Saturday, 1 August, 1942
Weather, 4/10ths cloud with a heavy ground haze until 1400 hours when it lifted a little. Flying was practically at a standstill until the afternoon.
Pilot Officer J.E. Gardiner has been put on charge for low flying. He was returning from an air-to-air firing and cine gun practice with F/S Turner on July 27th and was seen flying at a low altitude. He was not aware that he was doing anything wrong. His action was the normal flying done down South from where we have just come. He was not doing a beat-up, simply looking the land over, as is customary practice now, to familiarize himself with the ground appearance from low altitude. P/O Gardiner is definitely the steadiest young pilot in the Squadron. He does not drink, is exceptionally keen about flying, is very conscientious and is acting No. 2 in the Flight.
At 1925 hours, F/S D.L. Rawson, in attempting to make a steep landing, struck the ground very hard and damaged his port oleo leg, making it impossible to lock the left undercart in the down position. Realizing that he had damaged his oleo, he asked for and received permission to land at Scorton aerodrome so that he could make a long flat approach. He made a good one-wheel landing but damaged the port wing tip and flap. Aircraft is a Category ‘A’ damage.
Sunday, 2 August, 1942
Weather 8/10ths to 10/10ths cloud with haze and poor visibility. Flying practically nil. Very little wind. Sgt T.H. Skebo, Can 4190A, is leaving the Squadron to take a course as a Flight Engineer. He is an excellent NCO, a good tradesman and an above average type. He is keen to go on this course to qualify for flying duties. Sgt A. Thomas R.100332 has been detached for two weeks to attend 13 Group refresher course on Navigation, to be held at No. 2 School of Air Navigation Cranage. F/L Jephson of 406 Squadron is holding a Summary of Evidence on the charge of low flying against P/O J.E. Gardiner.
Monday, 3 August, 1942
Weather, 10/10ths cloud, visibility bad all day and flying washed out until 1700 hours. A scramble was called at 1930 hours as a Dornier 217 was reported in the vicinity, but nothing was sighted. The poor visibility made contact with the e/a a matter of chance, as he stuck to the heavy cloud formation. Bombs were dropped on Middlesborough. S/L AC Deere, DFC and Bar, arrived back from leave in the evening after a week in the South of England looking tanned and fit. He reported warm weather throughout his leave. F/O H.F. Francis, the Adjutant, left today to take up duties at 405 Squadron, with his successor, Flying Officer SE Bringloe, having reported for the previous evening. The Sergeant’s mess at Hartlepool held a well attended party in the evening. All present reported a high time, particularly Sgt Johnston. Sports Day was postponed until August 8th, due to the inclement weather.
Tuesday, 4 August, 1942
Weather, clearing slightly with about 8/10ths cloud at 2,000 feet and visibility of 3 to 10 miles. Formation practice and tail chase was done by ‘B’ Flight as well as Halifax co-operation in the afternoon. Uneventful day for ‘A’ Flight at West Hartlepool. A party was arranged for the performers of an ENSA show at the Officer’s Mess at the conclusion of the entertainment but they could not attend. Undaunted, the Mess members carried on and several new liquid tenors were discovered.
Wednesday, 5 August, 1942
Weather 6/10ths cloud at 4,000 feet, clearing slightly in the evening with visibility of 15 to 20 miles. A quiet day for ‘A’ Flight with one uneventful scramble. Flight formation, cine gun, high altitude flight by one section at 30,000 feet and general flying was carried out by ‘B’ Flight. Dog fights were also flown between Mustangs and Spitfires, the former showing surprising manoeuvrability and had the Spit cold turkey several times. F/L LS Ford tried out a Mustang during the afternoon and was much impressed. Spitfire EN797 was slightly damaged today in an unusual occurrence. The mainplane buckled slightly when Sgt H.J. Dowding pulled out of a dive at 360 mph. The a/c is being flown to the repair unit for inspection.
