Dr. Albert (Al) JOHNSTON – Redux

A great research and article from Mark

Dr. Albert (Al) JOHNSTON

Al Johnson

JOHNSTON, Dr. Albert (Al) Charles West MD.CM., FRCS

December 7, 1923 – July 28, 2013

With great sadness, we announce that Al passed away peacefully at age 89 on July 28, 2013 in Port Moody, B.C. He is survived by his loving wife of 61 years Peggy (nee Mouat), his children Kathleen, James (Barbara), William (Diane) and Thomas (Deanne), his grandchildren Alexander, Robert, James and Daniel, and his brother Jack and sister Maureen Bailey, and predeceased by his brothers Herbert, Walter and Victor.

Born in Armstrong, B.C., Al grew up in Nanaimo, B.C. where he attended elementary school thru grade 13.

He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942 and served as a Leading Aircraftman for the RCAF 403 Wolf Squadron in England, Holland, Belgium and Germany thru 1946.

He returned to Canada and graduated from University of British Columbia, B.Sc (Zoology) with honors in 1949, McGill University medical school in 1953, and from Ophthalmology training at Wayne State University and Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit in 1958.

Al and Peggy opened medical practices in Vancouver in 1959 in an office they shared together until their retirement in 1989. During his years of practice, Al was associated with UBC/VGH Department of Ophthalmology as Clinical Professor devoting time to clinical teaching, developing the Neuro Ophthalmology program at UBC and to serving as an examiner for the Royal College of Physicians.

Al loved the outdoors and he and Peggy actively spent time on Saltspring Island, on their boat in B.C. and travelling in other parts of the world. Following retirement, Al and Peggy moved to Saltspring where they built their retirement home and they greatly enjoyed retirement with their extended family.

Thanks go out to his doctors and the staff at Eagle Ridge Manor in Port Moody, B.C. where he spent the final stage of life and special thanks go to Dr. Tony Wilson, Dr. Saul Isserow and to Dr. Christine Todorovic.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. at St. Mark’s Church, 961 North End Road, Saltspring Island, B.C. and a gathering of friends to celebrate Al’s life will also be held in Vancouver from 1:00pm to 4:00pm on Sunday, September 15, 2013 at Royal Vancouver Yacht Club at 3811 Point Grey Road, Vancouver, B.C.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Walter George Johnston research fund (UBC faculty of medicine) #P128, or the Saltspring Island Foundation named fund would be welcome.

Published in The Times Colonist from August 17 to August 18, 2013

Dr. Albert Johnston was a very talented and remarkable human being.

The ERK wearing the glasses is very prominent in a lot of my dad’s war pictures.  

George White

I’m no expert, but I think Dr. Albert Johnston may be in some of these pictures. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if you readers could identify more of these airmen.

 George White 1

George White 3 George White 2-1 George White 2

Mark White – October 2013

What do you think?

George White 3-1

George White 2-2

George White 1-1

George White 2-1-1

 

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The Story of a 127 Wing 43 Year-Old Spitfire Pilot – Redux

Editor’s notes

Mark White added this on his  story…

More on the 43 year-old  Spitfire  pilot  here.

 

George White, Mark White’s father, kept a journal during WWII. Mark is now sharing a new article he just wrote using this journal for our new honorary member.

1

Pierre,

I think John Le May will like this one – lots of details.

When you do your own research on Robert Stanley Weir you will find some interesting stuff. I’ll keep you in suspense and let you do your own homework!

Cheers

Mark

***

The Story of a 127 Wing 43 Year-Old Spitfire Pilot by Mark White

RCAF 403 Squadron

I wanted to share the story about the surprise visit of Winston Churchill to 403 Squadron on July 22 1944 with John Le May.

It’s a really good story, but I got sidetracked with another great story. I will share the Churchill story later.

While going through my father’s notes, pictures and the journal, I came across the story about a 43 year old Spitfire pilot attached to 127 Wing. The maximum age for Spitfire pilots in operations was apparently 28, but Squadron Leader Pilot, Ronald Stanley Weir was 43 years old. It is not a happy story. He was killed while landing a Spitfire on 403 Squadron’s landing strip at Crepon Normandy on August 6 1944.

Mark White

Introduction – Setting the Stage for the Story

127 Wing (Airfield) consisted of 403 Wolf Squadron, 416 Lynx Squadron, 421 Red Indian Squadron and 443 Hornet Squadron. D-Day was June 6, 1944.

wpid-wp-1422870069465.jpeg

403 Squadron landed on Juno Beach on June 18, 1944. 127 Wing was at Base 2 Crepon, France from June until August 27, 1944. 403 Squadron operated out of an open grass field along a hedge. Maintenance was an area in an apple orchard close to an abandoned German fort consisting of earth banks with old German WW I field guns set up to cover sections of the beach.

