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LQ-M for Mother is the story of the only Halifax bomber crew shot down during the Second World War over the city of Groningen in the Netherlands; Ten Boer the Dutch village that adopted 6 of the seven crew members and takes care of their final resting places, and the mothers that were brought together as a result of their sons paying the ultimate sacrifice for a country they never knew. LQ-M for Mother and her crew were part of the 405th Squadron assigned to the “Pathfinders”, one of the most elite bomber squadrons from WWII. The story began with Frank Moore saving the artifacts of the navigator’s family, a family with a father decorated for his service in the Great War and two sons who fought for their country in the Second World War, from being split and sold on eBay. The suitcase told the story of not only the McCracken family, but also a story of mothers coming together to console each other over the loss of their sons, the story of loss on the home front.
Renowned Canadian author, Ted Barris has told this amazing story in Airforce, Canada’s Air Force Heritage Voice magazine, vol39/No.4. Journeys by Jerry Van Dyke, a Canadian family owned Tour Company with close links to Groningen and the Netherlands commissioned Doug Bradford to do a painting to commemorate the final moments of LQ-M for Mother and her crew in the skies above Anneka Van Dyke’s place of birth, Groningen. The first of a limited number of prints was framed and presented to the village of Ten Boer, the final resting place for 6 of the 7 Halifax crew members. The ceremony took place in the council chambers of the village with the Burgermeester and council members present, along with a small contingent of Canadians including Frank Moore, Doug Bradford and Jeremy Van Dyke on April 26, 2017.
During this celebration, Frank Moore also presented the people of Ten Boer with a custom made book containing letters between the mothers, as well as other correspondence and background information regarding the crew and their families lost the night LQ-M for Mother fell from the skies. The Burgermeester has vowed to use this book and the framed print as a means to tell future generations the story of the 6 Commonwealth War Graves in their local cemetery. Following the presentation of the framed print to the people of Ten Boer, a small ceremony took place in the local cemetery where F/O Alexander McCracken was presented with his personal medals for the first time. Major Terry Wong, with the blessing of the R.C.A.F. presented the presentation case of medals to LQ-M’s navigator under a beautiful blue sky while flowers were placed on all 6 headstones. All present where then invited to place tulips and plant tulip bulbs in a small garden directly in front of the entrance to the cemetery in what has become the start of a symbolic friendship garden between the village of Ten Boer and the Van Dyke family. The ceremony in Ten Boer, as well as the story behind LQ-M for Mother has received both National, as well as local news coverage in both the Netherlands and Canada and the story continues to receive coverage. A few of the stories have been included in this Press Release.
The remaining limited prints made from the original painting of LQ-M for Mother are now being offered for sale, with all proceeds from the sale going to National Service Dogs to assist in their Certified Service Dogs for PTSD program. N.S.D is a nonprofit organization very close to the Van Dyke family and it is our goal to raise enough money through the sale of the prints to sponsor one of NSD’s certified dogs, through the life of the dog to assist a Canadian Veteran with PTSD.
NSD’s Service Dog for PTSD Program was launched in 2011. The dogs are used to assist individuals suffering from long-term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). NSD is currently offering this service to Veterans and First Responders in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta. Although NSD is the first Assistance Dogs International accredited service dog training school in Canada to launch a program of this kind, the model is widely used in the US, and there are many reports that Service Dogs speed recovery from PTSD and help reduce reliance on medication. As the pioneer of the Certified Service Dog for Autism Program, NSD has once again shown innovation with launching this program.
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The limited edition, artist signed prints can be purchased through Journeys by Jerry Van Dyke by emailing Jeremy Van Dyke at Jeremy@jerryvandyke.com. The prints are available for $100.00 plus shipping and handling of $25.00 to any address in North America. A very limited number of copies of the book that was presented to the people of Ten Boer will also be made available shortly. This book will also be accompanied by an autographed card from F/O Frederick Gladding D.F.C. – 405 “Pathfinders” Squadron R.C.A.F. F/O Gladding was a navigator and took part in forty two sorties on Halifax and Lancaster bombers from October 25, 1944 to March 20, 1945.
