All my best in the New Year – French Canadian Turtle with Wings

Another message from Clarence Simonsen, a a precious contributor…

Hello Pierre, 

This is in fact three stories in one. Group Captain Dunlap was an outstanding RCAF Officer, who served [exchange duty] with the RAF in 1935, and for this reason understood the British and thinking of the pre-war RAF. He was one officer who was not afraid to express his true point of view and give a blunt reply to everything. He was in fact – “a man’s man” and did everything he could to serve and take care of the members under his command. When he arrived in North Africa and was informed [by RAF Command] the best landing strips had been taken by the RAF, he was determined his Canadians would not take second best or fly at night from the mountainous regions the British had picked for him. By the use of the barter system and some booze, he persuaded a Major in the American Engineers to build two dirt strips next to the RAF units, then informed the RAF Command to supply his three RCAF squadrons. This saved Canadian lives, [including French-Canadians] and showed the British the type of Canadian officer who was in total command of his RCAF squadrons.
 
The creation of No 420 and 425 Wellington desert nose art began at these two dirt landing strips, thanks to LAC Skip Rutledge. In a crazy twist of fate, the official war artist [Paul Goranson] also recorded the same Wellington nose art as painted by Rutledge. This would make an impressive educational display if we only had a nose art museum. Other paintings by Goranson capturing the air war in the desert are in storage in the War Museum but will they ever be shown? This is a simple case [but very rare] where unofficial nose art and official war art can be combined to educate.
 
The power of nose art can be clearly seen in the little slow Wellington bomber, which set a record in No. 425 with 46 consecutive operations. This was all due to the fact the French Canadian ground crew took extra care of their “Slow but Sure” bomber. My replica turtle painting has never been published before.  
 
Over to you Pierre.
 
All my best in the New Year.

Here is another gem post from Clarence Simonsen. This time it’s about RCAF Squadrons in Tunisia in 1943.

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy

On 22 June 1942, an organization order was issued authorizing the formation of Canada’s fifth RCAF Heavy Bomber squadron in England. No. 425 squadron came into existence three days later at R.A.F. Station Dishforth, Yorkshire, England, a unit in No. 4 Group of Bomber command. What made this squadron unique in the wartime RCAF history is the fact it was formed as a French Canadian unit and its ranks filled by French Canadian air and ground crews. They picked the motto “Je te plumerai” [I shall pluck you] and the nickname Alouette, the official badge showing a sky lard bird in the hovering position.

logo escadron 425

Centuries before, their French ancestors the Gauls, used this same lark bird image as the official tribe emblem and engraved it on their battle helmets in time of war. No. 425 began training in the Vickers Wellington B. Mk. III bombers in August 1942, with eight crews flying the first operation to Aachen, Germany, on 5 October 1942. On 1 January 1943, the French Canadian squadron joined eight other squadrons to become No. 6 [RCAF] Group of RAF Bomber Command. By April 1943, the Alouette Wellington aircraft had successfully bombed Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Bochum, Hamburg [2], Cologne [2], Essen [2] and a third trip to Duisburg, Germany, on 26 April 43.

On 3 April 1943, the British Air Ministry asked the Canadian Government to approve the use of three experienced Wellington RCAF squadrons for the invasion of Sicily, named Operation “Husky.” On 10 April, No. 420, 424 and 425 Squadrons were selected to become part of No. 205 [RAF] Group, 331 Wing, flying new Wellington Mk. X bombers which were tropicalized for use in the heat, sand, and frequent dust storms of Tunisia. No. 331 Wing was officially formed on 7 May 1943, under command of Group Captain Clarence Larry Dunlap, a pre-war RCAF officer.

All my best in the New Year.

Group Captain Clarence Rupert Larry Dunlap 1943

Upon arrival in the theatre of operations [21 June 43] G/C Dunlap was informed it would be impossible for the Canadians to operate out of the planes of Tunisia, as this space had been claimed by three squadrons of the RAF under No. 331 Wing.

 No. 70 RAF Squadron had taken over Kairouan/Temmar on 25 May 43, No. 40 RAF Squadron had moved 10 miles north to occupy Kairouan/El Alem, on 28 May 43, while No. 37 RAF Squadron was located south at Kairouan/Allami on 30 May 1943.

