More Information About Eugène Gagnon

Last weekend I visited Marcel Bergeron whose hero was Eugène Gagnon.

He told me a lot of things about Eugène.

One thing he told me is that Eugène gave him  a ride in a training plane stationned at Windsor Mills, Quebec.

This would have happen in the fall of 1945 when Eugène came back from England.

Windsor Mills was home of No. 4 EFTS  (Elementary Flying Training School). No. 4 EFTS opened on June 24, 1940 and closed on August 25, 1944. The planes that were flown there were Fleet Finch and Tiger Moth.

I got a large panoramic picture of Windsor Mills personnel that was sent to me by Mario Hains.

I will talk about it more someday.

Getting back to Eugène and Marcel, Marcel told me they took off for a ride on a Fleet Finch. He recognised the plane with the pictures that I had given him.

When they were in the sky, Eugène asked Marcel what he was seeing down below. Marcel told him he saw cows.

Eugène put the Fleet Finch in a dive and said…

No they’re Germans… and he leveled off close to the ground.

Eugène was demobilised in December 1945, but before he gave someone else a ride.

Come back next time…

Tommy Smith’s Navigator

Peter received this e-mail from someone in December 2008.

It all about his father’s navigator.

If you are related to Arthur Cockayne, write me a comment and I will get in touch.

Here is the e-mail he got about Cockie…

Arthur Clarence COCKAYNE

Flying Officer 157435

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Died on sortie to Germany on Tuesday 16 January 1945

Arthur was the eldest son of William Charles and Alice Barker Cockayne of 73, Darlaston Road, Walsall.

He was educated at Queen Mary’s Grammar School, where he was a member of the O.T.C., and later took a position as a student teacher at Hillary Street School.

Following this he attended Dudley Training College and was then appointed by the London County Council at their Highgate School.

When the war started and the children were evacuated from London, Arthur moved initially to Bedford High School and then to Northampton.

Volunteering for service in July 1941, he trained as a radio operator/observer and commenced his first tour of 250 flying hours in the Middle East, receiving a commission in 1943.

In March 1943 he was married at St. Gabriel’s Church, Sunderland to Vera Wardle, daughter of Mr and Mrs Wardle of 12, Montrose Gardens, Sunderland and a Domestic Science teacher at Diamond Hall School, Sunderland. Following the wedding the couple honeymooned in the Lake District. A son was born to the marriage in July 1945.

Returning to England, Arthur transferred to 23 Squadron who were based at Little Snoring near Norwich. From July 1944 onwards this squadron flew Mosquitos on night intruder operations. He flew in a Mosquito Mk VI, serial number RS507, coded YP-C with Flight Lieutenant T. Anderson-Smith as his pilot.

Serving as the navigator, Arthur had to do just one more flight to complete his second tour of duty when he was shot down over Germany.

Arthur took off from his base at 5.39pm on Tuesday 16 January 1945 for an intruder sortie over Stendal in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. His aircraft crashed at 9.30pm this night at Beckedorf, 3 miles south west
of Hermannsburg. Frederick was killed in the crash and initially buried in the local cemetery. Flight Lieutenant Anderson-Smith survived the crash, albeit badly burned, and was taken prisoner.

Arthur is buried in Becklingen War Cemetery in Grave 13.F.9. He was 35 years of age.

Georges Stewart DFC

After George and I exchanged e-mails, we talked a little about Paul Beaudet, his navigator.

I sent him Paul’s citation and George wanted to know what they said about him…

This is George Stewart’s citation:

STEWART, F/O George Edward (J24403)

– Distinguished Flying Cross

– No.23 Squadron

– Award effective 15 March 1945 as per London Gazette dated 27 March 1945 and AFRO 1085/45 dated 29 June 1945.

Born January 1924 in Hamilton, Ontario; home there (chemical mixer); enlisted there 11 March 1942.  Trained at No.6 ITS (graduated 14 August 1942), No.12 EFTS (graduated 23 October 1942) and No.9 SFTS (graduated 12 March 1943).

Commissioned March 1943.  Presented in Hamilton, 27 July 1948.  For personal wartime recollections see Winter 1976 issue of Journal of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society.

For story of his Mosquito experiences in postwar China, see Summer 1979 issue of Journal of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society.

This officer has completed a period of intensive operations.  He has participated in numerous missions including day and night intruder sorties and bombing attacks.  In the course of his patrols he has damaged aircraft in the air and on the ground, in addition to damaging three trains and locomotives.  Flying Officer Stewart’s eagerness to operate against the enemy, his unflagging zeal and determination combined with his devotion to duty have won the admiration of all.

