Alan skeoch
november 2020

Begin forwarded message:

From: SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Date: November 7, 2019 at 4:56:26 PM EST


Above is a post card Victor sent me shortly before he sent his diary 

manuscript written in 1984-1985 based on the detailed  diary he kept

during World War Two.

When Victor sent me this story in 1984 I was still teaching history at Parkdale Collegiae

Institue, a Toronto downtown core high school.   Parkdale was  and remains a gritty
place where many students have faced poverty and social dislocation..  Tough kids.
Realistic kids.  Nice  Kids.  The  kind you would want as a son or daughter.
Even so, I did not think they could handle the Victor Poppa story without 
some laundering.  And  laundering the historical record  is a very slippery slope.
So I never told the full story.  I told the story of the day HX 313 was shot down
but I did  not put that in its full context.  I used the voice of Vera Lynn whose
wartime singing was used to boost morale.  White Ciffs of Dover, I’ll Be Seeing

You and other songs.

I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way
I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you

Note:  The pop music of  World  War II has endured…

Today I think I would not be  so afraid  of using  the “F” word.  Everyone else
is using it.  Netflix uses it so often in its films that the word has no shock value
any more.   I might explain diplomatically that ‘Bless ‘Em All’ is fake news.
The  real song makes a lot more sense.

And, once free of inhibitions, I could tell the Victor Poppa story in a
real  gritty, tragic, compassionate and  humorous way.
Stick with me if you can.  If you can’t just press delete.  Do not
bother to phone me.   I am on a roll.


alan skeoch
Nov. 2019
beginning Part 3
The Victor Poppa Story

“Bless ‘em All” is the laundered version of a very popular World War 2 song.
The song’s origin is a bit misty.  Maybe written in 1917 during that horrific
war.  But more likely written later.  Certainly popular in World War 2 and
made so by  George Formby and  Vera Lynn.  The laundered lyrics do
not make much sense.   Ordinary  NCO’s were very unlikely to Bless their
sergeants and  officers, especially if they ‘crawled off to their billets’
when the real fighting began…i.e. when to bombers rolled along
the taxiways…

Now take  the lyrics and substitute one word.  Suddenly the song
makes sense.  What is that word? The word is ‘Fuck’. Go ahead
sing it both ways and  you will see  what I mean.  And I bet $10 you
will be humming and singing the unlaundered tune all day.

Bless ’em all,
Bless ’em all.
The long and the short and the tall,
Bless all those Sergeants and WO1‘s,
Bless all those Corporals and their blinkin’/bleedin’ sons,
Cos’ we’re saying goodbye to ’em all.
And back to their Billets they crawl,
You’ll get no promotion this side of the ocean,
So cheer up my lads bless ’em all

NOW I just wonder if the RCAF flight crews
sand this song while cursing Bomber Harris?
I like to think they did.

SOME of the crew of HX 313.   Ken Sweatman, Bob Muir (?), Eric Mallet, Victor Poppa.  And The Blonde Bomber…HX 313, 424 squadron, RCAF, 1944
Victor looks like so many of the kids I taught in high school which is a reminder that the airmen of  World War Two were just recent high school graduates .

The aircrew of HX 313.  Hank Freeman (George) on far left, and Victor Poppa
on the far right.


(Feb. 21 to May 27, 1944)

“February 21, 1944:  Hank and  I did an inspection of “P” Peter then went to Stores to trade in my old bots for a pair of shoes

and changed my damaged electrical slipper for a new  one.  Hank and I then gave ourselves the afternoon off.  We had a bath.
Hank, Ken, Wilf, Eric and I headed for town and drank it up. The crew now seems closer together for we are now fully
‘blooded’ after our Leipzig experience.   Leipzig was Hand’s first mission as it was for Maurice, our engineer and our
spare Navigator, Ozzie.  Ken told me later that Ozzie sharpened his  skills and we made our way accurately to target 
points marked out by a Pathfinder Squadron.”

“February 22, 1944:  Hank and I reported to Flights  and  were assigned another inspection of “P” Peter.   I skipped ou
Flights and went to our billet to light our small stove.  The coke they gave us was hard  to light so  I pulled the flare
portion out of a Very Pistol Cartridge, slipped the explosive into the bottom of the heater, lit it and that got the coke
going in no time at all.  Must tell the crew about that trick.  Later i went up to the mess and  saw  Joan.

“Eric was always volunteering for other things than flying.  One of  our gunners  had a misfortune and was killed. Terrible
One of our aircraft was following the gunners’ aircraft and could not stop.  His propeller chopped  up the gunner of
the lead  plane. Eric tried to enlist me  as a pall bearer.  I refused with a strong ‘Oh, No!’  Eric  had to find someone 
else.  Think for a moment about that accident.  Grim. “

“Here is another instance about Eric and  his volunteering.  One night we were to go  on a mission. On A long trip
there was always the problem  of urinating.  I kept a can  just outside of my turret in the fuselage.  when the urge came
upon me I just used that can and when the urine froze I threw the ice lump out my rear window which  I kept open
for better visibility.  Then Eric got the bright idea to use me as a urine volunteer.  He was given a device which 
looked like an overlarge condom.  I  was supposed to put it around my penis which was  in turn tied  around
my waist to  prevent it from falling off.  I could urinate to my hearts content just so long as the thing  did  not overfill.
I declined this   magnificent gift saying ‘why don’t you wear it yourself?’  So he  did…for a while.  He disappeared
for a few minutes  while we were going for a briefing and I said, ‘Where did  you go?”  He said the device kept rubbing
on his penis  and as a  result he had  an erection that would  not go down.  We had a good laugh over that one.

“February 23,  1944: Hank and I reported to Flights and did another inspection of “P” Peter.  We find we are too
late to go to Leeming to get our pay.  The  rest of the crew went to Harrogate except Hank who had a date
with Kay.  I stayed in the barracks.

“February 24, 1944:  Hank and I went to Leeming for our pay and hitch hiked a ride to Thirsk and then to Leeds.
Had a few  drinks  then caught train to London.  We  arrived in our usual beat condition, straightened  
ourselves  out at Queens Garden  YMCA.

“February 25, 1944: Hank and I made  a snap visit to the Beaver Club and I was surprised to run into Dick Schott
We trained together in Canada. Dick had been posted to an  English squadron flying Lancasters.  (Later Dick
was shot down and turned up in Stalag Luft VII with me.)  Hank and  I went to London’s Latin Quarter, boozed  
it up and back to YMCA before we fell down.

Note:  Readers who have read Parts 1 and 2 might assume Victor’s consumption of beer so often would
make him an alcoholic  if he survived the war.  When I met him in 1984 he did not drink at all…gave it
up.  Young men in their twenties often drink a lot of beer which does not mean that alcohol  consumption
is a lifetime phenomenon.   Hank and  Victor became very good friends.  Victor survived the war.  George
Hank  Freeman  did  not.   When  Victor was told of Hank’s death in HX 323, he cried.  And  the, 40 years
later , I sent a  letter to Victor, he  also cried.

“February 26, 1944: Hank and I left London for Caterham to visit my brother Max.  We took Max and his
friends out boozing and then dancing. What a wild night.  Met a girl and that’s rhe way she stayed.

“February 27, 1944: Got up late, ate at the snack bar and went to corny movie after which revisited the Valley
Hotel for a few beers then back to sleep on the floor at Max’s billet.   Hardwood floor and two blankets.

“February 28, 1944: I ran into a fellow I knew casually, Joe M…forget his last name.  He recognized me
first.  We  went out dancing again and were thrown out of the dance hall.

“February 29, 1944: Hank and I left for London after saying goodbye to Max and his  pals.  Then on to Leeds,
ate  at the  YMCA and went girl hunting.  We met a couple of nice prospects.  Pub crawling as  usual.
The only place for love making was in the cemetery.  My girl would only venture in a  few yards but Hank’s
girl was willing to go further.  The girls  I was with was too nervous  about her surroundings and no matter
what tactics  I used my efforts  were to no avail.  A  considerable amount of time elapsed and  my girl
and I  were getting cold so she said she was staying at Hank’s girls house. “Let’s walk there and
wait for them.”  It was a  long wait.  About 3.30 a.m. they had still not arrived.   So I left and told  my
girl to tell Hank I  would  meet him at the railway staton.   Some time later Hank came storming into
the station.  Raging mad.  “Hold your breath and then tell me what happened.” It seems Hank and  his
girl were having a  great time and  thought they were in Heaven.  On one occasion they were  making
out with her sitting on a tombstone and  the girl had her legs  off the ground and around Hank’s waist.
At the crucial moment the  Tombstone ‘shifted’  which scared the daylights out of them.  They thought
the ground  was about to open up and swallow them in a grave.  Back at the girls’ house  things got
worse.  My girl  got tired of waiting outside and went into the house and was met by the father. “Where is
my daughter?  He got really angry and got the local constable.  Both looking for the daughter
in the cemetery.   Hank spotted the constable and  the girl’s father first.  Ducking from tombstone to
tombstone they managed to work their way out of the cemetery and  made a  run for it.  This  episode
brings  a smile to my face every time I think about it.  Life does have its’ beautiful moments.

