Operation: Saint-Ghislain, Belgium
Date: 1st/2nd May 1944 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit No: 419 (Goose) Squadron, RCAF
Type: Lancaster X
Base: RAF Middleton St. George, County Durham
Location: Ghent-Rabot, roughly 1km NW from Ghent city centre.
Pilot: Plt Off. John Crawford McNary J86385 RCAF Age 23. KiA
Flt Eng: Sgt. Alfred George Hill 1604133 RAFVR Age? PoW No. 4914 *
Nav: Fg Off. Fred Harvard Love J21188 RCAF Age? PoW No. 5151 *
Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Robert Clifford Douglas Long R145370 RCAF Age 23. PoW No. 4915 * (1)
WOp/Air Gnr: WO1. John Louis Edmond Chartrand R109823 RCAF Age 24. KiA
Air Gnr (MU): Sgt. James Joseph Wilson R188126 RCAF Age? PoW No. 4924 *
Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Douglas Scott Mackay Sangster R183568 RCAF Age? PoW No. 659 * (2)
Supernumerary: Fg Off. Jack Rotherford Normandale 125158 RAFVR Age 25. PoW No. 5153 * (3)
* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
Above: KB711, in foreground, with other Lancasters of 419 (Goose) Sqn. (Courtesy of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada)
Note: Lancaster X KB711 was the first Canadian built Lancaster to be written off in Bomber Command Service.
REASON FOR LOSS:
KB711 took off from RAF Middleton St. George at 22:00 hrs to join a 137 bomber raid on the Saint-Ghislain marshalling yards in Belgium.
Reports from other crews return from the Saint-Ghislain raid had mentioned that the Luftwaffe defences were light with only four or five accounts of combat between all the bombers and the German fighters.
After dropping its bombs KB711 was home bound flying at 11,000 ft when it was hit by cannon fire from a German night fighter, one shell exploding inside the cockpit, causing a fire. All of the crew except for Plt Off. McNary and WO1. Chartrand successfully bailed out before the aircraft exploded in mid-air. The aircraft wreckage fell into the grounds of the city’s former gasworks at Ghent-Rabot, roughly 1km NW from Ghent city centre.
KB711 was claimed by Oblt. Hans-Heinz Augenstein, his 28th Abschuss, from 12./NJG1 near Ghent at 3000 m. at 00:32 hours. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (16 March 1944 - 11 May 1944) Part 2 - Theo Boiten).
One other bomber was lost on this mission.
The other bomber lost was Halifax III LW415 AL:K from 429 Sqn. The aircraft was attacked by a German night fighter whose fire caused the aircraft to explode. The pilot, Fg Off. S.M. Leslie J26786 RCAF, was thrown clear by the explosion, survived and successfully evaded. His crew were KiA.
(1) The MI9 debriefing of Plt Off. Long after his liberation provided some insight into what occurred that night. After an uneventful approach to the target Saint-Ghislain and arriving late and not fully on course. It was decided on using a visual approach to the marshalling yards. After numerous and dangerous orbits of the target area and the subsequent bombing they headed for home. While crossing the coast a night fighter found them and although they had seen him, it had changed course so as to attack the Lancaster from underneath, where the Lancaster was most vulnerable. Cannon bursts through the fuselage were the only indication of the German fighter location.
Note: His recollection of where his aircraft was attacked is not consistent with the reported crash site. Perhaps the extensive canal system in Ghent was mistaken for the coast.
The fire that broke out inside the aircraft from this one attack caused the pilot to give the order to bail out. Plt Off. Long and Sgt. Hill went out through the hatch. Sgt. Hill had handed Plt Off. McNary his parachute and had found that WO1 Chartrand was badly wounded in the stomach. Sgt. Sangster had been wounded in both his eyes and arm on the right side with help he had made it the hatch to bail out. That was all that Plt Off. Long could fill in on the events in the aircraft.
Later communications to Plt Off. McNary’s family from Plt Off. Long made mention that he had tried to help Chartrand to bail-out but before they could get out the aircraft had exploded in mid-air.
(2) Sgt. Sangster was seriously wounded and was repatriated to Canada, possibly in September 1944. He was granted a commission and promoted to J87047 Plt Off. whilst a PoW.
Born on the 7th September 1921 in Hensall Canada. Passed away in 1976, aged 55, in London, Middlesex County, Ontario, Canada
(3) Fg Off. Normandale was not listed on the crew manifest for the sortie but was recorded on the Loss Card for KB711. Additionally, the PoW questionaries for Fg Off. Love, Flt Sgt. Long and Sgt. Wilson make no mention of Fg Off. Normandale being aboard the aircraft.
658622 Sgt. Normandale was granted a commission and promoted to Plt Off. 125158 in the General Duties Branch on the 19th June 1942. As he was recorded as being in the General Duties Branch then he was definitely aircrew;
Fg Off. Jack Rotherford Normandale, 125158, was listed as a PoW at Stalag Luft 3 with a PoW No. of 5153 which was only two numbers higher than that of Fg Off. Love;
He was promoted to Flt Lt. in the General Duties Branch on the 19th June 1944;
He resigned his commission on the 23rd April 1946 retaining his rank of Flt Lt.
There was also speculation that he was not listed in the Sqn Operational Record Book (ORB) because he may not have been aircrew and was ‘along for the ride’. However, his promotions in the General Duties Branch are in line with aircrew promotions so the speculation that he was not aircrew is probably incorrect.
Until otherwise proven he remains recorded as a supernumerary on KB711.
He married an Edith Althea Ginder in 1945. Jack R. Normandale moved to Canada aboard the 'Scythia' departing Liverpool 24th January 1946. Arriving at Halifax Nova Scotia on 26th January 1946.
Edith passed away on the 3rd December 1993 in Toronto, Canada. Jack Rotherford Normandale was born on the 29th November 1918 in Grimsby, Lincolnshire and passed away, aged 88, on 27th September 2007 in Toronto, Canada.
Plt Off. McNary and WO1. Chartrand were initially buried in the Ghent L’Quest Communal Cemetery and then reinterred at the Adegem Canadian War Cemetery on the 29th August 1945.
Above: Plt Off. McNary and Grave Marker (from his service file)
Plt Off. John Crawford McNary. Adegem Canadian War Cemetery XI.C.8. Grave Inscription: “GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT A MAN LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS”. Born on the 2nd August 1920, Windsor, Ontario. Son of James and Leta Jean (née McKishnie) McNary, of Windsor, Ontario; husband of Virginia Mae (née Autterson) McNary, of Windsor, Canada.
Above: Plt Off. Chartrand and Grave Marker (from his service file)
Plt Off. John Louis Edmond Chartrand. Adegem Canadian War Cemetery XI.C.9. Born on the 3rd October 1919 in Thurso, Quebec. Son of Edmond and Theona Chartrand of Windsor, Ontario and husband to Grace Anna (née Kirey) Chartrand of Rainy River Ontario, Canada.
Posthumously granted a commission wef the 30th April 1944 and promoted to J86385 Plt Off.
Researched by Ralph Snape with thanks to John Jones for his contributions, for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew.
Other sources listed below:
RS 09.07.2022 - Initial upload
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