Love, Hate and Propaganda

As a kid born after the Second World War, I inherited the Baby Boomer appellation.

I also watch many movies about WWII, the Big One as Archie Bunker would call it.

Those movies made me want to learn more about the war and thus I became interested in history, so much so I became a history teacher.

In my 34 year-long career, I taught history only for two years but those were wonderful years.

One movie that left an deep impression on me what Bataan with actor Robert Taylor. At that time I did not know the word propaganda

Love, Hate and Propaganda

Do you know this documentary series…?

Click here.

You can watch it all six episodes online.

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HMCS Athabaskan revisited

Stanley Dick’s niece wrote me…

Click on the picture to zoom in.

This blog started when my wife’s uncle told us he was on board the Athabaskan when it sank on April 29, 1944.

He was not on the list of sailors found in the book The Unlucky Lady. He gave me enough information so I truly believe he was on that ship that faithful night.

Since he did not want to talk about it more, I created this blog to pay homage to him and to all his shipmates.

Pierre died on Valentine’s Day 2010. He was 81.

Lest we forget.


This is how I got in touch with Tommy Smith’s son…

This is who I found Peter…
He had posted a message in a forum.

Re: Tommy Smith, wartime Mosquito pilot and McIndoe guinea-pig


Just wanted to say ‘thank you for your thoughts’

– I am one of Tommy’s sons. Imagine finding out your own father was the bravest man you ever knew, after he had died.

If your interested send me an email address and I’ll send you some further stuff.

These guys were the real deal. Hunting the German nightfighters at night at their own airfields in Germany. Bomber command had to do 55 ops to complete a tour, pathfinders 45, and these chaps 35.

Dad had only 30 to do because he had done a previous tour in 1941/2 of some 125 ops.

Graciously the RAF knocked 5 off cause he had completed a tour already.

Many thanks (please email replys)

You know what I did don’t you…

And now, I am helping Peter in his search for other airmen who flew with his father with my new blog  about No. 23 Squadron.

Click on the crest to visit my new blog.



Found this article about a Mosquito pilot with No. 23 Squadron

NOTAM

This is the article I wrote before sending an e-mail to Tommy Smith’s son.

I did not know this article was about his dad… Now I know all about Eugène Gagnon thanks to Peter.

 

ARTICLE

I can’t learn more about Eugène Gagnon’s operations over Germany, but I think this is close enough…

This is the story of a Mosquito pilot from the same squadron.


A MOSQUITO pilot with 23 Squadron from 1944 onwards, Tommy Smith flew many intruder missions as a flight lieutenant in the night skies over Germany, strafing lorries, trains and barges, and prowling near enemy airfields to shoot down German bombers or nightfighters as they returned from their sorties.

Marvellous though the Mosquito was, as the world’s first truly multirole combat aircraft, these missions were replete with peril by virtue of their sheer audacity, and eventually Smith’s luck ran out.

Shot down by flak early in 1945 while attacking enemy fighters at low level as they took off from their airfield near Berlin, he was terribly burnt, and made a PoW.

Blinded in one eye, partially blinded in the other and suffering facial disfigurement, he was liberated by the advancing Americans and repatriated in March 1945.

Mosquito_Fighter-bomber
Smith: flew intruder sorties in the night skies over Germany

Back in England he became a patient of the celebrated plastic surgeon, Sir Archibald McIndoe, who over many patient years rebuilt his face and, miraculously, restored his sight through one of the first successful cornea grafts to be carried out in the UK. Smith was thereafter able to fashion a highly successful career as an engineering consultant.

Born in 1920, Tom Anderson Smith was training to become an accountant when war cut short his studies and he joined the RAF.

After gaining his wings in 1941 he joined No 96 (nightfighter) Squadron, flying Defiants, until the vastly superior Beaufighter replaced them in the following year.

Head injuries, sustained during his first tour of operations, led to a non-operational medical categorisation, and for a while he served as a president of RAF courts of inquiry — “prang bashers”, as they were known.

But he thirsted to get back on operations and eventually persuaded an air vice-marshal neurologist to reclassify him A1.

In 1944 he joined 23 Squadron, based at Little Snoring, Norfolk, and was soon roaming with his comrades over Europe at night, aiming to wreak havoc on German lines of communication. Barges on the Elbe-Weser Canal and trains carrying ammunition and troops were targets of early strafing missions.

On a low-level attack on a fighter field near Berlin on the night of January 16-17, 1945, Smith destroyed two Me109s as they were taking off and was pursuing a third which was trying to elude him as it taxied, when he found himself flying between two flak towers at 200 ft. His aircraft was hit and one engine set on fire. He told his navigator to bale out, but he had difficulty opening the hatch so Smith told him to abort the bale-out, as they were by then too low. Not hearing him, the navigator went ahead and was killed when his parachute failed to open. Smith crash-landed in a snow-covered field, but was badly burnt as he struggled to extricate himself from his blazing aircraft.

Eventually succeeding in crawling from the inferno, he discovered that he had lost the sight in one eye, and could barely see out of the other.

After hospital treatment, he was sent to Dulag Luft-Oberursel, near Frankfurt, a transit camp which also served as an interrogation centre. His injuries did not save Smith from undergoing his share of the rigours of questioniong. But he revealed nothing about his Mosquito’s onboard radar, which luckily had been destroyed by the flames that had consumed the aircraft.