Note:  Sounds hard to believe?  But it fits.   Victor’s diary has so  many similar stories  with
names, dates,  place included.    Lucky George Freemans mother, my  aunt Kitty, has died long
ago.  She might not approve of Hank’s womanizing.  On the other hand ??  I was surprised to

learn that Hank was never mentioned at the Freeman home after his death.  His sisters children,

Doug and Christopher , did not even know George existed until they were adults. The hurt was
that deep.  “I remember  asking why Grandma was crying one day snd  Mom  said, ‘This would
have  been  George’s birthday.”  I said, “Who was George?” “My brother, killed in the war.”

“March 1, 1944:  Hank and I arrived  back at Skipton on the 5.18 out of Leeds.  Had  baths,
opened letters and parcels.  Nice to sleep  between clesn linen sheets.

:March 2,  1944:  Not much doing.  Practiced shooting with my .38 Smith and  Wesson.
Ammot for the .38 is hard to come by.

March 3, 1944:  Reported to flights and were assigned “Q” Quance to inspect.  Hank and  I were
asked if we wanted to apply  for a commission.  We  said ‘sure’ and got busy  filling in the forms
and presented  same.   We felt we could do what we  do and still be gentlemen…just need to refine
the rough edges a  bit.  We are going on a night Bullseye, my 5th, from Base to Redding, London,
Dagenham, Sait Abbots Head, Glasgow,  Catterick, Manchester, Birmingham and  back to base.  
This trip  took 6 hours and15 minutes

NOTE:  Interesting comment “We could do what we do and still be gentlemen.”  The great charm
of  Victor’s diary to me is its’ lack of pretence.  No phoniness.  No snobbery.  Just great joy stripped
of all caution.  Underneath, however, is constant fear.

March, 4, 1944:  We slept till noon then reported to Flights.  Did  our inspections  of “P” Peter.  Took
rest of the afternoon off.  Went back to our billet and lit the stove with a cartridge from a  Very Pistol
(a flare gun) .  Not too worry as I took all the precautions.  Then we had toast and sausages and
tea.  We talked  for a while.  Ken is lost somewhere.

March 5, 1944:  Reported to Flights and were sent to inspect “H” Harry. We were supposed to do
some fighter affiliation but the aircraft was declared  unserviceable.  Back to our billet, lit the stove
with the help of the flare gun. Had toast then went to a  movie.

March 6, 1944:  Reported  to Flights. Operations are in for tonight.  We are to bomb the marshalling
yards in France.  Seems to be an easy target but we are alert.  The  target is the town of  Trappes
which is my 1th mission.   There will be 346 aircraft on the raid, all of them four engined  heavy bombers.
Our gross load is to be 11,500 pounds…8 x 1,000 pound bombs, 7 x 500 pound bombs, 
The trip went smoothly as all of  our squadron made it back safely. Time was 5 hours and 50 minutes.
Happy debriefing.

March 7, 1944: Awoke around  noon hour, had lunch, cleaned  billet, then back to the mess for beer
I  wrote Mary a letter , read a bit and fell asleep.

March  8, 1944:  Hank and I  went to Flights  then gave ourselves the  day off at our favourite pub.

March 9, 1944: Hank and I inspected “Y” York.   Operations were supposed to be on but were 
cancelled.   Wilf went to town with his sailor-boy brother in law.  Wilf was full of alcohol before they
left the base.  

March 10, 1944:  Reported to Flights…we are ‘on’ for tonight…then a few  hours later it
was called of,  Flew out to the North Sea where a smoke float was thrown out and Hank and I
shot the float from a broadside position.  We used 2,000  rounds apiece.  Very low  flying, close
to the water.   Flying time 2 hours

March11, 1944:  We reported to Flights and were assigned “P” Peter to do complete job checking
from guns to turrets.  Then we were of to the Sam Hutton pub for beer.  Had some trouble
walking home.

March 12, 1944:  Same…assigned “P” Peter to check after which we did some “homing on our
radio beam”  and some 3 and 2 motored flying.  Later Hank  and  I did some Skeet shooting and
I got 14 out of 20.  

Today a new Mark VI Halifax landed,  a new  replacement.

March  13, 1944: Usual routine and  checked “P” Peter again. The special equipment and
bombsight were declared unserviceable.  Then  some 3 motored flying.

Maurice pissed me off and  just as I was going to settle things with my fists Bob intervened
and pushed me aside.  Maurice will never fit in as part of our crew.   Missions were on for 
tonight but we were not on the Battle Orders.

March 14, 1944:  Reported  to Flights.  Another air test which took 5 minutes doing evasive 
action practice.  Special equipment checks out.  Then  sent out on a Command  Bullseye, my
6th.  Took off at 2015 hours..base to Cambridge, Norwich, Lincoln, Newcastle,  Leeds,Hull, Peterborough
and  Base.  We were coned by searchlights once for 4 minutes.   The whole exercise makes
me feel good.  Took 4 hours and 10 minutes.

March15, 1944:  Operations on for tonight.  Target is  Stuttgart,  my 11t mission.  We  are sending
788 aircraft all 4 motored heavies.   Bad  night for we lost 40 aircraft and 280 crewmen…some killed,
some  captured snd  some wounded.   Our bomb was 4,000 pounds of  incendiaries
plus 2 x 250 lb bombs.  At briefing  we  are given our winds, altitudes, turning point which  is
redding, North of London.   The  wall map points out all the flak positions and the concentration
of their 88 mm. anti-aircraft gun.   Also what potential  night fighters we may  meet.   

On the raid we did not have too much of a problem, plenty of flak though.  We fly south
and make our turn over the Swiss Alps just short of the border.  The firing of  flak  guns
defines the border for us. There is not much distance between us  and the snow capped mountains.
 Stuttgart suburbs the worst flak.  We are getting banged about. 
Ken is now in position getting ready to drop the bombs.  Hank yells as another aircraft above
us is dropping his bombs.  Eric quickly moves “P”Peter  as bombs pass on our side.  The
whole city of Stutgart is illuminated by our fires and their searchlights.  I can  see bombs
exploding and  new fires  starting.   Down below Hitler’s people are getting their premature
view of  Hell.  Shells are bursting close and we are taking some hits from Flak shrapnel.
Hank and I are keeping both eyes open for night fighters.   This is some night.  Ken  has
dropped  his bombs. Eric is  now flying straight and even until our photo flashes go of and
our camera catches our bombs bursting.  Then Eric is given his new course and  we are on
way home but everyone is alert because this mission is far from over.  We do not make it
home and have to land at a Typhoon fighter base on the south coast of England.  We pick
our location to land using the ‘Nemo’ emergency call and the corresponding  ‘Darky’
response.   As we  circle  the field the outer lights are in water.   Is this a dummy airfield?
“Darky” responds by  flashing lights on  and  off.  We spot the runway lights and make your
final run, touch down and park “P” Peter at a dispersal.  since this is a fighter base the dispersal
points are not too large.  We got what rest we could and in daylight found our hydraulics were
unserviceable.   We had a  hole in our flap and the bomb bay doors also had holes. The flaps
for landing are set at 90 degrees but we could  not raise the flaps hydraulically for takeoff.  Rather
than hang around for repairs we elected to push the flaps up manually into takeoff  position, leave
the landing gear down and fly to base at Skipton.   This  worked out fine.  Sttuttgart took 8 hours  and 40 minutes.

Each bombing raid  was horrific for German civilians as seen above
…the  picture may have been taken after the HAmberg raids  but
could apply to other raids. 

Note:  There were 53 raids on Stuttgart because of the heavy industrial plants. Only partly  successful
because the  city had deep valleys and heavy defences.  Allies lost 300 aircraft and 2,400 crewmen.
Death toll on ground  was 4,950 people.  Death toll lighter than the Hamburg raids that killed
35,000 to 45,000 people. The bombing created 15 million cubic metres of  rubble
and damaged or destroyed 39,125 buildings.  

March 17, 1944:  Hank and I did  a little Skeet shooting.  I got 9 out of 10.

