Les Birket Foster’s Spitfire

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Luis Perez-Gomez

I found this pilot’s name in a logbook which belonged to a flight instructor at No. 2 S.F.T.S. Uplands.

 logbook-uplands-page-41

LAC Perez-Gomez – Killed overseas…

Perez-Gomez1

While looking for more information on this student pilot, I found this story written in 2008. Luis Perez-Gomez is on the extreme left of the first row.

443 Squadron Pilots arriving in England in 1944

 

 

Memories a tango through time
 
The season of remembrance plays memory tricks on those who have lost loved ones to war.

Some experience images, and some say their memories trigger a scent.
 
By The Ottawa Citizen November 3, 2008
Memories a tango through time
 

The season of remembrance plays memory tricks on those who have lost loved ones to war. Some experience images, and some say their memories trigger a scent.

Dorothy Pratt hears music. It’s a tango.

In Ottawa as New Year’s 1943 approached, she was 16 and she was in love. Her name then was Dorothy O’Brien, the very proper daughter of a doctor. She was a figure skater, and she loved to dance. She had literally been swept off her feet by a man, little older than herself, who was the best dancer she would ever know.

He was Luis Perez-Gomez of Mexico City. He came to Ottawa to study English at Ottawa Technical High School, and to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. When they met at a community dance, he was in uniform. A little clumsy at first meeting, when they relaxed and let the music guide them, they could fly. He was a master of the tango, and became her teacher.

When he earned his wings, he invited her to be his guest at his graduation. On his last night before leaving for war, he asked her to join him for dinner and dancing. The place for such occasions was the Canadian Grill at the Château Laurier.

It was a fairytale kind of night, with other dancers stepping back and giving them the whole dance floor, and applauding.

Six months later, she would discover he had named her as his next-of-kin. A telegram arrived, saying he was missing in action. It was soon followed by another. Killed in action.

A decade later, she married Denis Pratt, a retired naval commander, and they had three children. He died in 2003. Through a full and rewarding life, she never forgot the dashing young dancer.

She has an interesting theory.

“It’s true, they (war dead) don’t age. In my memory, he’s about 20. And I’m 16.”

We all have pleasant memories we escape to and, when in need of a little recharging, Dorothy Pratt slips back in time and goes dancing at the Grill.

In 2001, Denis took Dorothy on a war graves tour of Europe, and located the lonely grave of F/O Luis Perez-Gomez in a village cemetery in Sassy, in Normandy. He was killed when his Spitfire was shot down 10 days after D-Day. The villagers buried him as one of their own, fearing the Germans would remove all identification.

After the war, Commonwealth War Graves decided it best to leave him there, and gave him a military headstone. There’s a similar marker nearby, for an unidentified Canadian airman.

When the villagers of Sassy heard the story of their foreign resident, they decided to make the story known to the few visitors they get. They invited Mrs. Pratt back in 2004, on the 60th anniversary of his death, and had her do the honours unveiling a plaque on their newly-named village square — Place Perez-Gomez.

They also want visitors to know the unique nature of that war grave. It is occupied by the only Mexican national lying under an RCAF marker from that war.

The story of the dancing fighter pilot and the girl who loved him was told in one of these columns on Nov. 6, 2001. More details appear in the latest issue of Air Force magazine.

Remembrance Day is marked in Mexico City by a gathering of veterans, mainly expatriate Brits. Luis Perez-Gomez is on their honour roll. This year, the service will be on Nov. 9. It’s easier to gather people on a Sunday.

The story of the dancing Mexican reached them, and they have invited Dorothy Pratt to attend. She’s 81.

“I could have said no,” she said. “But there’s a 16-year-old girl in me …”

Most of Luis’s relatives now live in Guadalajara and a delegation of them will attend the service in Mexico City. They know the story of Dorothy of Ottawa, and have invited her to their homes to meet the extended family. She didn’t hesitate to accept. She will take with her some of the mementoes of her first love, and will offer them to his family.

“It’s one of the strange things about getting to my age, that time seems to shrink and memories of long-ago events become much clearer. My husband was a wonderful and understanding man, and I love and miss him.”

She says she won’t hesitate, when she meets Luis’s family, to tell them there’s a part of her that still loves him.

Author

dbrown000@sympatico.ca

You Have to Start Somewhere

Post 25

This blog started small after Nicole contacted me on my blog about RCAF 403 Squadron.