Thursday, 6 August, 1942
Weather, 6/10ths cumulus at 4,000 feet with some ground haze and visibility up to 20 miles. The Squadron did some formation at 1015 hours, rendezvousing at West Hartlepool where the CO remained for lunch. It was a normal day for ‘B’ Flight, with cine gun, aerobatics and general flying. Two sections went on Ground Control Interception in the afternoon. ‘A’ Flight had one scramble from West Hartlepool in the morning but no activity came out if it. ‘A’ Flight will return to Catterick on August 9th, 1942. The latest ‘Wings Abroad’, dated August 5th carries the awarding of the DFC to Sergeant Pilot Beurling of Verdun, Quebec, who destroyed four Axis fighter aircraft and damaged several others on July 27th, giving him a total of 12 a/c destroyed. Sergeant Beurling spent seven months with 403 Squadron, serving under F/L ‘Brad’ Walker DFC.
Friday, 7 August, 1942
Weather 8/10ths to 10/10ths cumulus at 4,000 feet. The Squadron formation practice at 1400 hours was called off due to heavy cloud formation and unfavourable weather at West Hartlepool. No flying was done by ‘A’ Flight all day. ‘B’ Flight carried out cine gun, aerobatics and formation in the morning. Flying Officer J. Wiejski returned from leave today.
Saturday, 8 August, 1942
Weather 10/10ths cumulus with intermittent rain all day. Flying was suspended and the Sports Parade is washed out until tomorrow at 1400 hours.
Sunday, 9 August, 1942
Weather, 6/10ths cloud with a wind of 15 to 20 mph from the NW. The Squadron did a formation practice at 1015 hours. Rendezvous was made at West Hartlepool. ‘A’ Flight postponed their return to Catterick until tomorrow, so they would not interfere with Sports Parade today. The Meet finally got underway at 1400 hours after two postponements due to the bad weather. 403 Squadron made a creditable showing as indicated by the following: Cycle Race 1st place AC1 Last; Shot Put 1st place Sgt P. Lassardo, and 3rd place LAC Kerwin; Discus 2nd place LAC Kerwin; 220 yards 2nd place AC2 Worn; 1 mile relay 2nd place 403 Squadron; 440 relay 2nd place 403 Squadron; Javelin 3rd place Sgt Lassardo; and 100 yards 3rd place P/O J.E. Gardiner. It was an enjoyable afternoon with the weather turning quite warm and sunny. A number of wives and friends of those involved attended.
Monday, 10 July, 1942
Weather 10/10ths cumulus with intermittent rain all day. The return of ‘A’ Flight was postponed until 1600 hours due to the weather conditions at Catterick. P/O J.E. Gardiner will be ‘B’ Flight Commander during the stay at West Hartlepool in the absence of F/L LS Ford who left today to attend the CTC course at Dundonald. No flying activity was done by either flight today.
Tuesday, 11 July, 1942
Weather 6/10ths cloud with the wind at 10 to 15 mph from the NW. At 1200 hours, a scramble was done by Blue Section, P/O Gardiner and F/O Wiejski, over the base and returning in 20 minutes without contact being made. General flying was done by ‘A’ Flight – aerobatics, cine gun, tail chase and formation. Good news for the Squadron, for today commissions were granted to six NCO pilots: F/S G.D. Aitken, F/S H.S. Anderson, Sgt H.J. Murphy, F/S C.R. Olmsted, Sgt M. Johnston and Sgt Monchier, all effective 20 June, 1942. This action will strengthen the Squadron immeasurably and prove a real factor in building up morale. Word was received that the AOC of the Group has recommended that court-martial action be taken against P/O J.E. Gardiner after a review of the Summary of Evidence.
Wednesday, 12 July, 1942
Weather, 5/10ths to 8/10ths cumulus at 4,000 feet, clearing towards the evening. A scramble was done at 0620 hours by ‘B’ Flight at West Hartlepool by Blue Section, P/O Gardiner and F/O J. Wiejski. They were airborne for 15 minutes and saw no action. The Squadron did a formation practice at 1450 hours, rendezvousing at West Hartlepool. Convoy duty by Sgt Fletcher and Sgt A.L. Haynes was done at 1555 hours, lasting one hour and 10 minutes and being uneventful. At 1605 hours P/O Olmsted and Sgt Dow were scrambled above the base. About 5 miles from Whitby, P/O Olmsted sighted what appeared to be a Dornier 217 at 1,000 yards. He could not close the gap and it disappeared into heavy cloud at 2,000 feet. With the weather getting sticky, they finally returned to base after being airborne for 50 minutes. P/O Magwood returned from sick leave today, reporting to West Hartlepool immediately.
