Small but beautiful

Don Walz~3

Don Walz~2

For now that is…

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Don Walz Visiting France – Redux

Editor’s note

Michael, Don Walz’s son, just wrote me a personal message about an article on his father.

Don Walz

Thank you for publishing these pictures. I am the son that was with Donald in 2000 (the coloured photographs) The woman in question in the first two photographs is Arlette Hollier-Larousse from Louvigny near Caen. She was our host. In photograph #4 the other gentleman is Thierry Hollier- Larousse, Arlette’s husband.
The mayor of Sassy in the photographs is André Barbot, I do not recall his wife’s name. I do hope this helps clarify for you

Very best regards

Michael Walz

Here are some pictures sent by Samuel Magdelaine who found out about this blog paying homage to 443 Squadron. His grandfather had helped Donald Walz escaping from the Germans when he was shot down.

I will continue with  the translation of the last post in the coming weeks so people in France can read this amazing story about Donald Walz.

 

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Donald Waltz with his son Michael and Arlette Hollier-Larousse

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Donald Walz with Arlette Hollier-Larousse and André Barbot, the mayor of Sassy in 1984

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Donald Walz with his son Michael, André Barbot, the mayor of Sassy and the mayor’s wife at the scene of the crash.

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Donald Walz again with the mayor of Sassy and Thierry Hollier- Larousse, Arlette’s husband.

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Donald Walz listening to the mayor of Sassy in 1984 talking on the microphone. Next to him, on his right is the person who was mayor in 1944. The man holding a present is Samuel’s grandfather. Samuel is the little boy with his arms crossed on the extreme left.

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Donald Walz with flowers in his hands. Next to him on his left is Samuel’s grandfather. Sassy’s mayor in 1984 in on the left of the picture.

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Donald Walz with Samuel’s grandfather presenting him with a gift. His father told him that his grandfather was very moved.

To contact me, please use this form or write a comment.

Don Walz Visiting France

Here are some pictures sent by Samuel Magdelaine who found out about this blog paying homage to 443 Squadron. His grandfather had helped Donald Walz escaping from the Germans when he was shot down.

I will continue with  the translation of the last post in the coming weeks so people in France can read this amazing story about Donald Walz.

 

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Donald Waltz with his son (Samuel Magdelaine is not sure if it’s him)

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Donald Walz with his wife and the mayor of Sassy in 1984

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Donald Walz with his son (?), the mayor of Sassy and the mayor’s wife
at the scene of the crash.

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Donald Walz again with the mayor of Sassy and someone unknown

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Donald Walz listening to the mayor of Sassy in 1984 talking on the microphone. Next to him, on his right is the person who was mayor in 1944. The man holding a present is Samuel’s grandfather. Samuel is the little boy with his arms crossed on the extreme left.

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Donald Walz with flowers in his hands. Next to him on his left is Samuel’s grandfather. Sassy’s mayor in 1984 in on the left of the picture.

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Donald Walz with Samuel’s grandfather presenting him with a gift. His father told him that his grandfather was very moved.

To contact me, please use this form or write a comment.

De la collection d’Art Sager: Don Walz porté disparu

This will be the translation of a post about Don Walz. I will do it in my spare times so you will have to come back often until I have completed it. The original is quite long so it will take some time to complete it.

You can click here for the original.

Samuel Magdelaine, who lives in France, wrote a comment early June saying his grandfather was the one who saved the life of Don Walz back in 1944. He asked me to translate it in French for people interested in that story but who can’t read English.

Art Sager’s son had shared some pictures from his father’s collection.

Art Sager in Spitfire

Art Sager

He sent them to Nicole Morley, who was Arthur Horrell’s niece. Nicole sent them to me.

Here is the translation with links and pictures as an added bonus.

Don Walz était surnommé le Frisé.

Art Sager avait cette photo dans sa collection de photos des pilotes de l’escadrille 443.

Don Walz

Don Walz a survécu à la guerre. Je n’ai trouvé qu’une seule photo de lui sur Internet.

Cliquez ici.

WalzDMCrestwyndFarm

Donald Melvin Walz

Maintenant cliquez ici pour la source de cet article.

Don Walz — pilote de Spitfire

Don Walz de Moose Jaw, qui avait servi dans l’Aviation royale canadienne (RCAF) durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale était un pilote d’avion de chasse, avait rencontré Roland Groome du chapitre de la Canadian Aviation Historical Society (CAHS) le 12  décembre 1996. À notre grand regret Don est décédé en mai 2004. Cette page Web veut lui rend hommage.

Don Walz regarda de côté et vit un FW-190 qui arrivait à 90 degrés… Don était un cible parfaite. Une explosion derrière son siège blindé signalait aussitôt que le réservoir d’essence de son Spitfire IX venait d’exploser.

Que faire?

Comment il en était arrivé indéniablement dans cette fâcheuse position durant l’été 1944 était le sujet de la rencontre le 12 décembre avec Roland Groome du chapitre de la Canadian Aviation Historical Society.

Walz était plutôt une exception parmi les aviateurs de la Seconde Guerre mondiale ayant reçu son brevet de pilote privé avant la guerre. Il était copropriétaire d’un de Havilland Puss Moth et il avait à son crédit 37 heures de temps de vol.

