John Loudon (right) and his comrades in Hartford Bridge, United Kingdom, July 1944. This photograph of the crew was taken when they went serving at a local outside pool near their squadron base.John Loudon
John Loudon's Service Medals (L-R): 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with clasp (missing on the photo); War Medal (1939-45).John Loudon
"... they put a large wardrobe across the door so nobody realized there was a room there. The Germans came looking for us several times but fortunately, we were never found."
We became very close friends of course, as a result of being... Three of us were Canadians and our wireless air gunner was a New Zealander. But it worked out fine, we enjoyed each other’s company and we, I think, learned to depend on one another. The air crew on RAF 226 [Squadron] when I got there in June of 1940… what was it, I got there the day before D-Day . And the RAF [Royal Air Force], that squadron, had lost so many flying personnel because they were a permanent force squadron and had been in combat since the beginning of the war, ninety-five percent of the air crew were Canadian.
We were 100 aircraft on the first mission we flew on and we were attacking a building in Caen [France] where the Germans were holed up and the Army were having trouble making progress. And we were bombing within 100 yards of our own troops so they were depending on us to be accurate. That was my first flight on ops. We came back; the aircraft was so full of holes from flak [anti-aircraft fire] that the ground crew spent a great deal of time patching it up. One of our crews had to bail out over the [English] Channel. That is one of the aircraft, they bailed out over the Channel and we circled them and dropped our lifejackets and so on, so that they’d, we didn’t know whether they got out with all their equipment or not.
So then we were running low on fuel so we landed at B-5, which was a landing field on the Normandy beachhead. We were the first bomber to land there and as we came in that afternoon or early evening, we were being shot at by both sides. Because they didn’t, well, the Canadian forces or our Allied forces didn’t recognize us as friendly aircraft I guess.
My crew flew thirty [sorties] and I did an extra six with other crews on night ops. The night ops we were doing in conjunction with Fighter Command and our mission was to drop flares and light up the roads so that they could strafe them. Doesn’t sound very nice for the other guys.
That morning, we were hit by flak and it shot off one of the fins and rudders on the B-25 [Mitchell]. And subsequently, the aircraft was not very stable and that’s when we decided it was going to be necessary to bail out. We discussed this time many times beforehand as to who would go first and so on. Nobody particularly wanted to bail out so I volunteered to go first. I bailed out, the air gunner bailed out right behind me and we both landed in the same field, in a farmer’s field in Belgium. The other crew members bailed out subsequently as the pilot and the wireless air gunner and they were taken prisoners that morning and shot. I didn’t know they were shot until after the war I found that out.
We met the bravest man in Belgium. He was a farmer; they buried our chutes and harnesses so they wouldn’t be found. They hid us. We originally hid in the barn and then he said, I don’t think that’s safe so they accommodated the air gunner and I in a bedroom in their house and they put a large wardrobe across the door so nobody realized there was a room there. The Germans came looking for us several times but fortunately, we were never found.
After we’d been there about 10 days, the Canadian Army had moved forward and he drove us over to a main road where we hooked up with a Canadian engineering battalion who were traveling with a tank group. Their job was to keep the tanks serviced and ready for battle. And we went forward with them for three days. Then we both got a ride back to B-5, which was back on the Normandy beachhead and subsequently flew back to England.
I didn’t do anymore missions after that, I was given leave to come back to Canada and the war was going extremely well at that time and it was subsequently, the Japanese surrendered.