403 Squadron Erks With a Captured German 3 Wheeled Truck

A comment about one of George White’s photos.

https://wp.me/p1RdXZ-Re

Hi Mark funny you say the picture appears to be of your Dad as I thought it was of mine. I am just on the blog now which is amazing! My Dad is standing beside your Dad is one of the first pictures when your Dad’s head is circled. I could be wrong but the pose is the same as in the first picture (my Dad always stood with his arms around his friends) and my Dad’s fingers appear to be the same (my Dad had long fingers – always thought they were fairly boney for such a well build man) my Dad’s name is C. Alex Woods (war nickname – Chuck) I didn’t think it was like my Dad to wear a hat (although he wore the same type for many years) especially as he’d been working in this picture – I imagined the man standing over him on his right just put it on his head for fun – my Dad (assuming it is him) would have left it on. The picture is indeed a tough one to identify due to the obstructed face…

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Good morning John – Update

A comment for Mark White about one of his father’s photos featured on this post.

https://wp.me/p1RdXZ-teo

Hello the man standing in the middle with his arms outstretched around his friends ( including the man clicked- your Dad) is my Dad C. Alec Woods- my Dad talked about Whitey. My Dad’s war nickname was Chuck ( named for Canuck and his first name was Charles) my Dads pictures were lost- do you know of any other ones that might include my Dad. I can’t see him in any other pictures posted so thank you so much for this one- it is amazing to see him! My Dad always said there was nothing glamorous about the war, he never talked about it until later in his life – reading your blogs I can see why he said that. I so appreciate your blog/information it makes me feel connected to my Dad! Thank you

Who remembers?

I’m curious if you have any mentions of the late John (Jack) Robert Baker in your archives. A few years before he passed away Jack took the time to describe most of the photos in his photo album from the war. I don’t know what became of the album or his log book after he passed. He was originally from Markham Ontario and had (I believe) two sisters-in-laws still living there in the early 2000s.

If I find the video of him describing who’s who in his photo album, I would be happy to share the info. Jack is the fellow with the tilted cap standing partially obscured by the motorcycle rider.

JOHN (JACK) R. BAKER

December 21, 1923 – April 13, 2003 Jack passed away April 13, 2003 at the General Hospital after a short illness. He is survived by his sister, Ruby Norton and her husband, Gordon of Markham, Ontario; sisters-in-law, Irene Baker of Oshawa, Ontario, Jean Baker of Port Perry, Ontario; two nephews, three nieces, four great-nieces and two great-nephews, all of Ontario. Jack was predeceased by his father, Walter; mother, Verna and his brothers, Austin and Daniel. Jack served in the R.C.A.F. from November 1942 to February 1946 as a Spitfighter pilot with the 403 Wolf Squadron and saw active duty in Europe. He received th 1939-45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp, and the Pilot’s Flying Badge. After the war he transferred to the Reserves. He rejoined the regular force again in May of 1951 until May of 1956, during this time Jack trained NATO pilots. Upon his release from the R.C.A.F. he went into business in the City of Edmonton, where he lived until his death.

Remembering Fred George Turner

This is what Fred Turner said on The Memory Project.

I was always interested in flying. I made model airplanes. The first chance I had to go in the air force, I took it. Well, I started as a kid building model airplanes and I was always interested in planes. The first solo flight was simple, I mean, you have your left hand on the throttle, your right hand on the stick, push the throttle forward, the aircraft starts to move; the tail comes up, then you pull the joystick back. And in no time flat, you’re in the air. And you use your rudder and the stick. If you want to turn left, you push the stick to the left and use the left rudder. If you want to turn right, you push the stick to the right and use the right rudder. The [Supermarine] Spitfire’s [fighter aircraft] great, absolutely beautiful. It was so smooth to operate and control. I was with [No.] 91 Squadron [Royal Air Force], an English squadron, and [No.] 403 [Wolf Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force], a Canadian squadron. We were based near Dover [England] and we patrolled the [English] Channel down to the Isle of Wight and some other squadrons did the Isle of Wight to Land’s End. So all that time, I don’t think I ever saw a German aircraft. We flew over France once and saw a squadron of German aircraft on the ground, that’s all.