March 18, 1944:  Operation are on.  Target is Frankfurt on the Main River.  This will be
my 12th mission. At briefing we were told what to expect as we were given our weather, altitude ,
route as well as the flak positions.  This time we are carrying 4,600 pounds of explosives.
There will be 719 planes, all heavies.   We lost 22 aircraft and 154 men.   We took off at 1850 hours,
Over the English Chnnell.    Our airspeed indicator quit working as did our compass.
Bob does  not want to continue’   We still have  our magnetic compass and  Eric  can get Quite close
to the air speed required.  Bob rofuses to navigate and  the rest of the crew are pissed off at him.
So Eric makes a turn to return to base. A new decision needs to be  made.  Should we  dump our  bombs….
a danger below as some troops are practising for the coming invasion of Europe in.  We did not know this
but we knew there were our ships at sea.  Or should we return to base with our bombs  which is always a danger
especially when we had  a load of fuel.  We decided to fly around  and burn up fuel and then land.  Nobody is
happy about this situation for it means we will face another mission to make up for the aborted mission
at the end of our 29 missions.

March  19, 1944:  We slept until noon and then reported to Flights.  I played checkers with Hank and Rennie…lost.
We  are giving the job of trying out “M” Mother for an acceptance test.  Over the North Sea with the airplane…seemed 
fine .  Hank and I fired off 1,000 rounds apiece at the water.  silly.  Landed at 1800 hours.

March  20, 1944:  Hank  and I do our usual inspection of “P” Peter but did not finish due to rain.   Mission is on for
tonight laying mines north of Kiel in the Baltic Sea.   but mission was cancelled.   It is much easier on the nerves
to go on a mission rather than  plan for a mission that is then cancelled.  The led down is terrible.

March 21,1944:  We were supposed to be on a mission tonight, again mine laying in the Baltic Sea. And again
it is cancelled.  The excuse this time is that Eric and Ken are on another course.  Eric is going on an Air Sea Rescue 
course and Ken is on a course on the Mark 14 bomb sight.  I ent over to see Mary at Dishforth for some Tender
Loving Care.

March 22, 1944:  We flew twice today ferrying aircraft  to Croft and returned with another newer Halifax Mark III.
Only firing today was using the flare pistol cartridge to light our stove.

March  23, 1944:  Hank and I got up early to go to Leeming to get some overdue pay…my share was 11 pounds 
and four shillings then went over to the mess and had some gin and bitters along with beer.   Hank and  I took
Kay snd  Betty.  Betty and I have never really got along well together.    Hank decided to end his relationship with
Kay after all this time.  

March 24, 1944:  Hank and I are going on leave today.  We decided not to visit any distant city so set our sights
on York.  Caught train  from Harrogate to York and signed  in at the YMCA.  Then off we went to Betty’s Bar, an
RCAF hanout.  We got talking to P/o Fenton who asked  us to say  hello to Eric as he knew him from some other
place.  The place  was full and drinking was in full swing.  Later we ate at Jack’s cafe.

March 25, 1944:  Hank and I decided to see if we could survive a leave without getting involved with girls.
We planned  to spend a  quiet evening drinking at Betty’s Bar but a couple of girls made their way  to our table
and we chatted  a while then palmed  the girls off to a couple of guys we knew who  were glad to hit ‘pay dirt’
with no effort on their part.  We went back to the YMCA and bed.

March 26, 1944: A  nice spring Sunday with the sun shining and  all the good  stuff.  Hank  and I had 3 beers 
each then visiting places of interest.   Doing all the things a tourist would do.Hank and I were really enjoying our walk
 when out of the  blue this girl runs across the street and skids to a stop in front of us saying, note “I’m ‘Legs’ of
the Robin  Hood (pub) and I’ve fucked every jerk  in Sixth Group Bomber Command”  This presentation came on so
strong that we took a couple of steps back.  This appears to be a threat to this new doll.  So we said, “Well
we are the flying part of Six group and  have never heard  of you”  Meanwhile  the three of us are blocking
the sidewalk.   Hank and I are smoking with our hands  in our pockets, jackets unbuttoned, caps tucked  into
our shoulder straps, when this British Army type officer of some sort of high rank is forced to walk around  us
to get by.  Legs was using some great language and we were given  a real frosty look but we felt it was
best to say nothing.  The Robin Hood was a notorious pub in Leeds but was off limits because of  rampant

Legs language was so raw that we  sought to escape to a local park where no one  was near. We  tried
all sorts of things to get rid of her but she just would not leave.  Hank and I were getting hungry and
since we couldn’t get rid of this Gem, we asked her to go with us.  We were getting her to the point
where  her choice of words was almost acceptable. We ordered our meal and then I asked her a
fairly simple  question. “How did  you get the name Legs?”  She promptly pulled up her skirt, way up
past her hips.   You should have seen the looks we  got from the patrons. She  really did have nice legs
however she  was not wearing underwear.   Our respectable leave was being compromised.  We finally maneuvered
Legs to he railway station and we thought that was the end fit all.   Legs was more tenacious than we thought.
We headed back to the YMCA then headed for Betty’s Bar.  In we go…  most of the action is in
the basement.  I asked  Hank to find  a table while I went to the washroom.  Returning I see Hank over
in a corner making frantic gestures.  I hurried over and  Hank  Said,  “Legs is here!” Good grief, our
darling is  right in the middle of the room where she can  Zero in on a victim..  Our beer came and
we kept as low a profile as possible.   Legs spots us and  gives us a wave, heads our way until some
unknowing type introduced himself to Legs and our moment of terror was over.

Well Legs and her new  victim moved to  a booth.  we now felt at ease.  Nor too long later two lovelies walked in 
and sat at the table Legs had vacated.  We  both happened to glance in their direction when one picked up
a cigarette and  asked for a light.  Hank started to rise  and I said, “Hank if you get up and giv her a light, our
respectable leave is as  good as  over.” Hank  said, “No don’t worry, i will just give her a light.”  Hank does this
and comes back saying they want us to join them.  “Ok, just you wait and see,” and after a few drinks  in Betty’s
Bar we all leave for another bar.  Here the girls decide to chug a lug.  Imagine that!  This raises  our eyebrows
so, what the Hell.  Our morals took a giant step backwards.  We hunted around and found a  small old hotel
where the proprietor took us  to a bedroom on the 3rd  floor that only had one 3/4 bd.   The four of us looked
at the bed with an unsaid  question.  Then the proprietor tuned into our wave length and took us to 
another room on the first floor.  The room had two full size beds and a bathroom.  But there was someone
sleeping in one of the beds.  It seems Hank and I were expected to sleep in the empty bed.  No way,  we
had other plans.  After the landlord left, Hank snd  I sped  upstairs to see Gwyn snd Ilene.  Upon entering the
room Gwyn was standing near nude with her shoes, stalkings  snd garter belt.  What a  sight.  Ilene  was
almost in the same state.  I picked  up Gwyn, clothes and  all, and  said ‘’Let’s Go!”  We  made  our way to
the first floor room, snapped on the light and awoke the guy in the other bed.  He was  startled and  did
a double take.   “Don’t interfere, she’s all mine.”  Just then the door opened and  a new guy comes in.  He asked  
what were we doing.  I nodded  towards the empty bed whereupon he said that bed was his.
What a  mess.  I was carrying her clothes  and  Gwyn was still nearly nude.  Off we go back upstairs
where Hank is in bed  with Ilene.  Without saying much Gwyn crawls over those two against the wall  and
get lodged between the two girl.  Nice spot.  We all have our fun and games  and fall asleep.  

Around 5 a.m. the proprietor makes his rounds.  He  has figured things out.  Runs upstairs to our 3rd floor
room, shakes Hank awake.   Hank forgets  where he is.  Sleepy. He gives the proprietor a good  back hand.
Hank becomes fully awake then shakes me  awake. We threaten him a  bit, “you gave us this room
with only one small bed, what do you expect?”  His response “I’m going to get the Specials (MP’s?) and
a constable.  We all decide to get dressed  and  leave fast.  Walked the girls to the railway station. It
was early, maybe 6 a.m. and the locals were going to work.  They gave us  some frosty looks. These
people were not dumb. The girls got the train to Leeds.  Hank and I waited for the train to Harrogate where
we took in a show, lapped up some beer and  headed back to Base.

We discussed the matter and decided to give the respectable leave idea another try next time.
This one sure turned  out to be a honey.

NOTE:  I don’t know whether to include this story in the Victor Poppa story or not.  Sounds  far 
fetched  but Victor uses such precise terms that I am not sure.   Remember Victor rewrote 
the story forty years after the fact.  Did  he improve the story?  I don’t think so.  It fits the
pattern and even provides detail that might fit other romantic  episodes mentioned in short
form earlier.  My experience is limited but I spent ten years working with men in mining 
exploration.  Their stories and  actions were similar.  Some lurid  descriptions and  some  real
events. In the 1960’s  I stayed clear of the sexual opportunities as Ken Sweatman  did in 1944 but other
events involving beer were spot on.  One event in Dawson City.  We  awoke in a dumpy room
where I was sleeping in the bathtub and other guys in the bed.  One guy,locked  out, got into the room
by crawling over the transom above the door.  There were 4 or 5 of us.  We paid for one person rental.
We laughed a lot especially at the two people copulating drunkenly on a barroom floor where
the bartender just rolled them out the door like one gigantic soccer ball.  Believable?
You will say the story is a fabrication but it is a lasting memory of mine.  Victor was
likely saying the truth.  Betty’s Bar was real and can be found described as a wartime
 RCAF Hangout
 on the internet.

