Deadly March

group picture March 1945

Thursday, March 1, 1945

‘A’ party of the echelon left this morning for our new airfield. The extra pilots and Orderly Room staff are to follow tomorrow. Three operations were flown today, the first one at 0812 hours a fighter sweep, the second at 0817 hours as cover to 416 Squadron on a dive bombing effort, the third at 1717 hours another fighter sweep, 1st operation 5 sorties, 2nd operation 6 sorties 3rd 11 sorties.

Friday, March 2, 1945

The extra pilots and orderly room staff arrived today at our new airfield this morning after a very uneventful trip from Brussels. The remaining pilots are to land here after the last sortie today. Two operations were flown today the first at 0731 hours a dive bombing effort, the second at 1050 hours a rail interdiction with bombs.

Saturday, March 3, 1945

Today saw everyone settled in to their new quarters, consisting of Nissan Huts, quite an improvement over tents but not quite as good as our last billets. Tomorrow, some of the pilots intend to pay a visit to Roermond not very far away and perhaps get into Germany itself. Three operations were flown today the first at 0645 hours a fighter sweep 6 sorties, 2nd operation at 1253 hours another fighter sweep 12 sorties, and the third at 1631 hours an armed recce 9 sorties.

Sunday, March 4, 1945

About eight pilots, who were off today,went to Roermond and came back with stories of utter desolation and destruction. They also brought back a Jerry car in running order and sufficient furniture to furnish the pilots dispersal and the billets. Nil operations today.

Monday, March 5, 1945

After their very successful trip to Roermond yesterday, some of the more adventurous types who were off duty today decided to have a go at Munchin Gladbach in Germany, which by the way has only been captured a few days ago. They came back later in the day with stories of destruction and desolation that stagger the imagination. Roermond, they say, is a very good looking city compared to Gladbach. Nil operations today.

Tuesday, March 6, 1945

The Squadron is now the possessor of four German cars, three of which were brought back from Gladbach yesterday and more furniture for the dispersal and billets, According to the stories of some of our pilots who were at Gladbach yesterday, the destruction to the city has been carried out over a long period of time, probably during the raids by the RAF on the Ruhr Valley which isn’t so very far away. The odd few Germans civilians who were encountered were still as arrogant as ever. Nil operations today.

Wednesday, March 7, 1945

Cologne has just been captured according to reports late last night, so nothing would do today but some of the boys who were off duty must visit the place. So accordingly, a truck and a jeep were organized and the boys set off intending to stay overnight if possible. Nil operations today.

Thursday, March 8, 1945

Late tonight the boys who went to Cologne yesterday returned to camp looking very dirty and tired, the first Canadian Airmen to enter Cologne. They spent the day roaming around the city and even got so far as the banks of the Rhine itself. The night was spent with the Americans in a house without any windows whatsoever. Nil operations today.

Friday, March 9, 1945

After no flying for the last few days we finally got airborne today, glad of it too, because this loafing around with nothing to do gets us down. Two operations were flown today the first at 1020 hours; a sweep of the Osnabruck area and the second at 1550 hours an escort mission. 1st operation – 12 sorties with one early return – mechanical. 2nd operation – 12 sorties with 2 early returns mechanical.

Saturday, March 10, 1945

Poor weather made flying impossible today, so we spent the day in the dispersal playing bridge etc., F/O George Nadon and P/O Steve Butte DFC finished their second and first tours of operational flying today. Nil operations.

Sunday, March 11, 1945

Poor weather today confined our flying to a little practice flying and one operational effort. Plans are being made for a bit of a do in the mess tonight in honour of Steve Butte and George Nadon. The Doc, our Sqn MO who is also the Bar Officer of the Mess, promised us we could have a couple of bottles of Scotch and a few bottles of champagne. One operation was flown today at 1400 hours, a sweep of the Hamm Minden area. 12 sorties were flown.

