If you happen to stumble on this blog… Redux

Editor’s notes

Written in 2011 when I just started to write about a RCAF Squadron I knew nothing about before I met Greg Bell.

This redux post is for you John. This is post number 530.

***

If you happen to stumble on this blog, then you are missing a lot…

A lot…

A lot about the history of RCAF No. 403  Squadron from December 1944 through May 1945.

This is my 44th article since September.

This mission all started with a few pictures of unknown pilots from a photo album of an little known Canadian Spitfire pilot with the RCAF.

Walter Neil Dove most probably never talked that much about the war.

His grandson had his photo allbum and his logbook.

Just one pilot was well known to me in this group picture taken in March 1945.

Johnnie Johnson.

I knew who he was.

He was the RAF top ace with 38 enemy aircraft destroyed. 

The caption from this picture scanned last week is most interesting.

Greg’s grandfather wrote it… in 1945!

That’s History!

Greg and I are on a special mission to share that part of History.

Greg is scanning and I am writing.

Greg is scanning like hell and I am writing likewise.

Nothing compare though to the hell some pilots went through during WW II…

Like Sandy Borland shot down by T-Bolt.

Sandy Borland

Sandy Borland incident

Here are some more pictures Greg scanned last week.

I said to him these would jump start our blog about his grandfather’s  photo album and logbook and increase its visibility…

 

***

I wish I could build this model kit for you John.

JE-J

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

 

Flight Lieutenant Ron Forsyth – Redux

About Ron Forsyth…

Somewhere in Holland in 1944.

¨Mo¨Morrison,G.Nadon Ron Forsythe Holland 44

Colin sent me this message a while back about his grandfather who was still living.

Ron is still with us. Colin told me in a message when I sent him this picture. So what is so interesting about this pilot and his grandson.

He had some very interesting information to send along and share with my readers.

This is what he wrote in 2012.

Hi Pierre,

I’m sending you a couple of pictures and some scans of papers that my grandfather has been keeping.  

There is a photo taken of him in September 1944, just after my father was born in Cambridge.  

There is a scan of a group photo from the Neil Dove collection that was published in a magazine in the 1970s.  It’s more formal looking than the ones you had posted on your blog.


My Grandfather had a book that he lent to someone, but lost track of.  The one thing he has from that book is a photo copy about the history of the 403 and all the planes with serial numbers.  

There is a list of all the types of planes he flew.

I’ll send these in a couple of emails so it doesn’t get too big.

 
I printed out a number of the stories for him to read.  He really enjoyed them and added some other details that were not included.  
 
He said that the reason that Tegerdine crashed onto the roof of the building was due to them using a new type of fuel that blew out the engines.  He told me about one time when he was loaded up with 250 lb bombs under the wing, the electrical system wasn’t working properly so he had to pull a cable to release them.  Unbeknownst to him, one of the 250 lb bombs was still loosely attached to his wing.  As the electrical system wasn’t working, no one could inform him on the radio.  He came in for a landing as usual and the bomb fell, skidded and bounced along the ground for a ways when his wheels touched the ground.  Fortunately it was a dud.  He said the people in the control tower were quite concerned…  
 
Colin

Footnote

Colin sent this picture on November 10, 2012.

Photo of Ron Forsyth on a new plane. A replacement after his previous one was shot up.

WESTAWAY, F/O Horace William (C10734)

Who remembers Jimmy Westaway?

Flying Officer Westaway

1898-1948

This blog does so does Airforce.ca Website where I found this information about Jimmy.

Wing Commander  Godwin’s name is mentioned only once in the despatch.

That’s how I found all about Jimmy Westaway.

WESTAWAY, F/O Horace William (C10734)

 – Mention in Despatches

– Station Gander

– Award effective 3 November 1944 as per Canada Gazette of that date and AFRO 2479/44 dated 17 November 1944.

Born 16 August 1898 in Plymouth, Devonshore. British-born and a First World War veteran of both the infantry and Royal Flying Corps, being commissioned as Temporary Second Lieutenant, on Probation (General List), 7 June 1917.

Graded as Flying Officer and confirmed in rank, 28 July 1917. Lieutenant in Royal Air Force, 1 April 1918. As Lieutenant, to Unemployed List, 29 April 1919. Granted short service commission as Flying Officer, 27 August 1920.