Setting Up Camp

No. 1 Crew – Setting Up Camp – Crepon, France

Since landing in Normandy, 403 Squadron was involved in air to air battles and ground attack missions. These men witnessed some of the greatest military battles in history. The war was all around them, and the front was only a few miles away.

 

Squadron Leader Pilot – Ronald Stanley WeirFrom the Book – “They Shall Not Grow Old”

Weir, Ronald Stanley SL(P) C1651 from Westmount, Quebec. Killed Aug. 6 44 age 43. #416 City of Ottawa Squadron (Ad Soltum Paratus). SL. Weir was flying Spitfire aircraft # MJ 741 and overshot the landing strip a Crepon, France. He turned the aircraft to port but it went into a spin and he was killed in the crash. Squadron Leader Pilot Weir is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer, France.

Weir

S/L(P) –Squadron Leader/Pilot
Ronald Stanley Weir

Although Weir was killed on August 6, 1944, the story will begin on August 5. It will cover the activities of 403 Squadron’s ground crew until August 20, 1944.

The details about the war, and the details about the No.1 Crew’s activities during this period are just too numerous and too rich to exclude from the story about Ronald Stanley Weir.

Here’s the story (As Written by Hand):

August 5

Working late again. Don came back again and brought me a good 8 mm German Mauser rifle. This looks like a good one to try and get back home. Our Spitfires are a big attraction for the Army. We got another visit from the Legion Canteen – afternoon tea this time.

Spits in readiness

403 Spits in Readiness

August 6

Not a busy day, small inspections and other minor problems. Went out to see if I could find Don in the evening and had a little trouble getting to Reis, finally got a hectic ride on a motor cycle. Found that Dons 12 Field had just gone back to the front again. When I got back to camp I heard that Flt. Lieut. Weir, Test Pilot for Maintenance, had just been killed in a crash.

He was an interesting story. He had a big job with the RCAF in Canada – in charge of purchasing fuel supplies for the RCAF. When a ruling came in allowing Ground Crew Officers that could pass medical requirements to take Aircrew Training, he got his Wings and went through O.T.U. as a fighter pilot and got posted to our Airfield.

But he was over 40 years old, and fighter pilots had to be under 28 years old. So here he was in a Squadron and was unable to fly on operations, so he promoted himself as Test Pilot for Maintenance so he could check out the repaired aircraft before they were returned to their Squadrons.

He always made sure the test aircraft always had fully loaded guns with the hope that some German aircraft would come by.

When a Spitfire Squadron lands, it’s like ducks, they come falling out of the sky and make basically three point landings that don’t take up much runway length. The American pilots on the other hand, were trained in Texas, with long runways and use a less steep approach. We nearly always had a crashed American plane visitor that over ran our landing strips.

Well, Weir was coming in to land when a squad of Spits, short on fuel came rushing in. He was already committed but aborted his landing so he wouldn’t get in their way. He didn’t have flying speed and hit the ground hard enough to kill himself. We were all sad to see him gone, he had taken quite a few of the gang up for flights in the Auster that replaced the Tiger Moth that Beurling wore out.

 The Auster

About 8:30 PM American B 26 Marauder – 2 engined bomber – came screaming in on one engine and lined up to crash land (wheels up), on our netting. He was immediately waved off with red flares – he staggered on towards the beach and crashed in a gulley. Whitey and I ran about half a mile after him to see what help was needed.

By the time we got there, there was a tremendous fire. They had crashed into a fuel dump belonging to a Polish Tank Outfit. The Poles were going crazy trying to save as much gas as possible, forming lines, handing hot Jerry cans from the fire from one to another. We climbed into a shell hole on the side hill (likely made by naval gunfire) to watch developments as the center part of the fire burned out. The aircraft bomb load was exposed right in the fire. A small 1500 wt. British fire truck drove in. The crew, was dressed in asbestos suits, jumped out and started spraying foam on the bombs. We took off – no explosions occurred and the fire gradually died out or was put out.

How those Poles handled these hot cans without getting severely burned is amazing. It showed how determined the Poles were to get back at the Germans who had devastated their county.

If that aircraft had exploded on our netting ??.  The crew must have perished in the crash unless some had bailed out beforehand. They must have been in a real panic.

