I know I was going to write about these three airmen who never returned from the war, but I got distracted along the way…
That’s the big problem with my research. I get distracted.
I have been writing a lot since 2010 to pay homage to RCAF 425 squadron and the Alouettes, those who came back, but mostly to pay homage to those who did not. In fact I had to create RCAF 425 Alouettes II to add more pictures that were shared by Réal St-Amour’s daughter.
A picture is worth a thousand words…
Last year, when Richard Girouard sent me a DVD full of Réal St-Amour’s collection of old World War Two pictures, I just had to know more about who were on those photographs like this one.
I knew about Casey Jones who never came back and whose body was never found.
This next picture was the most mesmerizing of all. The look on these three airmen said so much that I had to write about it.
A picture is worth a thousand words…
This is how I came to know about Casey Jones and his crew. Just a little at first with Tush Laviolette.
But thanks to my researcher friend, I found even more about the airman on the right on this picture.
Collins vola 21 autres missions avec différents équipages. Wilmot (8), Brochu (1), Selfe (1), Lecomte (1), Kirk (10).
Durant la nuit du 15/16 juin 1944, le KW-Q, LW715 de l’équipage Kirk s’écrasa à 20 km au sud-est de Boulogne. Il y eut deux morts, deux prisonniers et quatre évadés dont notre cher Collins.
Le 19 septembre 1944 il était de retour en Angleterre, sain et sauf. Il ne retourna pas aux opérations.
There was a caption that went along with the original he sent me that had the name of the airman on the right… Tom Collins!
Collins was a mid-upper gunner and this is what I found in this article written by Flight Lieutenant A.P. Heathcote in The Roundel 60 years ago…
No. 425 SQUADRON
BY FLIGHT LIEUTENANT A.P. HEATHCOTE,
Air Historical Branch
(Reference: The Roundel, Vol. 9, No. 3, April 1957)
In this pre-D-Day period the Luftwaffe was not having things all its own way vis-a-vis les Alouettes. Kills number two, three, and four were scored by Alouette gunners in just over a month. The marksmen were Sgt. J. M. Croteau, who knocked down a Ju. 88, and Sgt. L. S. Owen, R.A.F., joint victor with Sgt. A. E. Ashford and Pilot Officer O. R. Collins, respectively, over a Junkers 88 and an Me. 109. All three of the downed enemies were « flamers »; there was not a particle of doubt as to their complete destruction. Croteau, Owen, and Collins were soon to be decorated. Owen was an especially alert and gimlet-eyed gunner. Time and again he would be first to spot the enemy; time and again he would beat the enemy to the punch. Invariably manning the mid-under turret (many Halifax IIIs carried the extra gun position), he was a living advertisement for that single Browning .5 that he handled so well. Much was still to be heard from him and Collins in a gunnery way.
* * *
Having a target priority second only to that of railway centres in the month or so before D-Day were the heavy gun batteries and radio and radar stations spread along the coastal areas of France and the Lowlands. As their targets among these, the Alouettes drew mostly guns. They hammered batteries at St. Valery-en-Caux, Calais, Merville-Franceville, Neufchatel, and Houlgate, the latter being bombed only a few hours before the start of Operation « Overlord », the greatest combined assault in history. Their lone radio target was a station at Au Fevre, which, because of conditions beyond its control, was forced to go off the air after the raid.
On Victoria Day the Alouette leadership underwent its third change. Wing Cdr. J. H. L. Lecomte took over from Wing Cdr. McLernon, the latter being posted to No. 408 (Goose) Squadron, of which he eventually took command. His award of the D.F.C. was promulgated some three weeks later. From D-Day until the middle of June the Alouettes kept up their work in indirect support of the invading forces, pounding six railway targets, one airfield, and E-boat pens at Boulogne. En route to a marshalling-yard at Versailles-Matelots, one of their Halifaxes ran into a barrage of heavy flak. The airspeed indicator, D. R. compass, and wireless aerial were put out of commission; damage was done to the rigging of a wing, markedly affecting the bomber’s flying characteristics; a big hole was smashed in the nose near the bomb-aimer’s position; but the crew were unharmed. The captain, Flight Lieutenant L. R. Brochu, flew on to the target, bombed as briefed, and took the Halifax home, anything but a routine chore under the circumstances. He put up a gong before the summer was out, and his navigator, Pilot Officer J. J. P. Camire, was soon to follow suit.
