Revisiting the Past

This is what I have been doing here on this blog since 2010.

Yesterday someone shared this picture on Facebook.

He took it with his cell phone.

The photo is part of his father’s souvenirs at RAF Tholthorpe. RAF Tholthorpe was where RCAF No. 420 Snowy Owl and RCAF No. 425 Alouettes were stationed. Flight Sergeant John Rawbon was attached to these two Bomber Command’s squadrons. His collection of photos is most impressive.

 

This small photo though really made my day yesterday…

Mosquito PZ313
YP-P

A pilot visited RAF Tholthorpe most probably after VE-Day. I don’t believe it was an emergency landing since RAF Tholthorpe is not anywhere in the vicinity of RAF Little Snoring. Any emergency landing would not have been made at RAF Tholthorpe by a RAF 23 Squadron Mosquito.

This being said who would be visiting after VE-Day RAF Tholthorpe who had the only French-Canadian squadron of the RCAF stationed there?

A French-Canadian Mosquito pilot with RAF 23 Squadron?

Eugène Gagnon DFC

I guess we will never be sure…

The End of the Beginning

This is post no. 384, and the end of the beginning of this blog about RAF 23 Squadron.

I will repost for you the first  article I wrote in 2010 so you won’t have to search for it…

This blog about RAF 23 Squadron wasn’t  meant to pay homage  only to a French-Canadian  Mosquito pilot from Bromptonville, Quebec,  a small town in the Eastern Townships.

Eugene Gagnon

Eugène  Gagnon DFC

Since  2010, a 84 year-old man had been  trying  to convince  the  people of Bromptonville to pay homage  to Eugène  Gagnon, a hometown boy,  who had died  in a plane  crash near Windsor Mills  on October  21st, 1947. Eugène had never talked much about what he did in the war with the RCAF let alone with the RAF.

Eugène Gagnon was like a brother to Marcel Bergeron.

In 2010, Marcel asked for my help to find more about  his war hero when  he was just 14 years-old. At first he didn’t not have much information to go on, only Eugène’s discharge papers…

And a knock on the door of a World War Two veteran.

This is really how this blog started. A knock on a door!

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…

Little Snoring - June or July 1945

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.

La médaille de l’Assemblée nationale du Québec

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On November 11th, 2016, this medal was awarded posthumously to Joseph Achille Eugène Gagnon who flew 33 operations with RAF 23 Squadron.

Operational record 004 modified

Eugène Gagnon never received any recognition from his hometown of Bromptonville except when he died on October 21, 1947.

Early in 2016 I had received a phone call from Clément Gagnon, a man who was looking for veterans to honour with a medal given by l’Assemblée nationale du Québec. On November 11, 2016, Jacques Gagnon, Eugène’s nephew, received the medal from a member of the National Assembly of Quebec.

When Maxime Laporte, the President of the Société St-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, mentioned the fact in his presentation of the medal that Eugène Gagnon had flown 33 night operations mostly over German airfields, murmurs were heard from the people attending the commemoration.

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When Jacques Gagnon heard those, he felt a tremendous pride as well as a profound humility when he received the medal.

bergeron1

How It Really Started – Take Two

Note

This was written in 2010.

Marcel is now 89…

***

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.

Marcel Bergeron at the crash scene

Collection Marcel Bergeron

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 Eugene 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 copies of his discharge papers.

Discharge papers page 1

 

Discharge papers page 2


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 in 2013 about my search for Eugène Gagnon.

Who remembers Eugène Gagnon?

Eugene Gagnoncollection Ghislaine Laporte, Eugène’s fiancée

All the people who have visited this blog since April 2010.

Little Snoring - June or July 19451945

collection Tom Cushing via Peter Smith

All the people who have visited this blog since April 2010, and found relatives who were associated with 23 Squadron like Paul Beaudet’s daughter.

Paul Beaudet group picture

collection Peter Smith

Paul Beaudet who was George Stewart’s navigator.

Paul Beaudet and George Stewart 1

People who had never heard about this French-Canadian Mosquito pilot, immortalized with a caricature done by Pat Rooney.

caricature d'Eugène Gagnon

Who remembers Donald Hepworth Bentley and Sergeant Causeway?

Bentley and Causeway

Theo Griffiths and his son-in-law who has shared all his step-father’s war souvenirs.

Rick Maude and Theodore Griffiths mod

Rick Maude and Theo Griffiths

collection Theo Griffiths

a-flight-23-squadron-naples-10-november-1943-bwcollection Theo Griffiths

Who?

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Chronology: No. 51 O.T.U. Update – Redux

Another update about this post on No. 51 O.T.U. with this comment just received…

John Kelly was my father. After the war he went to become a Professor of Pathology at Tufts and then the Head of Pathology at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC. He eventually quit that profession to go to become an author. He penned several articles for the Navy’s Tailhook magazine and wrote a novel called “The Wooden Wolf” which was published. The plot was about an attempt to kill Hitler while he was on Hermann Goering’s train Asia with an attack from a “Mossie”. I have his manuals supplied to him while in 68 Squadron of the flight manuals for the Mosquito and Blenheim. In additional to these his letters home recounting his time there. His Squadron mates were Black & Aitken as well as Karl Seda. To read these letters are like steeping back in time.

Source Internet

ORIGINAL POST

Update with this comment…

Hi,
no information about the crew of Lt. Kelly / Lt Martin.

