Douglas William Chard (courtesy Vera Chard)
At the age of nineteen Douglas joined the Royal Air Force and was posted to No. 429 RCAF Squadron based at RAF East Moor, Yorkshire in November 1943. The Squadron was also known as the "Bison" Squadron. The bison indigenous to Canada, is a fierce and powerful opponent and is on the Squadrons badge.
As a young Sergeant Air Gunner Doug was to fly as rear gunner with Pilot Sgt. Gordon Lindsay Kennedy 430914 RNZAF, Navigator Sgt. Adam Carter Hay McConnell-Jones 1550829 RAFVR, Bomb Aimer Sgt. James Begg 1436510 RAFVR and Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Sgt. Douglas Frank Walker 1212975 RAF. Their aircraft was a Vickers Wellington Mk III also known as the "Wimpy" After initial training the new crew flew their first operation together on the 21/22nd January 1943 on a "Gardening" (mine laying) operation to Terscheling in the "Nectarine" region (Frisian Island). The crew were tasked with the same operation on the 26th January and were mine laying again on the 29th January at St. Nazaire, Brittany.
Douglas William Chard is in the middle of this picture (courtesy of Vera Chard) Can you identify any of the others?
Vickers Wellington Mk III also known as the Wimpy Left: Essen March 1943 (both courtesy of Imperial War Museum)
March 1943 the crew took part in four more operations to Essen on the 12th, Duisburg 26th, St. Nazaire 28th and on the 29th Duisburg. On the operation to Essen on the 12/13th March 1943 Douglas's aircraft was damaged by flak, but the crew managed to safely return
April 1943. The crew were part of 392 aircraft that took off on a bombing operation to Duisburg on the night of 8/9th April. The next target was Frankfurt on the night of 10/11th April. Three more operation were undertaken by the crew to Stuttgart 14th, Mannheim 16th and 'Gardening' (Mine Laying) off Brest on the 20th
May 1943. Seven operation were flown by Gordon, Adam, James, Douglas W and Douglas Chard in May. The first on the 1/2nd May was to Keil and then to Dortmund on the 4/5th May. This operation to Dortmund was the largest non- 1,000 bombing raid to date with 596 aircraft involved and was the first major attack on Dortmund. On the 12/13th May they flew to Duisburg, 13/14th May to Bochum and on the night of 23/24th May to Dortmund again with 826 aircraft taking part and this was the largest operation of the Battle of the Ruhr. Large areas of Dortmund were devastated with many industrial premises damaged. After two days rest the crew were off on an operation to Essen. The last operation of the month was 'Gardening' (Mine laying) in the 'Jellyfish' region which was off the coast of Brittany
Left: Krefeld, the centre of the town on the outskirts of the Ruhr, as the RAF left it after a heavy attack on the night of 21st June 1943
June 1943. Brought six more operations together. The first of these was on the night of 11/12th June they were flying to Dusseldorf with 782 other aircraft. Much damage was caused to the centre of Dusseldorf and this proved to be the most damaging operation of the war for the city. The next operation was again mine laying in the 'Jellyfish' region. Five days off followed and then the crew were off to Krefeld on the 21st. Much damage was caused to the city and many people lost their lives and homes that night, fires raged for many hours. Of the 705 aircraft that took off 44 were lost. On the 22nd the crew took off again but the destination is unknown
At the end of June 1934 Doug had completed 26 operation with this crew. The pilot Sgt. Gordon Lindsay Kennedy was posted from the Squadron. This meant the Doug had to complete his tour of duty (30 ops) as a spare flying as and when required to fill the places of other gunners who were either sick or on leave.
