite.html
and of course you may copy the artist's
rendering of the Memorial and anything else you'd like from there.
I've also attached an jpg of the Memorial
rendering and a WORD file summarizing the project for your use. Any assistance
with financing would be wonderful. You can tell people that the majority
of the funding required has already been acquired through private donations.
Thanks for passing along your recent newsletter
with the write up and photos of our "Salute to the Air Gunners." I'll pass
them along to others here. It was a great day.
Please keep in touch and let me know if
we can assist you in your efforts to assist us. . .
So long for now,
Bomber Command Memorial
Ten Thousand Names
[ from F/L Karl Aalborg to F/O James
The Nanton Lancaster Air Museum is the
only facility in Canada whose primary goal is to honour those who served
with Bomber Command. To this end, the museum will create a Memorial that
will list the name of every Canadian who was killed while serving with
Bomber Command. The Memorial, with the 10,465 engraved names, will be unveiled
at a special event during August, 2005, the year that will mark the sixtieth
anniversary of the end of the war.
Letter from Ted Hackett to Editor
John, I got to thinking (there's a first)
after I sent you the message about the memorial that perhaps, instead of
contributing to the memorial, we should aim for some individual item. I
was thinking of a short path leading from in front of the memorial to a
couple of nice benches with perhaps a planter in between and a small plaque
to read " These benches placed here by the ex-Air gunners and
Wireless air gunners Association of Canada in memory of etc., etc." It
would be a spot where visitors could sit and admire the memorial. It certainly
shouldn't be too expensive and would be an AG/WAG thing instead of our
contribution being lost in the larger one. What do you think??
This is the type of bench that I had in
mind. The City of Spruce Grove has them and so does Edmonton. They
are made by a firm called Expocrete, I'm going to contact them and see
how much they cost.
(Ed. We would like some feedback
on Ted’s suggestion. Send you opinions and constructive criticism to your
Short Bursts Editor – address follows the Editor’s Report or, contact Ted
47 Dorchester Rd.,
Spruce Grove, AB T7X 2B5
Ph. (780) 962-2904
I don't know if Dave Rodger was a member
or not but I thought it might be of interest to some of our people and
the notice might fill up a space in Short bursts. I met Paul Morley
last year in Lake Louise, he is from Hamilton and like me is a train watcher.
Gene and I were parked by the CP tracks and he saw my AG licence plate
and came over to talk. He was on his way to Nanton to give them some
items of his Uncle who was a member of 617. We have kept in touch during
this past year, nice young man. Cheers,Ted
From: Paul Morley
To: Ted & Gene
Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 7:53
Subject: Dave Rodger
One of your brother gunners has passed
away. Dave was the Gunnery Officer of the Dambusters. I met him last year
in Sault Ste. Marie. He had skin cancer and Alzheimers. Even though
he was sick he had a twinkle in his eye, and was very pleasant to talk
to. He flew with Joe McCarthy. There are only 2 Dambusters left in Canada.
There is one in New Zealand, and I believe two in England.
Please pass this on to your friends.
Letter from Niels Reynolds in the UK
I've just been browsing your wonderful
site and was hoping you may be able to help.
My father trained in Canada on Liberator
bombers as a tail end gunner in 1942, then acted as a trainer himself until
1943/44, after which he saw action in Indo China - Digri and Kolar are
noted on some of his photos.
His name is Percy Charles Reynolds, born
in Denmark 1922.
He is alive and well and looking to make
contact with old comrades. If there is any help you can offer, I would
be extremely grateful!
Incidentally, I also have an obscure Canadian
link - I now live in the house which was used by the Canadian Army HQ prior
to the Normandy D-Day landings, in Crowborough, East Sussex.
I look forward to hearing from you.
The late Leonard Birchall
D.F.C. with a picture
of a long range Catalina
THE SAVIOUR OF CEYLON
It is 62 years since a 27 year old Canadian
Pilot and his crew lifted off from a makeshift air base in Sri Lanka (Ceylon)
to forestall what Winston Churchill said was the most perilous moment in
the second world war.
In 1942 Leonard Birchall, who passed away
Sept. 10, 2004, in Kingston, Ont. at age 89, and his crew, Bart Onyette,
Brian Catlin, Ginger Cook, J. Henzell, Ian Davidson, P.O. Kennedy, L.A.
Colarossi, and radio operator Fred Phillips, took off from their base at
Koggala, Ceylon, at dawn on April 4, 1942 in Catalina AJ-155. They were
furnished with hand drawn charts. In the late afternoon, after having been
in the air for 12 hours they discovered that the inaccurate charts had
probably caused them to fly 450 kilometres off course. It was an extraordinary
stroke of serendipity for almost at the end of the last leg of the patrol
the crew saw something far to the South.
They had just finished a snack when they
saw some specks which looked like a convoy and they went over to investigate.
They identified the outer screen of the Japanese fleet and radioed back
to base the position, course, speed, and composition of the fleet. On closer
inspection they identified battleships, several aircraft carriers, and
other war ships which Fred Phillips reported back to base.
Then all hell broke loose. 30 Zeros came
at them from the carriers. The Catalina was hit in the fuel tank and erupted
in flames. Birchall managed to ditch the aircraft but it sank immediately
killing one of the crew. The remainder swam away from the burning gas that
spread out over the water. However, the Japanese fighters machined gunned
the crew in the water. Two more crewmembers were killed and Birchall was
hit in the leg.
The remaining crew members were picked
up by a Destroyer and interrogated. When asked if they got a message out
to base they said no because their radio had been shot out. This seemed
to satisfy their captors until the Japanese intercepted a radio signal
from Colombo to the aircraft asking them to repeat their previous message.
Birchall was severely beaten. It was his first taste of mistreatment. It
wasn’t until after release from PoW camp that they found out their first
message did get through.
As a result of the sighting the Royal Navy
sent its Ceylon fleet to sea and the RAF were in a position to repulse
the enemy aircraft when the Japanese dropped their bombs on Colombo on
April 5/42. The Japanese withdrew its large attack force from the Indian
Ocean and abandoned plans to invade India by way of Ceylon.
Churchill, in 1945 said, “the sighting
of the Japanese fleet had adverted the most dangerous and distressing moment
of the entire conflict. Ceylon’s capture, the consequent control of the
Indian Ocean and the possibility of a German conquest in Egypt would have
closed the ring, and the future would have been bleak.”
In the Japanese prisoner of war camp 150
kilometres West of Tokyo, Birchall became the advocate for and defender
of the men, resulting in him being condemned to death three times. He kept
secret documentation of the atrocities witnessed in the camp. In 1948 Birchall
returned to Japan to testify in the subsequent war trials and witness the
hanging of one of his former tormenters. Years later he used his diaries
to in a campaign to win Federal compensation for PoW survivors. Some of
his documents were used by Barry McIntosh in his book HELL ON EARTH.
Two days after Leonard Birchall passed
away, Fred Phillips, the radio operator, and fellow camp survivor, died
at his home in England. Of the AJ 155 crew, only Mr. Catlin is still living.
1945 - Leonard Birchall
clad in hand-me-downs,
leaving PoW camp with
FEW MORE PICTURES FROM AUGUST 14th AT NANTON