Thursday, 13 July, 1942
Weather, 6/10ths to 10/10ths cumulus at 3,000 feet. It was overcast and threatening most of the day. One scramble was done by ‘B’ Flight at West Hartlepool, who intercepted a friendly aircraft. Local formation flying was done in the afternoon. General flying practice was done by ‘A’ Flight in the morning. Word was received today that S/L AC Deere DFC and Bar has been posted to staff duties at Group Headquarters and will leave the Squadron on August 16th, 1942. It is bad news for the Squadron as his ability and leadership have been an inspiration since he joined the Unit. F/L LS Ford DFC will assume command. He is known to the Squadron and will have the respect and confidence of all.
Friday, 14 August, 1942
Weather, fine with 5/10ths to 8/10ths light cloud at 4,000 to 6,000 feet and closing in during the late afternoon. No flying activity was done by either flight during the day. ‘B’ Flight returned to Catterick at 1600 hours.
Saturday, 15 August, 1942
Weather started out fine but closed in during the early morning with low cloud, very poor visibility and intermittent rain. There was no flying today, instead, modifications were carried out on the a/c. The advance ground party left for Manston today.
Sunday, 16 August, 1942
The Squadron took off at 0845 hours for Manston, landing at North Weald owing to bad weather and arriving at Manston at 1400 hours. The second ground party left by train, owing to bad weather at Catterick. The weather was fine at Manston but two a/c overshot on landing (AA736 and AA979). P/O H.S. Anderson broke a shoulder blade and was taken to hospital while P/O M. Johnston was uninjured.
Monday, 17 August, 1942
The second ground party arrived at Manston at 0900 hours. The weather today was very fine with no cloud and only a slight haze on the seaboard. The Squadron took off at 1245 hours, S/L Ford DFC leading, and took part in a Wing Circus in the direction of St. Omer. No opposition was encountered and no matters of interest to report. The Squadron landed safely at 1341 hours. The Squadron was briefed with the Wing for a circus in the direction of Dunkirk at 1545 hours and took off at 1635 hours. Nothing was seen or reported during the operation and the Squadron landed safely at 1805 hours. S/L Ford led the Squadron on both operations.
Tuesday, 18 August, 1942
Weather, fine with good visibility. From 0620 hours, sections began patrolling the convoys in the Channel and the Thames Estuary until 1300 hours. The Squadron, under S/L Ford, took off from Manston at 1600 hours in a circus to the shores of Holland. 12 a/c from the Squadron took part and all landed safely at 1720 hours. At 1830 hours all pilots were briefed for the 19th August.
Wednesday, 19 August, 1942
Weather, fine with a little low, some medium and high clouds and visibility starting at 4,600 yards and improving gradually during the day. The Squadron was ordered to a state of preparedness from 0500 hours to carry out combined operations against Dieppe.
The first sortie was made at 0645 hours; the whole Squadron took off under the command of Squadron Leader Ford. It reached Dieppe at 0715 hours and served as close cover for the ships carrying out the operation. F/L G.V. Hill and his number 2, Sgt M.K. Fletcher attacked a FW 190. The e/a fell to pieces and went into a dive in flames. P/O H.J Murphy successfully attacked a ME 109 and gave it three long bursts, going down to deck level after it. The e/a turned on its back and, when he last saw it, it was a few feet from the ground and was out of control. The combat took place in the valley South East of Dieppe and he could not observe the final result, as he had to take evasive action to avoid hitting the hills. The Squadron landed at 0820 hours. Three a/c of the Squadron failed to return: AR334, EN850 and AR439 flown by P/O N. Monchier, P/O L.A. Walker and P/O J.E. Gardiner. Enemy casualties: 1 ME 109 and 1 FW 190 destroyed.
