F/O. James Leon Lanfranchi J/18918 R.C.A.F.

 Age 26.


Mission: Patrol

Date: 28th June 1944

Unit: No. 403 Squadron (R.C.A.F.)

Type: Spitfire IX

Serial: MJ988

Base: Advanced landing strip: B 2/Bazenville

Location: Falaise, France

Pilot: F/O. James Leon Lanfranchi J/18918 R.C.A.F. Age 26. Killed


On a beachhead patrol in the early morning when following combat with Fw 190 the engine failed. 


One thought on “F/O. James Leon Lanfranchi J/18918 R.C.A.F.

  1. Source


    The date is Wednesday 28 June 1944

    In the table below ‘claims’ denote destroyed, probably destroyed and damaged; ‘type’ refers to source of loss (eg AA=anti-aircraft fire, MF=mechanical failure, GF=German fighter) or in the case of a claim it is the type of enemy aircraft; ‘loss’ records Cat B=repairable, Cat E=write-off, Cat Em=lost over enemy territory; ‘fate’ records KIA=Killed in Action, SAFE=parachuted to safety, POW=parachuted but was made Prisoner of War, EVD=parachuted but evaded capture, WND=wounded.

    time place squ’n name serial claims type loss fate
    0600 EAA front lines 403 F/O W H Rhodes ML248 AA Cat Em POW
    0600 EAA front lines 403 F/L A R MacKenzie MJ187 1 – 0 – 0 190
    0720 EAA front lines 403 P/O J Lanfranchi MJ988 MF Cat Em KIA
    1130 Caen 416 F/L D E Noonan MJ770 1 – 0 – 0 190
    1130 Caen 416 F/L J D Rainville MJ874 1 – 0 – 0 190
    1130 Caen 416 F/O G H Farquarson MJ787 1 – 0 – 0 109
    1500 Caen/Falaise 421 F/O H C McRoberts MJ855 AA Cat B WND
    1610 Caen 416 F/L G R Patterson MK837 1 – 0 – 0 190
    1610 Caen 416 F/L D R Cuthbertson MJ611 0 – 0 – 1 190
    1800 Caen/front lines 421 F/L J F McElroy MK468 1 – 0 – 0 109
    1800 Caen/front lines 421 F/L H P Zary NH412 1 – 0 – 0 109
    1800 Caen/front lines 421 F/O A C Brandon MK962 0 – 0 – 1 109
    1800 Caen/front lines 421 F/O J N Flood MK891 0 – 0 – 1 109

    It was very cloudy when the pilots woke up and although it became quite miserable at times in midday, the skies cleared in the afternoon. South-west of Caen, Operation EPSOM was in full gear. For three days the British armoured columns had been hammering their way yard-by-yard trying to cross the Odon River. The Odon flowed north-east into Caen while the much larger Orne flowed north-north-east into Caen. Into the triangular piece of land between these two rivers to a depth of 15 miles south-west of Caen struggled British and German armoured forces. This very morning the British 11th Armoured Division crossed the Odon River and drove two miles beyond.

    “403 Squadron started off the day with F/L A R MacKenzie DFC, destroying one FW 190. Unfortunately, on this operation F/O W H Rhodes became a casualty. He was last seen following a FW 190. Later in the day other Spitfires of 403 Squadron found the aircraft near Gonneville T.2979. Apparently the pilot had crash-landed, but he was not himself seen. Two persons were standing on the wing of the missing Spitfire as our aircraft went over but immediately jumped off. It is hoped that F/O Rhodes managed to escape. At about the same time 416 Squadron attacked MT destroying two. The squadron sighted a number of FW 190s, but were unable to make contact. Four aircraft of 403 Squadron carried out a patrol of the forward lines on the next operation. F/O Lanfranchi called up to state that his engine had packed up and that he was baling out. His aircraft was later seen to be burning on the ground. No other particulars are available of this pilot.” (127 Wing log)

    The two 403 pilots were listed as missing. Weeks later the Red Cross confirmed that Rhodes was uninjured but taken prisoner after he crash-landed behind enemy lines. F/O James Leon Lanfranchi was reported missing and was later reported killed in action. He is buried at the Canadian Cemetery at Bretteville-sur-Laize and his family donated a photo, correspondence, his personnel records and certificates to the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy on the ring road outside Bayeux where they can be seen today.

