Target Token

A Target Token is an award to a bomber crew that shows excellence in combat. Before a certain bombing raid is launched Bomber Command HQ already knows where, at the target in Germany, where is « ground zero », the exact center of the target. When a crew fights their way to the target, gets there and drops their bombs right dead center on ground zero, as indicated by automatic photo taken by the camera in the bomber. When it is analyzed by HQ and they see that a certain crew dropped smack dab right on ground zero, and believe me it is hard to do when certain people are trying to kill you, they award a Target Token to the crew. This was a morale boosting measure by RCAF 6 Group Air Vice Marshall Black Mike McEwen to spotlight the excellence of those crews who were dead on target. I do NOT think the RAF did this sort of thing but it was to me a sign of McEwen’s outward appreciation for his bomber boys. See how McEwen has personally signed this Target token and sent it to the Marcoux crew for their excellence on this combat operation.

Kark Kjarsgaard


Traduction

Un Target Token était décerné à un équipage d’un bombardier qui avait fait preuve d’excellence au combat. Avant de lancer un raid de bombardement, le QG du Bomber Command savait déjà où se trouvait le « ground zero », le centre exact de la cible. Lorsqu’un équipage se frayait un chemin jusqu’à la cible, se rendait sur place et lâchait ses bombes en plein sur le point zéro, la photo prise automatiquement par l’appareil photo dans le bombardier l’indiquait. Lorsqu’elle est analysée par le QG et qu’ils constatent qu’un certain équipage visé le point zéro, et croyez-moi, c’était difficile à faire quand certaines personnes essaient de vous tuer, ils attribuaient un Target Token à l’équipage. Il s’agissait d’une mesure visant à rehausser le moral des équipages du Bomber Group 6 du Vice-Maréchal de l’Air Mike McEwen, afin de mettre en lumière l’excellence des équipages qui avaient atteint la cible. Je ne pense pas que la RAF ait fait ce genre de chose, mais c’était pour moi un signe de l’appréciation extérieure de McEwen pour ses équipages. Voyez comment McEwen a personnellement signé ce Target Token et l’a envoyé à l’équipage Marcoux pour son excellence dans cette opération de combat.

Kark Kjarsgaard

 

Publicités

Bernard Racicot DFC (1924-2018)

Ce texte n’est pas le mien. C’est un vibrant hommage à Bernard Racicot DFC écrit il y a quelques années.

L’original se trouve ici.

A Canadian Halifax Story

Although the German industrial production rose toward the end of World War Two it did not rise to the level had there not been an allied bombing offensive. It dispersed the German industry and separated and reduced manafacturing processes. The reason that the Germans failed to produce an atomic weapon was because many of the physicists were either killed or forced to be broken up and isolated in underground research facilities.

Over 10,000 Canadians lost their lives on active duty flying on extremely hazardous missions with Bomber Command.

No 425 Alouette Squadron was formed at Dishforth, Yorkshire on June 25, 1942 and flew Vickers Wellington and Handley-Page Halifax aircraft on tactical and strategic bombing operations over Europe and North Africa. It was designated a « French Canadian » squadron for propaganda reasons and flew a total of 328 operational missions and shot down 7 enemy aircraft. It`s last mission was flown on April 25, 1945 from Tholthorpe, Yorkshire.

Some Alouette Men

The crew of Flying Officer Charles Bernard Racicot:

Bernard Racicot équipage

No 425 ( B) Squadron, Dishforth, Yorkshire, 1944

F/O Charles Bernard Racicot, Pilot

Flt Lt Roger Marc Aurèle, Navigator

Sgt Paul Panasuk, Flight Engineer

Flt Sgt Maurice Dépôt, Wireless Operator

Sgt Pierre Dumouchel, Bomb Aimer

Sgt Bob Gregory, Mid Upper Gunner (not in photo )

Sgt Raymond Leboeuf, Tail Gunner

……..and this is the aircraft they flew.

Halifax Mk III

The aircraft depicted in the video are earlier B.MK V  variants rather than the later model B.MK III Models Mr.Racicot and his crew flew. Oddly the B. MK V preceded the MK III  entering  service  in June 1943 with the  B.MK IIIs being introduced into squadron  service in Nov. 1943. They were generally similar with he main diference in the B.MK III being  the  addition of more powerful  Hercules radial engines which enabled it to cruise more efficiently at 20,000 ft. The tail section  was also redesigned  and incorporated a retractable tailwheel  and the addition of the H2S radar, as can be seen from the side  view and photo below.

