Eugène Gagnon DFC 1941-1945 RCAF: part VIII

Jacques Gagnon had many pictures of his uncle in uniform but he could not figure out what it was all about. Since Archives Canada sent me his service record, I knew where these pictures were taken. 

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Collection Jacques Gagnon

I knew what it was all about having researched all of Eugène Gagnon’s military service with the Royal Canadian Air Force. After he got his wings he was posted to Paulson, Manitoba with No. 7 B&G training school.

Collection Jacques Gagnon

He was a staff pilot.

His application in November 1945 to stay as a pilot with the RCAF told which planes he flew.

Archives Canada

Being a staff pilot was not what Eugene wanted. Although an essential part of the BCATP (British Commonwealth Air Training Plan) most staff pilots and instructors were eager to go overseas.

Eugene got his wish and was SOS (Struck of Strength) on September 28, 1943 and arrived in Halifax on the 29th. He arrived in England on November 22, 1943.

He was TOS (Taken on Strength) at No 3 PRC Bournemouth.

Archives Canada

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Eugène Gagnon DFC 1941-1945 RCAF: part V

I found everything except Eugène’s precious logbook and war medals.

Simone Gagnon, Eugène’s sister, told Marcel Bergeron she has put them in the garbage after Eugène had died in a plane crash! 

Afterwards, she told him, she had been crazy to do such a thing.

I am sure she did not realise that all of Eugène’s wartime memories had died by doing that.

63 years later, Marcel contacted me through a veteran who had written his memoirs. With Marcel’s memory and the discharge papers, I could start piecing together Eugène’s service with the RCAF by asking Archives Canada for his service record even though I was not related to him. I only needed a proof of his death. This is just a small part of what Archives Canada sent me.

 

part of the service record

A year later, after all my research had been done, Marcel told me he has contacted Jacques Gagnon, Eugène’s nephew. He told him that he had something to show him about his uncle. Jacques Gagnon wanted to see me right away. Jacques had also something to show me.

Eugène Gagnon DFC 1941-1945 RCAF: part IV

Eugène would come back to Bromptonville after the war as a Flight Lieutenant.

Flying Officer Gagnon was promoted to Flight Lieutenant in February 1945. His co-pilot, Flying Officer R C Harris, 
was promoted to Flight Lieutenant in April 1945. The 2 officers remained pilot and co-pilot on all missions carried 
out whilst on 23 Squadron. (Notes from Mike Thomas)

Not as a hero.

Well of course his family was happy to see him come back alive from the war.

Eugène Gagnon, Georgiana (his mother), Wilfrid (his brother), Graziella (his sister), Odina (his brother), Simone (her sister)
In front, his niece Carmen

But people wanted to forget about the war, not only in Bromptonville but all over the world.

I can understand that.

But Eugène could not forget what he went through from 1941 to 1945.

Eugène never talked that much about the war.

Just a little.

Just enough to Marcel Bergeron.

Just enough so I could find everything about Eugène, even how he died on October 21, 1947.

I found everything about Eugène… 

Well almost everything, except…

Eugène Gagnon DFC 1941-1945 RCAF: part III

Before I knew about Eugène’s missions over Germany, this is the first thing I found about him.

Eugène was awarded a DFC.

So he had to have been a good pilot.

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.

A year or so later, Mike Thomas sent me this document. He had information about Eugène’s missions.

Every mission!

Before I only had this to work on with. It was sent to me by Archives Canada.

Mike had much much more.

GAGNON operations

Information on all 33 missions!

Especially this one…

F540 entry 27 March 1945.
F/L Gagnon and F/O Harris were detailed for an Anti-Flak patrol of Elbe River and Ludwigslust area. On the outward journey the CSU became u/s causing vibration of starboard engine, which developed excessively, so course was set for base. Eventually the engine failed completely. Great difficulty was found in maintaining height and at 4000 ft fuel tanks were jettisoned but only starboard drop tank released. Port engine started cutting 90 miles from English coast. This (trying to drop port tank) was repeated four time and 10 miles from the coast fuel tank unexpectedly jettisoned. R/T was very weak and communication to Coltishall was made through GOODCHILD 37 whose timely aid was very much appreciated. The Mosquito, on one engine, belly landed at Base (Cat. AC) and we are pleased to record that the crew were unhurt.

And this…

F540 Entry 12 April 1945.
Today F/L Gagnon was made the immediate award of the Distinguished Flying Cross for his very fine show on the night of 27/28 March 1945. Needless to say, there were great celebrations, which finally terminated at 0100 hours, on the Friday morning.

Eugène Gagnon DFC 1941-1945 RCAF: part II

Where to begin?

A young school boy 10 years-old looking at airplane models in the showcase window of a men’s clothing store. About 20 or so. I can still see them. This is how my interest for aviation and WWII began. Passion would be more appropriate.

So when Marcel Bergeron had asked me back in 2010 to help him find his hero when he was young, it was like a piece of cake. Well, not quite. This is all I had to start with. His discharge papers dated December 28th, 1945. A sad day in the life of Eugène as he tried to stay as a pilot in the RCAF.

Collection Marcel Bergeron

Collection Marcel Bergeron

These discharge papers and some information Marcel had. 

He told me his hero was a Mosquito pilot. 

A French-Canadian Mosquito pilot! 

A French-Canadian Mosquito pilot from a little town I knew nothing about! 

Bromptonville. 

I got curious to say the least. So the search started with a visit to Bromptonville. I had to look at Google maps not to get lost on my way there. A little town with an unsung hero all but forgotten except for a name on a war monument.

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Who has ever heard of Bromptonville in Little Snoring? 

Who has ever heard of Little Snoring in Bromptonville

Who has ever heard what happened in Little Snoring back in December 1944? 

December 1944, the 5th of December to be more precise. Eugène Gagnon would take off for his freshman mission with his navigator F/O R.C. Harris on his right.

F/O R.C. Harris

Collection Tom Cushing via Peter Smith

They were heading for Zuider Zee. They would do 32 more missions together before the end of WWII.

Eugène Gagnon DFC 1941-1945 RCAF: part I

Where to begin this story about an unsung hero?

This is a good start.

Eugène immortalized by Pat Rooney at Little Snoring 1945
(Courtesy of Jacques Gagnon)

 

Jacques Gagnon is Eugène Gagnon’s nephew.

His uncle Achilles Eugène Gagnon was born in Bromptonville in the province of Quebec on the 28th of May 1921. Eugène had a normal childhood. Nothing much would happen in Eugène’s early life except in 1935 when his father died.

Eugène loved to play sports especially hockey. He was quite good at it having been invited to practice with the Montreal Canadiens in 1940.

I know very little about Eugène’s character since I never met him. Eugène died in a plane crash in 1947 at Windsor Mills. I was born in 1948 in Montreal where I grew up and went to school.

Going to school one day in 1958… That’s when Eugène’s story really began!

Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.

— Isaac Asimov

Priority One

I have been digressing enough on my other blogs.

The one about RCAF No. 403 Squadron mostly

More than 100 articles.

I know I will be posting more.

But I’ve got to set my priorities.

So Priority One will be writing a chapter in Peter Smith’s manuscript about 23 Squadron.

I can’t let him down.

He gave so much to pay homage to these fine young men who gave so much.

Collection Tom Cushing via Peter Smith

Men like Sticky Murphy, George Stewart, Paul Beaudet, Arthur Cockayne, Tommy Smith, Phil Russell… and Gene Gagnon.

Collection Jacques Gagnon

Semper Aggressus