March  28 and 29, 1944:  Nothing to report

March 30, 1944:  Ken has been asked  to fly as  a  ‘spare body’ with another crew.  I sure
hope nothing happens to him as  he is  one nice person.

March 31, 1944:  Did  inspection of “P” Peter then drank beer in Mess with my brother Max and Hank.
Max is on leave. We all went to the Sam Hutton for another wild  night.’

April 1, 1944: We went to Flights and Max came along.  The crew like him.  

April 2,  1944:  Hank and I went to Flight…Max slept in until noon. A bunch of 424 Squadron guys took us
along to Leeming where we all had  a  party.  Hank  and  Max got rather  drunk.  I stayed sober because 
my stomach  is  in terrible shape.

April 3, 1944: Hank and I inspected  “P” Peter again.  Max must head  back  to his army units out of 
London…It was good seeing him again.

Note: Skipton Base.   Victor and his crew were assigned  one  of the quonset hut barracks
that are clustered top left.

April 4, 5, 6: 1944:  Rained heavily  for first two days.  Today, 6th of April, we checked  out the guns
on  “R” Romeo.   Later. I borrowed a bicycle and pedalled to Thirst.  

April  7, 1944:  Today  we were supposed to go on a mission to Paris and  Lille but it was cancelled.
We  stayed  around doing nothing.

April 8, 1944: Hank and I harmonized the guns  on “Q” Quebec and “P” Peter. Later Hank, Eric, and Maurice
weht to our local  pub to get boozed up.  Ken, Wilf, and  Bob have gone to Harrogate  to do the same thing.
I decided  to write letters and then go to bed.

April 9, 1944:  Mission #13, Operations  on for tonight.  We are to use “M”Mike tonight.  Hank and I  got busy
with our end  of the airplane then had  dinner before going to the Briefing Room.  Our target will be ‘Villeneuve
St Georges’ near Paris which is a railway yard.  We  are given our route in and out at an  altitude of 6,000 
feet.  We should expect lots of  flak at that altitude we are told.  Our bomb load  is 10,000 lbs of high
explosives.  The flight was not too bad but we took our share of Flak. On takeoff from Skipton, however,
we either flew into some other aircraft’s propeller washer were caught in a wind  shear.  This was not a
healthy situation.  One wing dropped abruptly when we were only 75 feet off the ground. Heavy load
aboard made the situation very serious.  We were just above stall speed.   Eric had enough experience to 
react fast .  Eric hit on top rudder speeding up our low right wing thus creating more lift.  This saved  us.
Anyone with less experience  may not have known what to do  in time.

Note:  In April 1944, Bomber Command concentrated its strikes on German
railway marshalling yards.   This must have been noticed by  German high
command who were expecting an invasion which came on June  6, 1944.
A massive deception was put in place in England. Where were  the invasion forces
going to land?  Picture shows just how concentrated bombing could be.

April 10, 1944:  We are now on leave again. It seems everyone is going off in different directions.  But we
all went to Leeming to pick  up our pay then to Thursk to a tour train.  I’m off to see my brother Max south 
of London.  Then YMCA.

April 11, 1944:  Staying in London for four days.  Went to visit Frank  Hughes but no one home so I went
to the movies and an entertainment centre.  Visited a few pubs.  Bed.

April 12, 1944: Rode  around London on the bus sightseeing then another movie and bar hopping.

April 13, 1944:  Caught the train to Caterham and found out from people who were not supposed to talk
that Max was now in Brighton, booked into the Emery Hotel.

April 14, 15, 16, 1944:  I had no trouble finding Max.  When he was  off duty we went pub crawling then dancing.
Which was what we did for all three  days.  When my funds were  used up I took the train back  to Skipton.
The train journey could have been  better.

April 17, 1944:  I spent most of the day answering letters.

April 18, 1944: Operations on for tonight.  Hank and I did our inspection of “P” Peter.  This  will be my
14rh mission.  Target is another railway marshalling yard called ‘Noisy le Sec’.  Near Paris. When we
work over these marshalling yards we come close to the ground.  So close that the bomb explosions 
make it seem someone is  hammering under the fuseage with a  telephone pole.  There will be 170 heavy bombers this  mission. 
We lost 4 of them on the mission which means  another 28 aircrew will not make it home.  Our bomb load
is 10,000 lbs of high explosives.  This time the route is right over Paris at 12,000 feet.  The flak is heavy
The smoke from the shells permeates our oxygen masks.  The flashes and smoke pass by our bomber
really fast and close together.  The explosions toss our aircraft all over the place but we stay on course.
Ken gets into position for bombing.  Our Mark 14 Bombsight compensates for our irregular flying due to 
the anti-aircraft  shells exploding.   Ken waits for the right moment and  then drops our load.  Then we must
fly straight and level as usual so our camera can take a picture of the impact locations.  We passed over
two French towns where our air forces were working over marshalling yards. 

Limburg railway marshalling yard after a bombing in Dec. 1945

As we passed  over London on our return to Skipton we noticed  that the Luftwaffe was giving
London a pasting.   The anti-aircrsaft fire from London’s anti-iraft defences was  mind boggling.  I could
not imagine any German bomber surviving.   We flew at 13,000 feet which is quite low.  I am tired
and longing for a cigarette.  I cup the cigarette in my oxygen mask. , my cigarette flamed and  burned 
right down to my lips.  I call Maurice on the intercom and
tell him to cut off the oxygen.  He asks why?   “Never mind why, just do it!”  He cuts he oxygen and
I light another cigarette.  This was the first and last time I ever smoked on an aircraft.  We land…flying
time for this mission is  6 hours and 15 minutes. At briefing our camera  confirms that our bombs
were all cocnetrsted on the target..

Note:  German night fighters could  sometimes see the Halifax tail gunners lighting cigarettes
which gave the Germans a clear target in the dark sky.  Cigarette smoking was forbidden for this
reason.  Victor lit his cigarette contrary to orders but he was then over England,  heading home.

April 19, 1944:  Slept late today then picked  up our mail.  Raining hard so we slacked  off.
Lit our stove with the pistol cartridge as usual.  The stove reduces the dampness somewhat.

April 20, 1944:  We  report to Flights and find  out we will be going on a Mission tonight.
We are assigned “U” Uniform which Hank and  I inspect.   I have been  issued a .38 Smith and Wesson
pistol which  I keep in my boot with a flashlight in the other  boot.  Easy to get them if needed.
Take off time is 2105 hours.

Through the day  each of us keep our feelings to ourselves.  This is  mission 15 for me.  Off we 
go to briefing where the target is on a wall map including the route in and  out using
a red ribbon indicating route changes.  Again we will use Redding as the collection and 
turning point.  We will be guided to The target  by Pathfinders leading the attack.
Our target tonight is  “Lens”, another marshalling yard.  There is no doubt
in our minds that we are getting close to D-day.  158 bombers are being sent.  We have
11,000 lbs of high explosives.  Ken has  done well on this one as our camera  reveals.
On  target.  

Skpton on Swale is one  of 3 airfields close to each other in Yorkshire.  Each airfield contains 
two squadrons…about 100 aircraft. There are many near misses when bombers arrive
back at Skipton as bombers take short cuts to get back  to base as fast as  possible.
We hear a lot of anger about these pilots who make Skipton air traffic very dangerous.
There are aircraft who want to get down fast for good reasons…short of fuel, damaged
engines,  serious battle damage, injured crew.  Because of  these emergency landings
we spend several minutes doing circuits around Skipton.   Later a solution is found
…Squadrons at each airfield will alternate  landings on arriving at the airbase  early.

April 21, 1944:  We slept until noon. Operations are on for tonight but not for us. 
Hank, Ken, Bob and  I do not feel  too well so it is just as well we are to
on missions today.

April 22,1944:  Misson # 16 for  me. Hank and I do our inspection of our guns
on “P” Peter then write a few letters at our billet.  Our mission today will be a real ‘gut’
grinding one.   After lunch  we  sit around the briefing room staring at a  map covered 
by a blind.  Our commanding officer enters, everyone  stands, he says ‘Gentlemen, be
seated’. The curtain is  drawn back, our target revealed…a very heavily industrialized
section of Germany  called  the ‘Ruhr Valley’…specific target is Dusseldorf. The Ruhr
Valley  is nick named  Happy Valley by bomber crews.   Today  we will send 997 heavy bombers
in a split force.  613 will bomb Dusseldorf.  384 will bomb elsewhere.  (This night we will
lose  43 aircraft and 310 aircrew.  Our squadron will lose 3 aircraft.)  We are shown
our route in and  out from Dusseldorf. Much of the route is over the heavily defended zones.
We  can expect late doses of flak going in and  coming out.  There will also be
many night fighters.  The room becomes  very quiet as the briefing continues.
Halfway through the briefing in walks Flying Officer B. whose  crew  is already
in the room.  I never saw this pilot ever make it to a briefing on time.  (Later, he was
shot down.   His crew showed  up at Stalag Luft 7 where I was also a POW.
Flight Officer B. survived being shot down but lost his foot on Bailing out.  
It seems he jumped from the hatch  above his  head and the foot was cut off
by the propeller.