August 7

Another engine change, we now hold the unofficial record for the fastest engine change in the field. All the engine bolts have a small hole through the head. When it was tightened down, locking wire was attached to keep from coming loose. Slow awkward system but it works. Anyways, we beat the RAF record times we had on hand.

engine change

Engine Change

We had a funeral today at Bény-sur-Mer, the Canadian Cemetery, for Flt. Lieut. Weir. He had a real coffin. I was a pallbearer.

When I got back I took my German rifle and fired a few rounds. It works fine and is very accurate.

Americans are on the move and making good news. They have captured Lorient and St. Nazaire. Canadian 2nd Army holding the Panzers. Canada has its own official Army now, their Air Force backing consists of the International Fighter Squadrons. The Canadian Squadrons are with the 2nd Army.

August 8

Finishing up another engine change today, not much else coming in. Nice weather during daylight but damp and foggy at night. Jerry hasn’t bothered at night lately. Guess he doesn’t like the full moon with night fighters around. Spits are not used at night.

August 9

Work picking up again, means our aircraft are getting more action. Bob Askig Cpl. has now joined us. He’s a likeable sort and he fits in well.

August 10

DN-Q – another dandy mess. Tail end well shot up, pilot was lucky to get it home. Rumours that leaves are coming up, and say No. 1 Crew is in the lineup. Expect it’s the rumour mill at work again. Some guys are still hopeful that the old Burma rumour mill comes to pass.

August 11

Finishing up DN-Q – was a very tough job for field conditions. Pilot was really happy to get it back. On night guard. Jerry air raid, a couple of bombs dropped, terrific Ac-Ac fire. Lots of flares dropped, mostly over the beach areas. Army is in another major attack, Canadian casualties mounting up.

August 12

Day off. Writing letters and trying a little sun tanning.  Americans starting to make advances through a lot of relatively open country. The pincher operation seems to be working. Germans really catching it. Word is the Germans have come out in force travelling in daylight trying to escape before the door closes. This is what we have been waiting for. Our aircraft are ready to really hit them hard now.

maintenance

403 Maintenance

August 13

Went to M.O. with grindings in my eye. He had to freeze the eyeball to get them out. Our aircraft running wild, dropping their designated bombs and strafing and blocking roads. Germans are in a real retreat – not a withdrawal.

Another tough stern job on old friend KH-S, lucky to have made it back. Flights going crazy, aircraft coming and going, needing fuel and ammo, it must be hard to keep track of the score.

preparing for action

Preparing for Action 

August 14

I got called up to get a crashed Spit off our netting, his undercarriage had collapsed on landing, everyone in vicinity seemed overly excited. The crane truck came in, the crash crew got the trailer ready. I pulled the engine cover off and hooked up the crane cable, and signalled the operator to lift slowly. As the aircraft lifted and the wreckage underneath became exposed, there was a 500 pound bomb starting to dangle. I stopped the lift immediately and told the operator to hold it there. Evidently the pilot couldn’t shake the bomb loose, there was a hitch in the dropping mechanism. So he tried to bring it back, make a less than perfect landing. He must have been in a real panic landing with a fused bomb when the undercarriage failed and he skidded in on the bomb.

I got one of the crash crew to run for MacIntosh, our Cracker Jack armourer. He had joined the army when he was 16 years old and was shipped to Britain with some of the first Canadian Army overseas. His mother had complained, he was discharged and was sent home with an excellent Army training. He then joined the RCAF as an Armourer.

We were certainly free of spectators, the word had spread fast. Mac pulled the correct bomb panels and in a couple of minutes the bomb was diffused, the crane operator wiped the sweat out of his eyes, I waved the crash crew in. We lifted the plane clear of the bomb, they pushed in the trailer and I took off back to work.

No one from Headquarters or Airfield Control ever mentioned it to me, they had been in contact with the pilot and knew the plane was landing. I bet they were all hiding in their slit trenches. If that bomb had gone off, our netting loss would have really spoiled our fun and saved a lot of German lives.

August 15

Jerry aircraft are getting a little more active at night again, they don’t seem to be much help for their army, we certainly expected them to put up a much better show then they have. Perhaps the Russian Front has used up more German aircraft than was realized. Ground crew won’t complain.

We took a truck into Caen to a factory to see what useful we could scrounge but the Army said NO WAY. Dust is really getting heavy again with good weather. Aircraft are going all out.

August 16

Pat sent me some magazines in the mail. Wrote another 7 letters – all short ones. Some travelling show called the Tarmacs came in today. Something blew up near the mess, made a lot of noise. Some German long range shelling nearby. We could feel the ground shake.