LQ-M for Mother, the crew and the basic story behind the print.
“The Crew” M for Mother has been personally signed by the artist and for the Artist Proofs by veteran F/O Frederick Gladding D.F.C. – 405 “Pathfinders” Squadron R.C.A.F. who flew Forty-two sorties as a navigator on Halifax and Lancaster Bombers between October 25, 1944 and March 20, 1945.
HISTORY BEHIND THE ART
Number 405 (Vancouver) Squadron was the first R.C.A.F. squadron formed overseas in the Second World War and was the only Canadian “Pathfinder Squadron”. Their role in the war was described by the mother of Cliff Kettley (Radio Operator) in a letter dated November 28th 1943 to the mother of Alex McCracken (Navigator) as (Quote) The Pathfinders called “Target Indicators” have only one job: to find the target and drop super flares on it. These flares can be seen from the stratosphere through almost total cloud. Only the most experienced and daring airmen are chosen for the task. The Squadron boasts the cream of the R.C.A.F. crews and you will know that our boys were all topnotch in their lines.. (unquote)
A brown suitcase was acquired in 2008 which contained a trove of material on F/O Alexander McCracken which included his service medals along with his father’s from WW1 and exchanges of letters between “The Crew’s “mothers and various notifications from R.C.A.F. authorities. Rarely do you find so much information which led to detailed research on the crash of HR 864 LQ-M on the night of July 25th, 1943
This was our introduction to the McCracken family and the crew of LQ-M for Mother. Frank knew of the suitcase and when the owner of it at that time wanted to part out the contents and sell everything on Ebay, Frank bought the suitcase. The case contained all that remained from the McCracken family: a father who fought in the Great War and two sons who fought in the Second. Letters from the mothers of the crew as well as many official documents from Canada’s War Department, Britain’s War Department as well as the town of Ten Boer.
LQ-M for Mother
LQ-M was a Halifax MKII-B bomber. This was the second version of the Bomber more Canadian crews flew than any other bomber. This bomber was the second model of the second variant. The MKII had more powerful engines, a new more aerodynamic nose and unlike some versions, LQ-M had an upper gun turret.
NIGHT OF JULY 25TH 1943
The crew on the Handley Page Halifax 11 bomber, registered as HR 864 with the 405 squadron departed Gransden Lodge England en route for Essen Germany when attacked by a night fighter over Ten Boer, Groningen Holland at 23:56 PM. Two engines were hit and caught fire. F/O Alex J.Scohowski Bombardier, bailed out before the aircraft exploded and crashed on a farm just west of Ten Boer. He became a P.O.W. and was interned in Stalag Luft 3 and had a part in the Great Escape.
Fatalities included W/O 11 Clifford J.V. Kettley Radio Operator , P/O Michael S. Smyth Tail Gunner , F/O Marcel E. Tomczak Pilot, F/S Edward White Air Gunner, Sgt. Albert Wood Flight Engineer, and F/O Alexander P. McCracken Navigator. The crew is buried together at Ten Boer Protestant Cemetery in the Netherlands.
THE NIGHT FIGHTER
Major Paul Zorner claimed his 10th victory with the downing of the Halifax bomber HR864 LQ-M on July 25th, 1943 and he reported unusually bright northern lights that night. Zorner positioned himself under the bomber and allowed the bomber to fly through his line of fire along its starboard wing. It started to burn immediately and the aircraft went down in a step right spiral. Ironically, the starboard engine of his Messerschmitt BF 110 stalled and started to burn forcing him and his Funker to bale out. This was the only occasion during his entire combat career, and 272 missions, that Zorner was forced to take to his parachute.
