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…

Advertisements

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

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

Don Anderson – The Power of the Internet

This is post No. 660.

The Internet  is a powerful tool when you want to reach out to people.

This is what I found on the Internet after Dean Stevens sent me a picture his wife took of his Don Anderson’s lithograph.

 

“RCAF The War Years WWII Air Forces Reunion
Commemorating 40th Anniversary
Battle of Britain”

A set of 12 full colour reproductions from the original paintings.
The artist is Don Anderson who was an official war artist with the RCAF.

1. Alouette 425 Squadron

Capture12

2. Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVI 416 Squadron

Capture6

3. RCAF Group 6 Halifax surveying Hamburg, VE day plus 2

Capture10

4. A tail gunner doing maintenance on bomber’s rear guns

Capture4

5. 403 Squadron returns to Evère airfield Jan. 1, 1945

Capture3

6. Rear gunner Halifax Mk 1

Capture5

7. Canadian airman taking off under fire 416 squadron, Evere, Belgium.

Capture11

8. Lancaster Mk X 431 squadron, Croft,Yorkshire

Capture9

9. B 90 Petit Brogel, Belgium

Capture8

10. Beaufighters 404 Squadron taking off for Norway, Banff, Scotland.

Capture2

11. Night Intruder, de Havilland Mosquito

Capture7

12. After the Rain, “Tusker” Squadron, Ceylon

Capture1

This blog was created in September 2011 when I met a young man whose grandfather was a Spitfire pilot.

 Walter Neil Dove is in the middle on this picture.

Wally Dove and his two erks

Most people likely had never heard of him. Most people most likely never heard the word “erks”. The two men are what pilots affectionately called erks… airframe mechanics, fitters,…

Dean had a lithograph and wanted to know more.

2016-06-11 07.46.58

George White was an erk.

George White 2

His son Mark found my blog and contributed with a series of articles about his father and fellow erks. Everything is here for Dean to read if he wants to know how those erks were heroes in their own way.

Lest We Forget.

RMS Queen Mary

From Mark White

RMS Queen Mary

Hello Pierre,

In response to your readers request for anything on the refitted Queen Mary as a troop ship, I have a few pictures from my dad’s collection to share.

I apologize for the quality. They aren’t that great – it may have something to do with the Southampton fog.

Although my father did not sail back to Canada on the Queen Mary, it must have been an impressive sight in the harbour.

My father sailed back to Canada on the New Amsterdam. She was also quite an impressive Dutch ocean liner that was also pressed into service as a troop transport during the war. I’m sure it was every bit as crowded as the Queen Mary during voyages. I’m including a picture of troops packed on the deck at the stern of the ship.

Captions are as on the original photographs.

RMS Queen Mary 1

Queen Mary

RMS Queen Mary 1 (5)

Queen Mary at Southhampton

RMS Queen Mary 1 (4)

Aquitania at South Hampton

RMS Queen Mary 1 (3)

Stern of the New Amsterdam (Move over and give me more room).

Cheers
Mark
March 2016

An email worth reading

Dr. Mark Celinscak had contacted me a few years back. He wanted to get in touch with George White’s son.
image

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

I am grateful that so many of you offered me your generous support over the years. I only hope you will excuse this mass email. I most sincerely appreciate the encouragement and kindness I have received.

I am pleased to inform you that my first book will be published late next week (see attached flyer). The official publication date is 24 October 2015. The book is titled Distance from the Belsen Heap: Allied Forces and the Liberation of a Nazi Concentration Camp (University of Toronto Press). It examines the experiences of British and Canadian military personnel during the surrender and relief of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northwest Germany at the end of the Second World War.

The official book launch will be part of Holocaust Education Week (HEW) in Toronto. For those of you interested, the details are as follows (the program description can be found on pg. 33 of the HEW catalogue):

HEW Book Launch: Tuesday 3 November 2015 at 6:00 p.m. at York University’s Centre for Jewish Studies located at 763 Kaneff Tower, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto. Book signing to follow the lecture. Free and open to the public. Free parking passes available for the Student Services Parking Garage.In support of the publication of the book I have several upcoming lectures in both Toronto and Montreal, some of which are free and open to the public. The dates open to the public are as follows:

HEW Lecture: Thursday 5 November 2015 at 7:30 p.m. at Beth Lida Forest Hill Congregation located at 22 Gilgorm Road, Toronto. Free and open to the public.Montreal Holocaust Education Series Lecture: Sunday 8 November 2015 at 7:00 p.m. at Le Dépanneur Café located at 206 Rue Bernard Ouest, Montréal. Free and open to the public.The book will be available for purchase at all three events. While it would be wonderful to see you at one of the public lectures, I understand if you are unable to attend. I am pleased to say that the book is now available for pre-order at a number of online retailers, such as Amazon, Amazon Canada, Indigo-Chapters, Barnes & Noble,Waterstones and the like.

In closing, I hope you will excuse this blatant act of self-promotion. But, after nearly ten years of work, I am eager to share this news with as many friends and colleagues as possible. If you know of anyone who might be interested in this work or the upcoming public lectures, please feel free to forward this email.

With kind regards,

Mark

Dr. Mark Celinscak
History Department
Trent University
Oshawa, ON

Another Captured German Prize – Junkers Ju 86 R-1 – Redux

Comment just in…

The camouflage of the hangar looks like it was taken in Fassberg.
Rheinmetall and Blohm & Voss were at the End of 1944 in Fassberg for tests of the Bv 246 gliding bomb with the Fw 190A.

Original post below

Another guest post from Mark

Here is another photograph from my father George White’s collection. It was likely taken in Schleswig Germany.

It is a Junkers Ju 86 R-1 high altitude reconnaissance aircraft. The code lettering DD+GE 5161 Rheinmetall (AirMin 82).

The wing of a second Ju 86 can be seen on the right side of the picture. This aircraft may be T5+PM 5132, a Ju 86 R-1 that was flown from Fassberg to Schleswig on August 8, 1945.

This aircraft was rather unique. It was powered by Jumo 207 diesel engines, had a pressurized cockpit and was capable of flying up to 50,000 feet.

These 2 stroke diesel engines had 6 cylinders, 12 pistons and 2 crankshafts and no combustion chambers. Combustion is achieved between the domes of 12 horizontally opposed pistons.

This is indeed a very interesting configuration for an aircraft engine.

Mark White February 2012-5

 

Cheers

Mark White – February 2014