Hi,

My name is Nicole Morley and my Great Uncle Arthur James Horrell was in the 443 squadron. I don’t know if my Great Uncle ever knew William Irvine Gould but I imagine he probably did. I’m doing some research on my Uncle and was wondering if there was anyone who had pictures or information about the 443 squadron or anything related to my Uncle. You can reach me at my e-mail address.

Thanks

You have to start somewhere. So I started looking and looking, and looking.

Click here.

This Website has a lot of information about RCAF 443 Squadron. This is where I got this picture from.

443SqnPilotsEngland1944

Not many names…

Until Nicole went to see Ivor Williams a former Spitfire pilot who flew with RCAF 443 Squadron.

Nicole 001 Ivor Williams

Ivor Williams gave Nicole this picture. He is posing in a Hawker Hurricane training at RCAF Bagotville, Quebec, in the fall 1942.

This picture is also found on this Website.

Ivor Williams tells part of his story.

I joined the RCAF on the day after I was 18 in Windsor, Ontario. My parents lived at that time in the place called Tilbury which is very close to Windsor and so I joined the Air Force at Windsor, the very day after I was 18. Well everybody was doing it. We were all joining up, and I suggested that I was would be an air gunner, and I went to the recruiting office, and the sergeant in charge of the recruiting and saw my papers and that I was wanting to be an air gunner, and this man happened to be a man who my father had married a few days before, and he said, “You’re old enough, you’re smart enough you can be a pilot,” and I said, “well that’s just fine,” so I became on the stream to be a pilot.

I remember my very first flight I had about nine hours, and my instructor let me fly solo and I remember going down the runway and shouting and cheering and clapping my hands, so happy to be in the air by myself.

We were posted to a place called Digby in northern part of Yorkshire [England], and we went from there, we learned to fly the [Supermarine] Spitfire. Up to this point we had only learned in training planes, but the Spitfire was pretty up to date. And the squadron was changed around and it became 443 Squadron instead of 127 Squadron. It was, the wing commander was Johnnie Johnson [highest scoring Western Allies flying ace]. Johnnie Johnson was the top scoring Canadians; he was a Brit, but he liked to fly with Canadians. And we learned to fly the Spitfire in about three or four weeks, and then we went down to the south part of England and we were ready to go on operations.

In England I had a mid-air collision one day. I was doing en engine test and I had my head in the cockpit, checking the instruments and I looked up and in front of me was this Spitfire coming like this straight, and it went over my head, it took the radio antenna off, and I was underneath this other Spitfire, kind of hairy. Johnson was playing Rummy, a card game with the other squadron commanders when I came in and I said, “Sir, I’ve had a mid-air collision,” and he said, “Well congratulations Williams, I have never known anybody to survive one.”

It was amazing, I flew the last patrol at night on June the 5th [1944], and we were, in the south of England, and in five minutes we were over the [English] Channel. It was the most fantastic sight that I will ever see, all these boats coming out of little harbours and around the south coast of England and they were in formation. And we saw this, all these little arrow heads coming over the Channel, we knew that the beach invasion was on, and so we were not allowed to go over the German lines, because obviously reasons, but we had the aircraft were painted with black and white stripes at that point, so that there were no mistaking the Allied aircraft. And we did a recce and returned late at night, and then had a few hours’ sleep and took off the next morning, that was, and then we knew the invasion was on.

And the sky was full of airplanes of course. We were circling back and forth over the beachhead, we didn’t go back, we were making sure that the German aircraft didn’t get to strafe our own troops, so it was a recce to make sure the sky was kept clear of enemy aircraft. We were back and forth, we could see there was fighting on the ground, we could see tanks blazing and trucks, we really knew the invasion was on at that time.

He gave her more than a picture.

The names of the pilots in the group picture with the original.

443 group picture

I will tell you more tomorrow.

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More Warwicks on the Internet

Warwick 2

Warwick Bomber/ASRs, of the Warwick Training Unit (later the Air Sea Rescue Training Unit), on the ground at Bircham Newton, Norfolk. The nearest aircraft, BV277 ‘T’, subsequently served in the Mediterranean Theatre with Nos. 284 and 293 Squadrons RAF.

Warwick ASR Mark I, BV502 ‘ZE-N

Warwick ASR Mark I, BV502 ‘ZE-N’, of No. 293 Squadron RAF with its crew, in a dispersal surrounded by spring flowers at Foggia, Italy. BV502 was a redesignated ‘Stage C’ aircraft.