Stuart Hunt – Rear Gunner with the Alouettes

Source:
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-stuart-hunt-20170331-story.html

When Stuart Hunt went off to war in 1943, the longtime San Diegan remembers having the same gung-ho, patriotic spirit as the millions of other young men who enlisted to serve in the Allied Forces during World War II.

But when he reluctantly returned to the battlefield again in 1950, as a forward observer during the Korean War, he was a changed man. In his autobiography “Twice Surreal,” the Rancho Bernardo veteran and onetime prisoner of war says he couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for a second conflict.

“I was one of those eager young people, ready to go fight for our country, willing to accept that my life was a number, disposable on the cheap,” he wrote of World War II. “But I am sure that, for many, after they see the horrors of war, the enthusiasm wears thin or disappears.”

Hunt, who turns 94 on April 5, is one of the nation’s few surviving veterans who served in both World War II and the Korean War. On the wall in his home office, a glass case filled with ribbons and medals, including a Bronze Star, testifies to his bravery. But when he talks and writes about his experiences, he focuses more on the friends he lost and his own will to survive.

“There is no glory in war,” he said, “and often .. you have experience it to fully understand it.”

Hunt grew up in Montreal, a dual citizen with an American dad and Canadian mom. His father, Thomas Hunt, ran an airfield in Ontario and young Stuart learned to fly single-engine planes like the Tiger Moth before he was 15.

In August 1941, his father took a job with Ryan Aeronautical and the family moved to San Diego. Hunt, then 18, was sailing with a friend near Coronado when they heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The U.S. Army Air Corps rejected his application because he lacked two years of college credits, so he signed up instead with the Royal Canadian Air Force. After more than a year of training, he was shipped overseas to serve as a flying officer in the U.K.’s Royal Air Force.

Assigned as a tail-gunner to the No. 425 Alouette Squadron in Yorkshire, his crew flew four-engine Halifax Mark II and III bombers on daring night raids over Germany in 1944. Up to one-quarter of the planes that made the bombing runs over Frankfurt, Nurenberg, Berlin, Essen, Kiel and other cities never returned.

“For self-preservation, you didn’t make friends over there because the guy next to you would be gone the next day,” he said.

A few weeks after Hunt’s 21st birthday, his squadron was assigned to bomb the city of Karlsruhe on April 24th, 1944. Hunt had such a bad feeling about the mission, he wrote a goodbye letter to his parents and arranged to have his things shipped home if he didn’t return.

Sure enough, there were problems from the start, with ice on the wings, fuel problems and high winds. On the way home, a German fighter plane shot up the Halifax’s crew and set two starboard engines ablaze.

As the only officer on the plane, Hunt helped each man — some badly injured and one dying — parachute out before he leaped free, landing hard in the waters off the southwest coast of Holland.

With the help of the Dutch Underground, he and some other downed RAF and American pilots made it to Antwerp, and then south into Belgium before they were sent their separate ways and told to find their way to Spain on foot.

Eventually, the Germans caught up with Hunt hiding in a haystack on a farm near Brussels. He would spend the next 13 months as a prisoner of war, enduring extreme hardship and injuries that still trouble him today.

After weeks of interrogations at Belgium’s St. Gilles Prison and various other places, Hunt was held for 36 hours in a prison camp with no name in Weimar, Germany. It wasn’t until much later that he discovered it had been Buchenwald, the Jewish concentration camp. He doesn’t like to talk about what he saw there.

“I knew something was wrong,” he said. “I could see people walking in, but there were bodies going out in trucks.”

From there he was sent to Stalag Luft 3 in Poland, where he was held with 2,000 others in a section of the camp reserved for British officers. He arrived just a few months after the famed “Great Escape,” where a British pilot organized a massive tunneling effort under the camp walls. Seventy-six men escaped, but only three made it to safety. Fifty were executed and conditions for prisoners were quite restrictive by the time Hunt arrived.

Germany was losing the war, Russia and Allied armies were closing in and food was scarce. To escape approaching forces, the Germans marched their under-dressed prisoners 52 miles west in blizzard conditions with no water and virtually no food. Three months later, the men were forced to march another 90 miles, once again in below-zero conditions.

Hunt remembers those months as the worst of his life. He struggled with dysentery and lost nearly 60 pounds. His feet were so damaged by frostbite that even today the nerve damage in his feet causes constant shooting pains.

On May 3, 1945, Hunt said he woke up at a prison camp in Lubeck and realized all the guards were gone. Minutes later, the British Second Army rolled in.

When Hunt returned to San Diego, he married the pretty blonde San Diego State co-ed he’d begun dating before the war, Edith Bridget Darsey. They would have three daughters together and 70 happy years of marriage until her death last year.

After the war, Hunt worked as a stock and bonds trader. To make extra money for his growing family, he joined the National Guard. He figured it was worth the risk of being called up because the nation was weary of war.

But in 1950, the call came. Because the newly established U.S. Air Force was flush with pilots, Hunt and his fellow WWII “retreads” were assigned to Army artillery units as “forward observers,” which he describes as a polite phrase for “cannon fodder.”

