Lest We Forget

Note

How I came to write several blogs about WWII and about veterans is a very long story which started back in July 2009.

How I came to know Jacques Gagnon is also a very long story. Meeting Jacques Gagnon in 2011 led to a guest post he wrote in French on this blog about 425 Les Alouettes one week ago. This is the English translation of the meeting Jacques Gagnon had with a veteran air gunner Jacques « Coco » Morin.

collection Jacques Morin - Jacques Morin Mont-Joli 1942

Collection Jacques « Coco » Morin (Mont-Joli, Quebec – 1944)

Jacques Gagnon wrote the text and he sent me pictures his wife took of the meeting. I rarely put personal pictures of people on this blog. I am always relunctant to do so. These pictures on the other hand help to better understand what you will read.

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The original text was written in French and automatic translation did not do justice to the message Jacques Gagnon wants to convey.

This whole story began in 2011 when I first met Mr. Morin. Jacques Gagnon was the go-between. I found that Mr. Morin was a little nervous during our first meeting but he was not during the next two as he felt he could trust me.

This is the story of his crew and his old friend Georges Tremblay. Jacques « Coco » Morin is in the first row on the right and Georges Tremblay is on the left. 

Eudore Marcoux 1

(Archives Musée de la Défense aérienne de Bagotville via Richard Girouard)

Eudore Marcoux was their pilot.

I told part of that story on this blog which pays homage to 425 Les Alouettes squadron. This story will end when Jacques Morin is one day once again reunited with his old friend Georges Tremblay.

The last time Jacques Morin and Georges Tremblay saw each other was in 1946. In one of our three meetings, Mr. Morin had asked me to try to locate Georges for him. I said I would try, but I was not lucky until Georges’ daughter-in-law found my blog in early June 2014 and wrote me that she was « shocked and thrilled. » I was also shocked and thrilled.

This is the story about two young men, one from Sherbrooke, Quebec, and the other one from Trois-Rivières, Quebec, both going to a war they had not started but had to stop.

George Tremblay (R) Jean Morin (L) May 1944

Jacques Morin and Georges Tremblay (Collection Georges Tremblay)

Both were lucky to get back from training unscathed at Mont-Joli, and from seven missions they flew over Europe like the other members of the crew.

George Tremblay bottem centre March 1945

Collection Georges Tremblay

No one was ever hurt physically, but most were psychologically.

I will write about how lucky they were another time when they flew on a mission over Munster.

written on back-Raid on Munster-if we came back it was a miracle and I still can't believe it

Collection Georges Tremblay

This young man from Sherbrooke had never talked about the war. He was afraid people would laugh at him. Mr. Morin was known as some practical joker…

For 65 years he never said a word about the war. He started to talk about the war when he met Jacques Gagnon, Eugène Gagnon’s nephew. Eugène was a Mosquito pilot with RAF 23 Squadron.

Eugene Gagnon

(Collection Tom Cushings via Peter Smith)

He died after the war in an airplane crash in the woods near Windsor Mills on October 21st, 1947.

numérisation0015

(Collection Jacques Gagnon)

In 1947 I was not even born, Jacques Gagnon was 5 years-old.

Jacques Gagnon befriended Coco Morin who knew he could trust him.

They are still friends.

DSCN2121

(Collection Jacques Gagnon)

Then I befriended Jacques Gagnon…

We are still friends. Jacques Gagnon is the one who introduced me to Coco Morin in 2011.

This is the text about Jacques’ meeting with Mr. Morin last June 23rd. It’s about a last meeting.

His last meeting with Georges Tremblay

In 1946, we were both in Trenton. We were both reinstated full-time in the RCAF. The first part of the training was at Trenton. I told him that I was coming back in the airforce. I had taken a sabbatical for one year. He had done the same. When he was at Trenton he never told me during the two weeks that we were together what he was training for: mechanic or something else. One day, when he got his transfer, he came to see me in my room and said: « I am saying farewell, I’m going. I got my transfer. »

This was a shock. I was surprised, but being surprised is normal for a service man. I had my trade and Georges had his. he never told me his. Mine was meteorology. I completed my course in meteorology and I got transfered at Rockcliffe in Ottawa. Georges disappeared. Where he went I did not know.