August 17

Wonderful weather. Aircraft still returning with empty guns. Germans in a trap. Our aircraft ceased flying at noon – too many aircraft over target areas.

August 18

Fairly busy day. 127 now has the record for the number of sorties flown in one day. 403 has lost 8 aircraft in the last two days – we got 68 trucks today. This was the greatest day in Airforce history – German 7th Army literally destroyed. Started work at 4:00 AM and worked till 8:30 PM to keep our aircraft flying.

Our C.O.  Hamilton actually congratulated us – normally we rarely see him.

August 19

Heavy rain, not doing much today. Quite a few new aircraft in, doing acceptance checks on them. These are brand new aircraft. We now hear a rest system has been devised – this isn’t a rumour this time. Camp has been set up near Bayeau – mainly for sleep.

August 20

Easy day made another tool box or trunk from ex German ammo box. Whitey left today for a 5 day rest period, he sure earned it. American tanks reported close to Paris.

***

Gazette newspaper clipping for Squadron Leader Weir

Gazette newspaper clipping for Squadron Leader Weir (source here)

CVWM page on Squadron Learder Weir

My Dad’s Missing War Pictures – Redux

Editor’s note

This article, published in October 2012, is from Mark White. It’s  just for  you John…

***

Mark White writes about his dad…

My dad’s war pictures went missing for a number of years.

I had no pictures of my dad from the war.

In 2011 I contacted my dad’s only surviving brother, Tom, in Kenora, Ontario and asked him if he had any pictures.

He didn’t have any, but he obtained this picture from a local veteran, Edgar “Dink” Strain who had a wartime photo of my dad and three other Kenora vets onboard the New Amsterdam in August 1945.

Edgar took this photo:

(L to R) My dad George White, Clyde Hillman, Art Pykerman and Rolf Nelson.

I talked to Edgar Strain on the phone a few times. He had been a Warrant Officer with 421 Lynx Squadron during the war. He was a very gracious gentleman and a very keen military historian with a tremendous amount of knowledge about the war.

When I talked with my uncle Tom, on Thanksgiving Day 2012, he told me Edgar had passed away.

Here’s Edgar’s obituary:

In Memory of

Edgar Wilson Strain

 

April 5, 1922 – July 13, 2012

In Loving Memory of

Edgar Wilson Strain

Edgar Wilson Strain passed away at his home on Friday July 13, 2012, at 90 years of age.

Edgar is survived by his sons Lindsay (Dorothy) and Gregg (Mary) and daughter Megan; granddaughters Larisa (Guy) and Siobhan; sister Lois Hoshwa; sisters -in-law Shirley Strain and Josie Strain. He was predeceased by his wife Isabella, parents Edgar and Eva, his sister Thomasina, brothers Neil and Lorne and brothers-in-law Nick Hoshwa and Ted Jorgenson.

Edgar was born in Kenora. He volunteered for service in the RCAF during WWII and served in Canada, England and throughout Europe. When he returned he married the love of his life, Isabella, and started a family. He worked at Williams Hardware for ten years and then founded Strain’s Stationery, later partnering with his brother Neil in the business until his retirement in 1987.

He was very involved in the community and his contributions of service and community development included work on the Kenora Thistle Hockey Team Board, serving as a trustee for the Kenora School Board, work on the Kenora Minor Hockey Association, board membership on the Central Community Club, the Kenora Economic Development Committee, a co-chair of the building committee for the original Kenora Recreation Centre and a field agent for Ducks Unlimited. He helped many other community groups and charities.

After his retirement, he followed his many interests which included sculpture, nature, gardening, architecture, the family camp, woodworking, reading, music and genealogy. He pursued these interests with passion, intellect and humour. His stories were enjoyed by family and friends. His wealth of knowledge will be missed. His ideas and actions influenced and inspired many.

Immediate cremation has taken place.

A private family service will follow at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, contributions of time or donations to a local charity of one’s choice would honour his life and service.

Online condolences may be made at http://www.brownfuneralhomekenora.com

BROWN FUNERAL HOME & CREMATION CENTRE ENTRUSTED WITH ARRANGEMENTS.

Private family service at a later date

Thank you Edgar for the wartime picture of my dad and the conversations we had.

Fortunately my dad’s pictures were located.

Here’s another one I’ll share from his collection of some of the Erks from 403 Squadron checking out a captured FW 190 in Germany 1945.

Again, you may recognize some of the Erks from 403.

***

Have a nice day mon ami.

More Pictures from Mark – Redux

Editor’s notes

This was Mark White’s third contribution to this blog. It was published back in 2012.

***

Mark White forgot this picture in his article.