De Havilland Puss Moth

Bien que le travail de Don à la ferme paternelle située dans le district de Moose Jaw aurait pu l’exempter de son service militaire, « Je dis à mon père que je DEVAIS y aller ». Il s’engagea dans l’Aviation royale canadienne (RCAF) au début de 1941, bien qu’il ne fut appelé sous les drapeaux que tard durant cette année. Il voulait bien sûr devenir pilote de chasse, mais à cause de son expérience antérieure comme pilote, il fut nommé instructeur, d’abord dans des écoles d’entraînement de Moose Jaw et de Trenton avant d’être affecté à High River en Alberta. Parce que beaucoup d’écoles du Programme d’entraînement aérien du Commonwealth britannique (BCATP) étaient opérées par des entrepreneurs civils, il reçut aussi un congé prolongé de l’Aviation royale canadienne.

Don fut instructeur pendant environ 18 mois avant que lui et quelques autres instructeurs ne retournent dans l’ARC (RCAF). Il fut envoyé à Toronto (pour un peu de “marche militaire”) puis à Dunnville en Ontario, pour un entraînement sur Harvards. «J’ai appris à aimer le vol acrobatique», se rappella-t-il. «Et je voulais toujours devenir pilote de chasse.»

Il fut ensuite affecté à l’escadrille 127 du Home War Establishment à Dartmouth en Nouvelle-Écosse, bien que son arrivée ait été retardée par une visite à une ancienne amie à Toronto, manquant ainsi son train! Il envoya un télégramme au quartier-général du Eastern Air Command à Halifax disant qu’il avait été «retardé contre son propre gré», ce qui ne fut pas très bien accueilli par l’officier qui avait reçu son message. «La première chose qu’il m’a dite fut qu’il n’existait pas l’expression “retardé contre son propre gré dans la terminologie de l’armée de l’air !”

L’escadrille 127, équipée de Hurricanes, effectuaient des patrouilles de reconnaissance au-dessus d’Halifax et des environs, en plus d’effectuer des vols en formation, des attaques simulées de chasseurs « et toutes les sortes de choses du genre». Par la suite, l’escadrille fut envoyée sur une base isolée à Gander à Terre-Neuve, ce qui s’avéra finalement être «une assez bonne base aérienne avec tout ce que vous souhaiteriez y retrouver.»

Le commandant de l’escadrille était un expatrié du Texas dont une des excentricités était de porter des bottes de cowboy même lors des défilés militaires. Il fut relevé de ses fonctions après de multiples frasques («un chic type, mais il était assez spécial»). L’escadrille 127 fut alors sous le commandement du Squadron Leader P .A. “Paddy” Gilbertson, un Canadien vétéran de la Bataille d’Angleterre. L’escadrille revint à Dartmouth, puis retourna à Gander. En se promenant sur le tarmac de la base, Walz et un autre commandant se retrouvèrent près d’une paire d’avions de transport légers Norseman laissés par leurs équipages du Ferry Command.

Norseman

Note

The above picture of a Norseman is from the collection of Eddy Dubois. Eddy was Larry Dubois’ brother. Larry is on the left. Larry died on December 18, 1944. I wrote about Larry on my other blog Lest We Forget. Click here. Eddy found my blog and wrote me. He then shared more than 100 pictures from his own personal collection. I have posted everything on that blog as a homage to Eddy and Larry. Click here for all the posts related to the Dubois.

Note

La photo du Norseman vient de la collection d’Eddy Dubois. Eddy était le frère de Larry Dubois. Larry est l’aviateur à gauche. Larry est mort le 18 décembre 1944. J’ai écrit à propos de Larry sur mon autre blogue Lest We Forget. Cliquez ici. Eddy a découvert mon blogue et m’a écrit. Il a ensuite partagé plus de 100 photos de sa collection personnelle. J’ai tout mis sur ce blogue afin de rendre hommage à Eddy et Larry. Cliquez ici pour tous mes billets sur les frères Dubois.

 .

Gilbertson leur cria: «Avez-vous déjà piloté un Norseman?”

«Bien sûr! ” Ils mentaient.

L’autre pilote partit peu de temps après pour St. John’s et se vit forcer d’atterrir honteusement sur une plage.

Walz fut assigné pour amener un docteur dans une localité rurale sur un Norseman équippé de skis. À l’atterrissage sur un lac gelé, Walz eut de la difficulté à stopper. «J’ai just hurlé au docteur: “Sautez! Vous allez devoir sauter!” Il sauta et Don put arrêter après avoir passé par-dessus sur le quai. «Ce fut la fin de mes vols sur Norseman.»

Walz l’avait aussi échappé belle une autre fois sur la glace quand Walz laissa Gilbertson piloter un Tiger Moth équipés de skis pour aller récupérer un Hurricane qui s’était écrasé. Lors de l’atterrissage, Don (dans le siège arrière du biplan) était horrifié de voir de l’eau surgir derrière les skis. La glace sous l’avion était en train de céder!

«L’eau recouvrait les skis, dit-il. C’est la dernière fois que j’ai volé avec lui!»

Don obtint une permission autour de Noël 1943, mais elle fut coupée court avec l’ordre de rejoindre la base à Dartmouth. L’escadrille 127 était envoyé outre-mer. Malheureusement, sur le transport de troupes, Don attrapa les oreillons. Arrivés au quai de Liverpool, les autres aviateurs se rendirent à Bournemouth pendant que Don fut hospitalisé. «J’ai passé deux ou trois semaines à l’hôpital. Quand j’ai quitté, j’avais toujours les oreillons. Une femme médecin me demanda si j’avais encore les glandes enflées. Je lui ai dit que non même si c’était faux.»