Stationed in bunkers along the front lines in North Korea, Hunt called artillery missions at several battles against North Korean and Chinese forces. One of the most memorable and surreal experiences was the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge in September and October of 1951.

The month-long battle resulted in more than 3,700 American and French casualties and an estimated 25,000 North Korean and Chinese casualties. Not long after, Hunt was assigned to supervise the firing of the war’s millionth high-explosive round.

When he finally returned home to his family in late 1952, Hunt knew he was done with war. For the good of his family, he asked for, and was granted, a discharge. Eventually he founded a security products company with Jim Horwood, who he met in officer’s training school in 1942 and remained close friends with until Horwood’s death in 2008.

When Hunt started writing his memoir, which is available on Amazon.com, he decided to name it “Twice Surreal.” The name reflects his experiences in two wars as well as the unimaginable odds he overcame to survive.

“I almost felt like everything that happened over there doesn’t seem real,” he said this week. “If you read my book you can see why there’s really no reason I should be sitting here right now.”

Publicités

Doug Radcliffe – Wireless-Operator with 425 Alouette

Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/raf-bomber-command/3254659/The-wireless-operator-Douglas-Radcliffe-MBE.html

After the war he worked as a cine-technician in several film studios in London, his lifelong home. Now aged 84, he is secretary of the Bomber Command Association, based at the RAF Museum in Hendon, North London.

« I was a messenger boy at the BBC when Broadcasting House was bombed during the Blitz in October 1940, killing seven girls in the music library. I was there when they brought the bodies out and that was what made me decide to join up.

I was 17 years and 11 months old when I when I volunteered in 1941, and I persuaded my colleague Bill Wright, who later devised the TV quiz Mastermind, to join up at the same time. I chose the RAF because I wanted to fly, simple as that.

Getting in wasn’t easy – at first they didn’t want us but when we said we worked at the BBC they immediately thought « wireless » and signed us up, even though we didn’t know anything about radios.

We were trained up as wireless operators, but you had no rank as a wireless operator, so we were put on a gunnery course to get the rank of sergeant, which meant you would have some degree of protection if you were captured by the Germans.

I had told my mother I was joining up as a cook, and when I went home with my Sergeant Air Gunner’s uniform my mother took a dim view. She said I had lied to her and she wasn’t happy.

After a spell as a ground wireless operator my crew was sent to North Africa in 1943 to replenish depleted squadrons there, but on the way there we crashed, and that crash saved my life, because I was kept in hospital in Tel Aviv for a while with shoulder and back injuries, and so I was separated from the rest of my crew, who didn’t have to stay in hospital so long. By the end of the war my original pilot had been shot down and killed and, separately, the rear gunner was also shot down and killed.

When I recovered I joined a depleted French-Canadian Squadron, No. 425, flying missions over Italy after the invasion of Sicily. We were based at Kairouan in Tunisia and it was always low-level flying – I never had to wear an oxygen mask during my entire tour.

As a wireless operator my job was to receive messages – the only time you transmitted was if it was an SOS. Your main job was as the liaison officer in the aircraft. Every 15 minutes there would be a coded transmission from base, which might be information to help the navigator, or you might be told that an airfield had been put out of action and you had to land somewhere else. You could also tune in to beacons which transmitted signals to help locate your position, and I would also keep checking the rear gunner to make sure he was alright.

They always said you could tell a wireless operator by looking at his boots – the heating duct for the cockpit came out by my left foot, and it would partly melt the rubber sole of your boot. It meant I was always roasting, while the rear gunner would be freezing.

The biggest problem we had flying over Italy was the fighters. Whenever you had to join another crew you would always find that they had lost someone during a fighter attack. We got damaged once, on one of the wings, and we never knew what it was that had done it. A lot of people who got shot down never knew what hit them.

When we attacked targets it would be at such a low level that the gunners would be firing at targets on the ground. The bomb aimers, who doubled as the front gunners, had a particularly busy time.

People say to me that it must have been terrible, but it wasn’t terrible. We knew the dangers but at that age you just don’t think about it. You always convinced yourself that people who were missing would have bailed out safely.

In between ops we had a great time. We were the lucky ones in many respects. When you got back from a raid you had a clean bed to sleep in and for most people they were in the heart of the English countryside. I always tell my family I wouldn’t have swapped with sailors or soldiers, who had to put up with much worse.

After completing the equivalent in flying hours of 30 ops, which was a full tour, I returned to England and spent some time as an instructor before converting to Lancasters in anticipation of a second tour. I was due to go to the Pacific as part of Tiger Force, but the Japanese surrender meant we didn’t have to go in the end.

I didn’t like the Lancaster as much as I did the Wellington. Not many people did. I think it was probably because I was alive, and I felt I owed that, in part, to Wellingtons.

We didn’t find out until the end of the war just how many airmen had died. Mostly they were just listed at the time as missing, and it was only later that we realised what a high percentage of them had died.

Even today I’m still finding out that friends of mine didn’t survive the war. I found myself thinking a couple of weeks ago about a pilot I had greatly admired, who was one of the very best. I looked his name up in a book which lists all the casualties and found that he had been killed in a flying accident at his home base.

