Pilot Jack McIntosh – The last Canadian to bomb Peenemunde

Pilot Jack McIntosh

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An homage written by Clarence Simonsen.

Excerpt

Pilot Jack McIntosh–The last Canadian to bomb Peenemunde

Medecine Hat 2

Jack became a friend of mine beginning in the fall 1986, while I was attempting to record the aircraft nose art used by No. 6 RCAF Group during WW II. He invited me to attend the up-coming Moose squadron reunion to be held at Camp Sarcee in July 1987, and I accepted. The reunion was held in a beautiful constructed log building, which was then an active Officer’s Mess for C.F.B. Calgary, on the leased land owned by the Sarcee Indian Reserve. The land had been used for a Canadian militia training base since the summer of 1910, and would remain until 21 June 1997.

While taking with Jack, he gazed out across the vast grass and tree covered ground and stated “This is where my military career all began.”

Full text here…

Pilot Jack McIntosh –The last Canadian to bomb Peenemunde

Jack became a friend of mine beginning in the fall 1986, while I was attempting to record the aircraft nose art used by No. 6 RCAF Group during WW II. He invited me to attend the up-coming Moose squadron reunion to be held at Camp Sarcee in July 1987, and I accepted. The reunion was held in a beautiful constructed log building, which was then an active Officer’s Mess for C.F.B. Calgary, on the leased land owned by the Sarcee Indian Reserve. The land had been used for a Canadian militia training base since the summer of 1910, and would remain until 21 June 1997.

While talking with Jack, he gazed out across the vast grass and tree covered ground and stated “This is where my military career all began.”

Jack was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, on 26 June 1922. His father had served in WW I and was wounded twice, he was awarded the Military Medal and Bar. He emigrated from Scotland in 1919, and became a member of the local police force for the next forty years. Out of respect for his father’s WW I achievements, Jack joined the local Militia [South Alberta Regiment] in 1938. After graduation from high school, Jack was hired by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, age 17 years. He had just settled into his new job when war was declared by England, 3 September 1939. Army Militia parades were now held each week with three weeks summer training at Camp Sarcee on the outskirts of Calgary, where Jack learned his Army skills.  By March 1941, Jack was a fully qualified infantry sergeant and decided to join the regular service, but not the Canadian Army for a number of good reasons. On 30 June 1941, he enlisted in the RCAF and was posted to No. 2 Manning Depot at Brandon, Manitoba. Thanks to this Army training, he was promoted to Corporal after one month, which meant no kitchen or guard duty.

He next trained at No. 2 Initial Training School at Regina, Saskatchewan, and pilot training at No. 8 E.F.T.S. at Vancouver, B.C. [two months] then No. 7 S.F.T.S. at Fort Macleod, Alberta, four months on Avro Ansons, then his wings on 15 April 1942, and promotion to Sgt. Pilot. He was posted to No. 419 [Moose] Squadron, Middleton St. George, County Durham, England. His first operation was flown on 13 February 1943, ‘second dicky’ to Sgt. pilot Bill Gray, to bomb Lorient, France.

Jack flew during the 1943 Bomber Command period of time when bomber crews required 200 cumulated hours of combat flying time, which was equal to 30 operations or a full tour. This was normally followed by six months posting to a training unit or staff promotion, then a second tour of 30 or more operations.

The challenges facing the young aircrew often seemed overwhelming, and they were highly vulnerable to physical and mental symptoms of stress. Two common denominators of stress was identified as showing up in the first five operations flown, combined with the matter-of-fact acceptance of sudden death. Jack faced this expression of his feelings toward a violent sudden death after his third operation, when two of his crew were killed in action, one wounded, and his aircraft was shot up, set on fire and he had to make a crash landing at base. The death of his two crew members was particularly hard on Jack as he knew it was inevitable, he would never live to complete his 30 operations or see Canada again.  Jack was well aware of the consequences of being convicted of the Lack of Moral Fibre designation, issued in 1941, and employed against aircrew who could not fly for reasons considered unjustified. These airmen were grounded, stripped of all rank badges in front of all squadron members in a parade square ceremony. The Canadian was then dishonorably discharged and returned to Canada disgraced to all.

