1944 - August 1945
France, Belgium, Holland, Germany
430th Squadron "The eye
My story begins in England...
The 2nd Tactical Airforce was composed of many squadrons. I 'wasn't
told beforehand the purpose of this temporary duty. There was one
aircraft, one pilot and one ground crew member picked from each
squadron and all lined up outside London on an air field. I figure
I was picked because I always kept myself looking smart 1 always
dressed properly and shaved every day. A lot of the guys got away
with looking pretty scruffy, but I was proud of the uniform. Anyway,
the King walked through it all and spoke to the pilot next to me.
I could hear his hesitation, his stutter. I realize now after more
than fifty years what an honour it was to have been picked amongst
all the ground crew from the squadron to represent the R.C.A.E at
May 11/44...left Odiham
arrived in Hurn
Now we moved south in convoy as a squadron. At the time we didn't
know why. The invasion was very hush-hush.
May 12/44...left hurn
Southern England at the time looked like solid airfields, all for
the defense of the country. They were filled with fighter aircraft,
which, because they carried less fuel, stayed south to intercept
raiders coming in.
May 27/44...left Salisbury
returned to Hurn
We were beginning to load our trucks with spare aircraft parts and
equipment. I tried to sneak my bike in after all, it had cost me
a quid but got caught, and was told, "You're not going to need
that where you're going." So then we knew: INVASION ! ! !
the invasion to begin
Our section officer who told us said that it was not yet common
knowledge. We went to breakfast the next day and nobody else knew.
I guess our officer jumped the gun because he trusted us.
begins. We left Hurn, arrived in Old Sarun
The Catholics were given general confession on a tremendous field.
Every ally, every nationality was gathered there - Canadians, Poles,
free French, Russians, whatever - a sea of people. Far away there
was a platform with ;m Irish priest on it, giving us general confession
and absolution in the thickest of brogues over a sound system.You
felt that right there you were really absolved of your sins; that
you had sincere contrition.This massive sacrament was only given
to men going into battle.
invasion craft for France
I don't remember being afraid. I'm sure there must have been fear,
but have found that kind of memory doesn't stay with you. But I
do remember thinking: Hey! There must be a mistake here! I'm in
the air force! What am I and a few R.C.A.F. ground crew doing on
an invasion craft with a bunch of British commandos, storming the
Normandy beachhead with my trusty 303 rifle? I left the Essex Scottish
for the Air Force so I wouldn't have to do this kind of thing! What
happened to the wild blue yonder? Matson was still with me. We exchanged
letters -he wrote a letter to his wife and I wrote one to my family.
If one of LIS didn't make it. the other would mail the letter given
to him. That was on D-Day +8. From a book I recently read about
the invasion,! found out about Kirk Maier, a German accused of killing
so many Canadians in cold blood instead of taking prisoners. I've
realized how close we came to being a second Dieppe. We had arrived
only three miles behind the front line. The German generals could
have cleaned that beach off so easily, pushing us right back into
the Channel, had Hitler allowed them to follow their plans. But
he thought the landings were a diversionary tactic and that the
real invasion would take place else-where.Thus. The German leaders
had to sit on their hands, allowing us all to gain a foothold. We
sat in the landing craft for two days. I don't know why they didn't
let us land - maybe there was too much congestion.
June 16/44...landed on
the beach near Asnelles
We got bombed the night we landed. I crawled under an ambulance
and slept a bit. To drive our truck, which was loaded with spare
plane parts and personnel - us - off the landing craft, they picked
a ground crew member from our mobile photo processing truck who
wore thick Coke-bottle-bottom glasses. I don't know how he ever
got in the Air Force. He drove down onto the beach and tipped the
truck over into a ditch. Everything landed on top of me, cracking
two of my ribs.When the truck got righted we started driving down
a road for some distance but got stopped by the Army, one of whom
called out."Where the bloody hell do you think you're going?
Jerry's just over the next hill!" We backed up.
124 A.F. at St. Croix, three miles behind the front line
I stumbled around in great pain until I found the M.O. trying to
put up a tent. He said, "I can do two things: I can tape it
up - it's gonna hurt like hell. Or I can leave it the way it is
- it's gonna hurt like hell." I said/Leave it the way it is."
127 A.F. Bazenville
In that first two weeks, the engineers picked a farmer's field to
clear a strip on the ground with bulldozers. Then they laid down
heavy steel mesh to serve as a run-way. Mustangs and Spitfires would
fly in from England on photo reconnaiscence. Each would take a whole
camera magazine of shots, then land at our airfield to have us remove
tlie exposed magazine. We'd hand it to the pilot in exchange for
an unexposed mag that was stashed in the cockpit. It would get reloaded,
and up the plane would go for another sortie before returning to
England.The Mustangs were too precious to leave in France, but they
left us there. The Canadian Army's tanks were rolled down into big
angled pits dug by the engineers.This tilted them upwards so their
long range guns would get more elevation to fire into encmv positions.
So, initially at this airfield there w^ere a handful of us photo
bashers and some armament people to service the planes' guns. Of
course, there was army all around.
128 A.F. Sommervieux, Bayeux
About two weeks after we landed, another photo crew was flown in.
Included were two friends from Windsor, Mike Bunt and John Coulter.
Mike said, "What are you guys doing here?" H.Q.had expected
much of our group to be casualties, and they were our replacements.
Others had come to operate the mobile processing unit when it arrived.
By this time I'd been promoted to corporal and was paid corporal's
wages, but didn't have to wear the stripes. Eventually though, Matson
was promoted to sergeant, and I took over as head of the camera
section. My stripes went on my sleeves then. The city of Bayeux
was only walking distance away. In its cathedral hung a famous tapestry.
To attend Mass we stood on the balcony, rifles over our shoulders,
watching the balconies all around the top fill with commonfolk who
stood too. Onto the main floor would march the mayor, councilmen
and dignitaries to their own special seats. Then Mass would begin.
After France, Belgium, Holland and Germany I got
to go back home. We boarded the S.S. Samaria in Liverpool and it
took us back to Quebec, Canada where we arrived on 27th August 1945.
I got back to my home town of Windsor on 29th August 1945.
Robert R. Dumouchelle
Portion of ID Card issued one week before the invasion of France
Disembarking the landing craft on the beach, shortly after this
picture was taken, we turned over in a ditch. I broke two ribs in
First trip into Bayeux after establishing the airfield just outside
the town. This is Bayeux Cathedral home of the famous tapestry.
French towns that we passed through had been turned into rubble
by the war.
The first sights of Canada in August 1945, I had survived.