Tuesday, December 14, 2010



He beat the odds.

MOST, didn't.

Now a free man…in a free world. A freedom he helped win for generations of Canadians to come after the war.

THEN, aboard Halifaxes and Lancs.

The average lifespan of a rear-gunner, or tail-gunner, was about 10 missions. Being generous here.

I talked to him about the Halifax heavy bomber vs. the Lancaster heavy bomber…you know, which did he like better?

Hands down the Mighty, Mighty Lanc.

Seems it boiled down to the shape of the Lanc's wings which meant the Lanc was highly manoeuvrable in tense situations, compared to the lumbering Hally.

And safer.

Caught in a Nazi spotlight?

No problem.

The captain of his Lanc would dip the Lanc's wings to a 90 degree angle (to the ground) and proceed to drop, slicing downwards through the air…for hundreds of feet…effectively losing the lifetaking spotlight.

And then complete the bombing run.

I was so immeshed in our conversation (which had gathered a small crowd), I forgot to ask our homegrown hero what his name was!

AND, I wasn't the only curious one! As I left, another guy appeared and was rifling questions at this guy like there was no tomorrow.

So…what do we know about him?

Our tail-gunner was assigned to Bomber Command, of the illustrious All-Canadian Group 6: RCAF 428 Squadron, Ghost Squadron. The "Ghost" moniker was earned through its many night bombing ops. And through the death and destruction which the Canadian squadron meted out to the Nazis, and to their incessant efforts at war production. The squadron badge depicted a skull in a shroud…a chilling death head.

Squadron 428 flew in night and tail-gunner was responsible for being on the lookout for any approaching enemy fighter-planes.

RCAF Lancaster bombers flew as solo aircraft, while American bombers flew in formation.

Therefore when the tail-gunner, rear-gunner, or "Tail-end Charlie" as they were interchangeably called, spotted an enemy night-fighter he radioed his captain who would then engage in radical flying maneuvers like a corkscrew roll, etc. to escape. When all else failed…the tail-gunner would cock his machine-guns and open fire on any pursuing enemy aircraft!

This gentle warrior comes out to CWH every year for Remembrance Day. To remember his fallen buddies.

Wouldn't be anywhere else.

What do we know about the 428 of the RCAF?

Hailfaxes of 428 Squadron, flying at 15,000 feet carried out the first highlevel bombing of Brest with mines!

In June 1944, the squadron struck their Handley-Page Halifaxes off charge… and were re-equipped with Canadian-built Mark X Lancasters…which were made in Malton.

After the war 428 was stationed in Yarmouth Nova Scotia, until the 5th of December when the squadron was disbanded.

RCAF 428 Squadron re-formed mid-June 1954 as a night-fighter squadron flying CF-100 Canucks and was scheduled to be the first Canadian squadron to receive, and put into operational status, the never-to-be Arrow.

In 1961, specifically May 31…the squadron was again disbanded, for a final time.

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