Shot in Cold Blood-the Echo heard in Canada, written by Fred Carter, was published in the Autumn issue(#52) of Memorial Flight, The Journal of the Lincolnshire Lancaster Association (editor Tom Allett)
This version has been re-written and updated with new pictures.
June 16th, 1944 was rainy and overcast, not a promising day for flying. Ten days had passed since D-Day, and Roy`s crew with Glenn Blachford as pilot, flying Halifax NA-514 out of Croft, had been very busy. Starting on the 2nd of June with their initial flight over France (dropping pamphlets), they had made successful sorties over St. Lo, Le Mans, Arras, and Boulogne in a supporting role for the advancing allied troops. The Boulogne op was a 4 hour trip on the 15th . It was a surprise to see that the Blachford crew was posted on the squadron reports the very next day. With no idea about their destination, they headed for the briefing meeting in the afternoon and learned they were going to Sterkrade, a synthetic oil refinery in the Ruhr Valley of Germany. It was noted that the site was well protected and they could expect plenty of flak.
The Crew in training, top left clockwise: Glenn Blachford, Spencer Lough, Roy Carter, Elwin Gould, Don Hattey and Tom Masdin.
This would be their first sortie into Germany and a long cold night was anticipated at the higher flight path. It was a night for long underwear, sweaters and fleece-lined boots.
Roy attended the navigator`s briefing around 1530, going over maps and charts, checking turning points, and plotting their path. Take-off time was around 2200 and so there was a brief time to relax, write letters, and relax before the traditional bacon-and-eggs supper. Roy had already taken care of his will, leaving personal items such as his new bike and clothes iron to his Aunt Kate and Cousin Marjorie in Yorkshire and arranging for pay, etc., to be sent home to his parents in Canada.
Visiting relatives in Yorkshire and Devon, along with his brother L/Cpl George Carter, was something he looked forward to. Two years older than Roy, George had arrived in England, in 1942, and as an engineer, RCEME, was attached to the 12th Field Regt., Royal Canadian Army. They were close as brothers and got together in the UK whenever possible, even taking in the highlights of London. On the night of that fateful sortie, outward bound across the North Sea, Roy might have been thinking about George, who by now, having landed on D-Day at Juno Beach, was somewhere in France, moving his with his unit towards Cean.
Their father, John Carter, with his own roots in Yorkshire, corresponded regularly by letter with them, encouraging them and sending news from home. As a WW I veteran, wounded at the Somme, he knew the dangers his two sons were facing as the allies invaded Europe.
Another son, Robert, a trooper with the Canadian army, was about to leave Canada and would soon be fighting in Holland and Germany with the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders.
|Brothers L/Cpl George Carter and F/O Roy Carter visiting in London, UK,March,1944Interestingly over at Full Sutton, the crew of Halifax MZ698 (KN-J) was going through a similar briefing as part of the 32 aircraft heading for Sterkrade in the same raid. F/O Jack Stewart Nott (later executed along with Roy and F/Lt Roald Walker), RAAF, and his crew were getting ready for T/O @ 2230, very close to the recorded T/O of NA-514 @2224.AirborneNA-514 was airborne, on time and without any problems. Everything was going smoothly until they were over the North Sea. An unexpected roughness developed in one of the engines and it had to be feathered. The crew, other than WOP Tom Masdin (headset on meant he did not always hear the intercom chatter), heard the conversation between the flight engineer Jock Kennedy and pilot Glenn Blachford. Blachford made the decision to `press on regardless…´. Eventually the engine problem was corrected but it may have left them vulnerable to attack by a nightfighter as they were now slightly out of the formation. Later in Bankau, at the POW camp, upper gunner Don Hattey told Tom he felt they should have turned back to England when the engine trouble occurred.
NA-514 was now well into Holland on a flight path between Rotterdam and Arnhem. Little did the crew know that they had just passed near a German radar station and were on a track that would take them directly over the German night-fighter airfield, Fliegerhorst Venlo, near Volkel and the German border. The alarm was sounded at Venlo and the night-fighters scrambled into action.