A presentation of this print to the Town of Ten Boer is planned on April 26th,2016 in honour of THE CREW of HR864 LQ-M and of the town of Ten Boer for their support during the war and for safeguarding our CREW for eternity
Journeys by Jerry Van Dyke of Cambridge Ontario have in the past supported many initiatives involving Canadian Veterans. They have again graciously stepped forward to sponsor this project and while focusing on the Crew of HR864 LQ-M, through them, honours thousands of airmen in Bomber Command that lost their lives in World War 11. All proceeds from the sale of prints will be donated to the National Service Dogs Program and targeted to the special needs of our veterans suffering with PTSD.
CBC News Saskatchewan – Suitcase of wartime letters reveals Sask. families’ plight – Canadian mothers connected through learning the fate of their sons
By Sharon Gerein, CBC News Posted: Apr 27, 2016 8:34 PM CT Last Updated: Apr 27, 2016 9:02 PM CT
It was a small suitcase, about the size of a large laptop. What was inside the suitcase was a glimpse into the wartime hope and anguish for seven Canadian families, including three from Saskatchewan, during the Second World War. The correspondence nearly ended up on the auction block earlier this year, but it was saved by a man named Frank Moore. It eventually made its way to the hands of Canadian historian and author Ted Barris. And now he’s talking about the letters he’s found inside that suitcase. The letters were sent to a Montreal woman, Catherine McCracken. She was the mother of Alex, a navigator on a Halifax bomber. The earliest correspondence is a letter to McCracken indicating that Alex’s plane had been shot down and he was missing in action in July 1943. A similar letter would have also been sent to six other families, including the Saskatchewan mothers of Marcel Tomczak, Michael Smyth and Alex Sochowski. A picture of Royal Canadian Air Force Marcel Emmett Tomczak from Saskatchewan. (Canadian Virtual War Memorial). The other crew members included, Cliff Kettley Jr. and Edward White of British Columbia. The last member of the crew was Albert Wood. He was a British flight engineer. For months, the mothers didn’t know the fate of their sons. The Royal Canadian Air Force shared the names and addresses of all the crew members with the families. The mothers of those missing airmen began writing to each other. “There is this interesting circle of conversation going on among the mothers,” says Barris. “It was waiting, waiting, waiting like suspended animation, for the other shoe to drop to find out what happened to their sons.”
Ted Barris’s book, “The Great Escape: A Canadian Story,” received the 2014 Libris Best Non-Fiction Book Award. (Ted Barris). He adds, “these women were drawn into a moment in history by circumstance, and it’s clear from the letters they have a wonderful rapport. They care about each other and each other’s families.” After some time, it was discovered that Alex Sochowski was alive and a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft III, where The Great Escape occurred. Barris says Sochowski was able to write to his crew member’s families from the POW camp. Sadly, he didn’t know if any of his crew members were alive. It took about a year, but eventually word came that the Halifax bomber had been found. It had crashed in Ten Boer, Netherlands. The six remaining crew members had died in the crash. Barris says the townspeople of Ten Boer actually hid the bodies from the downed Royal Canadian Air force plane for a time. Eventually, they were buried in the town’s cemetery in 1943. Ceremony in Holland Frank Moore, who saved the suitcase full of letters, was part of a ceremony in Ten Boer earlier this week to commemorate those six airmen. He took some of the letters and some of Alex McCracken’s medals to the event. Moore told Barris the entire town turned out for the ceremony. Barris says there’s a strange irony to this story about the correspondence between mothers. It was the name of the airplane the crew flew in. Every bomber had a special name attached to it and everyone had the call letters, for example, JP-Z for Zebra “In this case the bomber was called LQ-M for Mother. The [crew referred to their plane as] ‘M for Mother’,” said Barris.
In his research, he found that earlier one of the six airmen, Kettley, makes note of that. “With our bomber we pay tribute to our mothers who always take care of us when we needed it,” Kettley wrote. With files from CBC Radio’s The Afternoon Edition