In Middle East after the war; Flying Officer H.W. Westaway, RAF, to Home Depot, 21 October 1924 on transfer to Home Establishment.

Placed in Class “A” Reserve, 27 August 1927.

Transferred to Class “C” Reserve, 19 May 1928.

Migrated to Canada in 1929 and joined the Ontario Provincial Air Service. Home in Simcoe, Ontario; enlisted in RCAF at North Bay, 27 March 1942, immediately commissioned as Flying Officer and posted to No.1 Manning Depot, Toronto.

To Conversion Training Squadron, Rockcliffe, 18 April 1942.

To No.1 BGS, Jarvis, 15 September 1942 where he was in charge of the Gunnery Flight (so described by G/C A.D. Bell-Irving who recommended him for promotion to Acting Flight Lieutenant, 9 March 1943).

To Eastern Air Command, 21 May 1943.

To Gander, Newfoundland, 13 June 1943.

To No.9 Release Centre, 6 March 1945.

Retired 19 March 1945.

Returned to Ontario Provincial Air Service.

Killed in a crash, 25 May 1948.

Travelling with Henry Crosswell (forest ranger) and William Taylor (mechanic) to repair a ranger’s boat that had run onto rocks. After examining it they determined what parts were needed and attempted to return to Parry Sound. Newspaper report said that they attempted to take off from Severn River but strong winds frustrated first try. “On their second attempt they did achieve lift-off, but the plane seemed to stop dead 20 feet above the water. The motor did not stop, but the left wing tipped and the machine swooped down. The plane cartwheeled and settled on the water upside down.”

Westaway drowned; the others escaped.

Credited with 16,000 hours flying.

This officer has faithfully and capably discharged his duties as a service pilot over a long period of time. His outstanding ability in the operation of aircraft on skiis and floats, often in localities far from base and under hazardous conditions, has been most praiseworthy. Many of these flights have resulted in the saving of civilian lives by making hospital treatment possible for serious cases. His cheerful willingness and untiring devotion to duty, under difficult circumstances, have brought high respect for himself and the service in a foreign area.

The above award began as a recommendation for an Air Force Cross, raised on 20 July 1944 by W/C M.P. Martyn. He was noted as having flown 7,000 hours (civil and military) of which 60 hours 20 minutes had been in previous six months. Text was as follows:

This officer has faithfully and capably discharged his duties as a service pilot over a period of many years, both in the RAF and the RCAF. His outstanding ability in the operation of aircraft on skiis and floats, often in localities far from base and under conditions of extreme hazard, has been most noteworthy and commendable. Many of these flights have definitely resulted in the saving of civilian lives, by making possible hospital treatment to cases of dangerous illness and for serious accidents. Flying Officer Westaway’s cheerful willingness to do his best, even under difficult circumstances, has made him a popular and a respected officer and has brought credit to the service in a foreign area.

This was highly recommended by the Base Commander on 20 July 1944, and by A/V/M Morfee (Eastern Air Command) on 23 July 1944. However, at an uncertain date, Air Commodoe H.L. Campbell (AFHQ) turned it into a Mention in Despatches.

WESTAWAY, F/O Horace William (C10734) – Air Force Cross – Station Gander – Award effective 1 December 1944 as per Canada Gazette of that date and AFRO 1/45 dated 5 January 1945. Award sent by registered mail 11 August 1945 when he was at Sault Ste.Marie.

One day in September 1944, a Harvard aircraft crashed approximately twelve miles from a Royal Canadian Air Force station in Newfoundland, injuring the two occupants. This officer, a rescue pilot at the station, took off in quickly deteriorating weather, when all other rescue aircraft had been recalled. He discovered the crashed aircraft after all other air search had failed and landed the rescue party on a small lake. To enable ground crew parties to be briefed, he returned to base in face of the most hazardous weather. The following morning, with no improvement in weather conditions, he returned to the scene of the crash and flew the two injured men to the hospital. His outstanding courage and skill in this rescue operation were undoubtedly responsible for saving the lives of the two men. The determination and devotion to duty displayed by Flying Officer Westaway are most praiseworthy.

