Written by Mark White
B2 (Base 2) Crepon France
June to August 27 1944
The D-Day was June 6, 1944.
The Erks from 403 Squadron had expectations of landing in France on June 10 1944. The glider crossing was cancelled. My father’s crew was then scheduled to cross the channel by air with the Dakota group, but was switched at the last minute to cross with the barge group.
They eventually landed on Gold Beach on June 18, 1944 and got their trucks on shore. The Maintenance Officer, a fellow named Disher, ordered the crew to make sure that they got the crane truck to the airfield near the Village of Crepon. The crane truck was a key piece of equipment for lifting crashed aircraft and doing engine changes on the Spitfires.
After a long and difficult day moving the trucks along railway lines and under railroad tunnels, they were met in Crepon, by one of their men, who was sent out to find them and guide them to their airfield.
The Erks from 403 Squadron seem rather fresh faced and clean in this photo. It was likely taken soon after the arrival at the B2 Airbase. My father, George White, is the fellow seated. The fellow sitting on his leg is Bob Mosher.
Now, I will share a few stories from 403 Squadron’s No. 1 Crew Journal – as written by hand:
June 18, 1944
……… I was never so tired, it was warm and I was dirty. We took a truck back down to the beach to clean up, there was a dozen or so dead, 2nd Division Canadians in the water so we came back dirty. At 11:30 PM an air raid started, intense gun fire, hard to sleep.
June 19, 1944
Maintenance Crew started to dig in. We are in an open grass field along a hedge. Our Maintenance Work area is in an apple orchard. We are close to a German Fort, consisting earth banks with old World War I field guns set up to cover sections of the beach. There was lots of ammo scattered about. Our pilots wheeled out a field gun and started firing a few rounds, hopefully into German lines. Anyway, the Canadian Army or British Army caught on immediately and took the gun away. The German gun crew lived underground in a boarded up shelter. We tried some of their canned rations – pretty good.
June 20, 1944
Got stomach flu from drinking bad water – rain and mud. Still on Compo Rations – stew and hardtack, spoonful each of jam – hard to eat as the wasps practically take it out of your mouth. Lots of stings.
June 21, 1944
Feeling better – work starting in maintenance. Green apples not the edible kind – think the French use them to make Calvados – a drink with a heavy kick. Lots of German rifles around. I would like to get a good one home – the Mauser bolt action is superior. 80 hour inspections today – our aircraft handling short netting runway excellently. On guard at night. Air raid missed our airfield. Did some laundry – gasoline – once drained out of aircraft it is not allowed to be put back in, even thou we use chamois skin filters.
June 22, 1944
Lovely day – not much work built a small fireplace so we can have a fire with no flames showing. Working late at 416 Sqd. Interesting day. Shot up American Fortress crashed. Crew bailed out, plane on fire. Marauder bombers attacking Caen. Heavy German AC AC, clear sky. Aircraft took a beating, one exploded and came down in flames, others just went down, some came back smoking. German Acc Acc shot one man coming down by parachute. Some German Acc Acc bursts over our airfield. Lots of smoke and gunfire from Caen. Annother big air raid at night. Tracer fire beautiful in the dark. German artillery shelled an empty field near our Campsite. Precision shooting but the wrong field. No damage. Some guys came to gawk – didn’t know what was causing the explosions. Army let them know in a hurry.
June 24 1944
Worked in flight today, fellas there don’t get much chance to do repairs. Dust is getting real heavy. We seem to be the only ones worrying. We went into the nearest village, tried the wine, 10 francs a glass, thought it was Cognac. Actually was Calvados, swear it was moonshine made from local apples, has a kick like a mule. One glass was enough. Vin Blanc, 160 francs 1 bottle, no hell. We saw another German fort setup for beach fire. 28 Winnipeg Rifles killed putting it out of action by sniper fire.