A visit to 419 veteran Navigator James Eddy, April 4th 2013.
In his mid nineties now but still very informative on the events that occurred.
As with most of us, new pieces of the picture surface as our mind relives the events.
We talked of other things related to the war and the treatment of the men of Bomber
Command by the governments. The feeling expressed by others to him in the past
that Bomber Command was involved in killing of civilians during their attacks.
He expressed the view , which I fully agree with, was that they were given a job to do.
One which in the long run would save many lives on the battlefields and in the
seas around Britain. Mr. Eddy that felt it wasn't right, that so many young
men lost their lives following the orders of a government that later turned their
backs on these men and neglected them while highly praising those who served
in Fighter and Coastal Command.
In his own story he related how he had joined up in Winnipeg Manitoba, he then moved
on to a Manning Depot. Although he could not remember which one. He expressed his
love for flying the little Tiger Moth, the aircraft that was the first step for
pilot training at all the Elementary Flying Schools during the early days of the
RCAF training program. And of course he could still remember what his instructor
told him after he had completed his solo flights. It was obviously engraved
in his memory. The instructor felt it would be safer for him to follow another
aircrew trade. So Navigation became his new trade.
He continued on his training not at a Service Training Flying School but at Fort
William in the Navigation courses where he earned his Navigators wings.
He passed over his journey across the Atlantic. Landing in Britain and traveling
to Bournemouth which was the gathering point for all the RCAF members coming
into England. From where he was posted to No 22 OUT before being sent on yet again,
this time to Dishforth No. 6 Group Bomber Command RCAF
He was shot down on Jan 15th 1945, he remembers leaving the aircraft, Lancaster
he called a window, after it popped out. Landing in Germany where he was
picked up by the German Army? ( He was not sure if was the regular Army or
something like the Home Guard) He does remember it was about 0200 when
they took him to a farmers house where the farmer gave him first aid to his eye.
The farmer spoke English, having worked for nine years in Detroit before
returning home to Germany. Eddy offered him his watch or wallet as thanks for
his care. The farmer knowing of the atmosphere of suspicion that was part
of the make up of the Nazi controlled country was too afraid the Gestapo
would misinterpret the gifts so the farmer declined.
The next day he was
taken to the wreckage of his Lancaster, which had been torn apart to remove
any electronic gear possibly for further examination by German intelligence
officers. He then was transferred to the local jail. He remembered the people
seemed frightened and the area had been badly damaged by the war.
When it became time for him to be transferred he and some other POWs were
taken to the train station in Frankfort. Shortly after they arrived an
air raid began and everyone rushed to the shelter. In the shelter the
people became aware of who these prisoners were, and the guards decided
to move them to a back corner for protection, or at least so no problems
would occur. The Nazi government had labeled all airmen as aerial terrorists.
And feelings among the German people ran strongly against the men who had been
bombing their cities.
He wasn't too sure which POW camp he was in, just that it was outside Neubrandenburg
which would have been Stalag IIA. As the fighting on the ground came nearer
to the camp, the Germans marched off all the POWs towards Bavaria. He remembers
this as sometime in the Spring and found the area to be very beautiful and
wonderful to be in. Although danger was still around, at some point in this
march the column of prisoners was buzzed by USAAF Mustangs. He remembered
watching them circle 1,000 feet above the column, seemingly deciding on whether
to strafe the men on the ground or not, not knowing they were prisoners.
They eventually flew off and the march continued. At their new camp near Reinsberg
they were released from captivity after some period of time. Their liberator was
the flamboyant General Patton and part of his 3rd Army.
In this respect Eddy was fortunate other 419 POWs were not so lucky when they
were killed at
by roaming Allied aircraft.
Eddy remembers there were many Americans in the camp and Patton showed his usual
Patton image riding standing up into the camp, six shooters and all. It was
something that Mr. Eddy remembers well. He also remembers that some of the
prisoners were eager to get back home and wanted to start back in the direction
of the battle line. The American Army officers warned them not to wander off,
as the area was still not fully secured and the Americans or Germans may shoot
at anyone in a strange uniform. A thought well worth remembering
The Americans had arranged for some of their men to see the horrors of a nearby
concentration camp, Eddy and some others went along as well. He remembers well
the sight of what he saw, the people no more then just sticks, some with no hope
A solemn reminder of what they were fighting so hard to stop. The Nazi menace would
have encompassed so many more people if the bombers had not done their job.
Eventually all the POWs were moved to Rhiems where Lancasters acted as transports back
Once released after medical checks and MI9 interviews he went on
leave to London. In time he returned to Canada by ship and was discharged to
civilian life. Where he lived in Toronto, Kitchener and Unionville raising a
family of five. Seven years ago he moved into Sunny Brook after the loss of
his wife. His room is full of 419 pennants, models and photos of Lancasters
and the energy he still has.
Our sincere thanks to James Eddy for sharing his memories and time with us.
On January 9th 2018 , two years after I met Mr. Eddy, he passed away at age 97 in Toronto Ontario.
Although I only knew him briefly, I will miss him greatly.