The captions are the original captions wrote by his father.

Here are the other ones he sent me before.

 ***

Does anyone know who’s in front, his hand over the right side mirror?

 Good old Robbie

Robbie - Copy

 

The Story of a 127 Wing 43 Year-Old Spitfire Pilot

Editor’s notes

George White, Mark White’s father, kept a journal during WWII. Mark is now sharing a new article he just wrote using this journal for our new honorary member.

1

Pierre,

I think John Le May will like this one – lots of details.

When you do your own research on Robert Stanley Weir you will find some interesting stuff. I’ll keep you in suspense and let you do your own homework!

Cheers

Mark

***

The Story of a 127 Wing 43 Year-Old Spitfire Pilot by Mark White

RCAF 403 Squadron

I wanted to share the story about the surprise visit of Winston Churchill to 403 Squadron on July 22 1944 with John Le May.

It’s a really good story, but I got sidetracked with another great story. I will share the Churchill story later.

While going through my father’s notes, pictures and the journal, I came across the story about a 43 year old Spitfire pilot attached to 127 Wing. The maximum age for Spitfire pilots in operations was apparently 28, but Squadron Leader Pilot, Ronald Stanley Weir was 43 years old. It is not a happy story. He was killed while landing a Spitfire on 403 Squadron’s landing strip at Crepon Normandy on August 6 1944.

Mark White

Introduction – Setting the Stage for the Story

127 Wing (Airfield) consisted of 403 Wolf Squadron, 416 Lynx Squadron, 421 Red Indian Squadron and 443 Hornet Squadron. D-Day was June 6, 1944.

wpid-wp-1422870069465.jpeg

403 Squadron landed on Juno Beach on June 18, 1944. 127 Wing was at Base 2 Crepon, France from June until August 27, 1944. 403 Squadron operated out of an open grass field along a hedge. Maintenance was an area in an apple orchard close to an abandoned German fort consisting of earth banks with old German WW I field guns set up to cover sections of the beach.

Setting Up Camp

No. 1 Crew – Setting Up Camp – Crepon, France

Since landing in Normandy, 403 Squadron was involved in air to air battles and ground attack missions. These men witnessed some of the greatest military battles in history. The war was all around them, and the front was only a few miles away.

 

Squadron Leader Pilot – Ronald Stanley WeirFrom the Book – “They Shall Not Grow Old”

Weir, Ronald Stanley SL(P) C1651 from Westmount, Quebec. Killed Aug. 6 44 age 43. #416 City of Ottawa Squadron (Ad Soltum Paratus). SL. Weir was flying Spitfire aircraft # MJ 741 and overshot the landing strip a Crepon, France. He turned the aircraft to port but it went into a spin and he was killed in the crash. Squadron Leader Pilot Weir is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer, France.

Weir

S/L(P) –Squadron Leader/Pilot
Ronald Stanley Weir

Although Weir was killed on August 6, 1944, the story will begin on August 5. It will cover the activities of 403 Squadron’s ground crew until August 20, 1944.

The details about the war, and the details about the No.1 Crew’s activities during this period are just too numerous and too rich to exclude from the story about Ronald Stanley Weir.

Here’s the story (As Written by Hand):

August 5

Working late again. Don came back again and brought me a good 8 mm German Mauser rifle. This looks like a good one to try and get back home. Our Spitfires are a big attraction for the Army. We got another visit from the Legion Canteen – afternoon tea this time.

Spits in readiness

403 Spits in Readiness

August 6

Not a busy day, small inspections and other minor problems. Went out to see if I could find Don in the evening and had a little trouble getting to Reis, finally got a hectic ride on a motor cycle. Found that Dons 12 Field had just gone back to the front again. When I got back to camp I heard that Flt. Lieut. Weir, Test Pilot for Maintenance, had just been killed in a crash.

He was an interesting story. He had a big job with the RCAF in Canada – in charge of purchasing fuel supplies for the RCAF. When a ruling came in allowing Ground Crew Officers that could pass medical requirements to take Aircrew Training, he got his Wings and went through O.T.U. as a fighter pilot and got posted to our Airfield.

But he was over 40 years old, and fighter pilots had to be under 28 years old. So here he was in a Squadron and was unable to fly on operations, so he promoted himself as Test Pilot for Maintenance so he could check out the repaired aircraft before they were returned to their Squadrons.

He always made sure the test aircraft always had fully loaded guns with the hope that some German aircraft would come by.

When a Spitfire Squadron lands, it’s like ducks, they come falling out of the sky and make basically three point landings that don’t take up much runway length. The American pilots on the other hand, were trained in Texas, with long runways and use a less steep approach. We nearly always had a crashed American plane visitor that over ran our landing strips.