Monday, March 12, 1945

More practice flying today. The Squadron is rapidly assuming the name of No. 403 O.T.U. with all this practice flying. We finished the day off with a patrol of the Nijmegen Goch area at 1805 hours. It was quite a party last night with some of the boys getting to bed in the wee hours of the morning. One operation was flown today at 1805 hours – 4 sorties were flown.

Tuesday, March 13, 1945

More and more practice flying, wotta’ life, it’s worse than any O.T.U. The Adjt’s relief arrived today and we haven’t seen our old Adjt smile so much since he came to the Sqn. Our new Adjt is to be F/O Jack Bennigan, just new from Canada. One escort trip completed in the early afternoon.

Wednesday, March 14, 1945

Hazy weather around here, but not bad for flying. A little formation practice done and two operations flown in the afternoon in the Nordhorn-Munster and Enchede-Munster areas. The old Adjt, F/O Birchnall, is getting itchy to be on his way home, and is busy getting the new Adjt genned up on the routine.

Thursday, March 15, 1945

Weather lovely – clear and warm. Two operational trips flown, both escort. R124758 WO.1 G.V. Boudreau has been reported missing. He was seen to make a safe forced landing behind the line so here’s hoping he makes it back safely one day.

 

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Warrant Officer I G.V. Boudreau

Friday, March 16, 1945

An old timer with this Squadron, J14030 F/L H.R. Finley, reported for duty to-day. Finished a tour with us July/44 and is raring to go on his second. P/O Butte, DFC tour complete, posted to 83 GSU ferry pool, and F/L G.R. Nadon, second tour completed, left today for Bournemouth and repatriation to Canada. A dull day, no flying carried out.

Saturday, 17 March, 1945

A little rain in the afternoon, cloudy. One operational escort and one fighter sweep in the Rhine Munster area carried out. The boys had a real bang up at a mess party to-night, lots of liquor which had been gathered from all over the country the past few weeks, but lots of disappointment when only four nurses showed up. Consequently all drinking and no dancing.

Sunday, March 18, 1945

A dark cloudy day. No operational flying carried out. The CO, S/L Zary, is sporting a new Opal to-day, a green finished German car. The boys were fortunate to be off ops to-day, as a few hangovers are yet to be seen from the previous night. Afternoon was spent polishing up their spits. F/O Birchnall, the old Adjt. left for the U.K. today for repatriation to Canada.

Monday, March 19, 1945

Two operational sweeps carried out in the morning and afternoon, both in the Rhine-Osnabruck area. Very good flying weather. CAN.J89351 P/O H.C. Byrd was reported missing within enemy territory. Details unknown. Pretty quiet otherwise around the Squadron, a little bridge being played in the off hours.

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Pilot Officer H.C. Byrd (on the left)

 

Tuesday, March 20, 1945

Fair weather, one operational escort to the Haltern area carried out, keeping the boys in the air pretty well all day. Uneventful. Doc (F/L) Carsons is around the dispersal with his ‘noc’ needles again and some of the boys will be u/s for a day or two. Flight Commander ‘Cap’ Foster returned with a really beautiful alpine tan to-day after a skiing holiday in the Alps.

Wednesday, March 21, 1945

A clear day, but no operational flying carried out by the Squadron. The day was spent in the dispersal playing bridge, and reading. A baseball team is emerging amongst the pilots, and we have already been challenged by 443 Squadron. A little ball practice done.

Thursday, March 22, 1945

Lots of aches and pains from the ball practice yesterday, but well worth the effort. 443 Squadron lost to us 13 to 9 in the baseball game this afternoon. 443 stood the beers in the mess at night. No operations carried out. Flying pretty well scrubbed to-day with the exception of some practice and tests.

Friday, March 23, 1945

A beautiful clear day. Three operational trips completed. Uneventful. Rather a quiet day around the dispersal, everyone keyed up and wondering when the ‘big push’ at the front will be coming off, which is rumoured very soon. All the boys are very keen to chalk a few Jerry’s to their credit, and see real action soon.

