A fine Second War 1945 D.F.C. group of six awarded to Lancaster Pilot Flying Officer R. J. Gauvreau, Royal Canadian Air Force
Distinguished Flying Cross, G.VI.R., reverse officially dated ‘1945’; 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal, Canadian issue in silver; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, with Overseas Bar; War Medal 1939-45, Canadian issue in silver,
D.F.C. London Gazette 13 February 1945.
The Recommendation, dated 5 November 1944, states: ‘Flying Officer Gauvreau, a Canadian, as pilot and captain of aircraft has carried out 30 operational sorties against the enemy. These sorties have included such important targets as Kiel, Stuttgart (three attacks), Stettin and Russelheim. Throughout this, his first tour of operations, Flying Officer Gauvreau has shown himself to be a competent and skilful pilot and his keen offensive spirit coupled with his fearlessness has set a magnificent example to his crew. His captaincy and determination have been of a high order enabling him at all times to drive home his attacks to the fullest advantage. I recommend that Flying Officer Gauvreau’s fine record and devotion to duty be rewarded by the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.’
Raymond Joseph Gauvreau was born on 30 September 1921 in Ottawa, Ontario, and was educated at LaSalle Academy, The Glebe, Ottawa. He served with the Cameron Highlanders from 1940 to 1942 and was employed at Ottawa Car and Aircraft Limited, before enlisting with the Royal Canadian Air Force at No. 5 Manning Depot in Lachine, Quebec, on 30 April 1942. Receiving his wings as a Sergeant Pilot on 25 June 1943, he proceeded to England in July of that year, and after serving with No. 30 Operational Training Unit at R.A.F. Seighford, Staffordshire, he was commissioned Pilot Officer in April 1944. Posted to No. 626 Squadron at R.A.F. Wickenby, Lincolnshire on 16 June 1944, he later reflected on the creation of his flight crew, along with another pilot he had met getting ready for his first mission which would prove to be a fatal one: “I served with the 626 Squadron in England, from an airport called Wickenby. I started right into the Lancasters. They sent me to a station in central England where they had a variety of every crew member imaginable, from gunners to navigators, but not pilots. I was sent to that station with a date at a certain point to pick out six men to join me as my crew members. I was completely in the dark about what it involved, but when I got to it, I got to this big building and opened the door and it looked like I was entering a huge double gymnasium, loaded with people who were all aircrew members of different stations in an aircraft, from a tail gunner to a navigator. I immediately closed the door and stood back, and said, I’ve got to go in there and pick out six men, and I don’t know a soul? There was nobody to talk to. I was all by myself. I finally said a prayer, and I said, “Lord, help me to do this.” I walked in and before I could even close the door, there was a great big guy stood in front of me and says, “my name is George MacIntosh from [Fort] MacLeod, Alberta, I’m a navigator and I’d like to join your crew, will you take me on?” I says, “you bet, George, shake hands.” And as we were shaking hands, five more men came walking right over, and I signed all of them on; and that became my crew. Oh, one other Canadian was John Halliday from Welland, Ontario and the rest were British chaps from a variety of places in England. After I had completed six trips, my first six trips, a young pilot came to my billet; and he was allocated the extra bed that I had in that particular billet. And since he was just starting off his trips – that night he was going to have his first trip while I was having my eighth: it was my eighth trip; it was his first trip – I got acquainted with him and helped him to unpack his luggage, and so forth. He took a photograph and put it on the table between our beds; and it was a picture of his wife and his one-year-old daughter back home in Winnipeg. And, however, we went to the flights later on and got ready for my usual bombing trip; and when I got back, about 2:30 in the morning, he hadn’t yet arrived. So I stretched out on the bed and waited for him, so we could talk over what happened. A short time later, a knock came on the door and it was my station commander who said, “Ray, I’m sorry to tell you this, but your friend has not returned, will you please repack his luggage so we can send it back to his wife in Canada.” It left me with real sad memories thinking about my wife whom I married just two weeks before I left for overseas.’
Gauvreau and his crew flew numerous sorties over ten locations in France, bombing various targets between 20 June and 19 July 1944, including Reims, Liegscourt, Vaires, Saint Pol, Viezon-Ville, Domleger, Orleans, Foret-de-Croc, Caen (twice) and Tours. The month of July would conclude with missions to Courtrai, Belgium on 20 July and over a span of five days, from 23 to 28 July, three sorties to Germany: Kiel and Stuttgart (twice). In the period between 8 August and 19 October 1944, further sorties were flown to France (Aire, Falaise Sector, Le Havre, Calais and Cap Oriz Nes), Holland (Volkel, Gent, Eindhoven and Weskapelle), Belgium (Frederick Hendric), and Germany (Russelsheim, Stettin, Saarbrucken, Duisburg (twice) and Stuttgart). At the end of his tour he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. By his own recollection, Gauvreau dropped a bomb over Caen, which was marked with the personal message ‘To Adolf, from the Ottawa Car and Aircraft Limited of Ottawa’. He died in Ottawa on August 4, 2015, at the age of 93.
Sold together with the recipient’s Royal Canadian Air Force Pilot’s Flying Log Book covering the complete period of his service 11 December 1942 until 19 October 1944; the recipient’s Pilot Officer’s Shoulder Boards; Officer’s Cap Badge; Pilot’s Wings; riband bar; RCAF Canada Shoulder Flash; and a newspaper cutting with a photograph of the recipient.
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