George phoned me once.

Then he phoned me a second time after reading this about him.

He said that some of the facts were erroneous in the citation.

Then George started explaining some of his… trips over Germany.


George Stewart collection (Courtesy Peter Smith)

It was dead silence at my end of the line…

George told me that the Mosquito was not an airplane that easy to fly and many pilots were killed during training. It stalled below 130 mph.

He told me he flew all of his… trips with Paul Beaudet.

Flying was difficult because it was done at night with no radar. They had radar latter, but after he finished his tour.

He told me how they would circle German airfields waiting for nightfighters to come back to rearm and refuel and then go back hunting for English bombers.

For George, this was the job he had to do and he does not brag about it.

Quite the contrary.

George is a humble man who served his country. He told me that his country does not owe him nothing for what he did.

He did what he had to do.

George Stewart collection (Courtesy Peter Smith)

Paul Beaudet DFC

This is the citation Paul Beaudet got for his DFC…

Paul Beaudet was also a French-Canadian.

He was Georges Stewart’s navigator.

In the memory of…

 

BEAUDET, F/O Joseph Rudolph Paul (J24277)

Distinguished Flying Cross

– No.23 Squadron

– Award effective 15 March 1945 as per London Gazette dated 23 March 1945 and AFRO 721/45 dated 27 April 1945.

Home in Portneuf, Quebec; enlisted Montreal, 18 July 1942.  Trained at No.3 ITS (graduated 25 September 1942) and No.8 AOS (graduated 22 January 1943).

Award presented 27 February 1947.  No citation other than “completed… many successful operations against the enemy in which [he has] displayed high skill, fortitude and devotion to duty.”

Public Records Office Air 2/9050 has recommendation dated 14 December 1944 when he had flown 50 sorties (223 hours 35 minutes):

12 July 44     Zuider Zee                          “Freshman” sortie (not further explained)

14 July 44     Venlo and Volkel               Intruder

20 July 44     Heligoland Bight                Day patrol

20 July 44     Coulommiers a/f                Intruder; bombed airfield

21 July 44     Vechtaa/Quakenbruck      Intruder

23 July 44     Westland/Sylt a/d              Intruder; bombed aerodrome

24 July 44     Florennes a/d                     Intruder

26 July 44     Coulommiers a/f                Intruder; bombed airfield

28 July 44     Bonn                                   Intruder

4 Aug 44      Bordeaux                            Escort to bombers

5 Aug 44      Bordeaux                            Escort to bombers

7 Aug 44      St.Trond                              Intruder

8 Aug 44      Gilze/Eindhoven                Intruder

9 Aug 44      Florennes a/f                      Intruder; bombed airfield

11 Aug 44    St.Trond                              Intruder

12 Aug 44    Schleswig a/f                     Intruder; strafed an airfield

15 Aug 44    Ausbach/Kitzengen/Hall   Free lance

16 Aug 44    Westerland/Sylt                 Intruder

25 Aug 44    Oberolm                             Intruder; strafed F/P [?], Brussells

27 Aug 44    Leuwarden                         Intruder

28 Aug 44    Venlo                                Intruder; bombed Gilze.

29 Aug 44    Nordholz                         Intruder

1 Sept 44     Kiel                                     Intruder; ground strafing Kiel; bombed road, guns, searchlights; returned on starboard engine.