Il se rendit par la suite à Bournemouth rejoindre l’escadrille 127 (désormais renommée l’escadrille 443 Squadron) basée à Digby. Au moment où Walz rejoint l’escadrille, la 443 vole sur Spitfire Mk V sous le commandement du Squadron Leader Henry Wallace “Wally” McLeod, originaire de la ville de Régina qui avait 11 (d’autres sources mentionnent 13) victoires aériennes au-dessus de Malte durant l’été de 1942.

«Il était un rude gaillard; un vrai pilote de chasse, un pilote exceptionnel,» se rappelle Walz. «Il était un chic type. Si vous faisiez une erreur, vous le saviez.»

Lors de leur première rencontre, Walz vit le nouveau commandant lui lancer le manuel de l’avion, pointer un avion et dire: «Voilà ton Spit… maintenant vas-y et vole.»

Le Spitfire, incidemment, était tout un contraste par rapport au Hurricane sur lequel Walz avait fait son entraînement. «Je tirai sur le manche comme on le faisait sur un Hurricane et la première fois j’ai eu la frousse. Il y avait une telle différence entre les deux avions»,dit-il à propos du Spitfire. «On ne pilotait pas un Spitfire. On l’enfilait comme on enfile un vêtement.»

À la fin du printemps 1944, l’escadrille 443, équipée maintenant de Spitfire IX, fut basée sur la côte dans le sud de l’Angleterre. «Notre travail était de se préparer pour l’invasion. Nous déménagions d’un endroit à un autre. Cela permit à l’escadrille de se pratiquer à changer d’une base à une autre.» L’escadrille s’engagea également dans des vols au-dessus de la France occupée tout comme elle effectua des missions de bombardement en piqué, un travail que Walz apprit rapidement à détester. À cause de la D.C.A., Walz comparaissait cela à foncer droit dans un «champ de balles de tennis». Des pilotes lâchaient leur bombe de 250 kg plus tôt que prévu frôlant ainsi les autres Spitfires toujours en piqué. Une de ces bombes, en fait, «me passa sous le nez,» se rappela Don.

Il se rappelle aussi avoir participé à une mission d’escorte de B-26 Marauders qui attaquaient des navires allemands dans la Manche malgré une D.C.A. meurtrière. Il frôla aussi la mort quand lui, McLeod, le Wing Commander  «Johnnie» Johnson (l’as de la RAF qui termina la guerre avec 33 victoires aériennes homologuées) et trois autres pilotes s’envolèrent pour une mission de balayage à basse altitude au-dessus de la France. Johnson remarqua un aérodrome allemand droit devant et ordonna de virer à gauche. Volant à gauche, très à l’intérieur de la formation, Walz se retrouva de plus en plus bas, tellement qu’un fermier français le salua de la main. Il dut éventuellement grimper au-dessus d’une haie dans un nuage de feuilles. Il frôla le sol avant de rejoindre les autres avions. «J’ai eu beaucoup de chance», dit-il.

Lors d’une autre mission de balayage à laquelle participait toutes les escadrilles du Wing 127 avec la 443 volant à basse altitude, Walz aperçut quelques points se dessiner à l’horizon.

«Don, guide-nous vers eux!» lança Johnson à la radio.

Les réservoirs auxiliaires des Spitfires furent largués («si on arrivait à les larguer, nous étions chanceux, car le Spitfire n’était pas fameux comme avion avec ceux-ci»). Il vit six Fw-190 qui volaient alignés de front.

«Prenez les trois à droite», dit Johnson, qui fonça sur les autres . Les Fw-190 virèrent et la bataille commença.

Don plaça son Spitfire sur la queue d’un avion ennemi qui se retourna rapidement sur le dos et piqua vers le sol. Il le suivit, le perdit de vue, puis tira sur le manche et perdit conscience à cause dy voile noir. Il se réveilla à 6000 mètres d’altitude seul dans le ciel.

D’autres points noirs apparurent dans le ciel. Plus de Spitfires. «Jusqu’à ce que je sois de retour vers la base au milieu de la Manche, j’avais six avions avec moi. Ça vous montre combien nous avions été dispersés à cause de la bataille aérienne.»

En tout, le wing avait perdu deux avions contre six du côté des Allemands. «Ce fut une bonne journée pour nous.»

Puis ce fut le Jour-J.

Plus de patrouilles, puis l’escadrille 443 déménagea près des plages du débarquement, un déplacement survenu ironiquement après une matinée de tournées des pubs. «Ce fut la plus drôle des formations que l’on ait jamais vue… ils étaient un peu émêchés.” dit-il en riant.

Ils atterrirent sur une piste poussiéreuse recouverte de plaques de métal d’une base au nom de code B2. Le lendemain, Don guida une patrouille de quatre avions au-dessus de la péninsule de Cherbourg. Le temps était mauvais avec un plafond de 150 mètres.

Ils revenaient à la base B2 quand, à travers la couverture nuageuse, Don remarqua des avions allemands.«Grimpons et allons voir ça de plus près.»Walz dit à son ailier, Gord Ockenden (il était un bon numéro 2, il vous collait aux fesses»).

Ils grimpèrent et Don se plaça derrière le chasseur allemand.

Rien de bien réjouissant. La D.C.A. alliée tirait en direction des deux avions. «Ils continuèrent à le canarder et les obus s’approchaient de plus en plus près de moi au lieu de lui! ” se lamenta Don.

Ses deux canons de 20 mm s’enrayèrent du à la poussière sur la piste de la base B2. Par contre, ses mitrailleuses de .303 fonctionnaient toujours, convaincant le pilote allemand à larguer la verrière de son avion et à sauter en parachute. Une victoire!