A few weeks later the camp was severely damaged by Allied bombing and Smith was transferred to a convent hospital. There he was liberated by the US 3rd Army in March 1945.

Back in England, after demob he was sent to the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, where, over the years, he endured many operations to rebuild his face.

In addition to having his sight restored, he was married to Joy, one of McIndoe’s theatre sisters.

Sighted once more, Smith was able to resume his prewar career. He qualified as a chartered accountant, and then went to the University of Glasgow, where he took a degree in engineering. He became a management consultant with Urwick, Orr and Diebold, for whom he travelled the world supervising such engineering projects as railways in Jamaica and construction in Turkey, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Guyana. He also undertook assignments for the World Bank.

In retirement he enjoyed offshore cruising and flying in light aircraft as a passenger — though on those occasions when he took the controls himself, he showed that his wartime skills were undiminished.

He is survived by his wife Joy, and by two daughters and three sons.

Tommy Smith, wartime Mosquito pilot and McIndoe guinea-pig, was born on March 23, 1920. He died on May 14, 2006, aged 86.

Times Online

Little Snoring, July 1945

(Courtesy of Tom Cushing via Peter Smith)

This is Eugène Gagnon in July 1945.

This picture was sent to me by the son of Tommy Smith, a No. 23 Squadron Mosquito pilot.

His story is amazing.

He served with Eugène Gagnon.

Tommy Smith died in 2006.

His son knew little about his father in the RAF. His father mostly talked about his fellow airmen.

His son is writing a book on No. 23 Squadron.

Next time, I will tell you how I met him.

Eugène Gagnon DFC
The hero who is less and less unknown in Bromptonville

More pictures of Larry Dubois

I wrote two articles about Jean-Charles Labrecque and one on Laurent Dubois.

Eddy’s daughter found my articles and she told her father, Eddy Dubois, Larry’s brother. Eddy told me I could share his pictures of Larry with my readers.

Here are some pictures. Most are from his training days.

Eddy wrote me and gave me more info about Larry.

He was in the Royal Canadian Signal Corps when war broke out (militia not permanent).

I was the one who suggested he joined the RCAF. They accepted him and sent him by train to Guelph I believe. Then he was in Ottawa gassing planes. He then took a course in stores in St. Thomas and by this time they were looking for aircrew so he applied for WAG and got it.

They sent him out West I think, and when he graduated, he was posted to PEI on Ansons for submarine search. Summerside and Charlottetown.

He had a crash in an Anson and was nicknamed PANIC because of the SOS’s he sent out. They came down among some trees which tore off the wings.

He was there until they posted him overseas where he was in an English  squadron (he had a crash there also) then he was posted to 425.

1942

1942

Start of flight training

Air orientation flight

somewhere in Canada

Larry is in a Tiger Moth, a trainer.
He sits behind pilot as radio operator.

Crew

His crew in Prince Edward Island

I have written to the Library and Archives Canada to get Larry’s records.

By the way, I found on the Internet that you can buy Jean-Charles Labrecque’s medals…

This is always hard for me to comprehend specially when he never worn them.

Six. 1939-45 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Defence Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Overseas clasp, War Medal, Memorial Cross (GVI). Memorial Cross  named to P.O. J.R.J.C. LABRECQUE J88921. 

Jospeh Labrecque died, aged 28, while serving with 425 Sqn.  His aircraft, Halifax III MZ-538 coded KW-V, piloted by F/O J. Desmarais RCAF, crashed shortly after takeoff on 18 December 1944, killing the entire crew, which included P/O J. Blackburn RAF, F/O J. Bernier RCAF, P/O J. Labrecque RCAF, P/O J. Dubois RCAF, F/Sgt J. Paradis RCAF, F/Sgt J. Lariviere RCAF, and P/O R. Gauthier RCAF. 

The mission they were particiating in involved 188 Halifaxes from 408, 415, 420, 424, 425, 426, 427, 429, 432, 433, and 434 Squadrons, who were joined by 42 Lancasters from 419, 428, and 431 Squadrons on an attack at Duisberg.  Medals are court-mounted.

VF Condition $925

He had no high school but he was in the Royal Canadian Corps of signalls when war broke out ( militia not permanent. I was the one he suggested he join the RCAF. They accept him and sent him to train at Quelph I beleive then he was in Ottawa gassing planes. He then took a course in stores in St. Thomas and by this time they were looking for aircrew so he applied for WAG and got it. They sent him out West I think and when he graduated he was posted to PEI on Ansons submarine search. Summerside and Charlottetown ( had a crash in an Anson and was nicknamed PANIC because of the SOS’s he sent out. The came down among some trees which tore off the wings until they posted him overseas where he was in a English  squadron ( he had a crash here also) then was posted to 425..
His address was WO2 Dubois J.E.L. R81634 RCAF Overseas on Dec.21 1943 ( He wrote me in Bermuda)
I lost his log books in the many moves I have made. EDDY

I am just awestruck…

For you Mosquito fans, I have just found someone whose father was with No. 23 Squadron in Little Snoring.

He is planning to write a book on his father.

This is what he sent me… among other things…

(Courtesy of Tom Cushing via Peter Smith)

He phoned me from England this morning.

He knows of another Mosquito pilot.

He is not French-Canadian though. He is an English-Canadian Mosquito pilot and he lives in Hamilton where I intend to go this summer and visit the HMCS Haida that rescued my wife’s uncle back in April 1944.