- April 20, 1944 – 154 Halifax bombers take off to attack the rail facilities at Lens, France. Halifax LW692, manned by Anderson and his crewmates, is the only aircraft that fails to return. LW692 crashes into the Scie River at Pourville, near Dieppe (a researcher from Normandy pers. comm.).
- Anderson’s description of the event:
“We flew down to south England and over the channel. Reached enemy coast 10 minutes early and off track, we passed over very near Dieppe. They threw up a lot of flak and we got 3 hits, the plane shuddered, slowed down and lost height fast. Port engines went on fire, spread to whole wing, engineer admitted it was hopeless, skipper said bale out.
I got to escape hatch after mid upper gunner and jumped after him, plane was diving very fast and had trouble to get out of slipstream. Saw the plane spiral down on fire and crash. I landed in the mouth of a small river near Dieppe, had to use my Mae West, not a scratch.”
- Bourcier’s description of the event:
“After taking off and setting course for Southern England and then the channel we got off course and reached the enemy coast ten minutes before time over Dieppe, which was about 20 miles off course, as Le Havre was the crossing point.
We were picked up by radar and we were hit 3 times by flak, causing trouble to port engines, the necessary measures were taken, but fire started, and spreading rapidly on the port wing, I was then given order to bale out, which I did and by doing so landed safely. Out of front hatch.”
- Leonard, Gough, Warren, Wilson and Wheelhouse are killed in action; Bourcier and Anderson are captured. Anderson is just 3 days shy of his 20th birthday.
- This was the crew’s 11th “operation. Others operations included Berlin, Schweinfurt, Augsburg, Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, Ghent, Le Mans, Essen, Noisy, as well as the 782 bomber raid on Nuremburg, March 30, 1944, in which 96 bombers failed to return and 545 airmen were killed, more than the total that died during the entire battle of Britain.
- Today, memorials to Warren, Gough and Leonard are in Runnymede Cemetery in Surrey, England. The Runnymede Air Force memorial commemorates over 20,000 airmen who were lost in WWII and have no known graves.
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- Wheelhouse and Wilson are originally buried in a cemetary in St Riquier-es-Plains, France and Anderson is allowed to attend the ceremony. Both flyers are eventually buried in Grandcourt War Cemetery, France, which contains 58 WWII burials.
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- After capture, Bourcier and Anderson are interrogated by the Nazi’s.
- A quick timeline is presented by researcher Dave Champion (pers. comm.):
“Plane goes down, Anderson and Bourcier are picked up. From there they take a train ride to the Dulag Luft (Luftwaffe Interrogation) centre at A–bereusel, north of Frankfurt. Most fliers spent between 2-3 weeks there. Treatment ranged from pretty decent to threats to a strange scenario where the Luftwaffe stripped you of all your clothes and locked you in a room with the heat turned up high.
They had an interrogator there from Kitchener, Ontario who spoke better English than some of the Canadians there. When the Fatherland called he returned to Germany.”
- Bourcier and Anderson are sent to Stalag Luft III, arriving just days after 50 airmen were recaptured and murdered by the SS under the direct order of Adolph Hitler for their part in “The Great Escape”.
- As the Russians advance towards Germany in 1945, Hitler gives the order to evacuate POW camps and move POW’s closer to Berlin.
- In the dead of winter on Saturday, January 27, 1945, Anderson and thousands of other airmen are told to gather their meager belongings and begin a forced exodus, later described as the “Torture March or Death March”.
“Many became infected with lice; diseases including pneumonia, diphtheria, pellagra, typhus, trench foot and tuberculosis which ran rampant; the most ubiquitous medical problem was dysentery, often acquired by drinking contaminated water; blisters, abscesses and frostbite became epidemic; injuries often turned gangrenous; medical care remained essentially nonexistent; the inevitable result was suffering and death. Other would freeze or be executed along the way for not being able to keep up.”
- After an eleven day trek, Anderson ends up in Stalag IIIA in Luckenwalde. Eventually “liberated” by the Russians, his ordeal is still not as yet over. A notation in his diary states:
“May 6, 1945 – Russians refuse to let Americans evacuate us, some trucks have gone back empty. Russians have posted guards who have shot at some of the fellows.”
- On May 7, 1945, Anderson nevertheless manages to “escape” his new captors and makes his way to the American lines at Magdeburg.
- May 10, 1945 – Anderson catches a USAAF DC3 (Dakota) to Rheims, France, and the next day, a Lancaster to Tangmere, England.