This is the translation of what Jacques Desjardins wrote last month.
Jacques Desjardins wrote me a few months ago to seek my help because he wanted to pay homage to his uncle Albert Dugal. What he wrote in French was so touching that I told him it had to be translated in English.
Jacques has a cousin who did just that…!
Her name is Thérèse Kirouac. She too wanted to pay homage to her uncle…
I would like to talk to you about my uncle, Flight Sergeant J. J-B. Albert Dugal, member of l’Escadron 425 Les Alouettes during the last World War. He died on March 3, 1943 during a bombing mission on Hamburg; he was the «bomb aimer» during this mission.
I never knew my uncle, as I was born 11 months after he passed away. My grandmother and my mother, his sister, kept his memory alive for me. He was that brave hero who sacrificed his life for his country and liberty. But who was he exactly?
I then decided to invest myself seriously in this fascinating adventure and to discover my childhood hero. Here I would like to greet and thank Mr. Pierre Lagacé and his network for the valuable help and support they have given me. Without Pierre, I would have easily given up.
I began my project by revisiting the old box of photos and letters that my mother gave me after she passed away. I also got help from my Aunt Claire, the only living person who was able to answer my numerous questions. She was very happy to help me relive her great brother’s memories who died at war a long time ago. Thank you Aunt Claire.
Flight Sergeant Albert Dugal was born in Montréal on May 5, 1913. He was the son of Rose-Anna Godin and Albert Dugal Sr. He was the oldest of a family of 10 children. His sister Claire told me he was very respectful and caring for his parents. I asked her how he was as a brother, and she confirmed that Albert would treat them the same way.
In July 1940 at age 27, he decided to join the RCAF. He tried out twice before being accepted on May 5, 1941, the day he signed his enrollment papers. He obtained the ranking of Observing Sergeant in March 1942 at the No. 9 Bombing and Gunnery School in Mont-Joli.
On April 1, 1942, he got married to his beautiful Irish wife Hélène Patricia McMenamin.
They lived together in matrimony only 13 days, as Albert took the train for Halifax on April 14. On April 30, he boarded for England where he landed on May 13, 1942.
In June 1942, during his training at L’Escadron 425 Alouettes, my uncle was among the first selected « airmen ». During his training he got a severe injury to his left foot. The injury kept him aside until the beginning of November 1942. His first mission was on November 11, 1942. He had 8 other missions before the 10th and fatal one on March 3, 1943 on Hamburg.
The last mission
The morning of March 3rd, after the usual «briefing», he had to prepare for the mission. He certainly wrote a beautiful love letter to his Irish wife Hélène, as he must have done before each mission. He must have told her over and over how much he loved her, how much he missed her and especially not to worry. May I remind you they only lived as husband and wife barely 2 weeks before his departure for combat. Then he wrote a last letter to his sister Pauline, my mother.
Below is the original of the letter.
Just received your letter of Feb 1 and although it took a long time to come, I was very pleased to hear from you. I am glad that you both are well and working, and that everything is fine with you.
I am in good health and still kicking around. We are quite busy flying and it is quite exciting. So far I’ve been very lucky and I hope it continues.
The weather is very nice, there is no snow and we go out without a greatcoat, there is grass everywhere.
Tell Paul that when I’ll come back, I’ll need more then one stein of Black Horse. Best of luck to him.
Tell mammy that I didn’t receive any parcels and cigs for the last 2 months, so I guess there is some lost.
Give my regards to everybody and tell everybody to write.
For that mission on Hamburg, there were 9 Wellingtons MkIII at the departure.
The first Wellington took off at 18:08 and the last one at 18:20. My uncle’s KW-B took off at 18:18 in 7th position on the runway. The reports indicate they made it to their destination and the mission was accomplished. The KW-B was the only one brought down by the “flak” above Schenefeld, there were no survivors.
All the other Wellingtons made it back to Dishforth.
I tried to imagine what the crew`s last moments were like. Were they conscious of this tragedy? And my uncle in his bomb aimer position in the nose of the Wellington must have seen very clearly the shell explode around the plane. Were they terrified? Certainly yes. Did they suffer? Hopefully not.
On this November 11, 2014, I was remembering the crew’s sacrifice on the KW-B. Sgt J.L.Gauthier the pilot, Sgt.J.E.Audy the 2nd pilot, Sgt.J.I.Glassberg the navigator, Sgt. W.C. Forbes the wireless air gunner, the rear gunner F/S J.W. Maurice Edmond Lanctin, and my uncle Sgt. J.-B.-A. Dugal the bomb aimer.
March 2, 1946
On the 3rd anniversary of her husband’s death, Mrs. Helene Patricia McManemin had this very touching poem published in The Montreal Star newspaper on March 2, 1946. This poem expresses her grief and touched me deeply. I want to share it with you..
Dugal: In proud and loving memory of my darling husband,
W/O 2 Albert Dugal, R.C.A.F., Alouette Squadron, officially presumed killed March 3, 1943. Interment took place in Hamburg. Germany.
« There is not a day do I forget you,
In my heart you are always near,
I who loved you, sadly miss you,
As it dawns another year,
Oft and oft my thoughts do wonder,
To that grave so far away,
Where they laid my darling husband,
Three years ago today. »
Always remembered by his loving wife, Helen.
To that grave so far away,
Where they laid my darling husband,
Just a few weeks after hearing of his son’s death, my grand-father Albert Dugal Sr, passed away from a heart attack (broken heart). So my grand-mother lost her son and beloved husband just a few weeks apart.
Of the 5 graduates from the Mont-Joli Air School, 4 of them did not survive more than 12 months.
I finally accomplished my mission for you Uncle Albert, who died for liberty.
I have learned a lot more on you and your path in the RCAF than anyone else in our family. Thanks to Pierre, his network and my research on you and your life, your memory will now be nourished for eternity.
From your nephew Jacques, for all the Dugal nieces and nephews.