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No. 331 Wing RAF in West Kairouan May 1943

The new Canadian RCAF commander of No. 331 Wing was not impressed when the British informed him he would be operating further south-west in the mountainous region between Algeria and Tunisia. Thanks to some lost poker cash and a few bottles of Scotch whiskey, two new RCAF dirt airfields were constructed in four days by a Major in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. G/C Dunlap then informed RAF Mediterranean Air Command Headquarters the RCAF would be located in the Tunisian plains and the RAF should find the means to supply his Canadian squadrons with fuel, ammunition and food. The British reluctantly agreed, and the Canadians prepared for air war in North African.

The Canadians of No. 424 Squadron moved into Kairouan/Pavillier, while members of No. 420 and 425 Squadrons took over the new landing strip at Kairouan/Zina on 23 June 1943. The two new dirt landing air strips were only ten miles apart and thirty miles from the Mediterranean coast city of Sousse, much safer for the Canadians returning from night time operations.

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By 25 June 1943, No. 425 Squadron was declared operational and flew their first operation on 26/27 June 43, when they joined No. 420 Squadron attacked the airstrip at the town of Sciacca, then continued with raids on other ports in Sardinia and Sicilian airfields.

 

 

 Rutledge

photo Floyd Rutledge

LAC Floyd “Skip” Rutledge joined the RCAF on 17 October 1940, and after training as an air engine mechanic was posted to No. 3 SFTS at Calgary, Alberta, for practical experience in his trade. In April 1942, he was posted to his first active squadron No. 420 [Snowy Owl] at Waddington, Linc. , England. Here he painted his very first RCAF nose art on a Handley-Page Hampton Mk. I bomber, which featured a native Indian in full head dress.

Skip arrived at Kairouan/Zina air strip on 23 June 1943, and began working on the new Wellington Mk. X aircraft in the extreme 120 F desert outdoor conditions. During his tour in North Africa he painted at least five Wellington aircraft with RCAF nose art. [Possibly including Wellington bombers in No. 425 Squadron, he could not recall?]

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Stork Stork Clarence Simonsen

This impressive stork with the tail of a Wellington bomber was painted for No. 420 [Snowy Owl] Squadron at Kairouan/Zina, air strip in August 1943. [photo Floyd Rutledge] The 2003 scale replica was painted by Simonsen and today hangs in the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta. This original stork sketch done by Skip in North Africa 1943, was also donated to Nanton in 2010 by Simonsen.

 A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (7)

In August 1943, official war artist Paul Goranson painted this Wellington nose art of No. 420 Squadron bomber “Scarlet Harlot” which he titled “Bombing Up a Blockbuster.” This was sketched at Kairouan/Zina featuring pinup girl painted by nose artist “Skip” Rutledge. This painting is today in the War Museum collection or photo PL47565.

This is the original Wellington nose art by Skip Rutledge, photographed by him in August 1943, North Africa, Kairouan/Zina.

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (6)

The three RCAF Squadrons based at Landing strip Kairouan/Pavillier [No. 424] and Kairouan/Zina [No. 420 and 425] would produce impressive Canadian Wellington nose art paintings.

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S/L Joe McCarthy, DFC, No. 424 Squadron, Kairouan/Pavillier, 28 September 1943. [PL18385]

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (4)

F/Sgt. Art Jackson [Vancouver, B.C.] F/Sgt. B.H. Tremblay, [Montreal] and F/Sgt. Joe Ross, [River Bend, Quebec] admire their No. 425 Wellington Mk. X bomber “Chat-an-ooga-choo-choo” nose art. 31 August 1943. [PL18303]

 

From the very first operation flown on 26/27 June 43, one “Alouette” Wellington Mk. X bomber code “X” for X-Ray, HE978, immediately acquired a reputation for being very slow, most often the last bomber to land at base, but always coming home. Night after night this Wellington KW-X flew different crews to Mediterranean targets, always returning very last, but never acting temperamental like some bombers in the squadron. The air and ground crews began to feel a kind of condescending confidence in this slow aircraft, with the ground crew slowly getting over their feelings of inferiority. Soon they were lavishing extra hours of repair work and attention to the engines of their slow bomber.

