Jean Cauchy was the pilot of the Halifax right behind Larry Dubois’ Halifax on December 18, 1944.
Someone whose father was also a pilot with the 425 Alouette wrote me this week about Jean Cauchy. Bernier and Desmarais were close friends of her father who was on leave at that time.
She told me she read an article in La Presse about Jean Cauchy talking about his first mission.
My first mission
My first bombing mission on Germany
The Americans were bombing by day, the British and the Canadians were bombing by night. “I was not scared, said Jean Cauchy, but I was asking myself questions: what is going to happen to me?”
On the tarmac, his aircraft is next in line to take off.
In front, at the end of the runway, a big fireball rises in the sky. The bomber preceding him crashed on take-off.
This is hard for Jean Cauchy because the pilot in that plane was Desmarais with whom he did his training mission.
“The crew members asked me: ‘Skipper, do you think you will be able to take off?’. ‘Trust me’, I said. But I was soon breathing rapidly and I immediately closed my microphone so not to alarm them.”
Jean Cauchy had chosen his six crew members and they were putting their lives into his hands.
It was difficult to take off with this giant and overloaded bomber which seemed to bounce on its two huge tires.
“I was afraid that a tire might burst, he recalls, but this never happened.”
He had to lower the flaps to increase the lift on take-off. Then he closed them little by little as the aircraft gained speed and altitude.
Sitting on his couch in his lounge, Jean Cauchy uses his right hand to show how he was controlling the flaps just beside the controls of the bomb bay doors and the undercarriage. “We had to be careful not to use the wrong controls”, he said.
Perhaps Desmarais’ engineer had touched a wrong control by accident, he assumes…
Jean Cauchy did not get to Germany on that night. An engine stopped functionning on the way to the target and he had to turn back.
* This mission took place on December 18, 1944 and not in November.
December 18, 1944
188 Halifaxes from 408, 415, 420, 424, 425, 426, 427, 429, 432, 433, and 434 Squadrons were joined by 42 Lancasters from 419, 428, and 431 Squadrons on an attack at Duisberg.
The crews were over the target at between 17,000 and 21,000 feet, releasing 1,636,000 lbs of high explosives and 258,000 lbs of incendiaries. According to reports, severe damage was caused.
Sgt J. Cauchy from 425 Squadron returned early as one engine was u/s.
They landed safely at Linton on Ouse on 3 engines.
F/O G. Lareau returned early as they could not raise the under carriage.
F/Lt J. Belanger, F/O J. Sicotte, F/O J. MacHale, and F/Lt T. MacKinnon landed at East Kirkby on return due to poor weather at base.
P/O W. Corbett landed at Thurleigh on return due to poor weather at base.
P/O G. Chabot had the oxygen system u/s on return. They landed at Stanton Harcourt.
F/O J. Bellinger landed at Bovington on return due to poor weather at base.
F/O J. Desmarais RCAF and crew, flying Halifax III MZ-538 coded KW-V, crashed shortly after takeoff.
P/O J. Blackburn RAF F/O J. Bernier RCAF P/O J. Labrecque RCAF P/O J. Dubois RCAFF/Sgt J. Paradis RCAF F/Sgt J. Lariviere RCAF P/O R. Gauthier RCAF
All were killed.