When my daughter Christine mentioned you were coming to see me to talk about Georges Tremblay I was happy. I said to myself: « at last I will know. Georges never never contacted me. I tried to contact him using his parents’s home address in Trois-Rivières. I got nowhere. The letters were always coming back: address unknown. I did not know where to reach him and I did not have his service number.

DSCN2123

(Collection Jacques Gagnon)

When we were discharged from the airforce he always told me: « This girl here, I am going to marry her. » He was dating a girl from Trois-Rivières. I don’t know if this is the girl he married. He had her picture when we were in Centralia (in Ontario). I also saw that picture in England.

« Ah… I thought that was her he had married », he comments when he learned it was not the case.

I told Mr. Morin that Georges married Margaret Harder in 1948, in Calgary. They had three children.

« 1948! Same thing here », said a stunned Jacques Morin.

(I take a few moments to talk about Georges Tremblay’s life, as told to Pierre Lagacé by Sharon, Georges’ daughter-in-law, .)

« Isn’t amazing what we can find after all these years? So his daughter-in-law is interested in knowing about my past. Does she mentions that Georges had talk about me? (Georges did according to the e-mails.)

DSCN2129

(Collection Jacques Gagnon)

Comments about the photos

« So her daughter-in-law had all these pictures. »

DSCN2103

(Collection Jacques Gagnon from pictures sent by Sharon Tremblay)

So she knew me (Mr. Morin laughing)?

(Mr. Morin now looks at the nose of the Lancaster)

Oh my God! This is Tarzan. Tarzan was our bomb aimer. He was an athlete, he was in fitness training. He had his picture taken with his dog. He is the one who painted this on the nose of the plane.

George  RCAF plane photo<

(Collection Georges Tremblay)

(Jacques Morin commented on each photo. He was most interested by those after 1946. He suddenly became pensive when he looked at his friend’s black hair that had turned to gray. I had a feeling he would have liked to know him and socialized with that man.)

An answer to a question from Sharon about Jacques Morin’s career in the military after the war

When I got out in 1948 to get married, I was a LAC (Leading Aircraft Man) like Georges.

I was in the Airforce Reserve. I was with a radar unit in Sherbrooke. At that time I was a lieutenant until 1961. Radar was for us officers like air traffic control. I was an air traffic controller  from 1953 to 1961. This unit was closed in December 1961. It was a reserve unit  number 2450. In February 1962 I joined the Fusiliers de Sherbrooke as captain, the equivalent of Flight/Lieutenant in the Airforce. I left in 1975. I had the right to add CD after my name. It was for Canadian Decoration. I was in the service for 23 years. I liked it. I worked with General John Dunn as his aide de camp when we were going to Farnham (an Canadian army base located in Quebec). He knew nothing about drawings. We made sketches for battle simultations. I was good at drawing. I was always good at drawing. John was saying: Coco is my man. I don’t want no one else.

Who was Georges Tremblay for Jacques Morin?

He was a great friend, a very close friend. He would tell me everything about himself and so did I. When he came to say farewell, he simply shook my hand. His mother had told me when I went to Trois-Rivières to get commando training:  » Coco I want you to take care of Georges. » Georges would never anything without asking me first.

Coco… Did Georges have a nickname?

No. It was Louis. We called him Louis or just Georges. It was like our pilot. His name was Eudore but in the airforce it’s hard to say that in English, so it was Eddy.

Did you have other friends other than Georges?

I had other friends. We would go out from time to time. Have a beer, go dancing. But when the night was over that was all. But it was not the same with Georges. We were always together. Georges was never going out without Coco.