`Fire` and the order to `Bail out`
Oblt. Josef Nabrich from 3./NJG1 headed for his Henkel (He 219), hoping for another successful night and a chance to add to his present score of 12. According to research done by Theo Boiten of Holland, Nabrich scored his victory ( NA-514 431 Squadron RCAF) @ 0112 at an elevation of 5.5 km. Luftwaffe ace Nabrich would have 19 victories before being KIA on 28/11/44.
Roy left a `line-shoot´ at the `Pyama House´ (safe house) in Erp at the request of the Otten family. He reported that @0110 at an elevation of 19000 feet they felt a terrific jolt and heard a couple of shell-bursts in the port wing. Tom recalls vividly the brightness in the airplane and is convinced they were coned by searchlights just before being hit from below by the cannon fire.
Ironically, about the same time, F/O Jack Nott`s plane (MZ-698 of 77 Squadron RAF) was shot down. Obit. Werner Baake (fighter-squadron 2./NJG 1) shot down the Halifax bomber in the Eindhoven area (@0110, elevation 5500m). F/O Jack Nott, RAAF, parachuted to safety not that far from where Roy Carter landed. Thus both airmen were shot down at about the same time. They would evade separately, meet briefly, and die together on that fateful day on July 9th, 1944, along with Flt/Lt Ron Walker (Memorial Flight-`Shot in Cold Blood´).
The heroics of the Blachford crew would now unfold as the pilot gave the orders to bail out. Being close to the hatch-door, and having practiced this procedure, Tom managed to get it open. Roy was the first to jump followed by Kennedy and Hattey.
The fire in the cockpit grew in intensity intense, and the bomber was diving toward earth at a speed which made it very difficult for Tom Masdin to get out.
He had previously disconnected his oxygen by mistake and was now confused. He doesn`t remember jumping and apparently was unconscious, soon after he exited. He also managed to lose a boot. Somehow he landed safely, having hit hard in the muddy field. He was cold, wet and sore with a head wound and an injured foot. Tom huddled under his parachute for several hours because it was raining very hard. At dawn he buried his parachute, consulted his escape map and decided he was in Holland. It was Sunday morning around 0800 when Tom finally found refuge (one elderly lady declined to open her door). He found the `right´ house because the young boy, Lamber Rutten, age 14, looked at his tunic, saw `Canada´ on his uniform, and cried `Fleiger´. Lamber gave first aid to Tom and when the parents arrived home from church they extended the welcome, gave him food and bandaged his very sore ankle. They then contacted the Dutch resistance.
The Crash of NA-514
Sgts Hattey and Kennedy both landed near a German airfield. They were immediately captured and became POWs.
Three crew members did not survive the crash, which occurred near the Hamlet of Groote Heide (51° 41´ N, 05° 33´E) near the village of Nistelrode.
The body of F/O Glenn Blachford was found, still in the pilot`s seat.
The body of the B/A, F/O Spencer Lough, was found nearby in the farmer`s field with his parachute nearby but unopened.
Bomb-aimer, F/O Spencer (“Sparks“) Lough.
According to Tom Masdin, they were outward bound and thus the bombs were activated. Apparently a signal from the base or from the pilot could deactivate them. According to witnesses including Marius Goyaerts there was no explosion. The young 19-year-old air rear air gunner, P/O Elwin (nicknamed `Harry´) Gould, had no chance of escape and his body was found in the wreck. All three airmen are buried in the Uden War Cemetery, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands.
Gould, the youngest of the crew (he signed up at 16 against his mother`s wishes- his Dad signed a form, which Elwin had dropped down the register to the furnace room on a string, on the assumption it was for school) had caused some concern for them because of his pub adventures where he would have 2 or 3 drinks right away. This was a new experience for him, having come from a very strict home. The mid-upper gunner, Sgt. Don Hattey (known as `Panama´) and Sgt. Tom Masdin (nicknamed `Moose´) would be ready to cycle back to the base but Harry often had to walk home and at least once, failing to make it to the Sgt`s Nisson, slept in the air-raid shelter.
DON HATTEY and ELWIN GOULD
Thus within hours of take-off from Croft, of the seven crew, three are dead, two are prisoners of war, and two are evaders. Only the WOP, Tom Masdin, would survive and return home. In his early nineties now, he still remembers almost every detail of the flight and his survival as a POW, including the brutal forced march to eventual freedom. Every day he still has thoughts of his crew. And the memories of his experience can still provide a detailed and vivid description, sixty five and more years later.