Well, Weir was coming in to land when a squad of Spits, short on fuel came rushing in. He was already committed but aborted his landing so he wouldn’t get in their way. He didn’t have flying speed and hit the ground hard enough to kill himself. We were all sad to see him gone, he had taken quite a few of the gang up for flights in the Auster that replaced the Tiger Moth that Beurling wore out.

 The Auster

About 8:30 PM American B 26 Marauder – 2 engined bomber – came screaming in on one engine and lined up to crash land (wheels up), on our netting. He was immediately waved off with red flares – he staggered on towards the beach and crashed in a gulley. Whitey and I ran about half a mile after him to see what help was needed.

By the time we got there, there was a tremendous fire. They had crashed into a fuel dump belonging to a Polish Tank Outfit. The Poles were going crazy trying to save as much gas as possible, forming lines, handing hot Jerry cans from the fire from one to another. We climbed into a shell hole on the side hill (likely made by naval gunfire) to watch developments as the center part of the fire burned out. The aircraft bomb load was exposed right in the fire. A small 1500 wt. British fire truck drove in. The crew, was dressed in asbestos suits, jumped out and started spraying foam on the bombs. We took off – no explosions occurred and the fire gradually died out or was put out.

How those Poles handled these hot cans without getting severely burned is amazing. It showed how determined the Poles were to get back at the Germans who had devastated their county.

If that aircraft had exploded on our netting ??.  The crew must have perished in the crash unless some had bailed out beforehand. They must have been in a real panic.

August 7

Another engine change, we now hold the unofficial record for the fastest engine change in the field. All the engine bolts have a small hole through the head. When it was tightened down, locking wire was attached to keep from coming loose. Slow awkward system but it works. Anyways, we beat the RAF record times we had on hand.

engine change

Engine Change

We had a funeral today at Bény-sur-Mer, the Canadian Cemetery, for Flt. Lieut. Weir. He had a real coffin. I was a pallbearer.

When I got back I took my German rifle and fired a few rounds. It works fine and is very accurate.

Americans are on the move and making good news. They have captured Lorient and St. Nazaire. Canadian 2nd Army holding the Panzers. Canada has its own official Army now, their Air Force backing consists of the International Fighter Squadrons. The Canadian Squadrons are with the 2nd Army.

August 8

Finishing up another engine change today, not much else coming in. Nice weather during daylight but damp and foggy at night. Jerry hasn’t bothered at night lately. Guess he doesn’t like the full moon with night fighters around. Spits are not used at night.

August 9

Work picking up again, means our aircraft are getting more action. Bob Askig Cpl. has now joined us. He’s a likeable sort and he fits in well.

August 10

DN-Q – another dandy mess. Tail end well shot up, pilot was lucky to get it home. Rumours that leaves are coming up, and say No. 1 Crew is in the lineup. Expect it’s the rumour mill at work again. Some guys are still hopeful that the old Burma rumour mill comes to pass.

August 11

Finishing up DN-Q – was a very tough job for field conditions. Pilot was really happy to get it back. On night guard. Jerry air raid, a couple of bombs dropped, terrific Ac-Ac fire. Lots of flares dropped, mostly over the beach areas. Army is in another major attack, Canadian casualties mounting up.

August 12

Day off. Writing letters and trying a little sun tanning.  Americans starting to make advances through a lot of relatively open country. The pincher operation seems to be working. Germans really catching it. Word is the Germans have come out in force travelling in daylight trying to escape before the door closes. This is what we have been waiting for. Our aircraft are ready to really hit them hard now.

maintenance

403 Maintenance

August 13

Went to M.O. with grindings in my eye. He had to freeze the eyeball to get them out. Our aircraft running wild, dropping their designated bombs and strafing and blocking roads. Germans are in a real retreat – not a withdrawal.

Another tough stern job on old friend KH-S, lucky to have made it back. Flights going crazy, aircraft coming and going, needing fuel and ammo, it must be hard to keep track of the score.

preparing for action

Preparing for Action 

August 14

I got called up to get a crashed Spit off our netting, his undercarriage had collapsed on landing, everyone in vicinity seemed overly excited. The crane truck came in, the crash crew got the trailer ready. I pulled the engine cover off and hooked up the crane cable, and signalled the operator to lift slowly. As the aircraft lifted and the wreckage underneath became exposed, there was a 500 pound bomb starting to dangle. I stopped the lift immediately and told the operator to hold it there. Evidently the pilot couldn’t shake the bomb loose, there was a hitch in the dropping mechanism. So he tried to bring it back, make a less than perfect landing. He must have been in a real panic landing with a fused bomb when the undercarriage failed and he skidded in on the bomb.