DSCN2114

(Collection Jacques Gagnon)

Message pour Sharon Tremblay

I would like very much to be in a position to know them. I did not have the pleasure of knowing the family, the parents. Tell her that I have enjoyed everything you brought me. The mistake I made was that I did not write down his service number when he left Trenton.

A quite unusual anecdote

(I explain to Jacques Morin that Georges’ family can’t find Georges Tremblay’s logbook. Pierre Lagacé will send a copy of his logbook to his daughter-in-law since they both flew in the same bomber and experienced the same events.)

I was the first crew member to get out of the bomber. Georges was second. We would sit in the truck without saying a word. I was completely washed out. And then we waited. There was just that time when he was walking awkwardly. I asked him: « You look like someone who had shat in his pants. » He replied: Yes for Christ sake. It’s been three and a half hours that I am sitting on shit. » We got shot at. He had the scare of his life. A bomb came down from another bomber and passed between the wing and the tail. He cleary saw it because he was in the top turret. He was talking  to the pilot. I remember as if it was yesterday. He was saying: « Eddy, I think someone will drop bombs on us. The plane above us is about 1000 feet higher than we are. That plane has jettisoned its bombs too soon. » The incendiairies came down in front of our bomber and then a large 1000 pound bomb past between the wing and the tail. Georges saw it as it was coming down. He was explaining that to the pilot. He said « Euh… »  and stopped talking. I don’t have to say no more. On the tarmac when we came back, I saw him put covers on his two machine guns. I was sitting in the truck smoking a cigarette while I was waiting. When we were coming back from a bombing mission, I was not talking to anyone. I was angry deep inside. I just had to cool down. But when I saw Georges walking that way, I just had to let it out and I started laughing and teasing him. From time to time he would curse at me. He had all the rights to do so.

When I arrived at the airbase I liked to play tricks on others. At the briefing room while waiting to be  interrogated by the intelligence officers, both chaplains, one protestant and one catholic, would walk in the room with a stonewear teapot and they would ask us if we wanted to add stronger tea in our cups. It was cognac. They could not carry a bottle but instead they would put it in a teapot. The time was right to play another « dirty » trick as I always did. I said to the chaplain: « When you go by Georges, pretend you know nothing and when you pour cognac in his tea just say: ‘My God Georges there’s something that is smelling awful bad here' ». Georges replied without hesitation: « That has to be Coco Morin with his big mouth. » The word got around and everyone was sniffing as they were passing by Georges.

(I admit this anecdote is somewhat crude, but it was a fact. Jacques Morin agrees it was not very elegant. I want to add that it was not the time to be romancing about the war. It was war and what these men were experiencing was unimaginable. Georges Tremblay is the only crew member who saw that diabolical weapon fall from the sky. It was just a matter of a few inches and both he and his comrades would have been blown to smithereens. Let’s not forget that their plane was fully loaded with high octane gas and furthermore still had a full load of bombs in the bomb bay. I still have goose bumps as I am writing this and I dare any human being to have reacted otherwise as Georges Tremblay did on that day. How not to talk about the psychologically scars of such events? How could they find the courage to laugh a little about it???)

Jacques Morin’s final word

Why Georges never kept in touch? I have always searched in my memorabilia to try to find something to remind me of him.

Note about Jacques Morin’s tatoos. On his right arm there is a snake with a dagger through its head. The symbol: Death instead of dishonour. He had it tattoed in a train station when he arrived in England. The dragon, on his left arm, was tattoed a little later.

DSCN2136

(Collection Jacques Gagnon)

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13 réflexions sur “Lest We Forget

    • I am there were many such incidents during the war. One we can see on You Tube or Pathé. It’s a B-24 in the Pacific which is hit by a bomb dropped from above…

      • I always thought flak had hit the b-24. As I was watching more closely I saw the bombs falling nearly missing except the one which hit the inner wing.
        Chilling indeed.

  1. They’d have been better off if the bomb had detonated—instead they rode the wreck all the way down, unable to escape. One just cannot imagine …

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