There will be more later for paying homage to Fred George Turner.

1942 Spitfire Fred Turner (2)

1942 Spitfire Fred Turner (3)

1942 06 Rednal George Garnham, Fred Turner, Jimmie Dow & Ralph Kennedy

Fred G. Turner (second from right) and three of his comrades from No. 403 (Wolf) Squadron, RCAF, June 1942. From left to right: George Garnham of England, Turner, Jimmie Dow of Ontario, and Ralph Kennedy of New Zealand. (Source Phillip Turner)

Fred Turner sitting

Fred G. Turner, “at readiness” while serving with No. 403 (Wolf) Squadron, RCAF at RAF Catterick, August 1942. (Phillip Turner)

Fred Turner in cockpit

Flying Officer Fred G. Turner in the cockpit of his Spitfire, June 1943.
(Phillip Turner)

Fred Turner

Flying Officer Fred G. Turner (second from right) and comrades – from left to right W/O Pete Sexton, Turner, S/L Tubby Mayne, F/L W.L. Walker, and their dog – of No. 91 Squadron at RAF Gatwick, 1944. (Phillip Turner)

 

About 91 Squadron (source Wikipedia)

In January 1941 the squadron was reformed from No. 421 (Reconnaissance) Flight and based at RAF Hawkinge, Kent equipped with Spitfires, carrying out weather reconnaissance and Air Sea Rescue operations. In April 1943 they were upgraded to Spitfire XIIs,the first Griffon engined Spitfires, which proved very successful in intercepting the low-flying Focke-Wulf 190s. They also flew reconnaissance missions over northern France and later concentrated on bomber escort duties. In March 1944 the squadron was assigned to the Second Tactical Air Force and flew tactical sweeps over the Normandy landing zones. Later in the year, now based at RAF West Malling, Kent and equipped with the faster Spitfire XIVs they were deployed to combat the V-1 flying-bomb attacks (Capitaine Jean Maridor was blown up in mid-air when he got in too close to shoot a V-1 down [1]). In April 1945 the squadron relocated to East Anglia to carry out reconnaissance missions and searches for midget submarines off the coast of the Netherlands and Belgium.

In France, it’s called le devoir de mémoire

Bonjour

Je suis à la recherche d’informations au sujet du pilote : Donald John Shapter, J/35505, 403e Escadron de l’ARC (code KH). Mort le 14 juillet 1944 sur la commune de Saint-Lambert dans le Calvados, Normandie, France.

Je fleuris régulièrement sa tombe dans le petit cimetière de St-Lambert, mon devoir de mémoire.

Voilà je vous remercie d’avance.

Cordialement Jacques

 

 

Translation

Hello,

I am looking for information about a pilot: Donald John Shapter, J/35505,403 RCAF Squadron (code KH). He died on 14 July 1944 in the commune of Saint-Lambert in Calvados, Normandy, France.

I regularly place flowers on his grave in the small cemetery of St-Lambert, this is my duty to remember.

I thank you in advance.

Yours sincerely

Jacques

 

Many people in France still remember the Fallen. A lady in France is doing the same with Leclare Walker.

IMG_3673

Ronny Bosmann does the same in the Netherlands remembering Admiral Byrd.

P1070634

These are two pictures of Donald John Shapter, J/35505. First when he was not still a commissioned officer.

44486_83024005550_0584-00018

44486_83024005550_0584-00016

Donald John Shapter, J/35505 earned his wings at No.6 SFTS Dunnville.

Donald Shapter is remembered on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

In memory of
Flying Officer
Donald John Shapter
July 14, 1944

Military Service:

Service Number: J/35505
Age: 24
Force: Air Force
Unit: Royal Canadian Air Force
Division: 403 Sqdn.

