Remembering a kid from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan – No. 425 Alouette, Kairouan, Tunisia

This is how this homage of Charles Andrew Reist started.

Reist Charles Andrew
R/163707
Sergeant Rear Gunner
crew D.A. Wood
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
20 years-old
KIA 06-08-1943
Kairouan
Crashed in the water at Cap Bon
All killed

Son of Norman Jacob and Annie Viola Reist

 

Charles Andrew Reist was an Alouette for only 17 days. He emplaned for Africa on July 19th, 1943, and he arrived at Kairouan on the 20th. It’s all in his service record.

He had already one operation with his crew when he was posted with No. 22 OTU. He would have his second then a third on August 6th which was carried out successfully. However for unknown reasons, the Wellington Mark X crashed in the Mediterranean off Cape Bon. Charles’ body would wash ashore, but the rest of the crew were never found.

Charles Reist rests in peace beside Wing Commander Gleed.

Headstone Charles Andrew Reist 2

 

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Alouettes in North Africa

We have a good idea of how were the living conditions for Charles Andrew Reist and his crew in North Africa in 1943.

Taken from Gabriel Taschereau’s memoirs

« At noontime, the thermometer reached 130 ° F and even 140 ° F… « 
Group Captain Gabriel Taschereau, D.F.C., C.D., A.D.C.

All crews were equipped with new aircraft, Wellington Mk Xs, especially adapted to face the tropical climate. After a remarkable war effort during its stay in Dishforth, Yorkshire, 425 Squadron was transferred to North Africa in the spring of 1943 to write the second chapter of its brilliant epic.

With few exceptions, airmen who already had more than twenty bombing missions to their credit were assigned to other Canadian squadrons residing in England. Those who insisted on following their squadron to Africa were informed that they would have to complete at least twenty other raids before being repatriated. This was the case for many.

Shortly before the big departure, the two deputy commanders, squadron leaders Georges Roy and Logan Savard, were promoted to the rank of Wing Commander and each were appointed to head a new squadron. All the crews equipped Wellington Mk Xs would be assigned in Tunisia, a desert location about thirty miles southwest of Kairouan, between two Arab villages called Pavillier and Ben-Zina.

Collection Roly Leblanc courtesy Michael Leblanc

The journey was made in several stages: Dishforth, Portreath, Gibraltar, Fez (Morocco), Telergma (Algeria), and finally the new base named Pavillier-Zina. From that time on, 425 Squadron became part of 331 Wing, part of the 205 Group of the North-West African Strategical Air Force.

This arrival on foreign soil was not without some inconvenience: no vegetation, no buildings; therefore, no shade to protect oneself from the rays of a blazing sun; sand and dust; flies, scorpions, tarantulas and mosquitoes.

Collection Roly Leblanc courtesy Michael Leblanc

These last insects being carriers of malaria, we had to swallow one quinine tablet per day, as a preventive measure. Moreover, as water is a scarce commodity, it was distributed sparingly, especially since it had to be collected in a tanker truck from a well located about ten kilometres from the camp. And one day, the attendants of this service came back empty-handed, mentioning that the well was dry, and that the body of an old mule had been discovered at the bottom.

Collection Roly Leblanc courtesy Michael Leblanc

These last insects being carriers of malaria, we had to swallow one quinine tablet per day, as a preventive measure. Moreover, as water is a scarce commodity, it was distributed sparingly, especially since it had to be collected in a tanker truck from a well located about ten kilometres from the camp. And one day, the attendants of this service came back empty-handed, mentioning that the well was dry, and that the body of an old mule had been discovered at the bottom.

Gone are the relative luxury of Dishforth’s mess, with its clean rooms and pleasant mess the facilities in Kairouan were rather rudimentary.


