Veteran Stories:
Jean Thomas Raymond Cauchy

Air Force

  • Recent portrait of Jean Cauchy

    Jean Cauchy
  • Graduation portrait : Pilot's wings. Jean Cauchy was then ready to take over for his brother, Louis, who had gone down in Holland.

    Jean Cauchy
  • Identity card produced at an enemy questioning centre in Frankfort, Germany. This document represents Mr. Cauchy's eight days of intensive questioning and his small cell where he froze and developed anguish and fear.

    Jean Cauchy
  • Photo of Jean Cauchy arriving at Bournemouth, England, after his release as prisoner of war

    Jean Cauchy
  • Photograph of Jean Cauchy, the day after his return from Germany, following a good night of rest, shower and a new uniform (1945)

    Jean Cauchy
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"I walked since there was no way that I was going to settle down somewhere for the night, in the middle of winter. It was our duty; that was engrained in us."

Transcript

The most difficult experience I ever lived through was when I got shot down over Hanover [Germany]. Before each mission, all of the crews would get together in a room. They told us, "Tonight you are going to bomb Hanover". The officers who were there told us at which height we had to fly and at which height we had to turn right… another degree, another direction, and so on – we would be zigzagging. Without going into too much detail, the plane they gave me that evening had already been on a lot of missions. I hesitated when I saw that plane. Even after the test; we did tests on the bombers before leaving, we would inspect them. We would start the motor and so on. As we were climbing, it was getting dark. I noticed that the internal exhaust pipe on the left was burning red. There were blackouts in England and in Germany – everywhere -during the war. So if you lit a match at 18 000 feet, they would see it from below. I warned the crew. Vigilance! There was no way we could turn back. When we flew we would drop strips of aluminum to jam the German radar. But if we were visible, that wouldn’t help us at all. I had a premonition and I tightened the straps of my parachute. We would loosen the straps so that we didn’t have to stay seated on them during the entire flight. When you were at the controls, it would be very irritating after a while. I warned the gunners about four or five minutes before reaching our target. We could see the rockets below; we were very close to the target. Suddenly, to the left of us – say, ten o’clock on your watch or at about 345 degrees, a fighter plane appeared. We couldn’t see it, but it dropped a line of about five or six flares in front of us. They fell slowly. I was blinded. We never saw the fighter plane. The plane jolted and the anti-aircraft fire opened up from below. We were lifted like a sheet of paper. I am not exaggerating. We were lifted several feet. The instruments were all going haywire. A few seconds later, the fighter plane shot at our gas reservoir and the plane caught fire immediately. Everyone ejected and I was the only one left. I didn’t have enough oxygen at the time. I had a hard time getting out. When you lack oxygen, all of your movements become slower. Finally, I arrived at the trap door towards the front. The machine gunners had exited easily. I got out painfully and with difficulty. I was shot down on January 5, 1945, in the middle of winter. We were in the centre of Germany, in Hanover, which was almost parallel to Berlin. The Allies hadn’t yet crossed the Rhine. The Russians had advanced but they were still quite far. It was my duty to try to save myself. I made my way north towards Amsterdam. I walked since there was no way that I was going to settle down somewhere for the night, in the middle of winter. It was our duty; that was engrained in us. I was a bit audacious. I went around a grove and found a small road leading north. Immediately two young guards emerged with machine guns. I was taken prisoner.
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