WOP Tom Masdin-Evader and POW
Here is Tom`s account. “It wasn`t very long before two men arrived at the Rutten home and asked me various questions to confirm that I was not a spy or a `plant´. They suggested I hide in the hayloft, as a German patrol was close.
I fell asleep, was awakened around 2:00 PM, and given civilian clothes. I was then given a bicycle and rode about 5 kilometres to the farm of Marius Goyaerts of Loosbroek. I stayed at this farm for several days before being taken to the family Heesters of Schijndel.
On my way to Tilburg by train I met two American airmen (Bill Weaks and Bob Donovan, navigator and bomb aimer, respectively, from the B-17 known as `Milk Run´, which FTR 23/03/44, from a raid on Munster, Germany. They had followed an `Escape route´ via Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Erp, Dinther, and now Schijndel). Just before Tilburg we were alerted to the fact that it would not be safe to get off at the local station, and we jumped out of the train. We entered the forest quickly, and hid ourselves for two days in an underground shelter set up by the Resistance´´.
From here the three airmen were taken by to the home of the Pirotten sisters in Tilburg. Blanche Pirotten lived with her older sister, Louise. Blanche was a Dutch resistance worker, involved with the escape line from southern Holland to nearby Belgium. She was a true heroine and, like so many others would have been executed or imprisoned if betrayed. Blanche had an important job at a textile plant, and the owner later allowed allied soldiers to be billeted there after the liberation of that city on Oct 27th/44. Blanche met a Canadian soldier and a few years later, after his wife had died, they were married and she moved to Saskatchewan, Canada. Tom kept in touch with her for years.
BLANCHE PIROTTEN 1944
While at the Pirotten`s, Tom asked about the fate of others in his crew. Tom heard through Blanche Pirotten that Roy Carter was in Tilburg also. Tom and Roy were good friends and Tom told Blanche that he wanted to join him. She made some enquiries and told him that his request had been turned down. Shortly afterwards Tom was advised of the tragedy that had taken place.
Meanwhile pictures were taken of the three evaders for false work permits before their travel to Belgium. They cycled the relatively short distance to the border area in the company of a Dutch guide. Because of bad timing, they arrived late, and their guide had to leave them. Meanwhile their Belgium guide did not show up. Desperate, the three airmen decided to cross the border on their own. After crossing the frontier, they met a Belgian lady who could speak a little French (many in this area of Belgium speak Dutch), as did one of the Americans. She was willing to help them by giving them the address of someone they could contact in Aarendonk. There, Tom Masdin stayed for about 10 days with a baker, a man called Geerts. The two Americans stayed with another family but Tom was able to visit them.
Eventually they were moved to Antwerp where Weaks and Donovan were finally separated from Tom. Tom stayed in Antwerp for 3 days and during this time he met a young RAF evader by the name of Jeff Gasgoine. They stayed in the same house and one day two men came to visit them. Each one of them was questioned separately by the two men. The type of questioning aroused the suspicion of both Tom and Jeff because of the questions about their stays in Holland and Belgium. The men left but returned the next day to take them on their `road to freedom´. Instead, the car took them to the Antwerp prison where they were arrested.
Tom was interrogated by the Gestapo with the usual questions. “Where were you flying from?´´ Tom, “I don`t have to answer.´´ He admitted that he was an RCAF evader but would only give his name, rank and number. “But you are dressed in civies!´´ Tom, “Yes, but I have my dog-tag (ID disc).´´ The Gestapo officer opened the desk drawer and showed Tom a collection of tags.
Tom was imprisoned in Antwerp for 4 days before being transported to Brussels and placed in solitary for 2 days . He was then handed over to the Luftwaffe and transferred to Dulag Luft in Oberursel, near Frankfurt.
At one railroad station he was worried about being stoned by the locals, but eventually made it unscathed to Bankau (Stalag Luft 7) near the Czech border where he joined other RCAF/RAF airmen, including his own crew buddies, Hattey and Kennedy ( captured June 17th/44).
They stayed in this very isolated camp until January 19th, 1945. With the Russians approaching from the east, their camp was evacuated and a forced march began. This debilitating walk in minus 20° weather lasted about 3 weeks during which time they slept in the open, or occasionally in barns, and had very little to eat. Now past 91, Tom spent many hours in his retirement years as a `food bank` volunteer, never forgetting what it means to be starving.