Collection Roly Leblanc courtesy Michael Leblanc

Nevertheless, the morale of the troops remained high. Enthusiasm reigned at all levels. Under the command of the wing commander Bill St-Pierre, and his new deputies, the leading squadron leaders Claude Hébert and Baxter Richter, air operations against the enemy resumed more successfully, but under radically different conditions than those we had experienced at Dishforth. German fighters were still on the lookout, but were fewer in number; the D.C.A. and less threatening beams of spotlights. And we no longer had to face the formidable enemy that was icing. On the other hand, our engines often tended to heat up, which was not very reassuring.

In terms of comfort, it was neither the Ritz nor the Savoy. No more the relative luxury of Dishforth’s mess, with its clean rooms and well-stocked dining room; absent, the kind and dedicated « batwomen », the angels of the W.A.A.F.; become chimeric the « pubcrawling » tours to Ripon Boroughbridge, Harrogate and York.

Collection Roly Leblanc courtesy Michael Leblanc

If the evening and night brought us a diversion in the form of bombing missions, the day, however, seemed endless. The only place we could relax a little was in the shade of our aircraft wings, because in our tents the heat was simply stifling. At lunchtime, the thermometer reached 130° and even 140° Fahrenheit, which allowed us to easily cook an occasional egg on a sheet exposed to the sun. Another cause for celebration: the menu. At breakfast, we had « corned beef »; at lunch, more « corned beef »; and in the evening, to make a change always from « corned beef ».

Collection Roly Leblanc courtesy Michael Leblanc

To compensate for this lack of diet, some crews, during their N.F.T. (daily test flight), managed to simulate an engine failure near a U.S. Air Force base at lunchtime. We were then invited by our American colleagues to share their feast: a four-course meal, with beer, tea, coffee, fresh lemonade, ice cream, etc., etc. Thus, well satisfied and our engines rested, we took off again to return to our base, filled with the euphoric optimism of our twenties.

Our military objectives varied with the advance of infantry forces. Before the landing on July 9, we attacked by night the aerodromes of Catania, Messina and Gerbini, the fortified squares such as Sciacca and Enna, as well as the banks of the Strait of Messina. Later, after the invasion itself, our targets gradually moved up along the Italian boot. Thus, Reggio, Naples, Capodichino, Salerno, Scaletta, Avellino, Montecorvino, Aversa, Formia, Grazziani, Cerveteri and many other towns, seaports or yards were repeatedly attacked by the 425 Squadron Wellingtons.

Collection Roly Leblanc courtesy Michael Leblanc

The successes achieved by aircrew were largely the result of the close collaboration between « pigeons » and « penguins ». All these brave mechanics, gunsmiths, electricians, drivers, technicians of all kinds, under the expert guidance of flight Lieutenant Hilaire Roberge, never spared their time or effort to make sure the impeccable maintenance of the aircraft entrusted to them.

Collection Roly Leblanc courtesy Michael Leblanc

The administrative services, under the skilful direction of flight lieutenant Edmond Danis, were also always impeccable. Despite our isolation, and the difficulties of communication, our friendly Warrant Officer has constantly managed to manoeuvre to make sure the smooth running of the squadron’s machinery.

On the spiritual side, it was our devoted padre, Father Maurice Laplante, who was very successful in ensuring divine protection on his swarthy flock. He celebrated daily mass in the shelter of a « marquise », and regularly blessed the planes leaving for their destiny.

Regarding the physical health of our troops, we have nothing but praise for our medical service. This service was run by Dr. Hector Payette, the « little doc », who, despite his small size, has always been able to rise to the occasion. He was the one who managed to cure us of the dysentery that affected us all at first, by feeding us castor oil through a funnel placed in his patients’ mouths. He was also responsible for administering quinine and atabrine tablets for malaria, and « mottons » of salt to combat water loss through sweat. And how many cases of sunstroke has he been called upon to treat! Not to mention the care of the wounded, as was the case for Sergeant Léon Roberge, a wireless operator who returned from a raid with a shrapnel in his thigh and machine gun bullets in his calves, following an unexpected encounter with a Junkers 88.

