Angels Eight

Peter Lecoq, Peter Lecoq’s son, sent me this…

Excerpt from “Angels Eight” Normandy Air War Diary by David Clark (Pages 231-233)

The day was uneventful for 416 Squadron who flew an armed recce around 1430 and a patrol around 1900 hours, but there was  action for 403 Squadron.

After taking off at 1615 hours, they broke into two groups of six – red section led by F/O Doug Orr and blue section led by F/L Mac Gordon. F/S Ken Harvey’s aircraft ML248 developed engine trouble so he turned back leaving blue section with five aircraft.

Red section patrolled the western area and blue section patrolled the eastern section of the lodgement area. A half hour after take-off, blue section ran into 15 FW 190s of III./JG 54 heading straight for them about 300 feet below. The German formation was led by Gruppekommandeur Hauptmann Robert Weiss – the same opponent they had battled six days earlier.

Weiss was a baby-faced pilot who had claimed six victories in Normandy and a career total of 106. Flying as the second in command of the group was Leutnant Alfred Gross who had just been promoted to command 8 Staffel of III./JG 54. Just three hours earlier Leutnant Gross had shot down a Spitfire of 229 Squadron bringing his claims in Normandy to four, and his career total to 50. Although half the German pilots had little or no experience, III./JG 54 had more than half a dozen high-scorers, but this day the best of them all, Geschwaderkommodore Hauptmann Hubert Lang, was not with them.

By contrast, the two F/Ls, Mac Gordon and Pete Logan, had distinguished themselves in dive-bombing and attacking ground installations since the beginning of the year, and they both had claimed a couple of damaged aircraft, but they had claimed no kills.

Logan’s real name was Pierre LeCoq. When advised by an intelligence officer that it may be a disadvantage to use that name if he were ever shot down in France he changed his name to Peter Logan. This had happened back in April.

The story of what happened at this encounter with III./JG 54 begins with Pete Logan’s combat report.

“Five aircraft of 403 Squadron led by F/L Gordon were flying a patrol east of Caen at about 2,500 feet when from 12 o’clock and about 300 feet below we saw 12-plus FW 190s flying towards us. They were carrying either bombs or jet tanks and these were
dropped before the ensuing engagement began. We broke up and around and I got on the tail of one and from about 300 yards fired a 2-to-3-second burst with 20° deflection. I saw strikes on the fuselage and wing roots.

The enemy aircraft poured black and white smoke and half-rolled and went straight down from about 2,000 feet. I was unable to follow him as by this time I had four FW 190s on my tail.

“I broke up and then down again getting behind another 190. I fired a 2-to-3 second burst with 15° to 20° deflection and saw some strikes on his starboard wing. When my guns ceased firing I discovered later that my guns had jammed.?”

Here is Gordon’s account of the action:

“We were flying east at a height of 3,000 feet when approximately 15 FW 190s were sighted flying towards us from head-on and around 300 feet below us. We passed each other then broke around. The 190s also broke around and a dogfight ensued. The enemy aircraft were using a defensive circle and it was almost impossible to get anything more than a l-to-2-second bursts at four or five of them but observed no results. The defensive circle formed by the enemy aircraft had now been broken and I managed to get onto the tail of a 190. He was breaking tightly to starboard and I gave him a short burst from 200 yards range giving him full deflection under my nose. No strikes were seen. I closed to about 100 yards and gave him another 2-second burst allowing full deflection. I saw a group of strikes on his tail and the port half of his elevator and stabilizer broke off. He slipped over to port and started to go down apparently out of control and I broke up into another 190 who was attacking me. F /L Logan saw the attack and part of the enemy aircraft blown away. After returning to base we established the vicinity and time of the combat as U.13 72 at 1640 hours. Later in the day the Second Army reported two FW 190s as going down in flames in the same vicinity and at the same time.

“I followed the second 190 who half-rolled onto the deck and headed east. After a long chase I closed to about 200 yards and from line astern J fired but only my machine guns were working. After a short burst they ran out. The 190 began to pour black smoke and he almost went into the deck clipping about 10 feet off a tall tree. However he regained control and continued at a much reduced speed still smoking. As I was out of ammunition I broke off the attack.”