Wellington ground crew –    

Cpl. Andre Lupien from Lac a la Tortue, Quebec.

LAC Yvon Monette from Montreal, Quebec.

LAC Eric Merry from Vancouver, B.C.

LAC C. Schierer from Ponoka, Alberta.

After each operation the ground crew painted a small orange bomb for night operations, and as the bombs mounted, they spoke with subdued pride of ‘their’ aircraft. When the Wellington was shot up the same ground crew worked all the next day to have her ready for the next night operation. When the Sicilian campaign ended their bomber had not missed one single operation, a 425 Alouette record of 32 consecutive trips to Sicily, which they proudly boosted about. Pilot Officer Armitage from Miniota, Manitoba, was the bomb aimer on many operations flown in the Wellington bomber, and he dreamed up the idea of giving her a nose art name “Slow But Sure” taken from Aesop’s fable of “The Hare and the Tortoise.” Next came the nose art image created by P/O Armitage, who was assisted by all the ground crew in painting the new art on the left nose area. The nose art became a winged turtle holding one large bomb in her claws.

 A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (3)

With the capture of Sicily, it was intended that No. 331 Wing would be disbanded and return to Britain by the end of July 1943. This date was moved back to 15 September 1943, and the Wing would now take part in the invasion of Italy. 

Wellington “Slow But Sure” was now flying day time operations bombing the Foggia Italian airfields, railway yards in Naples, and rail and road junctions of Salerno. These targets were now painted with white bombs on her nose, and she was no longer looking new, with her life span now measured in hours. The big surprise was the fact her bomber performances kept improving and in her last four operations, she was in the first group of bombers to return to base. On 15 September 43, the little “Turtle with wings” made her 46th consecutive operation to bomb Italy, but on return her bearings were worn out. She was taken off operations and ordered to a salvage unit. While looking at their bomber, the ground crew decided she should be given a D.F.C. for all those record making operations. Between the last row of bombs a DFC ribbon was painted with her nose art.

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (2)

 

[Photo PL18351] records the top left [ground crew LAC C. Schierer] four aircrew and bottom ground crew – L to R LAC E. Merry, Cpl. A. Lupien and LAC Y. Monette. These were the very proud ground crew who painted the impressive record of 46 operations [32 night and 14 day] plus the little “Turtle with Wings” nose art.

 

 A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (10)-001

On 30 September 1943, the three RCAF Squadrons of No. 331 Wing pull up tents and move to Landing Ground #33 at Hani East, Tunisia.  

A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (10)-002

This RCAF “Moving Day” was captured in another official water color by war artist Paul Goranson, 30 Sept. 1943. Today this painting remains in storage in the War Museum collection in Ottawa. [photo image PL47563]

 A French Canadian Turtle with Wings - Copy (10)-003

No. 425 Wellington B. Mk. X, “Blues in the Night.” Left to Right – P/O J.E. Leigh, F/Sgt. R.S. MacKay, Ferdinand le Dressay and P/O C. L. Spooner, 31 August 1943, [PL183303]

The nose art images on the Wellington bombers of No. 425 Squadron continued their fight until early October 1943, when the Germans retreated further north in Italy and the front line was stabilized. On 27 October 43, the members of RCAF No. 331 Wing boarded their troop ships and returned to home bases of Dalton, Dishforth and Skipton in England. Their trusty Wellington Mk. X bombers with Canadian nose art was left behind for the RAF units and forgotten.

The little “French Canadian Turtle with Wings” was slow but sure, and to the men who flew in her and came home, she was no Aesop’s’ fable, but a large part of No. 425 [Alouette] Squadron history in North Africa.