After a six-month stay under the burning sky of southern Tunisia, the squadron returned to England. But before we could enjoy a well-deserved vacation, we had to undergo a delousing cure in a hospital in West Kirby, to get rid of the sand fleas brought back from Africa, which had made their home between the dermis and the epidermis of each of us.

Most of the « navigators » were later directed to the O.T.U. (operational training schools) to serve as instructors, sharing their experience and knowledge with fresh crews from Canada. These new crews, once their internship in O.T.U. was completed, joined the sedentary services already installed at their new base in Tholthorpe, to begin the third phase of the epic history of 425 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

425 45e 020 Gabriel Taschereau

Remembering a kid from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan – No. 3 Bombing and Gunnery School, MacDonald, Manitoba

Charles

 

8 November 1942.

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No. 3 Bombing and Gunnery School, MacDonald, Manitoba, to learn to become an air gunner.

No. 2 Manning Depot Brandon, Manitoba 5 May 1942

No. 3 Bombing and Gunnery School, MacDonald, Manitoba is somewhat special because Jean-Paul Corbeil got his air gunner training there also. He is seen here on the extreme right.

mcdonald-manitoba-no-3-b-g-only-gunner-to-come-back-alive-after-the-war-1

Next to time is Tuffy Morrison who became also an air gunner with RCAF 420 Squadron Snowy Owl.

tuffy-morrison

Jean-Paul Corbeil survived the war as well as Tuffy Morrison. I know everything about Jean-Paul Corbeil training in MacDonald, and how they flew on patched-up Fairey Battles sent from England.

I don’t have Charles Reist log book to document his stay at MacDonald. He would stay there until 5 March 1943. He never met Jean-Paul Corbeil nor Tuffy Morrison since they were there late 1943. I know because I have scanned Jean-Paul Corbeil’s log book and photo album.

Jean- Paul Corbeil was lucky to survive 40 operations. Charles did not and he is only remembered by just a few people.

Charles

On March 6th, 1943, Charles Andrew Reist is in Halifax. On March 27th, he will embark on a troop ship to England and disembark on April 4th. He will be taken on strength at No. 3 PRC (Personal Reception Centre). He will stay there until April 20th before going to No. 22 OTU (Operational Training Unit). Then he will be posted at 311 Ferry Training Unit in preparation for going to North Africa.

Charles Andrew Reist file

His pilot Andrew Duncan Wood and his crew will train for ferrying aircraft to overseas theatres of war.

Andrew Duncan Wood

Andrew Duncan Wood

 

Remembering a kid from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Charles

Enfidaville War Cemetery

Enfidaville, Sousse, Tunisia

Headstone Charles Andrew Reist 2

Courtesy Faysal Eladhari
via David Pearce

Headstone Charles Andrew Reist

Courtesy Faysal Eladhari
via David Pearce

Charles Andrew Reist was just 21 years-old when he lost his life on his third operation. His body was washed ashore, but none of the other crew members were ever found.

His pilot Andrew Duncan Wood was on his seventh operation…
Andrew Duncan Wood
The bomber aimer was Thomas John Driscoll…
Thomas John Driscoll
I don’t have a picture of the navigator nor of the RAF engineer of Vickers Wellington Mark X, call sign KW-R. Except for the pilot, all four were on their third operation.

44486_83024005549_0991-00221

The average number of operations before being killed was 11 or 12. All five did not make it to 11.

Frances Preston knew almost nothing about her uncle Charles seen here at No. 7 I.T.S. RCAF Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Course 60 « C » Flight.

No. 7 ITS Saskatoon

Charles has a serious look on his face. So serious in fact I just wonder if Frances had made a mistake.

Charles Reist (2)

Charles Reist (3)

Training at an I.T.S. was not dangerous because there was no flying done. An I.T.S. school was an Initial Training School. If you go on Google, you will find this information.