The second sortie was made at 1115 hours, the whole Squadron again taking off from Manston under the command of S/L Ford DFC. The Squadron went to Dieppe and covered the ships withdrawal. Heavy smoke, rising over 3,000 feet was seen over Dieppe and some fierce fires were burning. The Squadron again patrolled at 2,500 to 3,000 feet and, after 30 minutes, noticed a number of e/a approaching and several engagements took place. S/L Ford opened fire on a FW 190 at close range, the e/a falling to pieces, parts of which hit S/L Ford’s number 2, P/O R. Wozniak but caused no damage. The e/a burst into flames and went down. This took place on the Dieppe waterfront. F/L PT O’Leary opened fire at 150 yards on a FW 190; black smoke poured out and it went down, disappearing in the clouds. He tried to follow it through the cloud and came against another FW 190 to which he gave a burst at 250 yards. Smoke poured out and the e/a, apparently out of control, went down rapidly, swaying violently. He took a film that may support his claim of this e/a being destroyed. His first engagement is confirmed by his number 2, P/O J. Mozolowski, who witnessed the smoke pouring out. Sgt A.L. Haynes opened fire on a rapidly diving e/a but no claim was made. All 12 a/c landed safely at 1315 hours. Our losses were nil and the enemy losses were 2 FW 190 destroyed and 2 FW 190s damaged.
The third sortie was made at 1620 hours under S/L Ford. The Squadron went to the French Coast and reported that most of our ships were safely more than half way home. Several of the pilots had combats and three of them were successful. S/L Ford shot at a FW 190 that caught fire and crashed into the sea. The pilot was seen to get into his dinghy. Sgt M.K. Fletcher gave several bursts to a FW 190 and smoke poured out before the e/a disappeared into the clouds. Sgt Cabas fired his cannon but makes no claim. All 12 a/c of the Squadron landed safely at Manston at 1820 hours. Our losses nil. Enemy losses two FW 190s destroyed, one FW 190 damaged.
The fourth sortie took place from 1925 hours to 2030 hours, with the whole Squadron taking off under the command of S/L Ford and returning safely. No e/a were encountered and nothing of interest was reported.
The Squadron behaved in a most excellent manner and deserves every congratulation. All ranks behaved splendidly and the ground staff co-operated in a most hearty way. At 1630 hours, a signal was received from the AOC, asking all ranks to make a further effort as we were in view of a great air victory.
Thursday, 20 August, 1942
A signal was received from the AOC congratulating all of the Squadrons concerned on the fine results of yesterday’s air battles.
The weather today was fine with no low cloud and only small amounts of high cloud during the morning. The Squadron received orders to return to Catterick and the rail party, consisting of 66 of the ground crew, with F/O A.H. Warner (EO) and P/O J.H. Long (IO), left at 1300 hours, reaching Catterick at 2359 hours. The road party, with F/L G.A. Black (MO) in charge, left during the evening, staying at North Weald for the night. The pilots left by air at 1330 hours and arrived at Catterick by 1600 hours.
Friday, 21 August, 1942
The Squadron was released from operations at 1000 hours today until 1000 hours tomorrow. At 1600 hours, the road party arrived from North Weald, which they left at 0700 hours. A very enjoyable dance was held in the Sergeant’s Mess to which all officers were invited. P/O R. Wozniak left for 7 days leave.
Saturday, 22 August, 1942
‘B’ Flight moved on to West Hartlepool during the morning and ‘A’ Flight took readiness at Catterick. Sgt C.F. Sorensen took off at 1430 hours to do aerobatics at 2,000 feet near Leeming. At about 1500 hours, his engine failed and he was compelled to make a forced landing on the edge of Leeming aerodrome. His aircraft was completely written off but fortunately, he escaped uninjured. There was no operational flying today. Sector reccos, aerobatics and formation flying were carried out.