I got one of the crash crew to run for MacIntosh, our Cracker Jack armourer. He had joined the army when he was 16 years old and was shipped to Britain with some of the first Canadian Army overseas. His mother had complained, he was discharged and was sent home with an excellent Army training. He then joined the RCAF as an Armourer.

We were certainly free of spectators, the word had spread fast. Mac pulled the correct bomb panels and in a couple of minutes the bomb was diffused, the crane operator wiped the sweat out of his eyes, I waved the crash crew in. We lifted the plane clear of the bomb, they pushed in the trailer and I took off back to work.

No one from Headquarters or Airfield Control ever mentioned it to me, they had been in contact with the pilot and knew the plane was landing. I bet they were all hiding in their slit trenches. If that bomb had gone off, our netting loss would have really spoiled our fun and saved a lot of German lives.

August 15

Jerry aircraft are getting a little more active at night again, they don’t seem to be much help for their army, we certainly expected them to put up a much better show then they have. Perhaps the Russian Front has used up more German aircraft than was realized. Ground crew won’t complain.

We took a truck into Caen to a factory to see what useful we could scrounge but the Army said NO WAY. Dust is really getting heavy again with good weather. Aircraft are going all out.

August 16

Pat sent me some magazines in the mail. Wrote another 7 letters – all short ones. Some travelling show called the Tarmacs came in today. Something blew up near the mess, made a lot of noise. Some German long range shelling nearby. We could feel the ground shake.

August 17

Wonderful weather. Aircraft still returning with empty guns. Germans in a trap. Our aircraft ceased flying at noon – too many aircraft over target areas.

August 18

Fairly busy day. 127 now has the record for the number of sorties flown in one day. 403 has lost 8 aircraft in the last two days – we got 68 trucks today. This was the greatest day in Airforce history – German 7th Army literally destroyed. Started work at 4:00 AM and worked till 8:30 PM to keep our aircraft flying.

Our C.O.  Hamilton actually congratulated us – normally we rarely see him.

August 19

Heavy rain, not doing much today. Quite a few new aircraft in, doing acceptance checks on them. These are brand new aircraft. We now hear a rest system has been devised – this isn’t a rumour this time. Camp has been set up near Bayeau – mainly for sleep.

August 20

Easy day made another tool box or trunk from ex German ammo box. Whitey left today for a 5 day rest period, he sure earned it. American tanks reported close to Paris.

***

Gazette newspaper clipping for Squadron Leader Weir

Gazette newspaper clipping for Squadron Leader Weir (source here)

CVWM page on Squadron Learder Weir

Mark White’s first post – 403 Erks Captured German Truck

Editor’s  note

Every  Tuesday  morning  I  will  post  once again  Mark White’s  articles. I  will  add after more  information that  came  to  light  since  they  were  published.

***

 

This post is from Mark White’s pen. His dad was an erk with 403 Squadron.

Mark wrote this e-mail…

Pierre,

Here’s my first serious post – many more will likely be coming your way.

Cheers

Mark

403 Erks Captured German Truck

Towards the end of the war, 403 Squadron operated out of 127 Airfield near Soldau Germany. 

This was known as Base 154 or B154. They remained there from April 26 until July 7, 1945.

B 154 was an abandoned German airbase known as Reinsehlen. It was about 45 km from Hamburg. It was quite near the Concentration Camp at Bergen Belsen and the swimming pool at Lüneburg Germany.

The Erks from 403 visited the concentration camp and the swimming pool. I’m posting some never before published pictures from my dad’s collection.
You can identify some of the Erks in these pictures in the 403 Group picture.

 

I showed a friend of mine, who is a serious military model maker, some of my dad’s photos. Steve had never seen a Maple Leaf painted inside a Roundel. He built a model depicting this truck complete with three 403 Erks. The Erk with the cigarette wearing the leather Jerkin is my dad. Steve won a gold medal at a recent model show in Calgary for his work depicting 403 squadron’s captured German truck at B154 in July of 1945.

The medium 4.5T cargo truck Mercedes-Benz L4500S was originally developed for civilian use. It was used in wide service with all German military units during World War II on both Western and Eastern fronts. A total of 9,500 trucks were manufactured from 1939-1944, most of them for the Wehrmacht. The L4500 had a 7.2 litre diesel engine with 112 HP and existed in 2 basic versions: 2-wheel drive “S” and 4-wheel drive “A”.