A Remarkable Gentleman

Recently, I had the privelege to meet Mr. Racicot in the art room of a local church. After he  climbed 2 flights of about 50 stairs each ( no small feat for a man of 85 years!) I was introduced to him by his son Bernard.

To tell the truth, I was expecting a man of tall tales & heroic deeds. A war hero. A knight of the air. But instead it was quite the opposite, I found myself being introduced to a humble man who was full of humility and sincerity. He brought some photos with him, including the one above, in addition to his framed Distinguished Flying Cross that he received for actions taken when his Halifax was shot down during a raid over Witten, Germany in March 1945 (see link for the official citation ). The story of his subsequent escape had never been officially documented so this was the one thing in particular that grabbed my curiousity and I think that it is worth relating here.

After his Halifax was hit by enemy fire, as the pilot and captain, Mr. Racicot was the last crew member  to parachute out of the doomed aircraft holding it as steady as he could so the other crew members could get out safely. All managed to land safely although unfortunately the flight engineer Sgt. Panasuk was shot by the Germans because his Ukranian name sounded Russian. Mr Racicot  explained that he himself was almost immediately captured by the Germans and was interrogated by an officer of the Schutzstaffel or SS , the most feared and ruthless of Hitler’s soldiers. From the onset he established a rapport with the SS officer who had actually visited the Province of Québec before the war. After the interrogation his ordeal continued as he was put aboard a train along with other POWs for transfer to a prison camp deeper in Germany. En route the train was strafed by American fighter-bombers so they were then forced to march on foot to the prison camp. Along the way they happened across some French forced-labourers working in a field. Because of their common language they were able to inform Mr. Racicot that the American Army was about 15 miles away. He and another prisoner decided to make a break for it and chose an opportune moment. They were able to make contact with the Americans who came to the rescue of the other prisoners. He was then repatriated back to England but couldn’t return to flying duties because as an escaper if he were to be captured by the Germans a second time he would have most definitely been shot. Of 91 Alouettes taken prisoner by the Germans, Mr. Racicot was one of only two who managed to escape.

Other recollections included flying under the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montréal during his flying training at St Hubert along with two other pilots. On D-Day he flew a diversionary or decoy mission over  Denmark in a Wellington bomber (see photo below) to try and draw the German’s attention away from France where the allied invasion of Europe was getting under way in the early hours of June 6, 1944. He also indicated to me that they didn’t always fly the same aircraft as well as the fact that they didn’t paint up the noses of the airplanes like the Americans did. « We didn’t have time for that », he emphasized.  He was once ordered by his Squadron Leader to discipline his navigator, who in civilian life was an architect, for being too accurate on one occasion, arriving over the target too early. After refusing to do so he found himself out of the squadron but when the Wing Commander found out, he was back in the squadron !

Before looking at the photos below please read on. He also mentioned an accident he had with a Halifax that failed to take off. He made it sound like it was really nothing and explained it was a result of a faulty oil feed needed to activate the flaps. The mishap was not his fault because he had the correct flap setting but the aircraft wouldn’t respond because the flaps weren’t functioning ! It was a design fault that was soon corrected. Now, I was only shown the  photos below by his son Bernard some weeks  after hearing the story. My eyes just about popped out of my head! As you can see there is not much left of the airplane. In fact it doesn’t even look like an airplane anymore! There is nothing airplane about this!

Halifax1

menof425crash

The reason for the massive damage was that they were taking off for a day air test and the fuel tanks were filled to the brim. In other words, the aircraft was a flying gas tank and exploded. Notice that there is absolutely nothing left of the wings where the fuel tanks were located.The whole crew survived without a scratch as you can see from the bottom photo and Mr. Racicot  talked about it like it was just another day at the office (well almost).

I walked away from my meeting with Mr. Racicot that day somewhat moved  and a bit changed to say the least. Mr.Racicot’s unpretentious modesty set him apart. His son Bernard tells me that he doesn’t even participate in any ceremonies with the Air Force Association or Legion and that at one point even tried give his DFC back!