The original recommendation was raised on 6 October 1944 by G/C H.B. Godwin, Station Gander. Westaway was noted as having flown 479 service hours, 69 in previous six months. Submission read:

On September 6th, 1944, at 1645 hours, Harvard NK2-3068 crashed approximately twelve miles from RCAF Station Gander, Newfoundland. The occupants, P/O Leonard and LAC Smithers, suffered severe injuries. Flying Officer Westaway, rescue pilot at this station, took off in weather which was deteriorating quickly, when all other rescue aircraft had been recalled. He discovered the crashed aircraft after all other air search had failed and landed the rescue party on a small lake. To enable ground crew parties to be briefed, he returned to base in the face of the most hazardous weather. The following morning, with no improvement in weather conditions, he returned to the scene of the crash and flew the two injured men to hospital. His skill and courage undoubtedly resulted in the saving of the lives of the two men.

NOTE: The following entry from the ORB of Station Gander is worth quoting:

6 September 1944 – Harvards 3068 and 2897 were doing local flying and at 1930Z P/O Wenz, J24391, pilot of Harvard No.3899 returned over the station and reported Harvard 3068, piloted by F/O E.J. Leonard (J36211) has crashed. Also in No.3068 was ground crewman LAC Smithers, G.L. (R206266). At 2110Z F/O H.W. Westaway (C10734), rescue pilot, in Norseman 789, sighted the crashed aircraft approximately 2 1/2 miles northeast of Botts Lake, and approximately four files north of Gander Lake. One man could be seen walking about. F/O Westaway landed on Miller’s Pond and a ground party proceeded to the scene of the crash. F/O Leonard had a sprained ankle and LAC Smither a wound on the upper leg. Both suffered from bruises and shock. The following morning F/O Westaway made one of his famous small area landings in adverse weather condition and brought the injured men and rescue party back to the Station. Both occupants of the crashed plane were admitted to hospital.

The following appeared in The Gander (station newspaper), December 1944. The First World War material has not been substantiated.

The whole station congratulates F/O H.W. Westaway on his latest decoration – the Air Force Cross. According to KR (Air) this award is made “for exceptional valour or devotion to duty whilst flying though not in active operations against the enemy.”

Jimmy (figure out if you can how that name comes from the initials H.W.) had more than one crack at the Hun in World War I. 1916 found him in the muddy trenches of France, but his heart was with the RFC boys who flew overhead, The following year his dreams came true and he was in the perilous skies over France and Germany. His was an artillery spotting job. His final sortie in that war came near to being very final. His gunners got three Jerries before the ack-ack got him, and sent his plane spinning to the ground. In the explosion which followed Jimmy was hurled 40 feet. Someone in the infantry got the Military Medal for dragging him back to safety – out of range of enemy guns.

In World War II, if we consider as enemies disease, accident and the gremlins that cause crashes, F/O Westaway is still facing the enemy. And there’s certainly no question about his exceptional valour and devotion to duty while doing it, either.

Ten years of flying with the RAF in India and Mesopotamia in skirmishes with frontier tribes, and another decade with the Ontario Provincial Air Service, penetrating the wilds of the northern part of the province, have given Jimmy ample preparation for the task he has carried on so well in Newfoundland.

He’s Officer Commanding of the Mercy Flight Division on RCAF Station Gander. That division, incidentally, is a small but mighty one. It consists of one Norseman plane and one pilot, none other than the OC himself. Every pilot on the station will tell you that Jimmy hasn’t an equal and everyone has a warm spot in his heart for this jolly, broad-shouldered man with such a merry twinkle .in his eyes – the fellow who can take off and land in weather when even the pigeons are walking.

The list of mercy flights resulting in saving of life is indeed a long one. There’s scarcely a bay along the rugged North and East coast of this island on which his Norseman hasn’t landed. The plane is equipped with two stretchers, and accommodates a doctor and a nurse. F/O Westaway is his own crew.

“No matter what the weather is when he takes off – or how long he’s gone, we never worry. We know that Jimmy will return safe and sound”, say the Commanding Officer.

A hospital assistant who was fortunate enough to go along on one of the mercy flights tells how all the inhabitants of the little village turned out to meet them. After a brief pause for a cup of tea and a sample of warm Newfoundland hospitality, they made a speedy return to the hospital with a cancer-afflicted patient. “The people all over that part of the island just about worship F/O Westaway. Though the little villages all along the coast look the same to us, Jimmy knows just where to land. Our own admiration of him was enthusiastic”.

Sometimes a boat voyage or ride behind dog-teams is required in order to supplement the plane ride. The length of their stop-over depend on how many of the “sick and maimed” from the surrounding countryside are brought to the doctor when he is summoned for one particular patient.