Additional Information:

Son of the Revd. Charles P. Shapter and Margaret M. Shapter; husband of Elizabeth Jean Shapter, of Toronto, Ontario.

Commemorated on Page 440 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance. Request a copy of this page.

Burial Information:

Cemetery: ST. LAMBERT CHURCHYARD ; Calvados, France
Grave Reference: N/A
Location: St. Lambert is a village and commune 20 miles (32 kilometres) south-west of Caen, 25 miles (40 kilometres) south-south-east of Bayeux, and 6 miles (9 kilometres) south-west of Thury-Elarcourt. This is a small town on the N.162 Caen to Flers road, 16 miles (26 kilometres) south-south-west of Caen. There is 1 Commonwealth burial of the 1939-1945 war here, in the north-west corner of the churchyard.

I guess Jacques will be sending me a picture of Donald Shapter grave.

George Aitken (1921-2012)

A comment about this post on George Aitken…

Stephen Nickerson commented on George Aitken (1921-2012)

I had the honour of speaking with Mr. Aitken on the telephone in June 2005 with regards to Syd Ford and the 403. A true gentleman, he was most kind in answering my questions. I’m sure bringing up subjects like that fateful day on the 2nd of June 1942 brought back terrible memories.

His job most often seemed to be that of tail end Charlie. That was the toughest job and the most thankless job because it was the tail end Charlies who were the eyes and protect for the squadron’s rear. It was men like Mr. Aitken, Mr. Wozniak and ( Willie Lane who saved Ford from being shot down on March 13th, 1943) that received little or no credit from the press for the invaluable efforts they made in protecting their leaders’ on each mission. These were the pilots who were coming back from long missions usually landing on just gas fumes in their tanks.

Medals were not for the tail end Charlies because medals went to those who scored victories over enemy aircraft. Without the protection of the wingmen and tail end Charlie’s, however, the leaders of the squadron would not have lived long enough to score these victories. Wingmen like Mr. Aitken were the unsung heroes.
On this Remembrance Day during that two minutes of silence, my thoughts will be of such fine men like Mr. George D. Aitken.

Flying Officer George Aitken 403 Sqn RCAF

RCAF No. 403 Squadron

Paying homage to another No.403 Squadron pilot.

He was with 403 during the Dieppe Raid in 1942. 

I just got this obituary from Dean Black.

AITKEN, George Dennis


With heavy hearts, the family of George D. Aitken, AFC, announce his passing on January 11, 2012 at the age of 91.

Survived by his best friend and loving wife of 62 years, Daphne; his three daughters: Deborah Sprenger (Wolfgang), Heather Rawsthorne (Mike) and Dorothy Lowrie; his sister-in-law, Marjorie Aitken and many nieces and nephews.

George was predeceased by his parents, a brother and a number of life-long friends and family members.
A Spitfire pilot during WWII and an Air Force Cross recipient, George spent his retirement years working as an historian, documenting facts pertaining to his experiences during the war. It was his belief that if we do not learn from history, we will be forced to relive it one day.

View original post 1,005 more words

The Power of the Internet – More than a Framed Print

Something I posted on this blog in 2014…

It was  about  a man called Robbie.

Mark White  wrote  it. 

***

Story written by Mark White who is contributing once more on this blog

My father George “Whitey” White was a Leading Aircraftsman, Airframe Mechanic, with RCAF 403 Squadron during the Second World War.

George White left

I’ve shared some of the pictures, stories and notes that I have about his “Crews” experiences during the war on this website. I’m fortunate to have some notes, a journal, some pictures and a few objects that I share freely with the readers here.

 

Many of the pictures have no caption and I have no idea who many of the men are. 

This is a picture of Robbie.

Robbie - Copy

The date and the location are unknown.                                                              

Robbie - Copy (12)

Robbie

He is posing in this picture holding the case for my dad’s Kodak camera.

 Robbie - Copy (11)

Robbie is second from the left. 

