Sgt. George Neale
of Halifax JD214 - "Midnight Cocktail"
George Neale joined the RCAF in July of 1941, as he mentioned in his book "A Kriegie's Lament " he was fortunate
enough to have all the training bases he was sent to close to his home town of Hamilton Ontario.
Beginning at No. 5 ITS in Belleville Ontario and his EFTS was just further west at EFTS No.20 Oshawa Ontario , both are towns on the shores of Lake Ontario.
While training at Oshawa on Gypsy Moths his aircraft developed a problem during one of the solo flights when the propeller flew off the aircraft.
He now was piloting a single engine aircraft without a propeller while over the cold waters of Lake Ontario. The shores of the
lake seemed a better alternative to landing in the frigid water and losing the aircraft. He carried out a successful landing on the
This was not to be his only crash landing, and Halifax JD214 would not be his second crash. While at Hagersvile training
on Ansons he again had a mishap which he mentions as being a fault of the instructor and a stupid act on his part.
Again he survived the unconventional landing without injury or consequences to his continued pilot training.
After completion of his courses in Canada, Neale was posted overseas. After a rough crossing on the Queen Elizabeth
his next posting was to No.18 (P)AFV flying Oxfords at this Advanced Flight training for pilots. From here he was posted to
a Beaufighter squadron.
As he tells it during the interview given to the Memory Project, he and two other pilots who
were great friends became bored with the normal routine of duties. So along with his pilot pal from Southern Rhodesia
and his RAAF pal with the unforgettable name of George Bernard Shaw it was decided to do a raid of their own. They flew at
200 to 300 feet above the Channel waters to avoid enemy radar and they completely surprised the defences.
Attacking targets with their guns then scrambling
off back across the Channel. Unfortunately Neale's Beaufighter had been hit by flak and he and the navigator had to ditch
then row back to the English coast, where they were picked up by the RAF Air-Sea Rescue.
He mentions how upset the RAF were at the three of them and their decision to raid the enemy coast without orders
even though the newspapers wrote about the "Sneak crew by the RAF on the Port of Le Havre" .
An inquest followed and as Neale reports in his taped interview "So they decided they were going to reduce me down from flying officer down to sergeant pilot
and put me two weeks in the clinker, which is the jail! When I got out from there, I had more orders,
written orders, from someone saying, "This guy is too wild to fly Beaufighters. Put him on to [Vickers]
After reporting to No.3PRC at Bournemouth he was posted to No. 22 OTU.
The ditching of his Beaufighter placed Neale as member in the Goldfish Club.
At Wellesbourne Mountford, No.22 OTU Neale commenced to assemble his future crew and build a working relationship with
Sergeants McLachlan, Jaffray, Griffiths and McLeod. During this time they completed the compulsory circuits and bumps, the repeated landing and takeoffs, building
up to long range navigation exercises that gave him an idea of the abilities of his new crew and for each of them
to feel confident in each other's abilities.
The Wellingtons were left behind as the crew moved on to a Heavy Conversion Unit and training on the Halifax
aircraft. Two new members would be added
to the crew, the Flight Engineer, RAF Sgt. Reg Cleaver and an additional gunner Sgt. Kenwell.
Their second operation on "Moonlight Cocktail" as Neale refers to JD214 was a mine laying operation in Copenhagen harbour.
The electronics on the Gee guidance system were not working and precision laying of the mines, which was very important
could not be carried out. After relaying the problem to base, they were told to drop the mines in the North Sea on their way home.
The crew together decided that this would be a dangerous thing to do, as the mines could cause damage or worse to their own
shipping and navy. The decision was to return to base with the mines still on board. Which Neale did successfully.
On the night of June 24/25 1943 Sgt. Neale and his crew took off for Cologne and his aircraft was attacked by
enemy fighters to such an extent that the Halifax would not make it back to base or out of enemy territory. Through his skills
as testified by his crew later, he managed to land the heavily damaged and underpowered Halifax into a small field
successfully with no harm to the crew.(Sgt. McLachlan had been injured during the attack). Sgt. Neale himself was thrown
forward by the impact, a fact that saved his life. The flight column was punched forward by the impact and would have
injured or killed him. All by the luck of the ditching procedure list having left out that he should have fastened his
The events after the crash as per "A Kriegie's Lament" written by George Neale:
After the landing he mentions they jumped into a ditch about 200 yards away expecting the Halifax to explode.
They waited and waited. Nothing happened so Neale and Jack Griffiths returned to JD214 to set the explosive devices
that would have destroyed the remains of the aircraft and her special devices. Again nothing happened the fuses just
sputtered and went out. Leaving them with destroying the Gee and other devices by hand.
With all the noise they were sure the crash landing had made, Neale expected that a truck load of troops would soon arrive.
They decided to head off in different directions in three groups. Neale, Cleaver and Griffiths went in one direction
while Kenwell and McLeod taking a different route. Leaving Jaffray and McLachlan to finish the destruction and then strike off
to find medical aid for the wounded McLachlan.
The trio led by Neale headed west using a drainage ditch for cover; their hopes were to cross over the Rhine and Maas
rivers and link up with the Resistance.
Their movements had been seen and reported to the authorities. They were captured and taken to the office of the mayor
of Openheusen. Neale mentions that the people were all very friendly with them, but they feared the Gestapo would find
out and there would be trouble. So it was agreed that the mayor inform the Gestapo.
The Germans took only 30 minutes to arrive. Neale commented on all the heel clicking and Nazi saluting when the Germans
arrived as quite the
show. To the disappointment of the people of the town, an escort of 15 guards and two officers took them to Arnhem.
Here he and Cleaver and Griffiths were searched again then in the afternoon taken to Amsterdam the nearest military prison.
On the 26th. the day after they landed four of his crew shared a crowed cell with him. The next day they found out that the two
gunners Sgt. Kenwell and Sgt. McLeod had been locked up in the cell next to them. The following day, the 28th
all the crew were reunited into one cell, this did not last long the following day ,the 29th. they were all placed in Solitary Confinement.
It was not a long stay and the next day they all were bound for Germany via Frankfurt and then Oberursel. His arrival at Stalag Luft VI
and all that happened to him while there is chronicled in his book. In the pages he mentions the others in the crew and how they
kept together for their time there. He detailed in his diary the harsh times, scarcity of food later on and more on his and their stay in the camps.
Sgt. Ross McLachlan became Post Master of Kamloops. Kamloops being
the home town of 419 Squadron's first Commander John "Moose" Fulton.
Sgt. George Neale returned to Hamilton Ontario, working as CPA and business advisor. He passed away December 2011.
Sgt. William "Jaff" Jaffray weight was only 100 pounds when he was finally liberated. He recuperated at his aunt's home in Scotland
before returning to Canada. Mr. Jaffray held high offices in the Ontario government, he passed away in May 1985.
Sgt. Jack Griffiths-RAF, moved to Canada and became a VP at CIBC banks. He passed away in July 2002.
Sgt. "Ken" Kenwell, was shot in the arm by a camp guard during his time as a POW. He returned to Minesing Ontario
where he was bricklayer. he passed away in December 2001.
Sgt. Reg Cleaver RAF continued to do engineering work in the British aircraft industry. He passed away in November 2011 after
a motoring accident.
Sgt. Bill "Dusty" McLeod returned to ranching and continued on into his senior years, riding the range before handing the
ranch over to his son.