There have been closely competed races with the Stork more than once. So far the Norseman has been the winner.

The particular feat that won the Air Force Cross for our hero was the rescue of two men who had crashed in a Harvard last September. Weather was closing in and the aircraft sent to the vicinity of the crash failed to spot the two victims. Seventeen minutes after his takeoff from Gander Lake, Jimmy had sighted them. He landed on a rocky lake, left the M.O. [Medical Officer] and two other men on the shore with First Aid and sleeping bags and took off again. Weather conditions were considerably worse by this time. Nearing Gander, F/O Westaway called the tower for landing instructions.

“Norseman 789 – Ceiling and visibility zero zero. Hold your position above cloud. Stand by for further instructions. Over.”

Instantly came back the reply:

“Hell, I’m no b—- angel. I’m going to land”.

And he landed.

The next day, clouds were hanging on the tree tops. Nothing could fly – Nothing but the Norseman. Jimmy went back to the little lake, picked up the injured men and rescue party – returned to base using a sixth sense he evidently possesses.

It is doubtful if the two men would have survived if they had not been found when they were.

Forced landings on the desert, rescue work in Ontario would make a long, long story.

In 1929 when Jimmy was operating from Oba Lake, Ontario a certain Vedette landed, and its pilot and mechanic cut up a gas drum belonging to Jimmy. He has been offered numerous other gas drums to replace it, but still maintains that the pilot owes him $ 8.00.

It was the CO who told this story – I’d be disobeying orders if the name of the Vedette pilot was revealed – but maybe you’re good at guessing.

Jimmy once lived near a golf course – which was a very expensive site – because on warm days his friends used to come in after a round of golf and drink up all his beer.

F/O Westaway’s wife, son and daughter are living in Simcoe, Ontario. His son is air-minded too – is an enthusiastic Air Cadet.

“If I have enough money left for a ticket to South America, I’d like to go there after the war,” says Jimmy. So if in postwar years we hear of someone untangling jungle vines from the propellers and taking off using an alligator as a runway or landing safely on 100 square feet on a peak in the Andes, we’ll be ready to wager 50 to 1 that was Jimmy Westaway.

Further notes: He was short (64 ½ inches tall) and stocky (171 pounds). When medically examined he was described as an experienced pilot with 6,500 hours to his credit; “Fit physically other than poor ocular muscle balance and manifest hypermetropia.”

On enlistment he was recommended by George Ponsford (OPAS), his lawyer H.S. Hamilton (“Westaway has been a pilot with the Provincial Air Serviice for years and has proven himself a man of resource and ability and is well thought of in this community.”) Also recommended by Dr. A.R. Stevenson and Frank MacDougall (OPAS).

Course Report from Conversion Training Squadron stated he had flown 20 hours dual and 3,838 hours solo on civil single-engine aircraft; with the RAF he had flown 100 hours dual and 1,500 hours solo (900 on operations). His course at Rockcliffe was 19 April to 21 August 1942 during which time he had flown Battles (35 minutes dual, two hours solo), Harvard (50.10 day dual, 30.25 day solo, 3.00 night dual, 2.15 night solo), Oxford (10.30 day dual, 7.25 day solo) and Anson (6.55 day dual). Of this time he had flown 23.20 on instruments and logged 21.45 in Link. Ground courses in Airmanship (74 %), Airframes (50 %), Engines (90 %), Navigation (51 %), Armament (60 %), Meteorology (50 %), Wireless (80 %). Placed 15th in a class of 18. The Chief Ground Instructor wrote, “Older type of student, very slow to learn. Conduct and attitude excellent.” However, he was classed as “Above average” in all flying skills. “This officer is very safe and reliable with very good air sense but his instrument flying should be watched.” (CFI, 21 August 1942); “This officer should be capable of holding any type of staff pilot job. His conduct on and off the station has been very good.” (S/L D.I. Mackkin, 21 August 1942).

On 5 May 1943, W/C Z.L. Leigh wrote:

“A qualified pilot is urgently required at Gander to take charge of rescue and salvage operations. For this work, it is necessary to have experience on Norseman aircraft, both on skiis and floats, and ‘bush’ experience, if possible.” He was specifically looking for Westaway – “the above officer is very well qualified for this position.”