After the D Day landing, the men in my dad’s crew stayed pretty much together for the duration of the war. They always referred to their Crew as “Number One Crew”. They were the top ground crew that kept the Spitfires of their squadron operational during the European Campaign. They were “Number One Crew” because they could consistently change out Merlin engines in Spitfires, under field conditions, faster than the other RCAF ground crews in 127 Wing. 

They maintained and repaired the aircraft in terrible field conditions. Much of the time they worked outside. They lived in tents during all months of the year. They had few amenities, and they often worked and lived under the threat of enemy staffing, bombing and shelling attacks. 

They were a very resilient and self-reliant bunch of young men, with a close camaraderie with each other. They worked well as a team. The “Brass” had often tried to break them up and deploy the men to other crews, but in the end, they were left alone because they worked so well together. My dad had a little dog called Teddy. Teddy helped keep the Number One Crew sane during the war. The Crew successfully smuggled Teddy back to England at the end of the war. 

 Robbie - Copy (10)

 Some of  the Crew with a German 3 Wheeled truck.

Robbie is second from the left.                     

Robbie - Copy (9)

Some of the Crew working on the Auster. Ted Klapecki is on the front right and Robbie is front left. My dad’s camera case in the foreground on the workbench.   

They often developed their own repair techniques and they often built and fashioned their own tools from scavenged and abandoned German tools and parts. They liked and admired German tools. When food conditions were bad, they sometimes avoided going to the “Mess” altogether and resorted to scavenging food that they prepared for their own meals. They scavenged green apples in the countryside and bartered cigarettes with locals for eggs to supplement their rations. One fellow, Cliff, had a girlfriend in the Red Cross and she sent the boys some much welcomed hot chocolate during miserable winter conditions at Base 82 Grave, Netherlands during the winter of 1944.  Once or twice they even tried out abandoned German rations. They found them quite tasty compared to their official British rations of canned Bully Beef, hardtack and a spoonful of jam. 

 Robbie - Copy (8)

Robbie is always prominent in my dad’s pictures. Many pictures show him working very hard. They must have been good friends. Robbie is behind the wheel of the captured BMW Roadster.

 Robbie - Copy (7)

Robbie at work on a Spitfire

Robbie - Copy (6)

Robbie is on the far left – A captured German FW 190 Aircraft

They built their own stoves and fireplaces for warmth and cooking. They usually had some form of unofficial transportation. They usually had bicycles or motorcycles. Being mechanics, they would often scavenge derelict British Army motorcycles, repair them and use them for trips into the countryside and into towns and villages. They liked to collect and fire off discarded German Mausers, Walthers and Lugers. They kept notes and journals, they wrote letters and they took photographs. The “Brass” was always trying to confiscate their cameras. 

Their tents constantly leaked because of shrapnel holes from nearby exploding enemy munitions. They sometimes slept outdoors under Spitfire engine cowlings as their tents offered no protection from shrapnel and bullets. Some of the men slept with two “tin hats”, one covering the face and the other covering the crotch. 

our tent

Robbie and the rest of the Crew were friends with Buzz Beurling when 403 Squadron was based in England.

Peter Lecoq George Beurling Hodgson

Lecoq, Beurling, and Hodgson (collection Pierre Lecoq via Peter Lecoq)

Buzz would rather hang out with the Erks and work on his own Spitfire than hang out with the “Brass”. They listened to the pilots on the “Tannoy” as the Spitfires did sweeps into enemy territory  on the continent and they waited patiently for the aircraft to return. 

Unlike most visitors to Bergen – Belsen, Robbie went right into the camp. He went behind the fence. He had a camera and shot a roll of 20 pictures. He gave the film to my dad. He probably used my dad’s camera. I still have that camera. 

Flight Officer Donald K. Anderson, also of the 127 Wing, arrived at Bergen-Belsen at the end of April or early May 1945. He completed numerous sketches of Bergen-Belsen and its inmates. Anderson ultimately completed only one water colour of the camp, which is held by the Canadian War Museum.

This picture depicts members of 127 Wing handing out a truckload of relief supplies at the camp fence. 