Saturday, March 24, 1945

The ‘big push’ is on. Boys were all up very early in the dawn in readiness to take their part when called upon. A glorious day for all, especially the pilots, who have been waiting so long to see a little action. No victories scored by us, very little of the enemy seen in the air, which was a little disappointing to most. Ten operational trips made – weather recce, dive bombing, and armed recce. Two new pilots, R195315 F/S K.S. Watchorn and R144093 F/S J.C. Pickering reported for duty, and greeted into the Squadron with a hearty welcome.

Sunday, March 25, 1945

Another heavy day of flying, and not much slack time amongst the Squadron. Five operational trips, all patrols completed. Uneventful. F/O F.B. Gillis force landed amongst the paratroopers and gliders across the Rhine, and was seen to land safely. Word came through that he was safe, and would be returning to the unit.

Monday, March 26, 1945

Flying operations began early dawn, and carried out steadily all day. Ten operational trips completed, all of which were patrols. The pilots are really getting the hours packed in these days, with a few near completion of their tours.

Tuesday, March 27, 1945

A very dull and foggy day, no flying carried out in the Squadron. The day was spent in dispersal checking maps and following the movements of the ground troops across the Rhine. F/O F.B. Gillis returned to the Squadron, none the worse for his experience of the 25th.

Wednesday, March 28, 1945

J87156 F/O M. Reeves reported missing (believed killed) in a crash in the early afternoon. Eight operational patrols carried out, tanks, trucks and gun positions attacked. The boys are really in the groove these days, and giving the Hun everything they’ve got when their turn comes. Many wagers around the dispersal between the pilots on who will get the first enemy aircraft in this show.

 

Mac Reeves

Flying Officer Mac Reeves

Thursday, March 29, 1945

A very dull day, no flying carried on in the Squadron. Day was spent around dispersal playing bridge, and reading. There’s no holding the pilot’s back, and a day like this rather depresses the majority.

Friday, March 30, 1945

Three dive bombing operations carried out on buildings and rail centres. All very successful. The Squadron will be moving into Holland tomorrow, and a great rush around the quarters in preparing to move off in the morning. While the stay at this airfield was short lived, the pilots are all anxious to move in closer to that front line, and glad of the move.

Saturday, 31 March, 1945

The Squadron moved this morning from B.90 to B.78 Airfield, Eindhoven. Move uneventful. The new quarters are superb to the Nissan huts, being set up in brick houses, and plenty of room for all. The squadron dispersal also seems to be more suitable in its layout. Two dive bombing operations in the Osnabruck area carried out, and one patrol of the Bocholt-Coesfeld-Stadtlohn area. Can/J8397 F/L E.G. Aitchison reported missing on the first operation. Pilot stated that he was going to bale out, but was not seen to do so due to low cloud. Can/J15922 F/L T.S. Todd, also reported missing on the third operation, and was seen to bale out safely and touch down OK

 

Edward Aitchison

Flight Lieutenant E.G. Aitchison

Tommy Todd

Tommy Todd

The Squadron remains in its good fighting spirit, and morale good amongst the pilots.

No. 403 Wolf Squadron (Stalk & Strike) – R.C.A.F. Casualties 1941-1945 – Redux post

Written in 2012 when I did not know John Le May had served his country during WWII.

My new car

One more reason to pay homage to all who served.

The original is below…

***

From Dean Black.

The list.

I added the links.

Lest we forget

F/L        Edward Grant Aitchison                 Age 26                  31 March 1945

P/O        Douglas Spencer Aitken                 Age 21                  08 March 1942

F/O        James Hamilton Ballantyne           Age 26                  08 March 1944

P/O        Harry Vern Boyle                            Age 21                  17 August 1944

P/O        George Rawson Brown                   Age 19                  31 May 1943

F/O        Wallace Victor John Burdis           Age 22                  17 April 1945

F/O        Harold Chauncey Byrd                  Age 22                  19 March 1945

P/O        John Nicholson Cawsey                 Age 21                  12 February 1942

F/O        Stuart McIntyre Connacher         Age 25                  16 February 1943

F/O        Charles Gordon Cumming            Age 21                  13 March 1943