Royal Air Force Service:

“The above named officer served under my command for a considerable period in India. I found him a steady, reliable pilot and a trustworthy and hard working officer. In my opinion he can be safely employed in any suitable capacity, and will prove of read value to those so employing him.” (G/C R.M. Pine, Air Defence Great Britain, 15 July 1927).

“Flying Officer H.W. Westaway served under me on the Kurdistan frontier in Iraq for a period of two years. During that period he distinguished himself on several occasions and rendered excellent service in connection with the various operations against the frontier tribes. He is a hard working officer, of outstanding ability, and can always be relied upon, both from an administrative and flying point of view.” (W/C V. Gaskell Blackburn, Headquarters, No.21 Group, 20 July 1927, who added, “I can conscientiously recommend him for a colonial or Indian Office appointment.”

On 27 July 1927, W/C W.R. Read (No.2 Apprentices Wing, No.1 School of Technical Training [Apprentices], Halton, wrote that for the past two years Westaway had been in command of a Squadron of Aircraft Apprentices at that unit; “While I have known him Flying Officer Westaway has at all times commanded his Squadron with ability, conscientiousness and zeal. In the successful commanding of such a Squadron there are many cases which call for thoughtful consideration and tact in the handling of personnel, and in these respects and in clerical and officer work he has shown his capability.” Read then added, “From a flying point of view I am able to say that he is the most efficient pilot that I have in the Wing. He has flown consistently and regularly, and has not confined his flying to one type of aircraft. Neither has his flying been confined to local work. He is a good and experienced cross country pilot who takes the weather as it comes. He has had no flying accidents during the time he has been under my command. To the best of my knowledge he is strictly sober.”

OPAS Service:

On 5 June 1936, F/O G.L. Lumsden (in charge of RCAF Recruiting, Sudbury) wrote of him, “Mr. Westaway joined the service in 1927 [sic]. After two years in the capacity of Senior Pilot I posted him to the remote operating station at Oba Lake as pilot in charge of the station. He is still in charge of Oba Operations and holds this position through his steady, reliable and very trustworthy efforts.” Although Lumsden had no personal contact with Westaway after resigning from the OPAS in 1935, he stated that he believed Westaway still logged 400 hours each six-month season, and concluded, “Mr. Westaway is a willing and hard working pilot. I have no hesitation in recommending him for employment in any senior piloting capacity.”

On 29 November 1939, G.E. Ponsford wrote that Westaway had been ten years in OPAS service. “We consider Mr. Westaway one of the finest pilots we have ever had in the Service, and he possesses an Engineer’s license in addition to his flying qualifications.” To this he added, “We have always found him very willing and very diligent in the carrying out of any work assigned to him, and he has the happy faculty of being able to get along with any staff to which he has been assigned. His character and integrity are beyond reproach, and I would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone who may be able to use his services.”

On 19 January 1942, OPAS Headquarters certified that he had flown 3,773 hours ten minutes in that service, his last flight being on 9 October 1941.

On 1 November 1945 he wrote to AFHQ inquiring about rejoining the RCAF. He had been looking for something new in flying; did not wish to go back to OPAS work.

In April 1991, John Westaway (172-1045 Morrison Drive, Ottawa) was asking about him.

Who remembers Jimmy Westaway?

This Website does…

Flying Officer Westaway

Flying Officer Westaway 1

Flying Officer Westaway 2

Flying Officer Westaway 3

Remembrance Day 2012 Redux

This was posted last year.

I could post this every year on November 11th.

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

283rd Post and Something More to Reflect Upon

This is what I wrote on December 27th, 2011 on this blog about RCAF 403 Squadron.

74th Post and Something to Reflect Upon

Walter Neil Dove did 74 missions. He came back alive.

He started flying on December 8, 1944.

He saw many friends died.

Hank Byrd

Wallace Burdis

Mac Reeves

Edward Aitchison

He wrote everything in his logbook and he took a lot of pictures.

His grandson teamed up with me in September.

He scanned his grandfather’s logbook and photo album.

I wrote 74 articles.

All this to share with people who could have known some pilots or ground crew who were with No. 403 Squadron.

Click here if you wonder that I meant by Something to Reflect Upon…

Read the comment carefully…

Excerpt

Once again, I get the impression that the “powers that be” hope that we’ll all fade away and the problem will disappear. I’m certainly impressed that you’ve made the effort to write about some of these airmen.