This threat became the most powerful incentive that powered Jack to continue his combat operations. While many Canadian RCAF aircrews turned to booze and party drunkenness to battle their stress, Jack was not a drinker and turned to the squadron Padre to express his feelings and challenges. On 1 May 1943, the C.O. Wing Commander Merv Fleming, the squadron padre, and Jack had a long talk about life, death, and real wartime aviation situations.

After the talk, the Commanding Officer informed Jack he would be given a new Halifax Bomber Mk. II “Special” directly from the factory. Jack made a special point of getting a ride over to meet the English female ferry pilot, who delivered his new Halifax bomber. He always recalled how upset the ferry lady pilot became, as she did not wish to meet any operational pilots. She would not look Jack in the eyes, as she knew he would soon be dead. Once again, Jack had to deal with the hard cold facts of the air-war in England.

Jack had been flying the old Halifax Mk. II, which had many structural deficiencies and the Merlin  engines, simply did not have enough power. The new Mark II “Special” had new Merlin XXII engines, with the front nose guns removed, with a smooth nose fairing, mid-upper turret removed, and a new improved speed of 16 MPH. Jack christened his new bomber with his Canadian town of birth, “Medicine Hat” and the Nose painting of Walt Disney’s Goofy picking bombs from a hat. The nose art work was the idea of the ground crew artist, a name forgotten by Jack over the passage of time. The nose art was completed in one day, and first flew on operation number ‘nine’, 21 June 1943. This new aircraft and his nose art became the small inspiration needed, and Jack generally acquired the renewed sense of hope he would actually survive his 30th operation.

Over the next five months Jack completed twenty-three operations in “Medicine Hat”, and they never received another hit or injury to his crew.

Medecine Hat 1

Jack – “The name and nose art made it feel she was ‘our’ aircraft and would always bring us home.”

 

In the past 50 years of nose art research, I have befriended and interviewed two survivors of the Bomber Command Raid on Peenemunde, 17/18 August 1943. Jack McIntosh and his crew in “Medicine Hat” survived the raid for a unique number of reasons.

The cover of my 2001 book on RAF and RCAF Aircraft Nose Art was dedicated to Jack and his crew.

p_noseartclarence3

The raid took place in bright moonlight and at a very low altitude of around 8,000 feet. The first two sections of the raid fooled the Germans into thinking the main target was Berlin, thus when the Canadian Group arriving in the very last [third] wave, they suffered the highest casuality rate in Bomber Command. All German night-fighters had been ordered to Berlin, and when they realized the real raid was at Peenemunde, they had to land and refuel. The Germans attacked the last wave in full-force, with a total of 20 per cent or twelve of sixty-two Canadian crews lost on the raid. No. 6 [RCAF] Group, squadron numbers 419, 428, 434, each lost three aircraft, 426 lost two and No. 426 lost one aircraft with the C.O. Wing Commander Leslie Crooks, DSO, DFC, killed.  In total 243 airmen were killed, 60 were Canadians.

Jack McIntosh and his crew in “Medicine Hat” arrived over the moonlight target where they could see the tremendous fires raging on the ground. They encountered no flak and very few searchlights, dropped their bombs and then set a course for England. Ahead of them Jack observed the main bomber force stream being attacked and shot down in flames, some aircraft blazing from end to end, others spinning wildly out of control, bombers blowing up to his left and right. Jack knew many of his fellow squadron aircrew were feverishly attempting to abandon the stricken bombers, but remained trapped within their spinning aircraft. Nothing could be done and this became intensely demoralizing as in a few minutes Jack flew through the same air space of death, yet no attack ever came.