Take off is to be at 2210 hours.  We go to our lockers to pick what we will need then  
into the truck that will drop us at “P”Peter’s dispersal site.  We chat with our ground
crew while we wait to climb aboard.  It is still daylight when we take off.  Finally
darkness descends as we reach our assigned altitude and our turning point above
Redding.  By the time we approach the enemy coast I start to calm down. We are often being
shot at by flak and there is danger we will be coned by searchlights. But I feel alright.  Anyway I am busy.
Long ago it seems when Hank and I loaded our guns.  All ready.  The big task is to
try and spot night fighters before we become a target.  We try to keep conversations  short.
Bob has been giving Eric  course directions.  Ken is busy helping Bob by picking up
built up areas on our H2S set.  Wilf is working  his radios.   Maurice is tending to our motors.
Maurice  has the habit of sucking our fuel tanks  dry and waits for the  motors to show
signs of fuel starvation.  Only then does he  switch tanks.  Eric never liked this practice
by Maurice however he never says anything. We are  now on our final course to Dusseldorf.
The  flak is getting more intense.  Eric  can see the target ahead and also see the flak 
density we will soon experience.  A large  area around Dusseldorf is lit up by fires
searchlights.   WE are being battered  by flak burst that are too close.  

Hank snd I are busy  scanning  the skies around us for night fighters.  Ken is now
in position to drop our bombs…2,000 pounds of high explosives snd 4,000 pounds
of incendiaries  Ken is giving Eric the necessary lefts and rights until he decides
to press the release switches.  Once done after the camera shot we start to get close calls
from the flak guns blow.   Then things start to ease up as we head for home.  

The mission took 5 hours s and 45 minutes.  We are debriefed at Skipton. I take my
shot of Navy Rum and any other shots as well.  Then we go for our special bacon
and eggs breakfast given to all returning crews  And finally to bed.

April  23, 1944:  Too busy to make notes in my log book.

Note: “Throughout the war Commonwealth squadrons  were generally the last
to receive new equipment, RCAF squadrons were saddled  with under-powered
twin-engined Wellingtons longer  than  their British counterparts, and also lagged
in receiving  four-engined Halifaxes and  Lancasters.  Many Canadian squadrons 
did without Lancasters … which  were the best for bomb load, range,  ceiling and
ease of handling and lightest on casualties … until 1945.” (Roger Dentley)
One good  point about the Halifax.  It was easier to bail out of with  higher
survival rate if being abandoned  in combat according to a different source.

April  24, 1944:  Operations are on for tonight so Hank and I do our usual inspection of “P” Peter.
We get through the early part of the day OK.   Write letters…speculate on the target…get
very nervous.  Most of the crews are in the briefing room when we enter.  This will  be 
Mission #17 for me.   The curtain is drawn and we see in an instant that the target is Karlsrue.
We note the Flak stations on our route.  Another split force.  613 aircraft will got Karlsruhe and
345 will bomb elsewhere.   Total attack force of958 aircraft. (We will lose 32 bombers and
224  crew members )  

There is a big flash of light behind us as we leave Skipton.  Some plane exploded on takeoff.

The weather is not too good…overcast at 10,000 feet. Conditions worse over Europe.
Our pilots  will have to contend with flying using only instruments.
We fear collisions.   We have six Squadrons taking off from airports  close to each other…all aircraft

Making a standard 360 degree turn left as we climb.  There’re now 144 aircraft circling.  We are in

solid instrument dependent weather…pilots flying strictly by the gauges in front of them.  All of 
us hoping and praying we will not collide with another aircraft in this “soup”.  As we climb I see
a big flash of  light bursting through the ‘soup”.   Someone must have crashed  on take off.  Finally
we break through at 10,000 feet and  sure enough off to our right is another aircraft not 500 feet
from us.  I wonder if there were others  even closer as we circled in the soup.

We continued  to climb crossing the enemy coast where flak bursts light up the clouds.  Like
looking through frosted  window glass.  One good thing.  We are no longer worried  about night
fighters under these conditions.  One worry.  We are picking up ice which is not too good.  We have
no way to break  up the ice.  We do have a kind of paste which is smeared on our wings leading edge.
Looks  like grease.  The weight of the ice and the big bomb load  pulls us down.    Bomb load  includes 
one 2000 pound high explosive and  4,000 pounds  of  incendiaries. Not much is being said on the intercom
but we are all aware of the increased  danger.  Ken is working our H2Sset , Bob passes us some
useful information  as to a  good fix on our  location but does not trust the info.  As a  result we overflew
on the right side of our target.  Bob realizes he  was wrong and gives Eric a new course to fly.We decide 
to unload our bombs  on what seems a likely target.  About 15 minutes later we fly through a hole in the
weather.   We are alone.  Our main force had finished bombing on target and had  headed for home. The
fires  below had burned a hole in the clouds.   Lucky  no Flak.  The target looks  well and truly smitten.
Bob  gave us a new course for home.  Not much more was said about our error…our’ faut pas.’ Flying time
was 7 hours.

April 25 and  26, 1944:  No time for diary notes…getting really busy

April  27, 1944   Operations  are on  for tonight.  This  will be my 18th mission.  Takeoff time is 2345 hours and
our target is  once again is railway yards, this time at “Aulnoye”.  Apparently we will not be bothered by
too much flak.  The  fighter problem remains though. The mission includes 116 heavy bombers.  We will carry 
10,000 pounds of high explosives.  And  once again, our ‘master of ceremonies’, the Pathfinder (Mosquito bombers)
will layout our target and instruct us where to lay our eggs. We are flying at 5,000 feet.  Ken is  busy…he does
a good job which our camera confirms  later.  Our time for this  missions  4 ours snd 50 minutes.

April  28 and  29 1944:  Recently we have been getting a lot of ‘on and off’ missions  which are terrible on the nerves.
Especially bad  when we are already in the aircraft and  ready to go. 

April  30, 1944:  Operations are on for tonight, my 19th mission.  This time we are going to “Somain”, a railway
marshalling yard in France.  Our bomb load is15 x 250 pound bomb of high explosives…7,500 pounds.
We  will bomb from an altitude of 6,500 feet.  Pathfinders were supposed to layout the target but failed  to do
so.  While the Pathfinders were taking another try we were asked or orbit off to the left….all 143 aircraft.
Flares  are being dropped  by parachute lighting up the target area as  we have done in all attacks  on 
marshalling yards.  We end  up stooging to one side for 17 minutes then there is a big rush of  aircraft
to unload and get away as  fast as  possible.   We feel the Luftwaffe must be on its way as there are many
fighter bases close by.  As a result of the disrupting the air raid is not a 100% success.  On our way back there was
a short burst of flak that hit the aircraft near us.  There was  an  explosion and bits of the aircraft 
fell  in flames.  This could have been us.  We took some hits from flak but not lethal hits.  Flying time 6 our sand 10 minutes.
My total flying time is  now 317 hours snd  55 minutes.

May 1, 1944:  Operations again  This time we are sent on a mine laying trip to ‘Brest Harbuor’ along with 5 other
aircraft all carrying 2 x 1500 pound atrial  mines.  Nice moonlit night.  We set our course at 10,000 feet altitude.
Eric and  Lt. Compton were going to fly together on this moonlit cruise.

When we reach 10,000 feet Eric says “Do you see Compton?”  I scan the sky and say he is off  to our starboard side.
Eric asks again, “Where?”  I repeat “Starboard”.   Then Eric suddenly lays  us over on our side…way over…perhaps  90
degrees….so far over that it was nip and  tuck whether we were going on our back or not.  I yell, “Eric!”.  Eric  responds,
“I know Vic!”  Fortunately we rolled back right side up.  What happened?  Eric,  in his eagerness to line up with Lt.
Compton over controlled.   (Note:  Lt. Compton finished  his tour, survived the war along with his crew.  He was a
fine person.)  

May 2, 1944:  We are on leave.  Everyone takes off on his  own.   I decided to got to Scotland on this one to visit Ann and  Ruby.
On arrival I find that Ann is off visiting her mother in Manchester.   I look up Ruby and am invited to stay which makes 
things  nice and cosy.  I have a  nice room upstairs.  After everyone is  in bed I hear the back stairs creaking. In comes
Ruby on her tip toes.  Everything was great in this nice soft bed, a real  delight.  This visit was pretty well standard
except for two occasions.  One afternoon while we were walking in the woods the urge arose.  We did  our thing and
only afterword  did  we notice we had an  audience of 6 young children around  10 to 12 years of age.  