The following story was only came to light after Doug's death and it begins after the crew were split up
"In 1943 I was flying as an Air Gunner in Wellington aircraft with 429 Squadron. After twenty operations, mainly over Germany, our pilot was grounded for medical reasons, which left the remainder of the crew high and dry. I was told that I have to complete my tour of thirty operations as a 'spare gunner' by flying as and when required to fill the places of other gunners who were sick or on leave etc. This turned out to be a nerve racking experience, a kind of sophisticated Russian roulette in which I was the live round of ammunition as I never knew from one day to the next with whom, when or where I should be flying
Right Handley Page Halifax Mk II (Merlin engine variant).After several such trips I was called upon to fly with a brand new crew, who arrived straight from an Operational Training Unit OTU) whose gunner as he heard that he was detailed for 'ops' hurriedly decided to report sick. As usual we were required to take the aircraft up during the afternoon for an air test prior to the real thing later that night. As I sat in the rear turret before take-off I felt very uneasy. We were only in the air for about 15 minutes but somehow I couldn't settle down. Not once during the time we were airborne was the plane flown on an even keel - it was tilted slightly which made it difficult to sit upright. When we landed the plane bounced down the runway like a gigantic table tennis ball. For me it was an unsatisfactory flight
Without even thinking of the consequences I went immediately to the Gunner Leader, a Flight Lieutenant who was, after duty hours, a friend and drinking companion. I said to him "I'm not going with that crew tonight" At first he thought I was joking but after realising I was serious he had no option but to take the official line and told me of the dire results of such an action and he hoped that I would reconsider my decision. Such were my feelings of impending doom that I would not change my mind at any price. Reluctantly he had no option but to take me to the C.O. who was furious
He glared at me, "Are you refusing to fly?" "No Sir," I replied, "I'm refusing to go with this particular crew" "You are refusing to fly" he repeated. Again I said, "No Sir, only with this crew" On and on it went. Court Martial was threatened with reduction to the ranks on a charge of "Lack of Moral Fibre". What a lecture he gave me. Then he said, "Be at my office at 9 am sharp tomorrow morning and I will arrange for your Court Martial. Dismiss" The next morning at breakfast I learnt that the crew, with whom I should have gone with, had failed to return. Apparently the Medical Officer had found nothing wrong with their gunner and he had been declared fit for duty and had been lost with the crew. At nine o'clock I presented myself at the C. O. expecting once again to have the Riot Act read to me. I was surprised to find that he was very polite and he said, "In view of the circumstances we had better forget the whole incident" He even smiled and bid me a pleasant good-day
Shortly after Doug completed his tour of duty he was promoted to Warrant Officer First Class and was posted to No 21 Operational Training Unit (OTU) Moreton-in-Marsh as a gunnery instructor. He continued to fly once a month as experienced instructors were much sought after and he was not allowed to fly more often
Doug completed his tour of duty 30 operations: 22nd September 1943 to Hannover flying in a Halifax. 711 aircraft took off that night on the first major operation on Hanover. The following night he again was flying in a Halifax aircraft on an operation to Mannheim where much damage was caused. On the 3rd October 1943 Doug flying in a Halifax was on the operation to Kessel with a total of 547 aircraft, his 30th operation was on 8th October 1943 to Hannover. The aircraft were met by many night fighters with a total loss of 27 aircraft.
In total Douglas William Chard completed a total of 41 operational flights while serving with the RAF
Three weeks after arriving at No 21 OTU he learnt that he had been awarded the DFM. (Distinguished Flying Medal) The notification being in the Supplement to the London Gazette dated 3rd December 1943. 1389199 Flight Sergeant Douglas William CHARD, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. No. 429 Squadron was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy" Doug was one of only seven men from No 429 Squadron to receive this medal during the war.
Above: WO Chard's medals (Credit: David S. Brown)
After the war Doug was posted to India and left the RAF when his 'number' came up in 1946
Douglas's pals from his first crew:
Sgt. Gordon Lindsay Kennedy. 430914. RNZAF was promoted to Warrant Officer and was awarded the DFC. Gordon arrived back in New Zealand in October 1945.
Flying Officer Adam Carter Hay McConnell-Jones. 149143. RAFVR was KIA on the 22nd July 1944 and is buried in Cambridge City Cemetery. Adam had been flying in Mosquito IV DZ421 aircraft on an operational training exercise when it crashed near the village of Pidley.
Sgt. James Begg. 1436510. RAFVR was KIA on the 29th January 1944 and is buried in Berlin 1939 - 1945 War Cemetery. Adam had returned to No. 429 Squadron and was one of the crew flying in Halifax LK745 on an operation to Berlin when he was killed.
Flight Lieutenant Douglas Frank Walker. 160512. RAF. 1212975 WO Walker was commissioned and promoted to Plt Off. with effect 16th October 1943, promulgated in the London Gazette, 10th December 1943. Promoted to Fg Off, with effect 16th April 1944, promulgated in the London Gazette 5th May 1944. Promoted to Flt Lt. with effect 16th October 1945, promulgated in the London Gazette on the 6th November 1945. No further information about his life has been found.
Special thanks to Mrs Vera Chard widow for her support and letting me read her late husband's notes. Thanks to David S. Brown for the image of the medals for WO Chard (May 2021)