Remembrance Day 2012 – Redux

One of the most poignant story written on this blog…

Posted on Remembrance Day 2012

Written by Mark White

Lest We Forget

Robert Charles Medforth

MEDFORTH, ROBERT CHARLES LAC R78265 – aero engine mechanic. From Pennant, Saskatchewan. Killed in action Jan 1/45 age 36. #6403 Servicing Echelon, Belgium. Died of injuries sustained when the airfield at RAF Station Evere, Belgium was strafed by enemy aircraft. Leading Aircraftsman Medforth is buried in the Brussels Town Cemetery, Evere-les-Bruxelles, Belgium. 

They Shall Grow Not Old – Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum Memorial Book

Bob’s Fresh Grave

 

Bob’s Grave With Flowers

Leading Aircraftsman Robert Charles Medforth is buried in the Brussels Town Cemetery, Evere-les-Bruxelles, Belgium. 

Whitey, Bill and Bob Medforth

Operation Bodenplatte

Operation Bodenplatte (Baseplate) launched on January 01, 1945, was an attempt by the Luftwaffe to cripple Allied air forces in the Low Countries during the Second World War. The goal of Bodenplatte was to gain air superiority during the stagnant stage of the Battle of the Bulge, to allow the German Army and Waffen-SS forces to resume their advance. The operation was planned for 16 December 1944, but it was delayed repeatedly owing to bad weather until New Years Day, the first day that happened to be suitable for the operation. – Wikipedia

 

Eyewitness Account

This is a written eyewitness account of what happed that day from a member of my dad’s crew.  127 Wing moved to Base 56 (B56) on Nov.4.44 and remained there until Mar.1.45.

It is typed as it was written by hand.

Here’s the Story

127 moved from Mechelan to Evere – another ex-Brussels Airfield – now another bombed out mess, but the best one to date as we had a few amenities – hangers are mostly unsafe and unusable but we have discovered a properly working flush toilet in an otherwise wrecked washroom – how and why is really interesting because no other taps and plumbing worked – we also have a good cement apron to work on.

January 01, 1945.

Most personnel had been up a little late doing a little celebrating and were slightly groggy.

One squadron was just preparing to take-off. We had 4 brand new Spitfire 16’s to check out and put the squadron letters on so I started to head over to 403 disp (Dispersal) to get the stencils KH. At right angles to our work pad, a road went up at a slight rise behind an old hanger.

As I walked, suddenly I could hear gunfire from aircraft coming from the Mechelen Airfield direction. Then, what I first thought was a Spit IX aircraft appeared from that way after flying across our airfield. I said to the Spit – Hey! You better check out Mechelen as he sort of rolled up and there were black crosses well marked under his wings. Then aircraft started roaring across our aircraft and airfield. I jumped into a boarded up German slit trench as some 109’s came low over the old hanger firing as they turned to hit our new aircraft. They weren’t shooting at me but one 37 mm slug went into the wood beside me, the old German gas barrels also got hit and also our aircraft.

When I left about 2 minutes ago, Robbie was running up one Spit. Whitey was on the wing tip. I ran back down the little road. Fire was coming out of the cockpit of Robbie’s Spit. I jumped up on the wing. The cockpit was empty, Whitey got up from the ground, he had dropped beside the cement in a patch of old oil, half of his face was black.

A few of the rest of the crew had dropped on the cement apron. Bullets had bounced off the cement all around them, no one was hit – Robbie and 3 others had run to the top of the old smashed hanger. Their backs were covered in red brick dust as slugs had missed them by inches and imbedded in the bricks – and were later dug out for keepsakes. One fellow had been sitting on our prized toilet wondering what all the noise was when a slug came through the wooded door, hit the toilet between his legs, smashed the china bowl and left him sitting on a pile of rubble.

Bob Medforth got a cannon shell through both thighs. Some of the gang found him and applied field dressings to stop the bleeding, got a stretcher and ran him over to the M.Q.’s (Medical Quarters) and requested immediate attention. There were casualties coming in there pretty fast.

I carried on down to the apron to get our Bren gun, it was gone. I never heard it fire, the ammo was still there. The German planes were still raising hell in the vicinity.

A pilot who had finished his tour, ran out and jumped in a aircraft that was still running from the Squad that were leaving for take off – when the Germans hit – as he got clear of the ground he nailed two German aircraft who were crossing in front of him, two more German aircraft followed in behind him and shot him down over Brussels.

I was sent to the crash site right away by truck to find out definitely who was flying that Spit. He went down in Rue de Victare, a narrow cobblestone road solidly built up on either side.

The Spit had gone down straight in making a fair sized pit in the street – the hole was filling with bloody water. I rolled up my sleeves and started picking out pieces trying to find some proper identity.

The two men with me couldn’t stand the sight of the mess and couldn’t help. I had managed quite a pile of gore when a local Belgium came up with the pilot’s wallet. It somehow had landed on the sidewalk.

When I got back I found out that some idiot had run off with our Bren gun. He didn’t know how to use it even if he had brought along the ammunition. One fellow who had been running around  trying to help but was too excited to  do any good had a small caliber bullet right through his foot and he didn’t even know it. When one of the others asked him how come your boots are all bloody? He fell down and couldn’t walk and had to be carried.

The worse part was when some of the crew went back to the MQ’s to see how Bob was doing, they found that he was exactly the way they had left him on the stretcher, only now he was dead – from shock. The MO staff had done nothing for the seriously wounded and had only treated some of the minor injuries and hadn’t even put a blanked over Bob to prevent shock.