Sunday, 23 August, 1942
Weather very low 10/10ths cloud and very poor visibility. The only thing that took place was a weather test by F/L O’Leary and P/O K.P. Marshall. F/S F.C. Turner returned by road from West Hartlepool on being posted from the Squadron.
Monday, 24 August, 1942
Weather low cloud of 10/10ths at 300 to 400 feet at first with a slight improvement during the afternoon and evening. Red and Yellow Sections were on readiness here at Catterick as the weather at West Hartlepool closed in during the evening. P/O H.J. Murphy and P/O M. Johnston left early in the morning on their way down South to join 402 Squadron. Though sorry to leave 403, they are nonetheless pleased to be going to 11 Group with its promise of greater activity. They will be very much missed in the Squadron, both being experienced pilots.
Tuesday, 25 August, 1942
Weather rain and low 10/10ths cloud all day. No flying. The pilots attended a film show ‘Next-of-Kin’ in the Station Cinema during the afternoon.
Wednesday, 26 August, 1942
Weather, rain and low cloud during the morning and the afternoon saw some improvement before it closed in again in the early evening, this time with heavy rain. Apart from a weather test in the morning there was no flying until the early evening when some local formation flying and a cannon test was done. The pilots attended a film show on Combined Operations in the Station Intelligence Office during the afternoon. F/O R.J.O. Doehler, the new Engineering Officer, arrived on being posted to the Squadron.
Thursday, 27 August, 1942
Intermittent rain all day and the cumulus cloud that was almost on the ground. Flying was suspended for both Flights. Nothing of interest to report.
Friday, 28 August, 1942
Weather clearing and very hot with a ground haze to 500 feet most of the day. West Hartlepool flying was washed out due to poor visibility. At 1445 hours, a section, under S/L Ford, left for Topcliffe to carry out co-operation with the Halifaxes at 8,000 feet, returning to base at 1530 hours. The Sergeant’s were entertained at the Officer’s mess in the evening. It was well attended with a number of 403 Squadron NCOs coming form Hartlepool.
Saturday, 29 August, 1942
Weather was again closed in, with 10/10ths cloud all day and no flying. Plans for a Squadron dance were drawn up with a tentative date set for Sept 18th. 403 has been assigned a part in the Station Defence Plan, being required to man four machine gun posts. The schedule of the gun crews for each post was formulated and a practice will be held shortly. Morning PT of one half hour daily will start next week for all ground crew as part of the Squadron policy to keep personnel in fighting trim and good health during the winter months.
Sunday, 30 August, 1942
Weather still unfit for flying, 10/10ths cloud with a heavy mist and rain. No activity of any kind to report.
Monday, 31 August, 1942
Weather was improving with 10/10ths cumulus cloud at 1,000 feet in the morning, which cleared somewhat in the afternoon. One section of ‘A’ Flight got airborne at 1500 hours for 30 minutes. No flying activity was done by ‘B’ Flight at West Hartlepool. S/L Ford left for three days of leave in Edinburgh where he will act as the best man at the wedding of F/L NR Dick, a former member of 403 Squadron.
Summary Aircrew Establishment
Fighter Sweeps: 20:20 RCAF RAF
Convoy Patrols: 27:20 Officers 9 2
Scrambles: (39) 39:25 Airmen 17 –
Total Operational 187:05
Magister 41:05 Ground Crew Establishment
Total Non-Ops 347:15 Officers 4 1
Total 575:25 Airmen 101 39
Total 121 42
Our Casualties for the Month:
Three (P/O L.A. Walker, P/O J.E. Gardiner
and P/O N. Monchier)
Enemy Casualties: 5 FW 190 destroyed; 1 ME 109 Destroyed
and 3 FW 190 damaged (awaiting confirmation)
[attached to the Operation Records Book is the following correspondence]
ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE
20, Lincoln’s Inn Fields,
25th March, 1946
Department of National Defence for Air,
ATTENTION: AIR HISTORIAN
CAN J.8140 P/O J.E. Gardiner
1. Attached hereto is a copy of correspondence concerning the above referenced officer who was missing from 403 Squadron 19 August, 1942.