Bomber Command lost 40 bomber aircraft, 23 Lancasters, 15 Halifaxes, and 2 Stirling bombers.  Jack and his crew were never attacked, and it took him twenty years to understand the reason why.

The Halifax “Medicine Hat’ was a slow veteran, an older bomber with a reduced airspeed. In the 1960s, Jack learned he was the very last bomber to drop his bombs at Peenemunde, and the very last to land back at England. These events and “Medicine Hat” saved his life. He really believed his nose art image gave him ‘good luck’.

Medecine Hat

Simonsen’s replica nose art painting 2002, in Bomber Command Museum at Nanton, Alberta.

During the time period Jack served in Bomber Command, the RCAF survival rate was 41 men per every 100 airmen who joined. When Jack completed his 30 operations he was sent to teach the new airmen at a Heavy Conversion Unit. During this period of time, Bomber Command reached a peak fatality rate, only 24 aircrew of the original 100 who enlisted survived these operations. Fifty-one would be killed on operations and nine killed on non-operational training accidents.

The Halifax B. Mk. II Special named “Medicine Hat” was flown by many other crews, and carried the code letters VR-O and VR-D, with serial JD114. The Halifax set a record for most operations flown by any other bomber in No. 419 Squadron, competing 50. On 19 February 1944, “Medicine Hat” took off but never returned to base. She was shot down on her 51st operation, with all crew killed.

Jack had begun a career with the Imperial Bank of Commerce just before the outbreak of World War Two. He returned to Calgary and married his childhood sweetheart, Jan, then enjoyed a long and successful post-war career with the CIBC.

I enjoyed a number of visits to the McIntosh home, and during one of these he explained, at one point in his banking career; he was in charge of bank loans. Jack was often called in by his senior banking officer and question over his easy loans and not following bank policy. Jack said “I was a pretty good judge of a man’s character, and not much for bank policy. “ “My loans were always repaid in full.”

On my fifth visit, Jack turned to me and stated – “When I joined the RCAF I was a virgin, and on my 21 birthday in England, my crew [which were all older] took me out and attempted to get me laid.” “I came home a virgin and married Jan.”

I last saw my friend Jack McIntosh at a nose art lecture I gave at the Aero Space Museum of Calgary in 2002. He sat with his dear wife Jan, just like a man in church, he had no idea who I was or what my lecture was about. Jack had Alzheimer’s disease, a sad ending for a brave man. We shook hands and that was it, but he will never ever be forgotten. In those last few years of his life, the painful memories of his wartime experiences were all gone, and Jack soon joined his comrades in the sky.

 

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7 thoughts on “Pilot Jack McIntosh – The last Canadian to bomb Peenemunde

  1. Bonjour,

    Merci de faire partager ce témoignage très intéressant et instructif (quoique très émouvant et triste), permettant de faire découvrir le quotidien des équipages du Bomber Command, trop souvent minimisé et oublié par rapport aux opérations de jours des B-17.

  2. Reblogged this on Lest We Forget and commented:

    More about LMF

    The challenges facing the young aircrew often seemed overwhelming, and they were highly vulnerable to physical and mental symptoms of stress. Two common denominators of stress was identified as showing up in the first five operations flown, combined with the matter-of-fact acceptance of sudden death. Jack faced this expression of his feelings toward a violent sudden death after his third operation, when two of his crew were killed in action, one wounded, and his aircraft was shot up, set on fire and he had to make a crash landing at base. The death of his two crew members was particularly hard on Jack as he knew it was inevitable, he would never live to complete his 30 operations or see Canada again. Jack was well aware of the consequences of being convicted of the Lack of Moral Fibre designation, issued in 1941, and employed against aircrew who could not fly for reasons considered unjustified. These airmen were grounded, stripped of all rank badges in front of all squadron members in a parade square ceremony. The Canadian was then dishonorably discharged and returned to Canada disgraced to all.

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