Ruby lived very close to Loch Lomond snd one  day  i Rented a  row best and took Ruby for a boat ride. We were
about 200 yards from shore when the urge overtook us.  Ruby layed  back  on the seat  with her back in an arch,
a strain there I should imagine but Ruby was game and  we had our fun.  It never occurred to us that people could
see us easily from the shore.   Later upon returning the row boat the attendant gave us  a broad  smile.  This  
turned  out to be a really delightful leave and  I was well rested …ready to go back  on operations.

May  … I have no diary entrees.  We did a lot of flying.

May  17, 1944:  We are now using the aircraft QB-B HX313,  a  Halifax bomber.  Someone put a  big strain on 
“P” Peter after we used it.   It never seemed to fly properly any  more.

May 17, 1944:  We are assigned to fly twice  today  using QB_B HX313.  First we do fighter affiliation with a
Hawker Hurricane as  the attacking fighter.  We  have a second pilot aboard learning the tricks.  Later we
take off  again so  that Ken can practice bombing over Strensall.  

On the way to  this exercise a de Haviland  Mosquito fighter bomber comes up alongside my turret…in fact
about 25 feet.. close…he indicated he wanted to play.  What a beautiful sight.  I asked Eric if he was  game snd he said yes.
“Give him a run for the money Eric!” I said. After about 8  wild Corkscrews Eric  is pooped out and I Get the chance
to wave the Mosquito off.  He does  a  barrel roll and peels  away.  What a sight seeing such a wonderful  plane
close up and doing some really great flying.  (This picture has stayed crystal clear in my mind all my life.)

May 18, 1944:  Nothing logged

May 19, 1944:  Missions are on for tonight. My 21st.   Mission it to St. Malo, a fairly easy mission mine laying in the
St. Malo harbour  Two aircraft , each carrying 4 x 1500 lob mines.  We cannot close the bomb doors  because of
the bulky mines but this is not big deal.  The mission went smoothly and both aircraft returned to base.  We were
the only planes  used  that night.

May 22, 1944:  Missions are on for tonight.  This makes  NO 22 for me.   We notice that bombs are now being
stored  at our dispersals, a clear sign that D day is just around the corner.  Looks like we can expect more than
one mission per day.  Today our bomb loads are 250 and  500 pound high explosives snd the target is the “Le Mans”
marshalling yards.  The railways are sure getting more than their  share of bombs.  Tonight we send  112 Heavy
bombers.  Two Pathfinders  lead  the way,  Banana  One and Banana Two.   There is trouble dropping the parachute
flares due  to 40 mm anti aircraft guns below.  The Apex of these shells  is at our bombing height of 8,800 feet.

Banana One orders  us  to orbit to starboard.  We  enter a  cloud bank.  Surprisingly there is  not much complaint
over the radio telephone .  We  orbit for about 15 minutes when Banana Two orders  us to bomb the centre of
the green target he has  marked.   We begin our bomb run.  The 15 minutes delay gives our French  friends  time
to move away from the target.  We drop down to low level and do our bomb run then head for the coast
at the same low level.  I can clearly see towns and  even buildings…and  people flashing flashlights at us.  It
is nice to know we are being loved.   We climb to clear the French coast and the coastal guns gave us
our share of flak.  This trip took  5 ours  snd 50 minutes.

May 23, 24, 25,  1944:  Too many  ‘on and  off’ again missions.  Is anyone aware of how these things shatter our nerves?

May 26, 1944   We fly to Strensall today giving Ken some bombing practice.   



“Dear Alan,

Your letter came  to me approximately three weeks ago, and upon opening  and reading the first paragraph, I could not talk.
My throat constricted  and  I  had to cry.   It was 40 years ago this day (letter written May27, 1944), that we  were preparing for a
raid on a town in  Belgium…Borg Leopold.  This camp contained 13,000 German troops who had  been fully trained
and were to be moved  out the following  day.  To keep these  troops out of their air raid shelters and  above ground our
air force  planners arranged for the RAF to overfly Borg Leopold and  to continue on to  bomb Achen.  This force 
consisted  of  some 200 Lancasters. The Germans at this time went into their air raid shelters.  Then another force of some
45 Halifax bombers were routed  over our target.  They then made turn and continued on to bomb  Dusseldorf.  Again the
Germans went under to their shelters.  Then we came along…Number Six Bomber Group, RCAF with 333 aircraft which  included
424 Squadron Halifax’s ardour aircraft Q.B. – B – Hx313.  QB were the letters of our Squadron.  B was our  airport letter in the 
Squadron.  HX 313 was the serial number of our aircraft.”

“We were to bomb  from three levels.  The first level was  9,000 feet; second level was 10,900 feet; third level or wave was
11,900 feet.  We  were the third level.  Each wave consisted of 111 and each aircraft carried 18 x  500 pound bombs.
The  raid was to last for ten minutes.  As I  found  out later this raid was a classic for night bombing accuracy.  We  killed
8,500 German  soldiers in ten minutes with hardly any casualties the Belgian civilian  population.”

Note Made 1984: At this point Victor Poppa explained the routine events  of a  bomber operations day  from briefing to
a special meal of bacon and eggs.  As the day wears on the crew begin  to get nervous.  Some write  letters.  George  Freeman
wrote to a girlfriend  (platonic by sound of it) and  sounded  cheerful.  Faking perhaps.  (see Georges’ letters later). 
Some even preferred to write their last wills and  testaments.  Not George  or Victor that I could tell. As evening approaches
the crew put on their flying suits.  Victor loaned  his fur lined  suit to Bob Irwin as his feet got freezing cold…moreso
than the rest of the crew. Victor prefers the electric  flying suit as it take less space in the tiny tail gunners bubble. One 
of the most moving snapshots sent was taken surreptitiously from the crew truck.  It shows a corner of the truck
windshield and  off in the distance silhouette  against the skylines HX 313, the Blonde Bomber.

“Into HX 313 we go, each to his position.   Eric and our passenger  Bob Elliott, co pilot;  Moe, our engineer; Ken to his bomb
aimer’s position;  Bob, our navigator; and Wilf ,our wireless  operator;…all accounted for. Then George  and  myself  to our 
gunners bubbles…George as  upper middle gunner and me as tail gunner.  Eric  goes through the check  list and soon we
are taxiing around the perimeter track to the main runway.  In  position. Eric advances the throttle and we are on our way.”

Note:  Liftoff is  extremely dangerous  as HX 313 is loaded with bombs  and  high  octane fuel.  An error can detonate the load.
There would  be little chance of survival.  The crew knows this…they have seen  it happen.

“We are soon at altitude. Bob, our  navigator, has given Eric  a course and suggested so that we can arrive as scheduled.
All of the previous aircraft have stirred things up.”  (Perhaps German soldiers in Bourg Leopold will be  out watching
the bombers overflying their camp.) “Ken  (bomb aimer) is now in  his position for  bombing as we start our run.  He 
gives Eric  course directions…left, left, right, etc.  We  are  now but a few miles from the  target when Ken says, “Vic, there  is
a JU 88 below us.  I stand  up and try to see under our aircraft but cannot.   Eric  is asked  to  drop a wing so  George can
see.   He can’t see it either.  Ken is asked to give Eric evasive  action  instructions if necessary.  Just then there is  a
horrible explosion in our left inside motor.  HX 313 lurches  up as if struck  by a gigantic hammer.  Flames  run down  our
left side.  Then a few seconds later there is the chatter of machine gun bullets and  cannon shells slamming  through our
aircraft.  The plexiglass nose is shot out but the bombs are secure.”

“Our bomber did not explode.  There were  fires in from front to rear.  The inside  of much  of the plane was cherry red.
My first thoughts were: ‘You have been waiting for this and now  it has finally happened.’ I called on the Intercom
but received  no answer, only static.  HX 313, however, was still flying in a straight line.”