2. As this correspondence throws some light on P/O Gardiner’s death, it is suggested that it be attached to No. 403 Squadron’s ‘Operations Record book’ for August, 1942, and a notation made in the record book referring to it.
3. The results of any further investigations will be forwarded to you for similar action.
(signed) W.R. Thompson,
(W.R. Thompson) W/C,
for A.O.C. -in-C.
ENC. 1 RCAF Overseas Headquarters.
ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE
Ottawa, Canada, 11th March, 1946
Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief,
20 Lincoln’s Inn Fields,
London, W.C.2, England.
Pilot Officer John Edwin GARDINER (CAN J.-8140)
1. This officer, while flying a Spitfire over the French coast was missing August 19th, 1942, 403 Squadron.
2. Father and next-of-kin, Honourable James G. Gardiner, Minister of Agriculture, recently was in the U.K. and visited his son’s grave which is located in the Churchyard of St Aubin le Cauf. This is located approximately 7 miles south east of Dieppe.
3. Since Mr. Gardiner’s return from the U.K. he has written the attached, which you will note he has headed as “the circumstances under which J. Edwin Gardiner and Norman Monchier lost their lives at the battle of Dieppe.”
4. Mr. Gardiner has also written to the Minister as follows:
“It has occurred to me that the official story of this incident can be had if some official of your organization over there were to go out and check everything which is available. Th persons who know most about it are the young fellow, M. Dunet Andre, of St. Nicholas d’Aliermont, who was on the scene within half an hour and who witnessed the scene from a distance and who said that all three planes were shot down; and Mr. Maurice Lasseau, who operates the farm over which the battle took place.”
Further in Mr. Gardiner’s letter to the Minister he states:
“I would like the story which I have been able to piece together to be placed on the records until such time as an official investigation can, if possible, be made and the story told. It would appear that the two of them are entitled to credit for one German plane, and that the Squadron is entitled to one added to the record which they have. This, in itself, is not of great importance, but it is, I think, important that wherever the record of what happened can be obtained, it ought to be obtained with regard to all those who lost their lives in battle.”
5. It is, therefore, directed by the Minister that you be asked to have
(a) the Missing Research and Enquiry Service, and
(b) Group Captain D.M. Edwards, Air Attaché at Paris, cover the ground that Mr. Gardiner covered and obtain a verification of the story.
6. May these headquarters be advised, please that this has been undertaken.
(Signed) W.B. Gunn W/C
for (H.L. Campbell)
Air Vice Marshall
Air Member for Personnel,
for Chief of the Air Staff.
The circumstances under which J. Edwin Gardiner and Norman Monchier lost their lives at the battle of Dieppe.
These two left England as members of Spitfire Squadron 403 in the first flight of fighters on the morning of August 19th, 1942. Pilot Officer Olmsted, after he returned to Britain following Dieppe, reported that he walked out to his plane along with Edwin, and that they flew in the same formation to Dieppe. He stated that when they arrived, they were ordered to break up into groups of two, to give greater freedom of movement in battle.
Edwin and Norman Monchier were paired together. Olmsted reported that ten minutes before he left for England he heard a short conversation between them on their instruments. Edwin said to Monchier, “Do you see anything Norm?” Monchier replied, “No, there is nothing around here.” They were, therefore, apparently separated from one another at that time and in search of something, possibly a gun placement.
They were both reported ‘Missing’ that day, and no further trace was known of them until some time after V-E day, although the Red Cross reported that German sources stated that they had lost their lives on August 19th, 1942.
Enquiries immediately following V-E Day were answered to the effect that the Germans claimed they had lost the records and it was not known where they were buried.
On August 15th, 1945, Honourable Colin Gibson, Minister of Defence for Air, wrote to say that word had been received that Edwin was buried in the Church cemetery at St Aubin le Cauf, about seven miles south-east of Dieppe. No further word was received until I visited France, January 6th, 1946.