Initial Training Schools

Pilot and Air Observer candidates began their 26- or 28-week training program with four weeks at an Initial Training School (ITS).They studied theoretical subjects and were subjected to a variety of tests. Theoretical studies included navigation, theory of flight, meteorology, duties of an officer, air force administration, algebra, and trigonometry. Tests included an interview with a psychiatrist, the 4 hour long M2 physical examination, a session in a decompression chamber, and a « test flight » in a Link Trainer as well as academics. At the end of the course the postings were announced. Occasionally candidates were re-routed to the Wireless Air Gunner stream at the end of ITS.

Before getting to an I.T.S. recruits would go to a manning depot to learn drill, discipline, etc…

Charles Andrew Reist’s service record shows this. On 5 May 1942, he was taken on strength (TOS) at No. 2 Manning Depot, Brandon, Manitoba.

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No. 2 Manning Depot Brandon, Manitoba 5 May 1942

He would stay there until 4 July 1942 going to No.4 SFTS Saskatoon for guard and tarmac duty. He would stay there until 15 August 1942 before being posted to No. 7 I.T.S. Saskatoon.

No. 7 ITS Saskatoon

Next time…

8 November 1942.

No. 3 Bombing and Gunnery School, MacDonald, Manitoba, to learn either to become a bomb aimer or an air gunner.

No. 2 Manning Depot Brandon, Manitoba 5 May 1942

Frances’ uncle only flew three ops

Charles

Charles Andrew Reist

Charles Andrew Reist was part of the Alouette Squadron, but not for long. His story will be told by using his service record file.
I did not know Charles Andrew Reist was a member of the Alouettes before his niece wrote this comment…

Hello sorry but I don’t read French. However, my Uncle, Charles was a Sergeant BA 425 Squadron R/163707. He died August 7th, 1943 in World War II. I would like to get pictures of him and his Squadron. Is their any of his Squadron alive. I would love to sent them a note and see if they recall him. His medals, any documentation that I can have copies of. I am doing this in his honor and for my family. I do hope you can help me. Thank you so much. My name is Frances Preston.

I was quite curious to learn more about her uncle so I asked her to give me further details…

What was your uncle’s full name? I will be glad to help.

The reply came quickly…

Hello Pierre, I am sorry forgetting to add his full name. Sgt. Charles Andrew Reist Thank you so very much this really means a lot to me. I never got to meet him but he gave his sister a beautiful silk blanket and pillow for her first girl she had, and I am her. Also as child I was always very sensitive to Remembrance Day. Later my mom told me why.

Pierre again anything you can help me with it I will be so grateful.
Frances Preston

You now understand why I will help Frances learn more about her uncle, who was a rear gunner, and his crew who were killed flying Vickers Wellington Mark X, code KW-R.

44486_83024005549_0991-00221

44486_83024005549_0991-00219

 

I remember

I remember my first meeting with Jean-Paul Corbeil. He had posted a comment on my blog Souvenirs de guerre, and I went to meet him in Laval. Since May 2010, I had met him about fifty times. Maybe even more than fifty times, because I had stopped counting. He had taught me a lot about him, and especially about Alouettes squadron. We became friends. I had decided to continue the story of the Alouettes on a blog other than Souvenirs de guerre in order to pay tribute to the Alouettes and also to him.

Due to lack of space to put all the photos I could find on the Alouettes, I had to create in 2015 this new blog which is the continuation of the first one. I had found many photos to honour the memory of the Alouettes. I thought I had found them all on the Internet until I virtually met Réal St-Amour’s daughter. Chantal had two large photo albums of her father.

Chantal had digitized everything in memory of her father and the Alouettes…

In high resolution!

The famous photo of July 14, 1944 was part of her father’s collection.

He had several more taken that same day…

The story of the Alouettes began on my first blog after several virtual meetings with relatives or live meetings with real veterans like Coco Morin, Jean Cauchy, and Bernard Racicot.