Peter also shared this…

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Who Remembers LAC Medforth?

Luc Vervoort does…

He is one of my readers from Belgium.

Pierre,

If interested I can e-mail you a photograph of his grave, taken in 2010.

Best regards from Belgium

Luc

He sent me this picture.

The worse part was when some of the crew went back to the MQ’s to see how Bob was doing, they found that he was exactly the way they had left him on the stretcher, only now he was dead – from shock. The MO staff had done nothing for the seriously wounded and had only treated some of the minor injuries and hadn’t even put a blanked over Bob to prevent shock.

Remembrance Day 2012: Epilog

A pilot who had finished his tour, ran out and jumped in a aircraft that was still running from the Squad that were leaving for take off – when the Germans hit – as he got clear of the ground he nailed two German aircraft who were crossing in front of him, two more German aircraft followed in behind him and shot him down over Brussels.

I was sent to the crash site right away by truck to find out definitely who was flying that Spit. He went down in Rue de Victare, a narrow cobblestone road solidly built up on either side.

The Spit had gone down straight in making a fair sized pit in the street – the hole was filling with bloody water. I rolled up my sleeves and started picking out pieces trying to find some proper identity.

The two men with me couldn’t stand the sight of the mess and couldn’t help. I had managed quite a pile of gore when a local Belgium came up with the pilot’s wallet. It somehow had landed on the sidewalk.

F/L Dave Harling was the pilot shot down…

He was 23 years-old. Who remembered F/L Dave Harling?

Greg’s grandfather Wally Dove did!

Greg Bell is the one who shared what his grandfather left as a legacy. Mark White did the same.

F/L D. W. Harling  DFC who flew with 416 Squadron is buried next to LAC Robert Charles Medforth.

 

In memory of
Flight Lieutenant

 DAVID WILLIAM ARMSTRONG  HARLING

who died on January 1, 1945

Military Service:

  • Service Number: J/11481
  • Age: 23
  • Force: Air Force
  • Unit: Royal Canadian Air Force
  • Division: 416 Sqdn.

Honours and Awards:   Distinguished Flying Cross

Additional Information:

Son of William Hunter Harling and Louise Frances Harling, of Westmount, Province of Quebec, Canada.

HARLING, F/L David William Armstrong (J11481)

– Distinguished Flying Cross

– No.416 Squadron (deceased)

– Award effective 18 December 1944 as per London Gazette dated 29 December 1944 and AFRO 379/45 dated 2 March 1945.

Born in Liverpool, England, 10 January 1921; educated at McGill University; member, COTC.  Home in Montreal; enlisted there, 20 July 1940. Trained at No.2 ITS (graduated 20 September 1940), No.6 EFTS (graduated 27 November 1940) and No.1 SFTS (graduated 11 February 1941 as a Sergeant Pilot).

Promoted to Warrant Officer (2nd Class), 12 February 1942; commissioned 15 April 1942; promoted Flying Officer, 15 October 1942; promoted Flight Lieutenant, 15 April 1944. Instructor at No.2 SFTS, Uplands, 2 May 1941 to 28 December 1942.

Arrived overseas 13 February 1943; at No.3 Personnel Reception Centre, Bournemouth, 13 February to 16 March 1943; at No.5 (P) Advanced Flying Unit, 16 March to 11 May 1943; at No.57 OTU, 11 May to 1 August 1943; on strength of Station West Kirby, 1-11 August 1943; to No.57 OTU again, 11 August to 8 October 1943; with No.416 Squadron, 8 October 1943 to 1 January 1945 (killed in action, Spitfire SM304, while attempting to take off during German air attack).  Buried in Belgium.