On Tuesday, January 8th, 1946, Florence and I were driven from Paris to St. Aubin le Cauf by Group Captain D.M. Edwards of the RCAF. We met the Mayor of St. Aubin le Cauf, M. Manoury, and a committee who had charge of the burial of three airmen killed in the battle over Dieppe and the surrounding area on August 19th, 1942. Two of these were buried side by side in the angle of the little Catholic Church, in what was a particularly well kept cemetery. The third one who had not been identified was buried near them. Two were identified from their tags as J.E. Gardiner and N. Monchier. Crosses bearing their names were at the head of their graves, a white fence had been constructed around them, and the graves were beautifully decorated and well cared for.
The local people told us, through an interpreter that their bodies had been found near their planes, that the Germans had prevented them from removing them for three days during which time all bodies in the district had been searched by the German troops and all valuables and papers were removed. At the end of three days their bodies had been brought to the village and buried.
Owing to the fact that the Mayor of Dieppe, M. Pierre Biez, had been exceedingly kind in arranging everything in a convenient manner for us, we found it impossible to refuse his suggestion that we have lunch with him and Madame Biez at two o’clock. This made it impossible for us to remain in the district long enough to secure full information, particularly since we had to communicate through an interpreter. We did, however, satisfy ourselves that no mistake of identity had been made, and that these two boys upon whom I pinned Wings at Yorkton, Saskatchewan, on October 7th, 1941, had died together in battle over Dieppe on August 19th, 1942.
Pictures appeared in the press of the Mayor of Dieppe and I. A young man named Dunet Andre, of St. Nicholas d’Aliermont saw the pictures. He wrote to Group Captain Edwards to say that he had found Edwin Gardiner’s identity card at the scene of the crash and would like to turn it over to me. I was back in Paris on January 30th, and again drove out to Dieppe and spent the day there.
We called at St. Nicholas d’Aliermont to interview M. Dunet Andre and received the identity card. He was a fine young French chap who was at the scene of the crash half an hour after and five minutes before the Germans. He secured the identity card before they arrived and hid it. Later he was taken to a Labour Camp in Germany and did not return until the end of the war. When he saw the picture in the paper he looked up the card and made it available.
The story he told with regard to the incident was that he saw it at a distance. He said the two Canadian planes were flying in an easterly direction over the valley of the Vorenna River, near the place where it enters the Bethune River. A German plane was approaching them from the Southeast up the valley of Bethune. They appeared to sight one another at about the same time just as the Canadian planes came to a field at the edge of the forest, and all three opened fire. He stated that all three were shot down, the two Canadian planes crashed in the field, and the German plane circled and crashed on the east side of the Bethune toward St. Nicholas d’Aliermont.
We asked him to come and show us the spot. He came, and we also took with us M. Marc Letellier, the teacher in St. Aubin le Cauf, who was one of those who buried the two Canadians. We drove up to the hill to the east of St. Aubin le Cauf. About half a mile from the top we came to the edge of the forest. A farmer with a horse and a dump cart was working there.
M. Andre began describing what happened in French, and Group Captain Edwards was interpreting to me. The farmer did not appear to agree. I called him over. He stated that he was near at hand, and his men were harvesting oats in the field on August 19th when the battle in the air occurred, and that he and they saw what happened to the three at close range, and that they examined the two Canadians and their planes immediately following the engagement.
The farmer turned out to be Mr. Maurice Lasseau who was educated in England during the first war, and spoke English. We went to his house for tea, and I had considerable conversation with him.
He stated that the two Canadian planes came over the forest from the river Norenna side and were flying about twenty feet above the treetop. One of the planes, he said seemed to be out of control. He stated that he afterwards found a part of what he called the auger of the steering gear in the trees over which the two planes came. He stated that on the far side of these trees, there were German machine guns, and that they must have succeeded in hitting the disabled plane. He stated that just as they came to the edge of the field, they opened fire on the German plane which was approaching from the Bethune River side of the field, or from the East. The German plane also opened fire. He did not think that the German’s shooting caused what happened. At any rate he thought neither of the Canadian had any wounds from gunfire when examined later. The one plane was out of control and, while the shooting was going on, the two Canadian planes came together. Both planes crashed about the centre of the field. I saw part of the fuselage of Edwin’s plane and brought back a piece of the aluminium with me.
