Veteran Stories:
Raymond Beaune

Air Force

  • P.O.W. ID file of Raymond Beaune. Removed from the administrative office of Stalag 3 when the German guards left the camp.

    Raymond Beaune
  • Photo of Raymond Beaune while stationed at 90 Squadron, Tuddenham, United Kingdom, 1944.

    Raymond Beaune
  • Caterpillar Club Card, issued to all who had to make a forced parachute jump, 1945.

    Raymond Beaune
  • Poem written by David Beaune for Raymond Beaune, commemorating the 50th anniversary of his father being shot down in battle.

    Raymond Beaune
  • Identification card of Raymond Beaune, issued after his release from a P.O.W. camp, 1945. This was a temporary card issued to soldiers until they could receive their gear from storage.

    Raymond Beaune
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"I was shot down on my 8th mission on a mission to Slovan which is the Ruhr Valley."

Transcript

My name is Raymond Beaune. I was in the RCAF. I went overseas in 1943.

I was on 13 different bases in England. Eventually I was transferred to the RAF. My first operation was in a Wellington aircraft and I was on a bombing mission near Paris. It was a night mission. My next two missions were on Sterlings. After that I converted to Lancasters. I flew with 90 Squadron for 17 missions. When we had 12 missions in, I was the senior man on the squadron. I was referred to as the old man. Imagine a 21-year-old being referred to as the old man?

Once we had our 17 missions in, I asked for a transfer to Pathfinder Force. Pathfinder Force was a little more dangerous than bomber command, in the fact that your average life span was 8 missions. I was shot down on my 8th mission on a mission to Slovan which is the Ruhr Valley. Well known for being very heavily defended with flak. And that's what shot us down. We were at 22,000 feet at the time that I shot. The left side of the plane, where the wireless operator was, there was a hole there that was about 8 feet diameter. We jettisoned our bombs and headed towards the allied front in France, hoping to be able to get far enough west that we could parachute behind our own lines. Our plane would not maintain altitude and we were descending slowly. Fire started and came up through the cockpit and was licking at my legs so I couldn't hold my feet on the rudder pedals anymore. I gave the order to bail out and the rear gunner bailed out from the back, mid-upper gunner and wireless operator were supposed to bail out through the centre section. My navigator, flight engineer, went out the front and when they went out the front, I tore the curtain down and looked back and I thought everybody was out, so I bailed out the front too. But, apparently, my mid-upper gunner had not gotten out and the plane blew up just as I was bailing out. And he was blown up through the canopy. And he survived. My parachute was damaged because of the explosion so I came down fairly hard when I hit the ground.

The flak had split open my chin so that I had blood rushing down the front of my tunic, and when I hit the ground there was a German officer and two soldiers there waiting for me, because they had seen me come down. The German officer took me to the field hospital and that was quite an experience. When an enemy, like myself, goes into their field hospital, I was not given a warm reception.

We went to another hospital for a recuperation period of about a week, and finally I was sent to Stalag Luft 3. We were air crew with RAF, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, Americans throughout the camp. We had our senior officer and his entourage who were there, who briefed us on how we were to behave and how we were not to escape unless they gave us the okay to escape and so on. We stayed at Stalag Luft 3 until January of '45. When the Russians advanced, we were told in the middle of the night, to pack up that we we're leaving first thing in the morning to be brought to another camp. We were on the march for about 5 days.

We got to Stalag 3A, which is at Luckenwalde, Germany. About April 20th the Russians came into the camp. The Germans, of course, disappeared during the night. When we woke up in the morning, there wasn't a German around. And the first Russian soldiers we saw were all women on horseback. They had their guns slung across their body with the bandoliers of ammunition and so on. It didn't take us long to realize that the Russians were not about to send us back to the allied lines. Apparently, during the Potsdam Conference, there was a General Brown from US Forces that had signed an agreement with one of the Russian Generals that prisoners would be exchanged on a one-for-one basis. Of course, the Russian prisoners of war did not want to go back to Russia, so they went into hiding. The allies could not find enough Russian prisoners to exchange for us. We were left in the camp. And then we were forced to escape from the Russians.

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