F/O        Richard Wright Denison               Age 25                  18 March 1944

Sgt          Leo Joseph Deschamps                Age 23                  04 April 1943

WO2      Ronald Dunbar                               Age 19                  13 March 1943

F/L          Henry Percy Duval, MiD            Age 30                  27 April 1942

F/O        John Walter Benson Earle           Age 22                  05 August 1944

F/O        Dudley Jack Edwards                   Age 20                 25 February 1943

F/O        John Charles Elliott                      Age 21                  20 June 1943

S/L         Norman Ralph Fowlow, DFC     Age 22                   19 May 1944

P/O        John Edwin Gardiner                  Age 23                   19 August 1942

Sgt          Lesa German                                Age 21                   30 July 1941

S/L         Frank Edward Grant                   Age 28                  04 September 1943

FS           Frederick Alexander Higgins     Age 23                  08 November 1941

P/O        Gordon Francis Jospeh Hoben   Age 21                  11 July 1942

F/L        John Hodgson                              Age 22                   02 June 1944

F/O        William Thompson Lane             Age 21                  15 May 1943

F/O        James Leon Lanfranchi               Age 26                  28 June 1944

F/L          Lyn Bertram Madden               Age 22                   15 May 1943

F/L          Stanley Wilbur Matthews          Age 24                  16 November 1943

F/L          Donald Joseph McKenna           Age 30                  08 September 1941

P/O        Frank Cooper McWilliams         Age 21                   20 June 1943

P/O        Norman Monchier                        Age 19                  19 August 1942

FS           Arthur Joseph Monserez            Age 19                   17 January 1942

P/O        William Forsythe Munn             Age 27                   25 April 1942

FS           John Norman                               Age 26                  22 September 1942

F/L        Miall Bourchier O’Kelly              Age 21                   16 July 1944

F/L        Patrick Terrance O’Leary          Age 22                  27 February 1943

F/L        Clifford George Pennock            Age 22                  25 March 1944

WO1      William Charles Powers             Age 23                  20 July 1944

F/O        MacKenzie Reeves                     Age 25                  28 March 1945

FS           Kenneth Ellwood Root              Age 24                  24 September 1942

P/O        Lewis Cameron Rowe                Age 21                  13 November 1943

F/O        Donald John Shapter                 Age 24                  14 July 1944

P/O        Graham Milton Shouldice         Age 21                  17 August 1943

F/O        Robert Harry Smith                  Age 21                  19 May 1944

F/O        Stanley William Smith              Age 27                  29 May 1944

WO1      Milton Eldon Soules                   Age 22                  28 August 1944

F/L          Herbert John Southwood       Age 25                  24 October 1943

FS           William George Uttley             Age 21                  13 May 1943

P/O        Leclare Allerthorn Walker, MiD (3) Age 24        19 August 1942

P/O        Claude Weaver, DFC, DFM & Bar Age 19            28 January 1944

F/O        Harold Andrew Westhaver       Age 21                 15 December 1943

P/O        William Zoochkan                       Age 22                 25 April 1942

Sense of humour

I take this blog about RCAF 403 Squadron very seriously even though sometimes I will joke around with some of my readers.

Pilots would also joke around. Having a sense of humour (spelled humor if you live in the U.S.) was a way pilots were coping with fear.

Fear was always present.

Mac Reeves

Click on the image

I am currently writing the story of another pilot.

Jean-Baptiste Normand Roy

He is missing since May 17, 1943.

His story is on my other blog which is a spin-off of this one. You can read the first post here about this French-Canadian pilot.

You could also read the blog from the start and see how that blog about RCAF 128 (F) Squadron evolved.

Of course you don’t have to, but then you would be missing a lot.

I hope you don’t mind my sense of humour.

127 Wing and Market Garden

This is an OCR version of the document Andrew Todd sent me along with the necktie.

By doing so I will make available the information to search engines like Google and reach out for relatives of people mentioned in the document.

This is a letter sent to Raymond Mills.