Plus tard lors de la même journée, Don amena un autre vol de six avions en direction d’un trou dans les nuages toujours omniprésents, si denses que deux des pilotes durent rebrousser chemin. Au sud et à l’est de Caen, le reste des quatre Spitfires tombèrent au beau milieu d’une large formation d’avions allemands. Il fut déterminé plus tard, dit Don, qu’il y en avait environ 35 qui déménageaient d’une base à une autre sous la pression de l’avance des armées alliées.

Don se mit derrière la queue d’un Fw-190 qui tourna et plongea en piqué. Soudain il entendit son ailier lui crier «Dégage, Don!” Dégage! Ils sont à tes trousses! Pour l’amour de Dieu, dégage!”

Il dégagea en grimpant et en virant pour se placer derrière la queue d’un Me-109.

C’est à ce moment précis qu’il remarqua du coin de l’œil un Fw-190 arrivant perpenticulairement en ouvrant le feu. «J’entendis un bang assourdissant et mon avion a pris feu», dit-il. «En plein dans le réservoir d’essence.»

Don s’éjecta «vraiment rapidement.».  Il ne rappela plus comment et il tenta d’attraper l’anneau du parachute (il sentit que son derrière avait frappé quelque chose et il pensa avoir frappé la queue du Spitfire). «La prochaine chose que je remarquai fut “Tiens va le parachute qui s’ouvre”».

Se balançant sous le parachute à 500 mètres, il ne pouvait voir qu’un seul Spitfire avec trois Fw-l90 à ses trousses et un quatrième qui se dirigeait droit sur lui.. «Je jure qu’il allait me tirer dessus, ce que certains faisaient à l’occasion.»

Il ne tira pas heureusement et Don heurta le sol et se cacha dans un pâturage pendant que les soldats allemands cherchaient dans un champ de blé tout près. Comment près? «Ils passèrent d’aussi près que d’ici à la fin de cette table», dit-il lors de la rencontre. «Ils fouillèrent dans le champ de blé, mais ne me virent pas.»

Don fit l’observation suivante. Les soldats de la patrouille n’étaient pas des fils de fermier, car ils auraient remarqué les chevaux qui se tenaient au-dessus de l’aviateur et qui le reniflaient,  un signe flagrant si quelqu’un l’avait remarqué.

«J’avais bien évalué l’emplacement du champ de blé et je pus ainsi le traverser en rampant. Je pouvais voit les éclairs au-dessus des têtes de pont où les combats faisaient rage.»

Le lendemain, par contre, il entendit des voix. Saisissant son revolver, il se retrouva face à face avec un fermier français accompagné de son fils. Ceux-ci lui donnèrent des œufs crus à manger et une vieille veste. Don ajouta à ce déguisement en confectionnant un béret grossier avec la doublure de la veste. Il rencontra ensuite un autre fermier avec son fils qui fauchaient du foin. Se disant «Canadien» et gesticulant ne donnèrent aucun résultat bien que le fils du fermier remplaça le béret de Don par le sien. «C’est la dernière fois que je vis ces deux-là.»

Après qu’il se fut caché dans une étable, Don arriva face à face devant une troisième fermier (“Il a eu toute une frousse quand il m’a vu!”) qui lui donna un rasoir pour se raser, puis lui fit signe de partir.

L’aviateurdormit dans une remise pour passer la nuit, mais il ne se sentait pas à l’aise. Il décida de partir et, une fois rendu dans un autre champ de blé, il vit des étincelles orange — des cigarettes.

“What I’d crawled up was the Caen-Calais highway and they (the Germans) had men along it in foxholes.”

By the next morning, Don, hungry and burned, was considering surrendering — until four Frenchmen found him. There was more muttering of “Canada! Canada!” — until the men told him to wait. Don was sure the Germans were being summoned, but the next arrival was the local gendarme, who started him on his way to a French family in which the father had been an interpreter during the First World War and therefore spoke good English. From then on, when the German soldiers knocked at the outer door and demanded wine, the wife would deal with them, “then come in and laugh to beat the band because they didn’t realize there was a Canadian on the other side of the door.”

This charade ended when the Germans decided to clear the town of its inhabitants, who found themselves in trucks, Don being paired with a French woman and her child and passed off as deaf and dumb. “It’s not the easiest thing to do because you just don’t know when you’re going to make a mistake,” he said.

Adding to the stress was the distinct possibility Allied fighters would mistake the convoy for one carrying German troops.

“I’m not going to be deaf and dumb if I hear the engines pick up speed! ” he reasoned — though this threat did not arise.

Passing through the hands of a number of French resistance workers, Don ended up south of the Normandy fighting, staying hidden for about three weeks on a farm and learning to speak French until the Germans pulled out and he found a nearby American engineer unit that was salvaging tanks and vehicles. Despite a particularly hard grilling by one American officer (“He was just about as bad as the Germans”), Don hit it off with the other Americans, happily using his new facility in French to find wine for them all. “They said, ‘we’re not letting you go! You stay with us. You’re pretty handy .”‘ he recalled with a grin.

His next dealing with our American cousins was equally entrepreneurial, shall we say.

After returning to 443 Squadron via Britain (“I had to fight like Sam Hill to stay; they were going to send me home.”) he found 443 Squadron near Everaux, where off-duty pilots once found an unoccupied U .S. Army jeep near a cathouse, “sitting there, all the rifles and the Tommy guns in it.”