I remember Mr. Racicot’s parting message that day. He explained that at that point in history when he did his flying  there was a war going on and he happened to be one of the young men who had to go out and get a job done without complaint. About his flight engineer being executed by the Germans, as tragic as it was, he thought it was a misfortune of war and I agree. Things  happen during a war that would not normally happen. Now, sometimes when I want to fly off the handle over something trivial like a glitch in my computer I give it a second thought, get my head together and get the job done without complaint. I also reflect, that if it weren’t for men like Mr. Racicot and his crew, that we would be living in quite a different world today. I also discovered that one can still learn something regardless of one’s age.

I sincerely hope that you might have  gleaned something from this section. I truly think that the world could be a better place if we all had half the acquiescence and demure possessed by this remarkable gentleman. I certainly won’t forget that brief but precious chance I had to meet him.

The drawing Mr. Racicot is holding up was drawn by yours truly and depicts one of the actual Halifaxes Mr. Racicot flew and the names of the crew penciled in on the bottom with their respective crew badges as well as the 425 squadron wartime squadron crest with the King’s crown.

This is a photo taken in May 2012 by Mr. Racicot’s son, Bernard Jr, of my drawing hanging next to Mr. Racicot’s campaign medals in his apartment in Montréal. His DFC is kept in a small case elsewhere in the apartment.

2014 Update

Mr Racicot 2013 Rememberance Day Talk

Above is a link showing local Montreal, Quebec news footage of Mr.Racicot speaking during the Rememberance Day (or in French jour de Souvenir )  ceremonies in November 2013 at the Ecole Nationale D’Aerotechnique located at St. Hubert Airport which is south of Montreal where his grandson, Joseph, is presently a student. It is highly regarded as a world class technical aviation school. Although the conversation is conducted  in the French language by his son Bernard jr as interviewer, it is coloured with humour which is a universal language.  On Mr Racicot’s left in the video is his grandson.

Ecole Nationale D’Aerotechnique

The St Hubert airport, opened in 1928 is one of the oldest airports in Canada and operates as  a civilian airport these days (the 6th busiest in Canada in 2014 in terms of aircraft movements)  It was at one time one of the most important Royal Canadian Air Force bases both during the Second World War as a British Commonwealth Air Training Plan training base and during the cold war as a CF-100 all-weather fighter base. The only military squadron which occupies St. Hubert in 2014  is 438 Tactical Helicopter Squadron of which Mr. Racicot was an honoured guest on the day of the Rememberance Day ceremonies. During the days of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Mr. Racicot trained on Harvard aircraft (pictured at top of section ) at  St. Hubert before going overseas for further training. So I guess Joseph is carrying on a proud family aviation tradition.


 

J’ai rencontré monsieur Racicot trois fois ou quatre fois. La première c’est quand son fils m’a invité à aller le rencontrer.

Bernard Racicot 1

Je n’en étais pas à ma première rencontre avec un vétéran, mais chaque fois j’en ressortais avec un sentiment d’admiration pour ces jeunes hommes qui avaient tout sacrifié pour rendre le monde meilleur dans les années 40. C’est cette admiration qui m’avait motivé à tant écrire sur l’histoire des Alouettes.

L’histoire de Bernard Racicot DFC je ne la connaissais pas en 2010 tout comme l’histoire de ces Alouettes que j’avais rencontrés depuis comme Jean-Corbeil qui m’avait parlé de son équipage et de son admiration pour son ami le navigateur Pierre Gauthier.

 

cropped-kw-o.png

Jean-Paul Corbeil et Pierre Gauthier

Des Alouettes, il en reste de moins en moins. Petit à petit ils prennent leur dernier envol pour aller rejoindre tous ces jeunes hommes qui ne sont jamais revenus…

 

J’ai beaucoup écrit…

C’est en 2010 que j’ai commencé à écrire sur un escadron dont j’ignorais l’existence. Ayant étudié pour devenir un enseignant en histoire à la fin des années 60, j’ai été surpris de ne rien connaître du 425e Escadron Alouette dans mes cours d’histoire.

En 1970, je suis devenu enseignant dans une école secondaire, mais n’ayant que 21 ans à ce moment-là et comme on n’avait pas besoin d’un enseignant en histoire, j’ai enseigné l’éducation religieuse pendant deux ans. Puis un poste en histoire m’a été offert, mais cela n’a pas duré longtemps. Deux ans plus tard, on m’a offert un poste d’enseignement en anglais langue seconde. Étant bilingue, j’ai « sauté » sur l’offre.