Dean Black added a comment yesterday about Mr. Mills.

The letter from Mr. Raymond Mills, is very nice. I met Ray Mills in England, when I went to visit the Widow Campbell. Ray had been president of the 127 Canadian Wing association in England for many years, and on his letter he indicates he is a member of the RCAF Association and the Canadian Fighter Pilots Association. I believe he is gone, now, but he was instrumental, along with a dozen close friends, of keeping the spirit of 403 and 127 Wing alive.

Andrew Todd 002

Andrew Todd 003 Andrew Todd 004

Dear Mr. Mills,
In reply of your letter, dated 30th November, we can give you the following information with regard to 127 Wing RCAF.

During operation “Market-Garden” 127 Wing operated from the forward airbase Le Culot near Louvain in Belgium. Studying the operation record books of No. 83 Group only 416, 421 and 443 Squadrons were acting in this operation because 403 Squadron is not mentioned. Probably this squadron was not operational or stood for a course in England (Fairwood Common?).

From 29th September until the end of October 1944, 127 Wing was based at airstrip
KEENT (B-82) near Grave South of Nijmegen. Where on 1st October 403 Squadron
arrived also.

Keent is an extremely swampy foreland of the river Meuse in autumn and moreover it was situated only 12 miles of the frontline and therefore very vulnerable for German air-attacks.

On 2nd October six Messerschmitts 262 (jet-planes) attacked the strip with scrapnel-bombs killing P/O. D. E. Reiber (412 Squadron) and F/L O. Lee whilst 35 men personnel being wounded.

On 6th October a German air-attack again, killing LACs D. M. Wesson and E. Cox
and again an unknown number of wounded.

Six days later an other air-attack now no. 416 Squadron was hit. 5 men killed and
10 wounded. These air-attacks and the very swampy ground caused that the Wing had been displaced to the airbase Melsbroek (B-58) near Brussels, Belgium.

Defending the Nijmegen bridges 127 Wing was involved in very fierce air battles
on 27th and 29th of September ’44. 50+ German fighter-bombers escorted by
fighters tried to destroy both bridges.

During these battles the Wing lost 3 Spitfires but claimed 26 German planes (17 Me-109 and 9 FW-190) operating from airstrip Keent.

Undermentioned you will find the losses of 127 Wing in order of squadron and date as far as we know:

416 Squadron

3rd November 1943

Spitfire, serial BL-430, near the station of Zandvoort, West Amsterdam during bomber escort to airfield Schiphol. Shot down by fighters Pilot F /O . W . H . Jacobs killed. Now buried Bergen-op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery. (Netherlands).

25th September 1944

Spitfire, serial MJ-412 shot down 3 miles North of Arnhem 1 mile East of the road Arnhem-Apeldoorn by fighters. Pilot F/L. E . H .Treleaven, badly wounded transported to a hospital at Amersfoort where he perished the same day. Now buried in Amersfoort.

26th September 1944

Spitfire, serial unknown, shot down. Pilot F/L. Patterson, Fate unknown, not killed so P.O.W. or safe.

29th September 1944

Spitfire, serial unknown, P/O. R. E. Chambers still missing.

12th April 1945

(the Wing is now based at Eindhoven(B-78) : Spitfire, serial unknown, shot down in Eastern Holland, Pilot F/O. T.P. Dollery killed. Now buried in the Holten Canadian War Cemetery.

No. 421 Squadron

21st January 1945

Spitfire, serial unknown, shot down just beyond the German border. Pilot P/O C.D.Beck killed. Now buried in the Reichswald War Cemetery near Kleve (Germany).

27th September 1944

Spitfire, serial unknown, Pilot F/O. R.Holness killed, shot down just beyond German border. Now buried in the Reichswald War cemetery, near Kleve, Germany.

No. 443 Squadron

26th September 1944

Spitfire,serial unknown, near Angeren East of Nijmegen, Pilot F/O. L.D.Sherwood, slightly wounded, evaded with support of Mr. Fred Huisman.