The squadron found the month of June one of unprecedented night-fighter activity. It scuffled thirteen times with the German air force, and its gunners destroyed three aircraft in five nights. At precisely 0412 hours on 8 June, the firm of Owen, Collins, and McEvoy, gunnery experts, began to dispense business from Flying Officer E. E. Kirk’s « Q »-Queen. The introductory part of the transaction was handled by Owen, who first saw a potential customer (an F.W. 190) at a range of 600 yards on the port quarter down. Uttering the opening remarks, « Corkscrew port, go », he greeted the Focke-Wulf with 30-odd rounds of .5. As it broke away and vanished, he handed the case over to his mid-upper colleague, Sgt. D. E. McEvoy, a new partner in the organization, who, almost simultaneously with the former’s sighting, had spotted a second likely client (also a 190) approaching on the opposite quarter. This F. W. stated its case clearly and succinctly with a burst of tracer that passed just over the weaving « Queen ». McEvoy’s reply was in accordance with the business’ best traditions — a burst of 500 rounds of .303. Contact was registered, and the Focke Wulf broke away in flames. Seeing an excellent opportunity to wrap up the deal, Collins now threw in an additional’ two hundred rounds. Client number two was seen to fall to earth in flames, then to explode. Client number one having taken his business elsewhere, the transaction was closed. For his finesse in the operation McEvoy was recommended for a D.F.M.
Owen and McEvoy were also much to the fore on the night of 12/13 June, notable for producing a double Alouette victory. This time they collaborated on a Ju. 88. The second kill of the night went to Sgt. J. Howell, who despatched an Me. 110 that had obligingly dropped a fighter flare when sitting almost on his doorstep, thereby illuminating itself long enough for Howell to take swift and sure action. The twin-engine fighter, a type dubbed « destroyer » by its users, was itself destroyed, being seen to crash and explode in a matter of seconds after stopping a torrent of .303. As in the case of the aforementioned Junkers, the enemy’s annihilation was effected without his being allowed the satisfaction of firing a single shot.
* * *
On the evening of 15 June (target, Boulogne) the Hally that had so recently seen three of the enemy go down under its blazing guns was itself brought down. The end of « Q »-Queen was brought about not by fighters, but by a single well-placed burst of flak, presumably from a flak ship, about ten miles short of the aiming-point. An abandonment was ordered over the French coast. As Flying Officer F. D. Hagen picked up his parachute, the ripcord caught somewhere and out billowed the silk on the fuselage floor. He gathered it up as best he could, attached it to his harness, then hurried to join the queue at the front escape hatch. At this critical point he and his captain, Flying Officer Kirk, proceeded to put on an Alphonse-Gaston act that ended with both trying to leave via the same hatch at the same time. The jam soon straightened out, and they departed the bomber at the 12,000-foot level. They left none too soon, for, only moments later, « Queen » practically disintegrated in an explosion.
On the ground Kirk teamed up with Pilot Officer Collins and the pair evaded successfully, despite the fact that the former’s left arm was paralyzed for a month and the latter was partially incapacitated for a like period by a foot injury. Also successful in evading were Flying Officer Hagen and Flt. Sgt. R. U. Furneaux. Flt. Sgt. Don McEvoy was fatally injured in an excessively heavy parachute landing.
Don McEvoy was fatally injured in an excessively heavy parachute landing…?
From Richard Koval’s Website
F/O E. Kirk, RCAF (Evd), and crew failed to return from this operation.
Sgt. C. Adams, RAF
F/O H. Facey, RCAF–POW
F/O D. Stubbs, RCAF–POW
F/O F. Hagen, RCAF–Evd
P/O D. McEvoy, RCAF
F/Sgt. J. Furneaux, RCAF–Evd
P/O O. Collins, RCAF–Evd2 of the crew were killed, 2 were POWs and 4 evaded capture.
P/O D. McEvoy, RCAF