“I pulled off my flying helmet, opened my turret doors, reached for my parachute and snapped it to my chest. I stayed in my
position because  I saw  no parachute go by the tail.   Then,  a few seconds later, I saw  one.  It was open and  on its side
parallel to the ground  just missing the  port rudder and fin. Then I decided to go.  I swung my turrets 90 degrees in the
fuselage and tried to go  out but couldn’t because of the fire and wind.  I tried twice to no avail.   By this time the ground
was appearing quite close.  I could tell from  the fires that to bail out from the aft fuselage exit would have entailed too much 
time and  by then it would be too late anyway.  So I sat there waiting for my end.  The aircraft then went into a  flat spin.
My turret twisted  free and I was flung out by the brute force.  My leg, however, was stuck momentarily under my leg guard.
I could feel my knee pull right out of its socket.   Then my leg came free.  I was falling flat on my back.  I looked on my
chest for my parachute  and it was not there.  The parachute had been pulled away for my chest by the wind force and was
 nowhere feet from my face and above.  Pulled on the
harness  and brought the parachute down close enough so I could  grab  the D ring and pulled. It opened with sharp snap.  A pain
knifed through my groin, I put my arms above my head, grabbed the harness and  pulled thereby  relieving the pain.  A few
seconds later I saw  the ground coming up real fast. I felt as though  I was an arrow.  I hit the ground hard  and collapsed
with my parachute falling on top of me.  I am  sure the chute had  opened  at less that 1,000 feet and our aircraft had been
at 11,900when we were first hit by the flak and  then shot up  by the JU 88.”

“I managed to get onto my feet but I could not feel  anything  from the waist down…felt like metal bands were clamped around
my ankles and knees.   I was standing balanced as though on stilts.  Just t hen I could hear motors screaming…an aircraft
in its death sieve.  I Dropped flat to the ground.  It is amazing how close you think you are to the ground, as  if you are being
pulled down tight, pressed into the grass.  This aircraft hit a few fields away and  exploded.”

“All of this happened at approximately 2 a.m. on the 28th of May, 1944.  After the explosion I found I couldn’t walk but moved with
a painful shuffle.  I moved away from the area slowly.   At wire fences I would put my body through and  then with my hands pull my legs  through.
I moved along in this manner until the dawn started to glow.  Then I made my way  into the centre  of a wheat field where  I  lay down
and fell into a deep  sleep. I awoke at noon hour with the sun shining down at me.   I made my way out of the field and crawled  under
a tree.  I took off my electric suit and found I  had suffered some  spinal chord damage and had torn open my left leg and buttocks.
The  leg was swollen twice its normal  size and black  and blue.  I also had torn muscles and  ligaments.  I crawled  to  a farm house
where the farmer  was kind but reluctant  to hide  me.   He gave  me water and milk to drink.  We were advised in England never
to impose upon these people.   I they showed willingness, fine.   If not, leave.  If we were caught with them they would suffer

“My legs were starting to stiffen up and  the pain was increasing.  I made  my way to another field where I lay down and rolled and rolled
in agony.   I was this way well into the afternoon.   Finally I felt that I must get  some assistance.  On my knees I made my way  
back to the  farm house and indicated I  would like police assistance.  While waiting, a Belgian doctor gsve
me an injection of some sort but it had no effect.  I gave the farm woman all of my escape  money and shortly two Luftwaffe
NCO’s came  in an automobile.  I was placed in the  back seat with one  NCO and because I  could not bend my  legs I had
to lay across his body.”

“I was driven to our target the previous night.  There was one room left standing where I was deposited on a  bed.   Despite all
of the  killing we had done I was not mistreated.  I was given a bowl of greasy stew which i could not down.  Later, I was visited
by a German medical officer   All he did was rant and rave  at me in German.   Although I Felt he was going to strike me, he did not.
Three days later I was taken outside and placed in the back of a truck with four caskets.  A German NCO pointed to one and
said “Komerad  Irwin. This was our navigator Bob Irwin.  I gave a negative response.  He then pointed  to the casket on my right
and said “Kamerad Wakely”.  This was the coffin of Wilf Wakely.  Again I gave a negative response .  I was not questioned about the 
third caskrt. This one must have been George. The fourth  was empty as I had moved it with my foot.  At that  time I did not know George
was dead.   It wasn’t until I returned to England after the war  was over that I got word from RCAF records that George had  been
killed.  This left me stunned as  Hank (George)  and I were real close friends.”

Note:  Victor  Poppa’s account closed the file on the  last flight of HX 313.   He was the last person to get out of the aircraft.  All had
been able to get out one way or  another, except for George Freeman.  Two who got out were killed when they  hit the ground.
The rest survived. George was  likely killed  when  the JU 88 strafed the plane.  One of the crew remembers George’s legs hanging down
as he worked his way past the upper turret to reach the escape hatch.   The nagging thought that George was remained  alive because
gunners were often trapped in their  turrets like  Victor Poppa.  HX 313 exploded on impact near an abandoned railway station.   Eric  Mallett
and Ken  Sweatman were escorted  past a pile of melted metal that had once been The Blonde  Bomber.  They could not stop to look
closely for their  escorts were members of the Belgian Underground and it was imperative that they hide Ken and Eric as 
quickly as possible.   Victor Poppa, George Elliott and Morris Muir became POW’s.

Victor’s adventures as a POW Had similarities to Steve MacQueen in the The Great Escape…only life was a hell of a lot less
fun.  Worse  for the Russian POW in he adjoining camp where abuse was more prevalent.   Victor had a  choice  when  the war
ended.  Either to walk out of the Stalag or  stay put until Russian troops took over.  The German guards  just disappeared one
night leaving the gate  open when the sun came up. Victor and a friend decided  to take their chances  and  start the long and potentially dangerous
trek through the  Russian sector in hope he could reach the American sector.  He had he good fortune of  hooking up with nine
French  girls hiking their  way  back  home from a German labour  camp.  

Victor had been  on a long march  from a  POW camp in Poland to another in Germany.  On that trek he became aware of the
hatred the German civilian population had toward  air force prisoners.   The bombing of  Bourg Leopold killed  many but the 
constant bombing of German cities killed  a whole lot more.  Mobs tried  to attack air force prisoners. “While in Kohn train station we   were
threatened by a large mob.  Our guards, however, kept order and we were not molested.”   So he knew the risks when  he walked
out of his Stalag and  headed south to American  lines.   In one instance, at dusk, Victor and  his French girls entered a German house
which they thought had been abandoned.   Instead they met a  German officer who was already in bed  but with a  Luger under his sheet
aimed right at them.  They left without incident.  Fear was spreading through the German civilian population in what was to become
East Germany. German  officers and soldiers feared for their lives.



alan skeoch
Nov. 16, 2019


1) Eric Mallet’s Description of THAT EVENING OF MAY 27/28, 1944

“Dear Alan:
In the first place I must you that George Freeman was never known to us  as George,  he was Hank.  Hank carried out his duties as  Mid Upper Gunner
with great courage and at no time was overcome  by fear. I am enclosing the only picture  of our aircraft that I have with a member  of the ground crew
sitting in my seat.  The ‘Blonde Bomber’ was one of the finest aircraft that I have ever flown (note: Eric was an experienced  pilot)  At that time the  Halifax 
was the fastest heavy bomber in the world.  We  carried 42 tons of  bombs and 21,000 gallons of100 octane  gasoline, total all up weight was 85,000 pounds 

Hank’sturret had four Browning machine guns capable of firing  1,250 rounds per minute.”

Note from 1984:  Eric Mallett’s enthusiasm for the Halifax contrasted with the opinions of military historians who regarded the Halifax heavy bomber inferior to the Lancaster.
Some historians even went so far as to note that the conversion of  bomber squadrons to Lancasters was done in a discriminatory manner which favoured
RAF  bomber squadrons.   Canadian Number Six Bomber Group continued to fly Halifax bombers to the end of the war.

“The member of  my crew were  Flight Lieutenant Bob Irwin (deceased); Wireless Operator Wilf Wakely (deceased); Vic Poppa, tail gunner; Ken Sweatman, bomb aimer;
Engineer Morris Muir (English); Mid-UpperGunner George Freeman (deceased); and flying  officer Elliot who was coming  along on his first trip…The target was Borg
Leopold in Belgium a base  which the Germans  were using as a  rest camp for their troops from the Russian front.   After leaving the briefing I  mentioned  to the 
crew that we were being sent on a mission for the sole purpose of killing people. We  carried  14,000 lbs. of anti-personnel bombs and the aiming point was to
be the officers quarters.  This mission did not sit well  with the crew. We had already  been through some tough missions against industrial targets but
this  mission made us feel uneasy.”

“Strangely enough we were not able to drop our load.  We were  right on our bomb run when we got hit.  Just a few seconds prior to being hit I had  an
urge to take evasive action but I did not because we had  our bomb doors  open and  had  started  our run.  I didn’t want to spoil the bomb aimers sighting
as there was  no indication of an attack other than my hunch.   Suddenly there  was  a tremendous burst of flame and I gave the order to ‘abandon aircraft ‘
immediately.  Knew from past experience that we only had seconds to do so because  100 octane gasoline  would blow  up once the  flames reached  the 
tanks. The Navigators position was right on top of the  forward escape hatch.  The whole crew was supposed  to go out this exit so  I would know when all
were out.  They did  not, however,  because Bob Irwin couldn’t get the hatch  open.  The second pilot (Elliott) and engineer (Muir) took off the rear seat and
went out of the entrance hatch.  I went forward to see how Bob was  doing and  by good fortune he was  beginning to have some luck so  I went back and
straightened out the aircraft.  In what seemed  like an eternity I returned to the hatch in time to see someone leaving.  I then, did not hesitate to  follow.
Upon hitting the air my flying  boots left me and I then tried  to find the rip chord  on my parachute.  I couldn’t find the  ring for what seemed like another
eternity. Eventually I hooked the ring, otherwise I would  not be here.”