9 Sept 44     Bonn                                 Intruder

10 Sept 44   Wunstorf                         Intruder

12 Sept 44   Holland                           Escort

16 Sept 44   Dutch coast                    Escort

19 Sept 44   Biblis                                Intruder

23 Sept 44   Ahlhern                           Intruder

26 Sept 44   Grove aerodrome         Day Ranger; one Ju.88 damaged on ground; shot at Freya (radar).

27 Sept 44   Frankfurt area              Night Ranger; one unidentified enemy aircraft damaged on landing.

29 Sept 44   Hall and Crailsheim   Intruder

2 Oct 44       Nordhausen                  Intruder; damaged four trains

3 Oct 44       Memmingen                 Intruder; two trains damaged

5 Oct 44       Echterdingen               Intruder

28 Oct 44     Paderborn                    Ground strafing; bombed railway; damaged one train; damaged two more.

1 Nov 44       Sachsenheim               Intruder; damaged five trains.

2 Nov 44       Handorff                     Intruder

4 Nov 44       Ardorf                          Intruder; damaged Ju.88 and He.111

6 Nov 44       Paderborn                  Intruder

11 Nov 44    Quackenbruck            Intruder

21 Nov 44    Babenhausen, Zellhausen      Intruder

27 Nov 44    Anderf, Marx             Intruder

28 Nov 44    Bonn                            Bomber support; bombed Bonn.

29 Nov 44    Bremen area              Cooperation patrol; drawing flak from minelaying aircraft

1 Dec 44      Cologne area               Intruder; bombed Cologne airfield

2 Dec 44      Werl                             Intruder

4 Dec 44      Langheim                   Intruder; chased a V-1 “doodlebug”

6 Dec 44      Gutterslog                   Intruder

8 Dec 44      Coblenz area              Intruder; bombed Coblenz.

This navigator has carried out 50 sorties with his pilot in the fine months that they have spent in the squadron. He has taken part in every phase of the squadron activities and his navigational ability has been of an exceptionally high standard.  He and his pilot have damaged three aircraft in the air, one on the ground, three trains and twelve locomotives.  He has shown a fine offensive spirit throughout his tour and his infectious enthusiasm for his job has been a great example to the squadron.

To the above, the Station Commander writes (15 December 1944):

This officer has been a true inspiration to all with whom he come in contact. His enthusiasm to engage the Hun and his daring offensive spirit have become a bye-word in the squadron. I recommend he be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Next time I will tell you something about George Stewart.

How It Really Started…

Marcel Bergeron is 82 and he is not a veteran Mosquito pilot nor is he a war hero.

Marcel went to see someone, a veteran air gunner of No. 425 Alouette. He asked for his help in finding more information about Eugène Gagnon. You see Eugène Gagnon was his hero when he was a youngster. In a sense Marcel is also a hero because he wanted to keep Eugène’s memory alive.

Marcel told me this anecdote.

Eugène died in a plane crash in 1947.

Eugène’s sister moved to the United States. She came back to Canada where she had lived before. She threw away in the garbage all Eugène’s medals and also his precious logbook.

She did not know how valuable they were.

Marcel had kept a few mementos of his hero.He has his RAF wings and a button with a small compass hidden inside in case he had to parachute over enemy territory. He also has a piece of the jacket Eugène wore when he died on October 21, 1947.

Those mementos are the most precious things he has of his hero.


Eugène Gagnon DFC

(Courtesy Mario Hains)

Marcel had also his discharge papers.


But Marcel wanted to know more about Eugène’s service in the RAF… and he asked someone’s help who, in turn, asked me to help him.

To learn more about this search you will have to read my other blog titled Lest We Forget.

Click here.

This is the article I wrote last year about my search for Eugène Gagnon.

 

This Is How the Story of Eugène Gagnon Started in the First Place…

Well sort of…

This is the first thing I discovered about Eugène Gagnon.

Eugène Gagnon DFC

I found this on the Internet…

GAGNON, F/L Joseph Achille Eugene (J27002) –

Distinguished Flying Cross*

– No.23 Squadron

– Award effective 22 May 1945 as per London Gazette of that date and AFRO 1147/45 dated 13 July 1945.

Born 1921; home in Bromptonville, Quebec. Enlisted Montreal 7 February 1941. Commissioned 1942. Trained at No.1 ITS (graduated 3 July 1941), No.10 EFTS (graduated 21 January 1942) and No.6 SFTS (graduated 24 April 1942).

Since joining his squadron in December 1944, this officer has completed many sorties against a variety of targets.  His determination has been outstanding and his persistent attacks on enemy locomotives, rolling stock and road transport have been most successful.

One night in March 1945, he was detailed on a minelaying mission in a section of the Elbe River.  On the outward journey the starboard engine developed trouble but despite this he went on to accomplish his task in the face of heavy enemy fire.  On the return journey the starboard engine became completely unserviceable.  Height could not be maintained and the aircraft was forced down to 400 feet, becoming extremely difficult to control.  Displaying brilliant airmanship and determination, Flight Lieutenant Gagnon made a successful landing at base without injury to his crew and with but slight damage to the aircraft.  His devotion to duty has been most notable.

With that, I moved along.

Next time, I will tell you more about another hero…

This Is How the Search for Eugène Gagnon DFC Is Ending

My search for a French-Canadian Mosquito pilot started in February 2010.

It is now ending with this picture sent to me by the son of another Mosquito pilot.

(Courtesy Tom Cushing via Peter Smith)

This is Eugène Gagnon in 1945, just below the nose of a Mosquito FB VI equipped with an ASH radar. I knew what was a Mosquito but I did not know some were carrying radars.

This picture was sent to me by the son of Tommy Smith, a No. 23 Squadron Mosquito pilot.

Tommy Smith’s story is amazing.

He served with Eugène Gagnon in December 1944 and January 1945.