Jeeps were in short supply right after the invasion, so this example was quickly driven back to 443’s airstrip. When military police showed up the next day, “it was there, but it was a Canadian jeep now, all repainted and such, in the middle of the night.”

Another American jeep was shortly thereafter acquired in the same unconventional way, “but the group captain wouldn’t let us keep that one,” he laughed. “We had to give it back.”

By late September, the squadron was well into Belgium. An operation on Sept. 27th saw 443 Squadron and another squadron get airborne and learn over the radio that “there was a lot of action around Nijmegen”.

Arriving at the scene, Don spotted an Me 109 through a hole in the clouds and fastened onto his tail. “The guy saw me coming,” Don recalled. “What he did was drop his gear and drop everything.”

To avoid overshooting, Don did the same and at one point ended up abreast of the German — who then retracted his gear and headed for a cloud. “I got him just as he started to disappear in the cloud,” Don said. “The cloud turned blood red and I had got another one.”

Sadly, this was also the fight in which Wally McLeod was killed. Hugh Halliday’s biography of McLeod in the 1978 book The Tumbling Sky credits McLeod with 19 confirmed kills, one probable and 9.25 damaged. Other sources give him 22 kills, the differences being explained by, as Halliday points out, unclear records on embattled Malta. Commented Don: “He was quite a guy; quite a fighter pilot.”

In a chat after the meeting, Don told me that McLeod “had good eyesight and great determination; he was very aggressive; when he got on to a German, he would follow him clean to Berlin! He did a few times — not to Berlin, of course. You could always tell what he said … you’d hear it over the airplane radio: “Take that, you bastard!” He was very, very aggressive.”

One of the next stops was Brussels, where the squadron, in an exchange of roles, briefly became the target of German bombing, with Me-262 jets occasionally dropping anti-personnel bombs. A loud bang would signal this newfangled munitions’ arrival, then a number of grenade-size bomblets would pop out and explode.

Two stories illustrate that tense period: one saw 443’s pilots getting a lecture from a British group captain, who, being unfamiliar with the delayed action of these bombs, declared, “When you hear a bomb, it’s too late!” However, when a bomb did arrive, “he was down there before the rest of us!” Don laughed.

Another day found Walz and other pilots sitting in their idling aircraft when they realized a bombing raid was in progress — and collectively decided the best defence was getting into the air. “Everybody opened their throttles and went over fences, went over everything, but nobody got hit.” Don, incidentally, was in Britain on a course when Operation Bodenplatte, the great German air offensive against Allied bases on Jan. 1, 1945 took place.

One “trip” in April 1945 found Don flying with a new pilot and confronted by a strange aircraft. “I could have got it because it was coming straight on. All I had to do was drop my nose and shoot, but I didn’t because I didn’t know what it was.”

Walz and his wingman later realized they had come face-to-face with an Me 262 jet fighter. Disappointed, they had to content themselves with strafing, during which Don had the sensation of twigs hitting his aircraft’s wings. It was actually light anti-aircraft fire.

“Red leader, you’ve been hit!” the rookie wingman told him.

Don didn’t think so, but by the time he’d gained altitude, “the gauges were off the clock”.

When he radioed that he was bailing out, all he heard was a polite, “Cheerio!”

There was no escape this time. Don was quickly captured, spending nine days in interrogation. One German intelligence officer happened to speak excellent English. “How are you?” he asked the Canuck, who replied: “OK, but it’s damned cold in that cellar.”

“It would be cold in Canada, too, if you weren’t here bombing Germany!” the German snapped back.

Even though Germany was collapsing, Don was sent to a PoW camp, where he became the officer in charge of billeting during a march southward through Germany.

During it, USAAF Thunderbolts spotted the column — whereupon remarkable things happened.

As German guards vainly shouted for order, PoWs, some of them exhausted only a few minutes earlier , began leaping over fences to get away from the P-47s’ attentions.

Early May saw the war’s end,”and the next thing, you know, the Germans were the prisoners and we were in charge” — not only of themselves, but a large number of adjacent Russians.

“I never want to fight these guys,” confided Don to a South African buddy, “’cause they’re a tough-looking bunch”.

Après la libération, Don retourna à Londres par avion, rencontra la Reine lors d’une cérémonie, puis revint au Canada. Don, qui fut crédité de quatre victoires homologuées, demeura dans le domaine de l’aviation en œuvrant dans une entreprise commerciale de poudrage aérien des cultures à Moose Jaw. Mais cela, comme on le dit si bien, est une toute autre histoire.

-Rapporté par Will Chabun

443_spit Walz

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A Comment About Don Walz

Thank you Donald Walz,

Hello I’m French I am a grandson of the man who saved Don Walz during the WWII. My name is Magdelaine Samuel in Normandy.

Thanks a lot.

PS: Sorry for my English !!! Magdelaine Samuel

Sassy in Normandy

Who is Don Walz?

Don Walz mod

I wrote a post about him. Click here.

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Art Sager’s Collection: Don Walz Missing

Don Walz’s nickname was Curly.

Art Sager had his photo in his collection of 443 pilots.

Don Walz

Luckily Don Walz came back from the war. There is only one picture I could  find on the Internet.

Click here.

WalzDMCrestwyndFarm

Donald Melvin Walz

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Don Walz — Spitfire pilot

Moose Jaw’s Don Walz, who served in the RCAF during the Second World War as a fighter pilot, spoke to the Roland Groome Chapter of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society on December 12, 1996. Sadly, Don passed away in May 2004. This page is dedicated to him.