After crossing over the river Oder on January 21st, the POWs reached Goldberg, Germany on Feb 5th. They were loaded onto very crowded cattle cars, to continue their ordeal by railway. On the 8th of Feb they reached Stalag 3A in Luckenwalde where they joined 20 000 other POWs from Britain, USA, and Russia. The Russians released the camp on May 3rd and Tom was finally free.
Upon arrival in England Tom learned that before the final flight of NA-514, Pilot Glenn Blachford had made a request to have WOP Masdin, mid-upper gunner Hattey and rear-gunner Gould and Sgt. Kennedy, the RAF flight engineer, commissioned, based on their performance and service to date. Thus Tom learned that he was now F/O Masdin. He received more than enough back pay to allow to him enjoy some time in England. One of his first jobs was to find a tailor and have a new officer`s uniform made, courtesy of the RCAF. Tom returned to Canada on July 19th, 1945.
Navigator Roy Carter-evader (murdered)
Roy landed south of the village of Boekel (51° 36´N; 05° 40´ E). “ It took a long time to get down from 19000 feet. I landed in a field south of Boekel, buried my chute and hid in a barn. On Sunday, June 18th, I contacted a farmer who was very helpful. I stayed for a week and then came to Erp´´ (from a note Roy wrote in a guest book).
Roy was sheltered in the farmhouse of the Maas family, in the area of Leek (51°33´N; 05°40´E). Mr. Maas notified the resistance movement in Boekel. They sent for Paul Reybroek, who, after confirming Roy`s identity, took him to a safe-house in Boekel.
He stayed with the family Van den Broek for a week and was then taken by Paul Reybroek to the Otten family (Pyama House) in Erp. He spent one day and one night there. During this time he was photographed with the Otten sisters, Thea and Antoinette and managed to write a `line-shoot` in the `Guest Book`. He included a line drawing of his Halifax with names of the crew.
On July 27th Roy was taken by Cor van Laanen, an underground courier, to the home of Harrie Van den Ven in Dinther, a nearby village. Roy was described by Mr. Van den Ven as a shy person that did not feel very comfortable. He shared a room with a Dutch refugee (onderduiker).
After 2 days (June 29th) he went to Schijndel by bicycle. He was accompanied by Cor van Laanen and another pilot, Garnet B. Lloyd from Midland Texas. 1st Lieutenant G. B. Lloyd, USAAF, was the pilot of a B-17 (95BG334BS, code-named ` Junior`) which FTR 06/03/44 on a raid to Berlin.
In Schijndel, they were delivered to the van Mook family along with two other evaders, Joseph P. MacDonald (air gunner, USAAF, 446 BG 704 BS. a B-24 which FTR 22/12/43 from ops to Osnabruck) and Horace B. White ( Mustang pilot, USAAF, 354 FG/P51 which FTR 03/03/44 while on a raid to Berlin).
Garnet B Lloyd is the tallest one. Roy Carter is on the right. Mr van Mook is on the left and his daughters are in front. One other person (?) is partially hidden behind.
Lloyd, MacDonald and White did make it to Antwerp, via Tilburg, but were all arrested together and taken as POWs on July 29th, 1944. After his liberation in 1945, White returned to van Mook`s to confront him with a pistol. He felt van Mook was responsible for his capture. There will always be the question as to why the `escape line` broke down in Belgium. Many of the evaders, including a number mentioned in this article were betrayed in Antwerp, and taken POW.
At the van Mook`s, Roy and the other evaders were questioned at length by the Dutch Underground organization under the leadership of the local R. C. priest, F. Woestenburg. Their names, rank, I.D. numbers and addresses were recorded and they were given falsified `Ausweis` identity papers (exemption from forced labour in Germany) , needed during the time of occupation. Roy was now known as `Johannes Melein` and wore the appropriate clothes. He became friends with the two van Mook daughters and left with them the remaining items of his survival kit. The older daughter, Mein, kept in touch with Roy`s mother after the war.