Revenons aux Alouettes…

J’ai été curieux quand un vétéran du 425e Escadron Alouette m’a contacté sur Souvenirs de guerre, mon premier blogue sur la Seconde Guerre mondiale qui traitait surtout du destroyer Athabaskan. Ma curiosité pour les récits de guerre de cet ancien combattant m’a amené à créer un blogue sur les Alouettes pour lui rendre hommage autant à lui qu’à ses frères d’armes. J’ai saisi cette occasion car je sentais qu’il me manquait quelque chose à ma culture de la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

La Seconde Guerre mondiale était finalement plus que Tora, Tora, Tora ou Memphis Belle.

Memphis_belle_poster

Puis un autre vétéran a découvert ce blog et m’a contacté pour partager la « véritable » histoire des Alouettes.

KW-O

Je n’ai pas cessé d’écrire depuis sur les Alouettes et je ne pense pas que je vais arrêter un jour.

Pourquoi je te raconte tout ça? Parce que j’ai une autre histoire à partager, celle du Flight Engineer Harry James Goodwin, mais pas sur ce blogue.

Cliquez ici!

I have been writing a lot about the Alouettes…

In 2010, I started writing about a squadron which I knew nothing about. Having studied to become a history teacher in the late 60s I was surprised that I had never learned about 425 Alouette Squadron in my history classes.

In 1970 I became a high school teacher, but since I was 21 at that times and there was no need for a history teacher I taught religious education for two years before there was an opening. It did not last long…

Two years after, the only option that was left was teaching English as a second language. Being bilingual I « jumped » at the offer.

Getting back to the Alouettes, I felt I was missing something with my knowledge about World War II. World War II was more than Tora, Tora, Tora or Memphis Belle.

Memphis_belle_poster

So I got curious when a 425 Alouette Squadron veteran contacted me on Souvenirs de guerre which  was my first blog about WWII. Being curious about his war stories led me to write about this blog about the Alouettes.

Then another veteran found out about this blog and contacted me. He shared the « real » history of the Alouettes.

KW-O

I have not stop writing since, and I think I never will.

Why am I telling you all this?

Click here!

Le jour du Souvenir 2015

Écrit par un collaborateur en 2015…

Un oubli de ma part pour ce jour-là du Souvenir.

poppy


Collaboration spéciale

image

image

Les deux photos furent prises le même jour à quelques secondes d’intervalle, durant une journée très froide d’hiver à Tholthorpe.

Notez le givre sur l’avant du « Nissen Hut » qui abritait les aviateurs. À l’arrière, près du poêle, et sur la surface supérieure de la hutte, il y a juste assez de chaleur pour faire fondre le givre.

Il est notoire que ces huttes était froides et humides en hiver et que les petits poêles ne suffisaient pas à la tâche.  Les O.R.B.’s notent aussi des plaintes au sujet du charbon qui alimentaient ces appareils de chauffage.  Il arrivait que pendant quelques jours il y avait pénurie de ce combustible, ce qui rendait les huttes très inconfortables et invivables.

Cet incident semble avoir beaucoup fait rigoler Euloge Bouchard et Charles Numainville, membres de l’équipage Lafrenière.

Frederick Henry King qui tient la chaise et qui d’après le texte semble être en partie responsable de cet incident s’est joint à l’équipage Charles Lesesne au mois de décembre 1944 après la mort de Maurice Paradis lors du crash de l’équipage Desmarais le 18 décembre 1944.

Mid-under gunner station on the Halifax 

Taken from a book…

Sent by a Facebook friend…

Hi Pierre.  How are things?  I found a very good picture of the inside of the Preston Green Ventral Turret in Wallace Clarke`s excellent book British Aircraft Armament.  I posted it on the Halifax Facebook page, but I am not sure if you saw it.  If not, I am attaching it here.  Yes, you can see that it sure wouldn`t have been much fun being stuck in that turret for 5-6 hours!  All the best.

A Gunner’s Vow

A friend sent me this poem.

A GUNNER’S VOW
I wish to be a pilot
And you along with me,
But if we all were pilots,
Where would the Air Force be?
It takes guts to be a gunner;
To sit out in the tail
When the Messerschmitts are coming,
And the slugs begin to wail,
The pilot’s just a chauffeur,
It’s his job to fly the plane;
But it’s we who do the fighting
Though we may not get the fame.
If we all must be gunners,
Then let us make this bet —
We’ll be the best damned gunners,
Who have left this station yet.

Author Unknown