Tommy Smith was shot down and taken prisoner. His navigator Arthur C. Cockayne was killed.

Never_Say_Die

Image added in March 2013

Tommy Smith died in 2006.

His son knew little about his father’s service in the RAF. He had mostly talked about his fellow airmen.

This is the reason why his son is now in the process of writing a book on No. 23 Squadron and trying to contact people who knew either his father or fellow airmen.

As for Eugène Gagnon, I knew nothing him, or Gene as he was called, until I got an e-mail back in February 2010.

Eugène Gagnon DFC
The French-Canadian Mosquito pilot who is now less and less unknown in Bromptonville, Québec

I will tell you more next time.

Hey… We’re a team

Peter Smith sent me this picture. It will be in his book.

On the left is Paul Beaudet and on the right is George Stewart.

I did not know who they were before Pete sent me a lot of information about No. 23 Squadron and Eugène Gagnon the French-Canadian Mosquito pilot about whom I was searching information.

Peter sent me all he had found about his father’s squadron.

I was surprised to find another French-Canadian in that squadron.

He is Paul Beaudet who was George Stewart’s navigator. Paul flew on all his missions… I mean “trips”.

How do I know?

George phoned me. Not once, but twice.

I learned a lot about how the pilots performed their “trips…” as he puts it.

That’s the way George called them, not missions… trips…

He said that they did not have a mission per se. They did what they had to do… Period.

During our conversation, George said he was 86 and he asks me how old I was.When I said 61, he called me “kid”.

George is not only a great Mosquito pilot, he is also a great human being.

George also talked about Eugène Gagnon during our phone conversation.

He knew him.

Are You a Relative of These Airmen?

Someone is writing a book about his father who was a pilot with No. 23 Squadron, and I am lending him a helping hand sort of by creating this new blog.

He needs information on these airmen.

Would you be one of their relatives?


Flight Sergeant Douglas Darbon
(Courtesy Peter Smith)


Flying Officer Heath
(Courtesy Tom Cushing via Peter Smith)

Flight Lieutenant Frank Thomas
(Courtesy Tom Cushing via Peter Smith)

If you are, then write a comment and I will contact you and then I will contact him.



Little Snoring, 1945

First post

April 5, 2010

This could be the start of the amazing story of the airmen of a forgotten squadron in Little Snoring.

Please leave a comment…

Picture taken in 1945 before the squadron was disbanded (Courtesy Tom Cushing via Peter Smith)

Squadron 23

No. 23 Squadron formed at Fort Grange, Gosport on 1 Sep 1915 under the command of one of the RAF’s most experienced operational pilots – Captain Louis Strange. After a brief period attempting to counter German airship flights over London, the Squadron moved to France with its FE2Bs initially employed on escort duties. By early 1917, Spad single-seaters had arrived, and were being used on offensive patrols. By the end of the War, the Squadron had converted to Dolphins, and flew these until disbanded at the end of 1919.

On 1 July 1925, No. 23 Squadron reformed at Henlow with Snipes, but these were replaced shortly after with Gloster Gamecocks. In 1931, the Squadron was tasked with carrying out trials on the new Hawker Hart two-seaters, taking the production version, known as Demons, on strength in 1933. It wasn’t until late 1938 that the squadron received its first monoplanes in the form of Blenheims, and these were used as night-fighters in the early days of World War II whilst based at Wittering. In 1941, Havocs replaced the Blenheims, and these were used with great success in the intruder role, until themselves replaced by the Mosquito in mid-1942. At the end of the year, the squadron moved to Malta in support of allied operations in the Mediterranean before returning to the UK in 1944.

In September 1945, the Squadron had disbanded, reforming a year later at Wittering with Mosquito night-fighters. By late 1953, Venom night fighters had joined the Squadron, before Javelin all-weather supersonic fighters replaced these in 1957. In 1964, the Lightning replaced the Javelin, and it was with this classic aircraft that the squadron continued until Phantoms were received in late 1975, this coinciding with a moved to Wattisham in Suffolk. After the Falklands War in 1982, the Squadron occupied Port Stanley airfield until reduced to a Flight of four aircraft in 1988, reforming at Leeming with Tornado F3s. Defence cuts following the end of the Cold War saw the unit disbanded in March 1994. No. 23 Squadron was again reformed, this time as part of the Waddington AEW Wing in 1996, sharing not only the aircraft with the already established No. 8 Squadron, but operational duties in Europe and the Gulf.

The Squadron was officially disbanded on 2 Oct 2009.

This Squadron has been virtually reformed…

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If you have any information about 23 Squadron and you wish to share what you know, you can contact me using this form.