    Sometime around 0900 hours the whole of Normandy was covered with 10/10ths cloud with a low ceiling. Air operations were temporarily suspended, but by 1100 hours breaks in the cloud showered sunlight onto the battlefield in large splotches. The fighting on the ground was furious, and now swarms of aircraft were flung into the fray. To support the stubborn defensive efforts of the German army, the Luftwaffe sent III./JG 26 Bf 109s to dive-bomb the British troops while deploying I./JG 26 and II./JG 26 with their FW 190s to fly top cover. Approaching from the Bayeux area at 10,000 feet, 416 Squadron ran into this action. F/L Rainville reported;

    “While flying east at 10,000 feet we saw six FW 190s flying west towards us at 12,000 feet. The enemy aircraft broke into two sections as we approached – one section breaking to our port, the other section to our starboard. I saw one of the enemy aircraft in starboard section come around and jettison his tank and apparently attempting to get on the tail of my number one who was attacking one of the FW 190s. I throttled back to allow the enemy aircraft to get ahead then closed to 400 to 300 yards and from 15° to 20° angle and gave him a one-second burst. Strikes were observed on front part of his fuselage. He broke away, made a complete orbit, flying in a gentle turn. I gave him another burst and I saw him jettison his hood and bale out.”

    Both Rainville flying Red Two and his number one, F/L Danny Noonan, destroyed FW 190s. The victims were Unteroffizier Waldemar Speigel and Unteroffizier Werner Lissack – both of II./JG 26. At exactly the same time that Rainville, Noonan and the rest of red section and blue section attacked the FW 190s – 1125 hours – yellow section attacked the dive-bombers. F/O Gordon Farquarson reported:

    “I was flying Yellow Three with 416 Squadron during a patrol in the Caen area, when we observed eight Me 109s. We were flying at 10,000 feet and in an easterly direction. The enemy aircraft were diving south and about 6,000 feet. We dove down on them. I followed one which started a climbing turn. I closed to 300 to 50 yards and gave him three 2-second bursts from dead astern to 15° angle off. The enemy aircraft took evasive action half-rolling diving through cloud and making right turns. I saw strikes on front part of fuselage and pieces fall off. He jettisoned his hood and baled out at about 4,000 feet and the aircraft went to the ground.”

    The eight Bf 109s were those of III./JG 26 and between 1100 and 1200 hours they lost three aircraft. Minutes after the engagement, JG 26 ran into two squadrons of 144 Wing led by W/C Johnnie Johnson who claimed two Bf 109s while F/Os Robillard and Goodwin of 442 Squadron each claimed one Bf 109 as well. When it was all over, JG 26 had lost seven aircraft and two pilots killed. Five landed safely and though two were wounded, all of them returned to action. Neither 127 Wing nor 144 Wing lost an aircraft. S/L Whalley continues his description of the day’s activities:

    “In the next operation 11 Spitfires from 421 Squadron carried out a bombing attack on a bridge in enemy territory and claim one hit and three near misses breaking the track on the bridge. The bridge itself remained intact. Other bridges were also attacked on this patrol with three near misses. All results being observed. During all of these attacks, heavy and intense light flak was encountered.”

    The 421 Squadron ORB tells a slightly different story;

    “Dive-bombing at Bully T.996689 – 12 x 500 lb. 0.025 delayed-action bombs were dropped. Results not observed. Heavy accurate intense flak from area surrounding Caen. Weather: CAVU.”