The four evaders were told by the underground how to be prepared. `Remember, the enemy never sleeps. Be sure to sleep with your clothes on- including your shoes. Put a string from your shoe to the other guy`s shoe, so that if one of you gets in trouble you`ll automatically wake up the other. Take nothing from your pockets, and leave nothing on the dresser in case you must leave in a hurry. Go out on the roof and not via the stairs, with curtains closed and windows open at all times. Relief yourselves in the pail…`
When it came time to leave after five days, Carter and Lloyd and a courier cycled, on the 4th of July, to the Schijndel railway station. They were taken by train to Eindhoven. They were now in the hands of the van Harssel sisters who were using the adopted names, Kittie and Jopie. They escorted the two airmen by train to Tilburg, fairly close to the Belgium border. Lloyd was delivered to an older couple`s home. Roy was taken into the centre of the city to live with the Willekens family (neighbours of the van Harssels), who had 5 children. This family had two sons at home with false Ausweisen. They were vey kind to Roy, and during his stay there he spent time reading and playing cards with their son John. After a few days the parents became frightened and asked the van Harssel sisters to take Roy away as soon as possible.
The Germans were looking for John and another son. John, a student, had refused to sign the `solidarity declaration` demanded by the occupation authorities, and the other refused to go to Germany to work under the `Arbeitseinsatz´(Nazi forced labour program). Hundreds of able young Dutchmen (onderduikers) hid throughout Holland, some disguised as women, to avoid being sent to Germany for what amounted to slave labour. They had little food, terrible conditions, and a slim chance of avoiding the always-searching Nazi Germans or the Dutch NSBers (Dutch Nazis or `Quislings´) who were zealous to betray their countrymen. Ironically, within one year the NSBers would be trying to hide from their neighbours and in some cases pleading for forgiveness.
Roy left the following message in a guest book.
“It has been a happy misfortune that has brought me to Holland. For here I have found friendship and kindness at a time when it was badly needed. My memories of you will be pleasant ones, but at present all I can say is simply, THANK YOU and MAY GOD BLESS YOU´´.
Back in Ontario, Canada, on June 20th, 1944, a warm, sunny day, the `Missing in Action` telegram arrived. Roy`s youngest brother, Fred (author) received it and ran to the field to deliver it to his dad.
Roy`s mother, Agnes, began a period of grieving that would last the rest of her life. With other `Silver-Cross´ mothers and with her daughter, Isabel, she travelled to Tilburg in 1964.
There she saw the bullet-riddled doorway where Roy was murdered and finally accepted the fact that he, still MIA according to the Canadian government, would not be coming home. She died four years later.
The `Spring, 2009´ issue of this Journal (Memorial Flight) tells the rest of the story. The shots still ring out on the Diepenstraat in Tilburg, where the three officers, Carter, Nott, and Walker were executed.
(I hope to publish this article, with the editor`s permission, in a future post.)
Once again on October 27th, this year being the 68th anniversary of the liberation of this southern city of Holland, this tragic event will be remembered.
A special service will be held at the Memorial Stone, dedicated in 1994 to the three airmen and located on Cobapulskenslaan. Along with local citizens and veterans, relatives of the airmen`s families will attend. Recently two of Roy`s nieces, Judy Johnston and Cheryl West, attended the Oct 27th decoration of the Memorial Stone.
Case No. 66 (The `Tilburg Lynching´ Trial) was held before a British Military Court at Essen, Germany, from the 11th – 26th, June, 1946 http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/WCC/schonfeld.htm. The ex-SD (Nazi Security Service) sentenced to death (Cremer, Rotschopf, Schwarz, and Rosener) were executed on Sept 5th, 1947.
Canadian Memorials to the members of the crew of Halifax NA-514 continue to be dedicated
The pilot, F/O G.H. Blachford, from Colonsay, Saskatchewan, Canada was given a Geo-Memorial in 2005. Blachford Lake is locatednear the Reindeer River, southwest of Steephill Lake (55°46´N; 103°17´W).
The navigator, F/O R.E. Carter, attended High School, in Blackstock, Ontario, Canada. There, on November 9th,2009, a park was named after him -the Roy E Carter Memorial Park (44°06´N; 78°49´W), located 4 km from the farm where he was raised.
Some of Roy`s grand-nephews at the opening of the Roy E Carter Park.
Back: Bridget,Liam, Sam,Ruby and Georgia Front: Sophie,Finley and Oliver.