There were a mass of stories. The head man of the Tactical Airforce was visiting in his “Mobile Home Dakota” – it was a complete write off.

Our Bofors anti aircraft crew got shot up and put out of action very early.

We had two young pilots up for a practice flight before any operational duty. They got mixed in with the German aircraft and made a few circuits with the attacking aircraft before they had a chance to escape. The Germans couldn’t shoot at them without endangering their own aircraft. Our two pilots were too green to try being heroes.

Next day we could muster about 12 serviceable aircraft out of our four squadrons. Some aircraft were slightly damaged but some were complete write-offs.

The total aircraft destroyed that day must have been tremendous. The German air force also took tremendous losses in aircraft but their real losses were experienced pilots that they couldn’t replace.

Our losses were really only in aircraft and for most of these replacements were already available. We were changing from Spit IV’s to Spit 16’s.

Submitted by Mark White to RCAF 403 Squadron/Wolf Remembrance Day 2012

Next time, the epilog.

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Reflecting – Redux

Note

This is what started all this about the homage paid to Robert Charles Medforth

I feel it’s the duty of our generation to try and preserve the contribution these men and women made to our country and to make sure there is something left for our children and grandchildren to refer too.

Mark White

 

A Man – Redux

Note

Gerri forgot a part in the poem,

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.

If you already read the poen and liked it, here is the complete version.

                                

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 font 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

A Man

A message from Robert Charles Medforth’s niece…

You may be interested in a poem that I came into possession from my mother’s things. It was written to Joyce Medforth, Bob’s (Robert Medforth) widow, they had only been married for a short time before he went overseas. According to the writing on the poem, it was written by his buddies at the airbase in Belgium.

                                 

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 font 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

A very heartbreaking image

medforth 2

Bob Medforth

Text version

Hi Pierre,

That’s an amazing find of the pictures of Bob Medforth’s grave and funeral procession.

Medforh funeral-005

I identified the rear pallbearer as my father, George White right away.

The picture she found of Bob’s grave appears to have been taken at a later date than the pictures I have of Bob’s grave. The inscription on the cross is different. There is snow on the ground and there are also many more crosses in the cemetery.

Medforh funeral-003

Medforh funeral-002 Medforh funeral-001

As Jennifer says, it is truly a very heartbreaking image. The participants look devastated.

I recall my dad say how Bob’s death was devastating to his crew members. Bob was 36 years old when he was killed. He was much older than the rest of the boys who were all in their early twenties. He was very well respected and he was their moral leader and mentor of sorts. I recall my dad saying Bob influenced him a lot with his politics. Bob was from Saskatchewan, and he was apparently a very strong supporter of the CCF (Co-operative Commonwealth Federation), the predecessor to the NDP (New Democratic Party of Canada).

I’ve looked through my dad’s old pictures and I don’t think I have any more shots that I can positively identify as Bob Medford. I’ve often wondered if the fellow on the right in the following photo is Bob.

Medforh funeral-004

I have many pictures of my dad’s crew. They stayed together pretty much for the duration of the war after landing in Normandy. This one, showing some of the boys, was taken by their tent in Normandy. The three boys in Jennifer’s picture carrying Bob’s coffin are in this shot. I’m not sure who the fellow middle row left with the white shirt is. Middle row right is “Whick” Whickson from Toronto. My father George White from Kenora Ontario is in the front row centre.

Medforh funeral-006

Pierre, I noticed Bob Medforth’s niece left a comment on you website blog last June. Why not update her on your latest information this Remembrance Day?

Cheers,

Mark White

Who remembers LAC Medforth? Jennifer does

medforth 3
medforth 2
medforth 1

Hello Pierre,

My name is Jennifer, and I live in Victoria BC. I love to collect old photos, 35mm slides, postcards and ephemera . I used to have a friend who was a flea marker dealer who would on occasion sell me large piles of random photos and ephemera that he would pick up at estate sales etc. He died about 10 years ago, and I still have all the things I bought from him and it is still in a bit of a disorganized mess in my office.

This evening I thought I would go back and look at these photos – try to sort them into some sort of sense, and see if there was anything interesting there.

I came across these 2 black and white photos. I do not know who owned them previously. I immediately wanted to look and see if there was any information on line regarding this gentleman’s history. I thought that someone out there might really appreciate their importance. And I found your name and your site, with a detailed story of what happened when he died.

I thought I would scan them and send them to you. Please feel free to do whatever you wish to do with them. I don’t know if there are family members who might appreciate them that you know of…

Regarding the image of his funeral procession, with his casket held up by the pall bearers, I found very interesting. At first I wasn’t 100% sure that this was Robert Medforth’s casket, but if you look at the man who is third in line at the rear of the casket, it does appear to be the same man in the photo on your website about Robert Medforth (the one titled Whitey, Bill and Bob Medfoth). I’ve included a close-up scan of that part of the photo. It is a heartbreaking image.

The image of his cross seems to differ slightly in comparison to the image on the site titled “Bob’s fresh grave ” (lettering etc.). I’m not sure why that is… I’m not very knowledgeable about war history etc. but perhaps you could tell me.

Anyway, I will include them as jpg images. I have left them fairly large so they can be adjusted how you would like. If you would like the original photos, I would be happy to mail them to you – just let me know.

In the spirit of Remembrance Day and with respect to LAC Robert Medforth and his service, I hope you find these images as interesting as I have.

Many thanks,
Jennifer K.