I asked him if he had any idea which plane had been hit from the ground. He stated that it was the plane of Monchier. He stated that the other plane seemed to be under control until the shooting started, after that it was difficult to say what happened. He said that one thing which convinced him that Monchier’s plane had been previously hit was that he had prepared his parachute for a leap which would indicate that he had intended to leave the plane further back over the deep valley but for some reason had not done so. He stated that during the firing, the German circled and returned in the general direction from which he came, and crashed on the east side of the Bethune River toward St. Nicholas about one mile or a mile and a half away. They had apparently hit his plane.
I returned to Paris that evening, and flew to London from Paris the following morning. It was a beautiful clear day. The route from Paris to London lies directly over Dieppe. The pilot kindly circled the scene. I had, therefore, an opportunity to see the whole air battlefield from a height of about one thousand feet.
The Lasseau farm is located on the height of land between the two rivers just above St. Aubin le Cauf, and is completely surrounded by forest. The area which is being farmed would make a small airfield, and is quite level. It appears at considerable distance from the air as the only spot in that area upon which a plane could be landed. All around it there is forest, and in three directions is the valley of the two rivers. The valleys are about three or four hundred feet deep with lakes, streams and trees covering them, and will be a mile or so across. The location is about six miles inland from Dieppe and from the air all of the valley right through to the harbour of Dieppe lies like a picture below. In that area there appears to be one field upon which a plane could be landed. The German airfield, which they no doubt had been strafing, lies about five miles directly west from this spot.
Remembering that Olmsted said that he heard these two talking shortly before he left for England, I would conclude that these two were either searching for a gun position, which others have reported shot down at least one of their friends, and that while strafing it Monchier’s plane was hit, or that they had given up the search and were starting for Britain across the Vorenna Valley when one of the ground guns located in the trees at the top of the Valley had an unlucky hit which damaged Monchier’s steering gear. His first intention was to leap for it while over the Valley, but his time to act would be short until he reached the other side, and in all probability he could not manipulate his plane to do so in any case. They, therefore, were planning, no doubt, that he would land, after which Edwin could proceed when they encountered the German. M. Lasseau says that they came over the treetops toward the field, flying a short distance apart, Monchier’s plane showing signs of being in trouble, and that when the shooting was going on, they came together and crashed as a result of the collision. The holes they ploughed in his field are still visible from the air. One plane travelled about thirty yards farther than the other before it hit the ground, and they both dug in four or five feet according to M. Lasseau.
When they got to the planes, they found each Pilot in the cockpit of his plane. They had been killed instantly. They did not seem to know what in particular had killed Monchier, but Edwin had a gash along the top of his head which at the time I thought was caused when the plane crashed and he was thrown ahead and then dashed back against the metal behind his seat with such force as to crack his skull killing him instantly. On further thought, I am inclined to discount this idea. That would not have laid open his head as described. I am inclined to believe that he was flying near Monchier’s disabled plane to escort him safely to the ground when the German came in possibly from above, and that during the shooting duel which brought down all three, Edwin’s head was cut by a bullet which put him out, and resulted in the two planes side-swiping, and going to the ground together. They stated that he was slumped over his steering wheel. They stated that both planes hit the ground, bounced about fifty feet and then drove into the ground.
Those about took Edwin’s identification card, the number of their planes – Edwin’s was Spitfire AR349 and Monchier’s Spitfire AR334 – and the lettering, Edwin’s was U O and Monchier’s 1 X H – and Monchier’s compass record card. These they gave to me.
The Germans were on the scene in half an hour. They searched the bodies and ordered them to be left where they were until further orders. Three days later, they ordered them to be buried, and the local committee at St. Aubin le Cauf took them down to their little Churchyard, buried them as heroes should be buried, and have cared for their graves in the finest possible manner since. If there is any consolation it is found in the liberation of people with such greatness of heart and appreciation of the sacrifice made.