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Misguided Views And Attitudes: The German War Bride

A story to be shared

alesiablogs

This is one of the original German letters written during WWII. This is one of the original German letters written during WWII. This blog has been honored with a unique historical opportunity. It is to share letters written by a WWII German war bride to her beloved husband. These letters capture images of a time long ago. They give us a face to German life and war that perhaps our own history books have not shed a light on. Her masterful letter writing spans five years. These correspondences are one-sided since the husband’s letters were burned, but we do hear through the wife’s voice pureness that transcends time.
During the next several decades after WWII, daughter and mother discussed those letters at different intervals. He never returned home and his body was never found. The author of those letters loved her husband more than life itself and never remarried. She cried insufferably at times to her daughter. When it seemed so…

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A Merry Christmas special from Clarence Simonsen

French/American/Canadian –  RCAF Mid-Under Gunner

Donald Alfred Doucette was born in Portland, Maine, 24 April 1922, whose parents who were French/Canadians, Joseph and Rose Doucette [nee Guinard]. In 1920, his parents moved to Maine, U.S.A., seeking employment, and then returned to Prince Edward Island, Canada, in 1929. Donald was born an American citizen, but in those days received no citizenship papers and his parents requested none. Americans and Canadians crossed the border from country to country without any questions being ask or documents being shown.

From 1929 to the beginning of World War Two, Donald believed he was Canadian, but that all changed when he attempted to enlist in the RCAF in February 1942. He was posted to Edmundston, New Brunswick, where he trained as a RCAF airframe mechanic, receiving $7 per week, however he was not issued or allowed to wear the RCAF uniform. If he wished to serve in RCAF aircrew, Don was informed he would first have to become a Canadian citizen, which he agreed to do. Next posting became No. 1 Manning Depot in Toronto, Ontario, where he arrived in June 1942. This was followed by two days of paper work, signing his immigration request and last a swore oath to the Queen of England. He was now a member of the RCAF and posted to Three Rivers, Quebec, where he received three months Commando training. During this training period he received leave and attempted to return to Maine, where the U.S. customs refused entry, due to the fact he had no papers to prove he was American and he was not yet a Canadian. Don was a man with no country, an American born citizen, wearing the uniform of the RCAF. He completed his first posting and reported to No. 3 Initial Training School, Victoriaville, Quebec, then completed his airframe mechanic training at Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.

At the completion of training he was accepted for gunnery training and reported to No. 10 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mount Pleasant, Prince Edward Island. He began his gunnery training on 17 January 1944, and completed the course on 7 April, with promotion to Sgt. R112434 Doucette. His log book records total flying time and 303 cal. flight training was 16:20 hrs.

Sgt. Doucette departed Halifax for overseas, and after two days at sea the ship Capt. announced the invasion of Europe, “D-Day” 6 June 1944. His ship landed at a channel coast town and over one hundred air gunner’s were paraded in front of an RCAF Officer. This Officer read fifty names from a list and had then fall-out and reform on the right of the other group. The group was informed they would be trained for a new gunner position called “Mid-Under’. The Officer then read out five names, including Sgt. Donald Doucette, and they were instructed  they would be posted at once to an active RCAF squadron as ‘spare’ gunners to fly as Rear, Mid-Upper or the new Mid-Under gun position. Sgt. Doucette was posted to No. 425 [Alouette] squadron on 14 June 1944.

Until August 1943, the usual German night-fighter tactics were to try and approach the RAF target bomber from slightly below. If the night-fighter was seen during this approach, the bomber would usually go into a corkscrew evasive manoeuvre, and the German pilot had to make the best attack he could under the circumstances. If the bomber was flown by skilful pilot, even the best German fighter pilots had difficulty hitting the target, and the bomber normally escaped. This all changed on the RAF raid on Peenemunde on 17/18 August 1943, when a new night-fighter was introduced by the Luftwaffe. A squadron of Bf110’s were fitted with two 20 mm cannon in an upward firing installation called “Schrage Musik.” These night-fighters were also equipped with new SH-2 radar which had a range of four miles, and could not be jammed by the British use of window – “thin strips of aluminium foil dropped in bundles of a thousand, at one minute intervals.”

