“The Crew” M for Mother has been personally signed by the artist and for the Artist Proofs by veteran F/O Frederick Gladding D.F.C. – 405 “Pathfinders” Squadron R.C.A.F. who flew Forty-two sorties as a navigator on Halifax and Lancaster Bombers between October 25, 1944 and March 20, 1945.
HISTORY BEHIND THE ART
Number 405 (Vancouver) Squadron was the first R.C.A.F. squadron formed overseas in the Second World War and was the only Canadian “Pathfinder Squadron”. Their role in the war was described by the mother of Cliff Kettley (Radio Operator) in a letter dated November 28th 1943 to the mother of Alex McCracken (Navigator) as (Quote) The Pathfinders called “Target Indicators” have only one job: to find the target and drop super flares on it. These flares can be seen from the stratosphere through almost total cloud. Only the most experienced and daring airmen are chosen for the task. The Squadron boasts the cream of the R.C.A.F. crews and you will know that our boys were all topnotch in their lines.. (unquote)
A brown suitcase was acquired in 2008 which contained a trove of material on F/O Alexander McCracken which included his service medals along with his father’s from WW1 and exchanges of letters between “The Crew’s “mothers and various notifications from R.C.A.F. authorities. Rarely do you find so much information which led to detailed research on the crash of HR 864 LQ-M on the night of July 25th, 1943
This was our introduction to the McCracken family and the crew of LQ-M for Mother. Frank knew of the suitcase and when the owner of it at that time wanted to part out the contents and sell everything on Ebay, Frank bought the suitcase. The case contained all that remained from the McCracken family: a father who fought in the Great War and two sons who fought in the Second. Letters from the mothers of the crew as well as many official documents from Canada’s War Department, Britain’s War Department as well as the town of Ten Boer.
LQ-M for Mother
LQ-M was a Halifax MKII-B bomber. This was the second version of the Bomber more Canadian crews flew than any other bomber. This bomber was the second model of the second variant. The MKII had more powerful engines, a new more aerodynamic nose and unlike some versions, LQ-M had an upper gun turret.
NIGHT OF JULY 25TH 1943
The crew on the Handley Page Halifax 11 bomber, registered as HR 864 with the 405 squadron departed Gransden Lodge England en route for Essen Germany when attacked by a night fighter over Ten Boer, Groningen Holland at 23:56 PM. Two engines were hit and caught fire. F/O Alex J.Scohowski Bombardier, bailed out before the aircraft exploded and crashed on a farm just west of Ten Boer. He became a P.O.W. and was interned in Stalag Luft 3 and had a part in the Great Escape.
Fatalities included W/O 11 Clifford J.V. Kettley Radio Operator , P/O Michael S. Smyth Tail Gunner , F/O Marcel E. Tomczak Pilot, F/S Edward White Air Gunner, Sgt. Albert Wood Flight Engineer, and F/O Alexander P. McCracken Navigator. The crew is buried together at Ten Boer Protestant Cemetery in the Netherlands.
THE NIGHT FIGHTER
Major Paul Zorner claimed his 10th victory with the downing of the Halifax bomber HR864 LQ-M on July 25th, 1943 and he reported unusually bright northern lights that night. Zorner positioned himself under the bomber and allowed the bomber to fly through his line of fire along its starboard wing. It started to burn immediately and the aircraft went down in a step right spiral. Ironically, the starboard engine of his Messerschmitt BF 110 stalled and started to burn forcing him and his Funker to bale out. This was the only occasion during his entire combat career, and 272 missions, that Zorner was forced to take to his parachute.
A presentation of this print to the Town of Ten Boer is planned on April 26th,2016 in honour of THE CREW of HR864 LQ-M and of the town of Ten Boer for their support during the war and for safeguarding our CREW for eternity
Journeys by Jerry Van Dyke of Cambridge Ontario have in the past supported many initiatives involving Canadian Veterans. They have again graciously stepped forward to sponsor this project and while focusing on the Crew of HR864 LQ-M, through them, honours thousands of airmen in Bomber Command that lost their lives in World War 11. All proceeds from the sale of prints will be donated to the National Service Dogs Program and targeted to the special needs of our veterans suffering with PTSD.