27th September 1944

Spitfire, serial NH-245, shot down by fighters just beyond the German border, Pilot S/L H. W. MacLeod killed and now buried in Rheinberg War Cemetery (Germany).

29th September 1944

Spitfire, serial NH-437, shot down by Nijmegen, Pilot safe.

10th October 1944   

F/O. L. P. E. Piche and F/O. A. J. Horrell en route on leave in an Auster liaison-plane. They came short of the front-line near Overloon and were shot down by friendly gunfire.
Both killed and now buried in Venray War Cemetery.

5th January  1945

Spitfire, serial unknown, shot down in Germany. Pilot F/O. T. C. Gamey killed. Now buried in Reichswald War Cem.

6th April   1945

Spitfire, serial unknown, Pilot F/O S. E. Messum killed. Now buried Reichswald War Cemetery (Ger.)

No.403 Squadron

19th March 1945

Spitfire, serial SM-208, shot down near the village of Megchelen in the Netherlands, Pilot F/O. H . C. Byrd killed. Now buried at Gendringen (Netherlands).

28th March 1945

Spitfire, serial SM-302, shot down near Haltern (Germany) by flak Pilot F/O. M. Reeves killed. Originally buried in the American War Cemetery Margraten. In 1946 reburied in the Nederweert War Cemetery at Nederweert (Netherlands).

31st March 1945

Spitfire, serial TB-737, shot down near Oberhausen (Germany). Pilot F/L. E. G. Aitchison killed. Originally buried in the American War Cemetery Margraten (Netherlands). In 1946 reburied in the the Nederweert War Cemetery at Nederweert (Netherlands).

In March 1945 No. 403 Sqdn. was based at Eindhoven Airfield (B-78) in Holland.

As you see it was a very hectic time for the Wing in the last half year of W.W.II. I believe there have been more losses over Germany, France and Belgium.

Our museum however has collected only the facts in which our country was involved.
Nevertheless we hope we have given you sufficient information and we hope it will be of good support to your research in reference to 127 Wing RCAF.

Your order for a copy of “Two Wings and the Weavers” describing the story of 126 Wing in the Netherlands we have handed over to the keeper of our bookshop.

We enclose a leaflet of our museum for further information and remain with friendly greetings,

403 Squadron ORB for 1945

Click here.

Excerpt

Monday, 1 January, 1945

The first day of the New Year and what a way to start it off.  At about 0830 hours this morning we had a social call from Jerry in the form of about 30 aircraft which strafed the drome.  They strafed everything in sight, the aircraft, hangars, dispersals and personnel and what a mess they made of things.  They didn’t get away that easy.  Three of our kites, flown and led by P/O Steve Butte, P/O Mac Reeves and F/S Lindsay respectively were just taking off on a patrol when Jerry appeared over the drome.  Within minutes of becoming airborne, Butte shot down and destroyed three enemy aircraft, two ME 109s and one FW 190.  Mac Reeves shot down and destroyed two FW 190s and Lindsay destroyed one ME 109 and probably destroyed a further ME 109.  Considering the odds against them, it was a damn good show.

Mac Reeves

Mac Reeves
(Walter Neil Dove collection via Greg Bell)

About Mac Reeves…

Mac Reeves’ Last Moment Redux

This post first published on March 20th, 2012 was the one which touched me more than any stories shared with me about 403 Squadron…

Dean Black contributed a lot and he wrote me this e-mail about Mac Reeves…

You may be interested to know that Mac Reeves sent a radio transmission to his fellow pilots moments after he had been attacked by enemy airplanes. He told them that his arm had been completely shot off and that he had no choice but to ride the airplane in. (he could not get out and he could not fly it). He wished them well and he said it was a privilege flying with them. 


Mac Reeves does not have a grandson to talk about him or remembering him by like Greg Bell and Colin Forsyth have. 

As a footnote, Mac Reeves would die just a few hours after that picture was taken.

Mac Reeves

I often wondered who were Mac Reeves’ erks and how saddened they were when they got the news about Mac’s death.