    The location Bully T.996689, given with the accuracy of an artillery target, is the location of a railway bridge that crosses the Orne River seven miles south of Caen. Early in the morning Typhoons had severely damaged the road bridge just two miles from Bully that was the major east-west artery south of Caen and it led to Evrecy in the heart of the action. Both the road bridge and the rail bridge were very important for sending men and supplies to reinforce the German defenders of the 9th SS Panzer Division. The 421 attack was intended to take out the rail bridge.

    At 1525 hours ten Spitfires of 416 Squadron took off to patrol the front lines at 10,000 feet. Over Caen at 1630 hours they encountered a gaggle of about 30 Bf 109s plus FW 190s above and below the cloud. These were engaged and one Bf 109 was destroyed by F/L Pat Patterson. The next action was an armed recce at 1630 hours when 12 Spitfires of 403 Squadron carried out an armed recce in the Caen/Argentan area. This is what they reported:

    “Area south Evrecy medium light flak, area Villers-Bocage meagre, heavy inaccurate flak. Convoy of 15 artillery tractors moving north T.9439. Artillery moving approximately 100 feet apart. Attacked by section of two aircraft stopping convoy. Damage not determined. Squadron attacked 15 plus MT and Staff Car moving from side roads to main road running from Conde T.8532 to Thury-Harcourt, four rolled into ditch, three left smoking, other damage not determined. 50 infantry strafed moving north on road T.938482. Weather: 7/10ths at 4500 to 5000 feet, visibility 15 miles.”

    At 1715 hours six aircraft from 421 Squadron took off on a front line patrol. They flew in fluid six formation – three pairs — F/L John McElroy led with F/O Al Brandon on his wing; F/L Hank Zary flew number three with F/O Jim Flood on his wing and F/O Cookie Cook flying number five with F/O John Hamm on his wing. They covered the whole western area flying over to St. Lô and turning east toward Caen. Meanwhile 14 Bf 109s of III./JG 3 were escorting two other Bf 109s – aircraft of the reconnaissance gruppe I./NAG 13. The reconnaissance aircraft were trying to photograph the British positions from about 6,000 feet. For some curious reason the 14 escort aircraft were separated from the two reconnaissance aircraft by about half a mile, in a south-westerly direction. Into the space between, McElroy and his other five pilots burst through cloud and were upon them. McElroy, Brandon, Cook and Hamm broke left into the 14, while Zary and Flood broke right. The startled Germans barely had a chance to react. McElroy reported:

    “Diving down I broke cloud 100 yards behind him at 10° angle off. I gave him a 1-to-2-second burst and saw five or six strikes on port side of cockpit, engine and tail. The enemy aircraft pulled up gently for about 500 feet. I throttled back but passed him. The enemy aircraft dropped his nose and then began to go down in a vertical dive from about 4,000 feet. The enemy aircraft was apparently out of control and the pilot dead.”

    Oberfähnrich Helmut Garzaroli of 8 Staffel was indeed dead at the controls. Brandon attacked another Bf 109 and emptied his ammunition into him but did not see smoke and lost him in cloud. He claimed only a damaged, but in fact another German pilot, Gefreiter Robert Emmerling of 8 Staffel III./ JG 3, was reported killed in action in this engagement. Meanwhile, Zary and his wingman Flood broke right into the two reconnaissance aircraft. The copy of Zary’s Combat Report is poorly preserved, but Flood’s says:

    “My number one broke off to engage the two Me 109s to our right. He got on the tail of one and I observed many strikes finally seeing the enemy aircraft wreathed in flames go down.”

    Flood went after the other aircraft but only claimed a damaged. However only one I./NAG 13 aircraft was lost – Leutnant Heinrich Weimer was reported FTR.

    The boys from 127 Wing were not the only ones to celebrate 28 June as a busy but extremely successful day. While the furious tank battles raged on the ground, the skies filled with hectic aerial fighting. The first history of the RCAF in World War II published one year after the war ended, had this to say about 28 June:

    “Of the 34 enemy aircraft destroyed over Normandy that day, 26 fell to the Spitfire squadrons of MacBrien’s sector, for the RCAF’s biggest bag in one day.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s