Victories as follows:

26 August 1944, one FW.190 destroyed (Spitfire MK827);

27 September 1944, one FW.190 destroyed plus one Bf.109 destroyed plus one Bf.109 damaged, all west of Bocholz (NH408);

29 September 1944, one FW.190 destroyed, Emmerich (NH408);

30 September 1944, one Bf.109 destroyed, Nijmegen (NH408, shared with another pilot).

Flight Lieutenant Harling has shown himself to be an outstanding pilot and an excellent flight commander.  Since D-Day he has either destroyed or damaged thirty enemy mechanical vehicles.  In addition he has destroyed at least four enemy aircraft and damaged one. Both in the air and on the ground Flight Lieutenant Harling has displayed commendable courage, keenness and consistent devotion to duty.

Remembrance Day 2012

Lest We Forget

Robert Charles Medforth

MEDFORTH, ROBERT CHARLES LAC R78265 – aero engine mechanic. From Pennant, Saskatchewan. Killed in action Jan 1/45 age 36. #6403 Servicing Echelon, Belgium. Died of injuries sustained when the airfield at RAF Station Evere, Belgium was strafed by enemy aircraft. Leading Aircraftsman Medforth is buried in the Brussels Town Cemetery, Evere-les-Bruxelles, Belgium. 

They Shall Grow Not Old – Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum Memorial Book

Bob’s Fresh Grave

 

Bob’s Grave With Flowers

Leading Aircraftsman Robert Charles Medforth is buried in the Brussels Town Cemetery, Evere-les-Bruxelles, Belgium. 

Whitey, Bill and Bob Medforth

Operation Bodenplatte

Operation Bodenplatte (Baseplate) launched on January 01, 1945, was an attempt by the Luftwaffe to cripple Allied air forces in the Low Countries during the Second World War. The goal of Bodenplatte was to gain air superiority during the stagnant stage of the Battle of the Bulge, to allow the German Army and Waffen-SS forces to resume their advance. The operation was planned for 16 December 1944, but it was delayed repeatedly owing to bad weather until New Years Day, the first day that happened to be suitable for the operation. Wikipedia

 

Eyewitness Account

This is a written eyewitness account of what happed that day from a member of my dad’s crew.  127 Wing moved to Base 56 (B56) on Nov.4.44 and remained there until Mar.1.45.

It is typed as it was written by hand.

Here’s the Story

127 moved from Mechelan to Evere – another ex-Brussels Airfield – now another bombed out mess, but the best one to date as we had a few amenities – hangers are mostly unsafe and unusable but we have discovered a properly working flush toilet in an otherwise wrecked washroom – how and why is really interesting because no other taps and plumbing worked – we also have a good cement apron to work on.

January 01, 1945.

Most personnel had been up a little late doing a little celebrating and were slightly groggy.

One squadron was just preparing to take-off. We had 4 brand new Spitfire 16’s to check out and put the squadron letters on so I started to head over to 403 disp (Dispersal) to get the stencils KH. At right angles to our work pad, a road went up at a slight rise behind an old hanger.

As I walked, suddenly I could hear gunfire from aircraft coming from the Mechelen Airfield direction. Then, what I first thought was a Spit IX aircraft appeared from that way after flying across our airfield. I said to the Spit – Hey! You better check out Mechelen as he sort of rolled up and there were black crosses well marked under his wings. Then aircraft started roaring across our aircraft and airfield. I jumped into a boarded up German slit trench as some 109’s came low over the old hanger firing as they turned to hit our new aircraft. They weren’t shooting at me but one 37 mm slug went into the wood beside me, the old German gas barrels also got hit and also our aircraft.

When I left about 2 minutes ago, Robbie was running up one Spit. Whitey was on the wing tip. I ran back down the little road. Fire was coming out of the cockpit of Robbie’s Spit. I jumped up on the wing. The cockpit was empty, Whitey got up from the ground, he had dropped beside the cement in a patch of old oil, half of his face was black.

A few of the rest of the crew had dropped on the cement apron. Bullets had bounced off the cement all around them, no one was hit – Robbie and 3 others had run to the top of the old smashed hanger. Their backs were covered in red brick dust as slugs had missed them by inches and imbedded in the bricks – and were later dug out for keepsakes. One fellow had been sitting on our prized toilet wondering what all the noise was when a slug came through the wooded door, hit the toilet between his legs, smashed the china bowl and left him sitting on a pile of rubble.