Note:  Even today, Oct. 2, 2019, I can remember reading Eric Mallett’s letter.  Rivetting.  I could hardly believe I  had set an event like  this in
motion back 1984.   I had an idea that this  was  the end of the story so I read  slowly  and  re-read even slower.   But the story of the  Last Flight
of  HX 313 was really just beginning.  Read on!

“Drifting down through the nigh sky, I could see the target with the bombs landing, exploding and  setting fire to the buildings.  I thought for a moment or two
that I was going to land right on it.  The next thing I recall was seeing the ground  come up to me and then  ‘Boom!’…everything was silent.  When I came
to, I found myself right beside  a barbed wire fence.  Remembered my previous training and buried my parachute.  It required much effort.

“It is almost  impossible to describe the feeling that overcame me.  Since that day nothing has ever scored me as all I have do is recall in my
mind this dreadful night and the terrible feeling that I had.”

“I spent the rest  of the night sitting in a cornfield taking off my rings and rank markings as well as looking at my purse and pandora.  The escape kit
contained Horlicks tablets, benzedrine, German, Belgian And French currency.  When daylight came I discovered that I  was close  to a small village.
I knew that i  must get some help as I had a badly cut finger and no footwear.  I waited and  waited to  see what  sort of  traffic was entering or leaving the village.
There seemed  to be none other than that of  someone  tying up a  goat close to  where  I  was  hiding, for  quite  long time I wondered what the tinkling of
the goat’s bell  was.”

“Alan,  I  am going  to sign  off for now for this  is  only the beginning of a long, long story.  Enclosed you will find  your map with the location of the attack. Also 
you will find pictures of my crew, and one of  the Blonde Bomber.   We  were not allowed to take any pictures of our aircraft for security reasons, as  you can
well understand.    Also included is a  picture  of Hank  and Vic  Poppa engaged in a  little horseplay outside of our flight room.   Vic Poppa  and Ken  Sweatman
would be very pleased to hear from you if  would  care to write them.”

Kikndest  Regards
Eric  L. Mallett


PICTURE of George Freeman and, I believe, the girl known only as  Kay.  I think
this is the woman he wanted to marry after a year of  chasing women  with his good
friend Victor Poppa.

This story began as an attempt to find out what happened to George Freeman  on that horrific May 27/28 evening.
“At times  Hank and  I went on leave together where we  had undisciplined fun.  Hank had a real way of charming the girls in the mess
as well as on our trips  away from he base.”  As Day approached the crew of  HX 313 were working together  like  a well
oiled machine.  A human machine.  “On one mission it was Hank’s birthday and we  arranged for Ken  to say  ‘Happy Birthday Hank’ instead
of ’Bombs away’.  QB B HX 313 was shot down on its  fourth mission.   The  crew had  flown more than double that number.  Eight missions
for some.  For others, many more missions.  The death rate was high.  They knew  that.
Both planes and men  had short lives in  #6 Bomber Group.   The results of the  steady bombing  was a devastated  Germany.
Ciies turned into rubble.  Factories flattened.  Many many thousands of people maimed and killed.  As allied land troops fanned
out across Germany this devastation became an  embarrassment to many.  As a result  the  Bomber  Groups were never  given
full recognition for their service and some  felt neglected.  Side  lined.  Overlooked.  

The  story was assembled back in1984 and now updated in 2019.  Much has happened and continues to happen.
Discoveries.  Take the war graves for instance.  One of my colleagues, John Maize, was working in Holland in 1984
and I asked him to see  if he could find the grave  of George Freeman.  He found George and Wilf and Bob all
buried side  by side in a military grave in Belgium.   What day do you think he visited the grave site? 
…John Maize arrived  there  on May 27, 1984…exactly 40 years to the day after the Bourg Leopold attack.
And on that same day, May 27, 1984, Victor Poppa, Eric Mallett and Ken Sweatman sent the letters that made this
story possible..


When George Freeman’s personal things  were returned aunt Kitty and Uncle Chris, there were two letters
that George had written but never mailed.  They reveal much so have been included.  George was a young man…barely
past the teen age part of his  life as  will be apparent.  Thoughts  of death are not a big part of the letters but those
thoughts  can be found between the lines.

“Arrmed Forces Air Letter
Flight Sergeant Freeman, G.F.,

MAY – 1944 (/)

C/O Scanons Store,
1439 Kingston Road,
Toronto 13, Ont.

Dearest Mom and Dad,

Well dearest, here I  am again.  Have received a letter from you and another from Mickey (sister).  It sure is swell to hear from you.
We have been pretty busy of late and  I’m pretty tired and would like to see the end  of the war.  Maybe it’ll end soon.  I’m
flying as a  spare gunner and  also as  a  regular member of the crew, it’s a bit risky flying every time but at least it keeps  me from 
being browned off.  Auntie Jean and everybody down that way are fine and send  their love  to you and dad.  I’m sorry dad can’t get the help 
he needs the golf  course. (Chris was  head greenskeeper at the Hunt Club Golf Course in Scarborough where George spent
his teen age years  caddying.) I don’t think I told  you about the visit I paid  on my last leave to one  of the girls parents house.
The girl works in our mess  and is  a good girl.  In fact, mom, she is a Cockney so you have an idea that what she is  like.
Her parents made me very welcome and  I had two eggs there.  Eggs area blessing when you can get  them.  (This  ‘good girl’
and George were planning marriage but her name has been lost).  Frankly,  mom, I like Cockneys the best of anybody
in the south of England.   They don’t beat around  the bush if they are going to tell you something.  Gosh!  I almost forgot you
should receive a Victory Bond  pretty soon.  I’ve paid  for it so do what you want with it.  Seems  like there isn’t much more
to say Mom, outside of I’m fine and  hope you and  everybody are the same.  I’ll close for now with love to all  and  all my love
 to you and Dad and may God
be with you.

All my Love, 

Note: This letter had been ‘opened by the examiner’  on April 6, 1944.
All personal letters were censored in case crucial information would
compromise the war effort.

George   xxxxxxxxx


Sgt. Freemand,

Dear Dot,

This is just a couple of paragraphs to let you know I’m still kicking and  that Jerry hasn’t had much  success in getting rid  of me.  How 
goes the battle with you and are you still working as hard as ever?  First, I want to thank you for the swell Valentine.  It was super.
How did  you ever dig it up?  I’m sorry I couldn’t return the favour and send  you  one.  Guess  you’ll have to settle for a  
Christmas card when Christmas rolls  around  again.  Will you thank Beryll for her card and tell her as  soon as I can find  the 
address I will write her too. Kind of me don’t you think?  Thank her for the pics  as well.

Things  are pretty much the same as ever over here.  Nothing good to eat and lots of beer.  I’m still as teetotaler.  The dances 
are corny…always  will be.  This mountain music they dish out here is worse than Columbus  Hall  stuff.  Guess  I sound pretty 
browned  off (fed  up) with things. Well I’m not too  badly put out.  It’s just the monotony of things.  One good thing is ‘leave’
which comes up pretty regularly.  We do get a  bit of a change in scenery, faces,  etc. I saw Sam Manhood on one leave.  
He looks  pretty fed up with everything not to mention that he has  aged  about 4 years.  Say, I wonder if I have aged  too?

The next thing on my list of jazz to talk about is flying.  That too is very monotonous.   I have put in a few trips  over Germany
and haven’t had too  much trouble with Jerry although he does try to give us a scare once in awhile.  The last trip over the 
skipper was in an excited mood at having seen his first real live fighter…F.W. 190.  So  he “dood it in his pants’ if you know
what I  mean.   If  I ever did that I’d ask  for my discharge  so  help me.  The agony of  it was that he had to sit that way for 
six hours.  On the whole it’s not to bad over  there if you keep your eyes open.  Maybe I’ll live through it.  Who knows?

Let’s skip that and talk about you.  That picture we had taken sure was terrific.  I had some time explaining to the boys
that it was  purely a platonic  friendship we had for each other.  How goes you and the Masonic Temple.  Still up there regular?
Are Beryll and  Freddie still on just friendly terms or has Freddie put on the old charm and  made her fall for him?

Well, Dot, there doesn’t seem to be much  more to say outside of it’s closing time.   So give my love, etc.  to the gang
and write soon.  Love to Berryl.

xxxx love xxx
xxx George xxx


There is so  much that needs saying about HX 313, especially the larger picture of the RCAF and 424 Squadron.  To
do so , however, needs a lot of space and a lot of time

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