Remembrance Day 2012 Redux

This was posted last year.

I could post this every year on November 11th.

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

Remembrance Day 2013

From Mark White

Remembering Teddy

A Member of 403 Wolf Squadron’s Ground Crew

Mark White post 1

There are many stories written about the dogs of war and there is an excellent article published on the Vintage Wings of Canada website entitled “In Praise of the Squadron Dog”.  This article contains some great stories and pictures, and as well it explains the very important psychological role these animals played in the wellbeing of the young men and women that adopted them.

My father, George White, was always called “Whitey” by members of his crew. “Whitey” was an Airframe Mechanic with RCAF 403 Wolf Squadron during World War II. Somewhere on the European Continent, he adopted a little dog called Teddy. This little fellow played a very important role in keeping my dad and his crew sane for the duration of the war.

The vast majority of these adopted dogs never made it back to Canada with their owners, and most were unfortunately, victims of the war.

Teddy never made it back to Canada, but he did survive the war and his story has a happy ending.

This Remembrance Day I am remembering Teddy and sharing his story with your readers.

The Story of Whitey’s Dog Teddy – As Recalled by Bill Cawley July 2011

I can’t now recall exactly where Whitey acquired this little brown pup. He was really small. I don’t think he ever got bigger than 10 lbs.

I noticed first off that he was wormy and wrote my aunt in London to send us some worm powders. We got them very quickly and Whitey followed the directions and Teddy unloaded a surprising load of the usual roundworms common to most pups. This perked him up and Whitey then concentrated on training him not to crap in the tent.

His main food of course was corned beef. There was no such thing as dog food like today. He was a friendly little guy and produced a squeaky bark and he knew who his boss was.

I remember on one move we got a case of Canadian sardines in the ration. The only one ever, thank God. Teddy got his Bully Beef and was offered some sardines. We were surprised he ate them because he was usually not a good traveller.

Whitey and I were sitting side by side in the back of the truck. Teddy was on Whitey’s lap and suddenly he leaned over and deposited the sardines on me, reached back and gave Whitey the corned beef. We never figured how his stomach had separated the beef and the sardines so evenly. Anyway, the sardines were too much for us and we did the same thing with them.

Mark White post 2

We had one stop at a cross road to let some tanks move up ahead. While we waited a woman came along the highway pushing a big baby buggy with rubber tires on the wheels worn down to the rims, 3 kids and all her worldly possessions. They were all walking in bare feet. If they had shoes they weren’t wearing them on the blacktop to save wear and tear.

She had been slave labour and was trying to get back to where she was from as were thousands of others. Anyway, we gave her the rest of the case of sardines, tears ran down her face. She was Polish or Russian – we couldn’t tell.

Black’s Harbour, New Brunswick, was where the sardines came from. I read the other day in the Vancouver Sun that they are actually the only remaining sardine cannery in North America – Amazing!

Mark White post 3

Teddy was a tough little guy that survived everything that came his way and then came the end of the war. First In – First Out, so our crew was out. Whitey went by Dakota and I went by train and Channel ship. When the Dakota was loaded, I had Teddy in my battledress jacket and sided up to the aircraft and slipped Teddy in to Whitey.

When he landed in Britain, if they checked the people coming off the aircraft, the plan was to slip Teddy to the ground as there were always dogs running around service airfields. Anyways, Whitey got him safely down to Bournemouth and I caught up a few days later.

We had a new set of problems here as we were billeted in a big hotel 4 to 5 men to a room. One stayed with Teddy while the others went to eat and vice versa. It was a problem and we just couldn’t see how we could get him back to Canada as we weren’t sure what we were up against.

Mark White post 4

Whitey was giving Teddy a run down in Bournemouth when a lady came along and asked if Teddy was his dog and how could he manage to have a dog in the service. Whitey said it was a problem alright. She then said “let me look after him while you are here. I have a fenced yard and nice home and I would take very good care of him for you.” Whitey went home with her and checked out her place. He said it was perfect. She said he can come by and see him anytime.

We then got transferred to Brighton – another coastal city close by. When we were set to go back to Bournemouth it was to catch a train to Liverpool and then the ship to Canada.

Whitey went to collect Teddy and the lady was in tears. She had become very attached to Teddy who had never had anything to do with women before and he was thriving. Whitey had a soft heart for animals and realized what was best for Teddy and came back saying it was the toughest decision he had ever made.

Whitey realized it was the best solution for Teddy. That little dog helped keep us stay sane during the war. A little dog can certainly make a big difference in life. He brought the best out in people during the war.

Mark White post 5

Cheers,

Bill Cawley – July 2011.