Bob Medforth got a cannon shell through both thighs. Some of the gang found him and applied field dressings to stop the bleeding, got a stretcher and ran him over to the M.Q.’s (Medical Quarters) and requested immediate attention. There were casualties coming in there pretty fast.

I carried on down to the apron to get our Bren gun, it was gone. I never heard it fire, the ammo was still there. The German planes were still raising hell in the vicinity.

A pilot who had finished his tour, ran out and jumped in a aircraft that was still running from the Squad that were leaving for take off – when the Germans hit – as he got clear of the ground he nailed two German aircraft who were crossing in front of him, two more German aircraft followed in behind him and shot him down over Brussels.

I was sent to the crash site right away by truck to find out definitely who was flying that Spit. He went down in Rue de Victare, a narrow cobblestone road solidly built up on either side.

The Spit had gone down straight in making a fair sized pit in the street – the hole was filling with bloody water. I rolled up my sleeves and started picking out pieces trying to find some proper identity.

The two men with me couldn’t stand the sight of the mess and couldn’t help. I had managed quite a pile of gore when a local Belgium came up with the pilot’s wallet. It somehow had landed on the sidewalk.

When I got back I found out that some idiot had run off with our Bren gun. He didn’t know how to use it even if he had brought along the ammunition. One fellow who had been running around  trying to help but was too excited to  do any good had a small caliber bullet right through his foot and he didn’t even know it. When one of the others asked him how come your boots are all bloody? He fell down and couldn’t walk and had to be carried.

The worse part was when some of the crew went back to the MQ’s to see how Bob was doing, they found that he was exactly the way they had left him on the stretcher, only now he was dead – from shock. The MO staff had done nothing for the seriously wounded and had only treated some of the minor injuries and hadn’t even put a blanked over Bob to prevent shock.

There were a mass of stories. The head man of the Tactical Airforce was visiting in his “Mobile Home Dakota” – it was a complete write off.

Our Bofors anti aircraft crew got shot up and put out of action very early.

We had two young pilots up for a practice flight before any operational duty. They got mixed in with the German aircraft and made a few circuits with the attacking aircraft before they had a chance to escape. The Germans couldn’t shoot at them without endangering their own aircraft. Our two pilots were too green to try being heroes.

Next day we could muster about 12 serviceable aircraft out of our four squadrons. Some aircraft were slightly damaged but some were complete write-offs.

The total aircraft destroyed that day must have been tremendous. The German air force also took tremendous losses in aircraft but their real losses were experienced pilots that they couldn’t replace.

Our losses were really only in aircraft and for most of these replacements were already available. We were changing from Spit IV’s to Spit 16’s.

Submitted by Mark White to RCAF 403 Squadron/Wolf Remembrance Day 2012

Next time, the epilog.

Clyde William Hillman 1916-2010

About Clyde Hillman…

Clyde William Hillman passed away peacefully at the Lake of the Woods Hospital on July 12, 2010.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on March 20, 1916, he was 94 years of age. Clyde was the son of William Angus Hillman, a Civil Engineer, and Grace Ruth (Sillett). He was elder brother to Harold and Muriel.

The family moved extensively within Central and Western Canada and the northern United States eventually settling in East Hawk Lake and Kenora by the mid 1930s so that the children could complete high school. Clyde served six years with the Canadian Armed Forces in World War II, serving as a Gunner in the 8th Royal Canadian Regiment in England, Italy Holland and Belgium. In fact, Dad often called himself a “D-Day Dodger” because he was in Italy on D-Day. Shortly after his return to Canada, he married Jessie (Jay) Wright McKellar of Keewatin with whom he had four children. He also began to work as a sales representative with M.Y. Cameron Wholesale and remained with them until the late 1960s. Following this career, Clyde worked as a Customs and Excise Officer and also as a Radio Operator with the Department of Highways of Ontario.

He retired at the age of 65 in 1981. Dad was a proud member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 12 and had just recently received recognition for his 65 years of membership. He was also a member of the Pequonga Masonic Lodge for over 50 years.