Bergen Belsen

***

 How do I know this is Robbie? 

Robbie - Copy (4)

Robbie - Copy (3)

Robbie

Only because he has his name painted on his air force issue leather Jerkin. The Crew decorated their Jerkins with aircraft paint. I still have my dad’s decorated Jerkin and it’s a beauty.

Thanks to this website, I also know Robbie wrote a beautiful poem honoring their Crew member and friend, Bob Medforth, who was killed on January 1, 1945 when German aircraft attacked their base in Evere Belgium. 

Robbie wrote this poem for Joyce, Bob Medforth’s widow. Bob Medforth’s niece found this poem in her mother’s things, and then posted it on this website. 

Here’s the poem that Robbie wrote for Joyce Medforth:

A Man

There are men who fly the trackless skies
Who rove the seven seas.
They win all fame and glory
While floating through the breeze

There’s men that hold the front lines fast
And for their country dying,
There’s unsung lads not far behind
Who keep the aircraft flying.

We too have come to fight for home
For Victory – Freedom – Peace
We do not look for glories, fame
But work that wars may cease.

Yes, Joyce, he gave his life for you
For me, his family, friends
For people in this darkened world
In every walk and trend.

He gave his all and asked for naught
A hero to us all
“Where’s Robert, where is Goose and George”
Of death he had no fear.

He thought not of himself but us

“Look after them”, he said

“I’m O.K. look after them”

And now our Bob is dead.

Dead? ah no – they never die,
He’s left this world tis true,
But there in heaven he reigns with god
Where skies are always blue.

An unsung hero here on earth
His rightful place he holds up there
He’s ranked up with the best of them
As in our hearts down here.
Robbie

John Le May placed his collection and CD of his experiences during the Second World War on this website in February 2014. 

John Le May said that, “One of our members was a regular contributor to the “Wing Tips” newsletter “The Poet’s Corner”, and on the January 1st attack by the Luftwaffe, he wrote the following poem.” 

That man that wrote the poem was Robbie, a member of the “Number One Crew” and his name is Don Robb.   

Now thanks to John Le May, I now know that my dad’s war buddy’s name is Don Robb. 

Don Robb 1 jan 45

Memories of a ‘Not So Happy’ New Year’s Day

Who of us will ever forget

That memorable New Year’s Day

The ominous hum as bullets spun

And pierced the hidings where we lay?

 

It all began so strangely

As round our drone they came

Across the sky we watched them fly

Then heard the shells & bullets rain.

 

‘Twas poor old Melsbroek got it first

Then altitude they quickly gained.

Around they spun for they weren’t done,

No longer was their target feigned.

Across they came the first attack

In hordes, in droves, they strafed;

Our minds were rant while theirs hell bent

“to kill, to kill” they laughed

 

They laughed, they laughed, I know they did

For sitting ducks we were.

Some sixty they fell on their prey

And shot us up for fair.

 

They climbed & dove with chattering guns

We lay there stiff with fear

There in our lairs we said our prayers

On the first day of this year

 

Five spits of ours roared from the deck

And strove to drive them off

Shot down six Huns with blaring guns

Through odds extremely rough

 

One spit while scarcely off the deck

Before his wheels were up,

He got his Hun-but in the fun

Was shot down by a Nazi pup

 

The minutes dragged like hours,

And there were sure twenty five

The bullets spat while I lay flat

Well frightened, unhurt, alive.

 

Old lady luck had been with me

I’d thought my life was over,

A grimy mess, I must confess

As I gazed out through the door.

 

Yet some lady luck had not been

Bullets found them hiding there.

The fiendish hun had got our Bob

We lost a pal both fair and square. 

 

The New Year came in with a bang

As you can plainly see,

And you can bet we’ll ne’er forget

That gruesome day, that Nazi spree.

 

Don Robb, maintenance 127 wing

 Robbie - Copy (2)

Don Robb is one of the Boys in this picture.

Thank you John Le May for solving the mystery.

 

Mark White

February 2014