In a way it hits you even harder after all these years, because you suddenly find that someone who you thought might have been alive for the last 60 years has, in fact been dead since 1943 or 44. »

Pilot Vince Brimicombe and his Flight Engineer

While looking for information about Vince Brimicombe, I found this Webpage honouring his flight engineer.

Source: https://www.twgpp.org/photograph/view/2675201

Moore, Stanley Harrison
Cemetery: Sage War Cemetery

Country: Germany

Area:

Rank: Pilot Officer

Force: Royal Air Force

Official Number: 425 (R.C.A.F.) Sqdn.

Unit: 190352

Nationality: British

Details: 05/01/45 Age 19 5. E. 11.

Son of Edgar and Ina Moore, of Bradford, Yorkshire. Account of Stanley’s death by Vince Brimicombe (Pilot) who was flying the aircraft at the time. I never knew what happened to Stanley (we knew him as Ginger!) except that he was killed by cannon fire from the German fighter ME110 who shot us down. Knowing that his body was recovered from our Halifax and has been properly remembered in the Sage War Cemetery helps restore my peace of mind.

We were a crew of seven from R.C.A.F. 425 (Alouette) Squadron, based in Tholthorpe, England. Ginger was our flight engineer (R.A.F.) On January 5th ,1945 we were returning from a raid on Hannover. Our aircraft was a Halifax III – W-William (Willie the Wolf). This was our 23rd bombing raid on Germany and one of our longest. There was heavy action with lots of “flak” and enemy night fighters. We were just starting to relax after dropping our bombs on Pathfinder sky markers when a German ME110 attacked from below. There was instant chaos amongst the crew on the flight deck of our Halifax when the incendiary cannon fire ripped through the belly of the aircraft. The exploding cannon shells also wrecked the inner starboard engine and the whole right wing. The interior of the aircraft became a raging inferno. Ginger was standing beside me adjusting the instruments and was hit by the incendiary bullets. He probably never knew what happened! The aircraft was now out of control so I gave the order to bail out. I tried to raise Ginger’s body but with the raging fire and upheaval of the spinning aircraft, I could do nothing. The rest of the crew parachuted to safety and were captured near the town of Halle, Germany. By the time I exited the burning aircraft I too was on fire about my face and arms. I landed outside the town and managed to avoid capture for 3 days en route back to the western front. Hungry at this point, I was discovered milking a cow by a local farmer and turned over to the German police. At the interrogation camp in Frankfurt I was reunited with the rest of my crew. We became prisoners of war in Stalag 1, Barth, Germany until liberated by the Russians in May 1945.

Ginger was a good flight engineer and a good friend. He was the youngest of our crew (19 years old). He was from Bradford, England… the only Brit in the group, but fitted in well with the Canadian crew. I visited his family when I was repatriated from POW camp in May 1945 and met them for the first time. His father thought Ginger might still be alive. I of course had to explain to the family how he was killed. It was most difficult. I have had no contact with Stanley’s family since that time. I would appreciate any contact information (address?) for the family if you have it in your records. If anyone reading this page should know the family please contact steve@twgpp.org

Photograph by David Milborrow / Martin Shilton


About the operation they were shot down

http://www.6bombergroup.ca/Jan45/Jan5~645.html

January 5/6, 1945133 Halifaxes from 408, 415, 420, 424, 425, 426, 427, 429, 432, and 433 squadrons were joined by 57 Lancasters from 419, 428, 431, and 434 squadrons on an attack at Hannover. The crews were over the target at between 18,000 to 20,000 feet, releasing 1,587,000 lbs of high explosives. According to reports, bombing was scattered through out the city.

F/Sgt. J. Cauchy, RCAF–POW and crew from 425 squadron, flying Halifax III MZ-860, coded KW-E, failed to return from this operation.

Sgt. E. Faulkner, RCAF–POW

F/O J. Lesperance, RCAF–POW

P/O J. Piche, RCAF – Killed

Sgt. R. Cantin, RCAF–POW

P/O J. Lamarre, RCAF – Killed

F/Sgt. J. Cote, RCAF–POW

2 crew were killed and 5 were POWs.

F/O J. Seguin, RCAF–POW and crew flying Halifax III NR-178, coded KW-J, failed to return from this operation.

P/O G. Noonan, RAF – Killed

F/O J. Bilodeau, RCAF–POW

Sgt. J. Cantin, RCAF–POW

P/O J. Lapierre, RCAF–POW

F/Sgt. J. Huet, RCAF–POW

Sgt. B. Simonin, RCAF – Killed

2 crew were killed and 5 were POWs.

F/O V. Brimicombe, RCAF–POW and crew flying Halifax III NP-999, coded KW-W, failed to return from this operation.

P/O S. Moore, RAF – Killed

F/O L. Coleman, RCAF–POW

F/O M. Berry, RCAF–POW

F/Sgt. G. Delong, RCAF–POW

F/Sgt. D. MacKeigan, RCAF–POW

F/Sgt. G. Hutton, RCAF–POW

1 crew member was killed and 6 were POWs.

 

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

 

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!