Czech pilot Karel Kuttelwascher DFC & Bar was posted to 23 Sqn.
July 9, 1942 – October 1, 1942

Crew F / Lt Kuttelwascher – P / O Palmer 6x Night Intruder over France and the Netherlands
Navigator P / O Geoffrey Ernest PALMER (116970) DFC

http://aces.safarikovi.org/biography/cz/cz/kuttelwascher.html

http://www.czechspitfireclub.cz/?sekce1=cs_letci&sekce2=kuttelwascher

http://fcafa.wordpress.com/2011/01/01/karel-kuttelwascher/

Regards Pavel

This picture could have been taken at No. 51 O.T.U. but I am not sure.

scan0001

No 51 O.T.U. was stationed at RAF Cranfield.  From 27 March 1944 to 16 October 1944 R.C. Harris was posted there.  He was a navigator radar operator and flew on Beaufighters, Wellingtons, Beauforts, and Airspeed Oxfords.

This page from the logbook is interesting in a way as well as the message from Robert.

Hello Pierre!

I have learned so much from reading the latest blog update.  I had never heard of the Havocs with searchlights linked to the Hurricanes!

One log book scan shows my father as instructor to an American – wonder what happened to him! I have attached some other log book extracts which I hope you will find of some use.

Can’t thank you enough for all the work on 23 squadron and beyond.

Kind regards – Rob

One log book scan shows my father as instructor to an American – wonder what happened to him!

51 OTU August 1944

Four entries from 14 August through 18 August 1944. Richard Harris is an instructor to Ensign Grinndal, U.S. Navy on August 14. Squadron Leader Macandrew was the pilot.

Who was Squadron Leader MacAndrew? I found nothing about him on the Internet.

Who then was Ensign Grinndal? Was he Richard Eric Grinndal who died on November 22, 1944?

Click here for the source and the complete history of RAF 68 Squadron.

During October 68 Squadron made up for all the frustration of the two previous months as they shot down 13 Flying-bombs. The crews were as follows: Fg Off Haskell/Plt Off Bentley – three; Fg Off Humphrey/Fg Off Robertson – two; F/Sgt Bullus/Fg Off Edwards -one; W/O Lauchlan/F/Sgt Bailey – two; Fg Off Gibson/Sgt Lack – one; Sqn Ldr Wright/Fg Off McCullough – two; and Sqn Ldr Mansfeld/Flt Lt Janacek – two.

Part of the Squadron’s training programme at this time was devoted to cross-countrynavigation exercises, and these included trips over France, recently cleared of Germans. Sqn Ldr Evans of ADGB came to give a lecture on ‘Intruding Over Enemy Territory’. The aircrews were shown three films: ‘The Nazis Strike’, ‘The Battle of Russia’, and ‘Divide and Conquer’. Earlier, three American Navy aircrews had been assigned to the Squadron, they were: Lt Peebles/Ens Grinndal; Lt Black/Lt Aitken; and Lt Kelly/Lt Martin. On 27th October the Squadron moved back to Coltishall having had a very good series of farewell parties at Castle Camps. The Squadron continued to fly anti-diver patrols over the North Sea, but seemed to be selected by Control to operate against Heinkels carrying the flying-bombs.

On 5th November F/Sgt Neal/F/Sgt Eastwood caught a He 111 just releasing its bomb and after a long chase shot it down into the sea, and on the 11th F/Sgt Brooking/PIt Off Finn also dealt with a Heinkel in similar circumstances at 700 ft above the sea. W/O Cookson/W/O GravelI claimed a Heinkel probably destroyed. On the 8th the first V2 rocket was seen by a 68 squadron pilot as it was launched from a site in Holland, it was described as a ‘red glow with flames on the outside shooting straight up into the air at great speed and to a great height’.

The Squadron had really taken to the American crews, who though more formal than the RAF, were super chaps, and 68 were most upset when Joe Black and Tom Aitken were killed pursuing a flying-bomb. Apparently they followed the bomb into the gunstrip and tragically the guns missed the bomb, but brought down the Mosquito. Soon after this there was another tragedy when Sam Peebles and Dick Grinndal, having been scrambled for anti-diver activity at 22.30 hours and just airborne, reported going over to channel ‘D’ on the R/T, but crashed near Horstead at 22.33 hours, both were killed. It is good to be able to say that John Kelly and Tom Martin survived the War.

On Find A Grave Website

Ens Richard Eric “Eric” Grinndal

Birth: Jul. 19, 1918
Chicago
Cook County
Illinois, USA
Death: Nov. 22, 1944
Horstead
Norfolk, England

Casualty of WWII, he was an Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve and worked as a ‘navrad’ (Observer) on de Havilland Mosquito NF.Mk.XVII Registration: HK344, 68 Squadron RAF. It was described as Britain’s “Wooden Wonder”-it featured two Rolls-Royce Merlin engines and was constructed of plywood and balsa wood.He entered the Service from Illinois. His parents were Vidar and Frieda Grinndal from Sweden. His service number was O-325953. He was awarded the Air Medal. He was flying with Lt. Samuel Warmuth Peebles (pilot) US Navy; the aircraft lost an engine on take-off from RAF Coltishall, Norfolk and crashed onto the lawns of Horstead Hall after hitting trees. Sam Peebles was initially interred in Cambridge,England, near Eric but his remains were subsequently repatriated to USA.
  The pilot…

Peebles

Ensign Grinndal and his pilot were flying Mosquitoes that were shooting down Flying-bombs carried by He 111.

800px-Fieseler_Fi103_debajo_de_un_Heinkel_111

Ensign Grinndal is not just a name in a logbook entry anymore…

51 OTU Ensign Grinndal