This new Schrage Musik allowed the German night-fighter to fly low under the bomber normally never seen by the bomber crew. The usual aiming point now became the wing close to one of the engines, for there lay the inflammable fuel tanks. This new tactic was called “Zahme Sau” and it reached its peak on 30/31 March 1944, when German night-fighters using this method brought down the majority of RAF bombers lost. On this raid the RAF bombers suffered the worst single disaster of the war, when 96 of 795 aircraft dispatched to bomb Nuremberg failed to return, or 11.8 percent. No. 6 [RCAF] Group dispatched 110 bombers and 13 failed to return. March 1944, became the worst month of the war for Bomber Command when 283 bombers were shot down, including 29 Canadian.

To combat this new dangerous threat the Canadian Halifax aircraft in No. 6 Group were being equipped with a new 50 cal. gun position which was named “Mid Under Gunner.”  Sgt. Doucette recalls he received two days of instruction on the new 50 cal. gun but no operational training. The single 50 cal. machine gun was mounted in the belly of the Halifax, pointing downwards, and it was aimed between the gunners knees. The ammo feed came from the right, where four ammo boxes held 4,000 rounds each.

Sgt. Doucette flew 31 operations in Halifax aircraft in No. 425 squadron and 28 were flown as Mid-Under gunner, three as rear gunner. His first operation was flown on 9 August 1944, in Halifax B. Mk. III, “O” to Foret de Nieppe, France, “Old Bill” as rear gunner.

Don Doucette - Copy

 

On 10 August 44, a veteran Halifax bomber serial MZ674 was transferred from No. 429 Squadron to No. 425 and she came complete with nose art, and name “Honey Chile”, along with  the names of the first 429 squadron crews girlfriends or wifes.

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The ladies names were painted over but the nose art lady and name “Honey Chile” remained.

On 14 August 1944, Halifax Mk. III, serial MZ672 became the aircraft of the Pilot/Officer Angus Hutcheon.

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[top row L-R] Doug Phelps, rear gun, Ted Smith RAF, Flt/Engineer, Angus Hutcheon, pilot, [ground crew ?] Bromberg, Navigator, [front row] Cassels, Wireless, D.O. Bromovitch, Bomb Aimer,  spare Mid-Upper gunner ?, and Don Doucette, Mid-Under gunner.

On 14 October 1944, Sgt. Doucette flew in MZ672 “Honey Chile” with pilot F/L St. Jean, this was a 1,000 plane raid to Duisburg, Germany. The crew flew their 31 operation and last [12th] in Honey Chile on 6 November 1944, to Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

Don Doucette - Copy (5)

This was the last photo taken by Sgt. Doucette of his Halifax “Honey Chile” which had completed 35 operations, and her combat days are over. She has proudly served her French/Canadian squadron and now she will train new aircrew of the RCAF. On 9 November 44, she is transferred to No. 1666 Heavy Conversion Unit and then again on 1 December 1944 transferred to No. 1664 H.C.U. where she flies until 7 May 1945. Sent for disposal at No. 45 M.U. on 15 May 1945 and later scrapped.

Don Doucette - Copy (4)

Last photo taken by F/L Lindsay in mid-May 1945, then scrapped.

 

 

I first met Donald Doucette at a 1996 event held in the Nanton Lancaster museum.

Don Doucette - Copy (3)

Don had overcome a number of health issues and one had cost him the use of his voice. He spoke with a voice box, which he placed to his throat and then a mechanical voice answered your questions. He was very proud of the fact his initials spelled “DAD’, which he truly was, a warm peaceful loving father and family man. I learned he had become a railroad engineer at Port Cartier, Quebec, in 1962 and later moved to Calgary, Alberta, where he retired. He loved the west, hand built his own fishing boat and enjoyed gardening. I would also learn something very special about Don and his many hours spent woodcarving beautiful nativity scenes, which he gave away to his friends.