An excellent athlete in his youth, Clyde remained physically fit and active throughout his life. He enjoyed different genres of music, was an avid reader and also an amateur photographer. His appreciation of nature, especially sunsets, cloud formations, wildlife and birds is captured in his many photographs. Also captured on camera are several bridge railings and telephone poles from across the country. Dad also enjoyed history, in particular, Canadiana and World War II history. He shared his interesting and often insightful life stories with anyone who chose to listen. Over the years, dad and mom left a legacy of learning to not only their own children but also to nieces, nephews and grandchildren. They would take us out on day trips to learn about survival in the bush; or how to troll at the right places at the right time of day; or paddle the canoe, quietly watching the loons and the eagles on Blindfold Lake; or view the red ocher rock paintings; going to “the dig”; or going rock hunting. Dad also taught some of us to savour the whine of the Scottish bagpipes, march a slow march and sing along with the folk songs of the Maritimes. Two of his favourite fun songs were, “Hallelujah, I’m a bum…” and the ghost song, “I ain’t got no body.” Clyde was predeceased by his wife Jay and daughters Janice (Hanstead) and Beverley (Oberg); his parents, brother Harold and sister Muriel (Scovil); niece, Megan (McKellar/Gladu) and loyal family pet, Bud, on June 24, 2010. His passing leaves an empty space in the lives and hearts of his daughter, Susan and her husband Wayne Brazeau of Lloydminster, AB and his son, Bill, of Kenora. Also mourning his passing are five grandchildren and four great grandchildren: Kim Kaitell and her children, Remi and Julian of London ON; Pam (and Brent Berezowski and their children Chloe and Payton); Nancy (and Cory Sehn); Britt (and Monn Moen); and Mollie Oberg, all of Calgary. “Uncle Cloud” will also be missed by several nieces and nephews and their families in Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick, especially Melanie and Ken Patterson of Blindfold Lake ON. Clyde also leaves behind two sisters-in-law, Ellen McKellar and Vivien McKiernan; former sons-in-law, Gary Hanstead of Calgary and David Oberg of Red Deer; and neighbourhood friends, Charlie and Joan Carlson. Also special in Clyde’s life over the years were various family pets: Stubby, Bozo, Patches, Sparky, Purdy, Muffin and Ginger the Cat. He always had goodies in his pockets for other canine friends such as Sasha, Benny, Bear and Angel. We shall sorely miss this wonderful soul! Susan and Bill thank Dr. Beveridge for his many years as dad’s physician and for listening to and sharing “off-the topic” stories. We also extend our appreciation to Dr. Carlisle, nurses on the ER and 3rd floor East, and the support staff at the hospital for the kindness they provided dad during his past few visits.

Farewell Dad, Grampa, Uncle Cloud, Clyde, CWH. “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when?”

Clyde William Hillman
1916-2010

Hi Susan

Mark posted this comment… too beautiful to leave in the comment section.

Hi Susan,

Sorry to hear that your dad passed away.

There’s not many vets from the war left now, and there are still a lot of stories to be told and pictures to share.

I feel it’s the duty of our generation to try and preserve the contribution these men and women made to our country and to make sure there is something left for our children and grandchildren to refer too.

My dad George White grew up in Kenora. The Whites were a railroad family. My dad had 4 brothers and 2 sisters. Harold, Laurence (Larry), Clarence and my dad all served overseas in World War II. Tom was too young – he was born in 1932. Sister Harriet married Peter Orchison who served in the army and sister Eleanor married a Dave Cairns. I’m not sure if he served or not.

My dad served in the RCAF and his brothers were all in various army regiments. Clarence also served with the Black Watch in the Korean war.
Larry worked as the Steward at the Kenora Legion up to the time of his passing in the early 1990s. I’m sure your dad would have known him.

It’s been many years since I visited Kenora with my parents, but I remember, Bob Husband, Louis McKay and the Johnsons as being some of my dad’s friends and war buddies. I don’t remember Edgar Strain but I recall my dad talking about his younger brother Neil who played in the NHL.

I’ve got a couple of pictures of my dad in his air force uniform with some people in Kenora. I have no idea who they are.
I’ll scan them and post them – maybe you can identify them.

Thanks again for your message.

Mark