Racicot Cauchy et Desbiens photo colorisée

Jean-Paul Corbeil passed away on October 3rd. I had seen him again in September at the Veterans’ Hospital. He wanted so much to see me again. I brought him pictures that I had specially colourised for him.

There was this black and white photo from Réal St-Amour’s collection where he was having his arms crossed.

One of my readers told me he had counted 268 alouettes. There would therefore be 268 stories to tell about this photo taken in September 1944. Jean-Paul Corbeil had just completed his tour of operations in July.

40 operations!

Mister Corbeil and I did one last mission together.

I’ll talk about it again comes spring. He wanted the world to remember the Alouettes and his great pride in having been a small part in the history of the Alouettes.

Montage made by Lucie Corbeil in homage to her father

A last little anecdote about Mr. Corbeil….

In one of my meetings I told him that I had found a lot of nose arts of the Handley Page Halifax flown by 425 Alouette Squadron, and how there was a small Vickers machine gun in my nose… more a psychological weapon than a tactical one.

He stubbornly insisted that no, it didn’t exist in his time with the Alouettes.

I did not insist….

Je me souviens

Je me souviens de ma première rencontre avec Jean-Paul Corbeil. Il avait mis un commentaire sur mon blogue Souvenirs de guerre et je suis allé le rencontrer à Laval. Monsieur Corbeil, je l’avais rencontré une bonne cinquantaine de fois depuis mai 2010. Peut-être même plus que cinquante fois, car j’avais arrêté de compter. Il m’en avait appris beaucoup sur lui, et surtout sur l’escadrille les Alouettes. Nous nous étions liés d’amitié. J’avais décidé de poursuivre l’histoire des Alouettes sur un autre blogue que Souvenirs de guerre afin de rendre hommage aux Alouettes et aussi un peu à lui.

Faute de place pour mettre toutes les photos que je trouvais, j’ai dû créer ce blogue qui est la suite du premier. Des photos j’en avais trouvées beaucoup pour honorer la mémoire des Alouettes. Je pensais les avoir toutes trouvées sur Internet jusqu’à je fasse la rencontre virtuelle de la fille de Réal St-Amour. Chantal possédait deux gros albums de photos de son père.

Elle avait tout numérisé en mémoire de son père et des Alouettes…

En haute résolution s’il-vous-plaît!

La fameuse photo du 14 juillet 1944 vient de son père.

Il en avait plusieurs autres prises cette journée-lè…

L’histoire des Alouettes a commencé à s’écrire sur mon premier blogue suite à des rencontres virtuelles ou à des rencontres avec de vrais vétérans.

Jean-Paul Corbeil qui nous a quittés le 3 octobre dernier. Je l’avais revu en septembre à l’hôpital des Vétérans. Il tenait absolument à me revoir. Je lui avais alors apporté des photos que j’avais spécialement colorisées pour lui. Il y avait celle-ci où il se tenait les bras croisés.

Un de mes lecteurs m’avait dit qu’il avait compté 268 alouettes. Il y aurait donc 268 histoires à raconter derrière cette photo prise en septembre 1944. Jean-Paul Corbeil venait de terminer son tour d’opérations en juillet.

40 opérations!

Lui et moi nous avons fait une dernière mission ensemble.

Je vous en reparlerai au printemps.

Il voulait ainsi que le monde se rappelle des Alouettes et de sa grande fierté d’avoir été une petite page de l’histoire des Alouettes.

Montage réalisé par Lucie Corbeil en hommage à son père

Un dernier petit clin d’oeil à monsieur Corbeil…

Dans mes rencontres je lui parlais que j’avais trouvé plein de dessins sur le nez des Handley Page Halifax de l’escadrille 425 Alouette, et une petite mitrailleuse Vickers dans le nez… plus psychologique que tactique.

Il m’obstinait dur comme fer que non ça n’existait pas dans son temps.

Pourtant…