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.

Erks – Redux

Written two years ago when Mark White was just thinking of writing about his dad George White. We have come a long way since then.

***

A new collaborator and a new category.

This blog pays homage to all those who served with RCAF No. 403 Squadron during WWII.

This blog is all about sharing.

Period. 

Greg has shared his grandfather photo album and his precious logbook.

Mark wants to share what is seldom mentioned in WWII…

Erks.

Erks?

This is what George Stewart said about erks when I asked… Click here.

So next time, on this blog, we will talk about Mark’s dad who was an erk with RCAF No 403 Squadron.

I just can’t wait.

Click on the image to zoom in. Mark’s father should be there.

***

George White

collection Walter Neil Dove courtesy of his grandson Greg Bell

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

 

Mark’s First Contribution – Redux

Editor’s  note  

I know this is not next Tuesday, but this is Mark’s  second contribution, not his first. You see how  hard it  is  to follow  this blog.

***

Original  post

Mark wrote another comment.

People usually don’t read reader’s comments on blogs.

I do.

This comment is most interesting because Mark mentions January 1, 1945. Click here to learn more.

Thanks for setting up an Erks category.

I can’t wait to start releasing the stuff I have – I’m really glad I have found this site where I can finally share it. This is the place and the community that will appreciate it.

I can recognize some of my dad’s “crew” in this group shot from my pictures.

My dad’s crew was referred to as the “Number 1″. I understand they held the time record for swapping out a Merlin engine that could not be beaten. His “crew” managed to stay together during the war on the continent, except for one member, who was killed during an attack on their airdrome January 01, 1945. I’ll get into more of the details I know about that later.

I’m pretty sure the guy in the back row to the right of the prop blade with the arrow drawn across the left shoulder is my father, George Edward White LAC R119501.

I have a picture of him standing in the bottom of a large bomb crater in exactly the same pose – right hand on the hip – take in Normandy 1944.

What I really notice in this picture at the end of the war, is the way many of these young men rapidly age during the course of the war. My dad was born in 1921 and he would have just turned 24 in August of 1945.

Mark

Mark  also mentions a whole lot more information about this picture.

I’m pretty sure the guy in the back row to the right of the prop blade with the arrow drawn across the left shoulder is my father, George Edward White LAC R119501.

More about erks…

Someone whose father was also a groung crew wrote a comment once on my other blog Lest We Forget.

His father was with RCAF 425 Alouette. His name was Roly Leblanc. I wrote several articles during Rememberance Week 2011.

Great pictures!

Click here.

Erks’, is a kindly word meaning your ground crew guys! I’ve not heard that term used since those days!

George Stewart DFC, 23 Squadron Mosquito pilot

paul-beaudet-and-george-stewart-1

UPDATE

Good morning Mark, thank you very much for writing about your Dad’s memories, it certainly takes me back a few years about 70 to be close enough. Without erks or men like your Dad who were so dedicated to their work the Spits could not fly, not very far anyway. Although I am sure that I must have seen your Dad many times as I frequently roamed around or maybe in the same lineup at the mess or even sitting next to him at the movie tent. A thousand reasons, no a million reasons why you should be proud of your Dad.

Who cares?,you do , I do, and All the thousands who stood for hours last November 11, at the War Memorial to applause and cheer continually while veterans, most in their late 80s or 90s, and I was one of them. The same ceremonies attracted crowds all through Canada.

Why?

Because THEY CARED.

Again Mark, those crowds were saying to your Dad and all vets Thank You.

John B.

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

 

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.

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