With the ending of World War One, a number of Calgary individuals came together and began planting a tree for each fallen soldier of the Great War. The first tree was planted on 11 May 1922, by Calgary Mayor Adams, and this continued until 1928, when 3,278 trees had been planted. Metal discs were placed on each tree, inscribed with date, donor’s name and a tag number. The original trees were planted on Sunnyside Boulevard which was renamed Memorial Drive to honour Canada’s soldiers killed in WWI.  The majority of these trees were Populus wobbstii, commonly called the western poplar. In the year 2000, these trees were coming to the end of their lifespan and many were being cut down by City of Calgary parks. Don was very proud of his French roots, being a Canadian in the RCAF and never missed a Remembrance Day Celebration in Calgary or Nanton.  He was saddened by the fact the old memorial trees stood for a fallen WWI soldier and now they were being cut up and thrown away. Don drove down to the cutting operation and loaded his car trunk with bark from the Memorial Drive poplars. In the following years he spent many enjoyable hours carving his creations and thus preserving the memory of the soldiers killed in WWI. Today the City of Calgary is full of nativity scenes carved by Don, and that tells it all.

The story of Don Doucette appears in my 2001 nose art book and I was honoured to give him a copy the following year. Don then surprised me with one of his Populus wobbstii carvings which became my Christmas gift from a true friend. His carving was in fact the images of Father Christmas, “Pere Noel” which became the Canadian Santa Claus. My last meeting with Don Doucette came in August 2005, at a Nanton Museum event. I was ask by independent video producer Jim Blondeau to conduct an interview with my friend and today this is all on film. I wonder if it will ever be shown?

Don passed away in East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook, B.C., on Tuesday 8 January 2013.

 Don Doucette - Copy (2)

 Merry Christmas Don

Clarence Simonsen

 

Adélard (Eddy) Dubois 1922-2010

Written four years ago…

***

Eddy was Larry Dubois’ brother.

He found the articles I wrote about his brother. Eddy sent me a lot of pictures of Larry, and I posted them on my blog.

Click here for the article.

Eddy sent me a lot of pictures of himself when he was in the service.

When I wrote about Larry, I found out his mother’s maiden name was Sauvé, also my mother’s maiden name. Larry and I were 5th cousins.

Eddy was so happy to find a distant cousin with an interest in aviation and genealogy. Eddy died on December 24, 2010. Eddy and I were going to meet in the future.

He wanted to get well before we meet. We never got the chance. Eddy is now with his brother Larry talking about the good old times…

Eddy going to Bermuda

Eddy is on the  left. Unknown  airman  on the  right.

 

***

Hi cousin!

This is how Eddy Dubois and I met…

Our Ancestors

This is how Eddy and I met…

Hi cousin!

Glad to hear from you.

I have lots of pictures of Laurent in my Picasa site and will send them to you. (We called him Larry or Joe mostly).

I have a copy of the letter from the Squadron Aumonier in French and will send a copy in another email as to how he died and names, etc. of  his mates.

My daughter Sharon found your sites and sent me links.

More later.

EDDY to my friends instead of Adelard.

Eddy had found my articles on his brother Larry.

I had found out, while I was conducting research on 425 Alouette Squadron, that Larry Dubois died on December 18, 1944.

This is how it happened as related by Jean Cauchy who was the pilot waiting on the tarmac just behind Larry’s plane.

Click here to read the article.

Next Monday I will…

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About Larry

Why I wrote  about  Larry  is quite  simple.

Laurent Dubois

His  mother  was Juliette  Sauvé  which  is my mother’s  maiden  name.

That was enough  to  get  me  curious. Being  curious  is what  led me to write  Souvenirs  de  guerre, and its  English  counterpart Lest We  Forget.

Writing about Larry  resulted  in his niece finding my blog, and telling her dad A. Dubois.

That was in March 2010.

Laurent Dubois 1920-1944

NOTE

Written on December 17, 2009 when I knew nothing about this airman. The original post is here.

***

This is Laurent Dubois.

I found this picture on the  Canadian Virtual War Memorial while looking for more information on Jean Charles Labrecque.

I believe Laurent Dubois was on the same Halifax as Jean Charles Labrecque on December 18, 1944.

This is his grave.

Click on the picture for a larger image

Laurent Dubois was a wireless operator and a gunner and was with 425 Squadron Alouettes.

I found seven airmen from that squadron who died on December 18, 1944.

Pilot Desmarais

Navigator Bernier

Air gunner Paradis

Wireless operator Dubois

Air bomber  Labrecque

Air gunner Larivière

Air gunner Gauthier

Tomorrow is December 18, 2009 and I will pay homage to these men.

Lest we forget

***