Don Walz looked to one side and saw an FW-190 coming from 90 degrees … Don was a perfect target. An explosion behind his armored seat quickly signalled that his SpitfIre IX’s fuel tank had blown up.

What to do?

How he came to be in this undeniably tight spot in the summer of 1944 was the subject of his December 12 talk to the Roland Groome Chapter of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society .

Wa1z was somewhat of a rarity among airmen of the Second World War, having earned a private pilot’s licence prewar, when he owned a half-share in a deHavilland Puss Moth and logged 37 hours flying.

Although Don’s work on his father’s farm in the Moose Jaw district could have exempted him from military service, “1 told my dad I HAD to go” and enlisted in the RCAF in early 1941, though he was not called up until later that year. He wanted to become a fighter pilot, of course, but because he had previous flying experience, he was designated as a flying instructor, passing through schools at Moose Jaw and Trenton before being sent to instruct at High River, Alberta. Because so many BCATP schools were operated by civilian contractors, he was also given long-term leave from the RCAF.

Don instructed for about 18 months before he and a few other instructors were returned to the RCAF, sent to Toronto (for a little “square-marching”) and then to Dunnville, Ont., for training on Harvards. “I got to love aerobatics,” he recalled. ” And I still wanted to be a fighter pilot.”

He went next to the RCAF Home War Establishment’s 127 (Fighter) Squadron at Dartmouth, N.S. — though his arrival was delayed by a visit to an old girlfriend in Toronto, after which he missed his train! To Eastern Air Command headquarters in Halifax he wired that he had been “unavoidably delayed”, which did not exactly sit well with the officer who received his message. “The first thing he told me was that there is no such term in the air force as ‘unavoidably delayed’!”

127 Squadron, equipped with Hurricanes, did fighter patrols over Halifax and its approaches, plus formation flying, fighter attacks “and just messing around like that” until it was sent to the remote RCAF station at Gander, Newfoundland, which turned out to be “a pretty good base, actually … everything you’d want out there.”

The squadron commander was an expatriate Texan, whose eccentricities included wearing cowboy boots — even on parade. Various misdeeds got this officer(“a nice chap, but he was pretty wild”) removed from the service, with 127 was taken over by S/L P .A. “Paddy” Gilbertson, a Canadian veteran of the Battle of Britain. The squadron went back to Dartmouth, then returned to Gander, where Walz and another flight commander once found themselves wandering across the tarmac near a pair of Norsemen light transports left by Ferry Command crews.

Shouted Gilbertson: “Have you fellows ever flown a Norseman?”

“Yeah! ” they lied.

The other pilot, soon bound for St. John’s, found himself forced to land, ignominiously, on a beach.

Walz was assigned to take a doctor to a rural settlement in a ski-equipped Norseman that, upon landing on a frozen lake, proved difficult to stop. “I just hollered at the doctor, ‘Jump! You’re going to have to jump!”‘ He did — and Don eventually got the aircraft stopped after soaring over a dock. “That was the end of my Norseman flying.”

Another close call on ice came when Walz let Gilbertson fly him, in a ski-equipped Tiger Moth, to a downed Hurricane. Upon touching down, Don (in the biplane trainer’s back seat) was horrified to see water coming up behind the skis — because the ice below them was cracking!

“Water was pouring over the skis,” he said. “That was the last time I went with him! “

Christmas 1943 saw Don home on leave — that was cut short by a call to return to Dartmouth; 127 Squadron was being sent overseas. Alas, on the troopship, he got mumps, so that when it docked in Liverpool, the other airmen went to Bournemouth — while Don went into hospital. “I was in the hospital for two, maybe three, weeks. When I got out of the hospital, I still had the mumps. A lady doctor asked me if I still had swollen glands; I said ‘no!” even though I still did.”

Off he went to Bournemouth, with 127 Squadron (by then redesignated as 443 Squadron) now at RAF Digby. By the time Walz caught up to the squadron, it was flying Spitfire 5s under the command of S/L Henry Wallace “Wally” McLeod, a Reginan who had 11 (some sources say 13) victories in the air fighting over Malta in the summer of 1942.

“He was very rough; a real fighter pilot, a hotshot,” Walz recalled. “He was a good man. If you did something wrong, he knew about it.”

Walz’s introduction to the new CO saw the latter toss him some pilot’s notes, point to an aircraft and say, “There’s your Spit … now go out and fly.”

The Spitfire, incidentally, was a striking contrast to the Hurricane on which Walz had trained. “I pulled back on the stick, as we did in the Hurricane, the first time — and ‘yellowed out’. There was that much difference in the airplanes,” he said of the Spitfire. “You didn’t really fly it. You just sort of wore it.”

By late spring 1944, 443 Squadron, by now equipped with the Spitfire IX, headed to Britain’s south coast. “Our job was to get ready for the invasion. We moved from one place to another. That gave the squadron some practice in moving from one base to another.” It also did sweeps into occupied France as well as some dive-bombing — an avocation that Walz quickly came to dislike. Because of the flak — Walz likened it to diving into “a field of tennis balls” — some pilots released their 500-lb. bombs early, sending them past other, still-diving SpitfIres. One of those bombs, indeed, “went right past my nose,” Don recalled.

