Thanks to Lisa Sharp
for the photos
P/O Andrew Mynarski
At approximately 0015 on the night of June 13, 1944 during an operation on Cambrai on board Lancaster "A" for Able,
W/O Mynarski's team-mate in the rear turret, F/0 G. P. Brophy, warned his
Captain, F/O A. DeBreyne, that a fighter (Ju-88) was approaching from
behind and below. The Lancaster was just beginning to corkscrew when
the port wing and aft sections of the fuselage were hit by cannon shells.
Fire broke out between the mid-upper and rear turrets. DeBreyne ordered
a bail-out, then managed to keep the aircraft under some semblance of
control while the forward crew members were leaving via the front hatch.
Unknown to F/O DeBreyne the intercom system was no longer working,
F/0 Brophy was still in the rear turret which had lost hydraulic
power. He hand cranked the turretd far enough to permit him to
reach his parachute pack. Having done so, he turned it beamwards,
intending to bailout directly from the turret. But fate again stole back his chances of escape
as the rotation gear handle came away in his hand and he was trapped. W/O Andrew Mynarski the
the mid-upper gunner, on his way to esacpe saw Brophy's plight.And fought his way through flames
to try to release him. As he did so, his parachute and his clothing, up to the
waist, were set on fire. All his efforts to free the gunner were in vain.
Realizing this,Brophy waved him away, indicating to him by gestures that Mynarski
should try to save his own life. After making his way back through the flames to the escape
hatch. There Mynarski paused, turned about, and as a last gesture to his trapped crew-mate,
stood to attention and saluted. His parachute and clothing aflame as he fell, he was beyond
all aid; he died from severe burns.
By the most impossible of miracles, the one man who had witnessed
Mynarski's act lived to tell of it. The Lancaster contacted the ground
in a belly-landing attitude skidding along the ground which jarred the rear turret
and throwing Brophy clear. F/O Brody eventually made hs way to the Resistance.
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour to members of any rank or service of the armed forces of the
Commonwealth. First presented in 1856, only 94 Canadians have received the medal, which is presented to those who exibit extraniary valour and devotion to duty while facing hostile forces.
In WWII only 16 were presented to Canadians, 3 of which went to members of the RCAF. P/O Andrew Mynarski was one of these brave men.
A tragedy in which the events played out a reversal of fates on the participants. The seemly doomed became the survivor; while the efforts of the courageous rescuer, P/O Mynarski,
led to his own death.