November 12, 2012 Features & Images » Feature Story

Lest we forget 

click to flip through (5) Roy Buchholz (right) with a friend at Trafalgar Square, London, U.K. during his service in WW II.
  • Roy Buchholz (right) with a friend at Trafalgar Square, London, U.K. during his service in WW II.

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The Pathfinders' planes were equipped with superior navigational technology for the time and were responsible for pinpointing the exact location for the bombs to be dropped. They were key to the success of the bombing raids, which were planned according to a strict timetable. The guides had to reach their target within a margin of error of one minute, despite the typical difficulties of navigation such as bad weather, variable winds and enemy fire.

Navigators were highly esteemed. Together with pilots and bomb aimers, the navigators were the core members of any bomber crew and were likely to be promoted to the rank of officer. It was a position that required a meticulous work ethic. Never losing their concentration, they had to work in a poorly lit, cramped space and were expected to make precise calculations and measurements of angles and distances.

The odds were stacked against any bomber crew. More armaments were sacrificed for a heavier bomb load and the Lancaster planes did not have the artillery power to outgun an enemy aircraft. When my father signed on, it was expected of him to complete a tour of 45 operations without a break. My father's logbook shows a total of 368 flights with 1,455.00 hours of flying time. Many of these flights were training exercises, but considering that the RAF Bomber Command represented two per cent of all RAF personnel during the war, but accounted for 23 per cent of the total number killed in action, my father was extremely lucky.

The destinations he flew for Bomber Command included Hannover, Mannheim, Kassel, Frankfurt, Cannes, Stuttgart, Berlin, Leipzig, Magdeburg, Nuremberg, Karlsruhe, Villeneuve, Friedrichshafen, Lens, Boulogne, Mardyck, Rennes, Arras, Fouillard, Caen, Tours, Manneville, Brest, Kiel, Le Havre, Dortmund, Calais, Duisburg and Essen. He flew on eight different types of aircraft, mainly the Halifax, Lancaster and Dakota, but also on the Commodore, Anson, Whitley, Oxford and Liberator.

On March 18, 1944, in Operations Frankfurt, he wrote in his logbook: "Port outer on fire, returned early on 3 engines." On March 24, 1944 in Operations Berlin he said: "Attacked by FW190 over target, slight damage." He noted on March 30, 1944, during Operations Nuremberg, they were "shot up by ME109 on way home. Fuel tank holed. Landed Ford."

In 1945 he transferred from Bomber Command to Transport Command and No. 243 Squadron. He flew from Dorval, Quebec, to Camden, just outside of Sydney, Australia. It took 22 days to get there via North Carolina, Dallas, Sacramento, Honolulu, Canton Island, Fiji and Auckland, New Zealand. Until January 1946, he flew back and forth in the South Pacific, mostly flying dignitaries and military VIPs. In his logbook, he noted that he had Sir Henry French, the wartime head of the British Ministry of Food, and his wife, Lady French, on board.

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