Steve’s Model Depicting 403 Erks with a Captured Mercedes 4.5 Ton Truck

 

Advanced Landing Ground B-154, Reinsehlen Germany 1945

Editor’s note

I intended to post what Mark White wrote tomorrow.

Someone once told me…

Pierre, life is too short, start with the dessert.

So without further ado

***

Pierre,

This is especially for John Le May.

I know he had an American ex-prisoner friend and I hope he doesn’t get offended by the story.

The Erks in 403 Squadron had a much different opinion on American ex-prisoners than they had about the Canadian and British ex-prisoners.

Cheers

Mark

403 Wolf Squadron

Advanced Landing Ground

B-154 Reinsehlen Germany 1945

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-001

“Whitey” on the right with an unknown Corporal

My father George White, known to his crew as “Whitey”, was a Leading Aircraftsman with RCAF 403 Wolf Squadron during the war.

The war was over.

The Germans handed over the airfield at Reinsehlen to the British without a fight on 17 April 1945.

It became known as Advanced Landing Ground B-154 Reinsehlen and before the war ended on 8 May (VE Day), Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft operated from Reinsehlen, including Spitfires of 127 (RCAF) Wing, No 403 Wolf Squadron.

The Journal I have says the 403 Squadron ground crews arrived at Base 154 on April 26 1945.

I have a number of pictures from the base at Reinsehlen during this time from my dad’s collection. I also have a great story from the Journal to share with readers.

 Mark White Collection Germany 1945-002

403 Squadron on the Move

 Mark White Collection Germany 1945-003

403 Squadron Arrival at Reinsehlen Germany 1945

The story is about the surprise visit of Supreme Commanders General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery to the base at the end of the war.

Here’s the story.

In Germany, I got a British Army Motorcycle from an Army Dump for wrecked vehicles. A shell had hit the front wheel taking off a piece of the wheel and tire. Close by was another bike with the rear wheel wrecked – a quick switch of front wheels, and a couple of kicks and the motor ran perfectly. I painted our airfield sign on the back fender and I was mobile.

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-004

Salvaged British Motorcycle

This happened around the time our troops, who had been German prisoners, were streaming down from POW camps in Poland and Germany. Some RCAF personnel had commandeered German vehicles. Our crew got an Opal, open sedan type, folding canvas top, glass windows and the doors were painted light green. Some personnel got big German Mercedes staff cars, very fancy but the officers usually got them.

The prisoners streaming down were real survivors, half starved, lousy and had been on terrible root marches. They slept in the bushes like dogs – rain or shine. We were on half rations and we had no room in our tents.

The airfield was a very large grass field east of Hamburg. The Canadians, some Army and some Airforce were mixed with British. Many had been prisoners for a very long time.

The Americans on the other hand were mostly prisoners since the invasion, a completely different lot – sniveling and whining – we couldn’t stand them. Dakotas would keep coming in and take loads of them down to the Brussels area for delousing etc.

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-005

Dakotas and Prisoners at Reinsehlen

One day a big four engine transport came in and taxied down to one end where the Dakotas usually picked up prisoners. I thought, this aircraft may be in trouble so I went down to check it out.

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-006

Peace Party on Board

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-007

Ted Klapecki and Unknown American

When I got there, there was General Eisenhower with his Aide de Camp taking notes and interviewing a group of American ex-prisoners. He had four or five guards with him as well.

As the interviews progressed, the Americans were whining and sobbing away and you could see that Ike was getting embarrassed with them.

A group of British and Canadian ex-prisoners were standing back in groups watching the show. Finally, Ike waved them to come over and a Canadian soldier came up. Ike said – “Well son what camp were you in and what was the name of the Camp Kommendant?” The Canadian started swearing and saying “If I could get my hands on the son of a bitch what I’d do to him”.

And Ike said, “Now take it easy son, just give me his name and I’ll get the son of a bitch for you”.

Right about then, I took off back to our operations.

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-008

Eisenhower and Montgomery

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-010

 Visit to 403 Squadron’s Airfied Reinsehlen Germany 1945

 

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-008-1

I wonder what they are saying…

Note: The aircraft in the picture, a M38 Miles Messenger, is Montgomery’s personal aircraft.

Here’s a link to a picture of Montgomery’s aircraft at the British War Museum.

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205209739

 Mark White Collection Germany 1945-011

VE Day Bonfire

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-013

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-014

Victory in Europe Day was May 8 1945

A VE Day Card from “Whitey” to his Girlfriend Rene

 

Cheers,

Mark White

February 2014