He also remembers being part of an escort for B-26 Marauders that attacked German shipping in the English Channel despite murderous flak and had another close call when he, McLeod, W /C “Johnnie” Johnson (the distinguished RAF ace who was to finish the war with 38 confirmed kills) and three other pilots were on a low-level sweep deep into France. Johnson noticed a German airfield ahead and called for the flight to break left. Flying on the left — the very inside of the formation — was Walz, who found himself getting lower and lower — so low that a French farmer waved at him. He eventually had to climb to get over a hedge, with leaves flying everywhere and almost hit the ground before rejoinimg the others. “I was pretty lucky,” he said.

Another sweep involved the entire wing, with 443 on the bottom. Walz spotted some specks on the horizon.

“Don, lead us to them!” radioed Johnson.

Off came the Spitfires’ long-range tanks (“if you got them off, you considered yourself lucky because the Spitfire wasn’t much of an airplane with them on”). He saw there were six Fw-190s, flying line abreast.

“You take the three on the right,” said Johnson, who headed for the others. The Fws broke and the battle was joined.

Don got on the tail of one that flick-rolled and headed down to the deck. He followed, lost him, pulled back on the stick, blacked out and woke up at 20,000 feet — all alone.

More specks appeared — more Spitfires. “By the time I got halfway across the channel, I had six airplanes with me. That’s how spread out we had all got.”

In all, the wing had lost two aircraft while claiming six Germans. “It was a good day for us.”

Next came D-Day, more patrols and then 443 Squadron’s move to the beach-head — a trip that, ironically, came after a morning of pubbing. “It was the funniest-looking formation you’ve ever seen … they were half-cut.” he laughed.

They landed on an dusty steel-plank runway at an airstrip code-named B2. The next day, Don led a patrol of four aircraft to the Cherbourg Penninsula. The weather was poor, with a 500-foot ceiling.

They were heading back to B2 when, through a hole in the cloud, Don noticed German aircraft. “Let’s just go up and take a peek” Walz said to his wingman, Gord Ockenden (“he was a good No.2; he just stuck to you like glue”).

They climbed and Don latched onto a German fighter’s tail.

Nothing came easy. Allied flak was all around both aircraft “They were still shooting at him from the ground and the shots were coming closer to me than to him! ” Don lamented.

His two 20mm cannon jammed — the result of too much Normandy dust entering them — but his four .303 machine guns still worked, convincing the German pilot to jettison his canopy and bail out. A victory!

Later that same day, Don took out another flight of six aircraft, heading through another hole in the seemingly inevitable clouds –which were sufficiently heavy that day that two of his pilots turned back. South and east of Caen, the remaining four Spitfires ran smack into a large formation of German aircraft. It was later determined, Don said, that they were about 35 German aircraft moving , from one base to another under pressure from the Allied armies’ advance.

Don got onto the tail of an Fw-190 that went into a diving turn, but he quickly heard his buddy Hughie Russell yelling, “Break, Don!” Break! They’re on your tail! For Christ’s sake, break!”

He broke — going into a climbing turn and getting onto the tail of an Me-109.

It was at that point that he noticed, out of the corner of his eye, an Fw-190 coming at him from a 90-degree angle and opening fire. “There was a huge bang and I was on fire,” he said. “He’d hit me smack in the gas tank.”

Don bailed out “real fast” — he isn’t quite sure how — and clawed for his parachute ring (he felt a bump in his seat and figured he might have hit his Spitfire’s tail. “The next thing I knew, pop, there goes the ‘chute.”

Sitting beneath it at 1,500 feet, he could see only one remaining Spit, with three Fw-l90s on its tail and a fourth coming toward him. “I swear he was going to shoot me — which they did every once in a while.”

He didn’t, though, and Don hit the ground and hid in a pasture while German infantrymen searched a nearby wheat field for him. How near? “They went by me as close from me [as] to the end of that table,” he told the meeting. “They were looking in the wheatfield, but they didn’t see me.”

His observation was that there were no farmboys in the German platoon — else they would have twigged to the horses that were standing over the downed airman and snorting — a sure giveaway had anybody noticed.

“I had the wheat field sized up, so I crawled that night through the field. I could see the flashes up at the beachhead where the war was going on.”

The next day, though, he heard voices. Reaching for his revolver, he found himself facing a French farmer and his son, who fed him raw eggs and gave him an old jacket. Don got further into disguise by making a crude beret from the lining of his jacket. He bumped soon after into another French farmer and his son, who were cutting hay. Saying “Canadian” and gesturing got him nowhere, though the boy grabbed Don’s crude “beret” and replaced it with his own. “That’s the last I saw of those two.”

After hiding in a barn, Don was confronted by a third farmer (“He nearly died when he saw me!”) who gave him a razor for shaving, then signalled him to leave.

The airman settled into a shed for the night, but felt uneasy about it, and was crawling through another wheatfield when he saw orange sparks — cigarettes.

“What I’d crawled up was the Caen-Calais highway and they (the Germans) had men along it in foxholes.”

By the next morning, Don, hungry and burned, was considering surrendering — until four Frenchmen found him. There was more muttering of “Canada! Canada!” — until the men told him to wait. Don was sure the Germans were being summoned, but the next arrival was the local gendarme, who started him on his way to a French family in which the father had been an interpreter during the First World War and therefore spoke good English. From then on, when the German soldiers knocked at the outer door and demanded wine, the wife would deal with them, “then come in and laugh to beat the band because they didn’t realize there was a Canadian on the other side of the door.”

This charade ended when the Germans decided to clear the town of its inhabitants, who found themselves in trucks, Don being paired with a French woman and her child and passed off as deaf and dumb. “It’s not the easiest thing to do because you just don’t know when you’re going to make a mistake,” he said.

Adding to the stress was the distinct possibility Allied fighters would mistake the convoy for one carrying German troops.

“I’m not going to be deaf and dumb if I hear the engines pick up speed! ” he reasoned — though this threat did not arise.

Passing through the hands of a number of French resistance workers, Don ended up south of the Normandy fighting, staying hidden for about three weeks on a farm and learning to speak French until the Germans pulled out and he found a nearby American engineer unit that was salvaging tanks and vehicles. Despite a particularly hard grilling by one American officer (“He was just about as bad as the Germans”), Don hit it off with the other Americans, happily using his new facility in French to find wine for them all. “They said, ‘we’re not letting you go! You stay with us. You’re pretty handy .”‘ he recalled with a grin.

His next dealing with our American cousins was equally entrepreneurial, shall we say.

After returning to 443 Squadron via Britain (“I had to fight like Sam Hill to stay; they were going to send me home.”) he found 443 Squadron near Everaux, where off-duty pilots once found an unoccupied U .S. Army jeep near a cathouse, “sitting there, all the rifles and the Tommy guns in it.”

Jeeps were in short supply right after the invasion, so this example was quickly driven back to 443’s airstrip. When military police showed up the next day, “it was there, but it was a Canadian jeep now, all repainted and such, in the middle of the night.”

Another American jeep was shortly thereafter acquired in the same unconventional way, “but the group captain wouldn’t let us keep that one,” he laughed. “We had to give it back.”

By late September, the squadron was well into Belgium. An operation on Sept. 27th saw 443 Squadron and another squadron get airborne and learn over the radio that “there was a lot of action around Nijmegen”.

Arriving at the scene, Don spotted an Me 109 through a hole in the clouds and fastened onto his tail. “The guy saw me coming,” Don recalled. “What he did was drop his gear and drop everything.”

To avoid overshooting, Don did the same and at one point ended up abreast of the German — who then retracted his gear and headed for a cloud. “I got him just as he started to disappear in the cloud,” Don said. “The cloud turned blood red and I had got another one.”

Sadly, this was also the fight in which Wally McLeod was killed. Hugh Halliday’s biography of McLeod in the 1978 book The Tumbling Sky credits McLeod with 19 confirmed kills, one probable and 9.25 damaged. Other sources give him 22 kills, the differences being explained by, as Halliday points out, unclear records on embattled Malta. Commented Don: “He was quite a guy; quite a fighter pilot.”

In a chat after the meeting, Don told me that McLeod “had good eyesight and great determination; he was very aggressive; when he got on to a German, he would follow him clean to Berlin! He did a few times — not to Berlin, of course. You could always tell what he said … you’d hear it over the airplane radio: “Take that, you bastard!” He was very, very aggressive.”

One of the next stops was Brussels, where the squadron, in an exchange of roles, briefly became the target of German bombing, with Me-262 jets occasionally dropping anti-personnel bombs. A loud bang would signal this newfangled munitions’ arrival, then a number of grenade-size bomblets would pop out and explode.

Two stories illustrate that tense period: one saw 443’s pilots getting a lecture from a British group captain, who, being unfamiliar with the delayed action of these bombs, declared, “When you hear a bomb, it’s too late!” However, when a bomb did arrive, “he was down there before the rest of us!” Don laughed.

Another day found Walz and other pilots sitting in their idling aircraft when they realized a bombing raid was in progress — and collectively decided the best defence was getting into the air. “Everybody opened their throttles and went over fences, went over everything, but nobody got hit.” Don, incidentally, was in Britain on a course when Operation Bodenplatte, the great German air offensive against Allied bases on Jan. 1, 1945 took place.

One “trip” in April 1945 found Don flying with a new pilot and confronted by a strange aircraft. “I could have got it because it was coming straight on. All I had to do was drop my nose and shoot, but I didn’t because I didn’t know what it was.”

Walz and his wingman later realized they had come face-to-face with an Me 262 jet fighter. Disappointed, they had to content themselves with strafing, during which Don had the sensation of twigs hitting his aircraft’s wings. It was actually light anti-aircraft fire.

“Red leader, you’ve been hit!” the rookie wingman told him.

Don didn’t think so, but by the time he’d gained altitude, “the gauges were off the clock”.

When he radioed that he was bailing out, all he heard was a polite, “Cheerio!”

There was no escape this time. Don was quickly captured, spending nine days in interrogation. One German intelligence officer happened to speak excellent English. “How are you?” he asked the Canuck, who replied: “OK, but it’s damned cold in that cellar.”

“It would be cold in Canada, too, if you weren’t here bombing Germany!” the German snapped back.

Even though Germany was collapsing, Don was sent to a PoW camp, where he became the officer in charge of billeting during a march southward through Germany.

During it, USAAF Thunderbolts spotted the column — whereupon remarkable things happened.

As German guards vainly shouted for order, PoWs, some of them exhausted only a few minutes earlier , began leaping over fences to get away from the P-47s’ attentions.

Early May saw the war’s end,”and the next thing, you know, the Germans were the prisoners and we were in charge” — not only of themselves, but a large number of adjacent Russians.

“I never want to fight these guys,” confided Don to a South African buddy, “’cause they’re a tough-looking bunch”.

With liberation came a flight back to London, the ritual meeting with the Queen and a trip home to Canada. Don, who was officially credited with four confirmed victories, stayed active in aviation, operating a crop-dusting/charter firm at Moose Jaw. But that, as they say, is another story.

-Reported by Will Chabun

443_spit Walz

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